Knox County Commissioner Larsen Jay calls himself a Swiss Army Knife. He’s worked in a handful of different careers - from a theatre set designer and film producer (in Dallas and Los Angeles) to a nonprofit creator (Random Acts of Flowers) and business strategist (at PYA). It’s been a potpourri of professional passions that shared a common thread.
“I want to find the challenge, then find the solution, get it delivered, and then find the next challenge,” he says. “I like to produce a good product, whether it’s getting an ice rink for Knoxville, getting flowers delivered, or growing a vegetable garden.”
According to his wife, Adrian, Larsen has two factory settings: On and off. When he’s on, he’s all the way on and focused on the goal. When he’s off, Larsen is tooling away in his garden, working on his grandfather’s 1951 Ford truck, or playing ice hockey. It’s in these spaces where he disengages from the world to recharge.
“I don’t take anything for granted,” he says. “I’ve almost died twice. I almost drowned in a river in college and then I had a very serious accident that took 13 surgeries to put me back together. I don’t spend a lot of time contemplating risk or taking time for granted. I wake up every morning saying ‘Thank God I’m alive’ and ‘How can I be helpful?’ That’s all I want to do. I don’t have idle time that’s wasted. We have no idea how long we have.”
What I’m listening to: Right now I’m listening to Etta James. The other day, it was Sam Bush and early bluegrass. When I was working on the car, I was listening to the Best of the Beastie Boys. I do love podcasts, like “Making Sense with Sam Harris”, “Freakonomics Radio”, and “Sawbones”, which is a history of misguided medicine. Also “Dolly Parton’s America” and “Revisionist History”. Anything that takes a subject and examines why it’s a thing, the history of it, and the psychology behind it.
What I’m watching: One of the best Netflix documentaries is My Octopus Teacher. We were like, “Wow.” He spends a year visiting the same octopus every year. But if I’m gonna binge something and need audio wallpaper, I could let The Office roll.
Favorite Knoxville dish: My favorite meal, if I could do it every night, is at JC Holdway. Everything [Chef Joseph Lenn] serves is amazing. If I was gonna go for a cocktail, I’d go to the Peter Kern Library. If I want chili dogs, I’d go to the Vol Market.
Words I live by: Advocate for people, do good work, and be helpful.
Pets: Three labs - Dutch, Cooper, and Tay. My wife rides horses - Icarus, Liverpool, and Calvin. We also have three fish and two snails!
Something I’m proud of: My boys, Henry (12) and Alexander (9). I’m super proud of the people they’re becoming.
Facebook: @CommissionerLarsenJay (https://www.facebook.com/CommissionerLarsenJay)