Beautification of city remains priority to McKinney

By Thomas Wilson
STAR STAFF
twilson@starhq.com

   Janie Smith McKinney says there were still several projects on the city's plate she wanted to see done if re-elected to Elizabethton City Council.
   "I have one thing I'd like to see accomplished, and that is to see the old Carter County Hospital torn down," said McKinney, 49, who is seeking her second term on the City Council, "and I'd like to see all our city streets paved and us make the efforts."
   An employee of Citizens Bank Tri-Cities for 27 years, McKinney is one of eight candidates running for a seat on the City Council. She currently serves as vice president of Consumer Lending.
   Of her first council term, McKinney said the experience had been just that -- an experience.
   "I've seen politics first hand," she said with a laugh.
   McKinney felt the city's administration was handling the city's affairs well given the culture of government and politics.
   "I think Mr. (City Manager Charles) Stahl is doing a very good job," said McKinney. "You're going to have people who like him and people that dislike him."
   She also felt the 13 percent reduction of the 2002-2003 city budget was a good financial management to keep the city on sound financial footing for the future.
   "The city is not broke and we have money, but we wisely make decisions like that so when emergencies come up we will have money available," she said.
   At a public auction held in September, the city and county purchased the old hospital building, which has incurred delinquent property taxes. The owner has a one year grace period to pay off the property taxes plus a 10 percent penalty to reclaim the property.
   McKinney said the government had to allow the owners to repurchase their properties. If repurchase of the old hospital building did not happen, McKinney said she saw the city taking ownership and tearing it down.
   Tennessee Department of Transportation officials conducted a public hearing Oct. 8 on the Northern Connector -- the 4.1 mile, $28 million five-lane highway project that will divert traffic from West Elk Avenue to the north side of the Watauga River.
   McKinney said she felt the program would be a welcomed addition for transportation and commerce in the community.
   "I think it will help us grow," she said. "It will get some of this traffic out and give us easier access and movement."
   She also said Elizabethton and Carter County governments need to work together for the betterment of the entire community.
   "In industrial recruiting, the two heads of our city and county governments can make an attractive package for (business)," said McKinney.
   "We've lost a lot but still there has been a lot that have come in there," she added. "We often emphasize the ones we've lost, not the ones we've gained."
   She also felt the city had a tourism potential that, if realized, could provide a strong economic boost for the community in the years to come.
   "Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg don't have anything we don't have. And we just need to sell ourselves to them," she said.
   The city's recent annexations of property in west Carter County has brought in new properties and hundreds of county residents into Elizabethton's corporate boundaries.
   McKinney felt that while the city was occasionally looked at as "the bad guys" in annexing county residents, those residents had enjoyed city services prior to annexation.
   "People we are annexing don't want any part of it because a lot of the services they already have, they haven't paid for," she said, "so it's going to be hard to sell them on the fact they are going to be getting anything more."
   On issues of planning, McKinney said she generally opposed so-called "spot-zoning" of one tract of property from residential to commercial or vice-versa. However, she added each issue of zoning should be considered by the Planning Commission and City Council on a case to case basis and not arbitrarily voted down.
   She also serves a liaison for the Council to the Elizabethton City School System.
   As a City Council member, McKinney is currently a board member of the Elizabethton Electric System and the Elizabethton/Carter County Boys & Girls Club. She is also a member of the Rotary and Lions clubs and a member of the Chamber of Commerce.
   She is a graduate of Elizabethton High School and attended East Tennessee State University.
   McKinney is a past board member of the Elizabethton Housing & Development Agency and Community Day Care. She is a graduate of the Leadership for Tomorrow Class.
   She is married to Richard "Doc" McKinney and the proud mother of two children; Leslie, a freshman at East Tennessee State University, and Hollie, a sophomore at Elizabethton High School. She is the daughter of Gene Smith and the late Jo Lipford Smith. She has one brother, David "Smitty" Smith. McKinney is a member of Oak Street Baptist Church where she serves as treasurer.
   "I will always do what I think the majority of the people want because I am elected by the people and not what I personally want," she said.