Knox County Candidate Endorsements - Aug 4 Elections

Debbie Helsley for County Mayor

Debbie Helsley is the practical Knox County resident’s response to the recent partisan disruptions to both our School Board and our Health department. She combines a strong working-class orientation with a keen sense of how local clean energy can create career-path jobs and raise education levels in our communities. Her commitment to fighting poverty and creating affordable housing comes from a long background as a 15-year president of Communication Workers of America Local 3805 and a lifetime union member. She’s also filled leadership roles in the Tennessee AFL-CIO and the Knoxville Central Labor Council. She’s supported Sierra Club campaigns both locally and nationally and has volunteered with Keep Knoxville Beautiful to clean up roads, parks, streams, and our river. She recognizes the need for creating infrastructure that allows for permeability and lessened pollution in our local streams, which also creates green jobs. She has a plan on proposing incentives for new development and construction projects to take advantage of energy efficient solutions. Her rapid-fire communication style shows off both her deep humanity and her background as a fifth-generation east Tennessean. Her campaign is a great fit with the Sierra Club’s positions on environmental and economic justice. East Tennessee is surging with new industrial development and new people. Debbie looks like a leader who can make the new jobs green and the new development sustainable.
Website: Telephone: 865 320 3680

Vivian Shipe for Knox County Commission At-Large Seat #11

When you check out Dr. Shipe’s campaign material, you immediately encounter the color purple. That’s red and blue mixed together. Vivian is undaunted by partisan bickering. She cuts through it with a daily regimen of helping people who struggle with issues around housing, food scarcity, the shortage of baby formula, and access to jobs. Her top campaign issue is sustainability. Like other notable endorsees, she’s resolutely working class, with 35 years’ experience as a postal worker. But her passion is service to the community, and if you participate in public life around the county, you’re bound to have heard her speak at meetings. She founded and directs I AM THE VOICE OF THE VOICELESS, and is a founding member of the Faith Leaders Health Initiative. She serves on the Community Advisory Panel for the Knoxville Utilities Board (KUB) and advocates for Knox County Schools. She’s on a first-name basis with many of Knox County’s neediest people and helps them regularly. If every elected official had her values and energy, we’d have no poverty or pollution. It’s hard to overstate the value of her candidacy.
Website: Telephone: 865 851 8006


Dylan Earley for Knox County Commission At-Large Seat #10

Dylan Earley currently works as a communications liaison to scientific facilities focusing on climate and polar data to fight climate change. He intends to use this expertise to create policies that will restrain the haphazard development in the County. Other candidates share this concern, but Dylan forcefully underlines it. “We’re on a crash course toward a housing crisis,” he says on his website. He sees it as an ecological as well as an economic disaster, but looks to responsible, community-driven development, as well as environmental solutions like rural solar installations, expanded public transportation and an all-electric county fleet, to turn the situation around. Currently available federal programs like the EPA’s Clean School Bus program make these ideas realistic and permit the County budget to make investments in low-income communities. Like other endorsees, Dylan emphasizes the need to properly fund Knox County Schools and adequately pay our teachers. He also wants to make sure public money isn’t siphoned off to fund private charter schools. Dylan is young, smart, and his rural background gives him an intimate understanding of the sting of poverty.
Website: Telephone: 423-278-2920

John Butler for Knox County School Board District 1

John Butler’s top campaign priority is reading and math proficiency and having graduates on a post-secondary path. A deeper dig into his thinking shows a strong concern for equity, both in educational results and in discipline. He sees Knox County Schools falling short in the area of vocational training and looks for improvements to be made. He has detailed ideas about a 21st Century Curriculum that gets students ready for college. He doesn’t favor charter schools, vouchers or anything that would take funding away from public schools. Butler also served on the Disparities in Educational Outcomes Task Force and helped develop its recommendations. He is already a recognized local leader with a breadth of experience in numerous fields. He was the local President of the NAACP and is still very active in it. He has classroom experience, as a Seminary Professor, a community college instructor and a public school substitute teacher. As President of the Knoxville Interdenominational Christian Ministerial Alliance, he advocated against outsourcing KCS custodial jobs. He will be a great help on the Knox County School Board to the Sierra Club’s push for green job development and racial and economic equity.
Email: Telephone: (865) 617-2603‬

