Although the past year has been marked by tragedy and uncertainty, Hendersonville residents still have much to be grateful for, Mayor Jamie Clary told citizens on Tuesday.
Hosted by the Hendersonville Area Chamber of Commerce, the mayor’s annual State of the City address is usually held in May and gives the city’s elected leader a chance to highlight the past year’s accomplishments.
However, Tuesday’s luncheon was the first time Chamber of Commerce members have met in person since March amid a continuing COVID-19 pandemic. While fewer seats were available to allow for social distancing guidelines, the meeting was available to the more than two dozen members who were able to view it virtually for the first time.
Clary is seeking his second term as mayor on Nov. 3. His opponent, former Hendersonville Area Chamber of Commerce CEO Brenda Payne, was also present at Tuesday’s luncheon.
During his 30-minute address Clary recognized several citizens and city employees who have helped make Hendersonville a better place over the last year.
He noted the death of retired HPD Lt. Jim Lawson in April due to COVID-19 as well as the tragic death in December of Officer Spencer Bristol.
“When I think about gratitude and positivity the last year, I think of these two pictures,” he said pointing to photos of Lawson and Bristol.
Clary noted how the community came together to mourn Bristol’s death, lining Main Street for miles to say goodbye and holding fundraisers for the young officer’s family.
“It made me very proud but I don’t ever want to see it again,” he said. “Our community stepped up. Our community continues to step up.”
Clary added that Bristol, as well as four other Hendersonville police officers who have died in the line of duty since the city’s inception, will soon have streets named after them.
“[Hendersonville Planning Director] Keith Free came to me and said we were having a hard time naming new roads,” Clary said, noting that with the countywide dispatch system, road names can not be duplicated in different cities.
“Two weeks ago, I got with dispatch and asked about these five names,” said Clary. He then asked Bristol’s father, Dan to unveil a sign that read Bristol Drive.
“I look forward to people saying those names,” said Clary.
Clary also unveiled an inaugural award named in honor of the city’s first part-time city manager, Sam Walton. Walton, who founded the Hendersonville Chamber of Commerce 50 years ago, “was an incredibly giving individual,” Clary noted.
Clary named Hendersonville residents Taylor Rowe and Mauricio Sanchez as the first two recipients of the Sam Walton Community Service Volunteer Award.
Rowe’s nonprofit Live, Love, Nashville was featured on the Ellen Degeneres Show and has raised money for several people in need, including the Bristol family.
Sanchez, a long-time Hendersonville resident, started the social media group Eat Hendersonville to encourage residents to eat at local independent restaurants during the COVID-19 pandemic. The site has more than 11,000 members who post regularly about their favorite dishes and local restaurant owners.
“Without his work some of those restaurants would be closed,” said Clary.
Citizens also need to show their gratitude for several roads and drainage projects, the mayor said, praising Road Superintendent Trace Buerkett. Clary also praised the city’s police and fire departments as well as long-time City Recorder Kay Franklin.
No city department has had to adjust more than the parks department during COVID-19, Clary added. “They’ve done a fabulous job as all our staff has… In fact, I think we have the best city staff in the world.”
Clary also gave shout-outs to several businesses like the Paul Mitchell School that filled a long-vacant store front on East Main Street, Brian Motorsports that renovated a building on West Main Street and TNT Motorsports, a business also located on West Main Street.
Although the city has yet to initiate a citywide recycling program, Clary urged residents to use Green Village Recycling, a local company.
“They pick up stuff that would otherwise go to a land fill,” he said.
Clary also pointed to an increase in sales tax revenue for the past few months despite COVID-19.
The mayor also highlighted several projects the city has been working on with the Tennessee Department of Transportation since before he took office.
The city has applied for two grants for the long-awaited connector road project near Saundersville Road – an estimated $12 million project, Clary noted.
The city is currently working with the U. S. Army Corps of Engineers on the Sanders Ferry Greenway project. Clary said that project is likely to go out for bids in the next couple of months. Other projects underway include a long-awaited traffic light synchronization project as well as a project to widen Vietnam Veterans Boulevard. Clary said he expects construction to begin on the latter project in four to six years.
Clary also praised those involved in the S’MORE summer reading program, a program he helped launch that has served more than 100 school-aged children over the last three years.
In closing, the mayor urged residents to “be positive, be grateful.”
“I want to remind you that we are in the best city in the best state in the best country in the world and I am very grateful to be its mayor,” he added.