Lenoir City race under way

Vehicles pass candidate signs off Kingston Street in Lenoir City.

Voters can now let their voice be heard for who they want to serve on Lenoir City Council.

Early voting runs through Nov. 1, and city residents will choose between incumbents Mike Henline, Jim Shields and Douglas “Buddy” Hines, or new faces in James Brandon, Todd Kennedy and Steve Shoemaker.

Jennifer Wampler, who took over for the late Harry Wampler Sr. in October 2016, will also run in an uncontested race for a two-year, unexpired term.

Newcomers state their case

Kennedy for the past 12 years has worked for the city of Knoxville and helped write federal grant applications, with some covering multi-million dollar projects.

“I’ve seen how government works from the inside out, so I hope to bring some of those ideas and some different tactics and communication, community awareness, community engagement into policy and procedure and things of that nature,” Kennedy said.

This is Kennedy’s first time running for an elected position. He chose to do so now because “it’s just time for change.”

“I think people have seen some things take place at the city level that they’re not happy with and the council body seems to be aging and they’ve been in place for a while,” Kennedy said. “I think people in general are just ready for somebody new and I’ve always had a heart and a desire to serve my community. I grew up in Lenoir City, so I just think the time is now it seems like.”

Kennedy wants to focus on transparency.

“The taxpayers deserve to know what the end of game is for policies that are being passed and they deserve to know where their money is being stewarded well,” he said. “That’s the main thing I hope to accomplish. And then I hope to accomplish some protection for our Highway 321 corridor and our downtown historic district to ensure that the character of those is not only maintained but protected for the next generation so that we don’t have unresponsible development patterns that occur.”

Brandon is running for the first time following retirement after 39 1/2 years for Lenoir City Utilities Board. He’s running because he isn’t pleased with how the city is operating, including the implementation of a stormwater fee and a possible sales tax increase.

“I just figured I’d try to help the people,” Brandon said. “I’ve had several people ask me, ‘Why don’t you run? Why don’t you run?’ and I said, ‘Well, I can run, but I want the people behind me and things with the decisions that I do make because I won’t make them if it’s not for everybody.’ I’m not just a ‘yes’ man to satisfy whoever, mayor or anybody else. I won’t just say yes to be saying yes. I think about it and I look at it. If it don’t involve being right for everybody in this town then I won’t go for it.”

He believes the city should work for the people.

“It’s nothing against the rest of them, it’s just I think they ought to work a little better for the people instead of just yes-ing everything that they want to do,” Brandon said. “... The ultimate goal is to try to work for the people of Lenoir City and do what’s right for them. I’d like to bring businesses in but I don’t see that the rain tax will bring business. I think that’s a hindrance to our business, to bring them in, because nobody wants to pay taxes.”

Shoemaker hopes to provide experience he gleaned in the U.S. Army for 11 years and 21 years with LCUB before retirement. He’s running for council a second time after his first attempt in 2016.

“There have been some things that have gone in the city that is not fair for the voters themselves,” Shoemaker said. “The rain tax that council voted in, that never had been voted in (before). They charge churches, they’re charging the school system for something that the good Lord puts down.”

Council could use a change, Shoemaker said, noting he believes others feel the same way.

“It’s just like our country right now is we’re trying to get new blood and stuff into the country and the economy and everything, get it kick-started and going again,” Shoemaker said. “I think the people are happy with what’s happened right now. I feel that Lenoir City needs to start following in that same way is that council members that are 80, 90 years old, need to let people that are younger have the opportunity to give their experience instead of running like it’s been for the last 40 or 50 years.”

He also believes school security is an issue that should be handled differently.

“I believe that they should have hired a security firm to come in here and analyze before they made any recommendations to see what the safest and most cost-effective way of doing this instead of just throwing it on the people themselves,” Shoemaker said. “I think that the politics of Lenoir City needs to be given back to the people and the council and the mayor should just be overseeing it and they should listen to the people and they’re not doing that no more.”

Incumbents seek new term

Hines has served council for 16 years and hopes to continue progress made in the city.

“We’re just all hanging in there together and we’ve done great together and that’s one reason I wanted to run again is to continue what we’ve already started,” Hines said. “We’re doing a great job, I think, with the help we’ve got. ... I’m sure there will be other stuff later, but what we’re working on now is trying to get everything straightened out and to where it will work like it should. That’s my main purpose is to continue with what we’re doing now and trying to keep everything better. We’ve got a lot of projects going on.”

That includes continuing efforts in downtown and on U.S. Highway 321.

“We’re getting a lot of things done and we got that intersection out there at the school,” Hines said. “We’ve been thinking about it for the last 20 years and we finally got it finished up and it’s great. The new road we built out there and everything. Everything has worked great and I just hope that we can continue in progress.

“We’re, of course, getting the highway straightened out on 321 on up through there,” he added. “We’re doing a lot of work, a lot of work’s going on. The intersection on Highway 11 and 321 is progressing. ... Underground, of course, the old sewer lines have been there since 1900 I guess or later and we’re trying to get all that straightened out. It’s been leaking for years and years and everything. That’s another project we’re hoping to get settled.”

Henline is seeking his fourth term after serving 12 years. It’s been a “very successful” time, especially the past four years, he said.

“I think that we have accomplished a lot over the past several years, and I feel like that there’s a lot more to be accomplished, and I’d just like to be a part of that as we move the city forward,” Henline said. “I think with the new city hall that we’ve moved into and our downtown streetscapes and renovation of the memorial building, the central park that we put in downtown and upcoming splash pad that will go in there with that, I just think that we’ve made huge improvements to the city over the last several years and but there’s still a lot of work to be done and I’d just like to be part of it.”

One potential road project Henline noted was the intersection of Kingston Street and Town Creek Road West.

“We’re working with the state trying to get that fixed there and improved where it’ll be a lot safer,” Henline said. “You can’t see there when you come up out of that hole there, you can’t see, and we wanted to make it much safer there. It’s projects like that, that we need to improve. You can always find places that need improvements and that’s just one that I thought off right off the top of my head.”

Shields is seeking his third term after initially running eight years ago to give back to the community he lives and worked in.

“I’ve been humbled and I’m really appreciative and thankful for the people that supported me and elected me to serve them for the last eight years,” Shields said. “I’m very proud, like I said, humbled to represent them. I’d like to represent them another term. We’ve got so many good things happening in Lenoir City and continue to move it forward. A lot of growth, a lot of things have happened and it hasn’t involved a property tax increase and I’m proud of that.

“Some other things that’s coming up that we’ve been working on, the project downtown, streetscapes and the brewery that’s supposed to be coming to Lenoir City later and get all the details worked out,” he added.

Hopes are to see those projects through to the end, he said.

He also aims to continue working with law enforcement, notably in relation to the opioid epidemic and illegal immigration.

“Just to continue doing what we’ve been normally doing about the opioid problem and work with law enforcement on illegal immigration and things of that nature,” Shields said. “Things that reoccur and keep coming and coming up, we’re going to have to do something sometime, but it seems like it’s a long process to get there.”