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Beets joins regional board

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By Mike Gibson

Though he is already the city’s highest-ranking elected official, Kingston Mayor Troy Beets received a promotion of sorts this month.

Beets was recently elected chairman of the board that oversees the East Tennessee Human Resources Agency, more commonly known as ETHRA, and its sister organization, the East Tennessee Development District.

Beets has been an active member of both in the past, serving as vice-chair last year.
“I’m very honored,” Beets said. “And it’s a nice deal for Kingston. I think Sen. (and former Roane County mayor Ken) Yager was a chair some years ago. But I believe I’m the first municipal mayor from the county to serve in that capacity.”

ETDD is a coalition of city and county governments, comprising a 16-county region in East Tennessee.

Its focus is development and planning services — it offers planning oversight to local planning commissions — and it also serves as a “forum for local governments to solve common problems.”

Kingston uses its planning services, and has used ETDD consultants to help with writing grant applications on many occasions past.

ETHRA is a service organization that provides a number of economic and related programs to the aforementioned 16-county area. Some of its programs include senior aid; home weatherization; job counseling; and a low-cost transportation outreach.

As to his goals for the chairmanship, Beets said his plan is to stay the course. “These organizations have been operating for a long time, so it’s not something where you can ride in on a white horse,” Beets said. “In the past year, we’ve gone through some changes in our administrative efforts; we’ve updated some policies.”

The chair will provide Beets with a platform to lobby for some important programs, though. In a recent ETHRA trip to Washington, D.C., Beets and other ETHRA representatives met with U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander and U.S. Rep. Chuck Fleischmann.

One of Beets’ priorities was to pitch for a city fire truck grant Kingston has been seeking in recent years. It would like to replace its pumper truck, a $400,000 expense.

Also on the agenda was to make a case that the Washington contingent keep the pipeline of funding open for ETHRA programs — especially the transportation program, which provides travel (for doctors’ visits, groceries, etc.) for needy residents who are unable to drive or ride public transit.

Beets said, “I walked into Rep. Fleischmann’s office, and the first thing he said was, ‘Mayor, I’m working on your fire truck.’ So we’ve been wearing them out.”