CANDIDATE BIO: 

Gwen is a lifelong resident of Knoxville and has been employed with CVS Health for 15 years as Executive Advisor, as well as previously employed with Covenant Health Ft. Sanders Loudon Hospital; Peninsula Hospital and Peninsula Lighthouse. Currently, she serves on the Metropolitan Airport Authority and Knoxville Area Urban League boards and is a member of the Knoxville Links Incorporated. She is also a member of Town Hall East Neighborhood Association, East Knoxville Business and Professional Association and East Towne Business Alliance. Gwen attended South Carolina State College. She volunteers with Shoes for School, PBS Television, Feeding America, Howard Circle Of Friends, Crutcher Memorial Youth Enrichment Center and is co-chair/volunteer with National Achiever’s Society. She has received the CVS National Paragon Award (business and community engagement) and the Home Federal Home Town Hero Award (Community Service). Gwen is also a former board member of the Knoxville Botanical Garden, Girl Talk, Inc., Tanasi Girl Scout Council. She is married wit a blended family of six children and one dog (Lucky).

CANDIDATE Q&A:

What are three factors you feel are most critical to continuing Knoxville’s steady economic growth? How do you plan to support these factors?

1. Tax Increment Financing (TIFs) and Payment In Lieu Of Taxes (PILOT’s) are critical factors to incentivize continued development and growth. I am in support of both incentives and will review requests thoroughly to ensure they are provided equitability.

2. Branding, marketing and outreach to encourage continued business and corporate investment in Knoxville. The Knoxville Chamber/Visit Knoxville are major partners who help promote our city as thriving, diverse and the place to do business! I will work closely with partners to support their current efforts and explore additional opportunities.

3. Affordable housing factors into our economic growth as it’s critical to provide housing options for our workforce to ensure we keep a talent for all levels of employment opportunities. I will support this effort by introducing a pilot program which has been successful in another city in Tennessee and work with the real estate community to have listings of affordable housing options and help promote a positive view of communities.

What is the biggest challenge facing Knoxville businesses today? How do you plan to address this issue if elected?

One of the challenges is finding qualified and committed candidates to fill positions (customer service positions, nursing/healthcare, skilled labor positions). I will work with businesses and companies to offer more “internships” and/or “job training” programs. Internships can start with high school juniors or seniors during the summer, which would expose them to the real world of business and mentorship while teaching them job skills. This could also peak their interest in a profession they can pursue after graduation and help equip them for success.

Job training programs could serve the same purpose but would focus on adults who have already been in the working world, however, this program could also explore career path and growth possibilities for successful candidates.

I would approach this as a partnership with the business community as a way they can give back to the community by equipping students and adults with job skills and opportunities to succeed and thrive.

In what specific ways would you like to see Knoxville’s young professionals more engaged in our community?

A few suggestions to consider which would help give back and provide visibility in the community of KYP’s:

  • Host a Career Day event at high schools and talk to students about career paths and various opportunities in your field of work (have company logo items cups, pens, etc as prizes for student participation)
  • Adopt a School – Work with the principal to identify needs of the students, tutoring, help with reading – if it is an area with low-income students, they may need coats or jackets (can coordinate a coat drive)
  • Participate in the YWCA Phyllis Wheatley Race Against Racism January 13, 2018.
  • Participate in the Knoxville Area Urban League Shoes for School event (sign up for a booth and give out school supplies)
  • Coordinate a food drive at your companies to support Feeding America and/or The Love Kitchen
  • Several of these service projects are also great team building opportunities for your group!

All candidate profile information was submitted by the candidate’s election campaign committee. The Knoxville Chamber does not support or endorse candidates in local elections. 

Click here to register for the Young Professional Candidate Forum on Oct. 4.