And six candidates vying for Norris council positions
Six candidates – including four incumbents and two newcomers – are vying for the five seats on the Norris City Council in the Nov. 3 general election.
All of them say they have one goal in common: protecting the small-town feeling and parklike ambience of the city that was originally planned and built by the Tennessee Valley Authority during construction of the nearby Norris Dam.
The incumbents running for re-election to the council, which comprises five members who serve for two-year terms – include Mayor Chris Mitchell and fellow councilmembers Loretta Painter, Ron Hall and Bill Grieve.
Seeking their first terms on the council are Jill Holland, a nearly lifelong Norris resident, and William “Will” Grinder, who moved to the city just under two years ago.
The only incumbent not seeking re-election is Larry Beeman, who chose not to run again after serving three years on the council, the past two as vice mayor.
Beeman said this week that he chose not to run again because of some personal health issues. He was appointed to the council initially to serve out the remaining year on the term of another councilman who left, then he ran for election on his own two years ago.
“I enjoyed my time on the council and do believe I was able to offer something,” he said.
Although some people believe that Holland and Grinder are running for the seat Beeman is vacating on the council, the reality is that all five seats are at stake because the city council isn’t divided into districts. All candidates run at large, which means that the top five vote-getters will win the five open seats.
The mayor and vice mayor do not run for those positions in Norris. The council itself chooses the mayor and vice mayor from its own ranks during the first meeting after a council election.
Here’s who is running:
Mayor Chris Mitchell
Michell, who has been on the council and served as mayor for six terms, said the general rule is that the candidate receiving the most votes gets the mayor’s post, while the councilmember who comes in second in the voting is chosen as vice mayor.
“That’s not how it has to be, but traditionally it is,” Mitchell said. “As far back as I can remember, it’s only happened once that the person with the most votes wasn’t chosen as mayor, and that was because that person didn’t want to serve as mayor.”
Mitchell, who is running for his seventh term on the council, received the most votes in all six of the previous elections, he said.
“My vision of this role is based on what the city needs,” said Mitchell, who works as a rate consultant for electric utilities. “And this is a non-paid position.
“I want to continue to help Norris to grow a sense of community,” he said. “That means we do things to get to know each other, and we work together. … I am more optimistic now, even in these difficult times, than I have been. I feel we have invested in infrastructure, and we have volunteers who are engaged. More work needs to be done, but things are running very well and we will continue improving in the future.
“Two items that will get focus is completion of the sidewalk improvements downtown, with handicapped access, and the new road through the industrial park. We also need to keep improving recreational availability and activities throughout the city. I see living in Norris as being in a neighborhood where we know each other, we go on walks, people wave at you. We have meandering sidewalks through town, and we’re greeted by people with smiles. We want to continue that.
“Change is happening, but it is very slow and needs to be incorporated into what we have and not be a disruptive force. I believe slow change in a managed way can add to what we have.
“I’m not running on an agenda. I want to help us proceed as we need to. I don’t have all the answers, but I do lead, and I do have ideas.”
Councilmember Loretta Painter
Painter, a homemaker whose hobby is making quilts, said she wants to keep Norris the great place it has been during her time living in the city.
“I’ve been on the council eight years, and I’ve lived in Norris 23 years,” Painter said.
“I started going to city council meetings when Sharon Wallace was mayor. I wanted to hear for myself what was going on, and see how the city works. I joined the community development board about 12 years ago, and was on it several years. I find it very interesting how things are connected and what it takes to get anything done.
“I believe we need to remain a conservative society so we can keep things going the way they have been. We have a new city manager. I would like to be there a couple more years to support him as he finds his way. It’s a huge job he has. He’s doing a great job, and he’s handled this COVID thing very well. It’s been a real time consuming effort to keep everything going.
“Chris [Mitchell] has been the mayor the whole time I’ve been on the council, and I think he’s doing an outstanding job.
“I’m really glad we have the new sidewalk. I walk a lot in town. I’d also like to see us spend time and energy on the walking paths in the town – the old blacktop ones we don’t call sidewalks. All of these things take a lot of maintenance.
“We just want to keep it going nice and slow in Norris. We don’t want to change anything.”
Councilmember Bill Grieve
Grieve, a retired teacher, has been on the city council for eight years. He said he grew up in Norris, but went on to have a career in the Army, then earned a master’s degree at Virginia Tech and worked for the university for 10 years before moving back to East Tennessee.
“I taught school in Campbell County for many years,” he said. “After I retired, I came back to Norris, and moved into a house I helped to build. My parents started it in 1959.
“Norris is a great place to live, and being on the council, I’m trying to give back some of all that Norris gave to me while I was growing up here. My wife passed away five years ago. But I have remained active.
“One of the things I want to make sure is that Norris maintains its small-town atmosphere. I also want to help find ways for Norris to progress financially. We just can’t sit and think it’s all going to come in. We need to be original and look for ways to help our community to grow – and still maintain the atmosphere we have.
