Bike vs. Edwards in West Knox School Board race
District 4 school board candidate Katherine “Kat” Bike may have a tenth of the campaign prize pool her opponent has amassed, but she’s betting on battling the lack of money with what appears to be a reservoir bottomless energy.
Don’t get me wrong: Will Edwards is not a slug. He is a highly respected tax attorney who is active in raising awareness and resources for children with autism. He doesn’t wear leather shoes much on the campaign trail, but he enjoys the support of some of the city’s biggest political donors; think Big Jim’s Rolodex (if you know, you know), meaning he’s, of course, a Republican running for a formerly nonpartisan office.
The supermajority GOP Legislature decided that education was not political enough last session.
Bike is a Democrat running in this once-solid, mostly affluent Republican district that has gradually turned purple in recent elections, so it’s unclear if the red/blue divide will be a factor. The current occupant of that seat, Virginia Babb, found the increasingly bitter partisan division unappealing and declined to seek a second term.
Bike was born and raised in Central Florida, but moved to East Tennessee when her parents bought property in Hawkins County when she was a teenager. She graduated from Cherokee High School with dual-enrollment college credits she earned at Walters State, earned an associate degree in engineering and art in 2003, and was accepted into UT’s College of Architecture.
This, she says, opened her mind to options.
“The first thing they tell you at architecture school is that you’re going to work until you die,” which she quickly realized wasn’t to her liking. She also learned that she didn’t want to do just one thing for the rest of her life and began to dabble in other disciplines by taking classes in art, geography and journalism.
In 2008, the architecture school, which had previously only used students, hired her to revamp its technology capabilities, which were under strain as incoming students were required to have iPads, laptops, and laptops. a computer and a camera and how to use them. It was Bike’s job to help onboard the students to the new technology and make sure the programs were set up correctly. She worked with administrators and professors to put everything together and stayed there until 2011, shortly before the birth of her daughter, Adeline.
His son, Tennessee, was born in 2014, and Bike transitioned to working from home. She also began volunteering at the Bird House at Fourth & Gill, where artists, musicians, professionals and politicians gathered. It was a revelation for Bike.
It was around this time that she bought a vacation rental in Gatlinburg and put it on Airbnb, allowing her to devote much of her time to her son, whom she and her ex-husband were beginning to suspect they were deaf. She was referred to the Tennessee School for the Deaf, which determined that he was not hard of hearing, but had a cognitive impairment that qualified him for services from the Tennessee Early Intervention Program.
“I had a supportive family which allowed me to take my son to whatever he needed, and I was available Monday to Friday during office hours. He had these services until he was 3 years old and is healthy and thriving now. Bike and her husband placed the children in a Montessori school, where they continued to thrive. In 2019, the children were enrolled in Sequoyah Hills Elementary School. It was a decision that paid off, Bike said.
“We moved to Sequoyah Hills for services. We also moved into a thousand square foot house to make that possible, and I’m very grateful and really want that for all the kids. I am aware of my privilege.
Meanwhile, the Gatlinburg cabin burned down in the 2016 wildfires, which sent Bike back to work in tech. By 2018, she had become a trial technology specialist and founded the Trial and Litigation Company, which helps attorneys in Knoxville, the Tri-Cities, Chattanooga and Nashville present their cases. She is also a part-time mountain bike guide at Blackberry Farm, leading women’s mountain bike tours, teaching beginner classes, and volunteering to lead co-ed mountain bike tours.
Bike says she’s good at helping people connect with each other, and because she’s busy, she believes her skills are badly needed on the school board. When she learned Babb was not running for office, she called state Rep. Gloria Johnson and arranged a three-hour lunch. She asked, “Can I do this?” It’s something I want to do.
Johnson replied, “Thanks for stepping up.”
So she did, and she got to work – filling out all 67 signature lines on her petition and leading a team of volunteers who helped her knock on more than 3,000 targeted doors. She is determined.
“All the kids in Knox County matter and are worth putting my energy into.”
Learn more about the Katherine bike here.
Learn more about Will Edwards here.
betty bean writes a Thursday opinion column for KnoxTNToday.com.