Our year began with a funeral for Officer Spencer Bristol. It continues with the loss of loved ones due to Covid-19.
The past year gave us moments that made me very proud to be your mayor: volunteers raising money for Officer Bristol’s family, citizens lining three miles of Gallatin Road to pay respects to fallen officers, neighbors offering to pick up food for neighbors, residents greeting health care workers with applause, and parents expressing gratitude to teachers.
Those last two groups—teachers and healthcare professionals—deserve additional praise. Doctors and nurses have been providing physical and emotional needs under enormous stress. They continue to treat physical illnesses while providing the only emotional contact to isolated Covid-19 patients.
In addition to understanding their subjects and students, teachers mastered new technologies and taught them to the rest of us. When schools welcomed back our students this fall, those same teachers moved to the front lines of pandemic control while we expected them to stay healthy and stay quiet about their fears.
I appreciate those two groups very much but also need to thank the residents of Hendersonville for re-electing me. I am grateful for your support and faith in me. The election was validating and humbling.
After being elected in 2016, I quoted words of wisdom from two former mayors, Dink Newman and Hank Thompson. They urged citizens to work together.
My opponent, Brenda Payne, had a similar message in her letter to “The Hendersonville Standard” weeks ago. Her message was perfect: Work with the mayor. During that same week, I heard Pastor Lewis Groce quote Mother Teresa: “Together we can do great things.”
Our first priority together needs to be moving the operations of city government back into the hands of voters. Voters are demanding that we eliminate the position of city administrator. In the spirit of together, I am willing to compromise by having a chief of staff who is approved by the board and reports to the mayor.
That will make the operations of the city, through the mayor, accountable to voters. If the City is not operating as voters think it should, voters should have the opportunity to vote out the person running the city. The person running the city—voters have made clear—should be the mayor.
With that accountability, I will work to improve our infrastructure (particularly roads), start a financially responsible recycling program, fix our trash problems, and continue to focus on the safety of our city.
Safety has become a growing concern as crime in Nashville spills into suburban counties. Protests and demonstrations are fine. However, people who block traffic and damage property will be arrested. The frequent violence in Davidson County will not come to Hendersonville.
Weeks ago, our officers caught murder suspects within hours of the crime. That is exceptional. I will continue to stand with our officers, provide the tools they need, and encourage the district attorney to prosecute minors as adults when they commit adult crimes.
My message to criminals will continue to be this: If you come to Hendersonville to commit crimes, our officers will catch you, they will prosecute you, and you will go to jail.
Such commitments make cities stand out. Residents and business leaders see security as an important variable in their relocation decisions.
Those relocation decisions have benefited Hendersonville by bringing several healthcare companies recently. I will continue to seek more professional jobs for the people who live in Hendersonville because of the two main benefits they provide—improving the quality of life of Hendersonville residents and reducing congestion for morning commuters on I-65 and Vietnam Veterans Boulevard.
Widening Vietnam Veterans Boulevard, which is entirely a state project, will continue to be in my sights this year. Wherever and whenever possible, I will work with leaders of Sumner County to encourage TDOT to move quickly.
For the smaller road projects in Hendersonville, I will continue to work with aldermen to provide the necessary funding.
All of these priorities are within reach because of our exceptional city employees. They are committed to serving.
As we end the year, I remember the wisdom of Gov. Bill Lee toward the end of his autobiography “This Road We’re On.” He summarized the book with words he had said to his children after their mother died: “We didn’t choose this; we don’t want it—but it will make us better and stronger.”
His statements proved prophetic for what we would deal with in 2020.
We did not choose the circumstances of 2020. We did not want to endure tragedy and pandemic. But they will make us better and stronger.
Jamie Clary is the mayor of Hendersonville, serving his second term.