Gwen McKenzie kicks off re-election bid with food, fun!

Vice Mayor Gwen McKenzie at her campaign kickoff last Thursday in East Knoxville.

A good-natured and diverse crowd gathered in the sweltering  heat last Thursday to eat, dance, pray and pick up signs at the kickoff of Vice Mayor Gwen McKenzie’s re-election campaign for her 6th District City Council seat.

According to food vendors who collected tickets, more than 300 people attended throughout the two-hour event held at Eternal Life Plaza on Martin Luther King Jr. Avenue. WJBE “Jammin’ 99.7” provided tunes throughout the event.

This election is important to me, not only because Gwen and her husband, State Rep. Sam McKenzie, are friends of Alan and me, but also because Knoxville’s future will be seriously impacted by the results of Council races this year. We happen to live in the 6th District. McKenzie is opposed by a far-left candidate backed by the City Council Movement and a hard-right candidate supported by the anti-mask, anti-Health Department and anti-government funding Scruffy Little City PAC.

Alan and I believe that, although Knoxville certainly has its problems, it is basically a wonderful place to live and has been moving in the right direction for decades, getting better and better under moderate leaders of both political parties. The Council races are technically non-partisan.

Vice Mayor McKenzie, a lifelong resident of the 6th District, was elected to City Council in 2017 when she faced 12 opponents for the post. Her colleagues on Council chose her to be vice mayor, making her the first African American woman to hold that post in the history of Knoxville.

She is executive director of Legacy Housing Foundation, a nonprofit providing programs for seniors, people with disabilities and families in affordable housing communities. She serves on the boards of the Knoxville Area Urban League, Zoo Knoxville, World United Ministries, Girl Talk, Inc., and Next Step Initiative. She is a graduate of the 2020 class of Leadership Knoxville.

My favorite two things that Vice Mayor McKenzie has done since being elected are spearheading the movement to ban gun shows on city-owned property and forming the Faith Leaders’ Initiative, a group of religious leaders that weighs in on pressing community issues including COVID-19 and gun violence.

It was fun to see so much support for Vice Mayor McKenzie on Thursday evening. I encourage everyone to vote in the upcoming City Primary. Early voting starts Aug. 11, and election day itself is Aug. 30.

Pastor Daryl Arnold of Overcoming Believers Church prays over Vice Mayor Gwen McKenzie at the launch of her re-election bid on Thursday. At right is her campaign manager, Patricia Hammonds.

It was great seeing old buddies Terry and Tank Strickland!

WJBE Program Director Gene Thomas, left, with Alan Carmichael.

Quineka Moten with her son, Dion, was holding a friend’s infant.

Phil Lawson, right, founder and chairman of LHP Capital, with Tommy Smith, a fellow City Council member also seeking re-election.

From left, Cameron Brooks, Rev. Harold Middlebrook Sr., Hancen Sale of the Knoxville Area Association of Realtors and Council Member Andrew Roberto, who also is seeing re-election.

State Rep. Sam McKenzie was one of the hardest working people getting the event ready!

From left, Kim Hill, Rev. Arnold, Vice Mayor McKenzie and Cathy Wilson.

Entertainment included an African drum and dance performance. Will post a sample at the end of this.

Vivian Shipe gave a powerful endorsement of the candidate describing a time when she and McKenzie were passing out bottled water at a community event. When the event ended, McKenzie insisted on taking the leftover water to a homeless encampment under a bridge. “True leadership is what a person does when nobody is looking,” Shipe said.

Hamburger Hill food truck was doing a brisk business.

Folks wanted chips, too!

But, the most popular snack had to be snow cones as the temperature hit 90 degrees!

Here’s that video I mentioned:



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6 Responses to Gwen McKenzie kicks off re-election bid with food, fun!

  1. Sandra Clark, on June 21st, 2021 at 3:16 pm said:

    Great review and a strong endorsement for Vice Mayor McKenzie. August is an important election because one candidate (or more) will be eliminated in each district. The risk is that two fringe groups get out their vote, while the majority in the middle takes it for granted. And you know the outcome of that.

  2. Gwendolyn W Brown, on June 21st, 2021 at 3:23 pm said:

    Gwen has done an outstanding job as council woman and vice mayor representing the 6th District and the greater Knoxville area. I will continue to support her in her reelection to City Council. It is refreshing to have someone who works to accomplish the greater good of the Knoxville community.

  3. Cynthia Moxley, on June 21st, 2021 at 3:28 pm said:

    Sandra: I couldn’t agree with you more about the importance of folks who are NOT on the fringes not being complacent. We are doing really well here. We don’t need to let special interest groups on the left and the right take control.

    Gwen: Agree with you, as well!

  4. Lillian Mashburn, on June 21st, 2021 at 3:59 pm said:

    I am a strong supporter of Gwen although I live in the county, I think support for excellent City Council candidates and members is important. Gwen has more than earned that support. Words are not enough and I will be making a monetary contribution !

  5. Cynthia Moxley, on June 21st, 2021 at 4:00 pm said:

    Lillian: Yay! So glad to hear!

  6. Mary Leidig, on June 25th, 2021 at 11:54 am said:

    Great column. I’m with Vice Mayor Gwen!

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