Katherine Bike for Knox County School Board District 4

Katherine Bike is not shy about running for School Board to advocate for a coherent equity policy. From socioeconomic disparities to students with special needs, she wants KCS to have a clear standard of service for its students. She has special needs students in her family and has seen KCS programs that work while also seeing areas where our schools fall short. Why are some of our schools top-rated and others near the bottom? She criticizes the current school board for committing to a mask/vaccine policy and then changing plans at the last minute. For health policy, she wants the new board to turn to health professionals, for example the American Academy of Pediatrics and the Center for Disease Control. She’s opposed to letting charter schools drain money away from public education. She feels that if public schools were actually meeting the needs of students, no one would want charter schools. Her stance on equity in education makes her the clear choice over her opponent.
Website: Telephone: 865 333 2551

Dominique Oakley for Knox County School Board District 7

The top qualification for the school board is teaching experience, and Dominique Oakley has a lot. Much of it has been in low-income communities, which gives her a strong focus on education equity. As both an educator of special needs students and a mother of a special needs child, she knows how to advocate for their interests. Her website tells how being a Title I teacher has honed her teaching skills overall. Elsewhere, she takes a deep dive into the “dirty underbelly of racial and social inequity that keeps Knox County stratified” and believes the true history of our race relations needs to be taught. She lists other inequities and has detailed ideas about how to address them. She has a scathing critique of charter schools and their impact on public school budgets and connects it to our aging school infrastructure. She knows that facility upgrades will cost money, but she’s researched other schools that have gotten grants for roof-mounted solar panels, heat-recovery systems, and even rainwater harvesting. All these things would reduce expenses once installed. This political independent has a detailed vision for the future of our public schools.
Website: Telephone: 865 229 6811

Annabel Henley for Knox County School Board District 9

Annabel has a unique history of service which takes her yearly to a remote village in Uganda to provide educational opportunities. Almost everything in her diverse background has to do with teaching, whether it’s providing early intervention services to special needs infants or coaching swimming or managing women’s health programs at County Health. She knows how to serve on large boards as well as get down and help individuals. Her top KCS concern is the retention and recruitment of teachers and staff. Teacher pay and excessive paperwork are foremost, and regarding Equity Policy she’d like to see implemented the recent recommendations of the Tennessee Educators of Color Alliance. She wants to see Board meetings held at different schools across the district to facilitate community participation. She wants school health policy to follow the recommendations of local health officials and wants age-appropriate materials about colonialism, racism, and white nationalism available to students. She opposes charter schools as diverting funds away from public schools to serve a cherry-picked population and much prefers magnet schools and community schools. Her emphasis is helping people from disadvantaged communities become educational winners.
Website: Telephone: 901 461 6553

Sarah Keith for General Sessions Judge

In addition to being awesomely qualified to be a judge, Sarah Keith also has a deep Tennessee family background and large prosecutorial experience across the state, emphasizing driving under the influence, career offenders, gang members, and child abuse with levels ranging from misdemeanors to murders. Her career success is accompanied by community involvement like volunteering for Mobile Meals Delivery and Habitat for Humanity and taking pro bono cases in her law practice. She sees the General Sessions Court as a kind of people’s court where most ordinary citizens will encounter the judicial system. Misdemeanors, felonies, traffic tickets, personal injuries, property claims, landlord tenant issues constitute its daily business. Her stated mission is to make sure those citizens are treated with professionalism and respect and that win or lose they go away with trust in the system and respect for the law. Unlikely as it may seem for an environmental group to endorse a judge, we feel her candidacy is part of a large press throughout our part of the state to put into office people of deep competence and high integrity. It’s a movement we enthusiastically support.
Website: Telephone: 931 260 5866