Farragut Foundations: The First 40 Years

McKelvey’s Public Works progression

Bud McKelvey
Appalled at the thought of working a mundane, repetitive-task “9 to 5” job, Bud McKelvey said he thrives on the unpredictability of his responsibilities as Town of Farragut’s Public Works director.

“Every single day of this job is a different day,” said McKelvey, whose crew is on call 24/7 for clean-up efforts following storm and snow damage — especially when roads are hazardous or power lines are down — among tasks done with an emphasis on maintaining high Town standards of appearance.

“There have been times where we’ve done eight or 10 new things that we never even thought about doing,” he added.

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‘Sign’ of the times for one of Town’s oldest businesses

Jeanne Sellars
One of Farragut’s oldest businesses has a “sign ordinance story” to tell from the early 1980s.

“Signage was difficult … there was a lot of adjusting and learning with all of that,” said Jeanne Sellars, founder/owner of Dance Center West, Inc., featuring ballet, jazz and tap-dancing for children 3 to 18 in what is now Town of Farragut since 1976.

First, some background

“We were first in Farragut Center, across the street from Village Green,” she said. “Jack Bevins used to own that — Jack and Mary Bevins — he was the pharmacist there. I rented from him in two different locations.”

Starting out with “30 to 40 students,” Sellars said, “The first location is where Prestige Cleaners is now, in 1976.”

However, Jack Bevins “came to me and told me, ‘these cleaners want my space because they can do a drive-through right there at the end of the building,’” she said. “He asked if I was willing to move over to the other side of Farragut Center, in that breezeway area.

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Early 80s progress

Alleged Hell’s Angels threat scares Town official, family

A second wave of Farragut Community Group members, who founded the Town of Farrgut in January 1980, comprised 40 percent of the Town’s second Board of Mayor and Aldermen after the 1981 elections.

The Town was more than a year old by this time, yet some anti-incorporation voices persisted — one outspoken voice went off the deep end, threatening motorcycle gang violence against one Town official and his family, according to FCG member Betty Dick.

Dick was elected to the Ward I (North) seat held by fellow FCG member George Dorsey, who decided not to run again in 1981 following his 1-year term.

She recalled “a big zoning issue coming up. About 3 in the morning I got a phone call. … I knew exactly who it was.”

This incorporation opponent “would get drunk and start making phone calls, and he called me, (Alderman) Marianne (McGill)” and one other Town official, Dick said. “… What he threatened us with was ‘the Hell’s Angels, who were renting a house next door to (the unnamed Town official).’

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Early 80s progress

Alleged Hell’s Angels threat scares Town official, family

A second wave of Farragut Community Group members, who founded the Town of Farrgut in January 1980, comprised 40 percent of the Town’s second Board of Mayor and Aldermen after the 1981 elections.

The Town was more than a year old by this time, yet some anti-incorporation voices persisted — one outspoken voice went off the deep end, threatening motorcycle gang violence against one Town official and his family, according to FCG member Betty Dick.

Dick was elected to the Ward I (North) seat held by fellow FCG member George Dorsey, who decided not to run again in 1981 following his 1-year term.

She recalled “a big zoning issue coming up. About 3 in the morning I got a phone call. … I knew exactly who it was.”

This incorporation opponent “would get drunk and start making phone calls, and he called me, (Alderman) Marianne (McGill)” and one other Town official, Dick said. “… What he threatened us with was ‘the Hell’s Angels, who were renting a house next door to (the unnamed Town official).’

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LCUB lights up Farragut

Utility powered community for decades even before incorporation; Ford-Littleton worked to expand Town clout, conveniences, codes

M. Shannon Littleton
Though serving residents and businesses of what is now the Town of Farragut with electrical power for decades before incorporation, LCUB had a turning point in its relationship with Town leaders a few years into the new millennium.

“I remember having my first true interaction with Farragut … was in Mayor (Eddy) Ford’s term,” said M. Shannon Littleton, LCUB general manager since 2010, about the early 2000s. “…

I noticed there was a real change in our relationship. We began

to converse and talking about projects.”

