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Mike Demyanovich moved to Harriman from Florida, charmed by its Victorian history and beautiful old homes.
He quickly delved into the community, regularly attending Harriman City Council meetings and active with boards, including the Harriman Utility Board and Harriman Housing Authority.
“I live here now, so I want to see the city grow,” Demyanovich said. “I want to see the city improve. I want to see everyone have some good opportunities.” He believes a lot can be accomplished with members of the community working together.
“Together, the city council and the residents can make the city a really, really wonderful place to live, but we have to work together,” Demyanovich said.
He sees a lot of potential for the city, especially if it leverages its access to the interstate, the railroad, Emory River and Tennessee College of Applied Technology.
He said all four are things he would look for as ideal for a small manufacturing company, especially its access to qualified young people from TCAT.
“That is almost a guaranteed pool of employees,” Demyanovich said.
The city’s tax base is declining, and he thinks the city cannot afford improvements until it grows that tax base using its assets to draw in business and families.
“Ultimately I think I can help in those areas,” said Demyanovich.
He’d like to start a committee tasked with helping to promote Harriman. He sees economic development as the key to seeing Harriman succeed.
“This is probably the single most important committee we can form because this is what can expand our tax base and make our city grow,” Demyanovich said.
Downtown revitalization is also important to Demyanovich, and he wants to utilize the Princess Theatre more.
“We have to do something to try and get people to come dowtown,” he said.
While it is booked at times for special events, Demyanovich would like to see more regular use of the facility to bring people downtown, whether it be weekly movies for young people and families or conference space for companies.
“A lot of money has been invested into the theatre — now we need to use it to its fullest,” Demyanovich said. “If we can get people to come downtown the businesses will follow.”
He believes the city’s unique origin story as a Utopian community by Prohibitionists is among “the things that are going to bring people into the town.”
Demyanovich is also passionate about addressing some of the issues in which owners are letting their property become dilapidated. There are a few instances of this downtown in particular.
“We need to start holding some of the owners accountable,” he said. “We need to be more forceful on the zoning.”
He thinks the City Council has done many things right, like switching to LED lighting for city traffic signals and street lighting in many places.
He’s also supportive of officials’ decision to go with a city manager form of government, which he thinks will help progress Harriman.
“The council gets a little bogged down with day-to-day activities,” said Demyanovich.
With a city manager at the helm, City Council can focus on what he thinks is most important.
“We need to start looking five to 10 years down the line,” Demyanovich said.
Demyanovich is proud of some of the work he’s helped accomplish. That includes improvements at the Harriman Housing Authority.
“We actually purchased some new playground equipment for some of our facilities,” Demyanovich said.
The new director, Amy Hall, has played a role in getting things turned around.
“I think everyone on the board, including myself, has had a hand in that,” Demyanovich said.
He’s also helped as a member of the committee for the renovation of the Temperance Building and is part of the Cornstalk Heights Historic District, which helped raise money for the renovations.
Currently, HUB is preparing to begin replacing some of the old cast-iron pipes in the historic downtown area.
Demyanovich said in 2005 he’d decided to take an early retirement after about 20 years at Florida Power and Light, where he was a nuclear systems analyst. They heard good things about parts of North Carolina, Tennessee and Arkansas.
“We came up here one weekend, and we started looking around and we were driving around Harriman because we had a house we were looking at, and rounded the corner and saw this one for sale,” he said.
“And we made an offer on it that weekend.”