Chairman Johnston, Superintendent Hightower, & COED President Martin Deliver 2023 State of Cherokee Before Sold Out Crowd
On January 25, 2023, the Council for Quality Growth, in partnership with the Cherokee County Chamber of Commerce and Cherokee County Government, hosted the annual State of Cherokee County address and luncheon at the Cherokee Conference Center. A record-breaking year for this event saw over 330 guests, including Council and Chamber members, local elected leaders, as well as friends and partners of the County’s business community. The lunch, presented by Northside Hospital and VHB, featured three addresses from Superintendent of the Cherokee County School District, Dr. Brian Hightower, President of the Cherokee Office of Economic Development, Misti Martin, and Chairman of the Board of Commissioners, Harry B. Johnston.
Hightower gave a great update on the school district, reporting many new college and career pathways for students in Cherokee, with 38 total and more pathway completers than ever before. With over 42,000 students in the school district, Cherokee boasts being named a Cognia International School of Distinction, a 90% teacher retention rate, and their highest-ever graduation rate of 92.3% in 2022. He spoke to “educating the emerging generation” and the importance of AI integration into schools as well as focusing on strong fiscal stewardship this year. After sharp growth that resulted in 3 new schools within a single year, Hightower is guiding the district to rely less on borrowing and “flipping the debt” toward strong fiscal stewardship. He highlighted investment in capital improvements included school buses and classroom technology. Read coverage from the Cherokee Tribute here.
Martin followed with her update on the Cherokee Office of Economic Development (COED). In 2022, Cherokee County saw $467 million in new investment and the creation of 2,200 new jobs. COED released a new 5-year strategy focusing on talent development, investment of innovative businesses, and continuing to improve infrastructure and the overall “product” that is Cherokee. Within this focus, Martin outlined a few specifics the COED team is prioritizing, including small business grants, a trail system, mixed-used developments, and development of city’s downtown districts. All of these things, according to Martin, will create generational impact. “The only thing that grows is what you put your energy into,” she said, “we owe it to our community and to the next generation.”
Chairman Johnston concluded the afternoon with his State of the County address. He spoke to the first-class police and fire departments, school system, and regional medical center in the County. He addressed housing, stating that “we must keep managing our residential growth to maintain our quality of life here” and that the housing efforts in Cherokee have “challenging and conflicting goals.” He promised to lead a County-wide coalition to try to address some of these challenges and find solutions in 2023. In addition to housing, the County is also working on a 30-year Comprehensive Transportation Plan to address the coming growth. Chairman Johnston again stated the importance of managing that growth to be able to sustainably meet housing, infrastructure, and transportation needs in Cherokee. “Cherokee County has almost everything going for it,” Chairman Johnston said, urging for maintenance of the County’s “increasingly rare quality of life.” Read coverage from the Cherokee Tribune here.
Re-watch the full recording of the 2023 State of Cherokee below.