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Ed Jordan decided to quit griping and start cleaning up the mess

John Thompson • Feb 26, 2019 at 8:11 PM

ELIZABETHTON — Ed Jordan is like that character that everyone knows from lots of old westerns. You know the scene. It comes just after the lawbreakers have taken control and are threatening the law-abiding citizens. At that point, the hero stands up and says it is time someone started cleaning up the town, and it might as well be him.

For the past few years, Jordan has led the effort to clean up litter and illegal dumping in Carter County. He has led a group of hard-working volunteers who have cleaned highways and the Tweetsie Trail numerous times. Their group was first known as Carter County Proud and now there is Keep Carter County Beautiful, a part of Keep America Beautiful.

It all began several years ago, after Jordan had retired. He had no intention of becoming a community leader in a cleanup effort. But his unintended effort began with a very favorable impression of Carter County.

Through the many miles of Jordan’s trip, one spot had a big impact: Carter County. “It was so clean and so green,” Jordan recalled. The impact was so profound that Jordan changed some of his retirement plans and decided he would move to this garden spot.

He returned and again found the beautiful, unspoiled county. He bought a home and moved in.

Jordan said he soon noticed things were not quite right. He started noticing some litter on what had once been an unspoiled landscape. Then some more, and more. The roads and highways seemed to be getting more litter every time he looked.

Then Jordan found the answer. One day he noticed what looked like a prison chain gang walking down the highway. The prisoners were equipped with plastic bags. They stopped every few feet and picked up every piece of litter in their path. Behind the crew was the green and beautiful Carter County Jordan had remembered.

“The first time I came to Carter County must have been right after the prison work crew had cleaned the highway,” Jordan said.

Jordan wondered how some people could trash such a beautiful environment. One of his first stops was the county government. He began talking with representatives of the Highway Department and the Planning Department about the problem.

He learned there were strict rules against using government equipment and personnel on private property, so the government could not clean up illegal dump sites on private property, or pick up litter on private property.

After several such frustrating meetings, Jordan began to realize that if he wanted someone to take the lead in cleaning up the county, it might as well be him. Jordan formed a group called Carter County Proud and they begin holding meetings with other citizens who wanted to make Carter County clean.

The group didn’t just talk, they took action. They organized several clean up efforts. They even adopted a highway and committed to cleaning it on a regular basis.

While the group devoted many man hours to cleaning up Carter County, Jordan had become aware that the work could be supported by a national organization, Keep America Beautiful.

After several years of effort, Keep Carter County Beautiful became a part of Keep America Beautiful. This provides the group with several advantages, including grants and the donation of equipment for cleanups.

Ironically, Keep Carter County Beautiful has drawn closer to local government. The Carter County mayor’s office is providing space and support for the organization.

Several individuals in local government have also become involved in Jordan’s organization, including Carter County Commissioner Ross Garland and Elizabethton City Councilman Michael Simerly.

Simerly said he grew up in Carter County, but left to find work as a young man. When he returned, Jordan opened his eyes to the litter problem he had learned to ignore as a child.

Keep Carter County Beautiful has also developed close ties with the Carter County School System, which has supported his efforts and are providing education on not littering and keeping the county clean.

While Keep Carter County Beautiful now has closer ties to government, Jordan said he hopes the organization can become closer to the Elizabethton/Carter County Chamber of Commerce because most of the Keep America Beautiful groups operate out of Chambers of Commerce, so it would be a better fit.

It has been a lot of years now, but Jordan hopes all the effort will eventually pay off and that the beautiful, pristine, green Carter County he fell in love with will be his legacy.

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