Kyle Ward sponsors Juneteenth
By Steve Hunley, Publisher
There is an effort underway currently to make “Juneteenth” a holiday in Knox County. The sponsor and driving force behind it will raise a few eyebrows: Commissioner Kyle Ward. No, the sponsor of the ordinance isn’t a liberal Democrat. Quite the contrary, the sponsor is a conservative Republican. When asked why he was supporting making Juneteenth a county holiday, Kyle Ward replied simply, “Juneteenth represents the fulfillment of the ultimate American promise, that all men are created equal. Any occasion to celebrate freedom and the literal breaking of chains should not go unrecognized by county government, and soon it won’t.”
Ward is a freshman member of the Knox County Commission, but has been an active participant and has chalked up a score of ordinances to his credit. For those who don’t know Kyle Ward personally and have only had glimpses from the daily newspaper, he is something of a surprise. No rabble-rouser, Commissioner Ward is thoughtful to others and takes a cerebral approach to government and politics. A young businessman who served his country in the military, Kyle Ward takes the promise of America seriously and believes it should be extended to everybody who wants opportunity.
Ward came to Knox County for a very good reason, perhaps the best reason any young man can land anywhere: a beautiful woman. Kyle came to Knoxville for his future wife Katie, who has lived in the Fourth Commission District since she was three years old. The two fell in love, married, bought a home and Kyle started Ward Waste Solutions. Ward is a doer who believes in the American dream. Ward went to Afghanistan where he was a member of a Joint Special Operations Team where his fellow members were Navy Seals and Rangers. Well educated and highly intelligent, Kyle Ward brings a strong work ethic and boundless determination to his pursuits. “Nobody will outwork me,” Ward promises.
It was those same qualities that landed Kyle Ward on the Knox County Commission. When incumbent Hugh Nystrom announced he would not run again, Ward declared he was a candidate. At the time, few political observers gave Ward much of a chance. Kyle Ward was a political outsider running in a district that had historically been home to much of Knoxville’s political elite.
To give readers an idea about the Fourth Commission District, which Kyle Ward represents, it is a largely affluent area in West Knoxville, comprising both city and county precincts. If the Chamber of Commerce were a living thing, its heartbeat would be heard the loudest in the Fourth Commission District. Certainly, the Fourth District was home to much of the Republican “establishment” as well as many business leaders as well as Chamber types. It is fitting Cherokee Country Club sits squarely inside the Fourth District and is home to many of its members. The Fourth District is also home to many of the better-paid University of Tennessee bureaucrats. During much of the reign of former superintendent Jim McIntyre, he of the imperial school system and dictatorial manner, the Fourth District remained the one area where he retained a following until that, too, collapsed.
What chance did a millennial young business owner have against a candidate who was supported and financed by the political establishment and elite? Only thirty-four years old when he began his campaign, Kyle Ward was never supposed to be on the Knox County Commission. Never intimidated by long odds or a challenge, Kyle Ward hit the campaign trail and his opponent certainly didn’t out-work him. Ward put together a well-organized campaign and he assembled his own team of door knockers. Kyle Ward and his team canvassed 10,000 homes.
Clean-cut, as befitting a young man who had served in the military, Kyle Ward is earnest and sincere and can be so direct it surprises some. In fact, Ward is almost always quite direct. Evidently, voters in Knox County’s Fourth District liked what they saw and heard.
Over a period of a few weeks, the conversation began to change. One heard whispers that Ward guy was everywhere; that Ward guy had signs in yards in every part of the district. Still, the political oddsmakers never gave Ward much of a chance to win. Most of them, truth be told, were stunned when Kyle Ward won the Republican primary.
Ward continued running in the general election where he faced a Democrat. There are a goodly number of left-leaning voters in the Fourth District, most of whom are centered around Sequoyah Hills, once home to Knoxville’s wealthiest citizens. With the thinning of the blue bloods, they have been replaced by academics, high paid public employees and university administrators who nibble on cheese, sip wine and vote for liberal candidates.
Ward went on to win the general election, becoming the first millennial elected to serve on the Knox County Commission.
Pragmatic rather than dogmatic, Kyle Ward has been a problem-solver since being elected to the commission. Ward is perhaps best known for the county commission’s long-running debate over the late Board of Health during the COVID crisis. Considering some of the revelations that have come to light, especially with Dr. Anthony Fauci’s trove of emails, Ward looks all the more like a genius. Local news outlets assumed the same stance as most mainstream media: one of general hysteria. Dr. Fauci was beyond questioning and apparently, so was Dr. Martha Buchanan and the Knox County Board of Health, which only operated in an advisory capacity. While those same media outlets preferred to point to the anti-maskers, there was considerable hysteria and hyperbole aplenty with those on the other side of the question who cried that to question the Board of Health was literally killing people in Knoxville and Knox County.
The young commissioner noted what should have been clear to just about everyone paying attention: the Knox County Board of Health was not holding the City of Knoxville administration to the same standard as it was the county government. As Mayor Indya Kincannon sneered to Glenn Jacobs, “There is no prize for being the first to reopen” or words to that effect, the epicenter of the COVID infection in Knox County was in Knoxville, more precisely in the heart of Knoxville: the University of Tennessee campus. The Knoxville News-Sentinel photographed and recorded UT students and other young adults cavorting in various night spots, none wearing masks or socially distanced. That, of course, was overlooked by virtually every media outlet in Knox County as well as the Board of Health. None of those wringing their hands about Kyle Ward or his colleagues on commission paid much attention to that either.
Nor was it a matter of jurisdiction as one member of the Knox County Board of Health apparently proposed extending the board’s authority into Blount County. Not surprisingly, the board began losing its support on commission. Both the maskers and the anti-maskers created enough hysteria and histrionics for a TV novella, but Kyle Ward never lost his composure, much less his temper. Most importantly, the young veteran never lost sight of his mission.
More and more young people are becoming involved in local politics and running for office. Kyle Ward is someone to watch. Ward has never surrendered any principal, nor compromised his values. Hardworking, loyal, friendly and down-to-earth, Kyle Ward has already made a difference and he’s only just begun.