“If drafted, I will not run; if elected, I will not serve!”
That’s how Mickey Mallonee paraphrased Gen. William Tecumseh Sherman last night when I asked her if she would really consider running for mayor of Knoxville, a rumor going around. Talk of that started six or eight weeks ago as kind of a joke among Mickey’s friends, but now the idea is being enthusiastically promoted by several other folks, one of whom is a former Knoxville mayor and an inveterate political junkie.
But I, for one, believe her. I was one of the 150 or so folks at her surprise retirement party last week planned for her when, after 11 years, she decided to step down from her post as the city’s director of special events, a job she describes as “the best job in Knoxville.”
She certainly deserves to retire. It may be the best job in Knoxville, but it is also one of the hardest, most demanding jobs in Knoxville. The city’s special events office is in charge of hundreds of events every year, requiring coordination with almost every other department of the city and scores of outside organizations. The director must deliver events that are highly visible with much, much potential for things to go wrong whether by acts of God (storms, heat, ice) or simple human error.
Mickey wants to travel and spend more time with her two grown children, both of whom live in Atlanta. “It’s an ideal time to retire when there is so much change going on,” she said. “I saw my friends playing and I thought, ‘I want to play, too!'” Additionally, she said she wanted to leave while she still loved her job. “There’s not been a day when I came to work that I wasn’t looking forward to it,” she said. “But no. I’m not running for mayor. I’m retiring.”
OK, then. About that retirement party. . .
It’s hard to plan a surprise party for a party planner because they know all the tricks. But a small committee of Mickey’s friends were determined to do it. Hannah Lee Parker, Kyndra Brewer, Terry Turner, Eddie Speeks, Eddie Mannis and Michele Hummel started having weekly meetings months ago to pull it off. And it worked!
Last Thursday, Eddie Mannis and Terry and Gina Turner told Mickey they were taking her to dinner and would pick her up at her downtown condo at 7 p.m. Mickey’s only question: “What should I wear?” Terry’s response: “Something festive!” She still didn’t have a clue when she walked outside her condo and a woman looked her up and down and remarked, “You sure look festive!”
Terry, who owns All Occasions Party Rentals, said they would go to Club LeConte for dinner, but he explained he first needed to stop by the Bijou Theatre to check on an event his company was involved in. That’s when he opened the door to the theater and all of us yelled, “Surprise!” from the stage.
She made it onto the stage where her children and many, many friends awaited.
Finally, it was time for everyone to take seats in the theater to watch a hilarious video put together by Eddie Speeks’ studio, Stellar Vision and Sounds.
Then came the live portion with a series of roasters.
Here’s a true story. Several years ago when we had an opening at Moxley Carmichael, I mentioned to Bill Haslam that someone like Mickey would be perfect for the spot. He told me in no uncertain terms that that was not an option. He jokingly (I thought) said if I even thought about that, he’d personally burn down my house!
Bob Polk, long-time director of public assembly facilities, pretended he was a Christmas tree to make fun of Mickey’s famous love of the holiday — and the month-long Christmas in the City program.
Diana Morgan, one of Mickey’s best friends and favored traveling companions, told a few stories. It’s partly her fault Mickey is leaving because she and Shelba Murphy make retirement look like so much fun!
And then came Gloria Ray, president and CEO of the Knoxville Tourism and Sports Corporation. She pretended she was Mickey. Brought down the house!
I think Mickey was a little worried when she saw Gloria’s get-up!
Alan Carmichael, my sweet husband, had a speaking role. He said Mickey is cheap (which she really isn’t!). He claims she is still using paper cups left over from Bill Haslam’s first mayoral race. (Well, that’s kinda true!)
Remember that story I told about Bill Haslam threatening to burn down my house? Well, apparently he threatened Eddie Mannis with the same fate when Eddie tried to recruit Mickey to be executive director of the Dogwood Arts Festival!
Terry Turner’s company, All Occasions, has become very close to Mickey over the years. Needless to say, she’s relied heavily on his services. He donated all the staging for Mickey’s retirement party.
Mickey was whisked to the after-party at Sapphire in an appropriately decked-out golf cart!
OK. A few follow-up notes: Mayor Haslam has named Judith Foltz, director of development for the Knoxville Symphony Orchestra, as Mickey’s replacement. Narda Cappuccilli, Mickey’s assistant, will be leaving when Mickey does. She’s accepted a position as administrative assistant to former UT head football coach Phillip Fulmer. Eddie Mannis said Thursday he will decide by the end of the year whether he will run for Knoxville mayor.
In addition to the companies and individuals already mentioned, big thanks to Tom Bugg, the general manager of the Bijou, who arranged for the theater to be available. Also to the creative department at Moxley Carmichael, which designed the invitations (NOT the words on the invitation — just the design!) and to Amy Foster, our administrative support clerk who accepted the RSVPs so Mickey wouldn’t find out about the party. Also to Paul Watkins, who presented Mickey with a beautiful vase on behalf of Knoxville’s Sister City program.
Photo credit: Big, big thanks to Traci McDonell for all the great pictures!