Marshall is a native Knoxvillian whose family has called Knoxville home for generations. After growing up here in Knoxville, he lived in a number of cities, and decided to return to Knoxville to attend law school at UT in 2005. In 2008, he began working at the law firm of Lewis, Thomason, King, Krieg & Waldrop, P.C. with a general civil litigation practice focusing on employment law. His love of Knoxville led him to run for city council and he has been serving as an at-large member for the last 8 years. Now, he is running for mayor to continue moving Knoxville forward and to ensure that every Knoxvillian has a high quality of life, no matter what zip code they live in. Marshall lives in Old North Knoxville with and his wife, Natalie, and daughter, Stella.
What do you believe is the biggest challenge facing businesses in Knoxville today? How do you plan to address this issue if elected?
One of the biggest challenges facing businesses in Knoxville is access to a trained, high-quality workforce. If businesses have openings, but can’t find qualified applicants to fill those positions, they will seek options outside the city. To address this, we must work with proven workforce development groups who can provide Knoxville businesses with the employees they are seeking. The city should support programs that have a proven track record of developing quality workers. I believe we also need to work with the University of Tennessee to retain as much of the talent in that institution as we can. For UT grads to stick around after they finish their academic careers, we need to make Knoxville a city they want to live in. That means providing access to parks and trails, cultural amenities like music festivals and art, and great restaurants. If we continue to grow our city and retain more talent, businesses will have more incentives to stay in Knoxville, and continue to grow themselves. Finally, we can work to provide access to high-speed broadband for businesses and residents alike. I would explore options by conducting a feasibility study to determine the best way to bring high-speed public broadband to Knoxville. With this multi-tiered approach, we can address the challenges facing Knoxville businesses, and attract new ones to our growing city.
What do you see as the biggest infrastructure needs within the city? How would you address these as mayor?
I think the biggest infrastructure needs in Knoxville are maintaining our city roads, building sidewalks in neighborhoods, and making our transit system more accessible. I would address the maintenance of our city roads by employing new technologies and installing sensors on city vehicles which would allow us to capture data road conditions. We have city vehicles traveling on our roads all day, so we can be efficient by using those existing trips to gather information, rather than making special trips just to survey roads. We can then utilize that collected data to prioritize road repairs for the city streets that need it the most, and fix potholes and rough roads before they turn into 911 calls. Regarding sidewalks, I would continue the current sidewalk study underway to determine which neighborhoods need sidewalks the most, and then prioritize those areas. Building sidewalks on every street would be prohibitively expensive, so we need to make smart decisions and put them in the neighborhoods where they make the most sense. With a growing city like Knoxville, we know that traffic will be an issue that needs to be addressed, and we need to be proactive in dealing with it rather than waiting until we have a problem. One way we can do this is by enhancing our existing transit system, and making it easier for folks to take a KAT bus. First, we need to build more bus shelters and make the system more visible. We have more than 1000 bus stops in the city, but only around 50 have shelters. I’ve seen folks sitting in ditches, leaning on guardrails, and getting soaked in the rain waiting for a bus. We can do better by providing protection for riders, and allowing them to commute with dignity. This will not only improve rider experience for existing transit users, it will also make it easier for new riders to opt to use public transit.
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?
While the city does not run the schools, education is much too important for the city Mayor to be silent on. During my time on City Council, I have spoken up when the school administration proposed funding cuts to our core city schools, many of which need that funding the most. We need to invest in our city schools to ensure equity in outcomes, not just equity in inputs. I would continue to be an advocate for our city schools, because we will never have a truly great city without great schools. In addition to standing up for city schools, I would also work to expand the Community Schools which we have grown since I’ve been on council. This model has been successful in partnering with area nonprofits to provide schools with resources their students might need, such as meals after school, healthcare, school supplies, and assisting English language learners. Some of our inner-city schools have unique challenges that other schools may not face, and the Community Schools program has done a great job of addressing those challenges, and we can continue to improve the overall educational experience of Knoxville students.
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