Kingsport Tomorrow played such a vital role in the creation of the Kingsport Veterans Memorial. After all, it was under the guidance of then Kingsport Tomorrow Executive Director Susan H. LaGuardia that discussion regarding this much needed monument recognizing our veterans was given life.
Launched initially as a program of the Kingsport Chamber of Commerce in 1989 before transitioning in 1991 to an independent non-profit organization, Kingsport Tomorrow’s accomplishments included the very successful “Vision 2017.” Held via community meetings in the fall of 1989 and completed in early 1990, “Vision 2017” identified 26 specific goals for Kingsport to consider pursuing. Kingsport leaders would use these goals to guide their planning and inform their thinking on issues such as improved services and opportunities for citizens, new and improved programs and opportunities, a focus on parks and recreation, and more.
Among the most notable and successful goals to come from the “Vision 2017” process was the creation of a regional conference and civic center. Kingsport Tomorrow’s support would be critical in the support and ultimate advancement of this visionary project – now known as MeadowView Conference Resort and Convention Center. Today, MeadowView Conference Resort and Convention Center annually has an amazing $25 million economic impact on the City of Kingsport and has played a major role in the development of businesses in and around the MeadowView corridor.
It’s resume, combined with its mission of engaging Kingsport citizens in the establishment of goals and plans for their community, made Kingsport Tomorrow the perfect organization to lead the effort to explore the possibility of a memorial honoring Kingsport’s veterans.
A workshop hosted by Kingsport Tomorrow and led by LaGuardia was held at the City of Kingsport’s Renaissance Center on August 28, 2005. The goal of the workshop was to ask open-ended questions that would paint an idea about what the purpose of a memorial park should be; what features or components should it contain; how would it be funded; and how should a group be organized to make it a reality.
“The Kingsport Veterans Memorial was a Kingsport Tomorrow-led project,” said LaGuardia. “But, it was more than that. It was a community project. From the workshop onward we had a great cross-section of people participating who were veterans or were family members of veterans.”
Officially launched, and with a committee of almost all veterans chosen, Kingsport Tomorrow remained firmly and heavily involved in the process as it advanced providing meeting space, administrative support, and the resources necessary to move the project forward.
As described by LaGuardia, the project was truly a team effort. Kingsport Tomorrow Executive Administrator Cathy Tucker, for example, in addition to other tasks related to the project, helped sale the granite pavers; an effort that she would also lead once Phase II was launched. Volunteer Kay Oglesby used Kingsport Tomorrow’s vacant office space and a phone to help organize a luncheon to be held at the Civic Auditorium for the veterans immediately following the Phase I dedication.
“Some truly great people were involved in the project. It was a wonderful experience,” LaGuardia said of being part of the project. “And it was cathartic for the community. Those buying granite pavers would often stop by the Kingsport Tomorrow office and share about their loved ones and their stories.”
When Phase II was ready to launch, Kingsport Tomorrow once again stepped forward to assist Tri-Cities Military Affairs Council President Ernie Rumsby in making the announcement and getting the effort rolling.
With a sterling legacy of service and list of accomplishments that the community will always remember, the Kingsport Veterans Memorial may be the most revered and most appreciated achievement of Kingsport Tomorrow and Susan LaGuardia’s efforts. Leading the charge from the very beginning, they helped lay the foundation for this very special memorial that will forever honor and recognize Kingsport’s veterans.