Louisville in waiting?

Contested elections in city bring issues, philosophies to ballot box

Photo with no caption
By Lance Coleman
Senior reporter
Blount Today

Louisville is either a town with a government poised for progress or ready for regime change - it just depends on which
candidate is talking.

The incumbents, mayor Geraldine Anderson and aldermen Bob Gourmley and Bill Marcus, are at odds with the challengers, Lynn Roberts for mayor and Mike Thurston and Rob Tingle for aldermen.

Anderson, Gourmley and Marcus tout the progress brought by new subdivisions, improved recreational facilities and parks, stringent guidelines for developers, better fire protection, a recently paid-off municipal building/fire hall and plans to break ground on a new city hall. Roberts, Thurston and Tingle counter that developers aren’t being held to high standards at all and city leaders often have no answers when residents ask questions. When Thurston said residents often are ordered to sit down when they raise issues in planning commission meetings, Anderson and Gourmley said this only happened when individual residents made personal attacks.

The two sides don’t even agree on details related to the elections. While Roberts said in a Tuesday morning candidates’ forum at the Blount County Chamber of Commerce that the town’s population had tripled since it was formed in 1990, Anderson countered that the population had only doubled. Anderson and Gourmley also took issue with Tingle’s comments that this was the first contested election in the town’s history. Anderson said this is the third such contested election, the first two being in 1991 and 1993.

Who will residents trust? Who will they elect? Blount Today spoke with the candidates for mayor and alderman in Louisville to learn their positions and let them explain their thoughts for the future of Louisville.

Geraldine Anderson
Geraldine Anderson, 60, is a lifelong resident of Louisville. She and her husband Jesse have been married 42 years. She works with Wallace Hardware, Inc., out of an office at Walker Supply Co., in Alcoa. She helped complete the paperwork for the town’s 1990 incorporation and became an alderman in that first election. She was first elected mayor in February of 1993.

"I take the job personally," she said. "It’s a joy to me to get to do this, even though we serve without pay. Even when the people calling to complain, I get to meet them and talk to them. You meet lots of good people."

Anderson said the town has worked to get computers at Middlesettlements Elementary and built a fire hall for Blount County Fire Department personnel to give fire protection to every residence.

"We have been growing. It is a growth area. We’ve had lots of new subdivisions come into our town the last few years."
In addition to fencing off property donated off Topside Road for a park, the city has built four new pavilions there using donated funds, Anderson said. The city also has Poland Creek Camp Ground for campers.

City leaders will break ground for a new fire hall adjacent to where the current fire hall and municipal building are located. The facility will have a meeting room, three or four offices and a kitchen, plus an office where someone could work and answer the phone. There also will be a kitchen and a safe room to be used in emergency, she said.

Anderson said the town is growing and referred to the fact that the city has people requesting to be annexed into Louisville.

"We accept people only by request, and we’ve got 20 wanting in," Anderson said. "It’s a healthy sign that people want (to be annexed)."

The city used to do a newsletter and is planning another soon, she said. "The more you let people know what you’re doing and what’s going on, that helps communication," she said.

Anderson said the town has more than $750,000 in the bank in savings and a building fund. In addition, the town has no debt.

Anderson said she has the experience and attitude to continue leading the town. "I do care about the town and the people and what happens to the town," she said. "The Lord has blessed us. I think giving God glory will help our town as much as anything. If He’s in it, then you can’t go wrong," she said.

Lynn Roberts
Lynn Roberts, 61, grew up in Greene County, has been in the Knoxville area since the 1970s and has lived in Louisville for nine years. He is a sales engineer with LRM Corp., a company that designs, engineers and fabricates material handling systems. His first wife died in the late 1990s, and he and his current wife, Belinda, have been married five years. He has two children from his previous marriage, and she has two children, he said.

Roberts was direct when asked why he was running for mayor. "What motivated me to run is the fact there is absolutely no apparent vision for the future of Louisville in the current administration," he said.

