|Mayor of Knoxville|
|Preceded by||Leonard R. Rogers|
|Succeeded by||Victor Ashe|
|Born||Kyle Copenhaver Testerman
December 27, 1934
|Died||April 11, 2015
Testerman was a Knoxville lawyer and businessman and a member of the Knoxville City Council when he first ran for mayor in 1971, against incumbent Leonard Rogers. A major issue in the campaign was the selling of liquor by the drink, something which was at the time illegal in Knoxville. Rogers was opposed to it, but Testerman argued that liquor by the drink was necessary to attract business and tourism to Knoxville. After winning the election, Testerman brought a liquor by the drink referendum to the voters, who approved it two-to-one.
With the opening of West Town Mall in 1974, business began to drain out of the downtown Knoxville area. The city began to look for redevelopment opportunities, and at the request of the Downtown Knoxville Association, Testerman appointed an advisory committee to conduct a study on the possibility of hosting the 1982 World's Fair. The committee found it to be feasible, but Testerman was not able to oversee the project as mayor, as he was voted out of office in favor of Randy Tyree in 1975.
A possible contribution to Testerman’s loss to Tyree was dissatisfaction with his handling of garbage workers in 1974. Testerman fired around three hundred workers in July of that year after they went on strike because of disputes about wages and overtime pay. At the end of the year, however, following conditions agreed to in court, the mayor announced retroactive pay raises for the unionized workers.
In 1984, Testerman again became mayor of Knoxville. The World’s Fair over, the city was now deeply in debt and involved in discussions about what to do with the site of the Fair and the structures left over from it, which were still owned by the federal government. As Testerman summarized the problem, “It was wonderful and grand -- then BAM, the lights went out, the music stopped playing and the ladies stopped singing and then they said what are we going to do on the site?”
One particular problem was a large, steel and glass pavilion which was built to be a model of solar efficiency but which did not work correctly and for which the city had no use after the Fair was over. Testerman, acting for the city, ended up winning the $12.4 million structure at auction for $950,000, thus reclaiming land which had belonged to Knoxville to begin with. The building was a “liability,” Testerman told reporters, but it was on “a nice piece of land.” Further work or redevelopment on the site was delayed during Testerman’s term, partly due to his doubts about a large-scale redevelopment plan, and partly due to the entanglements of Jake Butcher, a would-be World’s Fair site redeveloper who was convicted of bank fraud.
In 1986, with County Executive Dwight Kessel, Testerman formed the Knoxville Coalition for the Homeless to conduct studies about homelessness, an endemic problem in the area. He died in hospice care on April 11, 2015.
- WBIR Our Stories, accessed on 10 June 2006.
- 20th Anniversary of the 1982 World’s Fair., accessed on 10 June 2006.
- “Reporter's notebook: final 5 Ws.” Knoxville News-Sentinel, 28 Feb 2005.
- “Expo: What happens when the music stops?” Courier-Mail, 14 March 1985.
- “'82 World's Fair Pavilion: From Dazzler to Disaster.” The Washington Post, 9 June 1987.
- “U.S. Sells Pavilion From World's Fair At Huge Discount.” The Washington Post, 30 Sept 1987.
- “Knoxville Hopes to Have Last Laugh in Struggle to Develop World's Fair Site.” The Washington Post, 19 April 1997.
- http://pr.tennessee.edu/alumnus/spring97/homels.html, accessed 10 June 2006.
|Mayor of Knoxville, Tennessee
|Mayor of Knoxville, Tennessee