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GOP county mayor candidates speak out

Hoping to move his base of operation from Nashville into the City-County building, state Sen. Tim Burchett (R-Dist. 7) said “job No. 1” to improve Knox County Government is a critical need to restore “trust and transparency.”

Seeking the Republican nomination from Knox County Mayor, Burchett said fostering trust and transparency allows citizens to “see what’s going on, they can see who the players are. If the county’s doing business with an LLC, the taxpayers know who’s in that LLC.”

First elected as a state Representative in 1994 where he served four years, Burchett, 45, has served in state Senate since 1998.

“For the last 16 years I’ve been on the board of directors, basically, of a $30 billion corporation,” Burchett said. “I’m currently the only member of the legislature in the Senate who serves on both the commerce and the finance committee.

“I also chair the budget subcommittee, which is responsible for handling all the budget amendments,” he added. “We’ve cut drastically. … It’s tough work sometimes, because each of them have constituents and some of them are very valid issues.”

With roughly 61 percent of a $648 million County budget going to education according to Burchett, “Economic development is going to have to start in the classroom,” he said, adding students “are our number one economic development tool.

“As county mayor, I have to make sure that money gets to the classroom,” he added. “When we’re laying off 22 teachers, and you’re not seeing administration laid off, I think there’s a problem there.”

To reduce county costs and improve efficiency, Burchett said, “Anything that’s in the Yellow Pages, Knox County probably shouldn’t be in the business of doing.

“I’d like to look at our surplus properties. I’ve talked about surplus property in our school system months ago,” he added. “I’m glad to see that they’re addressing that now. ... We need to look at turning them over and putting them back on the tax rolls.”

Burchett advocates “just in time” shipping. “We can get discounts by just in time shipping; we can do away with our current P-Card situation, which maybe saves us one to two percent,” he said. “We can negotiate contracts with these corporations that we purchase from. Use electronic transfers; we can save three to five percent.”

Leasing, instead of purchasing, automobiles and big purchase items “reduces our liability, it reduces the service and upkeep and puts it in somebody else’s hands,” Burchett said. “We could be saving large amounts of money.”

Burchett labels himself an “entrepreneur” who owns “a little bit of rental property” while specializing in “a very small Internet business.” That business, he said, primarily focuses on sales of vintage motorcycle parts.

This “entrepreneur” said any government entity “needs to get out of the way of business and let it thrive and let it nurture.” But Burchett added the County should tap into the expertise of The University of Tennessee, Oak Ridge National Laboratory and TVA.

Burchett pointed to “brown fields” — available but abandoned property — as an inexpensive example of using property to draw new industries or companies promising several new jobs. “We can buy these properties for $2[000], $3,000. ... Easily accessible to both our Interstate systems that has a sewer system we can access.”

Dispelling a misconception that Burchett, if elected, would keep many of current Mayor Mike Ragsdale’s staff, Burchett said, “It’s not legal — but it’s not moral to tell people if you’re elected you’re going to keep them. That’s totally an error. That’s a rumor I’m sure [was] started by my opposition [Tim Hutchison]. That started that early and it didn’t stick, and that’s really all they’ve got. That’s a rumor to scare people.

“I’m a big believer in surrounding myself with people that are smarter than I am, but are not afraid to lose their jobs if they tell me that what we’re doing isn’t the right path,” he added.

Knox County Primary is Tuesday, May 4.


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