|August 25, 2010 -
City Council recognized longtime City Director Sam Anderson at its Tuesday meeting with a resolution honoring him for his committed service to Knoxville and its residents.
Anderson, currently the senior director of the Operations and Efficiency Department, is retiring at the end of August after 34 years with the city. He began his career as a teacher in the old city school system in 1976.
He previously led the Community and Neighborhood Services Department and from 1987-2002 was director of the city's Parks and Recreation Department, a period which saw significant expansion in facilities, greenway miles, programs and number of people using the parks and recreation centers.
At various times during his career in city government Anderson – the first African-American city department head in Knoxville - has directed the city's Engineering, Community Development, Parks and Recreation, Public Works, Plans Review and Inspections, 311 Call Center and Fleet Services Departments and Knoxville Area Transit.
In addition to his work with the city Anderson is also the longest serving member of the Knox County School Board and served as its chairman for five years.
Mayor Bill Haslam said his absence will be deeply felt.
"For me, as a new mayor his experience and wisdom were invaluable," Haslam said, "and I'll miss him as a friend and as a trusted advisor."
Anderson, a Knoxville native, graduated from Gibbs High School before attending Tennessee Tech University where he played football, ran track and earned a bachelor's degree in Education. He later earned a master's degree from Lincoln Memorial University.
He went into teaching to make a difference in people's lives.
"I wanted to try and help people," he said. "I've always been an advocate for people who don't have or who don't have a voice."
He started at Sarah Moore Greene Elementary School before moving to Austin East High School where he taught government and economics. In the summers he worked for the Parks and Recreation Department and at University of Tennessee Football camps.
By 1987 he was a tremendously successful coach at A-E leading the school's football and boys' and girls' track teams to multiple state championships in the 1980s. He is the only Tennessee coach to lead three different teams to state titles in the same school year.
His career path began to change, however, with a meeting that took place the previous summer.
"I was mowing the field at AE and Victor Ashe came up and asked me about the parks," Anderson said. He said some people including UT Coach Johnny Majors and Olympic Medalist Ralph Boston suggested to Ashe that he with talk with Anderson.
"I took him around to the different parks and recreation centers and I think we just felt the same about a lot of things that could be done," Anderson said.
In December of 1987 Ashe appointed Anderson to be director of the City of Knoxville's Parks and Recreation Department.
"I was perfectly happy but it was time to leave. I was ready for a change and I wanted a new challenge," Anderson said.
He also realized he could do things that would affect more people as a city department head, and school board member, than as a teacher.
"You make decisions that have tremendous impacts," he said. "It can be something as simple as a decision to add a new program or to build a new park, but it makes a difference for the better in a lot of people's lives."
In 2003, new Mayor Bill Haslam appointed Anderson to serve as senior director of the Community and Neighborhood Services Department, overseeing Engineering, Parks and Recreation, Public Works, Plans Review and Inspections and KAT.
In 2006 Haslam asked Anderson to lead the newly-created Operations and Efficiency Department overseeing KAT, Parks and Recreation, Fleet Services and 311.
Anderson's awards as a teacher, coach, school board member and city leader are too numerous to mention but include being selected as Tennessee School Board Member of the Year in 1993; Southeastern U.S. High School Coach of the Year; Distinguished Service Award from the National School Board Association; named one of the 50 most influential African-Americans in Tennessee and inducted into the Lincoln Memorial University Professional Hall of Fame in 2003.
Sam Anderson is married to Jean Anderson and they have three children, Jeremy, a teacher in Memphis, Anthony, a student and football player at the University of Tennessee and Jenae, a student and track athlete at Georgia Tech.