Rowland has been bragging about Cleveland — officially — since Sept. 9, 1991, when he was first sworn in. He became the city’s longest-serving mayor at 3:05 p.m. on Sept. 9, 2008, when he surpassed the late Mayor Harry Dethero, who served from the second Monday of September 1966 to the second Monday of September 1983.
Later in the year, on Oct. 11, Rowland was honored in a ceremony at the Museum Center at Five Points for the distinction of being the longest-serving mayor.
The evening was, as master of ceremonies Steve Hartline said, “an old-fashioned testimony service.”
State Rep. Kevin Brooks presented a state proclamation signed by Gov. Bill Haslam in recognition of the mayor’s 20 years in office. That was followed by the reading of a congratulatory letter written by U.S. Rep. Chuck Fleischmann.
“As the longest serving mayor, it is a testament to the confidence your city has in your leadership,” Fleischmann wrote.
His longtime friend and former director of the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation Larry Wallace said he could not remember “one time in 47 years that we ever had a cross word. I can’t remember one time that I ever in all those years saw even a hint of impropriety in this gentleman or his wife. They are the dearest friends I’ve ever had in my life. If you’ve ever had friends like this throughout your lifetime, that’s what life is all about.”
During his tenure, Rowland has been president of the Tennessee Municipal League and the East Tennessee Mayors Association, served on two committees of the United States Conference of Mayors, and as vice chairman of the Tennessee Advisory Commission on Intergovernmental Relations.
Additionally, he is the only mayor in Tennessee serving on the Homeland Security Council. A veteran of the United States Air Force, he retired as a colonel from the Tennessee State Guard.
He is founder of Cleveland 100, an organization that assists surviving family members of officers, firemen and emergency personnel killed in the line of duty, and he spearheaded a project to build Tennessee’s first memorial to fallen police, fire and rescue personnel in this community.
He was selected Mayor of the Year in 2004 by the Tennessee Municipal League.
He and Sandra have been married 42 years. They are members of Wesley Memorial United Methodist Church.
But, in January, Rowland presented his 17th consecutive State of the city address to members of the Kiwanis Club of Cleveland where he continued expressing his positive outlook on the city.
The address at the Kiwanis Club came the day after municipal leaders treated the Public Works Department for a job well done to keep city streets clear of about 8 inches of snow as crews worked from 8 p.m. Jan. 16 through 7 p.m. on Jan. 19 with four snowplows and four salt trucks.
Rowland, Councilman David May, City Manager Janice Casteel and Assistant City Manager Melinda Carroll fed about 50 employees biscuits as a small token of their thanks for keeping the streets clear.
“We wanted to do something,” Rowland said at an early morning breakfast gathering. “It’s small of course, but we wanted to do something to show how genuine we feel about the job that you do. What you don’t realize is how it affects lives when you clear a street.”
Weather was the predominant story in 2011. Winter snow would be followed by the outbreak of spring tornadoes. While Bradley County bore the brunt of the April 27 storms, city residents’ homes were inundated with flooding from unprecedented amounts of rain a few months later, in the fall.
In November, after the parade of complaining residents had not lessened since rains on Labor Day and Sept. 22 inundated homes with stormwater and raw sewage, City Council members voted to use $200,000 from the General Fund balance as the local share of a floodplain study. Council members had already committed $100,000 toward the cost of mapping floodplains within the city on June 28 when the City Council adopted the current fiscal year budget. The stream of flooded residents who paraded before them in September, October and November prompted Council to authorize the additional $200,000 as the local share of the floodplain study.
Development and Engineering Services Department Director Jonathan Jobe said allocating the money is the first of several big steps with engineers, permits, Army Corps of Engineers involvement and environmental protection. The steps go on and on but in the meantime, people are still being flooded.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers will pay the first $100,000 of the estimated $700,000 estimated cost. After that, the city and Corps of Engineers would each pay 50 percent of the remaining $600,000. Councilman Bill Estes said he considered allocating the money as emergency spending. He said it is the first step that must be taken immediately if it will speed up the process.
