By MARINA WATERS
It wasn’t that long ago at the Jonesborough School celebration that Jonesborough Mayor Chuck Vest said that Town Administrator Bob Browning could easily retire and “ride into the sunset like the Lone Ranger.”
Browning is in fact retiring, Vest said at Monday’s Jonesborough Board of Mayor and Aldermen meeting, but he might not be riding off into the sunset just yet.
“We had a little letter come out to us,” Vest said. “That was from a very special person. That person’s got their name out on this building for a reason — that’s Bob. He sent a retirement letter out, but he should have known better — that we weren’t going to let him go.”
Vest said the hope is to keep Browning on to solely focus on two projects, the Jackson Theatre revitalization and the Jonesborough School project.
In addition to Browning’s knowledge in areas such as rural development bonds for the school project, Vest told the Herald & Tribune it would also be “financially beneficial” to keep Browning on to secure grants and coordinate with construction consultants.
“I think when (the Jonesborough School project) got approved,” Vest said, “Bob was invigorated to say, ‘I want to help see that project through.’ We’ve got a Jackson Theatre that’s going to be here forever as well. I know that’s special to Bob and that he wants to see that project through.
“To do those important things, we can’t allow either one of those to fail. We need Bob to be focused on those. My hope is the board will allow Bob to assume a position that will allow him to focus on those two and remain here and see those through.”
In Browning’s letter to the BMA, he said he intends to retire at the end of the fiscal year, June 30th. Monday night, he also said it was a decision he didn’t take lightly after first taking on the role as town administrator in 1978.
“It’s a hard decision to make. I love this town and I’ve loved every minute of it. I can’t talk much longer,” Browning said with tears in his eyes, “but this staff is awesome. Just awesome. That’s one of the reasons I come to work — it’s family and great people.”
Vest said in the next couple of months, the town will consider the next town administrator. That person, he said, will need to align with Jonesborough’s vision — and be ready to fill some big shoes.
“If the board moves down that path, the board will be looking for someone to become a town administrator to allow Bob to focus on those things,” Vest said. “I’m sure the board will hit the ground running on that. It will be important that we find someone who really fits in with what we’ve developed here in the town of Jonesborough.”
Browning’s work is far from finished, however. Particularly, with the Jonesborough School project, which saw two approved resolutions from the BMA on Monday night regarding the rural development loan application for $32,750,000 for the building project.
Town Attorney James Wheeler reiterated that the town is committed to $32.75 million price, which Vest said would create lasting facilities for the community.
“We’re going to have a nice park facility and a great new school,” Vest said. “We can enjoy those for years to come. Really, those things will outlive us.”together.”