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Wednesday, March 02, 2016

My Remarks - Kingsport Centennial

For those of you who couldn’t make it to today’s event….I gave you a little snippet of the end (below) and the full text follows:  
…by standing before you today, you’ve made the dream of this little boy from Cherry Street a reality.  I consider it one life’s greatest blessings to be able to give back to the place that made, shaped, and nurtured – me.  It’s an even greater blessing that my wife and children have shared this journey with me.  Wherever I go, people remind me, “There’s something different about this place. Don’t ever take that for granted.”  Whether you’ve been here 100 years or 100 days – I hope you feel THE KINGSPORT SPIRIT.  It will leave an indelible mark on your soul that you’ll carry wherever you go.
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My mom is from Hawkins County, my dad from Southwest Virginia. They came to Kingsport seeking a better life for their children and grandchildren.  Citizens of this new town came from nearby and faraway.  It was an early melting pot of diversity from around the world – people with a common goal – to build a better future.
March 2nd isn’t just Kingsport’s birthday, it’s also my son’s birthday.  25 years ago today, he was born at Holston Valley Medical Center.  Just like his mother, his sister, and I, he reaped the benefit of one of the many institutions that were envisioned, planned and funded by the Kingsport Spirit.  And so goes the circle of life.
Our family, like so many others, inherited a city with exceptional schools, incredible parks, strong volunteerism, charitable conviction, civic-minded businesses, an infectious community pride, and a can-do attitude.
Jim Harlan said recently at a United Way luncheon (and I’m paraphrasing), “You’re here today because someone came before you to lay the groundwork…someone helped you…someone prayed for you – and it’s your responsibility to the same for those to come.”
That’s the Kingsport Spirit.
The term was coined by the father of Kingsport.  Here are his words:
“Frequently we are asked what motivating spirit has been most apparent in the building of this city of industries, schools, churches and homes. Were I to undertake to define the spirit underlying every step in the growth and development of Kingsport, from the days of its humblest beginnings until now, I could not avoid the assertion that the spirit, if it be a spirit, is one of mutual helpfulness and a willingness to submerge selfish interests beneath the individual effort to assure the greater good for the greater number.
J. FRED JOHNSON – Kingsport - February 15, 1937
When you think about the insurmountable odds this fledgling city faced, the Kingsport Spirit is even more pronounced.
Beginning in 1910, someone had to secure financing, acquire the land, build the railroad, build the streets, waterlines, sewerlines, schools….solicit businesses and people to move here, and believe in the potential of this new city. 
Four years later, World War I began in 1914 and lasted until 1918.  The city was one year old when the war ended. Imagine the obstacles of building a city – from scratch – during a world war.
“In 1915, when the vision of an industrial community was first projected, it was apparent that this site provided an ideal opportunity to develop a city that would permit expansion for many years to come.  Accordingly, Dr. John Nolen, eminent city planner was engaged to plan a city that should eventually house at least fifty thousand people.” 
Then in 1929, the stock market crashed and the Great Depression began.  Newly-opened banks failed.  In fact, the old Sullivan County Bank is being uncovered at 211 Broad Street near Wallace News as we speak. 
In 1933, FDR’s New Deal led to projects like the Civic Auditorium in 1938.
And in 1939…World War II.
C.P. Edwards, Jr. – great uncle of Alderman Colette George – wrote:
“Kingsport, like many another American community, did not escape the heavy demands imposed by wartime conditions and the necessity for enlisting every facility in every geographical area of our nation for war production. Kingsport's industries were quick to feel the demands upon their facilities and the restrictions necessarily imposed on their manpower and supplies. Early in 1941 the construction of the huge Holston Ordnance Works crowded the population to new heights with an influx of nearly 15,000 persons, accentuating the already existing housing shortage, and placing new loads upon the young city.”
At every turn, in any situation, Kingsport citizens have risen to the occasion.
Whether it be the groundbreaking founding of Douglass High School in 1928, the Santa Train in 1942, Bays Mountain Park in 1971, Fun Fest in 1980, Kingsport Tomorrow/Vision 2017 in 1989, MeadowView Convention Center in 1996, the Academic Village in 2002, the Kingsport Carousel in 2010, the PEAK young professionals organization in 2013, or the recent OneKingsport Summit – Kingsport is willing to dream – it’s willing to work – and it’s willing to leave a legacy.
The original vision was fifty thousand residents.  Today, Kingsport’s population stands at 53,028.  Our water plant serves a population of 100,557.
We stand at a crossroads.  Rest on the successes of the past, or boldly dream and build for the future.  What will Kingsport be in 2117?  I won’t be here to find out, but I hope we’ve all left it a little better than we found it – for future generations.
In closing, by standing before you today, you’ve made the dream of this little boy from Cherry Street a reality.  I consider it one life’s greatest blessings to be able to give back to the place that made, shaped, and nurtured – me.  It’s an even greater blessing that my wife and children have shared this journey with me.  Wherever I go, people remind me, “There’s something different about this place. Don’t ever take that for granted.”  Whether you’ve been here 100 years or 100 days – I hope you feel THE KINGSPORT SPIRIT.  It will leave an indelible mark on your soul that you’ll carry wherever you go.
Thank you.


Jeff Fleming
City Manager
423.229.9381 desk





Kingsport is located on the Tennessee-Virginia border at the crossroads of I-81 and I-26 near the geographic center of the Eastern U.S. This city of 50,000 in a metro of 308,000, was planned by renowned American planner John Nolen in his office at Harvard Square. Located in the lush green foothills of the Tennessee Valley, it is surrounded by the Southern Highlands and mountain lakes. Kingsport is home to Marriott’s www.MeadowViewResort.com and thousands of acres of unique, natural amenities at Bays Mountain and Warriors Path Parks. The natural geography provides a temperate, well-balanced climate with four seasons and a natural shelter from extreme weather. Population growth has also been well-balanced, ensuring you will not outgrow your decision to relocate. With no personal property taxes, special assessments, or state income taxes on salaries/wages, you’ll find that Kingsport has a very low cost of living coupled with an exceptionally high quality of life (see for yourself at www.BestPlaces.net). The regional airport (TRI) has direct flights to Atlanta, Charlotte, Orlando and St. Pete/Clearwater with easy access, parking, and virtually no security lines. The public education system was planned by Columbia University and Newsweek has repeatedly recognized the local high school as one of the best in America. Year in and year out our graduates go on to the top colleges and universities (and without costly private school tuition fees). Harvard also recognized Kingsport in 2009 with the Innovations in American Government Award for its higher education initiative. What are you waiting for? It’s time to leave the high costs, traffic jams, and stress behind and discover this hidden gem.