New leadership is taking charge in Red Bank, where recently elected city commissioners Hollie Berry and Stefanie Dalton were voted the city's mayor and vice mayor shortly after being sworn in on Dec. 2.
Dalton and Berry nominated each other for the roles, and secured a majority vote of the five-member council with the help of new Commissioner Peter Phillips.
Berry replaced longtime Commissioner Ruth Jeno as mayor. Former Vice Mayor Jeno became acting mayor of the commission in March 2020 when former Mayor Eddie Pierce moved out of the city.
If the mayor vacates the position before the end of his or her two-year term, the city's charter stipulates that the vice mayor must serve as acting mayor for the remainder of the former mayor's term, City Manager Tim Thornbury said.
As mayor, Berry said she hopes to lead the city in a new direction.
"A lot of my supporters say they're ready for something new," she said. "Red Bank's been doing things more or less the same way since it was established in 1955, and there's a lot of not only new residents here — young families and young professionals who are moving up through the tunnel from North Shore as housing prices get more expensive there — but I've also met quite a few longtime residents who used to go to meetings all the time and really try to make impact and have their voices heard, who have ideas for the city, who got burned out because they felt like they weren't being listened to.
"Those lifelong Red Bank residents have also told me they're ready for a change."
Berry and Dalton both ran on progressive platforms, including advocating for more park space in the city.
A focus of their campaigns was the city's failure to comply with a nearly decade-old land conversion agreement with the U.S. Department of the Interior and Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation.
The city negotiated for 3 acres of the former middle school property, along with two 5-acre parcels on Stringer's Ridge, to be swapped for the 14-acre Morrison Springs Park where the new Red Bank Middle School was constructed.
The 2011 agreement required the city to convert 3 acres of the former Red Bank Middle School property on Dayton Boulevard into recreation space within three years.
The conversion agreement was rescinded in March 2020 for noncompliance, including the failure to convert 3 acres of the property into viable recreation space. The two parcels on Stringer's Ridge were also deemed unacceptable since they contained trails and were already being used for recreation, Thornbury said.
"Red Bank is looking for suitable replacement properties to fulfill those requirements," he said.
The property does not have to match the former Morrison Springs Park in acreage, but it does need to be of the same value to meet the requirements, Thornbury said. The values of other properties in the city are now being assessed.
Berry and Dalton attempted to suspend the city's request for proposals for the former middle school property, for which bids must be submitted by Jan. 5, but the motion failed by a 3-2 vote.
Berry said her problem with the request for proposals is that it does not mention the 3 acres of green space.
"The conversion has since been canceled, but in order to come back in compliance we are going to have to negotiate a new land conversion agreement and it's likely going to need to include property from that parcel," Berry told the Times Free Press. "It seemed to me a bit hasty to rush into proposals before we knew what the new land conversion agreement was going to look like, because it's going to seriously impact the way the property needs to be used."
She said she plans to meet soon with Thornbury about properties that could potentially fulfill the requirements of the conversion agreement. Small pocket parks throughout the city, particularly the north end — where there is no park space — could be part of the solution, she said.
Berry said her other goals as mayor include updating antiquated liquor laws and expanding the city's community schools.
Contact Emily Crisman at firstname.lastname@example.org or 423-757-6508.