In its centennial year, the City of Kingsport continues to find innovative approaches to local governance by involving citizens, utilizing new technology, and leveraging a strong relationship between the elected board and professional staff.
In recognition of the city’s innovative approach to service delivery, the Tennessee Municipal League is pleased to present Kingsport with the 2018 Award for Excellence in Governance.
“Kingsport is incredibly honored to receive this award,” said City Manager Jeff Fleming. “It’s not something we sought or applied for. There are more than 300 cities in Tennessee from the Great Smoky Mountains to the Mississippi River and to be selected by our peers in a surprise nomination is extremely rewarding.”
The Kingsport Spirit is alive and well 100 years after the city’s founding. The term was coined by founding father J. Fred Johnson to describe the community’s propensity to come together for the greater good.
“Governance is the process of bringing life to community dreams through citizen input, a representative democracy of elected officials, and a professional staff that innovatively delivers services at a constrained price,” Fleming said.
Leading up to the city’s centennial, officials established the OneKingsport Summit, a two-day period where citizen input was gathered and an advisory committee was formed to help guide the city into the future. The result of the summit were five projects aimed at providing a sustained economic impact and improving quality of life for citizens.
The city also established a 12-member Neighborhood Commission that advises and promotes initiatives to strengthen local neighborhoods. The group serves as a liaison to city officials about programs that could benefit various neighborhoods. To communicate better with residents, Kingsport implemented ‘YourGOV,’ a free service that allows residents to report non-emergency issues and service requests using the web or a smart phone.
Kingsport also worked to improve infrastructure – the foundational building blocks of a city. In 2017, Kingsport finished a $13.7 million raw-water intake project to provide a safe, reliable source of drinking water for generations to come. Major reinvestments to the wastewater system removed a single point of failure from the Reedy Creek basin. Ground-penetrating radar was used to obtain objective data and analyze every street in the city in preparation for PaveKingsport, the city’s sustainable paving initiative to ensure that every street is paved within an industry-standard life cycle. Major gateways and high profile medians have been retrofit with trees and landscaping to provide a favorable first impression. The city also made major reinvestment into parks and greenspace like Centennial Park, Carousel Park, Borden Park and Bays Mountain Park, the largest city-owned park in the state at 3,550 acres. The new Lily Pad Cove Pavilion, along with major park renovations, will ensure that Bays Mountain maintains its prominence as Kingsport’s crown jewel. A fire facilities master plan was developed and funded. The public library has been remodeled and expanded. Dobyns-Bennett High School is undergoing a major expansion made possible by a partnership with Sullivan County for city-county school facilities.
“People seem to be taking notice,” said Fleming. Kingsport was recently featured in The Tennessean as the 5th fastest-growing city in Tennessee for the 2017 U.S. Census.
According to the Tennessee Municipal League, “None of these projects would have been possible without the hard work and dedication of Kingsport’s elected officials and city staff, led by City Manager Jeff Fleming. Together, Kingsport officials have managed to provide top-notch traditional services while encouraging and supporting a variety of innovative approaches to service delivery by working together and showing a willingness to implement new and exciting approaches to government.”
“It truly takes a team and I’d put ours up against any team anywhere in terms of dedication, professionalism, and commitment to making a better community,” Fleming added.