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Kelly Wolfe looks ahead to fourth term as town mayor

Just one week from his fourth win, newly elected Jonesborough Mayor Kelly Wolfe is already looking ahead to the town’s next priorities
“There’s immediate and then there’s shortly down the road,” said Wolfe, who added that he doesn’t like to categorize one town project as more important than the other.
Instead, he said, he looks at time, funding and other various factors to determine what’s next on deck.
And in the coming year, one such project is water.
“We’re working right now on developing a Community Development Block Grant to further improve our water system,” Wolfe explained. “When I took office six years ago, I quickly learned we were losing 60 percent of the finished water before it could make it to your tank.”
At that time, serious problems with the town’s wastewater treatment system meant water had to wait.
“Now that we’ve got sewer out the way, the water has come to the forefront,” Wolfe said. “We’ve already accomplished half of what we need to with water. We have five zones in our water system. We’ve finished work on two of those zones thus far.”
In the completed zones, the water loss is now just 3 percent. But there are still three zones to go.
The plan, Wolfe said, is to tackle the final zones together, “so we’re not pushing the leaks into another system.”
“Nobody wants to have another rate increase,” Wolfe said. “So we’re going to request a grant to cover the cost of the rest of the system being zoned.”
The application deadline for the CDBG is early next year, but there is a still a great deal of prep work to do prior to applying.
“Hopefully, we’ll see the grant sometime next year, and we can fix the system so it works properly,” Wolfe said.
Wolfe sees the town’s next “immediate need” as a completion of some of its walkways.
“We have some grants we’ve had for a while regarding walking trails and pedestrian access,” he said. “We’re in jeopardy of losing those funds if we don’t get these things finished.”
Seen as two phases, the first is the trail from Barkley Creek Park near Persimmon Ridge Ridge Road through downtown.
That will be done, as required, by a private contractor, according to Wolfe.
The next phase is from First Baptist Church up the hill on East Main Street to Jonesborough Middle School.
“That’s one we’re in the process of working on as well with the town crew and the prisoners,” Wolfe said. “We’ll have to work with the Johnson City Power Board in putting power underground. That funding has already been secured.”
This second phase will mean a walkway from downtown to the new Senior Center and the McKinney Center, another benefit for the town.
Wolfe’s focus is to continue to work diligently on such town improvements in his role as town mayor, but this year’s win is not a win he takes for granted.
Defeating challenger and popular former alderman Jerome Fitzgerald by less than 200 votes on Nov. 4, Wolfe is pleased with what he sees as a validation of the work he has done so far and grateful for what he learned during this election.
“You’re always somewhat apprehensive in these situations,” Wolfe admitted. “You think you’ve got your finger on the pulse of what’s going on, but you never really know for sure until the votes are counted.”
He was especially pleased by what he saw as the town’s response to his previous terms as mayor.
“I spent a lot of time during this election talking to voters, going door to door, seeing folks at community events, and I really got a good sense of just how special folks in Jonesborough think their town is,” Wolfe said.
“The compliments that we got on our Street Department, our Water Department, our Sanitation folks, our Police Department, our Fire Department, even our Building Inspector.”
To Wolfe, that was a clear sign that Jonesborough’s success was about far more than the mayor.
“What I have said consistently is: Being mayor is fine, being elected mayor is a fine thing, but you are nothing without your aldermen,” he said.
“And you can’t accomplish anything without a town staff and employees who care about the town, who are passionate about Jonesborough.
“Our town staff is like a family, and I don’t think I had a full appreciation of that until I became mayor. Spend some time in the trenches with them, and the love they have for each other and the community quickly becomes evident.”