Activist Kimberly Peterson the Progressive Candidate Knox County Needs

She’s fierce, she’s bold, and more important than that she’s progressive.

Community Activist Kimberly Peterson has held a lifelong commitment to social justice and making a difference for all people.

Serving as development director for the United Way, American Cancer Society, and Big Brothers Big Sisters for fifteen years she learned what it meant to serve the people. She has also been heavily involved in organizations and spaces which challenge the status quo and often vocal on issues of race, class and disparities.

As the only Democratic candidate in the 5th District race she doesn’t shy away from how she believes she can make an impact. When asked about her progressive background and positions on politics she holds a firm stance.

“I do consider myself to be a progressive. Though that word often means different things to different people, personally, I think of the political climate of the early 20th century that saw great social and political activism as well as a push for governmental reform. As someone who has been involved in social justice activism much of my life, I am proud to embrace a term which means pushing society, culture and government forward to be more just and equitable”.

Growing up in a military family and faced with single parenthood she also understands what it means to be a part of diverse ethnic, religious and socieconomic society first hand.

Peterson was born in Aberdeen, Maryland and then landed with her family in Knoxville and Morristown after her father’s military service which took her family abroad and to various cities throughout the United States.

She earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in Cultural Anthropology and History from James Madison University and became active in a variety of organizations and social justice causes dedicated to ensuring equity, responsible environmental stewardship, and giving everyone a voice in government.

As the mother of a special needs child she was faced with leaving her career to become a full-time caregiver and shortly after found herself raising her daughter as a single mother and relying on her parents, friends, family and government programs designed to give a “hand up, not a hand out”, as she says.

She is now married to her husband Greg in a blended family of six.

Kimberly believes that too often those making the decisions and laws these days are the least effected by the policies they enact.

“I decided to run for office because I strongly believe that those who are in the position of making laws and policies as well as deciding where and how resources are allocated far too often benefit from those decisions at the detriment of the majority. When I was approached and encouraged to run, I thought about the make up of Knox County Commission and it is clear that this governing body truly does not represent the people of Knox County. We need a local government that represents and amplifies the voices of all the people it serves”, says Peterson.

Knox County’s Fifth District serves the West Knoxville/ Farragut/ Concord area of the city where she is running for County Commission. She faces Republican candidates Clayton Wood and incumbent John Schoonmaker.

Traditionally I think the 5th district has been largely republican but we have a very strong, engaged and active group of Democrats here which is why we needed a candidate to rally behind. Having ballots election after election with only one candidate who does not even have to run a campaign and share her/his vision, is not democracy in action. We have to show that there are diverse voices throughout Knox County even in so called “Republican and Conservative strongholds”, said Peterson.

As I said earlier, I would like to see local government reflect the make up of its community. Though my district is better off than others in Knox County, it does not mean that its residents do not face some of the same challenges. I think no matter where you live in the county, we want our children to go to school and be able to focus on learning and not worry about being a victim of gun violence, we want them to have a public education that prepares them to succeed in life. We want to see businesses that reflect the needs and desires of those in the community. We do not want to see our friends and neighbors have to make tough decisions on how they are going to heat their homes or provide for their families. The thing I want to see change the most is to have people who have lived these experiences share them and then to be at the forefront of shaping and creating policy”.

Early voting begins February 12th and Election Day will take place on March 3, 2020.

For more voting and election info visit


Did Black and Inner City Knoxville Decide the Mayoral Election?

This year, as it turned out, black voters really turned out — more than for any other mayoral election in at least a generation.

Not so long ago, those postcards that landed in East Knoxville mailboxes, just before Knoxville’s mayoral election, could well have helped bring the election over the inner-city finish line for the candidate who mailed them.

This time around, for Eddie Mannis, not so much.

