By LISA WHALEY
As mayor of Tennessee’s oldest town, Chuck Vest can’t wait to dig into this new term.
“2021 is going to be a very productive year for the town of Jonesborough,” he promised.
Vest, who ran unopposed for a second two-year term as mayor in the Nov. 3 election, joins re-elected aldermen Terry Countermine and Adam Dickson as Jonesborough’s Board of Mayor and Aldermen gets back to work post-election.
The mayor had just finished signing paperwork for a new capital $1 million outlay note that will enable the town to finish up some important projects when he sat down with the Herald & Tribune to discuss Jonesborough’s future. And while the town will continue to work on the new Jonesborough K-8 school — with plans for construction to begin in the third quarter of 2021 — Vest is currently most excited about what is just around the corner for Jonesborough’s residents.
“We’ve got a Lincoln Park project at our senior center that is going to be a great addition to our town,” Vest shared. “It is going to be something all residents are going to be able to use. And we’ve got two pretty big projects for 2021 — the Shell Road project that has been lingering out there for 15-plus years and the repaving of East Main Street.”
Other upcoming improvements include repairs to the two foot bridges at Mill Springs Park and Main Street Café, which are already coming in under budget, the establishment of a Civitan Dog Park and updates to Persimmon Ridge ballfields.
“Persimmon Ridge is a little jewel we have in the town, but we need to do more down there to make it attractive for those young kids and it’s overdue,” Vest said. “We’ve got a lot of new homeowners coming into Jonesborough with a lot of new businesses, and with the homes comes more young people.”
Persimmon Ridge, with its ballfields, he said, is one of the few areas with facilities that cater to the 10-18-year-old range.
The key to the Persimmon Ridge improvements, however, may lie in how well the town can manage expenses with the town’s planned dog park, Vest believes. Prompted in part by a $25,000 donation to the town by the Boyd Foundation, the park grew from a $50,000 park to a possible $125,000 park until the board decided to re-examine the town’s needs and plans.
“We need to get an agreement of how much we want to invest in that,” Vest explained. “I think we’re all comfortable with $75,000. Whether we go beyond that is yet to be determined.”
The completion of these priorities for 2021 opens the door to even more growth in Jonesborough’s future, Vest believes. Downtown sidewalk improvements are an upcoming need as is the expansion of Jonesborough water to other areas of the county.
In addition, the mayor said he is hoping to see work at the Jackson Theatre accelerate in 2021.
“It’s a historic project and sometimes you run into things you don’t foresee,” he said.
Besides its ballfields, Vest pointed out that Persimmon Ridge also offers a number of other opportunities. In addition to walking trails, a water park and a Frisbee golf course, new RV sites may be in the more distant future.
“Me personally, I think we need to focus on the athletic side of it first, because that is the area that needs the most attention, but we certainly are going to address the RV park area because that is something that can certainly benefit the town,” Vest said.
In fact, he said, he believes the current BMA has always kept the good of the residents at its forefront and will continue so into the future.
“I think every decision our board makes, really they are all focused on the community and the residents,” Vest stressed. “So when we are talking about water, it’s for our residents. When we are talking about recreation, it is for our residents. Even when we made improvements to our business community, in some ways, they are serving our residents.”
“Some of the things that might have popped up and brought some anxiety to our community were really things created on a national level that flitted down here,” Vest continued. “But for the most part, I think our board has always made decision for what is best for our community, for everyone.
“We don’t make decisions based on who lives where and what their beliefs are. We make decisions on what roads to pave and what waterlines need to be fixed.”