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COVER STORY 
Brittain reflects as first term ends
By Chris Phipps, Over50 Staff Writer

With his first term coming to a close, Hamblen County Mayor Bill Brittain reflected on the county heís come to love and prospects for the future of his hometown.

Brittain grew up the son of a civil engineer and schoolteacher with two older sisters and a younger brother in the Morningside community of Morristown.

Brittain said growing up at that time was great because there were about 20 other kids in the two block radius of his house and everyone would play together outside before coming home at dark.

Although times have changed quite a bit, Brittain still believes in the community he grew up in.

In his teenage years, Brittain went to work with his dad on housing projects. He said in those years both his parents taught him the value of a strong work ethic.

"I remember they would tell me that whatever you do, whether at work or play, your name is going to be put on it and that you do your very best because itís a reflection of who you are. Weíve lost that a little bit (today) taking pride in whatever you do; even in relationships," he said.

Before attending the University of Tennessee in Knoxville and graduating from the College of Communications, Brittain attended Walters State Community College where he played for the tennis team.

His WSCC team was so successful they reached the national JUCO tournament for the first time in school history.

Years later in the 1990s, Britain would help coach his old team back to that same tournament he participated in.

Brittain said by nature he considers himself a competitive person. Even in government an election is a competition.

"At UT, I was in a journalism class and our grade depended on the rank of scores we got based on the articles we wrote. After my first article, I was 11th out of 20 in the class. I finished the class in the first spot because I liked the competitive aspect of it," he said.

"In the same token, success comes from failure and Iíve learned the most through failing and have learned to appreciate the successes in life more that way," he said.

After his college years, Brittain held a variety of postS including being a radio D.J., and the Hamblen County trustee before running for and holding the office of county mayor.

"Even though I had 16 years in county government as trustee, with the mayor title you deal with a much broader range of issues. You never lack for anything to do," he said.

Brittain said the biggest adjustment has faced was having to rely on his staff to complete projects.

"Iíve always been a project person and always used to doing it myself, so it was challenging to think of a big idea and then hand it off to someone else, but itís all worked out," he said.

His favorite part of being mayor is representing the county, not only within the community but to other areas.

"Iím very proud of Morristown and Hamblen County. I like to brag about us and what we do, what our community is like. Itís a giving community, a progressive community and a community the whole region relies on economically; and I like to relay that message to various groups," he said.

Brittain said a theme heís carried out in his life has been to try and invest in other people; specifically children and youth.

In his personal time heís tried to invest through coaching various youth sports.

Since heís been mayor, Brittain has implemented a reading buddy program in some county schools, along with helping start the last dollar scholarship fund, TnAchieves in the county, which uses mentors to help first generation college students.

In being a volunteer mentor for the program, Brittain has noticed a new need he feels must be addressed.

"Children are thirsting for good role models. Iím not perfect, but itís something I like to do with my time," he said.

One thing he would like to see improve in the community would be for parents to step up to the plate and give support toward their childrenís education.

"Weíve been told and shown that the more education you have the more opportunities you will have in life. Parents need to be more encouraging of that. There are so many kids just searching for someone that cares and to be loved," he said.

"The main job of county government is education. We got to continue to invest in education and be sure as educators our school system is plugged into the skill sets that are needed in the 21st century workplace, I think weíve made some strides in that with our workforce development program and the school system has bought into it and I can see some really good progress being made in the next few years," he said.

"We also must continue to provide the services our residents are accustomed to and do that as efficiently as possible. What that means is weíre going to have to use technology to improve our efficiencies and a couple of things weíre working on involves a partnership with the city of Morristown and Morristown Utility Systems and E911 is a G.I.S. department, where our various departments will use geographical data to save time in accomplishing tasks," he said

"Weíre always redeveloping and redesigning our website so people can do more business on it. They will be able to get assessment data, pay taxes and bills, etc. Using technology will help us save money, as will maintaining our services and keeping efficiencies," he said.

Brittain said while he believes Hamblen County will always keep to its roots of being a rural area, it is lucky to have the continual growth of business and industry.

"A lot of that has been because of careful planning making sure things go in the right district so people who want that three or five acres of land can have that. The quandary for the county is it rural or urban? In the big picture weíre more rural, but in the regional standpoint weíre an economic hub and our role is to bring jobs and provide those for people in surrounding counties and medical care as well," he said.

Brittain said with new road projects and construction projects being completed in Morristown, the market will determine how much development the county will see in the next few years.

"Our job as government is to be as business friendly as possible and not put any unnecessary burdens for development," he said.

When his time as mayor is complete, Brittain said he hopes to have helped foster a community that his children and grandchildren would want to live and in with quality schools, job opportunities and good recreational activities.

"Iíve tried to focus on those areas and will continue to do so," he said.

Brittain said his life revolves around three things; his church, family and work.

Brittain is an active member of First Christian Church where heís met some of his closest friends.

He and his wife Gale have three married daughters with nine grandchildren. Brittain said he calls Gale the professional grandmother because they try and spend as much time as they can with them.

"It boils down to again investing your time in people. Nobody loves you as much as your family. In the Brittain household thatís how I want to lead our family and that is something to recognize and honor and respect that. A personís reputation is priceless. People wonít necessarily remember what you had, but they will remember what you did," he said.

"Itís been a privilege to serve as mayor. Itís been very humbling to get the support of people who you may not know well but like what youíre doing and appreciate what youíre trying to do. Iíve always had the communityís best interest at heart and my only personal agenda Iíve had is to make Hamblen County the best place it can be," he said.

       

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