Note: This is a copy of a withdrawal statement submitted by Oak Ridge City Council member Charlie Hensley on Tuesday, when he withdrew as a candidate from the November 8 municipal election.
Citizens of Oak Ridge,
Thank you for your confidence, support, advice, and patience during my nine-plus years serving on our City Council, the Municipal Planning Commission, and Land Bank Board. It has been, and continues to be, an honor to serve the city.
I have decided to withdraw my candidacy for another term on City Council. This is a difficult decision but is made because I have my son’s family and two wonderful grandchildren living in the local area and with whom I want to spend more time. Also, I want to spend time with other volunteer interests, hobbies, and related activities. Finally, there are some personal but manageable health issues that require attention.
Looking back and reviewing my involvements during my service since 2007, the contributions that have most fulfilled my hopes to have made a difference are listed below. None of these contributions could have been possible without teamwork and consensus with others, including Council, commissioners, staff, and citizens:
Successful projects and advocacies where I played a major role:
- Hiring our effective city manager, Mark Watson. Mark continues to make daily contributions to our city’s ongoing renaissance.
- Creating the staff advisory positions of retail and commercial recruiting specialists, who work almost daily with City Manager Watson to bring new opportunities to Oak Ridge and assist ongoing projects.
- Facilitation and support of retail growth in Oak Ridge including the Kroger Marketplace, Jackson Square’s rebirth, and the ongoing Illinois Avenue developments. This is being guided by the Illinois Avenue Corridor Study produced by the Planning Commission from well-attended public summits.
- Support for maintaining and improving our schools.
- Strong support for our police, fire department, and public works that help set Oak Ridge apart as a safe and vibrant full-service community.
- EPA Administrative Mandate to reduce storm water in-leakage, meeting the required schedule and goals, thus avoiding any penalties or fines.
- Support for creation of the Manhattan Project National Park.
- Appointment of two effective and respected mayors: Tom Beehan (2007-2014) and Warren Gooch (2014-2016).
- Growth and redevelopment of Oak Ridge-specific historic facilities including Jackson Square and the Alexander Guest House.
- A major financial contribution to Roane State Community College capital projects.
- Initiation of the Main Street Project, following years of tedious efforts.
- “Not in our Town” initiatives for codes enforcement and guiding Community Development, improving neighborhood pride and appearances.
- Creation of the Land Bank, membership in the board of directors, and the growing successes in blight elimination and raising the assessment base.
- Serving on the Planning Commission.
- Waterfront improvements guided by the Planning Commission’s Waterfront Master Plan and developed from public input.
- Ongoing support for human-powered sports in our city, including off-road biking, rowing, hiking, team sports, and using of all of our parks facilities.
- Advocacy for quality starter housing developments, including Bristol Park and Centennial Village.
- Advocacy for numerous housing projects, including Wolf Creek and Clark’s Preserve.
- TDOT relocation of SR-95/58 to protect Southwood subdivision
Projects in the “pipeline” that hopefully will continue until completion:
- The Main Street Project.
- The Oak Ridge General Aviation Airport at Heritage Center.
- Re-industrialization of Horizon Center and Heritage Center.
- Continued development and integration of the Manhattan Project National Park into our city.
- Transfer of “Carbide Park” to Oak Ridge (including U.S. Department of Energy-Oak Ridge negotiated provisions for front-end maintenance assistance from DOE).
- The eighth lane for our rowing course.
- The new preschool.
- A well-planned and centrally located Senior Center.
- The CVMR manufacturing facility.
- The “rails-to-trails” conversion of the CSX right-of-way in East Oak Ridge.
- The DOE Uranium Processing Facility
- The Y-12 landfill expansion (with fair monetary compensation to our city).
- Creation of a master plan for our city’s future. The Land Bank and the Planning Commission have recently adopted similar vision and mission statements to guide their activities.
Issues that I wish could have been brought closer to a solution:
- Lack of a widely accepted community vision and community branding continues to hamper decision making and leads to case-by-case decisions that are sometimes inconsistent.
- Blight elimination needs more attention and the current lack of housing diversity continues to slow our ability to attract new residents. The Land Bank, Planning Commission, and recent new policies are helping but the problem is substantial.
- Protection of a large defined portion of the DOE Reservation’s open spaces for the enjoyment of future citizens, both city, regional, and national.
- In my opinion, the greatest over-riding problem that our city faces, both past and future, is the lack of appropriate and fair support from DOE and their prime contractors. This deficit hampers commercial recruiting efforts, retards our ability to attract new residents, and challenges our city’s financial status. Efforts to develop consensus among Council members and other community leaders has been frustrating and the current lack of consensus leads to inconsistent communication with DOE, poorly planned involvement in the Energy Communities Alliance, and inconsistent requests to our federal and state elected legislators.
As evidenced by the listings, current successes, exciting ongoing projects, and promising activities far outnumber any negative issues. Our city is in a great position and is undergoing major changes and progress toward a very bright future. But, we need to keep the momentum growing.
With respect to withdrawing my candidacy, I have been considering not seeking re-election for almost a year but needed to see who the election’s final candidate field might include. It is now very gratifying that the 2016 field offers three new and very qualified candidates in Joe Lee, Jim Dodson, and Hans Vogel. In my opinion, these three candidates offer leadership and teamwork experience, new energy, vision for the future, new partnership opportunities, and broad diverse knowledge of our city. I urge my supporters and all interested citizens to strongly consider these three new candidates. I have great confidence that they can continue our City’s progress in the future.
Again, thank you Oak Ridge citizens and friends for the many years of confidence, support, advice, and patience.
L. Charles Hensley
Oak Ridge City Council member
August 23, 2016
Editor’s note: Hensley has served two terms on the City Council, starting in 2007. He served more than eight years because of a one-time change in election dates from June 2011 to November 2012 due to a change in the Oak Ridge City Charter approved by voters in 2010.
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