CLEVELAND, Tenn. -- Last year encompassed the best and the worst of times for Bradley County, Mayor D. Gary Davis told members of the Cleveland Kiwanis Club this week.
Davis cited the devastating tornadoes of April 27 and economic recovery and growth as defining issues for Bradley County in 2011.
Speaking Thursday, he praised the efforts of emergency responders on the night of April 27 and the work of cleanup crews in its aftermath. He also said Federal Emergency Management Agency officials thought the county had set a benchmark on how to handle disasters in "record time." Still, he advised, things were not easy.
"Communication was the biggest problem," said Davis, adding that daily news conferences, website updates and use of social media still had shortcomings when so many people did not have access to television or the Internet in the weeks after the storms.
"We learned some things from that on ways to do it better the next time," he said.
Davis also praised the work of the county's Long Term Recovery Organization, which he said "let government step aside" and put recovery in the hands of the private sector last summer.
Many recovery organizations don't begin rebuilding until a year after a catastrophe, but the community couldn't wait, Matt Ryerson said after the meeting.
Ryerson, chairman of the organization's Unmet Needs Committee, said it is organizing a number of replacement home constructions.
Davis also noted a number of successful joint ventures shared by the governments of Cleveland and Bradley County that resulted in retaining old industries and bringing in new ones, including Whirlpool, Wacker and Amazon.
In 2011, Olin and Arch Chemical also made multi-million-dollar reinvestments within the county, Davis said.
Looking ahead, he said work is scheduled for the Interstate 75 connector on APD 40, which he described as "malfunction junction." The roadwork will give highway access to a proposed industrial park in southern Bradley County, another possible joint venture between the city and county.
Davis said he expected the Kiwanis Club would hear many of the same topics when Cleveland Mayor Tom Rowland speaks to the group next week, "which is proof that we do things together, we do cooperate, and we do work together in Cleveland and Bradley County."
"It doesn't mean we always agree," said Davis, who compared the county/city government relationship to a good marriage.
Paul Leach is based in Cleveland. Email him at email@example.com.