Written by Christina Potts, Media/Marketing Specialist for the Town of Greeneville for The Greeneville Sun
Long-time residents of Greeneville have known for decades what a special place it is. A great quality of life here is rooted in the small-town atmosphere and friendly people, natural beauty and outdoor activities, rich history and architecture, award-winning schools and higher education, low cost of living and taxes, and access to larger cities. Greeneville is a community that supports arts and culture, and most importantly, a community that comes together and supports each other in times of need.
In the last few years, the secret of Greeneville is out. Though population growth since 1980 has been flat, the COVID-19 pandemic is one factor that has caused a shift in the popularity of Greeneville. Migration out of cities to more rural areas has been a trend, as well as the rise in remote working opportunities. Now that people can work from anywhere, quality of life is becoming their number one priority.
Additionally, many people on the coasts have moved to the interior of the country to avoid natural disasters that are increasing in intensity and frequency. These circumstances have resulted in many new neighbors from several states across the country. The Newcomers Club and the Greeneville Newbies Facebook Group are growing rapidly. The Newbies group has over 2,000 members. When they poll their members to find out where they are from, California and Florida have topped the list for the highest numbers, but over 30 states are represented by at least one person.
To meet the demand of new residents, housing developer, D.R. Horton, is in the process of building 380 homes in one subdivision. They are projecting that they may build as many as 1,000 homes in Greeneville by the end of the decade. There are two apartment complexes that are being proposed for Greeneville and downtown condominiums are in the works. It is possible that Greeneville could grow by 5,000 people in the next 10 years.
While rapid growth can be a challenge for small towns like Greeneville, Town and community leaders are poised to respond as well. In 2021, the Town of Greeneville created a new mission that asserts, “The Town of Greeneville: Always working to be the most desirable and dynamic small town in Tennessee; a thriving community in which to live, learn, work, and advance business.” At the same time, the Greeneville Strategic Plan 2021 was developed to be a guide for the next 5 to 10 years.
Greeneville is being led by Mayor Cal Doty, who took office in September 2022. He is the first new mayor in over a decade. Aldermen Scott Bullington and Tim Teague, along with Alderwomen Kristin Girton and Ginny Kidwell round out the Board of Mayor and Aldermen. Todd Smith is the city administrator and Cathy Osborne is the assistant city administrator.
Mayor Doty states, “There will be challenges when it comes to growth management and infrastructure, as well as the possibility of new schools to meet the population growth, but it’s an exciting time. In the past, we haven’t always done a good job planning for the future, but now we are at the point where we need to plan and try things. Whether a particular thing works or not is not the point. We need to take action and move forward.”
One of the actions that the Board of Mayor and Aldermen are taking is proposing changes to the Town Charter that would update the titles from aldermen and alderwomen to city council members, and city administrator to city manager. Election term changes have also been proposed that would hold elections on even years for both wards. Coordinating this effort with the Greeneville City Schools board elections and the Greeneville Water Commission board elections will streamline things further. This is designed to both improve voter turnout and save taxpayers money. All elections will be aligned after these charter changes go through.
At a retreat earlier this year, the Board of Mayor and Alderman, as well as the city administrator, assistant city administrator, and department heads met to ensure that the 2021 Strategic Plan still meets current demands. While some adjustments were made, and development and zoning were hot topics, leaders felt confident that the plan has the right priorities for the future growth that Greeneville is experiencing.
One of those plans, the Downtown Redevelopment Project has been a dream of city leaders for many years. Now the dream is becoming a reality. Substantial progress has been made on infrastructure improvements and new sidewalks on Depot Street. The Crowfoot Alley parking project has also made great strides. Sidewalk projects for Main Street and the entire downtown area are being prioritized. A Multimodal Access grant from the state for over $900,000 is a boon to completing this.
Another dream that is coming true is a new Fire Station for the Greeneville Fire Department. American Rescue Plan Act (ARP) funds have allowed for the replacement of the original Fire Station 2 that has structural issues and a lack of space and access. Move-in for the new station is slated for the end of March with a dedication on April 4.
With each of these projects, City Administrator Todd Smith is cognizant that we’ll need more Town employees in all departments. There will be more equipment needed to service the expanded town footprint. As he keeps this in mind, he said, “Our mantra in 2023 is keep Greeneville, Greeneville. The growth is good. We want the growth. We welcome the growth, but we don’t want to lose that small town quality that made Greeneville so attractive in the first place.”