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GOP hopefuls stump in Farragut

By greatly reducing the role of Knox County’s delinquent tax attorney, the aspiring third generation of Duncan political leadership said the County could save a high percentage of $300,000-plus spent annually on attorney fees.

Republican John Duncan III, Knox County Trustee candidate, pledged to “improve service ... eliminate waste” and “restore trust” as his primary office goals. Duncan was one of six Knox County GOP candidates speaking to Concord-Farragut Republican Club Thursday night, March 4, at Seasons café.

The reelection pitch of County Clerk Foster D. Arnett cited a savings of $641,000 for Knox County taxpayers from his office during Arnett’s 16 months of service.

Tim Hutchison, former Knox County Sheriff and County mayoral candidate, blasted Mayor Mike Ragsdale’s administration and highlighted “education ... law enforcement” and “the health department” as especially important.

About tightening fiscal belts, Hutchison said, “There’s nothing wrong in investing in your future, but not now.”

Dr. Richard M. Briggs, Knox County Commissioner (District 5) seeking reelection, said he “wanted to dispel any rumors that I have financial backers, handlers, that I’m a puppet of someone ... I don’t take campaign donations, and I really don’t take any favors from anyone.”

Michael Hammond, Knox County Commissioner (District 5) running for Commission At-Large Seat 10, highlighted one candidacy slogan.

“Give me five ... the Five E’s,” he said about focusing on education, economy, ethics, efficiency and environment.

Deborah Cole, candidate for Knox County Clerk, cited “over a decade of experience in the clerk’s office; it gave me the knowledge by bringing government to the people.”

Duncan said the County’s delinquent tax attorney is “the highest paid person connected to Knox County government ... on average the contract is worth over $300,000 a year,” adding, “it’s just plain wrong.”

As for his experience, Duncan cited “serving on the boards of non-profits ... professionally I work in banking. ... Over the years I’ve had the chance to manage employees, work with budgets, lead audits, prepare financial reports.”

Hammond said Knox County needs “to spend more of our resources — not just monetary resources — but our time and efforts, in education,” citing an 1870 motto: “ignorance is the parent of crime.”

About the economy, “Stop the turmoil ... clean government,” Hammond said, adding Knox government has to be friendlier to business.

Concerning ethics, “I wrote the ethics policy for Knox County, but I think it’s time to come in and revisit that,” Hammond said.

About Knox County parks, Hammond said, “I would really like to see us expand that through the Legacy Parks Foundation initiatives.”

Arnett said he cleaned up “horrible” abuse of employee absenteeism and perks, while a new “auto dealer” division added “tax dollars in our coffers.”

“We were spending $6,500 of your money to have people come and water our plants,” Arnett added about the previous clerk’s office. “We were spending $4,700 of your money having people refill our first aid kits. We don’t do that anymore.

“We were still able to turn over $1.1 million in excess fees to the county ... even though revenues were down.”

Hutchison said about Ragsdale’s administration, “I don’t like seeing integrity thrown out the door. I don’t like seeing money taken that wasn’t there’s.

“I think those people ... at least they should have been fired, every single one of them, and probably prosecuted,” he added.

However, “If you’re a certain group in this community — as you well know by now — some people are never prosecuted and the rules don’t apply to everyone the same,” Hutchison said.

Briggs said he’s worked with state Sen. Tim Burchett (Dist. 7), Knox County Mayoral candidate, “To try to keep those darn lawyers off the doctors’ backs so we can practice medicine.”

About the attempt to place a homeless shelter in District 5, Briggs said, “We really worked hard to stop that. Not that we’re against that, but it was the wrong place at the wrong price.”

Cole said she’s “always had a passion and feeling for the clerk’s office, for serving people. I started searching deep in my heart before I decided to run for clerk’s office.”


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