Michael Roy Ragsdale had wanted to be Governor of Tennessee, and his goal was likely to have been on the ballot in the August Republican State Primary this year. Instead of being Governor, Mike Ragsdale may very well leave office known for the corruption in his administration. Those who support the beleaguered Knox County Mayor say that he has built a “legacy of accomplishment.” Others, even people who call themselves friends of Ragsdale, say that he surrounded himself with all of the wrong sorts of people and that he followed those people’s advice.
Few deny that Mike Ragsdale introduced programs and prerogatives into the Knox County Government that are good. Making schools the number one priority of county government only makes sense in a State where local education systems are, in reality, wholly dependent upon the will of the county commission. School boards are not truly autonomous in Tennessee, as they are in many other States-without the blessing of the county government, few of Tennessee’s school boards are able to accomplish a school district’s goals because the county commission controls the local purse strings, and what they say is really going to be the final word on any educational matter. Such was the system Mike Ragsdale has had to deal with, and he knew that if he could say schools had improved, he’d stand a good chance at re-election.
Mike Ragsdale only gave the citizens of Knox County two choices as a means to raise money for their schools, however, a property tax increase or a wheel tax. Voters chose the latter, but many wondered if there could not have been other options presented to the public at the time. The first shades of serious political opposition to the Ragsdale regime in Knox County began to appear, and instead of effectively answering his critics, Mike Ragsdale’s way to deal with them was to try and dig up dirt, even illegally.
Ragsdale sent his minions to hack into e-mails of suspected political opponents, dig into medical records of public critics, and some say (granted without real proof) to try and have his opposition assassinated while keeping his hands clean. Ragsdale very likely didn’t order Knoxville City Councilman Steve Hall to be killed, but it was awfully funny that an attempt to shoot Hall took place not only when Steve Hall was running against Mike Ragsdale in the 2006 Knox County Republican primary, but when Hall’s candidacy was clearly the beginning of a long process of bringing the abuses of the Ragsdale Administration to light in Knox County.
Abuses of taxpayer dollars, travel allowances, and even federal grant money brought the people around Mike Ragsdale down, but while the Teflon Don of Knox County politics managed to dodge a formal removal attempt, he finally couldn’t avoid the censure of the body to whom he was answerable-the Knox County Commission.
Rather than improving schools, Mike Ragsdale’s Administration will be remembered as it leaves office for corruption, waste, graft, mismanagement, and criminal activity. Mike Ragsdale should never hold office in the State of Tennessee again.