Among the matters resolved, Littleton said, “There were specific code issues that probably existed at the time that LCUB allowed that the Town of Farragut did not wish to have in their city.

“Or, there were certain types of lighting conditions they didn’t want to see,” added Littleton, who began at LCUB in 2001 as legal counsel. “Better lighting conditions they wanted to see. … Making sure light pollution, if you will, is not disturbing the next-door neighbor.

“Of course, we’ve worked with the Town for many years with road moves, making sure we had the correct acquisition of properties. Trying to infringe on property rights as little as possible.”

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Early challenges

An emergency, annexation requests,ordinance-building facing new Farragut Board

Marie Leonard is the widow of late Farragut Mayor Robert “Bob” Leonard — the Town’s first mayor when the Board of Mayor and Aldermen were elected April 1, 1980, before taking office six days later, April 7.
While reflecting on how the new Town of Farragut had “no money in our hands and no place to meet, no staff” soon after the first Board of Mayor and Aldermen came to power on April 7, 1980, then Alderman Eddy Ford recalled a burdensome thought: “‘We have the whole Town to be concerned about.’”

Later that month, Ford said he realized firsthand about the responsibilities ahead — the need for Town public works support following weather damage, specifically.

“There was a major thunderstorm in the Town,” he said. “And I get a call about 10 o’clock at night: ‘Eddy, we’ve got a road washed out in the Town of Farragut, Village Green. Come and look at it.’”

Joined by “three other aldermen,” Ford said, “We were looking at a hole in the road. We had no public works, no monies.

“I made a suggestion to the group: I had a friend, Bill Maney, who had retired from the Tennessee Department of Transportation,” he added, saying Maney was a Town resident and “a great guy.”

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Campaigns, 1st election, lots of advice

Leonard and Ford emerge as 1st mayor, South Ward alderman, but Farragut Community Group has Board majority

Then Alderman Eddy Ford in the early 1980s.
In the hours after citizens within selected boundaries voted 3-to-1 to incorporate the Town of Farragut on Jan. 30, 1980, the founders themselves, Farragut Community Group, considered the next vital step.

“After we got over all the excitement of winning the vote, we were all out to eat and everybody said, ‘We’ve got to find somebody to run (for Board of Mayor and Aldermen),” FCG member Marianne McGill said.

Running through a list of FCG members, “Eric (Johnson) said no, George (Dorsey) said no, Ron Simandl said no, Betty (Dick) said no, Ralph (McGill, Marianne’s late husband) said no,” she said.

“I’m sitting there listening to all of them talking, and I’m going, ‘We’ve got to have somebody on this Board who knows why we incorporated.’

“… ‘At least in the beginning.’”

With no one changing their minds on that night, “I started thinking about it and praying about it,” Marianne said about her prospects to run for an alderman post.

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Incorporation a reality

Vote is 3-to-1 in favor; developers pass on vulnerable Town infancy period

Marty Rodgers
Many members of a prominent family in southwest Knox County, the McFees, have come full circle on incorporating what is now the Town of Farragut.

In reference to an effort in the early 1970s to incorporate, “The first time it was brought up for a vote we were for it,” Anne McFee Shipley, 91, said about that failed effort. “I was for it because my daddy (Fred McFee) was for it.”

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Fixing last-minute ‘Oak Ridge’ matter critical

Door-to-door ‘sales,’ compiling voter rolls key for planning incorporation vote

Joining Farragut Community Group alongside her husband and eventual group leader, the late Dr. Ralph McGill, Marianne McGill’s battles didn’t end when citizens voted to incorporate into the Town of Farragut on Jan. 15, 1980.
Less than 24 hours before making their plans public to incorporate in late fall 1979, with the boundaries of what would be called the Town of Farragut apparently set, members of Farragut Community Group suddenly realized they made a potentially fatal mistake.

Happening to pass by a map of the City of Oak Ridge at Oak Ridge National Laboratory, civil engineer Eric Johnson, was about to panic: the group was so consumed with compliance concerning town boundaries and the City of Knoxville, boundaries near Oak Ridge were drawn too close.