Roberts said that while Louisville has some of the toughest rules for developers and zoning, often those rules aren’t enforced. "There’s a variance in almost every situation. The town lives to give variances," he said.

Roberts said the town’s government needs to be run in a more even-handed way. "What I mean is every citizen needs to be treated in the same way. I think we need more civility in town meetings. The town meetings in Louisville have been contested the last year," he said. "Lots of citizens complain. Citizens who have been trying to have an impact and have asked questions and have been shut down, told to sit down. There’s been lots of disagreements in town meetings."

According to Roberts, growth is the biggest concern in Louisville. "If we do not grow responsibly in Louisville, we are overrunning our infrastructure and overstepping our bounds as a community," he said.

Roberts also said residents are concerned about the town functioning without a city property tax. "We need to generate revenue to increase our ability to offer infrastructure, but we need to be able to do that without a property tax," he said.
Roberts said he has the ability to lead Louisville into the future. "I have been a business owner over 20 years," he said. "I have experience with problem-solving. I will not shift my responsibility as mayor of Louisville to someone else."

Bob Gourmley
Incumbent Bob Gourmley is 59, but he’s hoping for a big birthday present. "I turn 60 on election day," he said. Gourmley and his wife, Tracy, have been married 26 years. They have three grown children.

Gourmley has been an alderman for eight years and has lived in Louisville for 11 years.

Gourmley, who works for Hewlitt Packard, said the reason he chose to run the first time mirror why he chose to run for a third term.

"I wanted to have some sort of control on the growth of town to make sure it grew correctly. I think the people running against us do not have the best interests of town at heart," he said. "I feel the people running against us don’t have the right motives."

Gourmley said the town has built two community parks, a baseball diamond and a soccer field. They also built and just recently paid of a maintenance/city hall/fire department building.

When asked why voters should vote for him and what separated him from the other candidates, Gourmley said people like him because he is non-political and honest. "I love Louisville and don’t want to see it become a metropolis. I don’t want to see it grow the wrong way," he said.

The town reserves Topside and Louisville roads for commercial growth. "To allow commercial endeavors on secondary roads would be bad, we want to prevent that."

Bill Marcus
Incumbent Bill Marcus, 56, was born in Bryson City, N.C., graduated Piedmont Aerospace in 1970, was in the military during the Vietnam War era. When he was honorably discharged he moved to Louisville and has lived there 33 years. He and his
wife Sharon have been married 22 years.

Marcus said he got involved on the Louisville board of aldermen when he completed the two years of Pat Huffman’s term following Huffman’s death. He won a second term and is now running for his third.

Marcus said his motives for running are simple, "to keep Louisville as it has been - a beautiful farm community, and to give back to the community."

Marcus said the town has done well in its young existence. "We started in 1990 with nothing, and now we have our town maintenance building we use for a town hall and a full-time fire department.

Marcus said this year’s Town Day on Oct. 21 will include more than just free food, fellowship and a flea market. "We’ll have our note burning for paying off our building, and we’re going to have our groundbreaking to start a new town hall," he said.

Marcus echoed Gourmley’s thoughts on growth. "I don’t think you can totally stop growth," he said. "People ought to be
able to use their land and sell it. It’s their land. They should be able to use it as they see fit, as long it doesn’t (have a negative effect) on neighbors."

Marcus said he thinks the voters will support him because of his background "and what I’ve given to the community," he said. "They see my feelings and how I feel about stuff. I’ve got a history of supporting the individual homeowners’ interests. and I intend on doing so. I think the little guy needs to be taken care of."

Mark Thurston
Mark Thurston, 29, has lived in Louisville nine years. The New England native owns a trucking company - Horse Transportation Co., and a landscape and architecture company, Mark’s Landscaping and Design, in Maryville. He is a 12-year resident of Blount County and he and his wife of six years, Tammy, have one child.

Thurston said that when he first moved to Louisville, he went to the current administration and asked about plans for the community and then built a log home on his property. Shortly after he finished construction, a business park with a car wash
and other commercial development was built near his home, he said.

