Morris vows to continue city's work to prosperity

By Thomas Wilson
STAR STAFF
twilson@starhq.com

   Diane Morris believes the Elizabethton City Council has gone far in the past four years.
   She also believes the city's residents can benefit from her re-election and the sitting Council's work.
   "It has been an education for sure and we've been so progressive and worked so well together," said Morris, who is seeking her second term on City Council. "If we could go another four years together, we could make a huge difference."
   Morris, 45, is one of eight candidates running for a seat on the City Council.
   The former payroll coordinator for Sycamore Shoals Hospital said she wanted to continue playing a strong role in the city's developments.
   Morris praised the city's administration for their job working with the city's budget that absorbed a 13 percent reduction this year.
   "Everybody's working so close together I can't see us having a nightmare like some other towns," said Morris.
   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. While acknowledging the occasional unpopular air of annexation, Morris pointed out that the state requires so much growth from a city every 10 years in order to receive state-shared sales taxes.
   "The biggest thing with annexation is, we are running across people having children and making sure we have space for them in the school system," she said. "We have more people that want to be in the city now more than don't want to."
   Morris was employed at the Carter County Memorial Hospital and later with Sycamore Shoals Hospital.
   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.
   She said if the property eventually became the property of the city and county, the structure's demolition would be great -- but expensive.
   "The property is beautiful and it would be a beautiful location for something," said Morris. "With the asbestos and everything, to take down that building and everything, that is going to cost so much money because all that has to be disposed of properly."
   Morris currently serves on the Economic Development Commission, Elizabethton/Carter County Public Library Board and the Carter County Board of Health.
   "I've learned a lot being on the Economic Development Commission," she said. "A lot of people feel like nothing is being done for Elizabethton but there is something constantly being done."
   She is also a past board member of the Elizabethton Electric System, Elizabethton/Carter County Animal Control Board and Carter County Rescue Squad Board of Directors.
   She echoed the sentiment of city and county legislators alike in the community's quest for more land to develop industrial property. Morris also felt the city had enjoyed a level of industrial and job growth within the past few years.
   "If you don't go up to the Great Lakes building and look what's inside there and what's behind it people don't realize how full those fields are behind there," she said.
   "There is a lot of people (county Industrial Agent) Haynes Elliott is talking to. He is constantly talking to someone. We can grow but we need property."
   Morris also believes the Northern Connector highway project will be a major plus for the city.
   "I think it will be great," she said. "I wish it was going to be starting and finishing faster than they anticipate it to be."
   The Tennessee Department of Transportation projects construction on the 4.1 mile five-lane highway will begin in the fall or winter of 2004.
   "Some people are afraid it is going to hurt downtown because people are going to by-pass Elizabethton," said Morris, "but I didn't think that is going to happen. I don't think it is going to hurt downtown whatsoever. In fact, I think it is going to bring in more travelers to downtown."
   Morris also said that while many people wanted to highbrow eateries in town, she said the city's low population discouraged big restaurant chains from moving to Elizabethton.
   "A lot of these restaurants are huge chains and they base it on population," she said. "If you live in a small town like we do, they are just not interested."
   Morris is the daughter of Nannie Morris and the late Elbert "Mack" Morris. She is a graduate of Elizabethton High School and holds a degree in Business Management from Steed College.
   Morris, who has publicly acknowledged she is battling rectal cancer, said her campaign sought to continue the progress the city council had made in its past four years.
   She said she was most proud of the Council's ability to work together to achieve the best goals for the city residents in the past four years.
   "You don't change things by yourself," she said. "It is a group effort and you have to work together to make change."