Knox County Mayoral Candidate Profile: Bob Thomas

CANDIDATE BIO:

Commissioner Bob Thomas represents everyone in Knox County as one of two At-Large Commissioners on the Knox County Commission since 2014. He has been a successful broadcaster as well as business entrepreneur and owner. Bob began his broadcasting career when he was a teenager. While at WIVK he had the highest-rated midday radio show in America for 16 years. He has worked in radio more than 30 years. Most recently, he co-hosted one of East Tennessee’s most popular morning talk shows, the Ed and Bob Show with Ed Brantley.

Bob has served in the Knoxville community for decades. He revived the Knoxville Christmas Parade in the 70s and then served as its chairman for 16 years. For five years he served on the Board of the Cerebral Palsy Center for Handicapped Adults with two years as its President during the construction of the Group Home. Bob was instrumental in bringing professional hockey back to Knoxville in the late 80’s as the owner of the Knoxville Cherokees, gaining affiliations with the Edmonton Oilers and the Pittsburgh Penguins. For eight years he promoted over 300 games at the Knoxville Civic Coliseum bringing in over $20 million to the Knoxville economy.

Bob is married to Kim Simmons Thomas, a former TV anchor in Knoxville. They have three children and six grandchildren.

Bob currently is actively serving on the following boards:
Metro Drug Coalition Board
Dogwood Arts Festival Board
Young-Williams Animal Center Board and Executive Committee
American Cancer Society Board
Arts & Culture Alliance Board and Executive Committee
Chairman, Knox County Cable TV Committee
Knox County Pension & Retirement Committee
Knox County Parks & Recreation Board
Community Television Board
Thompson-Boling Arena Use Committee
Served two years on the Knox County Development Corp Board

CANDIDATE Q&A:

What do you believe is the Knox County mayor’s role in education? Do you believe schools are in need of additional funding? Are there any educational priorities you think our school system should be focused on?

I am the only candidate who attended Knox County Schools and whose children attended Knox County Schools. Now, even my grandchildren go to Knox County Schools. I am invested in the Knox County school system.

  1. The Knox County mayor should be a leader across all Knox County government functions.
  2. They get additional funding every year. In the last seven years, their budget has increased over $75 million dollars. I alone have voted on over $35 million in increases.
  3. We need to celebrate education. The recent Knox County teacher awards just occurred with not a lot of fanfare. In my administration, the Knox County teacher awards will be built into one of the biggest nights of the year.

We need to find out what every child wants to do or feels is their “talent.” It may be math – it may be working with their hands. I have been working with the Ride and Decide Program for the last four years. It has gone from being in one school to going statewide. It helps kids decide if the trades or working with their hands is their talent. Let’s help find ways for our children to be successful and happy, not just direct all to four-year schools to get in debt and come out with a degree that means nothing to them. We must accept that a four-year college is not for every child. We need to get more dollars to the classrooms and stop waste in the school system. We need to let principals run their own ship and quit constantly moving them around, and let them find the best teachers. Let’s find the best teachers and let them teach – quit making them teach the kids for testing.

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

Many might say that government alone is the biggest challenge. I get many emails from business owners who are frustrated with red tape from the government. They feel like government is an obstacle not a partner in growing our county. We will be a support to businesses not a hindrance. More importantly, I think we need to work hard to bring in businesses with higher-paying wages. I want to be even more involved with entrepreneurs than we have been in the past.

What do you see as the biggest infrastructure needs in our county? How would you address these as mayor? 

  1. Roads is what most people would say. We are going to strive to pave more roads on a priority basis. We need to pave at least 120 miles a year.
  2. Access to high-speed internet for businesses. We need that if we are going to attract more technology companies.