Will Mickey Mallonee run for Knoxville mayor? Nah. She just wants to have fun!

A sign held up on the stage of the Bijou Theatre last week.

Mickey's son, Mason Foley, and friend Diana Morgan, on the stage of the Bijou Theatre last week.

“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 looks surprised, doesn't she?

She looks surprised, doesn't she?

Mickey’s favorite colors are purple and red. So, of course, that’s the color of the confetti and streamers that came out of the indoor fireworks donated for the occasion by Pyro Shows, a frequent vendor at city festivities.
Mickey loves fanfare!

Mickey loves fanfare!

She made it onto the stage where her children and many, many friends awaited.

Seen behind Mickey are John Gill, left, Alan Carmichael, and her son, Mason Foley.

Seen behind Mickey are John Gill, left, Alan Carmichael, and her son, Mason Foley.

Mickey's daughter, Lisa Foley, left, and her brother managed to keep the secret! Yay!

Mickey's daughter, Lisa Marie Foley, left, and her brother managed to keep the secret! Yay!

John Gill, left, Margie Nichols, center, and Alan Carmichael

John Gill, left, Margie Nichols, center, and Alan Carmichael

Mary Bogert, left, of the Knoxville Convention Center, and Jane Burritt of the Public Building Authority.

Mary Bogert, left, of the Knoxville Convention Center, and Jayne Burritt of the Public Building Authority.

From left, Jennifer Holder, Scott Bird and Kim Henry

From left, Jennifer Holder, Scott Bird and Kim Henry

From left, Melynda Whetsel, John Craig and Narda Capicelli.

From left, Melynda Whetsel, John Craig and Narda Cappuccilli.

Dorothy and Caesar Stair, at left, and Bob Whetsel greet Mickey.

Dorothy and Caesar Stair, at left, and Bob Whetsel greet Mickey.

Knoxville Catering and Special Events provided a delicious spread of food on the stage.

Knoxville Catering and Special Events provided a delicious spread of food on the stage.

Janet and Tim McGaha, left, and Patti Smith

Janet and Tim McGaha, left, and Patti Smith

City Councilman Duane Grieve and Mickey

City Councilman Duane Grieve and Mickey

From left: Lisa Marie Foley, Kyndra Brewer, Mickey, Narda Cuppuccilli

Ladies in red, from left, Lisa Marie Foley, Kyndra Brewer, Mickey, Narda Cappuccilli

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.

A convivial group!

A convivial group!

Then came the live portion with a series of roasters.

Dino Cartwright of WVLT-TV, a great showman and dear friend of Mickey (and all of us!), was the master of ceremonies.

Dino Cartwright of WVLT-TV, a great showman and dear friend of Mickey (and all of us!), was the master of ceremonies.

Mickey had to sit on this chair in the center of the stage. Hahaha!

Mickey had to sit on this chair in the center of the stage. Hahaha!

Her kids were the first up! Mason told how Mickey commandeered his rehearsal dinner when he got married.

Her kids were the first up! Mason told how Mickey commandeered his rehearsal dinner when he got married.

Mickey got a little choked up by some of her kids' comments.

Mickey got a little choked up by some of her kids' comments.

Mayor (Governor-elect) Bill Haslam, Mickey's boss for the past seven years, admitted he forgot to tell her he wanted her to join his administration. Then he wouldn't let her leave!

Mayor (Governor-elect) Bill Haslam, Mickey's boss for the past seven years, admitted he forgot to tell her he wanted her to join his administration. Then he wouldn't let her leave!

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!

Two folks on the verge of big changes!

Two folks on the verge of big changes!

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.

Bob Polk as a Christmas tree

Bob Polk as a Christmas tree

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!

We hope you are happy, Diana!

We hope you are happy, Diana!

And then came Gloria Ray, president and CEO of the Knoxville Tourism and Sports Corporation. She pretended she was Mickey. Brought down the house!

Gloria mimicking Mickey

Gloria mimicking Mickey

I think Mickey was a little worried when she saw Gloria’s get-up!

Uh-oh!

Uh-oh!

Of course, Mickey's boyfriend, Santa, made an appearance. Shane Rhyne has been Santa for Mickey many times.

Of course, Mickey's boyfriend, Santa, made an appearance. Shane Rhyne has been Santa for Mickey many times.

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!)

Alan shows a cup left from Bill Haslam's first political campaign.

Alan shows a cup left from Bill Haslam's first political campaign.

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!

Like me, Eddie Mannis also failed to hire Mickey away from Haslam.

Like me, Eddie Mannis also failed to hire Mickey away from Haslam.

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.

Terry Turner pulled off the major coup of the evening by getting Mickey to the Bijou without letting on what was about to happen! Great job!

Terry Turner pulled off the major coup of the evening by getting Mickey to the Bijou without letting on what was about to happen! Great job!

Mickey was whisked to the after-party at Sapphire in an appropriately decked-out golf cart!

Your chariot awaits, madam!

Doesn't she look regal?

Bye!

Bye!

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!

Filed under: Downtown, Events, Knoxville, Public Relations. Bookmark the permalink.

10 Responses to Will Mickey Mallonee run for Knoxville mayor? Nah. She just wants to have fun!

  1. Annette Winston, on December 21st, 2010 at 6:30 pm said:

    Great story about a truly great lady. Mickey, no one has to tell you how to go have fun. You’re the world’s expert. Enjoy!

  2. Bill Lyons, on December 21st, 2010 at 11:03 pm said:

    Mickey has done an absolutely terrific job in ways that most people cannot totally appreciate. She is a friend and colleague and a great asset to Knoxville. I am so glad that she had her special night.

    And thanks to Cynthia and the Blue Streak for memorializing the occasion. As always, the description brings the event back to life in the perfect combination of photos and prose.

  3. Cynthia Moxley, on December 21st, 2010 at 11:28 pm said:

    Thanks Bill. Traci gets full credit for the photos. But agree it was an awesome event! Thanks Traci!

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  10. Diana Morgan, on December 31st, 2010 at 10:27 am said:

    This surprise was one of the most smoothly planned and best kept secrets I’ve ever experienced. Kudos to the team who did all of the work.

    One of the reasons for Mickey’s success is that there is an actual positive financial impact on the City of the events her office organizes. I am greatly concerned that Downtown will lose momentum with the change in leadership in both her office and, obviously, in the Mayor’s. Downtowners need to support Judith Folz to help her develop as Mickey did.

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