A Clear and Dedicated Choice for Knox County Tax Payers
Justin Biggs, born and raised in Knoxville, is a sixth generation East Tennessean. He and his wife, Heather, live in North Knox County with their daughter, Lilly Ann. Biggs found his calling when he joined the Knox County Trustee’s Office as a field inspector back in 2005. Today, as the Trustee’s Office Collections Administrator and as the Vice Chairman of the Knox County Commission, Biggs is prepared to take on a new role in Knox County government.
What’s unknown about the true function of the trustee’s office?
The trustee’s office can impact citizens in ways that most are not aware of. Some think of it as a place where you just go to pay property tax, but what they don’t realize is that if you meet certain qualifications there are programs that you can sign up for that could benefit you. We can help the elderly, veterans, disabled, and people who may have fallen on hard times if they qualify. We have also invested properly over the past few years and gotten a great return on our investments. There has not been a tax increase in some time. I am not going to say that’s the only reason there has not been a tax increase, but it played a major part.
Was it always your vision to eventually run for Knox County Trustee?
I came to work in this office 15 years ago not realizing that one day it would become my passion. The longer I worked in the Trustee’s office, the more my purpose grew. Shortly after I started working in this office both of my parents were diagnosed with cancer, and I knew I needed to stay here to be with them. They have both since recovered from their cancers, but the Knox County Trustee’s Office provided me a stable sanctuary to work and grow as I focused on being there for them.
When I wound up in Mr. Shouse’s administration eight years ago, it proved to be the exact direction I wanted to take after watching and learning how he handled the investment and banking side of things, the support he received from the community, and how he handled his constituents. He has been my mentor over these few years, and I knew I needed to work hard to become the Knox County Trustee one day.
With 15 years in this office under my belt, I’ve held a variety of positions that have provided me first-hand knowledge of how this office functions on all levels, how it works behind the scenes, and what is required to keep it running efficiently. I feel like I am the clear choice to keep this office moving forward.
What has been your most rewarding experience working at the Knox County Trustee’s Office?
When I took my position, there were 15,000 pieces of delinquent property in Knoxville, Tennessee. Now, there are a little under 8,000. Of all of those pieces of property, every single person has gotten the opportunity to make sure that they do not lose their home. I have put more people on payment plans and given them a way out whenever they have had hard times. Through doing so, I have found that a lot of the delinquent taxes are connected to people over the age of 65 and have been able to give them an opportunity to get back on their feet. I have been able to help them receive tax relief and/or tax freeze to save them a few hundred dollars every year. They now have an opportunity to pay for their medications and groceries rather than having to choose between paying taxes or their medicine.
What do you feel is the biggest issue facing the Trustee’s Office, and how will you address this issue?
Maintaining the accountability and stability of the office would be my start. Whenever you give your money to the Trustee’s office, the banker for the county, you want to know that it is in accountable hands, regardless of the amount. After all, it is your money and this office is the taxpayer’s office.
I get the honor of sitting in the driver’s seat helping to administer certain day-to-day activities to hopefully give you, the taxpayer, the best return on your money that you can get. I want to keep that trend going that Mr. Shouse has started and lift the burden off people’s shoulders.
Are there changes you would make to the office to ensure that happens?
There are implementations that I feel would help our constituents, not just from the elderly or disabled veteran basis, but a time management basis. At the end of the day, the most precious asset we have is time, and I don’t like to think of people wasting that.
Whenever they come in, they stand in line at the trustee’s office to wait and pay property taxes. I don’t know anybody that’s overly amped up about coming in and giving your money for your land. So, at the end of the day, helping with time management, making it a swift thing, is a priority.
I plan to work with our county clerk to take advantage of some of the drive-thrus in the county—whether that’s at the old courthouse, the East Town office, or at one of the other satellite offices. This would give taxpayers an opportunity to hopefully not even have to get out of their car.
I also plan to implement some mechanisms to make tax relief or tax freezes more accessible. For example, obtaining laptops that our tax relief and tax-free state program administrators can take out to all our satellite offices so that whenever a senior citizen or a disabled veteran comes in to fill out paperwork, there would be someone present who does both state and county programs, so you don’t have to keep coming back and forth to the office.
What are your major goals if elected Knox County Trustee?
First off, I want Knox County to have one of the best collection rates in the state. But I also want to get those 8,000 pieces of delinquent property I spoke about earlier back on the tax roll.
As of this issue, there are roughly 5,800 realtors in Knox County with only 550 pieces of property listed to sell. There’s not a whole lot of property out there on the market right now. But with those 8,000 pieces of delinquent properties at the trustee’s office, we need to focus on getting those parcels out into the market so that people can take the opportunity to flip them or fix them up to live in them and get them back on the tax roll. And whenever we do that, you will see that it’s going to have around an $8 million impact on the county.
My final major goal is to ensure our county monies are invested properly and wisely so there continues to be no need for a tax increase.
Why Justin Biggs for this office?
I’m not just going to go in and sit, I want to help, lead, guide and direct. If I think there’s something that’s going to benefit the Knox County taxpayer, I want to do it, whether that’s me going to Nashville and trying to fight for legislation so you can get bigger and better kickback on your property taxes if you’re someone who falls in a tax deferred or tax freeze program, or whether that’s me going out and speaking directly to seniors across the county about money management and the direction they can go. Even if it’s simply me offering an internship program so young people can come and build their resume for college.
I’m going to do everything I can because I’m from here, I’m part of this community, and Lord-willing, I’ll retire in this community, too. I want to do everything I possibly can to make sure that I give back while holding this office to the benefit of people across this great county.
Learn more about Justin Biggs at Facebook.com/electbiggs.
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