Knox County campaign profiles: GOP, Democrats, Independents


Republican Glenn Jacobs, Knox County Mayor who is seeking a second term, answers the following questions:

• Based on what you’ve accomplished in office, plus your qualifications and knowing what Knox Countians want and need — why should you be re-elected?

“I kept my word and did not raise property taxes; nor do I plan to. My administration will not exacerbate the rising cost of living in Knox County.

“Over the past four years, our county has added thousands of new jobs and hundreds of millions in economic investment. I am proud that we created an environment that is attractive to businesses so that our economy will continue to grow stronger.

“During the COVID-19 pandemic, I fought to keep businesses open, opposed the forced masking of our children and wrote a letter to President Biden when he tried to require vaccine mandates on our private businesses.

“Public safety has never been better funded in Knox County than it is today. As many of the nation’s major metropolitan areas looked to de-fund the police, we doubled down on our support of law enforcement. In my first term, I increased the salaries of our deputies by 17 percent and gave them $6,500 in bonuses.

“In addition, I created Read City USA, a collaborative initiative to ensure that all children learn to read early and well, regardless of socio-economic background.

“And our administration created and began the cleanup of the Knox County Water Trail, a first-of-its-kind 44-mile trek along Beaver Creek that connects five Knox County communities.”

• What are three things you hope to help accomplish for Knox Countians in the next four years if re-elected?

“1. The Knox County Skilled Trades Academy and Regional Training Center is slated to open later this year. I plant to work with the Association of Builders and Contractors to ensure that anyone in Knox County who wants to learn a skilled trade will have the opportunity to do so, and have a job waiting when they graduate.

“2. I will honor my promise to you four years ago and deliver a second term with no property tax increases.

“3. Inflation is eating away at the savings and paychecks of Americans across our country.

“I will work to bring thousands of new jobs and millions in new development to our region, so if the cost-of-living continues to increase, our children will be able to find a job, build a home and raise a family in Knox County.

• Beyond the next four years, what is your long-term vision for Knox County growth and development?

“Knox County is the best place to live, work and raise a family, and now America is taking notice. People are moving here at record rates, and as or population grows so, too, must our infrastructure and housing supply.

“In my first term, I increased our road paving budget by 50 percent without raising taxes. Development broadens the tax base, drives down housing costs and keeps our taxes low, but it must be done responsibly.

“That’s why I’ve commissioned the Advance Knox Initiative, a long-term plan for growth and infrastructure in our county.

“If we do not continue development, our children will not be able to afford homes or find good jobs here, and we will lose them to Nashville or Atlanta.

“I am committed to protecting our way of life and keeping Knox County a place where those who grew up here can afford to stay.”

Democrat Debbie Helsley, who is seeking to become Knox County Mayor, answers the following questions:

• How will you, based on accomplishments that can aid you as mayor, qualifications and knowing what the people of Knox County want and need, be better able to serve the people versus your opponent?

“Knox County’s residents deserve roads that accommodate their traffic needs, sidewalks and parks that improve our quality of life and schools that truly empower each and every student to thrive. These are the basic needs I believe our local government should make a top priority.

“So much pressure is already being placed on our schools and infrastructure, yet we’re seeing parts of our county grow faster than can handle it due to zoning and land use decisions coming down from current leadership. These decisions have come with little foresight or regard to those of us who have lived here all our lives and care so deeply for our community.

“As a co-founder of my neighborhood association, I know what can be accomplished when neighborhoods are provided a seat at the table when decisions are being made. That is my promise to neighborhoods facing these challenges, and I am prepared to build the Knox County our families and future generations deserve.

• What are three things you hope to accomplish for Knox Countians — including possible things you would like to correct versus what your opponent has done — in the next four years if elected?

As County Mayor, I will require much more from out-of-state, predatory developers who are afforded too much leniency by the current Mayor.

