Editorial: Town hall gives new venue for feedback

About 150 people attended a town hall meeting last month at the Lynn View Community Center.

With extensive political experience in his past, new Kingsport Mayor Patrick Shull has hit the ground running including keeping a campaign promise to conduct quarterly town hall meetings. The first was at Lynn View Community Center, and the surprising attendance confirmed what Mayor Shull said during his campaign — that there is a disconnect between the public and city leaders.

More than 150 residents turned out for the town hall. Over some three hours, many took the opportunity to tell the mayor and City Manager Chris McCartt what was on their mind. Because the city’s homeless situation has been front and center of late, much of what residents had to say dealt with that subject.

Shull served as a Kingsport alderman from 2005-2009 and a Sullivan County commissioner from 2012 until he resigned after winning a decisive victory over four opponents in May.

He said the election was about change. “I’m probably from a different mold than some of our previous mayors, and I felt a real connection with the citizens I spoke to one on one,” Shull said. ”Their concerns are my concerns to a great degree. I know it sounds mundane, but roads and potholes was the number one issue.”

Shull worked hard during his three-month campaign, personally knocking on thousands of doors. He said his conversations with voters told him that there is a disconnect between the public and city leaders. He said ideas being considered by city government like a new baseball stadium weren’t going over well with the public.

“The public really doesn’t see a need for a second baseball stadium,” Shull said. “I’m not criticizing the BMA’s motives, but it just sends a wrong message to voters to read about this type of thing, then run over a pothole on the way to work.” Shull pledged to begin quarterly town hall meetings with residents to stay in touch with what they were thinking and provide information on the conduct of city government.

“I think it’s not only important that I hear from the citizens, but that they hear from each other,” Shull said. “If they know we listen to them and consider them, it will help bring everyone more together.”

That was certainly borne out in the first of Shull’s town hall sessions. Hats off to the mayor for this initiative.