By CALVIN PYNN
“I’m rattling around town all day every day.”
That seems to sum up the typical workweek for Mayor Jeff Worrell, who pulls double time as both the Town of Pulaski’s leader and as an engineering technician for Appalachian Power. As he is approaching the end of his third term as mayor, Worrell is looking keep the job going for at least one more run with a fourth term.
Worrell, who was born and raised in the Town of Pulaski, has been the town’s mayor since 2008, and served on Pulaski’s town council for 10 years before that. He will be running for re-election against Nick Glenn for the position in the municipal election on May 6.
Looking back over the last six years, Worrell said the town has seen its share of successes and challenges. Overall, he recognized the recovery from the 2011 tornado as the town’s most notable accomplishment.
“That was such a life changing event for so many of us, and the town had never seen anything like it before,” said Worrell. “There was so much damage, and what really amazed me was how the community came together. We did nearly $2.5 million worth of work, and nearly all of it was volunteer.”
As the tornado recovery is in its final stages and winding down to completion, Worrell said he’s still amazed by the continued dedication people have shown to bring the town back.
“I was so worried in the days and weeks immediately following the tornado once we took care of the safety and welfare of everyone that we weren’t going to be able to qualify for federal assistance,” said Worrell. “No one ever left. We still have volunteers working on this.”
Looking toward the future, Worrell said he would like to continue with the trends that started the town’s successes besides the tornado recovery, such as the rebuilding of the train station. He also pointed out other successes, such as getting the Raymond F. Ratcliffe Memorial Transportation Museum going, MTM expanding their employment base, and moving the new industry Falls Stamping and Welding Company into the old Renfro building.
“We want to continue that momentum,” said Worrell. “We’ve got West Main Street Development that’s looking to spend over $1 million on Main Street. That’ll be the most significant development there since the courthouse was rebuilt 25 years ago.”
At the same time, Worrell said he also shares the view of many other town officials about developing Pulaski’s downtown area by drawing popular attention to it.
“What we need is more people downtown,” said Worrell. “People tell me all the time that we need this restaurant, and that store, and so on. We need people downtown, and if we have that, the businesses will follow.”
Looking back at decisions made for the town that he would have changed, Worrell cited some issues with UDAG loans, which are granted for economic development in a locality, and not all turned out as well as planned. However, according to Worrell, it wasn’t a total loss, considering there are still funds left over to this day from those UDAG loans.
“The fact that we’ve still got some means that we’ve done well with it, because I can’t think of anyone else that still has any left,” said Worrell.
In the end, he said it’s all part of making decisions on behalf of the town’s best interest, even if it means taking a big risk.
“You’ve got to take a risk,” said Worrell. “If we’re not willing to take a risk with our town, we can’t expect anyone else to either.”
According to Worrell, there are certain issues that need to be addressed in the future, such as blighted property, and more buildings that need to be torn down, although the town has managed to make some strides in those areas. Like his opponent, as well as the members on town council, Worrell also wants to make a habit out of working more closely with the county on certain projects in the future.
Worrell also hopes to push forward with the expansion of the Route 99 corridor, which he has campaigned for since he was first elected to town council in 1998.
“I said then, we can’t bring the interstate to the town, but we can take the town to the interstate,” said Worrell. I think it’s critical that we establish an interstate presence, and I don’t care whether the town does it or the county does it, as long as it gets done.”
Worrell added that funding has been approved from the state on the Route 99 corridor, and he expects a lot of improvement out that way.
“I think if you can get some infrastructure out there, then you can get things like motels and restaurants,” Worrell said. “Just like these other interstate exits, once you get one, you get them all.”
According to Worrell, he first decided to run for mayor six years ago when he saw it as the next logical step after serving on town council for 10 years, and after seeing an opportunity when Charles Wade, Pulaski’s mayor at the time, decided not to run again. Even if he doesn’t get to serve a fourth term, Worrell said he still plans to be involved with the town in any way possible.
“It’s all about serving you’re community, that’s one of the reasons I got into this in the first place,” said Worrell. “I think everyone should serve the community in some way, and I would find some other way to serve, no question about it. I don’t know what it would be, but there’s any number of ways you could do it, so I’ll be around – I’ll be doing something.”
For the meantime, Worrell and town council are working on tackling capital improvements around Pulaski. Those include renovations to the old fire station and underground utility lines, but according to Worrell, the town has also managed to push forward with improvements to the water treatment facility.
“This council seems to be looking for ways to address some chronic, long-running problems, said Worrell. “We have aging infrastructure, we have vehicles that are in dreadful shape, and they’re looking to fix those problems.”
Aside from his duties as mayor, Worrell is approaching 35 years with Appalachian Power this summer, which keeps him connected with the town, as he gets to work with the general public on a daily basis and spot problems before they can be reported.
“I’m in town all day every day and I get to see anything that’s going on,” said Worrell. “If I get a call or complaint about a pothole or something like that, I’m usually already aware of it.”
With all that in mind, Worrell admitted that even though there’s no exact guarantee that the job will still be his come election time, he still harbors a deep dedication to his duties.
“Sometimes I get a little too wrapped up in this job, I get a little too passionate, and I get really close to our employees, they’re a great group and I worry about them all the time,” said Worrell. “But it’s all a part of the job if you’re doing it right.”