Lenoir City mayor is running on his record

Finances cited; two challengers promise change

Hugh G. Willett knoxnews.com

Lenoir City Mayor Matt Brookshire is facing a pair of opponents in the Nov. 4 election, both promising change in the way the city does business.

Brookshire, 35, a Lenoir City school teacher who has been in office for almost eight years, is running on his record, particularly his financial accomplishments.

"When I took office, the city reserve fund was $107,000," he said. "As of 2008, we are up to $1.2 million in our reserve."

The city also has received $5.5 million in grant money during Brookshire's tenure. The money has been used to fund improvements to the fire and police departments, as well as recreation improvements, he said.

Brookshire points to three new recreation centers, including a soccer complex, skate park and new walking trails. "We also added an enclosure to the pool that will allow it to stay open until December," he said.

While he is encouraged with the growth of new development, such as Town Creek on U.S. Highway 321, it is the older downtown area he is most concerned with reviving. The city has begun acquiring property downtown to build a new city hall, he said.

"For the last two years, my primary focus has been on downtown," he said.

Robert "Tooter" Robinett, 51, a builder and developer who is making his first run for public office, has been running on the slogan "the choice for change." Among the things Robinett would like to see changed is the way Lenoir City deals with business and financial issues.

"I feel like it is time Lenoir City was run by business people, not politicians," Robinett said.

Robinett said he is not impressed with claims that the city is in better financial shape than it was before Brookshire arrived. He said he is particularly concerned about the high debt service, which he feels has been kept hidden from the public. "They don't tell the whole story," he said.

Management of Lenoir City Utilities Board, the city's utility service, is another area that needs improvement, he said. The ratepayers have been forced to absorb huge increases that might not have been necessary under better management, he said.

Citizen involvement in government is another of Robinett's talking points. "I don't think we utilize citizens enough," he said.

Gary Aikens, 57, a Vietnam veteran and lifetime member of American Legion Post 71, also is making his first run for public office. Aikens, who is retired from the insurance business, makes one promise none of the other candidates has made.

"I will be a full-time mayor, in the office daily to meet with anyone on any issue," he promised.

Aikens also said he is most concerned about fiscal responsibility and the need to reduce taxes and wasteful spending. He opposes plans for a new city hall.

"Do we need a new facility?" he asked. "At this point in time, it is questionable."

Increased rates at LCUB are making it hard to recruit businesses and bring jobs to the city, Aikens said. Better long-range planning might have prevented the large increases in water and sewer bills that are hurting businesses and people on fixed incomes, he said.