A1 A1
March sees strong growth for Tri-Cities commercial real estate

GRAY — Tri-Cities commercial real estate saw its best month in over a year in March.

Transactions were up 71.9% in the wake of a dramatic increase in office sector activity. And new listings were up 9% over last year, according to a report from the Northeast Tennessee Association of Realtors.

The first quarter was equally strong, with a 38.5% transaction increase.

Cassie Petzoldt, NETAR’s Commercial Committee chair, said momentum has been building since the fourth quarter of last year. “It finally took off last month,” she said. “Commercial real estate is typically more aligned with the overall economy and the business cycle, and we’re seeing positive movement for both this spring.”

Commercial vacant land sales were the lifeblood of commercial transactions last year. This year’s transactions are more than double what they were the first three months of last year.

Industrial properties also continue to be stable. Last year, there were 34 transactions. During the first three months of this year, there were 11 transactions compared to nine last year. The strongest headwind is lack of inventory.

With the economy beginning to open, activity in both the shopping center and retail-commercial sectors is coming to life. This year, retail-commercial transactions are up more than 40%, and shopping center transactions are up almost 40%.

Commercial markets and the overall economy turned down in 2020 due to an external shock, not an internal weakness. The effects of that shock are beginning to wear off, releasing the pent-up demand that built up last year.

New commercial real estate construction is also expanding. There were 563 commercial permits pulled last year, according to The Market Edge’s Commercial Real Estate trends report. That 8.5% increase over 2019 was the best year since 2016. Construction value for last year’s permits was $199.1 million.

For more, go to www.netar.us.

From bus driver to teacher: New Sullivan County elementary supervisor Cathy Nester

BLOUNTVILLE — Many future educators graduate college, get a teaching job, get married, have children and then move up to supervisory positions.

But that was not the order of things taken in the path of Bluff City Elementary Principal Cathy Nester, who became a bus driver for about two and a half years on her way to being a teacher.

The 1980 graduate of Sullivan Central High School, after attending Miller Perry Elementary and Colonial Heights Junior High, got a later start to her education career.

And it was funded in part by a job as a bus driver for the system in which she recently was promoted to supervisor of elementary curriculum and instruction. She earned her bachelor’s in K-12 education, specializing in K-4, at East Tennessee State University while driving a bus.


“I actually drove a school bus while I went back to school to become a teacher, not while I was teaching. I honestly can’t imagine driving a school bus before and after teaching,” said Nester, who is 59 and will make $90,377 a year in her new position.

She said she had gone to college earlier but wasn’t serious about it until she started studying to be a teacher after her children were in elementary school. She had worked at her church’s day care, Colonial Heights Christian, and developed an interest in teaching there.

“It was perfect. I’ve always believed God laid that right in my lap,” Nester said of her time behind a school bus steering wheel, suggested by a friend who drove a bus.

“My story goes like this, you see, I sort of went about things the hard way,” Nester said.

“Instead of starting my career, then marrying and having a family, I married first, then had two daughters, and then went to college when they were 5 and 6 years old. I needed to work but didn’t want to spend all of my time away from them,” Nester said.

“With me having college classes during the day while they were in school, driving a school bus offered me the perfect way to work part time while attending college classes and being a full-time mom. I drove the bus for Central High and Holston Elementary/Middle, a single-run route that actually went right by my house with K-12 students all on the bus at the same time.”

Her children rode the bus with her each day, which meant no child care expense, “and I even got to park the bus at my home.

“Every morning, I picked up my first student at a little past 6, dropped off at Holston then Central, brought the bus home and parked it, got in my car and drove to ETSU. The afternoon was a repeat in the opposite direction. I did that until I had to stop to student teach and then was fortunate enough to get a teaching position the next school year. It wasn’t the glamorous way to get there, but it worked for me.”


Nester became a kindergarten teacher at Holston Elementary in 1996, following her student teaching there, and after eight years went to fourth grade math for three years following by becoming an elementary math specialist or teacher coach for three years. In 2010, she became principal of Bluff City Elementary, a position posted by the school system but one she said she likely will keep along with her new job until the end of the school year in May.

Along the way, she also earned a master’s in early childhood development at ETSU in 2003 and an educational specialist from Lincoln Memorial University in 2007.


Now, she is moving into her next phase with the school system, taking a position most recently held by Robin McClellan, who took a job with the Tennessee Department of Education.

