Next Knox Mayor Jacobs Talks Opioids
Travis Dorman Knoxville News Sentinel | USA TODAY NETWORK - TENNESSEE As a professional wrestler who has appeared on national TV for years, Glenn Jacobs knows his words reach more ears than most.
As Knox County’s next mayor, he aims to use his celebrity to help make “our corner of the world a better place,” he said Thursday night.
“No matter what happens, I will always be one of you,” Jacobs told supporters at Crowne Plaza in downtown Knoxville. “Call me mayor, call me anything you want, but I am always going to be one of you.”
Jacobs, a local business owner known around the world as the WWE wrestler Kane, spoke to the News Sentinel shortly after defeating Democratic nominee Linda Haney in the race to replace outgoing Mayor Tim Burchett. With 78,000 ballots cast, Jacobs received 66 percent of the vote, according to unofficial returns.
Taking on the opioid epidemic
While Jacobs chose to keep some of his plans close to the vest — he said he’d reveal some details in his inauguration speech — he talked about his philosophy for battling the opioid crisis that plagues the region. Knox County authorities suspect 293 people died here from overdoses last year, and that figure is on track to continue to climb in 2018.
Jacobs, 50, subscribes to the libertarian brand of Republican politics. He generally opposes tax increases and favors limited government.The opioid epidemic, he has said, will not be alleviated by the government alone but by a community-wide effort focusing on education and rehabilitation.The federal, state and local governments must have “synergy,” Jacobs said. “When you look at the state level, I think we need to have stronger drug courts, veterans courts and mental health courts. I believe that mental health is also an issue which feeds the drug epidemic.”He said the state did Knox County a “huge disservice” in 2012 when it closed Lakeshore Mental Health Institute “and provided no alternative.”The mentally ill people who were treated at Lakeshore “didn’t go away,” Jacobs said. “Unfortunately many of them comprise our homeless population now. We have to work with our nonprofits and our foundations to turn that around.”Jacobs echoed statements made by local law enforcement leaders when he said most crime in Knox County is drugrelated, one way or another. He said the criminal justice system needs to be “a two-track system.”“One for the violent offenders, one for the people that frankly need help. That’s where your drug courts come in.
Hopefully they never get into the criminal justice system to begin with. If they do, we have to support them as they transition back into life.”Learning the ropesAs Jacobs prepares to take office on Sept. 1, he’s putting together his team and examining the county’s various departments to learn how they function.Friday morning, Jacobs announced the first two appointments to his administration, Chief of Staff Bryan Hair and Director of Communications Rob Link.Hair was most recently a vice president with Tennessee State Bank, according to a release. Prior to banking, Hair worked with the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) in Washington, D.C. after working in the Knoxville field office to elect Bob Corker to the U.S. Senate in 2006.Link oversaw all marketing, media and public relations for The Salvation Army’s Knoxville Area Command six county service area since 2010, according to the release. Before going to The Salvation Army, Link was public relations/ talent manager for DIY Network.Burchett, the outgoing mayor who on Thursday won the Republican nomination for the 2nd District U.S. House seat, has lauded his successor for going “out of his way over the past year to meet one-on-one with county staff and department directors.” Jacobs, who has promised not to raise taxes, said he plans to audit the departments to see if cuts can be made.The 6-foot-8, 300-pound WWE wrestler continued to perform in the ring during the campaign, including at least two times last month. When he gave his victory speech on Thursday, he had one foot in a walking cast.Jacobs said the injury wasn’t wrestling- related, but one he suffered while going door knocking.“That’s my first political injury.”