Primary 2020: 4th Commission District
With no incumbent running, a former police officer faces off against a military veteran in the West Knox Republican primary.
by jesse fox mayshark • february 3, 2020
Kyle Ward, left, and scott broyles are running for the vacant 4th district seat.
Most of Knox County Commission’s 4th District runs between Kingston Pike and the Tennessee River, from Sequoyah Hills to Admiral Farragut Park along Northshore Drive. Its neighborhoods include Lyons Bend, Rocky Hill and Bluegrass, and it slips across Kingston Pike to also pick up densely populated West Hills.
Two candidates with some common themes: economic development, infrastructure, education.
It is a fairly affluent district, with median household incomes in some places running double the county median or more. It is historically Republican, although neighborhoods closer in to downtown have become more competitive in recent years (and Sequoyah Hills is voting consistently Democratic).
Commission Chair Hugh Nystrom, who currently holds the seat, decided not to seek a second term. Two Republicans, Scott Broyles and Kyle Ward, both first-time candidates, are contending in the March 3 primary. The winner will face Democrat Todd Frommeyer in the Aug. 6 general election.
Broyles and Ward have some similarities — both have served in uniform, Broyles as a Memphis police officer and Ward in the U.S. Air Force, and neither is a Knox County native. But there are differences between them, both generational and in their civic backgrounds.
Broyles, 56, is CEO of a nonprofit organization called the National Safe Skies Alliance with a long track record of community involvement. Ward, 34, is an entrepreneur and owner of Ward Waste Solutions, which offers garbage pick-up services.
Broyles: ‘Called to Serve’
To hear Broyles tell it, he has had a commitment to public service from a young age. He said a coach who helped inspire and guide him when he was a young adolescent showed him the impact a caring person can have.
“I felt called to serve,” he said in an interview at the Bearden Panera, which serves as a one-stop community gathering place for near West Knoxville. “That ultimately is what led me to join the Memphis police.”
(Some quotes also come from emailed answers to follow-up questions.)
Somewhat unusually, he earned a college degree first, majoring in aviation management at the University of Memphis. He worked his way through school with a part-time job with United Airlines at the Memphis airport.
After graduation, he followed his instinct for public service to the police force. He had a range of responsibilities, including as a member of the department’s SWAT team, and his background in aviation eventually led him to be named chief of security for the Memphis airport.
After 9/11, Broyles’ combination of law enforcement and airport expertise became even more valuable and led to a job as a regional deputy federal security director with the Department of Homeland Security, based in Chattanooga. In 2004, he became vice president of operations for the Chattanooga Metropolitan Airport Authority, and then in 2007 was recruited to lead the National Safe Skies Alliance, which works on security issues with airports, airlines and government agencies.
That job brought Broyles and his family — he’s married, with two grown daughters — to Knox County. He and his wife live in the Westwood neighborhood of Bearden. Broyles is a graduate of a full range of leadership programs: Leadership Blount County, Leadership Knoxville and Leadership Tennessee.
In 2013 he earned a master’s degree in leadership and public service from Lipscomb University in Nashville. He has worked with the Great Schools Partnership and Connect Knox, and has been a member of the University of Tennessee Chancellor’s Associates.
Broyles is also good friends with Nystrom. The two of them had both discussed running for County Commission in 2016, and when Nystrom ran, Broyles supported him. Broyles was one of the first people Nystrom called to say he wasn’t going to seek re-election this year.
“People want efficient and effective government,” Broyles said. “Making smart decisions about our economy, working with the School Board to provide for the needs of students and making sure that we focus on our citizens’ personal safety and quality of life is extremely important.”
He has a lot of establishment support. Besides Nystrom, those signing his qualifying petition included Commissioner Larsen Jay, former city Vice Mayor Finbarr Saunders, Leadership Knoxville CEO Tammy White, school board member Virginia Babb and philanthropist Sherri Lee.
In financial reports filed last week, Broyles said he had raised $19,125 for his campaign.
Broyles said the heavily developed 4th District, home to some of the worst daily traffic jams in the county, needs particular attention to infrastructure.
“As the 4th District continues to grow, basic infrastructure such as roads, sewer, etc. is a major challenge for both business and residential development,” he said. “Working together, the State of Tennessee, Knox County mayor, Knox County Commission, the City of Knoxville and the Knoxville Regional Transportation Planning Organization, must better plan for and prioritize improvements to our infrastructure.”
Since announcing his bid for office last year, Broyles has been a fixture at County Commission meetings, often staying to the end of four- and five-hour sessions to observe from the audience.
Ward: Responsible Growth
Ward grew up in Stamford, Conn., and went to Western Connecticut State University and St. Bonaventure University. He enlisted in the Air Force after college and was stationed at Langley, in Virginia, working in military intelligence.
He later was stationed at the Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC) at Fort Bragg, N.C. He served four years and two months in the Air Force, extending his contract so he could be deployed to Afghanistan.
“It was important to me that I deploy before I got out of the service,” Ward said. He worked in intelligence, tracking down “bad guys,” and was considering signing up for another four years.
“I was supposed to re-enlist when I was in Afghanistan, but my friend got killed in front of me,” Ward said. “When he got killed, I decided I needed to go home. I was a wild man at that point and probably would have had a similar fate if I wasn’t smart.”
He left the military in 2012 and met his wife soon after. She grew up in Knox County and graduated from Farragut High School, so they ended up relocating here. Ward worked in sales for Journal Broadcast Group (later E.W. Scripps), before eventually deciding he wanted to strike out on his own.
“She asked what I wanted to do, and I said I wanted to start a garbage company. She said, ‘I didn’t think I was marrying a garbage man,’” Ward said with a laugh. Still, the couple agreed that he could have five years to make a go of it.
“First year we were profitable, and we’ve been growing ever since,” Ward said. His company currently provides waste collection services to 2,500 houses.
In the meantime, Ward’s own parents also relocated to Knox County, attracted by the quality and cost of life.
“The values are better, people are friendlier here,” Ward said. “It’s just a nice, clean, safe place to live.”
Politics are in his blood, to some degree. His father was a local Republican official when Ward was growing up and the head of planning and zoning for the town. Ward said he had talked with his friend Erik Wiatr, a Realtor and an organizer of the local group Patriots of East Tennessee, about running for office. Wiatr is now his campaign manager.
They had been planning to run for the 4th District seat in 2024, assuming Nystrom would seek a second term. When the seat suddenly came open this year, they had to accelerate their plans.
Like Broyles, Ward said he would emphasize economic development, education and infrastructure needs on Commission — all while keeping taxes low.
“We have an example about two and a half hours to our west of what happens when you don’t plan properly for expansion,” Ward said, referring to Nashville. “So one of the things in my mind is making sure that we’re responsible in providing the infrastructure that’s needed to support all the growth.”
Among other things, he would also like to work on recruiting a Veterans Administration hospital to Knox County; help bring the Tennessee Smokies minor league baseball team back to Knoxville; and look for ways to encourage better broadband internet service across the county.
In last week’s mandatory financial disclosure, Ward reported raising $11,766 for his campaign. The best-known names on his donor list are developers Scott Davis and Tim Graham.
Ward said he’s out door-knocking in the district every day; unlike Broyles, he has not yet spent much time attending County Commission meetings.
“I try to DVR and watch what I can,” he said. “I’ve been fortunate to talk to a lot of the commissioners lately, so I’m staying really abreast on that level. I’ve not been to a meeting, though. As soon as the campaign’s over and I win, I plan on being at every single one.”