On Thursday, however, Mayor Chris Jones and Vice Mayor Jennifer Williams called for an end to the negativity and in-fighting for the sake of the town, the taxpayers, and attempts to encourage economic growth.
“I think we have a great town,” Williams told the board. “I think we have the potential of being even greater if we would work together and people would quit following their own vendettas, their own agendas, trying to get even, or whatever they’re trying to do, and try to look to the future. We’ve all had disappointments, we’ve all had hurts, but we need to look to the future.”
“It’s their responsibility on how to make the decisions”
Police Chief Grady White tendered his resignation last week, citing interference from certain aldermen who had a hand in reversing some of his personnel decisions. White alleged that the interference was for the purpose of benefiting those aldermen’s friends.
At the end of Thursday’s regular monthly BMA meeting, Mayor Chris Jones called for the board to unify and begin acting toward the betterment of the town. He specifically rebuked those responsible for White’s resignation.
“We don’t need to worry about how our police chief is getting the job done,” Jones said. “If he’s not getting the job done, we replace him. Same thing with public works. Same thing with every other department. If they’re not doing the job, then we replace him. Other than that, it’s their responsibility on how to make the decisions to run their departments. It’s not ours. We can set the guidelines. We can say this is what we’re looking for. This is the direction we wanna go. But we’ve hired these people to make those decisions.”
Jones said that one good thing that’s occurred recently is that he and City Manager Mike Housewright have started working better together on planning and economic development.
Attempted BMA retreat fails
Jones and Housewright had scheduled a BMA retreat last week in Rogersville to discuss long-term planning and economic development, but that retreat was canceled after some board members objected.
Jones then invited the three new members of the board who were elected in November to meet him and Housewright individually to discuss planning, but only Steven McClain accepted the invitation.
During Thursday’s meeting, McLain publicly criticized Jones for scheduling those meetings with individual board members. “It seems awful shady, “ McLain said. “If you’re going to schedule a meeting, schedule it with all of us.”
Jones said, “The direction that the town was going with the previous board is more apt to change every time a new board comes on. We have attempted to meet with the new board members, as well as the board as a whole. We tried to get a retreat so we could get our planning together. That failed miserably with nothing but complaints.
“Yes, we have been trying meet with each individual alderman, and I had two more planned (with Jim Gilliam and Pat Stilwell), with follow-ups with senior members. The only reason they weren’t first is we already have (the senior members’) ideas in place, but they were already aware that we were going to be meeting with them too.”
“In the newspaper with all this negativity”
Jones said he is in the process of creating a Main Street Economic Development Organization, similar to the Downtown Kingsport Association or Rogersville Main Street Association, which can apply for grants for the economic development of Main Street.
“This has never been done in our town before,” Jones said. “There are thing we can’t do things as a municipal government that a nonprofit organization such as this ... can do. That’s what we’ve got to have here because of our economic development.”
Jones added, “The more that we’re in the newspaper with all this negativity and fussing, the less that people who want to come here are going to want to come here. The reason we’re trying to meet is so we know how to plan and present a budget to you all, which is both Michael’s responsibility and my responsibility. But if we don’t know what you want next year, we don’t hardly know what to put on that budget.”
“People throw in the big monkey wrenches”
“We’re trying to take you on a positive direction, and we’re trying to promote these businesses to come in,” Jones said. “I’ve been meeting with some developers. He’s (Housewright) been meeting with some. There’s certain things they’re looking for, and every time we’ve come close, people throw in the big monkey wrenches, and they turn away.”
Jones added, “If we can’t get this board together, it’s never going to happen, and if we keep fussing with our own personal ideas that we want to do and we don’t get a collective decision on which way this town is going to go, we’re never going to succeed in getting any business in this town.”