Leaders talk cooperation, 2019 events at town hall

Paintsville Mayor Bill Mike Runyon, standing at podium, Johnson County Judge-Executive Mark McKenzie, Paintsville Recreation Director Scott “Shoes” Hale and Paintsville Tourism Executive Director Josh Johnson each took turns addressing the public at Thursday’s town hall meeting.

City and county leaders joined together Thursday for another town hall-style meeting with the public, addressing what these local civic organizations have been doing, answering questions and laying out plans for the year ahead.

Though the town hall events have been organized by the City of Paintsville, Johnson County Judge-Executive Mark McKenzie was invited to give an update on the county’s business, reiterating a need for city and county to work together in the coming years.

“That’s one component we’ve maybe been missing for several years in our community, is a cooperative effort, things that benefit both the city and county,” McKenzie said. “We have to understand and keep talking about whatever good happens in this community, whether it happens inside the city limits or outside the city limits, if it happens in Johnson County it’s good for all of us.”

McKenzie said that grant-writing work could help fund a long-term economic development plan, a prerequisite to attracting further grants and investments.

McKenzie said that when it comes to attracting new business and new residents, he hopes to tout Johnson County’s excellent schools, excellent utility services, reliable high-speed fiber Internet service through locally-based Foothills Communications, and plenty of affordable, available housing.

Paintsville Recreation Director Scott “Shoes” Hale said that while winter may be thought of as a slow time for the recreation department, the Paintsville Recreation Center has stayed busy with indoors events and new events are being booked every day.

New outdoor exercise equipment obtained in conjunction with the Johnson County Health Department is ready to be installed when the weather breaks, Hale said.

“It’s really a prep time right now, in January and February, for us,” Hale said.

Paintsville Tourism Executive Director Josh Johnson outlined the hundreds of events, large and small, that tourism helped organize or sponsor in 2018, and gave a preview of the work being done to make 2019 even bigger. 

In the coming months, Johnson said the Country Music Highway Museum will host a “princess party” Feb. 16, the Historic SIPP Theatre will host a Paintsville Band Concert March 28, and the annual Easter egg hunt is on track at the Mountain Homeplace for April 6. A new downtown concert series on the first Saturday of every month will run June through August, while open mic nights will return to the SIPP every second Saturday from June through November.

Paintsville Main Street, Johnson said, will be getting revamped, with more participation from local businesses. 

Paintsville Mayor Bill Mike Runyon closed the updates with a message harkening back to McKenzie’s, that both city and county, as well as the many city departments, will be working closely together for the good of all. 

“These guys sitting behind me, we are going to work together. I’m not going to tell you that we won’t agree to disagree, because we will sometimes, and that’s a part of life. But Paintsville and Johnson County, we need to kind of separate from those terms, and use the term ‘community,’ because that’s what we are. We’re a community,” Runyon said.

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