“We also need to look out for the men and women who keep our city safe, and take care of the people who deliver the clean water to us. We can’t our public works people who maintain the small-town cleanliness we have.
“I also want to do anything we can to bring Norris into the county more. Norris is a little island, but we shouldn’t want it to be. We should want it to be a welcoming center for anyone who wants to come here. The new sidewalk can help a lot.
“More multi-family housing would help with our income if there are places for it.”
Councilmember Ron Hill
Hill joined the council about two-and-a-half years ago to fill out an unexpired term, then ran for his first full term in 2018. This would be his second full term if re-elected in November. He is a retired longtime law-enforcement officer who moved to Norris from Pennsylvania with his wife to retire here eight years ago.
“I initially ran because with my background in law enforcement and regulatory agencies, I felt like I could give back to the community,” he said. “I saw some things I thought should be changed. I had some feelings about the police department, such as not having proper training.
“The chief at that time was not dedicated to getting the kind of professionalism the department needed. Other than still not having tasers to use as an intermediate weapon, I think things are going well. I think that’s a big liability gap, and I intend to press that again when it comes to budget time.
“Mostly that has been a budget problem. … It would cost $12,000-$15,000 to get tasers for all personnel. It’s a tight budget.
“I’m on the planning committee – I serve as the council representative and vice chair. I’m also council representative for the animal commission. I attend most other committee meetings – recreation, water commission, watershed board, and the tree commission.
“I started as local street cop in small town in Pennsylvania, and later was a State Police trooper. I also worked as federal law enforcement officer.
“My wife and I did a lot of research looking for a place to retire. I grew up in Campbell County, but my family moved away. I always felt out of place living in the North. When I retired from the Pennsylvania Office of the Attorney General, we looked all over the Southeast, and found our home in Norris online.
“My vision is to maintain a village-type atmosphere for Norris. It is like a gated community without the gates. There’s an area along Highway 61 that I’d like to see business growth.
“I also want to maintain the fiscal responsibility the council has shown in the past. Norris is very proud of some of the amenities that come with living here, such as trash pickup at the door, leaf pickup in the fall, and the police department involved with helping people. … There are a lot of things I’ve never found in other locations where I’ve lived.”
New candidate Jill Holland
Holland is an English teacher at South Doyle High School in Knoxville, and previously taught for 14 years at Norris Middle School.
“I’ve lived in Norris for 50 of my 58 years,” Holland said. “My grandparents moved here in 1960.
“I think we need a vision that allows us to grow, but maintain our happy little community, our utopia. I want to see more transparency in our city spending, and work on public safety, what’s best for community. There is now one police officer on duty at a time. Maybe the fire department could back up the police.
“I’d like to work on the commissions, tree, library, summer programs, and have weekend kids’ activities year round. I would like to see the Norris Little Theater come back to life. I teach English and drama.
“I would like to hear more from the community. Maybe we could have a bike lane. I know they just put in a really expensive sidewalk. I heard great ideas when I went door to door. I’ve been doing that since I signed up to run, and I’ve got a couple more streets to go. It’s been a really nice experience.
“I’d like to work on the downtown area, make it more viable. I’m excited [to run for council]. There’s no place like Norris.”
Candidate William “Will” Grinder
Grinder said he’s been living in Norris nearly two years, but as a licensed general contractor, “Most of my customers have been in Norris in the last 15 years. I lived outside Lake City before.
“I just love living in Norris,” he said. “We plan to live in our current house a long time. I want to preserve the character of Norris. Norris is quiet, and the local outdoor spaces are probably the best thing here.
He listed the following as the key issues he sees Norris facing:
“I believe preserving the overall character is the most important part. People live here because of that, because it is the way it is.
“I want to actively look to increase revenue growth. Along the Highway 61 area, there are properties that could still be developed. Some of Highway 61 needs to be rezoned perhaps for some apartment complexes. We need to encourage the opportunities for growth.
“Being environmentally conscious should be in the background of everything we do. All the trees, the water, the greenways trails, the clean air. Those things are part of the true character of Norris.
“I believe in supporting the Norris public safety team and Norris employees, and let them know we have their backs and we care about them. I’m on the Citizens in Support of the Norris Police and Fire Departments. We have a fundraiser coming up Oct. 24, an Appreciation Day at Pavilion 2 at Norris Dam State Park from noon to 4 p.m.
“Not everything can be changed to please everybody. But it’s important to listen to everybody. When people call me, I will be there to listen and try to make a difference. I’d just like to make a difference. I don’t do anything halfway.”
Voters can choose up to five
Mayor Mitchell notes that voters can choose up to five of the six candidates on the Nov. 3 ballot, but they don’t have to vote for five if they don’t want to. They can choose four or less; and any voters doing that could essentially take votes away from some of the candidates because it’s an at-large election. The top five vote-getters will win the five council seats.
Early voting begins today (Oct. 14), and the closest location for early voting for Norris residents is at the county offices in Anderson Crossing at Andersonville Highway (Tennessee 61) and Norris Freeway.