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Headshot of Jeff WorrellOur biggest challenge is people. We’ve got to draw people to our downtown. I hear again and again, ‘we need this restaurant, we need that restaurant,’ or ‘we need this store, we need that store.’ But my answer is always the same, ‘no, we need people.’ If you get enough people, you’re going to get those stores, you’re going to get those restaurants. You’ve got to create the demand for it. So our biggest challenge is to draw people to our downtown.

-Jeff Worrell, mayor, Pulaski


Headshot of Jan WhiteThe biggest challenge that we face is declining population due to the loss of jobs. We struggle to keep young people from leaving the area. We need young people to stay in the area to help us think through innovative ways to replace the loss of the coal mining industry and to help brainstorm new ideas to boost our economy.

-Jan White, mayor, Richlands



Headshot of Pat MurphyI think the biggest challenge is working through a transitional economy. Big Stone Gap is situated just outside the coal fields. Our economy has been primarily based upon the coal industry. And of course everyone knows the coal industry has declined, most recently and really over a period of about 25 years. I think we’re looking to transition into a tourism-based economy, and probably service-based as well. I think that’s the biggest challenge facing us, to continue to do the things we need to do to make that transition and prosper as a town. 

-Pat Murphy, town manager, Big Stone Gap


Headshot of Catherine BrillhartThe most pressing challenge is finding available resources to increase revenue for our city. We’re a small locality with a small tax base, and as a city cannot annex to increase our tax base. Our main source of revenue comes from Real Estate tax, Personal Property tax, Sales Tax, Lodging Tax, and Food Tax. We’re looking at a comprehensive plan for the future and doing a lot of innovative things to draw in revenue, such as capitalizing on tourism. From the opening of the “Birthplace of Country Music Museum,” “Bristol Rhythm & Roots Reunion,” and “Border Bash,” to “Cumberplunge,” our city draws in tourists and locals to downtown.  As tourism and new economic development projects bring in new revenue to our city, we must continue to look for additional sources of funding to meet capital projects for our schools and internal departments.

-Catherine Brillhart, mayor, City of Bristol


Headshot of Carl BrinkleyOur town’s biggest challenge is getting the funding to finish developing our amphitheater which will be of great benefit in our efforts to capitalize on tourism. We also need to get technical jobs in the area to attract younger workers; maybe even VT students. Job programs overall in the area is an issue, as getting any kind of industry here is difficult.

-Carl Brinkley, mayor, Clifton Forge



Our biggest challenge is getting people to accept change. A lot of people want to keep an attitude that the town has never had anything and never will. So when new people come in with the idea of change, but it requires planning and commitment, they don’t necessarily want to work toward that. While we tell those people things will change, they want to see something physically happening, like a sidewalk being started or something else happening.

-Debra Horne, mayor, Dungannon


Headshot of Larry YatesOur biggest challenge is unemployment and trying to create good paying, sustainable jobs by attracting new businesses. We want to create a more diversified economy, so we’re open to anything that will bring new ideas of interest to our community. Right now, as part of a downtown revitalization project, we have a sidewalk project funded through a community development block grant program.

-Larry Yates, mayor, Haysi