Where do I begin? Over the last four years you have given me something difficult to describe, but I’m going to try because I want you to understand what a gift it is. I want you to know what it feels like when the Kingsport Spirit grabs a hold of you, makes you apart of its family and makes you feel valued.
Four years ago, when I accepted the position as Executive Director of the Downtown Kingsport Association, I was nervous and overwhelmed. Excited but also aware of the level of responsibility I had been given. This community loves its Downtown, values it, respects it and wants to see it prosper and grow. I was determined to use my past experiences as a Downtown Development Director in Kentucky to build a game plan for the future of Downtown Kingsport. Kentucky, you ask? Yes, I moved here from Kentucky and yes I was worried I would be viewed as an outsider, but I wasn’t. You embraced me and welcomed me with open arms into this new position and into this community.
My first order of business was to enlist volunteers; stakeholders in the community. This is where I first started to experience the true spirit of Kingsport. Everyone I talked to had a story to tell regarding their experiences while growing up here. The excitement of shopping Downtown for a new pair of shoes at Penny’s and then to the candy counter for a treat or browsing Sobel’s Department Store, Fuller & Hillmans and then ending your day with a Mountain Dew slushy and popcorn at Wallace News Stand. Cruising Broad Street in their 1950’s mustang and then catching a movie that weekend at the State Theater with their high school sweetheart. These were just some of the heart-warming stories that I heard from people who love this community and they were thrilled to volunteer their time to serve on a committee that would help us put work plans into action.
The enthusiasm of volunteers is vital to an organization like this one and they are the ones that helped us accomplish projects that we enjoy today. The park lets with red umbrellas along Broad Street, the Verdin Street Clock at New and Broad, the new Christmas Lights and banners, the beautiful hanging baskets along Center St and the flower pots in front of all the businesses are just a few of the accomplishments from the volunteers of the Design Committee.
The Downtown Kingsport Wine Festival, First Thursday Sip N Strolls and the Busker Festival, the Holiday Loft Tours are fun and new events that were put together by volunteers of the Promotion and Organization committees. PEAK, the Young Professionals organization, was instrumental in the building of the Downtown Dog Park. It took numerous volunteers and selfless hours to organize this project and it continues to have volunteers maintain it each and every day.
The Economic Vitality Committee had a number of volunteers working on many projects to help strengthen existing business in the Downtown core and recruit new ones to locate Downtown. Examples of these are: taking inventory of all the Buildings and Businesses Downtown and uploading them on the DKA website. They hosted ribbon cuttings to celebrate new businesses and received an Entrepreneur grant that will encourage entrepreneurs to participate in a co-starter class and ultimately end up in a maker space.
This is by no means the end of the list of projects that I have enjoyed working on but it is a sample of some of the projects that I got to witness come to fruition while being the Executive Director of the Downtown Kingsport Association. My family and I have created our own memories here and I will always be grateful for this opportunity you have given me but most of all I am grateful for instilling in me the Kingsport Spirit.
All my best,