Once it was suggested that this is an audacious move for a 32-year-old who's never run for office before, he clearly didn't agree.
"Young and inexperienced? I would argue that point. I would argue that I'm maybe the only candidate running that's ever created a private sector job, and maybe the only candidate running that's ever made a payroll," he said, warming to the subject.
"I have a unique set of experiences. I worked in the Bredesen administration and I am the founder and CEO of a small business that I started in 2005 with $5,000 I'd saved up and a laptop I borrowed from a guy who is now my father-in-law. I spent two years sleeping on a couch while I got that business started. That also plays into the kind of experience that's needed. It's who can take an idea and a little bit of resources and make something of it. I'd argue that I'm probably the most experienced candidate for mayor." Padgett says he opposes the scattered-site approach to housing the chronically homeless because "Nobody can tell me how much it's going to cost."
He says he will focus on big-picture issues like bringing jobs to Knoxville and surround himself with competent people who can take care of the nuts and bolts of city government.
"I'm not running for mayor to fill potholes. I will surround myself with the right people and do those three or four things that will move Knoxville forward the most."
Padgett and his wife, Katie, have a daughter, Kirby, who is a year old. They live in the Rocky Hill area. He is the son of Patty and Mike Padgett, who served as county clerk for 23 years.
The Padgetts lived in Lonsdale, where Mark and his older brother Matt spent their earliest years just down the block from the Pioneer House restaurant his parents ran before his dad went into politics. His grandfather, Bill Padgett, served on City Council.
Mike and Patty Padgett moved their family to Halls when Mark was in the 8th grade. Both Mark and Matt were standouts in basketball there. Mark, a 6-3 combo guard, signed on with Troy State when he graduated from Halls High School in 1996, but transferred to Lincoln Memorial University his sophomore year and played basketball for three years there. He also earned an MBA degree from LMU.
Athletics and education were important in his family, he said.
"Both my brother and I attended college on basketball scholarships. My grandfather played football at UT. We still have the letters Gen. Neyland wrote him."
Padgett launched his business, eGovernment Solutions, in 2005, and today it provides software to a dozen East Tennessee counties. He says he got the idea when he worked for Gov. Phil Bredesen for three years as an administrative assistant charged with applying private sector efficiencies to government offices.
"We are a private sector company that understands how the public sector works. We provide a private enterprise solution to county government offices – everything from online services to general ledger," he said. "If you renew your car tags online in Nashville, that's us. If you pay court fees or fines of speeding tickets online in Monroe County, that's us. If you apply for a business license in Sevier county, that's us.
"We make government do what it should be doing by taking three, four, five man-hours out of the processes on the back end to provide better, faster services online. This is a very valuable tool for the next mayor."
Padgett employs 10 at eGovernment Solutions's Homberg Place office