Editorial: Challenges ahead
So now we know who our city leaders will be at least for the next two years. Once Gatlinburg voters ratify the re-election of the only two candidates on the ballot Tuesday, the administration in that city, plus Sevierville and Pigeon Forge, will be determined.
Those in charge face a lot of challenges in the coming months. There are issues pertaining to growth, funding, the likely entry of distilleries into the mix, road/transportation needs, and how to handle the millions of tourists who make their way to our county each year. It won’t be enough merely to meet once or twice a month to approve agenda items. These issues will require discussions, workshops and spirited but respectful debate to settle.
Sevierville, as the largest city, faces concerns over funding the Central Business Improvement District and the huge payments that must be made on that original bond issue. There has not been enough commercial growth in the CBID to adequately fund the debt, so members of the Board of Mayor & Aldermen will have to get into that matter pretty quickly. The likelihood construction will begin on a newly designed interchange at 407 will require creative thinking on what to do at that exit.
In Pigeon Forge the phenomenal business growth that city is experiencing brings its own set of concerns and issues. This is a small town that swells many times over when our visitors arrive. Yet ahead are the Cal Ripken baseball complex, the multimillion dollar convention center, The Island development, rumors of a prospective tenant/buyer for Boyds Bear Country and the expansion of the sewer plant. That’s a lot for the newly constructed City Commission to deal with.
Gatlinburg is developing a soccer complex next to the high school. It is trying to figure out how to absorb three and maybe more distilleries in the downtown area, where pedestrians enjoy a stroll. There is the undeveloped land at the entrance to the city off the Spur, and uncertainty facing Arrowmont School of Arts & Crafts downtown, which occupies land under contract to a developer.
Cities do not run themselves. Despite managers who handle day-to-day matters, each city must have a strong governing body to oversee it all and set policy. While Gatlinburg’s leadership remains intact for the next two years, Sevierville and Pigeon Forge have new representatives who bring fresh approaches to existing and future problems. That’s a good thing.
Good luck to the new and returning elected officials in all three cities. May new ideas and suggestions be well received and thoroughly considered. May disagreements be respected and welcomed. And may all three cities flourish.