New mayor of Kingsport takes office

IN CHARGE. After a long career in public service, Kingsport native Pat Shull was elected mayor of Kingsport.

Michael Fanning

IN CHARGE. After a long career in public service, Kingsport native Pat Shull was elected mayor of Kingsport.

Michael Fanning, Sports Editor

There is a new mayor in town and his name is Patrick Shull. He is a Kingsport native and attended school in Kingsport. He graduated from Dobyns Bennett High School in 1971, and his two grown children, Tucker and Margaret, both attended John Sevier Middle School

Shull graduated from Dobyns-Bennett High School in Kingsport and went on to The Citadel military school in Charleston, South Carolina. After graduating in 1975, he was commissioned as a second Lieutenant in the U.S. Army.

“I did 26 and a half years in the army and I was stationed in several different places,” Shull said. “During those many years, I was also able to go back to graduate school at the University of Tennessee and got a Master’s Degree in Public Administration. This included an internship in city management, which I did right here, in Kingsport.”

Shull is a combat veteran of the First Gulf War.

“I met my wife overseas; she ducked into my work tent to get out of a sand storm,” he said. “Later on, I told her it was love at first sight. She told me I must have been in the desert for too long.”

After retiring as a colonel, Shull, his wife and two kids moved back to Kingsport. Shull later worked as a Sullivan County Commissioner.

Shull has many values that inspired him to be mayor.

“I had a background in local government,” Shull said. “I’m a conservative, and I felt like my thoughts and ideas about the direction that Kingsport should head toward was more in line with the majority of our citizens.”

Shull’s campaign was unique compared to others and got his family involved.

“The campaign was pretty exhausting,” he said. “I elected to go door to door campaigning and I went to over 6,000 homes. That’s a lot of walking. I lost 17 pounds during that period. My son assisted me and went door to door.”

The campaign was also more expensive than Shull had anticipated.

“It’s not cheap to run for office,” Shull said. “I had some professional assistance that I had to pay for from personal funds or campaign contributions. That’s probably the least fun part of campaigning: asking people for money.”

Shull felt a lot of positive emotions when he saw the early election results

“May 21st was election night,” Shull said. “The polls closed at 8:00 pm, so the first thing that popped up at 8:15 was the election results from early voting. Those were roughly half of the votes and they were really encouraging. That felt really good.”

As Shull eagerly watched the results come in,  he realized he had won the election.

“I felt elated that I won and I was tired,” he said. “I felt like the things I stood for as an elected official over the years, and the stands I took during the campaign, had the greatest appeal to the greatest number of voters.”

Being mayor has had a major impact on Shull.

“I knew it would take a little time, but the time is even more than I thought,” Shull said. “I’m busy. Folks want to meet and talk with the mayor and that’s fine. It’s what I signed up for.”

The city manager and Shull’s job correlate in many ways.

“We hire one person and that’s the city manager, and he hires everyone else who works for him,” he said.

Shull has a lot of pride in his hometown.

“I’d say my favorite part is being able to tell some people our story,” Shull said. “We have a great story, all the way from our history to where we are today. There’s no place better, at least in my opinion, than Kingsport. Great people, low cost of living, low taxes, great weather, beautiful place, we have it all.”

Shull also has to shoulder some difficult responsibilities as mayor.

“I think citizen expectations are very high,” Shull said. “The old rule in politics is you can’t make everyone happy. Even though I won the election, a bunch of people voted for my opponents.”

As mayor, Shull has a lot of people looking up to him.

“You’re always out in public; like actors, you’re on stage,” he said. “It’s not that I am acting, but I have a total exposure to people, and you want to present yourself as a dignified, serious person, but also someone people can talk to.”

Shull has many plans to make Kingsport better.

“Get more people to move here,” Shull said. “They buy a house, they start shopping here, they go to the grocery store. They contribute to our economy. Statistics show that in Sullivan County there are more deaths than people being born. I would like to see our population grow a little.”

Shull’s job also has some relation to the school system.

“The school board is elected separately from the Board of Mayor and Aldermen” They develop their own budget and we have to approve it,” Shull said. “That can cause a little disagreement. When I ran for office, citizens made it pretty clear to me that we have a great school system and they want to continue having a great school system. I’m committed to doing that.”

There are no typical days as mayor of Kingsport.

“I took office on July 1st and I’m not sure I’ve had a typical day yet,” Shull said, “I spend as much time as I can with the city manager, not trying to give him some detailed direction, but to stay on top of what the city is doing. I meet with citizens a lot. They just set up an appointment with my secretary.”

Shull has some advice for middle school students who want to help make Kingsport a better place.

“Encourage other people to take care of our city,” he said. “There’s nothing I hate more than litter or graffiti. We want to present our city as a great place.”

He also encouraged middle school students to grow into voters.

“I want you guys to become informed voters, which means you’ve got to spend some time to make yourself aware of issues and candidates,” he said. “Kingsport has over 30,000 registered voters, but in the mayoral race, only about 6,000 people voted. We all have a stake in our government.”