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Commissioners blast Sproles for ‘independence’


Knox County Commissioners heard the statements of three applicants for interim Commission positions Saturday, Feb. 9, at Farragut Town Hall.

Thomas Baer, Richard Briggs and Pamela Treacy spoke before nine commissioners. Theodore Piehl, who also applied for the interim position, did not attend the meeting.

Baer and Briggs each ran in the Feb. 5 primary, which Briggs won with 3,970 votes. In the August election, Briggs will face Independent Don Sproles.

Sproles did not seek the interim position but addressed the Commissioners during a time open to public comment.

“I’m here to urge you to appoint a qualified neutral candidate to the post should you decide to appoint anyone at all,” Sproles, pictured right, said.

“I think we need to let the voters of the 5th District decide between Dr. Briggs and I who they want to be their commissioner,” he added.

“I want to present myself to the voters as an Independent; I’m an independent thinker. We need to get away from the factions that we have,” Sproles said about his decision to run as an Independent, a fact that attracted several comments from some of the Commissioners.

“That just bothers me. You know, if you can’t make up your mind what you want one way or another,” Commissioner R. Larry Smith said.

“I can make up my mind on the individual; it has nothing to do with the party,” Sproles said. “I feel that local elections should be nonpartisan, as the town of Farragut’s are, as the City of Knoxville’s are, because then we have a better opportunity to vote across the lines for the qualified person,” he added.

After Commissioner Scott Moore asked Sproles for his personal beliefs on abortion and gun control, Sproles said, “Those specific issues don’t have anything to do with what Knox County Commission does.

“We are here to decide issues on the budget, on the schools, and our personal positions on abortion or gun control don’t have anything to do with Knox County Commission. People need to look at commissioners’ backgrounds based on what we’ve done, based on what we do and based on our positions on the issues that we have the opportunity to deal with,” Sproles said.

“This is frankly what I think has become a problem with County Commission in the last year or so and one of the main reasons I want to be on the Commission, is to get us back to a professional body and away from political issues. It needs to be public service, not political posturing,” he added.

Each applicant to the interim post had five minutes to address Commissioners, then the current Commissioners had the opportunity to question each applicant.

Baer has applied for the interim County Commission seat despite his support of Briggs in the upcoming August election.

“I want the Commission to know that I fully support Dr. Richard Briggs. And if you decide that you need to make an interim appointment rather than appoint Dr. Briggs, I’m available,” he said.

Baer also expressed his desire to help restore a clean image of Knox County government, which Briggs later echoed.

“The election that we had last week spoke very loudly that there is a lot of interest in good government in our community,” Briggs said as he addressed the commissioners.

Briggs also said that respect and civility are necessary in order to restore voter confidence in the Commission. “I respect every one of you who have served and I think the community owes all of you a great deal of debt for all that you’ve been through. And I think that one of the first things we should do is to show respect for one another and conduct our meetings in a very civil manner,” he said, adding that staying on topic in meetings would reduce conflicts.

Commissioner Mike Ham-mond questioned Briggs’s desire to apply for the interim position.

“Why do you want to do this? People are saying that this appointment could be the political kiss of death and you still are going through the process of facing an election,” he said.

“I’ve really always felt a sense of public service,” Briggs said. “I felt that this was sort of an historic opportunity to step forward and take charge. The voters spoke very loudly that they want change and they want it now.

“Perhaps it would be politically smarter not to [apply now], perhaps it would be better for me to wait until after the August election. But this shouldn’t be about what’s best for me, it should be about what’s best for the County.”

Pamela Treacy has decided to run for the interim position despite the fact that she did not run for office.

“Quite frankly, to run for office and spend a year campaigning and two years in office is not going to meet the time schedule of my life,” she said, although she stated that she did have the time to commit to the Commission for the next six months.

“I also feel very passionately that the person taking this appointment should not be running in the general election. I think it would be unfair to appoint Dr. Briggs before the election,” she added.

“You seem to be arguing that we shouldn’t advantage or disadvantage any person who is seeking election in the fall. Does our appointment sit favorably or unfavorably with the voters?” Commissioner Mark Harmon asked.

“Well, beyond my personal opinion, I think that every voter is going to look at that differently,” Treacy said. “Let’s not assume that because there were more votes cast in the Republican primary that that’s who will win come August,” she added.

“I thought you might ask me about getting along,” Treacy said, “and I was looking around and thought that maybe one of the first things would be lowering the testosterone level in the Commission.”

Commissioners decide appoint-ees Wednesday, Feb. 20. All applicants agreed to Commission’s request that he or she wait to be sworn in until 2 p.m. instead of during the meeting.

 

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