Staff Photo by Robin Rudd/ James and Anne Marie Eckhardt talk tabout being new to the area during a meeting of ChattaNewbies, a group of people who are new to Chattanooga, at the Chattanooga Brewing Company.

James and AnneMarie Eckhart came to Chattanooga in October after the city they had called home for their entire lives stopped feeling like home. Denver had gotten too big and too out of line with their conservative values, the Eckhardts say.

"One of the big pulls for us coming from Colorado is that this is a fundamentally conservative state and place," James Eckhardt says.

His job as an oil and gas consultant engineer keeps him on the road a lot, and AnneMarie's work as a traveling respiratory therapist meant they had plenty of opportunity to look around for their next hometown.

"We've been traveling for a couple of years, always with the intention of evaluating where to move," James says.

They looked in other cities in Colorado, in Idaho, Oregon, Wyoming, Nebraska and Tennessee. Ultimately, Chattanooga won out for its relatively low cost of living, its climate and the outdoor amenities. And its neatness, AnneMarie added.

"We came out in January and to kind of visit and explore the town, and one of the big things that impressed James and I is how clean the downtown is kept," she says.

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They've settled into a home on the North Shore, found a church they like and gotten involved in local meet-ups for entrepreneurship and other interests.

"If you want to start a business, get involved in a church, find opportunities to volunteer, it's really easy to find stuff," James says. "There are so many things to do. It's easy to find ways to get involved."

James and AnneMarie Eckhart

* Arrived: October 2019 from Denver

* The draw: The Eckhardts were looking for a smaller city with a more conservative culture

* Here for it: “We were very impressed with how clean downtown is kept, and we found some restaurants we love and lots of events happening in the city.”

* Less than perfect: “I wish there was better transportation. I was a little surprised there’s not a light rail.”