“This is proof that citizen involvement matters; elected officials do listen; and we all can work together,” Knox County Mayor Tim Burchett told community members present for the presentation of the new Carter Elementary School earlier this week.

While the fight for a new elementary school began decades ago, I covered the “great Carter debate” extensively throughout its funding process…to say that it was contentious would be a grotesque understatement. There were moments in which it looked as if the project would never become a reality. It got ugly at times. Because of that, a sense of accomplishment and camaraderie hovered over those present at the check presentation ceremony…the battle had been won…the new Carter Elementary School was finally complete.

The event featured all the pomp and circumstance it was due. While the appropriate parties were thanked and the key players were acknowledged, the real victor on Monday morning was the Carter Community.

(Knox County Commissioner Dave Wright and I in the gymnasium of the new Carter Elementary School.)

I often cover local politics…so let me say this very plainly- the view isn’t always pretty from the cheap seats. In fact, its frequently disheartening and sometimes downright appalling. Covering events like this one, however, remind me that while our process doesn’t always work…it CAN work.

Mayor Burchett made the most poignant remark of the day when he told those present: “citizen involvement matters.” It does matter. It matters much more than people think.

(Knoxville City Councilman Nick Della Volpe and I at the South Waterfront announcement on Tuesday…look for that column next week.)

In an emailed statement, City Councilman Nick Dellavolpe remarked:      “Congratulations to the Carter Community for fighting the good fight and never giving up.”

The community fought, the community won. And to anyone who would for one moment suggest it wasn’t a worthy cause, I’d encourage you to spend some time with the 500 elementary school students and their teachers who will call the new school home. Their excitement and gratitude is almost tangible…

There are multiple lessons to be learned from the Carter Elementary School project. However one in particular rings clear: You have the power to enact change in your community. Be consistent. Be persistent. Fight like a hornet.

Contact information for Knox County commissioners can be found here, while City Council members can be found here.