Forge candidates meet and greet the public
The Pigeon Forge Hospitality Association held a Meet the Candidates event at the Mainstay Suites Conference Center on Tuesday, so that City Commission candidates could meet get to know some of their constituents. The informal, catered event was free and open to the public.
"This is all about meeting and greeting the local candidates, knowing who's running for commission and getting a chance to know each other," PFHA President Phil Campbell said.
The candidates present were incumbents Kevin McClure, Joyce Brackins and Randal Robinson, as well as Planning Commissioner Jay Ogle and former Lions Club President Don Denney.
The sixth candidate, businessman Jess Davis, is not actively campaigning and was not at the event.
The candidates either manned posts at their booths, which formed a semi-circle around the room, or ambled among the tables shaking hands and conversing. Six round tables, with 10 chairs around each, sat in the middle of the room. Each table was patriotically decorated: red, white and blue balloons sprouting like flowers from the centerpieces. At certain points in the evening, almost all 60 chairs were filled, as others stood around them. The mood was light and congenial.
At 6 p.m., candidate were allowed a few minutes at the microphone to speak to those gathered in the conference room. In alphabetical order, each candidate gave a short speech about his or her personal background, platform, concerns or passions.
Brackins kept her speech brief, noting that the candidates' answers to a PFHA questionnaire were in a binder on each table.
"I've been on the council since July of 2001 and I would like to continue on it," Brackins said. "I look forward to moving the city forward in the right direction, to better serve the people. I think the people are the city and the city is the people, so it takes all of us to get this done."
Denney opened his speech by thanking the association and everyone present and by stating that he was running for election because he loves the city's people.
"I think I can be a solid voice in making decisions for the city in moving us in the direction that the people would like for us to move in," Denney said. "Going door-to-door and speaking to people during this past month or so has been very enlightening and very enjoyable, and I've learned a lot. There are some great people in our city, and I'd like to be a representative of those people."
McClure focused on his personal background, stating that he's a lifelong Pigeon Forge resident and acknowledging his wife and children.
"I'm very active here in the community," McClure said. "I'm a member of First Baptist here in Pigeon Forge, member of the Pigeon Forge Planning Commission, also a graduate in 2005 of Leadership Tomorrow and a proud supporter of Pigeon Forge schools, whether academically or athletically related."
Ogle also grew up in Pigeon Forge and said he has deep roots in the community and wants to give back by serving on the City Commission.
"I served five years on the Planning Commission and two years on the Industrial Development Board, and I hold a bachelor's and master's degree from UT-Knoxville," Ogle said. "I'm currently a partner in several local tourism-based businesses ... so I believe I've got the right mix of business and government experience to be effective in representing both the residents and the business owners here in the city."
Robinson chose to bring up a few specific issues during his speech: gross receipts tax, new payments and added expenses to next year's budget, and the new tax burden on businesses.
"It's like Christmas here: It's easy to spend, but come January your credit card bills come due, and pretty well January's here," Robinson said. "I am pro-growth for Pigeon Forge, but I am more pro-responsible growth, and I am for accountability and equality for all of our businesses. Spending someone else's money is easy, but I am very committed to spending your money as carefully as I spend my own."
Early voting for the Pigeon Forge election began Wednesday and will run through May 9 at the Election Commission office. The election is set for May 14 at City Hall.