Below is a note from Jeff Fleming. It will serve as the city’s press release.
I walked into City Hall as an ETSU intern in 1984. The city’s population was 32,027. I never dreamed I would meet and marry another intern and spend the next 35+ years with this wonderful organization — and certainly never dreamed that I would become city manager. It’s been the honor of my life, especially to serve during the city’s 2017 centennial year. If you know me at all, you know I love this town. The only thing I love more is my family.
The Council Room has been so much more than a meeting room. It’s where we celebrated our wedding shower, baby showers, and so many of life’s milestones with co-workers and community. As much as I’m looking forward to the move to a New City Hall in the prominent location it deserves, it seems fitting that I close this chapter in the only City Hall I’ve ever known. I’ve worked for 6 mayors, 6 city managers, and more aldermen than I can enumerate. It’s time.
During my career, we saw global changes with profound impacts on our planned industrial city. But above all, our community is resilient. We came together and developed a plan to improve access to higher education, eventually building what we would call the “Academic Village” – and received national recognition from Harvard University for our efforts. More than 2,000 students attend classes on the blocks that formerly housed deteriorated buildings. We executed plans to redevelop Kingsport Mall (East Stone Commons), old Mason-Dixon (Crown Point Plaza), new Mason-Dixon (Kingsport Pavilion), Parkway Plaza, and Fort Henry Mall. When Kingsport Press closed, we developed a plan to build a downtown grocery, farmers market, and medical/professional offices. We transformed the public housing project in Riverview and set the stage for others to follow. I witnessed the vote to build MeadowView Convention Center and was assigned to facilitate the physical development of its surroundings for much of the next 20 years. We secured the corporate headquarters of Eastman and improved the signage, gateways, and presentation of our city. We did all of these things while attending to critical infrastructure needs. I’ve had the rare opportunity to live alongside the results of our collective labor and I’m proud of our body of work. There’s more on the horizon, but we have exceedingly capable people in place to get the job done.
I’m proud of the organization and culture we’ve built together. Our award-winning employees excel in their chosen professions. Many have received the highest possible honors from their statewide organizations – and some at the national level. They’ve embraced technology, driven efficiencies, and successfully pivoted any time that economic conditions required. Many can work anywhere they desire, but they choose to work here. I’ve tried to build a culture of respect and appreciation, never missing an opportunity to tell them how much I appreciate them. Let us never take them for granted.
You gave me the opportunity to advance within the organization and I am forever grateful. During the last five years, we grew the ‘rainy day’ fund by 33%, increased annual funding for paving by 400%, absorbed $12.8 million in State cuts, expanded the Greenbelt in both directions, remodeled Borden Park & Lynn View, expanded the Aquatic Center, and began the most substantial reinvestment in Bays Mountain Park since it opened. I’m also proud of the working relationship with Kingsport City Schools, which is the strongest I’ve ever known.
No person is an island. The people who did most of the heavy-lifting are still here. I hope you will afford them the same opportunities for advancement that I was afforded.
At every turn, God has opened doors, put people in my path, redirected me, and closed doors when necessary. I’ve learned to trust and see what the next chapter holds.
Again, thank you from the bottom of my heart,