The Mannis campaign’s targeted mailer listed thirty mostly black, mostly Democratic, community gatekeepers as supporters of Mannis — a well-known Republican businessman. Technical note: Knoxville’s officially “non-partisan” mayoral election has, first of all, never required any candidate to quit their party; and secondly, has never stopped candidates from pirating endorsements from grasstops leaders of their opponent’s party (see e.g. Haslam v. Rogero, 2003).

For candidates who are not from East Knoxville who want East Knoxville voters, i.e. voters of color, the conventional wisdom has been to treat the East Knoxville vote as a monolith. Historically, for candidates running citywide, the tried-and-true strategy for locking in the “Black Vote” has been to obtain endorsements from East Knoxville’s establishment politicos, at the grasstops of their dependable if sparse grassroots voter base.

But whether by grand racist design from back in the day or by apathy (both/and?), if the “Black Vote” has ever been a factor in citywide elections, it has been decidedly minor because of its disproportionately low turnout numbers. Though one sixth of Knoxvillians are black, those majority-black precincts would never come close to being one sixth of the overall vote total in citywide elections.

Until more East Knoxville voters started paying attention.

This year, as it turned out, black voters really turned out — more than for any other mayoral election in at least a generation. Indya Kincannon’s margin of victory in combined majority black and working-class inner-city precincts was almost exactly equal to her citywide margin of victory. It is no stretch to say that those inner-city voters decided the race for Mayor of Knoxville.

In other words, the weedy inner-city lawn got mowed, and the grasstops made way for the grassroots.

It is no stretch to say that those inner-city voters decided the race for Mayor of Knoxville.

So what happened? While no single thing can account for the black and working class voter surge, there were two new grassroots organizing efforts that targeted inner-city residents throughout the mayoral election year. While working independently of each other, Community Voices Coalition and the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy each largely bypassed the usual inner-city gatekeepers to tap into key concerns of low-income residents, then successfully turned those concerns into major election issues in the mayoral race (also, the City Council Movement worked hard in the inner city for their city council candidates, but stayed out of the mayoral race).

We’re #1…And That Really Sucks

Early in the year Community Voices Coalition set the stage for its Equity Campaign by releasing its findings about Knoxville poverty and gun violence. The numbers were/are a fairly devastating indictment of the city’s status quo, from the standpoint of black poverty and racial equity. 42 percent of “black or African American” (the U.S. Census category) Knoxvillians live in poverty. Knoxville has the worst black or African American poverty rate of any Southern city, and one of the worst in the U.S. Adding insult to this injury, Knoxville’s black or African American poverty rate is worse today than it was twenty years ago. 

Meanwhile, with three months left in 2019 (latest available numbers from KPD), there were thirteen black victims of gun homicides, compared to one white and one Latino gun death. With blacks at 1/6 of Knoxville’s population, those numbers tell a pointed tale of economic and racial inequity.

Community Voices began as an informal collaboration of a half dozen inner-city based nonprofit organizations, neighborhood groups, churches, and activists who wanted to document and address local poverty and equity issues from a local, evidence-based standpoint. The partners were clear from the outset that for their purposes evidence means not only data, but also the local human stories behind the data. Beyond documenting their issues, the partners sought broad community input from inner-city residents to propose solutions to the problems they deal with firsthand, every day.

Their initial project was a door-to-door survey of poverty experts — ultimately 699 inner-city residents — to identify Knoxville’s most critical economic justice and racial equity issues. The survey data yielded the raw material for a series of guided community conversations and two mayoral candidate forums. The Community Voices partners centered the community and candidate forums on the top issues identified in the survey: gun violence, lack of youth opportunities, and unaffordable utilities and housing.

About a month before each of the mayoral candidate forums, the Community Conversations forums set the stage for the candidate forums.

Knoxville community group names priorities for mayoral candidatesSeven hundred people took a community survey, identifying gun violence, youth opportunities, and unaffordable utilities…

All 699 poverty experts who took the survey were invited to the Conversations (almost one hundred showed up each time). People personally affected by these issues told their stories and translated survey results, as well as their experiences, into questions for the candidates.