A local hall of fame coach was selected May 17 to serve the remainder of another hall of famer’s term.
Dale Hughes was the unanimous choice of the Cleveland City Council to replace the late Bill Robertson, who died April 27 after a long battle with cancer.
At-Large Councilman George Poe nominated Hughes for the 5th District seat. The vote was 5-to-1 in favor of Hughes. At-Large Councilman Richard Banks, who cast the single “No” vote, followed with a motion to select Hughes by acclamation.
He was required to resign from the Cleveland Utilities board of directors prior to being administered the oath of office by Cleveland Mayor Tom Rowland. Rowland said he expected the Council to quickly name Hughes’ replacement on the utility board. Banks, who was appointed Sept. 12, 2003, to fill the vacancy left by former Councilman and former Bradley County Sheriff Tim Gobble, explained his reason for the no vote.
He said, as he sat next to Robertson’s chair occupied by a single yellow rose, that he was not voting against any candidate, but, like Robertson, wanted to see the nomination process play out.
“Looking back to what ‘Chief’ Robertson stated Sept. 12, 2003, he said he wanted the candidates to know he is not voting against any of them per sé, but he is for the election process and voted No,” Banks recalled. “So at this point, I vote ‘No’.” After Poe’s motion passed by a 5-1 margin, there were no other nominations, so Banks moved to appoint Hughes by acclamation. That vote was unanimous.
There were seven residents of the 5th District who applied for the job: Hugh Hodges, Hughes, Harry Johnson Sr., Jonathan Porter, Susan Shelton, Barry Sullivan and Debbie Williams. Shelton withdrew because she is an employee of Cleveland City Schools and was not eligible to run for the office.
City Attorney John Kimball said he was 100 percent certain Shelton could not be a candidate and run for the office because city school employees are city employees. The city employee handbook and state statute prohibit employees of municipal governments from running for elected office, unless authorized.
It took about 30 minutes on Aug. 22 for the City Council to complete the task of redistricting the five districts. Overall, it took the city about 90 minutes to complete the process — or so they thought.
Approval of the new district maps hit a snag Sept. 12, when 1st District Councilman Charlie McKenzie expressed dissatisfaction over not getting a section consisting of one house that once belonged to his mother.
McKenzie later withdrew his opposition and the new district maps were unanimously approved at the Sept. 26 meeting.
The redistricting committee included five of seven city councilmen. The two at-large members were not included because they represent the entire city . Realignment of the district boundaries was based on the official U.S. Census as of April 1, 2010, when the city population was officially set as 41,285.
The ideal district population was determined by dividing 41,285 by five districts, which equals 8,257. Each district, when compared to the average, is within 5 percent. The overall variation between districts is within 10 percent.
There was very little change in the boundaries: District 1 increased by 74 residents for a total of 7,885; District 2 increased by 392 to 8,169; District 3 lost 517 residents to 8651; District 4 gave up 392 to 8648; and District 5 picked up 403 to 7,932.
The number of districts in the city is determined by city charter. That charter was approved by the Tennessee General Assembly when the form of government was changed from mayor-Commission to Council-manager in May 1993. The document was last updated in 2004.
The redistricting committee includes City Manager Janice Casteel and Council members from the five districts: 1st District, Charlie McKenzie; 2nd District, Bill Estes; 3rd District, Vice Mayor Avery Johnson; 4th District, David May; and 5th District, Dale Hughes.
The 3rd and 4th districts remain the largest and the smallest is the 5th District. By federal law, redistricting must take place every 10 years based on the newest census data. The size of a district is determined by census tracts. The population could shift dramatically in the next 10 years as industry grows. McKenzie’s district has grown since the April census numbers were released. His district now includes 470 acres south of APD 40 along Interstate 75 to Spring Branch Road in south Bradley County.
Fire Chief Steve Haun
Steve Haun was announced as chief of the Cleveland Fire Department Nov. 15 during the regular City Council meeting. Haun replaced Chuck Atchley, who retired Nov. 1.
