Court ruling means 8 Knox commissioners, sheriff are out - 2

Court ruling means 8 Knox commissioners, sheriff are out - 2

(Page 2 of 3)

Knox County officials have known some clarification of term limits was needed since the Supreme Court ruled last March that similar term limits were legal and constitutional in Shelby County.

But most people who spoke to 6 News about the ruling Friday said they did not expect what was handed down.

"The people voted for term limits, so I felt like they should be upheld," said Greg "Lumpy" Lambert. "But at the same time, it's just going to be really sad to see these folks go."

Lambert, who was elected to his first term on county commission in August, is not affected by the ruling. But his fellow county commissioner in the Sixth District, Mark Cawood, lost his seat because of the term limits ruling.

"While I'm disappointed today that I'm not going to be able to fill out this term, I'm nothing but grateful for the time I've spent up here representing the sixth district," Cawood said. 

"There are a lot of people affected by this, from the sheriff down," he added. "It's a wide reaching decision, and we have to sift through it and carry on the services of Knox County government. Rest assured, I'll be doing my best to do that."

Knox County Trustee Mike Lowe said the ruling will cause chaos in his office. "We're in the middle of a tax season right now," he said. "And how will this affect all of the different accounts that we have? We have probably between 40 and 50 different accounts. It's mind-boggling what has happened."

Elaine Davis, who ran unsuccessfully for Phil Guthe's commission seat, said she hopes there will be some sort of public forum to help in the process of replacing the term limited officials. She said if there is not, the voters will be denied once again.

Under state law, county commissioners have the authority to fill the vacancies by appointment  until the next county-wide election.

But not all commissioners are comfortable with that option.

Commissioner Mike Hammond, Phil Guthe, and John Greiss are asking the county law director to draw up a resolution calling for a special election to fill the vacancies.

It's not certain if that is legal or not. Also uncertain is the timing of either option.

Already, politicking has begun by citizens hopeful of gaining an office. Newly-elected Commissioner Greg "Lumpy" Lambert told 6 News people have already approached him to express interest in and inquire about a job.

The sheriff's office is considered by many to be the most high-profile elected position in Knox County. Tim Hutchison has held that position since 1990, but because of Friday's ruling, that will soon change.

6 News political analyst George Korda says Hutchison's departure could create a power struggle within the sheriff's department, leaving the officers and staff with many questions. 

"Where are my alliances? What are the best alliances for me? Those are people inside the department and outside the department," Korda said. "Who is likely to be sheriff? Who is going to run? Who wants to run? Who wants to be appointed? What happens if there's an appointment and that person stays there for some period of time? That obviously makes (the appointed sheriff) an automatic favorite come the election, whenever that happens."

Former Knoxville mayor Randy Tyree, who lost to Hutchison in the August 2006 election, has already said he will be a candidate for the sheriff's job when there is an election and wants the job if an appointment is made.

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