In the new position, Nester said she is continuing groundwork laid by McClellan to prepare for summer camps starting in June, along with middle school curriculum and instruction supervisor Billy Miller and others, to “try to make up some of the learning losses.” She also plans to work on reading, English/language arts and work to keep the new elementary Core Knowledge Language Arts (CKLA) going well systemwide.

Bluff City Elementary was in the pilot of CKLA and is one of four elementary schools piloting Eureka Math, which she said likely will be launched systemwide in all county elementary schools in a year or two. Nester said she wants to finish out the 2020-21 year with her students, faculty and staff at Bluff City Elementary, her 11th year at the school. But she looks forward to being a full-time central office supervisor.

“I am thrilled to be here and be a part of this team,” Nester told the school board remotely during its Thursday night meeting.

Times News hosting two Kingsport candidate forums

KINGSPORT — The Kingsport Times News will host two forums this week for the mayoral and alderman candidates running in the upcoming municipal election.

The forums will take place at 6 p.m. Wednesday and Thursday at the Kingsport Renaissance Center theater. The alderman candidates will gather Wednesday; the mayoral candidates the following evening.

Both forums will last approximately an hour and are free and open to the public. However, COVID-19 protocols are still in effect, masks will be required and there will be limited seating in the theater.

The forums will also be live-streamed on the Times News website — www.timesnews.net.

“Local elections can solidify the course of a city or change its direction completely. The diverse slate of candidates in our upcoming city election has the potential to do either,” said Rick Thomason, publisher of the Times News. “We believe an educated voting public is best equipped to make smart choices at the ballot box, so the Times News is presenting these forums to hopefully give some insight into each candidate’s platform on key issues, as well as get a sense of their personality and willingness to tackle the toughest issues that face Kingsport.”


Kingsport’s city election will take place May 18 with voters choosing a mayor, three aldermen and two members of the Board of Education.

On the ballot for mayor is the incumbent Pat Shull (who is seeking a second term) and challengers Michael Lathrop and Brian Woliver.

Vice Mayor Colette George is seeking a third term on the Board of Mayor and Aldermen while Alderwoman Betsy Cooper is seeking a second. The other alderman candidates include Sara Buchanan, Joe Carr, Wesley Combs, Bob Harshbarger, Paul Montgomery, J.S. Moore and Gerald Sensabaugh.

Alderwoman Jennifer Adler, who was elected four years ago, chose not to seek a second term this year.

All 12 candidates have been invited to participate in the Times News forums.

Coming soon: Grand opening of new Kingsport dog park

KINGSPORT — Dogs of all shapes and sizes will soon have another place in town to run and jump and play with their friends.

PETWORKS Animal Services will host a grand opening for its new dog park from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Saturday. The dog park is located behind PETWORKS’ new facility at 3101 East Stone Drive.

Ralph Suit, the project director on the new shelter and dog park, gave some reasons why you should bring your dog to the new facility next week.

“It’ll give your dog a chance for some exercise, you’ll make friends there and it’s good to socialize your dog with people and other dogs,” Suit said. “There’s plenty of amenities for the dog to have some fun — there’s jumps, tunnels, ramps and swimming pools.”


The dog park is about 1.5 acres in size and is broken into two sections, one acre for larger dogs and a half-acre for smaller dogs.

Suit said the smaller section has a swimming pool, jump toy, 18-foot tunnel, ramps to a tabletop, dog wash area, walking trail and benches under a shade structure. The larger space has all of the same amenities, but instead of one jump, it has two.

The park was named “Friendship Bark Park” by Mitch Walters, owner of Friendship Auto Dealers, who donated $200,000 to PETWORKS for the naming privilege. On Saturday, Mitch and his dog Tucker will be the first person and dog to enter the park, Suit said.

Both sections of the dog park are free and open to the public without a membership cost.


Saturday’s three-hour grand opening and dedication will include a number of activities, including:

• A dedication of the park at noon.

• Demonstrations by the Kingsport Police Department’s K-9 unit.

• Live music performed by The Savage Outlaws. The Comfy Chef Food Truck will also be on site.

• A jumping contest for small and large dogs with prizes for the winners.

• Rabies shots for $10 and micro-chipping for $25 by Colonial Heights Animal Hospital.

• Several vendors will be set up and PETWORKS will also have a booth with adoptable dogs and a table to accept donations.

Texas Tech guard Mac McClung (0) shoots a second-half 3-pointer against Utah State during their NCAA Tournament first-round game Friday at Assembly Hall in Bloomington, Ind.