Local officials are hoping for a big crowd Tuesday night for the “Positively + Paris & Henry County” event at the Krider Performing Arts Center, with some good ideas for the future of the community to be discussed.
The event begins at 6 p.m., but dinner will be served at 5 to those who are attending. There is no admission charge and no prior signup is required. Officers from the Paris Police Department and the Henry County Sheriff’s Department will be grilling and overseeing the dinner.
Kim Foster, Paris city manager, said she’s hoping it will be a truly community-wide event.
She got the idea for the event while she was working on some long-range planning for the Paris Commission.
“It’s one thing if I think something is great or if Carlton (Paris Mayor Carlton Gerrell) thinks something is great, but what about the public?” she said. “I just thought it was something that the public ought to have some input on, to help us generate ideas for the future of Paris and Henry County.”
Foster spoke with Henry County Mayor Brent Greer and he agreed the county would be on board with the event.
All city and county commissioners have been invited and representatives from the Paris Board of Public Utilities, Henry County Medical Center and other local entities are also expected to be present.
Nine different focus areas will be the main thrust of the meeting.
Foster said experts are being brought in from outside of the community to help facilitate the discussions in each area.
“That’s good because we can have somebody neutral here who has the expertise to discuss each of these topics,” she said.
The nine focus areas are (listed with the expert who will be heading the discussion):
• Recreation and tourism, which includes the areas of parks, community events and facilities — Elizabeth Pritchett, Center Point Business Solutions, director of sales and marketing.
• Education and workforce development, which includes existing school systems, existing and potential higher ed (Tennessee College of Applied Technology, community colleges, etc.), library, industry-specific training and soft skills — Cindy West, dean of the UT Martin College of Education, Health and Behavioral Sciences.
• Health care, which includes HCMC and current health care environment, elder care and fitness opportunities — Bill Jolley, Tennessee Hospital Association senior vice president for rural health issues.
• Emergency services, which includes law enforcement, EMS, fire, 911 and disaster planning — Sherri McCarter, U.S. Department of Agriculture Rural Development community solutions specialist.
• Public works, which includes streets/roads, sidewalks, refuse and recycling — Dana Deem, University of Tennessee Municipal Technical Advisory Service municipal management consultant.
• Infrastructure/broadband/transportation, which includes electric, water, sewer, natural gas and public transportation — Rob Goad, Northwest Tennessee Development District grant writer/project administrator.
• Retail/industry/small business, which includes recruitment and entrepreneurial support — Landy Fuqua, UT Martin Reed Center director.
• Housing, which includes public, private and single family vs. multi-unit — Bobby Goode, retired state director of USDA Rural Development and owner of Goode Consultants Rural Issues.
• Young talent, which is aimed specifically at students and young adults to discuss their ideas for the future of Paris and Henry County — Melissa Halsell, TVA program manager for young talent and community liveability.
After a group of 30-minute sessions in which ideas can be generated, the top ideas from each session will be brought forward for discussion by the entire group attending.
Foster also said an online survey will be available after the event to get input from people who are unable to attend Tuesday night.
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