ear (2008-09)

Ear to the Ground

Chief Van de Vate?

Dwight Van de Vate, communications chief for Knox County Mayor Mike Ragsdale, came to the job after working in the administration of Sheriff Tim Hutchison. He now finds himself, as official spokesman, having to explain scandal after scandal and financial audits of the mayorâ’s office.

There is a rumor within the sheriffâ’s department that Van de Vate is reassuring deputies not to be worried about former Mayor Randy Tyree winning the August election against interim Sheriff Jimmy â“JJâ” Jones because their old friend Dwight will be chief deputy in the new Tyree administration.

But Van de Vate says: â“Iâ’ve got a job. There is nothing to this. Should Tyreeâwin I would expect him to surround himself with old KPD hands.â”

Peeking In

Knox County Mayor Mike Ragsdale was unable to assume his accustomed seat at the Commission meeting last week when 12 new officeholders were appointed. All the seats on either side of the audience podium were taken up with reporters and photographers. Ragsdale would have had to sit among them during the meeting and risk being barraged with questions.

So Ragsdale went upstairs, in the balcony, beside the camera operator for the cable-access channel. But when different people came to the podium to speak, he had to peek over the rail to see who was speaking and was visible to the audience below.

Bashing Tindell

Amy Henley-Vandergriff reportedly had a lot of votes for an appointment as interim County Clerk. She decided to get into the race after interim County Clerk George Stooksbury made her personnel file available to the News Sentinel and a story appeared on the Saturday morning when the public forum was being held, revealing entries of her being tardy to work.

But, at the forum, Henley-Vandergriff unloaded on the operation of the County Clerkâ’s office and pledged to eliminate â“ghost employeesâ” identified in an audit last year, and reduce staffing. The criticism reflected on former County Commissioner Billy Tindell, who ran the office last year after a Commission appointment, and who has lots of friends left among his former colleagues. Tindell lost the appointment 6-5 to Stooksbury, demonstrating he still had friends on Commission. The call for a shake-up also alarmed some commissioners who just wanted a caretaker to not make waves until the August election puts someone permanently in the job.

Henley-Vandergriffâ’s campaign may have been hurt since the Sentinelâ’s Sunday story about the Saturday meeting gave the impression she was invited to apply by former County Clerk candidate Scott Moore. Actually Moore invited Henley-Vandergriff and her opponent, Republican Foster Arnett Jr. to address Commission at the public forum and Henley-Vandergriff took the opportunity to say she was seeking the post. Henley-Vandergriff was the only candidate who won a primary and applied for appointment who was rebuffed.

Take Back the Fort, Take Out the Trash

After several publicized muggings in recent months, Fort Sanders has been taking some heat for its alleged dangerousness, but one group is determined to make the old place at least prettier. Crime is tough to deal with, because criminals always run away; litter stays put, and thatâ’s the problem. As part of Keep Knoxville Beautifulâ’s First Impressions campaign, a group is getting together this weekend to straighten up a little. Volunteers will meet at the church parking lot at 17th and Highlandâ"we think it was approximately the northwestern rampart of the old Union fortâ"at 10 a.m. Saturday, March 1, and spend four hours picking up litter. New KKB president Terri Faulkner says itâ’s just the beginning of an emphasis on Fort Sanders that will extend into the Civil War Sesquicentennial, 2011-15, and will involve the installation of new historic signage and other improvements.

Two Giant Leaps?

Itâ’s leap year, so Black History Month is a day longer than usual, and the Beck Center is making the most of it. On Friday, Leap Day, two bridges will be renamed for prominent personages of African-American heritage, both of whom have served as elected representatives. The measure, promoted by State Rep. Joe Armstrong, will honor the late Casey Jones, city councilman 1978-1990, who will get the stretch of Magnolia where it leaps over the train tracks just east of downtown; and author, historian, and former state Rep. Bob Booker, still with us, who will be honored by a parallel section of Summit Hill, where it jumps over James White Parkway. The ceremony will commence at Beck Cultural Exchange Center, 1927 Dandridge Ave., at 4:30 p.m. Friday, Feb. 29.

Bug in Our Ear

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