Putting Faces on the Numbers

At a different inner-city church each time, over one hundred neighbors attended each of the two Community Voices candidate forums, where faces were put on the issues of gun violence, lack of youth opportunities, and unaffordable utilities. People told their stories to the candidates while holding up utility cutoff notices and pictures of sons and daughters lost to gun violence. At least one mayoral candidate was brought to tears at the forum before the primary election.

The hottest election issues were no longer about rezoning and whether to allow scooters to remain downtown. “Neighborhood walkability” became more about gun violence than new sidewalks. And because unaffordable utilities gained such prominence in the candidates’ discourse, the Knoxville Utilities Board (KUB) found itself in a P.R. pickle.

By coincidence, the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy (SACE) held their own mayoral candidate forum the week after the first Community Voices forum, putting an even finer point on the issue of unaffordable utilities. KUB definitely got the point. Within a few weeks the utility announced a freeze on previously-announced increases in service fees.

The hottest election issues were no longer about rezoning and whether to allow scooters to remain downtown. “Neighborhood walkability” became more about gun violence than new sidewalks.

The Community Conversations series ultimately led to community members creating the Community Voices Equity Framework — an outline of fourteen program and policy proposals to work on in partnership with the next mayor. With a formal document to hang their hat upon, eight community organizations formalized the Community Voices Coalition (which eventually dropped the “Coalition” part of its name) by endorsing the Equity Framework.

The next task was to get the next mayor to do the same thing, at one last candidate forum.

The Equity Vote

While candidates Mannis and Kincannnon both committed to generally supporting the Equity Framework, the differences in the level of commitment between the two candidates was not lost on too many observers. Just one emblematic example was the Mannis response to a request to advocate for a low-income representative on the Knoxville Utilities Board. Mannis assured everyone that he would make sure that whoever he approved for the position “understands the needs and viewpoints of low-income customers.” Kincannnon committed to not only making sure an actual low-income member got appointed, but would also work to create a new, permanent seat on the KUB board explicitly reserved for a low-income representative.

One group of observers paying particular attention to the candidates’ KUB answers was SACE. Their year-long campaign to freeze KUB fees was just the beginning of a long-term strategy to move KUB’s low-income energy efficiency and solar programs out of sideshow status and into the utility’s mainstream energy portfolio. It was not a hard choice for the SACE political action arm to endorse Kincannon, which translated into door-to-door deployment of canvass teams in East Knoxville in the final weeks of the campaign to get out the vote for Indya.

In that last Community Voices forum, Candidate Kincannon stated her commitment to work in partnership with Community Voices to turn the ambitious proposals of the Equity Framework into reality. Some of the more audacious proposals, such as broad-based low-income solar, community-based, non-law enforcement programs to directly address gun violence, and a comprehensive, independent third-party audit of the Police Department, would be historic undertakings for any Tennessee city. With so many competing interests in city government, how soon and how adequately any of these programs actualize on Kincannon’s watch will largely depend on how much attention the community is paying.

It will be up to Community Voices to keep growing the grassroots attention span that has already made a bit of history. It’s one thing to win an election. It’s quite another to win equity.

Rick Held was Director of Community Engagement for SEEED, a founding organizational member of Community Voices.


Congressional Candidate Hoyos Enters 2020 with Strong Momentum

Clean water advocate Renee Hoyos plans to take case directly to voters

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. Community leader and clean water advocate Renee Hoyos announced today her fundraising total heading into the election year in 2020.

From over 1,000 donors, Hoyos has raised $187,000. 50% of these donors are new to the campaign and did not donate in 2018. Over 90% are in the state of Tennessee, and 95% gave less than $200.

In her previous bid for Congress, it took until sixty days out from election day for the campaign to raise $187k. This year, with 10 months until the election in November, Hoyos looks to build on her early momentum and take her case directly to voters across the district.

