Big task for Brock

Johnson City Press • Dec 9, 2018 at 7:30 AM

As Johnson City’s longest-tenured commissioner, Jenny Brock was a natural choice for to become the city’s 79th mayor when her fellow commissioners unanimously selected her Thursday night.

While the mayor’s position is largely ceremonial, the office holder also represents the city’s interests in county, regional and state matters.

And the role probably is more important than ever. Brock will be chief among those tasked with representing Johnson City amid the regionalism effort undertaken by Tri-Cities business leaders to cooperate in economic development.

After decades of solid progress, Northeast Tennessee is in a stagnant state while the Nashville area and other metropolitan communities in Tennessee are enjoying phenomenal growth.

Brock, her fellow Johnson City leaders and their peers in other cities in the region have their work cut out for them. An unprecedented level of cooperation is needed in education, workforce development and business recruitment if this part of the state is to compete for good jobs.

Will she be up for it?

Brock certainly had the résumé of public service to earn the role. After six years on the city’s Board of Education, Brock won a spot on the Commission in 2013 for a four-year term that was extended to 5 1/2 when the city moved to November ballots in even years in timing with national elections.

Along with serving as vice mayor the last two years, Brock has been the city’s representative on the BrightRidge Board of Directors, served on the Animal Control Board and led such community efforts as the Up and At ‘Em fitness campaign and the Hidden Heroes Foundation supporting veterans’ caregivers.

When Johnson City citizens unanimously elected founding father Henry Johnson as the fledgling town’s first mayor in January 1870, no one could have imagined that a woman would one day hold the position. Women were not even allowed to vote, much less hold public office.

It would be 91 years before that glass ceiling was broken. May Ross McDowell achieved the distinction as the city’s first female mayor in 1961.

Another 26 years passed before she was joined by Dr. Shirley Chapman in 1987. Mickii Carter followed in 1997. Duffie Jones became the fourth in 2001, and Jane Myron became the fifth in 2008.

So Brock is just the sixth woman in history to lead our city. The timing may be coincidental, but it’s worth noting.

As Johnson City prepares to celebrate its Sesquicentennial in 2019, her election is a marker of just how much progress the city has made in its nearly 150 years. It’s also a reminder of just how far we have to go.

Economic development efforts mean Northeast Tennessee will have to continue to evolve in matters of attracting and supporting people across the spectrum. That means diversity in leadership, too.

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