The bags under Monty Millard's eyes tell the story.
He's a public figure who's been called an embarrassment; tack on three arrests and you have Red Bank's newest mayor, a man who said he's "moving forward and moving away" from the darkest period of his life.
"I regret that all those incidents took place, but they were really kind of ridiculous in nature, and they've all been dismissed," he said. "I want to get on with my personal life."
Chosen as mayor in November by his fellow city commissioners, Millard said he's ready to develop Red Bank's stagnant business district with property tax incentives, free Wi-Fi installation and elimination of the city's traffic cameras "as soon as possible."
Millard said there were 78 empty office spaces and/or buildings on Dayton Boulevard at last count.
"We're not going to get Amazon.com, but we can get some smaller things," he said. "That'll lead to positive news for Red Bank."
Commissioner Floy Pierce is confident Millard will pull off his goals.
"It'll take time, but he knows a lot of people, and I think he's going in the right direction," she said.
• • •
Millard began his career on the Red Bank Board of Commissioners in 1996, taking 85 percent of the vote against longtime Red Bank political fixture Ralph Barger. At the time, Millard was vice president of First Tennessee Bank's Northgate branch, armed with a bachelor's degree in political science from the University of Tennessee at Knoxville and a master's degree in banking from the University of Virginia.
When his Red Bank Commission term expired in 2000, Millard "took a break," focusing on work and family. He won an uncontested race eight years later.
Since that election, he's been known more for his personal life than any policy he's pushed. He's been arrested three times - aggravated criminal trespassing, burglary of an auto and violating a restraining order - all charges involving his ex-wife and all dismissed.
He said he missed two commission meetings during his 28-day stint at Focus Healthcare of Tennessee, an alcohol treatment center in Chattanooga.
"I've done very, very well since then, even though it's challenging," he said.
He sued the Hamilton County Sheriff's Office for $1 million on grounds of police misconduct during his third arrest in August, when he was charged with violating an order of protection from his estranged wife. The suit still is pending.
Divorce papers published in August accused him of infidelity and knocking his son's front teeth out.
Calling the constant wave of negative publicity "ancient history" and "old news," Millard had explanations for the allegations.
"The incident with my son was a pure accident," Millard said. "I asked him to help me take the dog out. It was dark, so I had a big, long flashlight. It wouldn't come on, so I shook it, and Nichols was standing over my right shoulder."
Millard said the flashlight caught his son's lip, causing the boy to bleed and loosening some teeth, "but not busting them out."
"I never even saw him," he said.
Sonja Millard said her ex-husband would have taken certain steps if what happened was truly an accident.
"He didn't go to the dentist that night with us and stay until 1 in the morning," she said. "Nichols had to have emergency surgery."
• • •
Millard, who retired from First Tennessee on May 1, 2009, now lives in a one-bedroom home on Pierce's business property. His only consistent source of income is his $300 monthly mayoral salary.
He declined to comment on his departure from the bank, except to say it had nothing to do with his first arrest, which happened five months earlier.
Political insiders in Red Bank say Millard ultimately is interested in taking City Manager Chris Dorsey's $90,000-a-year job, pointing to Millard's unemployment and low mayoral salary as primary motivators.
"Oh, I've heard that rumor, too," Millard said. "I really at this point have no desire to be city manager. ... But I wouldn't say I'd rule it out forever. I'll say it's not something I'm actively pursuing."
Dorsey said Millard's "solid business sense" helped him have "a good first month as mayor."
"We work very well together," Dorsey said.
• • •
Only six weeks into his term as mayor, he's still "shocked at the number of responsibilities and meetings," but said he's excited about what's to come.
His critics say he's too excited about one issue - traffic cameras.
Two months after his city spent about $50,000 defending itself against an eventually dismissed anti-traffic-camera lawsuit, Millard said he'd do what he could to take them down.
But two weeks later, he said breaching a 12-year extension that Red Bank recently signed with the camera company, American Traffic Solutions, would be too expensive - in the neighborhood of $100,000 to $600,000.
"I don't think he knew the traffic camera contract before he said what he said," Commissioner Ruth Jeno said last month.
Millard said that's not true.
"I didn't say it to look good," Millard said. "I have probably read the contract 50 times - it is vague and undefined."
The contract specifies mediation and litigation in Hamilton County Chancery Court if Red Bank chooses to opt out of the contract before specified three-year intervals. The first time the city can leave the contract without financial penalty is 2013.
"I know all that," he said. "I'm still not giving up on this thing."
Millard blames Dorsey for putting the contract extension "on the agenda on a Friday afternoon before a Tuesday, with no study session or chance to communicate about it."
"I'm very disappointed that he worked it out that way," Millard said.
After a short discussion, the other four commissioners approved the extension. Millard found himself alone in dissent.
Dorsey claims he did nothing improper, saying Millard "had plenty of time to discuss the matter during the meeting or referred it to a study session instead of voting."
"It was a wide-open meeting for discussion," Dorsey said. "To say we rushed it through ... well, the commissioners had a weekend, a Monday and all day Tuesday if they had questions."
Millard said he would lobby fellow commissioners into voting to opt out of the contract long before 2013 "to send a signal that, even though Red Bank is strapped with these cameras at the present time, we are taking the steps we need to get rid of them."
"I'm a public servant and the overwhelming majority of our citizens ask me to take down the cameras," he said.
One of those citizens is Jack Wood, the owner of Dayton Boulevard's Southern Restaurant. The traffic cameras - on Dayton Boulevard at Ashland Terrace, Morrison Springs Road and Signal Mountain Boulevard - have adversely affected the businesses on Dayton Boulevard, he said.
"If anybody can get it done, Monty can," Wood said. "Most everybody on the commission follows him, and he's a brilliant guy as far as numbers go. The cameras killed what's left of our business district."
Millard used the traffic-camera battle as a metaphor for the approach he wants to take to fixing the city's image, its economy, and - by extension - himself.
"This is an opportunity for people to get to really know the real Monty Millard, not what's been in the news," he said. "It's a chance for me and the city to come and grow together. It's what I want to be remembered for."