Official campaign photo of City of Knoxville Mayoral Candidate Eddie Mannis standing on the Henley Street pedestrian bridge.

CANDIDATE BIO:

Eddie Mannis is a Knoxville native, born in the Inskip Community. He is a first- generation entrepreneur having started Prestige Cleaners in 1985 with 3 employees. Today, he continues to serve as the President and CEO of the Prestige companies which include Prestige Cleaners and Prestige Tuxedo. They combine to employee over 150 people. In 2011, Mr. Mannis’ companies were recognized by the US Chamber of Commerce as the Southeastern Region Small Business of the Year. The same year they also received that Community Leadership Award by the US Chamber of Commerce.In 2011, Mr. Mannis took a temporary leave of absence from the private sector to accept an appointment as Knoxville’s first Chief Operating Officer and Deputy Mayor. Other past accomplishments/service include: Leadership Knoxville Class 2006; Leadership Tennessee Class of 2015; Chair of Metropolitan Knoxville Airport Authority Board of Commissioners; Leadership Knoxville Board of Directors; Covenant Health Board of Directors; Zoo Knoxville Board Chair 2015-2017; Visit Knoxville Board of Directors; Community Service Award – Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Commemorative Commission; Inductee into the East Tennessee Business Hall of Fame, 2017; Generations of Service award by The Medal of Honor Society, 2015; PBS Person of the Year 2010.

CANDIDATE Q&A:

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

As a small business owner, I understand the challenges that businesses face. One of these challenges is the lack of a qualified and robust workforce. We have some of the best, brightest and hardest working individuals right here at our front door and we need to do everything possible to support them. However, with unemployment at a record low of 2.5%, Knoxville businesses are faced with an overwhelming lack of available labor. Simply put, there are not enough bodies to meet the labor needs of our local businesses.As mayor, I would propose restructuring the current Office of Redevelopment and the Office of Community Development into a combined Mayor’s Office of Economic & Community Development. This office will be supported by the creation of a working committee comprised of representatives from the development community, builders, affordable housing experts, entrepreneurs, and relevant city department heads. The committee will be tasked with coming up with creative and efficient solutions to challenges such as the need for a more voluminous and trained workforce. Additionally, I will partner with the Knoxville Chamber, the University of Tennessee, Pellissippi State, the Haslam School of Business, and the Anderson Center for Entrepreneurship to identify and tackle other challenges facing area businesses. The city must be a partner in supporting business and not an impediment to growth. I will work to instill of culture a partnership and support for local entrepreneurs.Finally, becoming an economically vibrant city should mean everyone has a chance to benefit from the economic success of the city. I will task the Office of Economic and Community Development with vigorously working to encourage and support opportunities for women, minority entrepreneurs, and veteran-owned businesses. A focus on growth driven by these groups will ensure growth across all parts of our community.

What do you see as the biggest infrastructure needs within the city? How would you address these as mayor?

I want to better utilize 311 to address infrastructure-related matters as they arise in a more punctual and efficient manner. By upgrading 311 to include the ability for Knoxvillians to send text messages, pictures, and to interact with the city via various social media platforms, we’ll be able to better deliver on our promise to provide safe, economical, and modern infrastructure. Currently, if a Knoxville resident wants to report a pothole they dial 311—not while driving a vehicle as of July 1—and relay their concerns. With an updated 311 system, the reporting process is as easy as snapping a photo, sending a text, or firing off a Tweet. These upgrades will save the city money and make government accessible to a new more tech-savvy audience.From the very beginning of my campaign, I have stressed the importance of innovation in powering Knoxville’s growth. Incorporating innovation, like an updated 311, will not only address many of the day-to-day issues I hear about over and over, but it will also illustrate Knoxville’s commitment to becoming a leading twenty-first-century city.Knoxville is also fortunate to have an abundance of natural infrastructure that is equally in need of upgrade and preservation. Knoxville’s greenways and urban wilderness are just a few examples of the natural infrastructure that has become a valued part of every Knoxvillian’s life. One of my central campaign themes has been a commitment to being healthy. We must be a city that is brave enough to address the serious health issues that affect our neighborhoods and communities, and I am committed to supporting the institutions, infrastructure, and incredible people who are doing so much to find long term and sustainable answers to the problems that affect so many.

Among the challenges faced by Knoxville is the state of schools within the city limits, particularly in its core. Although funding schools is the responsibility of Knox County government, what role do you believe the city mayor should play in education?

Education isn’t just Knox County’s responsibility; the quality of schools inside the city limit is critical to the quality of our city. We know that young families choose where to live largely based on the quality of the schools in the neighborhood. We also know that a vibrant economy requires an educated and capable workforce. To be the city we want to be will require quality inside the city.We have to be honest about the status of the schools inside the city. It is a fact that the students in our city schools continue to perform at lower levels of academic achievement and student growth than the schools outside the city. In 2018, only 33% of students in schools located within the city were classified as performing at grade level. That statistic rose to 43% when looking at the portion of students in schools outside the city limits performing at grade level. Knoxville city schools had an average of 2.2 out of 5 in student growth, while county schools averaged out to a perfect 5 out of 5. These statistics are disheartening and are a call for concern.It is not, however, a call for finger pointing.There are some incredibly good schools inside the city, and there are dedicated and quality teachers across the schools inside the city. As Mayor, I plan to roll up my sleeves and look for opportunities to be a partner in improving the status of the schools located inside the city.Whether it is looking for new incentive programs such as retention bonuses or tax abatements for teachers, with the goal of keeping talented teachers in city-based schools, or partnering more deeply with Great Schools Partnership to provide wrap-around services such as guidance counselors, social workers, or more community school programming, there are things the city can do to help play a role in improving the opportunities in our schools.I don’t have a single answer, but I know that it is time for the City Mayor to be heavily involved in finding solutions.

Click here to visit Mannis’s campaign website and learn more about his views.

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.