With her future secured as a retired town of Farragut vice mayor and alderman, Dot LaMarche wanted to know if Knox County Mayor Tim Burchett had any thoughts about his post-mayoral future — political or otherwise.
The only thing Burchett, whose second and final term ends in 2018, said about anything having to do with future politics was his encounter with then presidential candidate Donald Trump, which centered around Burchett’s 6-year-old daughter, Isabel.
“All of these people were lined up to do the howdy doody thing, and Trump is like, ‘Isabel, what’s wrong baby?’ And she said, ‘my sock’s caught in my boot, Mr. Trump,’” Burchett said during the monthly Concord-Farragut Republican Club meeting Thursday, Jan. 5, in Knox County Sheriff’s Office Turkey Creek precinct office.
Farragut aldermen Louise Povlin and Ron Williams joined LaMarche among several top Knox County elected officials on hand, 25 attendees in all.
About being “term-limited” with his second term finishing in 2018, “I really didn’t care what you said about me before, but I really don’t now,” Burchett said to big laughs. “… I don’t take myself seriously, but I take the job very seriously. …”
Concerning Trump’s victory and other Nov. 8 results, “I think this Election was really indicative of where our country is. There is a great sense of frustration in this country,” Burchett said.
U.S. Senator Lamar Alexander [R-Tenn.] “asked me at the last Lincoln Day Dinner, ‘What do you think is going to happen’ in this presidential race in the primary? “And I said, ‘I think Trump is going to walk [away] with it in the state,’” Burchett said.
However, about liberals he talked to as a state representative years ago, “They didn’t have any inkling about what they were talking about, but they believed it and I think people respond to that,” Burchett said.
As Republicans, “We have to re-establish our values,” Bur-chett said. “… Anger and fear are the two greatest motivators, I think. We need a little more anger directed at our elected officials.”
One key toward government running more successfully on a federal and state level, “We’ve got to figure out how we can keep the lobbyist and the staff people from running the capital,” he said.
“Here I am the mayor of the third largest county in the state of Tennessee, and outside of [U.S. Rep. John J. “Jimmy”] Duncan [R-Tenn., Second District] and Alexander it’s tough to get our federal people to even call me back,” Burchett added. “… They are so out of touch with what’s going on, and this last race was a wake-up call.”
Moreover, Burchett said state government officials “don’t care about East Tennessee, all they care about is Middle and West Tennessee. I don’t care what they say, that’s the truth. And it’s unfortunate. I don’t think we get our fair share here, and if they want to argue that I’ll go over a few facts and figures with them and we’ll sit and have a little discussion about that.”
Confident of a new “model program” mental health facility in Knox County “with or without” state funding assistance, Burchett added, “The third largest mental health hospital in the state of Tennessee is the Knox County jail, and that’s a disgrace. … Go drive underneath one of these bridges downtown and over half those people are veterans. And a lot of them are young veterans.”
About the status of Knox County government, Burchett said, “We’re on track to pay down a little over, I think, $70 million [in debt] before I get out of office. We haven’t had layoffs. We’ve offered pay raises. We’ve had good leadership in the past in our [County] Commission and currently in our Commission. … They vet the issues, and you can rest assured your dollars are being watched over.”
While saying the county’s unemployment rate is under 5 percent, Burchett specifically pointed out Midway Business Park’s potential. “When it’s fully filled you’ll have over 2,000 new jobs,” Burchett said.
Overall, “We’ve had more than $215 million in capital investments as of late,” he said.
About keeping in touch with K-12 education, “I eat lunch with kids every day, or try to, in the schools,” Burchett said. “… And kids are so honest and pure, they’ll tell you what’s going on in those schools. … And I always tell those kids, ‘your teacher’s going to love you but your principal’s going to be a little nervous when I show up for lunch.’”
About the county’s “Early Retirement Incentive,” Burchett said, “We use that in the state of Tennessee. And I believe we can save a couple million dollars.”
As for paving roads, “We’re up to about 30 miles a year,” Burchett said.