Ragsdale Presents Plan for Replacing Officials

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Knoxville (WVLT) - Tennessee's Supreme Court leaves Knox County Commissioners with the job of deciding who will replace a dozen term-limited officials, as well as how.

But those commissioners are getting plenty of advice.

The court seems to be giving Knox County a lot of leeway, but not a lot of time. Neither factor is helping answer very many questions.

"Our concerns are that the process is consistent with our laws, that it includes public input, and that it's completely transparent," Knox County Mayor Mike Ragsdale says.

Knox County's Mayor and Law Director insists these are only recommendations, but they'd hope County Commissioners would hold meetings and hearings in their Districts and county-wide to make sure they draw out all interested candidates and ideas in time to elect replacements for the term-limited 12 by February 16.

"I'm sure we have X amount of time, I'm not sure what that time limit is," Knox County Commission Chairman Scott Moore.

"From what I'm hearing, if they don't move quickly, the Supreme Court could come back down and take matters into their own hands," says Brian Hornback, Knox County GOP Chairman.

"I think they're telling us to do so promptly," says John Owings, Knox County Law Director.

Law Director John Owings seems certain, that the full commission, including the 8 members term-limited out, will vote on who will succeed them, and that they'll face less of a challenge if they select a new Sheriff, Clerk, Trustee, and Register of Deeds first.

"They're the closest thing to a popular vote, which was last August. So why shouldn't they be permitted to name their successors?" says Owings.

"I think most people would prefer a special election, However Mr. Thompson and Mr. Owings say that can't happen," says Commissioner Mike Hammond.

Nevertheless, lawyer Herb Moncier is suing in Federal Court trying to force it on grounds that Tennessee law requires special elections for offices not filed by valid election, and that the election must be held within 80 days of the Charter ruling.

"We're gonna take suggestions from anybody, we welcome them," says Moore.

But must the successors be from the same political party as those they're replacing?

"My thought is pick the best people," Ragsdale says.

"The people went out and voted for these individuals, they voted Democratic or Republican, and I think they need to be represented at the end of this deal," says term-limited Commissioner Diane Jordan.

"We will lobby for the candidate since it's not an election, but come the next election 2008, I'm sure we'll endorse someone," says Stan McCroskey, from the Fraternal Order of Police.

The wheeling-and-dealing is well underway.

The head of the fop believes the two leading republicans aiming to succeed Sheriff Tim Hutchison have struck a deal, for one to bow out and support the other.

If they have, it's not public.

Neither Deputy Jimmy Jones, nor Chief Deputy Tom Spangler, have returned phone calls.