KNOX COUNTY—It is the start of a new year and the Times-Tribune has asked Knox County’s local elected officials to reflect on the highlights of this past year, though they may be few and far between, and take a look ahead at what we are all hoping will be a more promising year.

Barbourville Mayor David Thompson, who has been in office since 2006 and has seen his fair share of difficult times for his city while in office, said that 2020 was a year like no other.

“One week we were eating in restaurants, going to the grocery store and attending meetings and about one month later, the whole world has changed,” he said. “Everybody has masks, you can’t go out to a restaurant and eat without waiting 30 minutes in line at a drive-thru, meetings are pretty much nonexistent except for Zoom or over the internet, tourism and events of any kind pretty much came to a grinding halt. Now we’re all hoping and praying that in 2021, things get back to normal somewhat, which I think everybody realizes it’s going to be a slow recovery.”

Despite all the turmoil, Thompson hopes that this past year has given people a newfound respect for their local first responders and healthcare workers and hopes that community members will take the time to thank all of those who have been responsible for carrying many of us through this pandemic.

Knox County Judge Executive Mike Mitchell agreed that while this past year was certainly a difficult one, seeing Knox Countians come together—at a time when we can’t physically come together—has been really special to see.

“2020 has definitely presented a lot of challenges and the way we had to deal with those challenges,” Mitchell said. “There are a lot of negative things to say about 2020, but I’m optimistic about the positive things that have transpired from the events we’ve had to deal with, but overall, we have come together to work through the difficulties we have had. I think this will make us stronger going forward.

“Community members have stepped outside of their normal, professional roles and provided services they would not normally have. One example is our local pharmacies and their staff have produced and donated hand sanitizer to first responders. Our local health care workers are being recognized for what they are heroes. They have cared for the communities needs above their own personal safety.”

In the City of Barbourville, Thompson is looking forward to seeing tourism pick back up with events for community members to come together to enjoy once again, though it may look a little different than it did before the pandemic.

“I’m hoping we can get tourism back going to where there are things for people to do, people can start getting back out in the parks and start doing activities together and get in groups, which helps everybody mentally and physically,” he said.

For 2021, Thompson said the City of Barbourville is looking in a lot of different directions to get things back to “normal.”

“The virus has definitely changed things,” he said. “The city is currently in the process of constructing a drive-in theatre which will be something different for the community. The closest one is about 100 miles away. That’s one large project we’re working on.

“We have several other events that we’re just now starting for 2021, tourism related events. We also have a large playground project in a city park that we’ll be working on for the members of Barbourville and Knox County and also hoping for an expansion of our splash pad at Thompson Park, which is free to the public. We’re hoping to expand this summer if COVID-19 allows us to.”

In the county, Mitchell believes that community members have a lot to look forward to this year.

“Looking forward to 2021, some of the obstacles we have faced in 2020 will make us stronger going forward,” Mitchell said. “Agencies have worked together to ensure the safety and progress of our community.”

Mitchell is excited to begin seeing progress on the county’s new technical training center, seeing movement on the development of the Keeneland property and is eager to get to work with Knox County Tourism Commission and the Knox County Industrial Development Authority in the new year.

“We are also looking forward to implementing new programs to help keep Knox County clean and promote this beautiful county we live in,” Mitchell said. “We are looking forward to seeing many of the projects that we have worked on the past two years come to life and create new opportunities for our community and the region.

“I would also like to commend all of the leaders for their support and help throughout this past year. And I’m excited to see the vaccinations being administered. I am hopeful to get things back to a normalcy that we all desire.”

With the growth of new businesses and lots of new projects in the works, it seems as if Knox County is heading in the right direction in 2021.

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