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Former sheriff keynotes GOP club

Newly married and owner of a construction business in the early 1970s, Tim Hutchison said he never wanted to be in law enforcement or a political figure.

But fate had other things in store for the 33-year veteran of Knox law enforcement, the last 17 as Knox County Sheriff (1990-2007).

“In wintertime it was just too wet to do much of anything in grading work, and I ended up there just because a friend worked there, to work part time and just have something to do,” Hutchison said about how he began as a jail process server, told to Concord-Farragut Republican Club members and other countywide political guests at the club’s monthly meeting. “Once I got there it just kinda fit me. I thought, ‘I kinda like this.’”

Featured speaker at the Thursday, Sept. 11, meeting before a packed-room audience of 45 at Papalinas restaurant, Hutchison, a Republican, added while he has no immediate political aspirations, “I’ll have to look at politics in the future.

“I wouldn’t dare make any announcement now, I don’t feel like my head being beat on for two years,” he added. “I’m not saying that I’m not going to do something in the future. … I don’t like politics, I like people.”

Concerning Sunshine Law and court interpretations limiting elected officials’ interaction, Hutchison said, “I think it’s hurting our community” and only benefits “newspapers” and “the mayor” [County Mayor Mike Ragsdale].

“There’s no reason to keep those Commissioners divided the way they are,” he added. “… There’s no way that’s going to stop until the mayor comes out and becomes the kind of leader he’s supposed to be.”

Although saying he supports the spirit of the Sunshine Law to prohibit backdoor deals without public knowledge, Hutchison added, “Our state legislators need to get this law changed, it is ridiculous to think that our Commissioners can’t talk two or three at a time about the business before them.

“I don’t think you’ll see the legislature doing anything about it because they’re scared of newspapers.”

Moreover, responding to a charter amendment question where the County Mayor would be empowered to appoint county offices — Sheriff’s Office exempted — Hutchison said, “Imagine what problems we would have right now under this current mayor had he appointed all those countywide offices.

“Think about that,” he added. “The problems he’s had with his employees, and his employees totally ignoring the rules of purchasing and expenditures.”

Furthermore, Hutchison warned, such charter amendments are a “backdoor attempt at metro government,” adding those who gain are “people with endless amounts of money. … You throw enough money at it, they’re going to control that seat.”

As sheriff, “I’ve had many, many fights on Commission,” Hutchison said, adding the number of investigations concerning Ragsdale “can’t hold a candle” to the number Hutchison endured as sheriff. “I was audited by multiple agencies every year.

“No, it wasn’t a normal process, it’s because people wanted to cause me problems … it was designed to try to beat me in the election,” Hutchison added. “Never, ever, in 17 years as sheriff, was there one penny missing. Of course, you’d never know that because of the daily newspaper had people believing [it], between them and that crazy lawyer.”

Hutchison defended his administration of nepotism charges he said were spread by published stories in “the daily newspaper,” presumably the Knoxville News Sentinel.

The ex-sheriff said as many as 100 county employees could have been cited by those published reports. However, Hutchison said that with “10,000 and 15,000” county jobs, “How much of a nepotism problem do we really have?

“I put Scott Moore’s wife to work, and I certainly didn’t do it for Scott,” Hutchison added about the former County Commission chairman, an ally, and former KCSO sergeant. “I put her to work because I know she’d work twice as hard as Scott. … Scott works extremely hard in what he believes in.”

Hutchison also called the charter amendment recommendations concerning nepotism “crazy.”

The ex-sheriff said current Sheriff J.J. Jones was wrongly criticized for keeping Hutchison on board at KCSO following the term-limits court ruling in 2007 that ended his administration.

“He had no choice, I was under the Merit System, I was under Civil Service,” Hutchison said. “If it had been Randy Tyree [Democratic sheriff candidate] or anybody else, they couldn’t have done anything to me.”


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