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‘Shocked’ by margin in Rocky Top

Kerry Templin will be sworn in Dec. 15 as the new mayor of Rocky Top, after winning last week’s election in a landslide vote over longtime Mayor Timothy Sharp.

Templin, part of a family that has long been involved in business and politics in Rocky Top, garnered more than 82 percent of the vote against Sharp, taking 265 votes to Sharp’s 57.

He is a compliance training officer for the Y-12 plant in Oak Ridge, and for 20 years was a firefighter at Y-12.

Along with Templin, two new council members allied with him were also elected by large margins, ousting incumbents Denise Casteel and Tony Devaney.

Jeff Gilliam, an investigator with the Anderson County Sheriff’s Office, was the top vote-getter in the five-way race for the two open council seats, collecting 227 votes. In second place, winning the other open seat, was Mack Bunch, with 210 votes. Both men ran on a platform with Templin, promising to bring major change to Rocky Top by taking a 3-2 majority on the City Council. While the mayor runs separately, that position also is part of the five-member City Council.

Councilwoman Casteel came in third in the council race, with 76 votes, followed by challenger Richard Dawson, with 45 votes, and Devaney, with 39.

Sharp was seeking his fourth term as mayor. Casteel was seeking her second term on the council, while Devaney was seeking his first full term after being appointed by the council in October 2019 to serve the unexpired term of Brian Brown, who resigned for health reasons.

Templin is a lifelong resident of the area whose father, George Templin, served as mayor and city councilman in the 1980s, and ran Cooper Supply Co., a former local hardware store. Two incumbents, Justin Job and Zack Green, remain on the council, as their seats were not up for election this term. The mayor and council members serve four-year terms, with two of the council seats up for election every two years.

Templin said after the election that, “I really had a good feeling going into it, but I was shocked by the margins. Obviously, the citizens have a lack of confidence in the current administration. They demonstrated that at the polls.

“I believe they have a serious communication problem with the citizens of Rocky Top, and I hope to fix that,” Templin said. “I will do a much better job of communicating with the citizens.”

As for what changes he might make in the near future, Templin said, “I don’t really want to speculate on that right now. I look forward to working with Mr. Job and Mr. Green.

“And I think the city manager [Michael Foster] is as complicit in the communication issue as anyone. I want people to think we have the best city manager in the state. I pray every night about it.”

Templin, 60, emphasized his Rocky Top roots.

“I was born and raised here, and have lived within a two-mile radius of Lake City for 56 years,” he said.

After announcing his candidacy in August, Templin said, “My father was on council and was mayor in the ’80s, and because of that, I had always sworn I would have nothing to do with politics. But I can’t stand the direction I see this city heading, and I feel like I can’t just sit around and do nothing. If I feel I could have done something, and I didn’t at least try, I don’t think I could live with that.

“There’s a lot of dissatisfaction in this community right now, and folks don’t feel this city is headed in the direction it should be.”

In particular, Templin said he believes something must be done to eliminate what he sees as open drug use in the city by street people.

“The public drug use has got to stop,” he said. “We have probably visited 350 or 400 folks since we started campaigning, and the general consensus is that the citizens are tired of these people.

“They are tired of finding needles in their yard, which makes it so their kids can’t even go outside to play. They’re tired of finding dead people in their yards. I won’t even let my wife get gas at Weigel’s because of the druggies hanging out there. No one has to deal with that in Clinton or Oak Ridge.”

Templin said he also wants to see the city take better care of the streets.

“The streets are in horrible shape, and desperately need to be fixed,” he said. “I know there is a sewer grant coming that will cause the streets to be torn up, but they could still fix the potholes that damage vehicles.”

He also said he doesn’t understand why the city isn’t enforcing the drug laws that are on the books. “Drug use is illegal,” he said. “These are Schedule I drugs, and there is nowhere that Schedule I drugs have been legalized. Law enforcement has to enforce those laws. In other communities, these drug users go to jail, and when they get out they don’t come back.”

He said Rocky Top’s location just off Interstate 75 and on U.S. 25W is part of the problem.

“We are gifted with a major thoroughfare here; gifted and cursed,” he said. “Back when I was a city fireman and cop, we would haul them out of town, taking them on a half-day trip, and dropping them off. It wasn’t a problem back then. “Now we have drug houses in town, and their next-door neighbors are terrified to go to sleep at night. Knoxville deals with them by seizing the properties; I think we should look into that.”

Templin and his wife, Carolyn, now live in the house in Rocky Top that he grew up in. They moved back into town in December 2020 after living for a while in the Medford area, he said.

The Templins raised three children, and the couple now has six grandchildren.