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Washington County, ETSU form committees to encourage participation in 2020 census

David Floyd • Jan 26, 2020 at 8:40 PM

About 83% of people living in Washington County responded to the 2010 census.

That’s an average response rate, City Manager Pete Peterson said earlier this month, but with millions of dollars in state and federal funding at stake, local officials are working to ensure the local response rate moves closer to 100% during the 2020 census.

That includes establishing a handful of voluntary bodies designed to motivate participation in the 2020 census. There are two “complete count committees” in Washington County, according to the U.S. Census Bureau: One at the county-level composed of 15 local representatives and another 20-member committee at East Tennessee State University, which was established to target participation among college students.

Johnson City Mayor Jenny Brock, Jonesborough Mayor Chuck Vest and Washington County Mayor Joe Grandy appointed members to the countywide committee.

Brock said the Washington County committee has so far met only once, but noted the group is overdue for another meeting to formulate final plans as the starting date of the census inches closer. Committee members, who tend to come from large organizations in the community like Ballad Health and the city and county school systems, are in a position to disseminate information to locals about the national count, which happens once every 10 years.

“We’re at that point where we’ve got to push it out very strongly,” she said.

The U.S. Census Bureau is placing a heavy emphasis this year on taking the census online, and Brock wants to ensure the city has support services in place at locations like Memorial Park Community Center to make sure people without computers can still participate.

If people aren’t counted, Brock said the city could lose state and federal funding that bolsters services like education and transportation. Census numbers also have an impact on local representation in the U.S. Congress and the Tennessee General Assembly.

Joy Fulkerson, the chair of ETSU’s Complete Count Committee and the university’s director of leadership and civic engagement, said the next meeting of ETSU’s committee will occur on Jan. 31. The group is composed of representatives from areas such as the Quillen College of Medicine, the Department of Veterans Affairs and the colleges of Business, Education and Pharmacy.

Because this year’s census also aligns with an election year, which is a rare happenstance, Fulkerson said the university will be doubling up on its communication efforts, providing information to students about both voter registration and participation in the census. She said the university is also planning a series of activities for Census Day on April 1.

Fulkerson indicated that participating in the census is an opportunity for college students to demonstrate that they care about their community.

“If I want more city services, if I want better parks, if I want greater education, if I want access to more resources for my institution, it is important for us to be counted,” she said.

June Iljana, a partnership/media specialist with the Philadelphia Regional Census Center, said college students should be counted where they live six months of the year.

“If they live in a dorm, they will be counted during our group quarters count operation which is starting soon,” Iljana said. “If they live off-campus they should be counted at that address, and if they have roommates everyone should be counted on one form at that address.”

Iljana said that, if students live with their parents while attending school, they should be counted at their parents’ home.

Peterson estimates each citizen brings in about $1,000 in state and federal funding for local governments by being counted in the U.S. Census.

The U.S. Census Bureau anticipates citizens will receive between March 12-20 an invitation to respond online to the 2020 Census. Some households in areas less likely to respond online will also receive a paper questionnaire.

Households will receive a reminder letter between March 16-24, and if they have not responded, a series of reminders between March 26 through April 27. Census takers will then followup in person.

The Washington County Complete Count Committee includes:

  • Adam Dickson (Jonesborough Board of Mayor and Alderman)
  • Katelyn Yarborough
  • Michael Hartman (Jonesborough at large)
  • Nick Vest
  • Bill Flanary (Washington County Schools)
  • Joy Fulkerson (ETSU)
  • Steve Barnett (Johnson City Schools)
  • Bob Cantler (Chamber of Commerce)
  • Matt Overby (Summit Leadership)
  • Andy Hall (Ballad Health)
  • Glenn Berry (MTPO)
  • Pete Peterson (Johnson City manager)
  • Dean Borsus (Veterans Affairs)
  • Julia Turpin (Johnson City Public Library)
  • Greg Matherly (911 and County Commission)

The ETSU Complete Count Committee includes:

  • David Haselroth (Veterans Affairs)
  • Kendrea Todt (Nursing)
  • Dianne Pittarese (Clinical and Rehabilitative Health Science)
  • Bonnie Burchett (Housing and Residence Life)
  • Carter Warden (SORC Student Life and Enrollment)
  • Lexi Petrak (SORC Student Life and Enrollment)
  • Seth Manning (Civic Engagement Student Life and Enrollment)
  • Joy Fulkerson (Civic Engagement Student Life and Enrollment)
  • Karin Bartoszuk (Graduate Studies)
  • Tracie Gamble (College of Business and Technology)
  • Kevin Flanary (U.S. Census Bureau)
  • Yi-Yang Chen (Deptartment of Music)
  • Stephen Woodward (College of Pharmacy)
  • Tory Street (Quillen College of Medicine)
  • Gina Osborne (Public Health)
  • Meagan Beale (CASE Arts and Sciences)
  • Raina Wiseman (ETSU student newspaper)
  • JoAnne Smith (Cross Disciplinary Studies)
  • Scarlett Knott (SGA representative)
  • Margaret Carr (Clemmer College of Education)