It takes everyone working together to make city attractive

Published 9:28 am Wednesday, September 12, 2018

I have many people visit my office with some great ideas. Ideas that could truly improve our community, make it more pleasant to live in, and make it more attractive to visitors. The reality is, city government staff are very busy simply maintaining and operating the city as it exists and often do not have the time to dedicate to the implementation of a great, new idea. Don’t get me wrong, it’s certainly not that we don’t want to or that we think the idea is bad, but rather that we currently do not have the time available to dedicate to such an idea or project. Believe it or not, but our local city government is extremely lean when it comes to human capital. This is where you come in.
Many cities all over the country are made better and improved not by its local government, but by the involvement and participation of its local citizens. Locally, the Blue Plum Festival and the new Little Chicago Festival are operated by the Johnson City Development Authority and the Downtown Business Association, respectively, not the city. Yes, the city supports it, but they do not find the sponsors, recruit the bands, and plan the event.
Here in Elizabethton, the Downtown Business Association (DBA) is working to improve the breezeways in downtown. They have approved a plan, received the blessing of the City Council to improve the city property, and are working to raise the funds necessary for the project. While the city is supportive, it is the DBA who is moving the project forward. The same is true with the banners and planters in downtown; the DBA maintains and improves them because they see a need and have a desire to improve the downtown.
The Women’s Civic Club is another example. They saw the need and a way they could help the community, so they installed a fountain in Covered Bridge Park and maintain the fountain annually. They also wanted to help improve the looks of the entrance into the city and worked with city staff to purchase and install new entrance signage at the Golf Course. Again, the city supported the effort, but it was local citizens who saw a need and took it upon themselves to come to the city and say, “Here’s what we want to do.”
The Bonnie Kate Theater and Carter County Proud are other examples of local citizens taking it upon themselves with the blessing of the city to help improve our community.
About two months ago I was approached by a lady who stopped in my office to check if there were any underground lines between the road and the sidewalk in front of her house. When I questioned more about her inquiry, she told me, “I feel like we need more trees along this street like some of the other neighborhoods in Elizabethton do, so I’m going to plant some trees in front of my house.” She went to Lowe’s, bought a few trees, and helped do her part to make the change she wanted to see in her neighborhood and in Elizabethton.
If you have an idea or something you would like to see in Elizabethton, do it! Come talk with our City Manager, another city staff person, or come before City Council with your idea, get the blessing of the city to move forward, get a group together, and make the change you want to see in Elizabethton. It can be something as small as planting a few trees in your front yard or a park or as big as a new festival for our city. It takes citizens like you to shape and mold our community into what it is today, not solely city government. Ask yourself, what do I want my city to be, then take the first step and do it. Let’s talk about it!
(Jon Hartman is Director of Planning & Economic Development for the City of Elizabethton. He can be contacted at 542-1503 and by email at:

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