KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (November 1, 2010) – Knox County Mayor Tim Burchett spent time discussing American politics with approximately a dozen members of an international delegation of journalists from former Soviet bloc nations visiting Knoxville as part of a U.S. State Department program. Activities were organized by the University of Tennessee College of Communications and Information.
The international travelers are “considered rising leaders in Eastern Europe countries,” News Sentinel Columnist Georgiana Vines wrote of the group. Vines, also a lecturer at the UT School of Journalism and Electronic Media, helped organized the group’s Knoxville activities.
“These journalists are thirsty for the freedom that we take for granted here in the United States,” Mayor Burchett said. “Even though they’re mostly from modern democratic countries, you get the sense that open corruption is a big part of their political system.”
Over lunch at Wright’s Cafeteria, followed by a meeting in his office, Mayor Burchett explained his ongoing efforts at making Knox County Government more transparent, as well as his goal of ensuring service, efficiency and savings for Knox County Taxpayers.
“The idea of transparency was a surprise to them. As journalists, they’re used to being stonewalled at every turn,” Mayor Burchett said. “They also couldn’t believe that I would give up my county-issued car just to save taxpayers’ money.”
Few of the visitors spoke English, but they shared Russian as a common language and were able to engage in a lively conversation through translators.
Questions from the group ranged from Mayor Burchett’s reason for running for office, to how taxpayers can let them know how they feel about how Knox County is being run.
“I told them what I tell everybody else: I ran for office 16 years ago to help people, it’s as simple as that. And that’s the reason I’m in office today,” Mayor Burchett said. “Then I told them if someone had a problem, all they had to do was call 215-2005, and they’d get someone in my office who will listen to them.”
While in Knoxville, the group will visit various media outlets, and they will observe the Election Day process. Their trip ends Wednesday, November 3.