District 2 Candidates on Climate & Energy: Knoxville City Council Elections

In this blog series, we share the Knoxville City Council candidates’ positions on clean energy and climate issues in their own words. This blog post contains the 2nd District candidates’ responses to SACE’s candidate questionnaire.

Guest Blog | August 2, 2021 | Elections, Energy Policy, Tennessee, Utilities

This blog post was written by Brady Watson, former Civic Engagement Coordinator for the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy.

In this blog series, we share the Knoxville City Council candidates’ positions on clean energy and climate issues in their own words. This blog post contains the 2nd District candidates’ responses to SACE’s candidate questionnaire. View the responses of candidates from other districts here

Note: The Southern Alliance for Clean Energy does not support or oppose candidates or political parties. Links to reports, candidate websites, and outside sources are provided as citizen education tools. Candidates are listed in alphabetical order by district.

City Council is the legislative body of the City of Knoxville. Later this year, City voters will elect five members to the nine-member Knoxville City Council. Early voting for the general election runs from October 13-28 and Election Day is Tuesday, November 2. City residents will be able to vote for a candidate in all 5 of the seats up for election during this General Election, no matter what district in the city they live in.  For more information on the election, the candidates, candidate forums, and how you can be a voter, visit the City’s Go Vote! Knoxville webpage or click the links below:

District 2 Candidates

  • Andrew Roberto (incumbent)
  • Kim Smith: Has not returned the questionnaire

Andrew Roberto

Interest & Experience

Why are you running for this seat?

Experience matters. In 2017, the citizens of Knoxville hired me to represent the second district and all of Knoxville on City Council. Since then, I have worked hard to learn the job and effectively harness that knowledge and experience to connect citizens with much-needed resources throughout our community. I am a passionate neighborhood advocate, champion for the environment and will work to ensure all citizens have equal access to the same great opportunities I had growing up in Knoxville.

What relevant experience do you have that qualifies you for the position that you’re running for? If you are a current or former public official of any kind, what positions have you held?

I currently serve as the City Council member for the 2nd District and as the Beer Board Chair. Before serving on City Council, I was a Knox County Election Commissioner. In that role, I worked to encourage voter registration and participation throughout Knox County. I have served our community in a variety of ways over the past 9 years:

  • Salvation Army’s Advisory board (2012-2018) – Served as the advisory board chairman since 2015. Recognized in 2014 as the 33rd national recipient of Partner in Mission.
  • Celebrate Recovery North Knoxville (2014- 2016) – Volunteer and Meal Sponsor 
  • Executive Committee Member – 2014 Knoxville Medal of Honor Convention 
  • Sertoma Center Board Member (2016 – 2018)
  • Tennessee Veterans Business Association Member (2012-2015) – Founded INVEST a business plan competition for local veterans and provided a $5,000 grant to winner.
  • Epilepsy Foundation of East Tennessee Volunteer (2012-2015) – Donated funds for bike helmets and conducted a safety art contest in area schools, donated bike helmets to underprivileged children in our community to help prevent new cases of epilepsy through head trauma.

Climate and Energy Priorities

How would you see your role as a member of City Council in mitigating the impacts of the climate crisis and transitioning to clean energy? What would your climate and energy priorities be?

I believe that we must act locally to address the climate crisis and encourage transitioning to clean energy. My climate and energy priorities are:

  • CO2 Reduction – Efforts that I have supported on Council in 2017 have reduced municipal CO2 emissions by over 30%. I will continue to work to reach our 50% CO2 reduction goal by 2030.
  • Community Solar – I have been a consistent voice for Community Solar in Knoxville, this program would expand the number of people in our community who can benefit from solar power. Participants don’t need a roof or own property to benefit from the electricity generated, which costs less and gives everyone at every economic stage in life, the opportunity to participate and invest in their own future power needs.
  • Making Knoxville hub for green energy entrepreneurship – With the recent announcement that Oak Ridge National Laboratory, the Tennessee Valley Authority and the University of Tennessee System are partnering with Techstars to launch a startup accelerator, Knoxville is uniquely positioned to lead the way in green energy job creation. I will continue to work to encourage innovation and investment in our green economy.

Referencing the question above, what would you do to advance those priorities if elected, and do you have prior experience advancing those priorities?

As a Council member, I have worked to raise awareness regarding climate change and published a blog when Council exceeded the 20% reduction in CO2 goal and adopted new goals (https://aroberto76.wordpress.com/2019/08/12/slashing-co2-emissions-in-half-by-2030/). I am happy to report that municipal CO2 emissions have continued to drop since 2019 and we are now over 30%. 

What is your vision of an energy and transportation system that best serves Knoxvillians?

I have supported our transition to electric vehicles in the city and I see that trend continuing. As more institutions and citizens move to electric vehicles, our community CO2 emissions will decrease. 

How would you work to advance energy efficiency and renewable energy in Knoxville?

We must support energy efficiency and weatherization throughout our community. Continued and expanded assistance for lower income families to meet efficiency goals is necessary to meet our community carbon reduction goals. Households that weatherize and become more energy efficient save between 15% and 50% on their monthly energy consumption. This is a significant impact for families and our local environment.

How would you help lead the electrification of our transportation system (both public and private) in Knoxville?

I have supported electrifying Knoxville Area Transit (KAT) buses and expanding our municipal electric fleet. We can assist the transition to more electric community vehicles by continuing to expand the infrastructure for electric vehicles all around our community. Continued effort needs to be made in electrifying our shared transportation options.

How would you work to advance social and racial equity in the energy system (for example unaffordable energy bills)? What steps would you take to empower and partner with marginalized communities in your district, especially Black people, Indigenous people, and People of Color?

One way we can address energy equity is through a Community Solar program. More than half of Knoxville residents don’t own their home. Through a Community Solar program even those who don’t own their own home can participate in the long-term savings associated with solar energy generation. The savings realized from lower utility costs especially for our marginalized communities can provide much-needed funds to struggling families.

How would you work to expand clean energy jobs in Knoxville? 

Knoxville can expand clean energy jobs by supporting a hub for green energy entrepreneurship. Recently, Oak Ridge National Laboratory, the Tennessee Valley Authority and the University of Tennessee System announced a partnership with Techstars to launch a startup accelerator. I believe that Knoxville is uniquely positioned to take a leading role in regional green energy job creation. I will continue to work to encourage innovation and investment in our green economy – it’s not just good for our environment, it’s good for our economy.

Do you have any particular stances on the following energy sources: nuclear, coal, oil (gasoline, diesel, etc.), and fossil gas?

I will continue to do what I can locally, but we need Federal and State emphasis as well on transitioning away from fossil fuels and towards CO2 free energy generation. 

How would you engage with KUB and the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) to advance clean energy, energy efficiency, and clean transportation options in the city? 

I have had several conversations with KUB and City Administration on the positive aspects of a Community Solar program. I was happy to see Community Solar mentioned in this year’s budget summary. In the next four years, I will work hard to advance this important project.

Final Words

Is there anything else you feel we should know, relative to mitigating the impacts of the climate crisis or advancing the clean energy economy?

Climate change is real and we need to address it quickly as we are already seeing the effects of our climate crisis with more dramatic and devastating weather events. I have a record of promoting and encouraging sustainable solutions that conserve our natural resources and promote a greener Knoxville. I will continue to work to meet our municipal carbon reduction goals and will seek out additional ways to promote a cleaner and healthier local environment.

View the positions of other Knoxville City Council candidates


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