JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. (WJHL) — The Johnson City commissioners whose terms end this year — Jenny Brock and John Hunter — both tell News Channel 11 they’ll seek re-election in November in the midst of strong population growth and numerous large civic projects.
For Brock, a victory would seal a third term and leave her as one of Johnson City’s longest-serving commissioners at the end of 2026. Hunter is seeking a second term.
Both say they believe they bring specific and important perspectives to a five-member commission that they think works well together but represents a diversity of views and backgrounds.
“It’s a sincere, passionate group that’s worked together for the good of the city,” said Hunter, a credit union CEO. “We’ve had important conversations from different viewpoints but with the end goal in mind of what’s best for Johnson City.”
Brock pointed to the city’s strategic plan, completed when she was mayor, as a good foundation for the population growth Johnson City is experiencing and the attention it’s getting. Among that plan’s main pillars is a focus on “quality of place” that Brock said is helping attract families because of the city’s schools and park system.
“We’re seeing people come here from other states right now, a lot, because they look us up on the internet and they see all these wonderful things,” she said.
Brock began serving on the commission in 2013 and said she “thought long and hard” about whether to seek a term that would leave her as one of the longest-serving commissioners in city history. She said a new city manager (Cathy Ball) and numerous exciting opportunities and challenging issues left her feeling energized for another run.
“I feel like my experience and energy and drive is still there to work on these issues,” Brock said.
Specifically, she referred to a strategic plan the commission passed in 2019, when she was serving as mayor. Brock said with much of the plan’s work left to be implemented, she’d like to be contributing through 2026.
“I bring a lot of experience,” said the 73-year-old, whose consecutive years of public service in Johnson City go back to being elected to the school board in 2006. “This is a time of my life where you kind of crystallize things, and hopefully as they say have wisdom about things.
“I’ve experienced a lot that helps me kind of put things together and to look out there on the horizon to use the resources to the best and highest value that we have.”
Brock said the city has begun laying the groundwork for the first of the strategic plan’s four pillars, economic vitality. But she said the second one, “sound quality of place,” is where her passion lies most fully.
“I want to help improve the reputation of Johnson City to be a child, a family and a business-friendly city,” Brock said. She said the city’s school facilities and educational quality and its growing park system that appeals to different age demographics of children “has been something that I take a lot of pride in. I feel like I’ve been a good champion.”
Brock also said she hopes to focus on ensuring the city’s infrastructure keeps up with the strong housing and population growth Johnson City has been experiencing.
“We have to match infrastructure with growth,” she said. “We can’t let development outpace infrastructure or nobody’s happy. We are working on a strategic plan on how we’re going to manage growth and I feel like my experience and understanding of our community and our citizens would be a good value to add in that challenging piece of work that we’re going to have to do.”
Hunter said he believes the current commission, which also includes Mayor Joe Wise, Vice Mayor Todd Fowler and Aaron Murphy, has been part of the reason for the city’s growth. He said when he came on (pre-Murphy) in late 2018, “the conversation in Johnson City and in the region as a whole was really centralized around a declining or stagnant population growth metric.”
A desire to recruit and retain talent led to the strategic plan, which Hunter said set the city up for growth.
“Three and a half, four years ago we’re talking about how do we stop the stagnant growth or the lack of growth in the city and now in multiple publications across the country we’re being recognized as being one of the top if not the number one place in the state and in the country to live work and play,” Hunter said.
While mid-sized cities have been popular destinations in the post-COVID environment, not all are getting the attention or the growth Johnson City is. Hunter said he sees unfinished business for the current commission group.
“I think experience matters, I think vision matters and I think those are things that I bring to the table as we move forward, and knowing where we’ve been and where we’re trying to go and what we’re trying to accomplish for all of Johnson City and all the residents of Johnson City.”
Hunter said his background in finance colors his approach and leads him to stress effective government and efficient operations.
“Being able to maintain and make sure that those expenses that we incur in the city are actually not just an expense but an investment in our community. That we see a return that’s tangible for our citizens.”
Hunter tends to be a pretty quiet voice on the commission but he said he can still be an effective advocate for efficiency.
“I think treating people right, treating people fair, working with them rather than putting your finger in their chest is a much more effective way to accomplish the goals that we all have for this city.”
Hunter said his leadership and that of his fellow commissioners are part of what have allowed the city to pass a budget that checks a lot of important boxes without increasing taxes.
“The amenities that we’re seeing come about everything from the Herb Greenlee Splash Pad to the first investment and expansion at Winged Deer in the past 30 years speak to that.”
Both Hunter and Brock said an important next move is completion of a growth management plan.
“We’re expecting to see more people move to the area, more housing, more infrastructure needs to be put in place and those are some of the things we’re looking at and we’re focusing on,” Hunter said. “Growth is good, but it needs to be thought through, it needs to be planned because we don’t want it to be a miserable experience for those who already live here and for those that are coming.”
Brock said she’s still feeling plenty of energy after 16 consecutive years as either a school board member or commissioner, and that she works hard to listen to constituents.
“I work hard for the city, work hard for the people I represent and I feel like I can move forward in a way that will be very beneficial for our city for growth but also staying rooted in our culture and who we are and how we integrate that growth into the community so that the character of who we are, we never lose.”