By LISA WHALEY
In a move no one seemed to have seen coming, Kelly Wolfe announced his resignation as Jonesborough mayor Monday night during the town’s regularly scheduled Jonesborough Board of Mayor and Alderman meeting.
“I am first and foremost a lover of my town and the people of my town, but I’m not sure that what I’m doing at this point in serving as your mayor is what I need to be doing in my life,” Wolfe told Jonesborough residents who filled the board room at the March 12 meeting. “It has brought me a great deal of pause and brought me to a great deal of prayer. I believe I would be remiss if I didn’t listen to the little voice that has gotten steadily louder.”
That voice, he said, “is telling me that it’s time to move on.”
Wolfe has served as town mayor since 2008 and would have been up for reelection this fall. His announcement, given during Mayor’s Comments toward the beginning of the meeting, left a board already grappling with the recent resignation of former alderman Jerome Fitzgerald, at something of a loss.
“I’m sure we’re all somewhat shocked,” said Alderman Chuck Vest who would be appointed as mayor by the end of the night to fill the empty spot. “I’ve told (Kelly) many times, he’s the best mayor this town has ever had. He came along at the right time.”
During Wolfe’s tenure the town saw major infrastructure improvements, a host of downtown improvements, the building of the town’s state-of-the-art Jonesborough Senior Center, the restoration of the Booker T. Washington School into the new McKinney Center for the Arts and the purchase of the historic Jackson Theatre, a purchase toward which both Wolfe and his wife, Jennifer, contributed.
“He is a visionary. He looks to the future. He always has,” Alderman David Sell said, admitting to, at times, disagreeing with the mayor, but in the end always coming together “for the good of the town.”
Town staff, residents and even some board members were visibly in tears following the announcement. Following a 15-minute recess, the remaining board sought to fill the vacant alderman seat with former alderman Adam Dickson, then voted to appoint Vest to fill in the rest of Wolfe’s term.
Though Vice Mayor Terry Countermine said he had wondered if Wolfe would run for the seat in November, he said he did not see this particular move coming.
“I consider Kelly a very good friend, and that certainly makes me a bit biased,” Countermine admitted. “I think he has done an amazing job. Part of the reason is because he and (Town Administrator) Bob Browning work so well together.
“When you look at what has happened in the town in the last few years, it’s phenomenal. He is going to be badly missed.”
Wolfe later acknowledged his satisfaction in helping to shape the town for the past 9-plus years.
“I’ve often said that there are two types of people who run for office; someone who runs to be somebody, and someone who runs to do something,” he said. “And I, my friends, am proud to have been a part of something bigger than myself and proud of all we have accomplished.”
But with his business growing, one daughter in college and the other ready to become a new driver, Wolfe said he felt the pressure of time, both in being able to do what he wanted to do to the greatest of his ability and in being able to spend precious time with his family.
Still, he said, he continues to value each staff member he has worked with and each community member he has encountered.
“I look back as mayor with no regrets and with joy in my heart of the experience and the love that I have felt.,” Wolfe said. “I thank you board. I thank you for all of the support you have provided me and I thank you for the fact you have let me serve with such a wonderful group of people. I will be leaving the board now and I will encourage you all to continue your great path forward.”