"That’s not what I was told a year and half prior. I could gripe or do something about it," he said when asked why he chose to run. Thurston said he has always gone to town hall meetings and asked questions. Thurston took issue with the planning commission meetings. "When you ask a question about excavating or clearing going on, they say they don’t know yet. I know they know. Plans have to be approved," he said. "They just don’t want to let citizens know. Too many people on the board have told people to sit down. If a citizen in this town can’t ask a question at a town hall meeting without being told to sit down, there’s a big problem."

Thurston said if he’s elected, he will listen and answer questions and not tell people to sit down. "I want people to feel they can come and ask questions and if we’re there until 9 p.m., that’s OK. We’re answering citizens’ questions," he said. "That’s what I want to do. I can not get that from the current administration. I think that just wrong."

Thurston said he would want to put a stop to all the commercial and industrial growth in town. "That would be one of the big issues and put a limit on the amount of housing in subdivisions; 220 home subdivisions are ridiculous. Our roads can’t handle it."

Thurston said people need to feel they can come to meetings and be heard. The regular town meetings run by Mayor Geraldine Anderson are more civil, he said.

"At our town hall meetings, Geraldine would never (tell people to sit down)," Thurston said. "But planning commission? That’s when they’re told to sit down. Or they’re told, ‘We don’t know what’s going on,’ when you see excavating work going on.

They say, ‘we don’t know,’ I don’t think that’s right. Certainly at town hall meetings, that has never been done."

Thurston said he would give 110 percent of his ability if elected to the board. "I’d take time to listen to each and every person here. I have a vision for this town, and I would like people to say some day, ‘Let’s take a drive through Louisville, Tenn.,’ and I don’t think they do that now."

Rob Tingle
Rob Tingle, 46, and his wife of 17 years, Sanya, have two sons, ages 10 and 12. Originally from Clarksville, Tenn., he is a 15-year resident of Louisville and an 11-year employee of Denso Manufacturing where he is a computer specialist. His wife works for Alcoa, Inc.

Tingle came to the area when he attended the University of Tennessee. He met the woman who would become his wife at UT and stayed in the area after he graduated.

When asked why he chose to run, Tingle used Biblical terms to describe the state of affairs currently in Louisville. "It’s the epic David and Goliath battle -- the citizens vs. the developers. As citizens, we want to have more say in what our community looks and feels like," he said.

Tingle said 100 residents have formed a group of concerned citizens called the Louisville Citizens’ Association and have identified three problems with Louisville town government: communication, industrial development in commercial zones and fear of a city property tax.

"We’ve been asking how people want this town run. What LCA is is a group of concerned citizens not being listened to," he said. "We just formed a group and are able to discuss how we felt."

Regarding communication, Tingle said a lot of times a building will pop up and the neighbors will never have been notified of development. "We want more involvement with the decision-making process of the town," he said.

Tingle said the town was allowing industrial development in commercial zones. We want manufacturing off from the front of the roads and keep that more for attractive businesses that have true retail activity," he said.

Tingle said the planned administrative building the aldermen and mayor will break ground on Oct 21 could bring about a new city property tax. "City taxes would double the taxes on homes and run senior out of homes," he said.

According to Tingle, if a new town hall is built, more administrative services will be created and a city property tax will be inevitable. "We have 2,000 people in town. We have an administrative building in town, we don’t need another one."
Tingle said residents should vote for him because he doesn’t represent special interests. "I represent and listen to the citizens. Basically, now developers come into Louisville knowing this is an easy place to develop because it just is," he said. "It’s easier to develop here than in Blount County. The inspection process is not what Blount County or the city of Alcoa has."

Tingle said residents should be concerned about this years Louisville election. "I think the citizenry are unhappy.

(Individuals) have gotten up enough nerve to run against incumbents. There are enough people and support for basically wanting to make this town a little better - less like Clinton Highway and more like somewhere we can all live."

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