KINGSPORT — Morris Baker, Kingsport’s director of grants and higher education initiatives, has been promoted to Community Services director and will now oversee the Kingsport Public Library, Bays Mountain, Cultural Arts and the Senior Center.
City Manager John Campbell signed off on the newly created position, and Baker’s promotion fills the long-vacant 10th spot on the city’s leadership team. Baker assumed his new duties effective Oct. 1.
“I feel it’s a good move for me,” Baker said. “These are four great groups to work with. I’ve worked with them from the grant perspective, looking at funding needs. They do good work and I’m excited to work with each of them.”
Baker was hired by the city in 2007 as the lead grant writer. Since the academic village came online, higher education initiatives were added to his list of responsibilities. In 2012, Baker became the executive director of the Kingsport Higher Education Commission, the oversight board for the academic village.
Prior to coming to the city, Baker served as the community services director for the Upper East Tennessee Human Development Agency and worked for a short stint (18 months) in the city’s Parks and Recreation Department. He has served on and currently serves on the boards of several community and nonprofit organizations, including Goodwill, Salvation Army and the Tennessee Rehabilitation Center.
“What drew me to the city was the grants job. Grants is an aspect of what I do that I thoroughly enjoy,” Baker said. “I work across city departments and help get some pretty neat things going on. This is just a whole new chapter for me, taking four good groups and looking to see how we can move things forward.”
UETHDA recently sought out Baker to serve as its executive director and Baker had accepted the position, but then the offer from the city came in and Baker decided to stay with the Model City.
“We knew UETHDA was looking for a good person. Certainly (Baker) is someone we’d prefer not to lose. I don’t know if I would consider it a counteroffer. (The position) is something we’ve been looking at for some time and we had talked to Morris before he was offered (the UETHDA) job,” City Manager John Campbell said. “We have a lot of different projects going on and felt like it was one option we had in terms of dividing some of the work at the leadership team level.”
The Community Services director position is one of 10 positions on the city’s leadership team, along with Campbell and others such as the city attorney, police and fire chiefs and the Public Works director. The leadership team had been down to nine since Tom Bowman retired as Leisure Services director in 2008.
At that time, Leisure Services was shifted to Chris McCartt’s purview as assistant to the city manager. With this new position, McCartt is still over transit, fleet, purchasing, the aquatic center and is the point person on the new ball field complex.
As for the Parks and Recreation Department coming under Baker, Campbell said that is a possibility.
“That’s not been completely sorted out yet,” he said.