Knox Commerce

City Council Candidate Profile: Stephanie Welch (District 1)

Candidate Bio: 

Throughout the 22 years she’s lived in Knoxville, Stephanie has been actively engaged in making our community a great place to live, work, play and learn. She’s had great opportunities to work with neighborhoods, businesses, government leaders and other community stakeholders, serving as an appointed member of the Knoxville-Knox County Food Policy Council and Knoxville’s Better Building Board. Stephanie currently serves on boards for Ijams Nature Center, Leadership Knoxville, the YMCA, and on the ReCode Knoxville stakeholder advisory committee. She has worked professionally in public health and currently works for the Great Schools Partnership, a non-profit that supports public education. She’s also a 17-year veteran and a Major in the United States Army Reserve. These varied opportunities have provided her with a unique set of experiences and skills. Stephanie has a clear track record of being a bridge-builder, connector and facilitator who can help bring together the diverse perspectives of our community. The relationships and skills she has developed will help her understand complex issues and make informed decisions that will build upon the positive momentum already underway in the First District and citywide.

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?

As a council member, I will support the city’s existing business-friendly culture through existing resources such as the mayor’s business liaison, the Knoxville Entrepreneur Center and through support for new economic opportunities, such as small-scale manufacturing, through the Mayor’s Makers Council. Additionally, I will support strategic public investment as an effective way for the city to leverage private sector investment. The development of the city’s Suttree Landing Park, the surrounding public street improvements, and subsequent ongoing investment by private residents and businesses in that area, is just one example of the impact of strategic public investment.

Grants, new public infrastructure, Tax Increment Financing or other methods must continue to be targeted appropriately to make best use of limited resources. The city’s zoning ordinance, which is being updated for the first time in more than half a century, is another tool for economic development. The current ordinance favors a more suburban and separated development pattern, resulting in an inefficient process of variances and interpretation in order to achieve today’s preference for more diverse, mixed-use communities. As a member of the zoning (ReCode) advisory committee, I will be prepared to deliberate and make an informed vote on the ordinance when it comes before council in the next term.

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

School performance is one of the most important factors to individuals and businesses when determining where to locate. An educated workforce is also a key driver of economic development, safety and health in our community. Although our public schools are not under the purview of the City of Knoxville, the city can play a role as an active voice in education. My experience in public health and in support of public education has allowed me to understand how the relationships between schools, city departments, neighborhoods, businesses and other key partners can be strengthened to best support the success of youth.

As a council member, I would bring a unique perspective to understand and guide policy to support the education of Knoxville’s youth, and to strengthen our public schools. I would begin by meeting regularly with the elected school board member and county commissioner in my district to discuss our shared interests and projects to benefit schools in the communities we serve. I have also developed relationships that will allow me to serve as a liaison between schools, neighborhoods, and businesses.

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

I believe that Knoxville’s young professionals are engaged in our community! When I go to community events such as Pecha Kucha or the Endeavor Summit, attend the many festivals we now host in our city, or see the volunteers working in our schools, I am hopeful about the engaged servant leaders who are rising up in Knoxville. However, there are some specific ways in which young professionals can and must further engage.

Voting in local elections is one. While national elections garner more attention, local elections are arguably more relevant to the quality of life in our community. However, the average age of voters in the last city general election was 63! Young professionals may underestimate their power to influence local elections and their ability to influence policy decisions made by elected leaders. In addition to making informed decisions on the ballot, phone calls, email, social media campaigns and showing up at meetings can and should give young professionals a voice regarding issues that will likely have a great and long impact across their lifetime.

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.