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For far too long, women have been considered a minority in the American government system. In the long history of our country, there have been thousands of male government officials, but very few women have taken the same role. We know a few of the current steps that have been taken to break this barrier, like Supreme Court Justice Ketanji Jackson or Vice President Kamala Harris. However, we have our own trailblazer right here in Knoxville.
Local Mayor, Indya Kincannon has been one of the few trailblazers in Knox County, including her predecessor, Madeline Rogero. She is officially Knoxville’s second female mayor ever.
While this is an accomplishment itself, Mayor Kincannon has collected an impressive resume over the years including serving as both an undercover housing tester and a paralegal for the Department of Justice.
Our local celebrity is more than qualified for the job, with a bachelor's from Haverford College and a master's from Princeton University in Public Affairs & Urban and Regional Planning. Mayor Kincannon has notably served Knoxville and continues to do so coming into her second and final term in office.
After being sworn in as the 69th mayor in 2019, Mayor Kincannon began her long and productive journey into our local society, not just as mayor, but as a citizen. Mayor Kincannon originally moved to Knoxville in 2001, when her husband Ben Barton accepted a position as a Law Professor at the University of Tennessee. Kincannon is what you might call a ‘Vol for Life.’
I actually had the opportunity to reach out to Mayor Kincannon with some questions regarding her and her upcoming term:
In our male-dominated society, what challenges or barriers have you overcome that lead you to your position?
Kincannon: I’ve overcome two main barriers to become a woman leader in a male-dominated society. First, the stereotype that leaders, particularly executives, are men. This strong presumption is changing, but still very persistent. Second is internal. Often women think they have to check all the boxes for qualifications before even throwing their hat in the ring. We are just as prepared and qualified as the men, but just need to step up, take risks and the successes will follow.
What advice would you give to young girls, who aspire to become future leaders?
Kincannon: Avoid perfectionism, take risks, and use setbacks as learning opportunities.
Of the many goals you’ve accomplished as mayor, what are you most proud of?
Kincannon: I’m very proud of leading Knoxville through the COVID pandemic. I consistently supported public health recommendations, and did my best to keep things focused on health and safety, not politics. I am also proud to have conducted the first ever national search to find the best candidate to be our police chief. I am proud that I’ve been willing to do the right thing, even when it’s not the popular thing.
What do you see for the future of Knoxville, in the next 5 years?
Kincannon: I see major opportunities and challenges of a city that is attracting a lot of new people and talent. People want to live in our fair city, but they need affordable housing and good jobs. My goal is to help create more walkable communities where people of all ages can afford to live a high quality, sustainable life.
I plan to address the housing crisis, make KPD a top notch police department, implement our Vision Zero plan to eliminate fatal traffic crashes by 2040, implement our Urban Forest Master Plan, and make Knoxville a more walkable, sustainable, equitable city where all residents can thrive.
Who has been your greatest influence on your career?
Kincannon: First and foremost, my parents, who raised me to believe in public service. As for more distant inspirations, there are many, but some key ones are Ann Richards, former Governor of Texas. She was such a great speaker and broke many glass ceilings. Locally, my predecessor Madeline Rogero, has been a mentor and inspiration, and former County Commissioner Bee DeSelm, who took me under her wing when I first joined the school board in 2004.
I’ve also always been inspired by great women athletes, in particular from tennis, as that was a sport I was pretty involved in. So Chris Evert, Martina Navratilova, Venus and Serena Williams. Being involved in sports, learning how to be aggressive, how to win, how to lose, how to be a good teammate, has been helpful to me as a woman leader.
With Public Safety being her #1 priority coming into office, Mayor Kincannon has efficiently achieved this within her first two years in office. This includes purchasing and deploying the city’s first ever body-worn cameras for Knoxville Police Department and implementing Knoxville’s first co-responder program.
Mayor Kincannon has more than adequately proved her effect on the local population. Prior to her position as mayor, she served on the Knox County Board of Education for over a decade. As a mom of two, she still plays a big role in our school systems. She has continued to help our community by making all city buses available for free to all kids through their senior year of high school. Pretty impressive, right?
Local Representatives such as Kincannon have a significant role in our community, so it is crucial for young people, like us, to be aware of politics. After her final term, what will be the new head of local politics?
Luckily for us, we have a few more years to figure out the best fit for our proud college town. If Mayor Kincannon is any indication of the future of Knoxville, we are heading in the right direction.
Our local hero has made her mark in the heart of ‘Vol Nation’ throughout her terms as mayor. Her 2nd term as mayor has not even officially begun and she is already striving to better and beautify our beloved city. As someone who is new to Knoxville, I have become a fan of Mayor Kincannon and am eager to see what she does in her final term.