By Lynn J. Richardson
After nearly a decade with the same leadership, Jonesborough has a new mayor.
Jonesborough native Chuck Vest says he looks forward to leading the community, and hopes to continue its current progress, while finding fiscally conservative ways to build on its successes.
Vest found himself in the town’s top spot when Mayor Kelly Wolfe announced he was stepping down at the March meeting of the Jonesborough Board of Mayor and Aldermen.
Almost everyone, including Vest, was shocked.
“We were taken aback because he’s been a great mayor,” Vest said. “There were a lot of oohs and aahs and tears shed.”
After making his announcement, Wolfe left the BMA chambers, and Vest followed him out into the hallway.
“I asked him to please reconsider his decision or at least come back and finish the meeting,” Vest said. “But his mind was made up. I think the good Lord had spoken to him and He had a greater voice than I did.”
Vest was then appointed to serve as mayor for the remainder of the term, and he says he plans to run for the seat in November. He has served as a Jonesborough alderman for 12 years.
A graduate of David Crockett High School, Vest says sports have always been a big part of his life. That drew him to the sporting goods industry, and he ran a sporting goods business in Jonesborough for many years. He later joined Hibbett Sports where he served as a regional vice-president for the company.
The job was demanding and as the company grew, his travel schedule took him out of town three days every week. With four children, Vest said he wanted to put his roots back down. He has been able to do that, he says, in his new job as sales manager for Providence Enterprises (dba as Ashley Homestore).
He also wanted to get involved in the Town of Jonesborough, and that desire led him to run for alderman. A self-described “complainer,” Vest said “it was time to quit complaining and offer myself up to serve the town I grew up in.”
Vest says he will rely on his business areas of expertise — efficiency and the ability to recruit good personnel to help him in his new role as mayor.
He has plenty of work ahead and says he looks forward to the completion of current projects including the new city garage, and the new park next to the Senior Citizens Center; developing a strong 2018-19 budget; and the nomination of a new alderman to fill the vacancy created by his appointment as mayor.
That work will be made easier, he says, thanks to the town’s financial stability; Jonesborough has an S&P AA- rating.
“We can’t do any project unless we’re financially stable, and I want to make sure we can accomplish that without any tax increases,” Vest said.
“You probably won’t ever see Chuck Vest propose any tax increase,” he added. “If anything, the ones we’ve had in the past, I’ve been somewhat against them. And I’ve voiced (my opposition) enough, that even if we had an increase, it was usually lessened because of my preference for finding ways to save and not have to do a tax increase.”
“We do have to have revenue coming in to complete some projects so we can continue to invest in the quality of life things we have here in Jonesborough,” Vest said. “But we can continue to improve our quality of life things, by completing and perfecting a lot of inexpensive projects.”
Two of those projects he hopes to “perfect” are the Chuckey Depot, and Persimmon Ridge Park which he says have “great potential.”
Vest says he would like to bring the Thomas the Train attraction to town to attract kids to the Chuckey Depot, and he would like to see improvements made at Persimmon Ridge, including improvements to the current features as well as the addition of more hiking trails.
As Vest begins his new role, he says he will remember a conversation and some great advice from former mayor Wolfe.
“There has been a lot of political controversy here in Jonesborough,” Vest said. “Some of the campaigning and the politics have gotten rough and it shouldn’t be that way here in Washington County. It shouldn’t be that way here in Jonesborough.”
“I do tend to lean conservative, but I also understand the quality of life issues that can affect everybody,” he added. “I’m somewhat pragmatic that it doesn’t have to be my way; it just needs to be the best way for everybody,” Vest said.
“Kelly told me to remember that and he said he thought I was uniquely positioned to serve all sides.”