“Then, if you were within a

municipality of say, 20,000 people or more, they could stop your incorporation immediately,” Johnson said. “… We didn’t think of Oak Ridge.

“I don’t think there was any reason Oak Ridge would stop us, but you don’t know how politics works and we didn’t want to take a chance,” he added.

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Anti-incorporation effort passionate-with threats

Knoxville annexation plans, ‘takeover northerners,’ fear of devalued land among cited examples

Ron Simandl
Opponents of Farragut Community Group’s effort to incorporate in fall 1979 formed a passionate, though unsuccessful, roadblock — with at least one trying to intimidate FCG members with threats.

But a powerful, and legal, threat came from then Knoxville Mayor Randy Tyree: annexation.

“The World’s Fair was coming and Knoxville was looking to annex more property,” said Eric Johnson, a retired civil engineer at Oak Ridge National Laboratory and FCG member. “They had a big bill coming for the World’s Fair and they needed a larger tax base.”

For that reason, FCG members feared Tyree would act quickly to annex areas of what is now Farragut if he knew the Town was planning to incorporate.

Therefore, “A good time to file our petitions was when he went off on vacation,” Johnson said about a period in late October of 1979. “So we filed the paperwork and proceeded to work on incorporating the town.”

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No more delays; Time for action

Farragut Community Group decides its time to begin incorporation plans with a pair of new leaders

A retired engineer from what is now Oak Ridge National Laboratory, Eric Johnson was on board early on as a Farragut Community Group member. Having moved to Kingsgate subdivision in 1974, which remains his home, Johnson was among residents there dealing with various topographical issues — some dangerous — in the mid-to-late 1970s based on poor developer planning and alleged county indifference.
Enough with agenda delays, insults and turning a blind eye to illegal developer activity from Knox County government — a handful of southwest Knox Countians were ready to do something that, looking back, even amazes some of them 40 years later.

With the majority of these Farragut Community Group activists in their 30s, some admit, “We were too young to know any better” when deciding to take government into their own hands.

In the fall of 1979, after roughly six months of failure dealing with Knox County government, “We said, ‘Let’s go and incorporate,” said FCG member Eric Johnson, a retired engineer at what is now ORNL and who served as one of the Town’s first aldermen. He has lived in Kingsgate subdivision since 1974.

One of the more amazing aspects of incorporating what is now the Town of Farragut, “The whole thing came together in 26 days,” said FCG member Betty Dick, an alderman from 1981 to 1987 who currently is a member of Farragut Municipal Planning Commission.

With the first two FCG meetings at the home of members George and Julie Dorsey, “George and Julie and (the late) Jess (Campbell, an attorney) had already been talking somewhat about incorporation for about a year off and on,” Dick said.

Another motivating factor: “They had heard Knoxville was getting ready to annex a bunch of land,” said FCG member Ron Simandl, a semi-retired chemist at Y-12 in Oak Ridge after moving to what is now Farragut from Wisconsin in 1977.

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Pleading their case falls on deaf ears

Farragut Community Group leaders hit brick wall approaching Knox County government

Gene McNalley
There was an occasional victory when citizens in southwestern Knox County, in what is now the Town of Farragut, battled Knox County Commission, then known as “County Court,” and Municipal Planning Commission in the late 1970s.

Rare indeed.

Gene McNalley, then a Tennessee Highway Patrolman living in Kingsgate subdivision, was chosen to be its homeowners association leader to fight developer plans to build an unwanted — and allegedly dangerous — road through this subdivision in 1978.

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Motivation to incorporate

Lots of problems with flooding, roads, zoning in late ’70s

Betty Dick
Given the lion’s share of credit for being the most persistent and outspoken voice in the late 1970s favoring incorporation of the area now known as Town of Farragut, Betty Dick was then a member of Village Green subdivision’s homeowners “board.”

“It was my responsibility to keep up with what was happening out here; zoning and things like that,” said Dick, a Town alderman between 1981 and 1987 and current member of Farragut Municipal Planning Commission, while recalling the many grievances these rural southwest Knox County residents had with county government in 1978 and 1979.

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