Seven Northeast Tenn. county mayors discuss regional issues with Gov. Lee, state leaders

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Photo: Washington County Mayor’s Office

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WJHL) – Northeast Tennessee county mayors traveled as one to bring regional issues to Nashville in what Governor Bill Lee said was a first for regionalism.

According to a release from Washington County, Tennessee, county mayors from the following counties coordinated to represent Northeast Tennessee in Nashville:

  • Carter
  • Greene
  • Hawkins
  • Johnson
  • Sullivan
  • Washington
  • Unicoi

“Governor Bill Lee referred to the trip as historic and told the group this is the first time any region’s county mayors have traveled to Nashville as a cohesive group,” the release states.

County mayors from the region planned the trip and set agendas to meet with legislators.

“Each mayor had an opportunity to discuss projects that are important to their counties with both the Governor and Commissioners,” Sullivan County Mayor Richard Venable said in the release. “It was very significant that we had so many of our legislators meet with the group to discuss county-specific issues that benefit the region as a whole.”

The release says some of the topics discussed included economic development following the pandemic, mental health, tourism, prisoner re-entry into the workplace and opioid litigation.

“We have a lot of projects up here that will have impact across county lines,” Washington County Mayor Joe Grandy stated in the release. “When we approached various offices about meeting with us, it raised some eyebrows. But we approached it with an agenda of supporting each other in various projects, and that made a huge impact. I think seeing the seven of us walk into a room made an impact, but seeing us all actively supporting each other is what left an impression.”

County mayors also met with a fellow Northeast Tennessee native, State Comptroller Jason Mumpower.

Commissioners from multiple state departments met with the county mayors during their trip, according to the release.

“We covered a lot of ground in two short days,” said Carter County Mayor Patty Woodby. “Our tourism discussions, while targeted at bringing in groups for specific events initially, can only help showcase all our region has to offer. We want people to see our region and want to come back.”

The release states that county mayors hope the visit to Nashville will encourage a faster response to regional issues and projects.

“It was good for the seven of us to be there together to show a united front for projects in our counties,” Unicoi County Mayor Garland “Bubba” Evely said in the release. “We went in there to meet with the folks who can help us make projects happen.”

According to the release, Evely has been in contact with state officials about progress on a Welcome Center project in Unicoi County that had appeared to have stalled.

Johnson County Mayor Mike Taylor stated in the release that addressing the issue of the county’s probation office was a key point of his visit. Work in Mountain City has since begun to bring the probation office back following the trip.

“This trip made an impact,” Hawkins County Mayor Jim Lee said. “We brought up issues that need to get back on track, like funding for radio communications to keep our law enforcement and first responders connected on calls. We want them to remember we’re up here in Northeast Tennessee, and we can make a trip to Nashville any time they forget us.”

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