By ALLEN RAU
With his business in its fifth year, Tennessee Hills Distillery owner Stephen Callahan believes its success has prepared him for a run for a seat on the Jonesborough Board of Mayor and Alderman.
“If you really want to chalk something up for me as a candidate, we’re not only the number one business in Jonesborough right now, we’re also the number one business in the Tri-Cities and we’re ranked 17th in the whole state right now. In two years. So I know how to run a business,” Callahan said.
“I know how to run a business and I know how to balance a budget. I’m a highly connected guy. I know all the people in the right positions that can get things done down here. Unlike a lot of people that are not out in the public eye, this is what I do. This isn’t ‘I’m going to go run and hope to get on the board.’ This is business and numbers and networking and making things happen, projects to success. That’s what I do.”
Using the Jackson Theater as an example, Callahan said the theater renovation would be beneficial to him personally as a business owner, but asked whether the town had a business plan for it, who would run the theater and how to make money from it.
“Whether you want to admit it or not, a town has to be run like a business.”
He added that the town’s infrastructure was a key issue and believes that “we have all these people moving into town. Basically, whether they’re in city limits or not, they’re still driving through our town, using our roads, using our sewer system, using our water system and who’s paying for it? We are.”
Callahan’s campaign flyer stated that a priority for Jonesborough would be to “Maintain and improve infrastructure as our town grows.”
While Callahan said he wants to attract new businesses and create jobs, he “doesn’t want to turn Jonesborough into another Gatlinburg.”
“I want to invite and setup a system that actually promotes viable businesses that will be here and be able to maintain a presence in downtown,” Callahan said. “Don’t just come and go. We need good restaurants, good businesses like the theater that’s going to open up because a rising tide floats all ships. And just because I’m an alcohol businessman doesn’t mean I’m going to be pushing alcohol downtown.”
Callahan also believes his experience as a younger business owner would be positive.
“I love the town. Young people need to start taking responsibility for their community and I’m taking responsibility for my community. I’m not going to come in and rewrite history or rewrite anything,” he said. “But right now, why not have a younger person come in and understand the needs? Somebody the younger generation can come and talk to. I’m a fresh face. I’m not politically connected to any one group here in town. I’m kind of my own man. Out of all the candidates, I have the most business background.”
Callahan added that he had no agenda and that his Jonesborough upbringing was important.
“Right now, I don’t have anything to prove, other than I want to see the town in a better position than it was in yesterday. It’s my hometown. I grew up here on the outskirts of town, went to David Crockett High School. My family and friends live here, and I don’t ever plan on moving.
“My business is here, and since I’ve had a business here in town, I’ve been getting to know people, and people in this town are prideful as heck, and I’m one of them.”