She was presented the award Tuesday at TML's annual conference in Memphis.
Back home Wednesday, she gave credit to the county's Joint Economic Development Board, Erwin Utilities, RISE Erwin, TVA, the USDA office of Rural Development and other grant funding partners and community volunteers and supporters who worked together to move the town forward.
“It really took a community to bring together everything that has happened in Erwin,” she said.
JEDB President and Erwin Utilities General Manager Lee Brown called it an honor well deserved. Speaking at the development board’s quarterly meeting on Wednesday, Brown said he could not recall a time when the town was in better position for growth.
According to a TML press release, the Mayor of Year award has been presented annually since 1954 to a Tennessee city mayor who “typifies the attributes of intelligence, effectiveness, hard work, dedication and sacrifice.”
The release said Hensley was chosen “to honor her service to her community as a leader not afraid to take innovative approaches to better her community.”
According to the TML release, before her election as mayor, Hensley logged 30 years of service to Erwin, including 19 years as the town administrative assistant and 11 years as town recorder.
After her retirement from the town, she became a part-time municipal budgeting adviser for the University of Tennessee’s Municipal Technical Assistance Service and also served briefly as the part-time executive director of the Unicoi County economic development board.
The TML credited Hensley and the town board for working with the brain trust of Millennials, young professionals and other town residents known as RISE to create an annual outdoors festival, a weekly farmers market and other family events that brought new vibrancy to Erwin’s downtown after one of the biggest economic challenges in the town’s history — the 2015 closing of the CSX railyard that had been the backbone of the town’s economy for decades.
Other achievements cited by the TML during Hensley’s six years as mayor include a revised liquor-by-the-drink ordinance that allowed Erwin restaurants to expand their offerings, a new crop of loft apartments and retail shops in the downtown area, improvement of the town’s industrial park access road, the launch of a downtown redevelopment loan program and the landing of a highly-competitive TVA Invest Prep Grant that transformed an 15-acre brownfield into a development ready site for new industry.
Hensley told the Johnson City Press Thursday it was the community that “just really stepped up to make all the improvements in the town that we are enjoying today,”
“I just feel real fortunate to be in this area and this town and to be able to represent the town of Erwin,” she said.