Kingsport Carousel

The Kingsport Carousel reopened on Feb. 13.

After a year off forced by the pandemic, Kingsport’s many residential services are gearing up for a comeback. At the helm of many of those efforts will be a new assistant city manager, city native Michael Borders. Fittingly, first to reopen is the city’s unique, home-crafted carousel in the Pal’s Roundhouse downtown.

Borders is going to be a busy man in his new job. As Kingsport’s new assistant city manager he will oversee the Leisure Services Department, which gives him responsibility for all city parks and recreational activities as well as the public library, the Office of Cultural Arts, Bays Mountain Park, the Kingsport Farmers Market, the Kingsport Senior Center and Kingsport Aquatic Center.

“Kingsport offers high-quality leisure services that enrich the lives of our citizens daily,” said Borders. “With numerous projects ongoing and on the horizon, I could not think of a more exciting time to join the city. It is a privilege to lead this group as we continue to improve and build upon those services.”

As a Kingsport native, Borders understands the landscape. He earned a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice and a master’s degree in public administration at East Tennessee State and is a seasoned public administrator, having served communities throughout East Tennessee. He was city recorder for the town of Unicoi and worked in the planning department for the town of Erwin. Most recently, he was city administrator for the town of Pittman Center, during which time he created the town’s building department and various programs.

“As someone who was born and raised in Kingsport,” Borders said, “it is exciting to have the opportunity to come home and be a part of the Kingsport team as we work with the community to shape the Kingsport of tomorrow.”

Meanwhile, the Kingsport Carousel has reopened at staggered hours to allow for a thorough daily cleaning. It’s $1 for a 3½-minute ride, a price-per-smile ratio that might be the best in Kingsport or the region, says operator Monica Sears. And if a horse or other animal is not your steed of choice, a stage coach and Santa Train also are available.

“It’s been incredible,” Sears said of the recent reopening of the restored 1956 Allen Herschell carousel. “It’s been really good today. Everybody needs happy right now. We all do — children and adults. It’s the happiest place in Kingsport.”

The carousel is open Wednesday through Sunday from 12:30-2:30 p.m., then closed for cleaning, and reopening from 3-5 p.m. All who enter the building must wear a mask or face covering and follow social distancing guidelines. Please note there are specific entrances to the carousel, one on the farmers market side and one on the Food City side of the building. All guests will exit through Carousel Park.

With the pace of COVID vaccinations picking up, most activities will hopefully return to a normal schedule this summer, promising long-overdue relief from home-bound fatigue. Michael Borders is to be congratulated on his appointment. It’s hard to beat the opportunity to pursue your profession in your hometown.