Kelly Gibbs, Mayor of Gruetli-Laager, is extremely busy. In addition to holding office, Kelly is a teacher and a volunteer firefighter.
Let’s start with some background. Are you from the mountain?
“I was raised in Gruetli-Laager and have spent my whole life here.”
Where did you go to school?
“I went to Swiss Elementary School for Kindergarten (teacher Drema Reed) and first grade (Mrs. Meeks). I went to the Cumberland Heights Seventh Day Adventist Church School in Cumberland Heights for second through eighth Grade. My second and third grade teachers were Mrs. Judy Devlin, and fourth through eighth grade, I had Mr. Larry Gatewood.
It is amazing that you remember your teachers. Did you go to Grundy County High School after eighth grade?
“Yes. I went to Grundy County High School from 1994 to 1998. My senior class moved from the old high school in October 1997 to the new high school. My class was the first to graduate from the new high school in May 1998. While in high school, I participated in the Future Farmers of America and Drafting clubs. I had Honor’s English I, II, and IV and focused on Social Studies classes taking everything available at the time.”
What did you do when you graduated?
“I went to work at Magnetec in McMinnville building electric motors. After a year and a half, I started taking classes at Motlow College. I also joined the Gruetli-Laager Fire Department around this same time.
“At Motlow College I graduated in the top one-percent of my class with an Associate’s Degree in Sociology. I transferred from Motlow to Middle Tennessee State University where I graduated with a Bachelor’s Degree in Political Science and with Minor in Secondary Education and History. I graduated with a 3.75 GPA.
“I attended Austin Peay State University where I received a Master’s of Arts in Military History and graduated with a 4.0 GPA”
“I also attended Lee University were I received my Education Specialist Degree in Classroom Teaching with an emphasis in History and graduated with a 4.0 GPA.”
And, after college?
“I went straight to work for Grundy County High School teaching history and government. I started in Aug. 2006. In 2010, I was hired by Chattanooga State Community College to teach history classes for them. I currently teach for Grundy County High School and Chattanooga State Community College.”
What inspired you to become a teacher?
“To be honest, I started out teaching because it was a way that I could pursue my interests in history and political science while still living close to home. However, over time, I have really enjoyed the friendships that I have made with the students and fellow teachers. The best feeling in the world is when I run into someone who remembers something that we did in class years ago and they say, “Mr. Gibbs, I just want you to know that I have never forgotten this project or that discussion or that you inspired me to do this or that with my life.” Those moments really let me know that I had a positive influence on at least one person’s life.
You recently ran for and won the office of Mayor of Gruetli-Laager. How did you make this decision and what other political offices have you held?
“I was Vice Mayor of Gruetli-Laager from 2004 to 2012. I was District 2 County Commissioner from 2010 to 2014 and then became Mayor of Gruetli-Laager in 2014.
“I was inspired to run for Mayor of Gruetli-Laager for several reasons. First, I saw things that I thought could be changed or switched up a little and I thought those things could help the city save money and run more efficiently. Also, I wanted to take advantage of any grant opportunities that we could qualify for. The second reason I ran for Mayor is that ever since I was little, my grandfather encouraged me to be interested and participate in politics. When I was elected Vice Mayor of Gruetli-Laager the first time, I have to admit, a big part of that decision to run was to somewhat honor him. However, I have always enjoyed listening to the issues that people have and trying to find solutions that are in the best interest of everyone.”
What needs do you see in Grundy County, specifically Gruetli-Laager?
“We need places for people to work and we need places for our young people to spend time that are both well run and beneficial to them. I would like to see new industry come into the county. However, I don’t want to see so much industrialization that we lose our “small town America” atmosphere. I would like to see factories locate inside Grundy County and Gruetli-Laager that pay living wage jobs and that provide good insurance and benefits to our people. I would also like to the see the Miracle on the Mountain Play Outside Park a reality. As for Gruetli-Laager specifically, I would like to renovate and upgrade the ballpark and fix all of our city roads. I know that these goals are very large and will take lots of time and money. However, I think they can be accomplished and I am going to do everything possible to make these goals a reality.”
“I would like to see our community come together to create a top notch baseball program in Gruetli and I want to continue supporting the Gruetli-Laager Fire Department. I would like to see the development of at least one more factory in Gruetli-Laager, and I think that working with the county and state we can make this happen. I just became Mayor in August, however, since that time, I have helped with the acquisition and administration of two grants that when combined equal a little over $750,000. One of these grants will help people with home renovations. The other grant, working with Big Creek Utility District, will help improve the water system. This grant will not only help the City of Gruetli-Laager, it will help all areas that receive services from Big Creek Utility District.
You have a wonderful wife, Lisa.
“I married Lisa Rollins October 16, 2010. We picked that date because October 16 was my grandmother’s birthday. I met Lisa on July 3, 2004. I know it was July 3 because the fourth fell on a Sunday that year and the City of Gruetli-Laager held their parade, dance and celebration on July 3. I met her after at the Gruetli-Laager Walking Trail during the Fourth of July festivities. We started dating in August of 2004 and have been together ever since.”
What do you do when you have time off?
“I am an outdoor person. In my free time, I like to camp, hunt and enjoy the outdoors. I spend a lot of time playing with my two dogs. I also like to read and write when I have the time. I read a lot of nonfiction and history and political type books and enjoy writing about historical and political issues.
“I watch baseball and go to Atlanta every chance I get to watch the Braves. I also like to practice marksmanship and rifle shooting. I have a shooting range behind my house where I like to practice long-range rifle shooting.”
Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter?
“Facebook is the only social media that I have time to keep up with. Even then, I can go for an entire week without checking it.”
Kelly says he loves Grundy County and cannot imagine living anywhere else. He likes the small-town culture, the woods, and the lifestyle. But, most of all he loves the people that make up our county. “I really believe people living here are one of a kind!”