Meet Eddie Mannis

Servant Leadership.

I’ve learned so much about leadership from those around me:  my family, the people who I work with, and those community-minded individuals who lead institutions across the city. As Knoxville’s Deputy Mayor and the city’s first Chief Operating Officer, I got to see what it means to lead in government. 
I’ve also been given the responsibility of leading a number of organizations in Knoxville. It’s a privilege I haven’t taken lightly. As chair of McGhee Tyson Airport’s board, I guided them through millions of dollars in improvements and the hiring of a new airport president, the first new president in more than 25 years.

I’ve also served as Chairman at Zoo Knoxville, working with a fantastic team to strategically plan for and oversee more than $35 million dollars in capital construction.  As chairman, my goal was to make sure that Zoo Knoxville could compete as a destination attraction for this region. I’ve served on the Covenant Health board because medical care is so important in this community and Covenant has a great mission in really working hard to try and fulfill needs. I served as Chair of the University of Tennessee Chancellor’s Associates. I was on the Visit Knoxville board, the Chamber board, the Knox Heritage board, and a variety of other boards. I believe it is important to really try and make a difference. 

Our community deserves a representative who has a strategic vision and a roadmap for growth and economic prosperity. It needs a leader who will also have the courage to battle for what is right, and the ability to see things through from start to finish. It must have someone who is willing to understand the competing needs of communities across the state and to work toward effective compromise, always with the best interests of Knoxville and Knox County in mind. That is what I’m committed to doing every day as District 18 State Representative.

My Story

I grew up in a blue-collar home in an area of north Knoxville’s Inskip community that’s known as Frog Level. Family and church were the cornerstones of my early life. My mother and father instilled in my siblings and me an attitude that we must work hard for what we have. I’ve been working since the age of 14 - beginning with a job as a janitor while I was attending Central High School in Fountain City. I’ve always known what it’s like to put in long hours and to struggle to make ends meet.

I was a 24-year-old Maryville College student working 50 hours a week at Sanitary Laundry when I saw an ad for used dry cleaning equipment. I responded and the owner offered financing.  Prestige Cleaners began in 1985.  It was tough and there were plenty of times when I thought I might lose everything. We began with three employees. One of those employees at our first location in Bearden was my mother, Betty. She would get so mad at me when we disagreed that she actually quit about five times and would walk out, drive around the block, and come back in. The last time she quit - probably around 1989 - I said, “Mother, we can’t keep doing this. I would rather be your son and you be my mother. So here’s what I’m going to do: you stay home and I will pay you just as if you were working.”  My mother got paid until the day she died. One of the hardest things I had to do after she passed away was remove her from my payroll.  

My father, Cecil, worked for me too.  He was known as the “social director” because of his outgoing personality. We’ve gone from three employees to more than 150, with twelve stores and five routes serving the amazing people of East Tennessee. It’s been a long journey, but I wouldn’t change a thing.  I’m proud that we have been recognized as a workplace that works for women by the East Tennessee Women’s Political Caucus and a Top Employer in 2018.

Knoxville has given me and my family so much, and that’s part of the reason why I am determined to serve as District 18 State Representative. Giving back to the communities in which I live and work has long been part of who I am, and I know it’s something that is shared by so many people across Knoxville and Knox County.  

I’m proud that HonorAir Knoxville, an organization I founded more than ten years ago, has now flown more than 3,500 WWII, Korean War, and Vietnam War veterans to Washington D.C. to see the memorials built to recognize their valor, sacrifice, and service.  These people have given all of us so much and to be able to positively impact their lives in such a small way is a greater privilege than any award or recognition I’ve received.

Whether supporting education, or advocating for senior citizens and veterans as Founder and President of HonorAir Knoxville, I believe that we all have a duty to give back when we are able to do so. For the people of Knoxville, that’s something that we have at our core and as District 18 State Representative, I will make sure that I take this compassion and sense of service to work each and every day that I’m privileged to represent you in Nashville.

Experience

  • President, Prestige Cleaners, Inc. and Prestige Tuxedo
  • Founder/President, HonorAir Knoxville
  • Co-founder, Art in Public Places (A year-round public art exhibit throughout downtown Knoxville)
  • Past Chair, Tennessee’s Environmental Response Board, appointed by Governor Don Sundquist 

Community Service

  • Metropolitan Knoxville Airport Authority, Chair of Board of Commissioners
  • Zoo Knoxville, Immediate Past Chair
  • Visit Knoxville, Board of Directors
  • Dogwood Arts Festival, Past Chair
  • University of Tennessee Chancellor's Associates, Past Chair
  • Leadership Knoxville, Board of Directors
  • Knoxville Chamber, Board of Directors
  • Covenant Health, Board of Directors

Recognition

  • 2010 Person of the Year - PBS Be More Awards
  • 2010 Platinum Award for Senior Advocate - Covenant Health
  • 2011 Hall of Fame Inductee - Central High School
  • 2011 Service to Mankind Award - Knoxville Sertoma Club
  • 2012 Community Service Award - Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Commemorative Commission of Greater Knoxville
  • 2015 Generations of Service Award - The Medal of Honor Society
  • 2015 FBI Director's Community Leadership Award
  • 2017 Inductee - East Tennessee Business Hall of Fame
  • 2017 'Honorary Life Membership in Vietnam Veterans of America' - One of only four honorees statewide.
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