By Judge Brian Addington, Gray (formerly of Kingsport)
It was a new experience when I walked in the door at 1908 Bowater Drive in Kingsport, Tennessee in late 2004 for the first time. What used to be a Greyhound bus station, unemployment office, car parts store and church now served as the Bureau’s Northeast Tennessee location.
Let me just say, the building needed work, but the employees were A+. Tina Henley, Tommy Hulse, Gary Venable, Pete Collins, Kinney McKinney, Alice Westmoreland and Jamie Mullins ran a customer-friendly shop. That did not change as employees left and new ones arrived, including Elizabeth Van Delinder, Jaime Weatherly, Traci Haynes, Lisa Armstrong and Cindy Curd.
Although the employees changed, the office did not. It kept getting longer in the tooth, and a change was needed. This was brought to a head when the Legislature created the Court of Workers’ Compensation Claims in 2014. What had served as a mediation room and sometimes lunchroom became the courtroom. It was poorly lit, the space was cramped, and the use of the courtroom caused issues with mediation space.
In 2016, we learned that the Bureau decided to build us a new home. All of the Bureau’s employees and TOSHA’s employees, with whom we shared the building, had input on what we needed in a new building. After some false starts, we were able to move into the new office on March 1.
Our new building is grand. It contains more mediation rooms, and advanced lighting and ventilation. It is in a better location as far as negotiating one’s way to the office and is more centrally located. We have a “real” courtroom now to conduct trials, hearings and settlement conferences. We also actually have a breakroom/kitchen now.
As great as the new building is, it is the staff that makes it truly special. Our office has always tried to be friendly and accommodating, and it is our goal to continue to provide first-rate customer service. There will be some changes from the old office procedure, but we hope to make the place inviting to all.
Sure, we left our old Kingsport building, and I won’t miss the building itself (I caught a snake in there one time). But I will forever remember the people I met there: the ones that built the office, the ones that have passed on, the customers we helped and the friends we made.