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Johnson City (Tenn.)


Located in Washington County, Tennessee, Johnson City is one of three major industrial-agricultural communities of eastern Tennessee, whose population has grown to 49,500 since its first incorporation during the mid-nineteenth century. The town was originally named Johnson's Depot after the community's postmaster and entrepreneur, Henry Johnson (1809-1874), who was responsible for the building of the town's first depot beside the East Tennessee and Virginia Railroad in the mid-1850s. In 1869 the community's leaders decided the town needed a "more adequate system of government" and requested from the state's General Assembly a charter to incorporate with a "mayor, four aldermen, and a magistrate under the name of Johnson City." Their petition was granted that same year, but the charter was revoked by the General Assembly in 1879 because the city was unable to maintain continued fiscal growth as was outlined by the state's incorporation act. Consequently, Johnson City reverted back to the status of a "taxing district" of Washington County.

In 1885 the town of Johnson City was successful in their efforts for a second incorporation: an act that provided for the popular election of a mayor, five aldermen, one town constable, and one county magistrate. Two years later, the town charter was amended to provide for the election of seven aldermen, a city attorney, appointment of a marshall and city policemen, the construction of new streets; but this amended charter was not approved by the state legislature until 1889. With few modifications, this charter and the governmental powers of the Johnson City leaders remained unchanged for the next two decades.

The first major changes in the government of Johnson City were proposed by the state legislature in 1919. The state proposed the creation of a Board of Commissioners, which would exercise all executive, administrative, legislative, and judicial powers that formerly had been held by the Board of Mayor and Aldermen. This proposal also specified that the executive and administrative powers were to be equally distributed among three city departments: public affairs; accounts and finance; and streets, public improvements, and public property. In addition to these precincts, the legislature also gave the board the authority to require the duties of the city judge to be enforced by the recorder or any other designated city official. On May 6, 1919 the residents of Johnson City approved the proposed charter amendment by a vote of 244 to 159 and six weeks later--June 18, 1919--the voters returned to the polls to elect the first Board of Commissioners for Johnson City.

The adoption of a new city charter in 1939 constituted the second major change in Johnson City's government. The new charter provided for the popular election of five commissioners who would then elect one of their peers to serve as the city's mayor. In addition to this provision, the charter also provided for either the appointment or election of a city manager who would serve as the administrative head of the municipal government under the supervision of the board of commissioners. The charter set the precedent for establishing city and juvenile courts, a seven-member board of education, and a civil service commission for the regulation and control of the police and fire departments. Six city departments were also created by the new charter: finance, public safety, public works, public welfare, education, and public utilities.

Found in 1 Collection or Record:

City of Johnson City Records

 Collection — Multiple Containers
Identifier: AppMs-300
Arrangement The records are organized into five series: Series 1, Recorder's and City Judge's Dockets; Series 2, Minutes of the Board of Mayor and Aldermen and the Board of Commissioners; Series 3, Ordinance Books; Series 4, Tax Books and Assessor's Rolls; and Series 5, Miscellaneous Records. The three phonograph discs have been placed at the end of the last series.The first addendum falls into three of the previously designated series of the original acquisition and two new series: Series 3,...