Making a plan to celebrate Johnson City's 150th birthday

Robert Houk • Mar 29, 2018 at 12:00 AM

Members of Johnson City’s Sesquicentennial Commission said Wednesday they weren’t quite ready to elect officers, but they do believe the group would soon zero in on a plan to celebrate the 150th anniversary of the city’s first charter.

The nine-member commission agreed to meet with City Public Works Director Phil Pindzola next week to discuss ideas for a signature sesquicentennial project. Members also want to hear from city residents, as well as gauge feedback from a recent community survey conducted by a Nashville firm charged with branding the city.

City Commissioner Jenny Brock, who spoke at the beginning of what was the commission’s second meeting, urged members to be “creative” and “think outside the box” to come up with something befitting the sesquicentennial.

“This is a big deal,” she said.

Making A Plan

Brock also suggested the commission “take the next 30 days” to come up with an overall plan of how the sesquicentennial should be celebrated and funded.

“I know we are off to a rocky start, but I think we are looking for a format to show off Johnson City and where we are going,” she said.

The commission later took Brock’s advice to heart and agreed to meet in a workshop on April 18 to come up with a list of projects, develop a likely timeline and prepare a proposed budget for a yearlong celebration to commemorate the date the city was issued its first charter from the state on Dec. 1, 1869. If all goes as planned, commission members said they should have a proposal ready to go before the City Commission, which appointed the board to plan the sesquicentennial celebration, before the end of April.

Not Ready

However, commission members said they weren’t ready to select officers to guide their work as they have been charged to do by the City Commission. Marcy Walker, a local attorney and former city commissioner, said “it makes it little difficult” for her and other commission members to agree to take on a leadership role without knowing what the scope of the job will be.

“If we are just talking about a cake and balloons, then we don’t need a chairman, vice chairman or even this committee,” she said.

Her colleagues agreed, with Larry Reaves saying electing officers would be “premature if we don’t have our feet set.”

Walker said they should settle on a list of likely projects and appoint a chair and vice chair of individual committees (which could include members from outside the Sesquicentennial Commission) to oversee them.

Assistant City Manager Charles Stahl said the Sesquicentennial Commission will have a portion of two budget cycles to plan and oversee the celebration. He also said it was within the commission’s authority to appoint special committees “with members from outside this group” to undertake celebration projects.