Atchley retired with 30 years of service. His retirement came after undergoing hip surgery earlier in the year. Haun had been serving as interim chief since April 6.
The new chief is also a 30-year veteran of the department. His career in firefighting began April 7, 1981. He was promoted to lieutenant in April 1996. He was promoted to interim captain in September 1996 and permanently advanced to that rank in March 2007. He was promoted to deputy chief Jan. 1, 2008.
Haun is a 1977 graduate of Charleston High School. He is married to Jamie Liner Haun and the couple have two children, Chad, who is also a city firefighter and Malorie Cissom, who is employed by Life Care Centers of America, and three grandchildren, Carter, Cannon and Emmalyn.
Signs of growth
The city ’s northernmost sign is two miles north of Paul Huff Parkway. Rowland said if his math is right, the distance would be nine miles from city limit to city limit on I-75.
The city expanded its boundary southward after the Cleveland City Council approved annexation of areas south of APD 40 in October 2010 to bring in the proposed 343-acre Spring Branch Business-Industrial Park.
The park is located on the old Bob Zeige farm. Prior to annexation, the city encompassed 27.02 square miles. It now covers an area of 28.77 square miles. The city’s size increased again after the new municipal airport was annexed.
Rowland said he remembers when the city of Knoxville contained only 25 miles in the 1950s. The city ’s longest-serving mayor said that when he took office in 1991, the northern city limit sign was located at about Paul Huff Parkway and the southern limit was at the top of the hill in the 1500 block of South Lee Highway.
“Cleveland Speedway was way outside the city limits then,” he said. “We didn’t have anything on the interstate.”
But how times have changed. It is now only about 5 1/2 miles between the city limits signs of Cleveland and Chattanooga on I-75. The two cities are now separated only by White Oak Mountain which the interstate passes over.
“The reason we see signs that say Chattanooga is 30 miles away is because the state measures from courthouse to courthouse so as not to have to change whenever cities change their boundaries,” Rowland explained.
Cleveland continued to have the lowest property tax rate compared to other Tennessee cities with a kindergarten through 12th grade school system after the City Council on May 23 adopted the property tax rate.
At-Large Councilman George Poe made the motion, seconded by 1st District Councilman Charlie McKenzie, to adopt the city’s current property tax rate of $1.4904 per $100 of assessed value.
Vice Mayor Avery Johnson followed with a substitute motion, seconded by 2nd District Councilman Bill Estes to increase the property tax rate by 3 1/2 cents.
Consideration of the substitute motion failed by a vote of 4-3 with At-Large Councilman Richard Banks, Poe, McKenzie and 5th District Councilman Dale Hughes voting not to consider the substitute motion.
Estes, Johnson and 3rd District Councilman David May voted in favor of considering the substitute, and, having failed, the original motion was put to a vote.
Poe, McKenzie, Banks, May and Hughes voted in favor of keeping the current property tax rate. Estes and Johnson voted no.
Hughes said he felt very uncomfortable coming into his first meeting as the pivotal vote for a tax increase.
“I want to be progressive and I want to see our city grow, but at this point, I didn’t feel comfortable in voting for a tax increase,” he said.
The Council delayed the budget vote until June 15 to allow Council members time to decide which items to cut in order to balance the budget.
The city’s governing body was faced with the options of maintaining the $1.4904 property tax rate or raising it the proposed 3 1/2 cents to $1.5254. Even with the increase, the local rate would have remained lower than Johnson City’s with a population of 63,100 and a property tax rate of $1.54; Kingsport, 48,200, $1.94 and $2.24; Bristol, 25,500, $2.19; Maryville, 27,250, $2.17; Oak Ridge, 27,600, $2.39 and Memphis, 646,800, $3.19.
Tullahoma, Dyersburg, Greeneville and Elizabethon have populations of less than 25,000 residents. Only Lenoir City, population 8,640, has a smaller property tax rate, at $1.06.