Eddie Mannis is running for Mayor of Knoxville.
I was born and raised in north Knoxville. I attended Gresham elementary and graduated from Central High School. While I was taking classes at Maryville College,
I read about used dry-cleaning equipment for sale in the paper. I met with the person, and after an agreed-upon lease time was established, I was a business owner. Prestige Cleaners was founded 34 years ago with just myself and three employees. Over the course of those thirty-four years, we have grown to over eleven locations and now employee over 150 people here in the city.
Beyond my experience in the private sector, I served as Deputy Mayor and COO under Mayor Rogero for two years and also serve as the President and Founder of Honor Air, a non-profit that flies veterans to Washington DC free of charge to honor them for their service.
Who are you and what brought you into this race?\
I am a native Knoxvillian with a desire and passion to make Knoxville the best city it can be. I considered running in 2010 and decided to wait and not run against then Madeline Rogero.
Those 8 years gave me time to confirm that the passion was real and today it is greater than it has ever been. In my opinion, Knoxville is at a crossroads with lots of great opportunities, but we also must admit that there are challenges on the horizon. Knoxville needs an experienced leader with a proven track record.
We also need visionary leadership. My experience in both the private sector and public sector qualify me to be that person. We must look at the position requirements and then look at the qualification of the candidates.
I have had complete control of multi-million dollar budgets, both assembling and implementing and have had the opportunity to employ thousands of Knoxvillians throughout that past 34 years.
How do you feel about Recode Knoxville, both as a concept for overhauling the city’s zoning code and its handling by the current administration?
I came out against recode early in the process. I do not deny that some of our city’s outdated policies need updating, including our zoning ordinance, but the process and the communication has not been as thorough as it should have been.
We must remember that all of our citizens do not have access to internet, cannot make meetings or may not be comfortable speaking out at workshops. This change also has the potential to change the value of our major asset which is our home.
We must let individual property owners know how the change will directly impact them. A very understated memo does not represent the significance of this important process. Again, I understand the importance of updating outdated ordinances but we can and must do better with the process.
What should the Knoxville Police Department do to balance the needs of keeping the community safe without serving as an overbearing presence in communities?
After researching several cities across the country, I released a policy statement on the future of policing in my administration. For many years we have had a centralized headquarters, located downtown and not very accessible.
My plan is to decentralize and establish a precinct model of policing. Savannah, Mobile, Nashville, and Chesapeake are a few of the cities we researched. The number of precincts within a city are based on square miles instead of population. The Chief of Police in Nashville, who in 2004 moved from a centralized to decentralized, said that he would have it no other way. The Precinct Commander serves as the Chief of Police in that precinct.
This model puts the officer closer to the community and the community closer to the officers. This helps build relationships between younger members of the community and law enforcement. There is also a community room in the precinct so that the individuals from the community can use for meetings and also city council can use to meet with their Constituents.
This approach allows officers to cultivate deeper community connections with the people they serve; additionally, as neighbors the officers will be able to be a stakeholder in their specific precinct community.
Share your plan for addressing homelessness beyond the efforts which have already been tried?
I understand that homelessness is a complex issue. Within the first 100 days of taking office, I plan to assemble a task force comprised of city officials, community stakeholders, and representatives from non-profits across the city.
I will chair this working group, whose primary focus will be update “Knoxville’s Plan to Address Homelessness” with the goal of rethinking and refocusing our approach to reducing the city’s sizable homeless population. While homelessness is an issue impacting Knoxvillians from all backgrounds, I will urge the task force to initially focus on two of the most vulnerable groups of people facing homelessness: veterans and children. I will direct the City’s Office of Homelessness to coordinate the efforts of local military organizations, the VA, and other private sector stakeholders to get veterans off the streets and into permanent housing.
They will also work to identify soon-to-be veterans at risk of homelessness before they leave the armed forces. I will address the challenge of children facing homelessness by working with groups like Knox Area Rescue Ministries and Family Promise of Knoxville. Their first task will be addressing the placement of families with children into temporary homes.
Additionally, I intend to with Knox County schools to ensure that students facing homelessness have access to needed resources before, during, and after the school day.
Would you ever support a property tax increase?
Throughout the campaign I have been asked this several times. My response has always been that I cannot predict the future and what challenges may come over the next 8 years.
I can promise our citizens that if a tax increase is warranted, that my team and I have gone through every line item of the city budget and we will be operating as efficiently as possible.
What is your vision for the City of Knoxville in the 4 / 8 years ahead?
Knoxville is a great city and I want to build on that and make Knoxville the crown jewel of the Southeast. We must be more diligent in recruiting new business and jobs into Knoxville, supporting our businesses that are currently calling Knoxville home and demonstrating that Knoxville is open for business.
It’s important that Knoxville demonstrate that we know who our customer is and work to improve our service level to our customer. Other opportunities/challenges, visions….making measurable progress with our Homeless population, affordable housing, safety and working with Knox County to enhance the educational experience of our city kids.
To support this approach, I would ask that we as a community embark on a long term strategic/visioning plan that would guide us into my 4/8 year term and beyond. Most every city around us has a similar kind of plan in place, and working that plan, and Knoxville does not.