Much of today’s development unfortunately was done without looking to the future. Moving forward, we have got to afford our residents with the basic resources they need and deserve to thrive — such as parks for our children to enjoy.

Delivering walkable infrastructure near schools and connecting our existing greenways with our parks must be a top priority.

“I want to work with the Town of Farragut to identify locations and secure funding to preserve our greenspaces for future generations before it’s too late. We should strive to ensure all citizens live within a 10-minute walk from a greenway or a park, which has proven to increase neighborhood safety and quality of life.”

• What is your long-term vision for Knox County growth and development?

“Our community must be a place where our children want to continue to live here as adults. I am in this race for that very reason — to protect the character of our community before it is too late.

“As County Mayor, I will require more from developers to ensure that our neighborhoods and the interests of residents are offered a seat at the table where decisions are made.

“We all know that we have to grow — people want to come to live here — but that growth does not have to be to the detriment of those who live here already.

“Knox County has to strengthen our main corridors and thoroughfares to prioritize density. Development should also encourage walkability and focus on reasonable alternatives to cars through public transit.

“Knox County is special, and we must preserve what makes us special before it is too late.”

District Attorney

Repubilcan Charme P. Allen, Knox County’s District Attorney seeking another term in office, answers the following question:

• Based on what you’ve accomplished in office, and your qualifications, experience and any other positives, why should you be re-elected?

“I have the experience needed for your vote. That experience includes courtroom prosecution, management of over 80 professionals, community engagement and legislative initiatives.

I have focused on obtaining the harshest sentences allowable by law on those perpetrating violent crimes in our community.

My office collaborates daily with law enforcement in using all enhancement tools available while prosecuting career criminals, gang members and violent offenders.

I will continue this effort into my second term to make sure that Knox County remains as safe as possible.

I have spent my career advocating for crime victims. I have earned the support of Hope for Victims, East Tennessee’s nonprofit group of families and victims of violent crime.

As Chairperson of our Conference Family Justice Committee, I will continue to focus on trauma informed ways to better serve domestic violence, child abuse and elderly victims in my next term.

I have championed the fight against the flow of illegal drugs into our community. Our Drug Related Death Task Force allowed my office to be one of the first in the state to begin successfully prosecuting drug dealers with Second Degree Homicide when their drugs are responsible for the death of another.

Lt. Gov. Randy McNally has appointed me to Tennessee’s Opioid Abatement Council which will distribute Tennessee’s share of the $26 billion dollar national opioid settlement.

I will continue to use every asset to target drug traffickers in my second term. Lives depend on it.

Democrat Jackson M. Fenner, who is seeking to become Knox County’s District Attorney, answers the following question:

• Why do we need a change in this office; and how will you, based on accomplishments that would aid you as DA, qualifications and any other positives, be better able to serve the people?

“This office needs a change because murders, gun violence, homelessness, and overdoses are spiking in Knox County.

“We have become a destination for drug and gun traffickers. These problems have worsened under our current DA and continue to escalate. I have been a criminal lawyer for eleven years.

“I am in court in Knoxville nearly every day. I have tried many criminal cases. I know that many of the persons accused of criminal offenses in Knox County are suffering from addiction or mental health issues.

“Some of the short-sighted policies of the current DA, such as charging some misdemeanor shoplifting offenses as felony burglaries, likely contribute to these growing problems.

“If a person suffering from addiction is caught stealing socks from a retail store, and we brand that person with a felony, how will that person ever obtain employment or housing?

“That person is more likely to become homeless and to continue to abuse substances. Increasing the number of addicted persons who are homeless attracts drug traffickers, who bring illegal guns and violence.

By properly charging misdemeanor offenders with misdemeanors, we can still hold persons accountable for criminal behavior, but we increase their chances of recovery.

“This could reduce the market for drug traffickers and would save the county thousands of your dollars by not having to pay for pointless felony trials.

I know that with a little bit of forward thinking, and a little bit of empathy, we can reduce the violence in Knox County.”