Adam Dickson will begin his tenure on Monday, July 22, according to a press release sent out by the city on Thursday. Dickson also formerly served as the regional community development coordinator at Appalachian Community Federal Credit Union.
“We are very excited to have Adam join our team to oversee the new Langston Centre,” said James Ellis, director of the city’s parks and recreation department, in the press release. “Adam’s past experience with volunteer groups and nonprofits as well as his knowledge and involvement of the Langston project and the community made him our candidate of choice.”
Michael Young, chair of the Langston Education & Arts Development organization, a group of Langston High School alumni and community members, said Dickson is an “excellent” choice for the position.
“He’s experienced and well-known in the community, and he’s been in several other positions,” Young said. “Personally, I think he’ll be a good choice.”
According to the city release, Dickson has a bachelor’s degree in political science from Carson-Newman University and a master’s degree in public administration from East Tennessee State University. He’s also served as an adjunct political science instructor at ETSU for 14 years.
“I know and understand the desire of LEAD to see the Langston Centre properly memorialize their alma mater while also set a tone of inclusion and community for Johnson City and the Tri-Cities region,” Dickson said in the release. “Volunteers will be essential in the early days of the Langston Centre. I believe that I have the interpersonal communications skills to interact with a variety of groups and organizations.”
The Langston Centre, which is still under construction, used to be the site of Langston High School, Johnson City’s public African American high school from 1893 until the school system was integrated in 1965.
The center, according to LEAD’s website, is intended to serve as a hub for multicultural programming in Johnson City and will also have a focus on STEM education and mentorship programs.
“It’s a history that we can’t afford to forget,” Young said. “At one time, the Langston High School was the focus of the black community in Johnson City, and we just want to revive that and revive that feeling of family that the school had at the time when it was in existence.”
Randy Trivette, the city’s director of facilities management, said the city is aiming to open to the center in mid-September. General contractor GRC Construction Services is conducting the renovation of the building, and the city’s public works department will complete the outside portion of the project, including the grading, landscaping and the facility’s parking lot.
The renovation of the building began in late 2018. The old high school was previously used as a maintenance facility for the Johnson City School System and fell into disrepair over the years, suffering from broken window panes, leaks and asbestos. Trivette said lead and asbestos had to be removed before the contractor could start working.
The building, he said, was completely renovated.
“We just kept the four walls and roof,” Trivette said.
The inside contains completely new wiring, HVAC and plumbing, and the front lobby and reception area is entirely new construction. The archway at the front of the building marks the original entrance of the school.
Trivette said the total cost of the reconstruction and site work is about $2.5 million. As of October 2018, LEAD had raised more than $325,000 in individual contributions, grants and corporate donations out of a goal of $500,000 for the project.
“We’re working on it,” Young said Thursday of LEAD’s fundraising effort.
The group is accepting donations through its website, leadlhs.org.