Interview by Jeremy Lloyd, Manager of Field Programs & Collegiate Studies
You’re a native of East Tennessee, correct?
I was born and raised in South Knoxville and graduated from South-Doyle High School. I have been working at Tremont for about six years now and have lived in Blount County for a little over four years now. I have lived south of the Tennessee River my entire life.
What do you like most about working at Tremont?
How much the organization values our enjoyment of life. I have never worked anywhere that encourages their employees to experience as much of life as they can. They truly care about our wellbeing and mental health.
Tremont’s facilities have a unique history, and with that history comes some unique challenges. What is that like?
Well, the facilities are fifty-plus years old and they lie within national park borders, so it is a very interesting situation. Most of the buildings on campus have been converted from old Job Corps maintenance garages, gymnasiums, etc., so we don’t have level flooring, we don’t have square walls. Being inside of the national park, we go by a more environmentally-focused set of rules. We work side by side with the National Park Service and must rely on them sometimes for any type of significant upgrades or changes.
If you had to do one or the other, which would you pick: plunge a toilet or clean up vomit?
Let’s just say, if I was on a deserted island and had to perform one of these duties to get home, I would clean up vomit. It’s cleaner, sometimes.
There seems to always be someone in the Tremont maintenance department who has a personal connection to the country music industry. Tell us about yours.
My connection to the country music world is really three-fold. My first connection is through my father, Randy Read, who was the lighting director for the Southern rock outfit The Marshall Tucker Band. He provided the lighting to their concerts from 1974-1981. He was a full blown member of their road crew. That’s also what brought my family to Knoxville. They rented their lighting equipment from TERI productions on Magnolia Avenue in East Knoxville.
My second connection to the country music world is through my own personal connections playing music locally in Knoxville and regionally in the Southeast for a few years. I would probably use the term Americana instead of country, though. I have grown up with and met a lot of folks that have played in bands such as Mandolin Orange, The Black Lilies, Jubal, The War and Treaty, etc.
The third connection I have made came through working alongside Sam Crowe who was a staple in the Tremont maintenance department for many years. He played in several country bands including The Kentucky Headhunters. A lot of my life has revolved around the music business, and I consider myself lucky for it. I was lucky enough to sit on the front row for the last show John Prine ever played, at the Tennessee Theater last year. It would be a lie to say any show I’ve ever seen was better than that!
If you could meet one person from history who would it be and why?
This may be the most difficult question of all time for me. Probably harder than “who is my favorite band.” I can think of so many people, but I am going to pick Duane Allman, my all-time favorite guitar player. He had so much success in such a short amount of time and yet only lived to be twenty-four years old. I guess since he didn’t live long and had so much success, I wish I could have known what his work ethic was like and gotten to see just how fast and hard he must have been working to accomplish so much in such a little time. Maybe it was effortless to him, maybe it took everything he had. There is such a mystery there and I would have loved to have been a part of it.
What do you like to do in your free time?
I enjoy traveling with my amazing wife. One of my favorite things to do is find a good dive bar in a sleepy Southern town and eat soul food and listen to the blues. Thankfully, my wife loves those things as much as I do. Anything to do with music, country cooking or soul food, and nature—I am there. Preferably all of those things mixed together.
Favorite time of year in the Smokies?
I truthfully love all seasons in the Smokies. I love the quiet and stillness of winter and the beauty of the snow. I love the wildflowers in the spring and the wildlife stretching their legs or wings as they awaken from winter. I love summer days swimming in the river and watching the lightning bugs at night. I love when fall arrives and the anticipation of “what will the colors look like this year”—and when the holidays begin to wrap up another year in the most beautiful place in the world.
What are you looking forward to the most in your new role?
When I started at Tremont I worked in both the kitchen and maintenance departments. I mainly washed dishes and cleaned campus and I loved it. To be stepping into the facilities manager role is something I just wouldn’t have believed would be happening so soon. So, for me, I am just ecstatic at this opportunity and excited to try some new things and let some of my ideas role off the paper and into reality. Fortunately, I have had an amazing foundation laid for me.