Last week, the worst-kept secret in Knoxville finally became public when Claudia Ragsdale filed for divorce from her husband, County Mayor Mike Ragsdale. Media organizations have been dancing around the issue since January and taking grief in e-mails and phone calls charging a cover-up. Webmasters have had to be vigilant to keep references to "girlfriends" and divorce removed from comment sections on any story having to do with county government.
It was a tough judgment call for the media, given the possibility of reconciliation, and the safest course was to wait for an official legal document. There were similar situations during the past year concerning the marriages of Lady Vols Coach Pat Summitt and men's basketball coach Bruce Pearl, until they went public.
The added poignancy (and delicacy) of the Ragsdale situation was Claudia Ragsdale's fight with cancer. It was an undercurrent issue that many believe caused a sudden collapse of the embattled Ragsdale's traditional supporters, especially among angry women. The story of former House Speaker Newt Gingrich serving papers on his hospitalized and cancer-stricken wife some years ago was oft-repeated. This element of the mayor's troubles could not be explained without opening up the entire issue.
Rather Watch Golf
When the Lady Vols came home for a big celebration last week after winning the national championship, various dignitaries, including Knoxville Mayor Bill Haslam, were on hand to greet them. Knox County Commission Chair Tank Strickland represented county government and led the crowd in a spelling-out-Lady-Vols cheer. County Mayor Mike Ragsdale was described as being out of town and having another commitment.
Courthouse sources say Ragsdale went to the Masters Golf Tournament at Augusta for the week, attending practice rounds and then the tournament. He was there when news of his divorce from wife Claudia hit the media.
This has increased speculation around town that Ragsdale no longer cares about appearances and might even be preparing to leave town for good. This has ginned up speculation and lobbying on behalf of possible successors. Strickland would be the immediate successor until a replacement is appointed by County Commission.
The smart money is betting that Ragsdale stays until his term is up or he is ousted by a suit. We offer a link to this site without comment: mayormikeragsdale.blogspot.com.
There is a grim joke making the rounds in Knoxville since scores of locals snapped up stock in the fledgling Idleaire company, which provides a connection for truckers to hook up for phone, TV, Internet, and other services, allowing them to turn off their diesel engines to save fuel. A recent lead story in the News Sentinel quoted a report to the SEC as saying losses at the company continue to build and "there is substantial doubt" about the company's future. The company, which is burning through investment capital, reported losing $93 million last year.
The joke describes a new Idleaire marketing campaign with a photo of a row of the distinctive dangling yellow hook-up tubes handing the trucker services with the caption: "Idleaire, Let Us Hose You."
The stock thus far has been sold in $50,000 blocks, and groups of local investors, many of them public officials, have put together groups of five at $10,000 each to get in on the ground floor of the next big thing.
"Members of the Faculty Senate and its Executive Committee have received inquiries from faculty members asking why the Senate has not moved ahead with a vote on a resolution of no-confidence in President (John) Petersen, given the very limited confidence and support expressed for the President in the faculty survey conducted in January 2008."
That was the opening statement in a recent response to the faculty by Dr. David A. Patterson, president of the University of Tennessee Faculty Senate.
Patterson explained there would likely be no action on a vote of no-confidence. He outlined several items which he viewed as progress in resolving the issues that led to the firing of former UT Chancellor Loren Crabtree, who took the point in expressing faculty concerns about excessive control of the Knoxville campus by the "UT system" personified by Petersen and his staff.
But the bottom line of his message is that the UT Board of Trustees strongly backed Petersen and any further action by the faculty would be futile and might harm UT-Knoxville's standing with the state legislature during this budget session.
And, we would add, bitchin' got Crabtree fired.