As I have mentioned many times, fall is my favorite time of year.
As the leaves begin to change, the excitement and hustle and bustle of the fall and winter seasons are full speed ahead.
Henri David Thoreau said, “I would rather sit on a pumpkin, and have it to myself, than to be crowded on a velvet cushion.”
That is certainly true for me as I’m sure it is for many others.
It’s been incredible how fast this year has come and gone. Believe it or not, as I write this article, there are only 80 days until Christmas! Where has all the time gone? In fact, as I mentioned in my staff meeting this week, this October may be the busiest month in two years dating back to pre-COVID. County business is certainly no different.
The month started out with a wonderful Taste of Monroe event at the Monroe County Courthouse square. This has become one of the favorite annual events in our county and it is wonderful to see our different communities come together to enjoy and support one another. Over 700 citizens enjoyed 36 various vendors from across the region in addition to a great car show and other activities.
Monroe County and the City of Sweetwater are very excited to host the Regional Tourism Conference this month. The AL/MS/TN Rural Tourism Conference will be hosted for only the second time in the State of Tennessee and we are extremely proud our partners over in Sweetwater were selected as the official host city. The Monroe County Tourism Department, City of Sweetwater and the Monroe County Chamber of Commerce have worked together tirelessly to plan a remarkable conference experience for the 130-plus tourism professionals who will be visiting Monroe County later this month.
While they are here, these various professionals will be able to shop in some of our local shops, enjoy our local cuisine and experience what truly makes Monroe County a wonderful destination for tourists from all over the country. Monroe County will feel the economic impact these professionals will make during their stay with us in various different ways, over a long period of time.
Our wonderful UT Extension staff and Soil Conservation have several field days and farm tours lined up this month, with a variety of topics, speakers and guests, including Gov. Bill Lee and Commissioner of Agriculture Dr. Charlie Hatcher making multiple appearances. It is great to see these educational outreach programs for our youth and adults in agriculture and natural resources implemented right here in our county.
In fact, the agriculture community will come together once again on Oct. 29 to show our appreciation to the Sweetwater Hospital Association staff for their heroic work ethic and dedication in providing outstanding health care to our citizens over the past months, as we provide an appreciation and dedication luncheon for the entire hospital staff.
A few quick notes on a variety of other items happening around the county:
Keep Monroe Beautiful and Monroe County government partnered in the annual tire collection drive recently. Over 750 tires were collected for recycling that will no longer clutter yards, barns and roadside ditches.
Our Solid Waste Department has added a third litter pick-up crew to continue to assist in maintaining the beauty of our county. In the last two months alone, we have collected 1,652 tons (3.3 million pounds) of garbage from 48,620 cars/trucks at our local convenience centers.
A special thank you to all of our solid waste employees and Keep Monroe Beautiful volunteers for your hard work in this neverending, but vitally important, endeavor.
In economic news, the county’s unemployment rate is down to 3.8% this past month, well below the state average. Industrial and business growth continues to be robust as the Red Stag Project continues to move dirt and prepare for the next building phase. Niles Ferry and Tellico West Industrial parks both are getting new tenants by each passing week and small business continue to open up daily around our county.
A very special thanks to the great work of our finance department, elected officials and department heads, as the Monroe County fund balance is as healthy as it has been in many years. Especially worth noting, our EMS service ended the fiscal year $95,000 in the black, compared to a half million dollars in the red three years ago (a $595,000 turn around!). This means that the best service that can be provided to the citizens of Monroe County is a service provided by the citizens of Monroe County! Congratulations EMS Director Randy White and his entire staff, along with our finance department for renovating, and reinvigorating, this service to our citizens.
Our local county airport also turned a profit this year, ended up $25,500 in the black, compared to previous years in the red. Congratulations Tom McCosh and his staff for a remarkable job!
Our county maintenance department has upgraded most all of our aging county buildings to become more energy efficient and has been pro-active in the preventative maintenance at our facilities, rather than the practice of deferred maintenance of the past. Thank you, Brandon West and staff, for this tremendous effort.
We will certainly spotlight more departmental highlights in the months to come. I could spend many hours talking about the incredible strides many of our other departments have made.
Lastly, please remember October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month and Breast Cancer Awareness Month, along with many other great causes. I encourage you to get out and support these great efforts and organizations that highlight these very important issues at every opportunity.
As always, it is an honor and privilege to serve you as mayor. May God bless Monroe County.