“I’m especially proud of our fundraising because we did it without accepting a single dollar from corporations or corporate PACs,” Hoyos said. “That way, whether we agree or we disagree on legislation that Congress is considering, you’ll know that my vote wasn’t bought by anyone.”

Hoyos has maintained her pledge to refuse donations from corporations and corporate PACs. Her opponent, Congressman Tim Burchett, meanwhile has solicited donations from lobbyists for the health insurance industry, private prisons, the tobacco industry, and more.

For more information about Renee’s bid for Congress, please visit

Renee Hoyos is the Democratic candidate for Tennessee’s Second Congressional District in Congress in 2020. 

For 14 years, Hoyos served as the executive director of the Tennessee Clean Water Network where she successfully sued corporate polluters, took on powerful special interests, advocated for major changes to government policy, and installed lead-free drinking water fountains at schools across Tennessee.

Learn more about Renee at



KNOXVILLE—Representative Rick Staples (D- District 15) and the Tennessee Department of Labor will meet to discuss the state of poverty in the East Tennessee region, particularly in the African American community.

The meeting will focus on the coordination and collaboration of the Tennessee Department of Labor and Workforce Development, East Tennessee Human Resource Agency, the Knox county commission, the Knoxville City and County Mayor’s office, and Mid-Cumberland and local faith based and community organizations to develop workforce programming for low income, underemployed and formerly incarcerated youth and adults.

Rep. Staples said, “With Knoxville leading the state in African American poverty, we need to begin the process of developing a comprehensive plan that has input from all sectors of government and the community that can address this problem.”

The meeting will include a workforce overview, local workforce profile, and a presentation on American Job Centers and will take place on January 6th, 2020 from 6:00 PM-8:00 PM at the Change Center, which is located at 203 Harriet Tubman Street.


Dasha Lundy to Hold Campaign Kickoff Jan 9 for County Commission

On January 9th District 1 County Commissioner candidate Dasha Lundy will hold her official campaign kick off event at 3814 Martin Luther King, Jr Avenue in the Burlington neighborhood of East Knoxville from 5:30pm to 7:30pm.

Dasha Lundy announced her campaign last month and is eager to continue her leadership capabilities in order to move Knoxville forward and continue serving East Knoxville and the future of historically black Knoxville College.

Lundy faces her incumbent Evelyn Gill who currently serves as the elected District 1 commissioner and Reginald Jackson who recently announced his bid for candidacy.

She states her vision for Knoxville is:

-Collaborate with the Community, Businesses and the local Governmental entities by forming alliances to foster better communication in order to support our growing population.

-Create opportunities for businesses to become more sustainable.

-Champion with the Knox County School Board in order to give adequate funding that will support teachers and students.

Dasha Lundy was born and raised in East Knoxville and still resides in the area. She holds a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Chemistry from the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga. She also has a Master’s and Doctorate Degree in Physical Therapy from Tennessee State University and the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, respectively. She is currently active in many organizations including Burlington Residents Association (Past President), Board of Trustee for Knoxville College, Commissioner for the City of Knoxville Historic Zoning Commission, Board Member of the East Tennessee Community Design Center, Board Member of the East Knoxville Business and Professional Association and many other community organizations. She is passionate about Education, Community Development and Economic Development. Lundy wants to advocate for District 1 to have access to the necessary resources in order for it to be a safe place to live, work and play for everyone regardless of race, gender, and/or socioeconomic class. In order for her advocacy to be effective, she believes it is time for the people of District 1 to unite and work together to create a plan that will uplift everyone. A leader’s role is to use their influence to bring people together to do great things. She wants to remind the people who chose to live in District 1 that “We must come together to find common ground, so we can create 1 Vision to make District 1 the best District. Therefore, Dr. Lundy’s campaign theme is “We are 1”. It is time for District 1 to reach its highest potential by working together to find solutions to the problems.

If you want to Volunteer to help the campaign

If you want to donate to the campaign