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John Thompson

Elizabethton Bureau Chief
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Meet Your Neighbors: Supervisor oversees inmate work crew on improvement projects

September 19th, 2011 11:46 am by John Thompson

ELIZABETHTON — John Huber has spent a lot of time making Elizabethton and Carter County better. From the downtown beautification project on Elk Avenue several years ago to the current effort to beautify East E Street, Huber has been at the center.
Most people frequently see Huber at work, even if they don’t know him. Huber is the uniformed officer who can be seen on the streets and roads in the counties as he directs the work crews from the Carter County Jail.
“We do a lot of work,” Huber said of the work crew he oversees. “We are working on the E Street project now. It includes putting in several planters and landscaping. We will be doing a new curb line. It is all being paid for by the Downtown Business Association. It is not costing the taxpayers a dime and the labor is free. It is just a way for the business people to give back to the community.”
Huber said another project his work crew is helping to make possible is a new African American Veterans Memorial at Douglas Park on Watauga Avenue.
When Huber and his work crew are not working on special projects, there is plenty of other work for them.
“We do the sheriff’s litter program, where we go along the county roads and highways and pick up the trash,” Huber said. “We also mow a lot in the warm months, cutting the grass at the Veterans Wall of Honor, the Courthouse and the Health Department.”
Also during this growing season, the crew took up a new project, growing vegetables for use by the jail. “We have had lots of tomatoes and corn and green peppers. We are still going with broccoli, cauliflower and cabbage. We are also growing trees for landscaping. The work just goes on and on.”
The labor is provided by the work crews, and Huber said the men also perform work for nonprofit organizations and churches.
Huber said an estimate has been made of the amount of work the crews put in and it comes to around $875,000 worth of free labor.
Huber appears to enjoy leading the men in the work crew and the men appear to respect him and work hard for him. Huber also shows a lot of patience with the men. He often loses a good worker when his sentence is completed. His men can also be lost for a day when they have to appear in court.
Huber’s work with prisoners got started about seven years ago. At the time he was a part of the Downtown Business Association effort to beautify East Elk Avenue. It was a big project and required a lot of labor.
The labor was provided by the Northeast Correctional Complex, and Huber became involved in coordinating the labor for the two-year project.
That project gave Huber experience in working with prison labor. It was experience that new sheriff Chris Mathes enlisted in his work program five years ago. Huber has been working with the sheriff’s department since then.
His work with the prisoners is just one of the ways in which Huber contributes to his community. John and his wife, Pam, remain active with the Downtown Business Association, which they helped to start with John and Lisa Bunn. The Hubers are also members of the Environmental Committee of the Elizabethton/Carter County Chamber of Commerce.
Pam is also a member of the advisory board of the Elizabethton/Carter County Foundation, which provides grants to nonprofit organizations. She also was formerly a member of the Carter County Planning Commission.
They both enjoy helping to improve the community they chose to move to after John retired from his heating and air conditioning business in Santa Barbara, Calif., 16 years ago.
John is a native of Illinois and Pam was from Michigan, so they both wanted to return to a place that had four distinct seasons.
“We didn’t want some place that was as hot as South Carolina or as cold in the winter as Chicago,” Pam said. Elizabethton’s climate was what they were looking for. “If you don’t like the way the weather is now, you know it will be changing before too long,” Pam said.
Besides the weather, the Hubers found much else to like in their new home.
“We love the mountains and we love the people here,” Pam said. “It is a great place to live.”
Another reason for their move eastward from Santa Barbara was John’s work with antique navigational instruments. He restores and repairs the instruments ships used to find their way around the world in the days before the global positioning satellites.
John works with mariner museums that are mostly on the East Coast and in Europe. He also has contacts with the British museum to help him find a sister piece for 300-year-old instruments.
John continues to fix those old navigational tools, while both John and Pam continue to work on making Elizabethton and Carter County even better and more beautiful.

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