Advisory Commission chair shares path forward for One Kingsport

Matthew Lane • Sep 4, 2016 at 8:00 PM

KINGSPORT — The woman tapped to lead the One Kingsport Advisory Commission views the role of the 11-member board as an opportunity for the citizens of Kingsport to get involved in defining the city they want.

Earlier this month, the Board of Mayor and Aldermen created the commission and charged it with two primary tasks: to review and recommend One Kingsport projects throughout the year and to provide an annual report on the accomplishments, metrics and progress of the various projects.

Jane Henry, a real estate agent with Blue Ridge Properties the past 13 years, was picked by Mayor John Clark to serve as the chair of the commission.

Jane and her husband Brian (an attorney with Eastman Chemical Company) have lived in Kingsport for 21 years, during which time she has served on a number of boards and commissions within the community, including the Kingsport Chamber of Commerce, the United Way and the Junior League of Kingsport.

During the One Kingsport process, Henry served on the Destination City work group and the prioritization committee.

“It’s important for the city to figure out how to recruit people to not just work in the city, but to live and become a part of the community,” Henry said. “There was annexation, which probably accounted for a majority of the growth in the last decade. Because of changes at the state level, those aren’t options anymore, and we’re actually going to have to sell our city and convince people to move here.”

The One Kingsport movement is essentially a five-year road map for the Model City, born out of a two-day summit held last fall. Nearly 200 volunteers worked for months brainstorming and refining “big ideas,” policy changes and capital projects to recommend to the BMA, which they did back in March.

“There’s one thing almost all of the groups identified and discussed: taking care of what we got and making sure we’re putting our best foot forward,” Henry said. “It would cost some money in the budget but it wouldn’t be a tremendous amount of money, and I think it would make a huge difference.

“It’s like curb appeal in real estate. It goes a lot further than people realize.”

Each member of the advisory commission will serve a four-year term and meet — at a minimum — quarterly to discuss the progress of One Kingsport and develop metrics and a report card for each project.

Henry said she would like to hold the inaugural meeting of the commission next week and a second meeting later in the month. As things ramp up, the meetings could be held monthly before ultimately moving to quarterly sessions.

“I don’t see us micromanaging,” Henry said. “At the same time, I think our responsibilities will be as a liaison between projects and the BMA. It’s important for us to be involved enough to have a clear understanding and what the goals and measure are.”

Though the five-year One Kingsport plan includes more than 100 ideas, city officials and the BMA are focusing on first-year recommendations: beautification and streetscape improvements, upgrades to Bays Mountain Park, establishing neighborhood commissions and starting the process of creating a large outdoor venue and maker space downtown.

When the prioritization team met earlier this year, Henry said it met twice before narrowing down the list of more than 100 projects into a year one list of about a dozen recommendations to the BMA. A few big-ticket items made the list, along with some “quick hit” beautification efforts, policy changes and a few master plan suggestions.

“What we have now is a raw list that came from those work groups and they spent months looking at ideas. We’re just now starting to look at the rest of the list, to flesh it out and fully understand everything that’s been proposed,” Henry said.

One of the bigger-ticket items coming out of the One Kingsport summit was the creation of a large outdoor venue in the downtown area. The likely location is on the old General Shale property opposite Brickyard Park.

Henry and her husband have previously lived in Atlanta and the D.C. area, have in-laws who live in Chattanooga and visit Asheville fairly often. Her husband enjoys live music and the two have been to a number of large outdoor venues.

Henry said “the devil is in the details” when it comes to Kingsport having such a facility.

“I think the idea of something, where it would be a multi-use area is very positive,” Henry said. “But it’s going to come down to what’s actually proposed and the cost.”

Henry said the advisory commission would work with the BMA along the way when it comes to the cost of any particular project and how the city’s overall budget looks for the coming year.

“We wouldn’t want to take them a wish list that has $20 million worth of projects and they can only fund a million,” Henry said.