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Busy 12 months yielded better intergovernmental relations, smoother budgeting, and several new departmental leaders
Clarksville, TN – Clarksville Mayor Joe Pitts’ first year in office has produced dramatic improvements in local intergovernmental cooperation, effective hiring of several new departmental leaders, smooth deliberation and adoption of the 2020-21 Fiscal Year budget, and a strong focus on communicating with citizens.
A major challenge of the first year came on Saturday, October 26th, when a storm with 70 mph straight-line winds struck the City, knocking out power for nearly half of CDE Lightband’s customers.
CDE and crews from regional utilities and power contractors worked valiantly for more than a week to restore power to more than 32,000 businesses and residents. The Clarksville Street Department has worked for weeks to pick up and dispose of thousands of tons of trees and limbs that were blown down by the wind.
The storm crisis has led to a rewrite of the City emergency communication response plan and other measures designed to help the City respond more quickly to the next challenge.
Internally, the City family also faced a pair of losses during the mayor’s first year. Two long-term Clarksville Street Department employees lost their lives while on the job serving Clarksville citizens. One worker was stuck by a truck and killed, and another died of natural causes while working. In both cases, Mayor Pitts and numerous city employees reached out to comfort and support surviving family members.
A Big Honor
Mayor Pitts’ first year also included dramatic recognition for the community. In August, Money.com — a respected business publication — announced that after a thorough examination based on thousands of data points, Clarksville earned Money’s rating as the Best Place to Live in America.
“Clarksville’s affordability is hard to beat, yet it’s not the only thing that makes the city special,” Money.com said. “There’s a unique charm to the place; it feels like the quintessential small American town. Not only are there small, locally-owned businesses, but public places where residents can go to relax, like the new park at Downtown Commons or the River Walk, whose paved path provides a beautiful view of the Cumberland River at sunset.”
Clarksville also celebrated the opening of two major new employers in the City-County industrial park — a new LG manufacturing facility brought hundreds of jobs, and Google opened a $600 million data center. Clarksville Transit System completed a $1.2 million Transit Center renovation, and the city began steps to develop a Citywide WiFi system.
Mayor Pitts, elected in November 2018 and sworn in on January 2nd, 2019, pursued an aggressive early schedule. He and First Lady Cynthia Pitts conducted “Meet and Greet” breakfast sessions with each City department, where he shared his early priorities, which are to ensure the City is:
Local Government Collaboration
Implementing a key campaign promise, Clarksville Mayor Pitts has dramatically changed the tone of intergovernmental communication and coordination, especially with Montgomery County Government. Mayor Pitts has established and maintained regularly scheduled meetings with Montgomery County Mayor Jim Durrett, APSU President Alisa White, Nashville State-Clarksville President Shanna Jackson and CMCSS Schools Director Millard House.
City Department Heads have met with Fort Campbell officials to discuss ways the post and city can collaborate and coordinate service delivery and facilities.
Mayor Pitts also quickly built strong collaborative relationships with City Council members, with thoughtful committee assignments, and more attention to the City’s departmental committee process.
New Department Leaders
After the announced retirements of Fire Chief Mike Roberts and Clarksville Transit System Director Arthur Bing, both effective at the end of June, the Mayor conducted comprehensive searches for a new Fire Chief and a new CTS Director using committees of citizens and experts to help evaluate candidates.
Mark Riggins was named General Manager of Clarksville Gas & Water, after former GM Pat Hickey resigned April 4th. Riggins led the department for several months as Acting GM, and then was promoted to GM in August.
David Smith, project manager for Clarksville Municipal Properties, is currently serving as Interim Director at the Clarksville Building & Codes Department. Mike Baker, Building & Codes Director since 2012, retired June 30th after 20 years with the department.
Mayor Pitts’ leadership choices were clearly defined and made public during the annual budgeting process, which was completed in June.
Budget process changes resulted in smooth evaluation and unanimous adoption of $523 million city budget, and a $103 million general fund budget. The 2021 Budget was approved with no increase in the City’s tax rate.
Here’s how Mayor Pitts described his 2020 Budget:
These budget priorities were presented and approved:
The plan will include updates about these key road projects:
Plans to improve Whitfield Road near the 101st Airborne Division Parkway, Needmore Road and Glen Ellen Elementary School.
Right of way planning and preliminary design on the Northeast Connector, a major city-built roadway to take traffic pressure off of crowded roads such as Wilma Rudolph Boulevard, the 101st Airborne Division Parkway, and Trenton Road.
Progress on the first phase of the project to improve Rossview Road, near the Rossview Schools Campus, closest to the schools complex and Interstate 24.
Clarksville Parks and Recreation
Work also continues on Clarksville’s quest to complete a 10-mile hiking and biking trail linking the City’s downtown riverfront with Northeast Clarksville.
The project, Red River Trail East Phase 2, provides the final connecting link between the Clarksville Riverwalk and the Clarksville Greenway. It will involve construction of a 290-foot long, 10-foot wide bridge that will cross the Red River at the site of a former railroad bridge. The bridge is the final phase the Red River Trail, which is part of the 1999 Greenways Master Plan. The new bridge and ramp will connect the Clarksville Greenway to the north with the Red River Trail and the Clarksville Riverwalk to provide an uninterrupted pedestrian and bike route from North Clarksville at Tiny Town Road to Downtown. The Red River Trail also includes a connection to the Austin Peay State University campus from the Kraft Street area.
Reacting to a sudden call to duty, Mayor Joe Pitts offered a solemn address to the citizens of Clarksville in June after a double homicide in the parking lot of a local restaurant in the City’s busiest commercial district.
The crime hit home with particular force for Mayor Pitts, who was dining inside the restaurant with a group of friends and family members when the crime occurred outside. Here is part of his statement:
Throughout his first year in office, Mayor Pitts met regularly with CPD leaders to analyze crime data and discuss ways to engage the public in the City’s crime-fighting efforts.
The Mayor also remained focused on these various topics during his First Year in office:
Here’s a list of actions taken or initiatives started in Mayor Joe Pitts first year in office.
Internal Administration Initiatives
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