Include The Look
Of The Downtown,
Beautiful Area, TC
BY SARAH GREGORY
Greeneville has the honor of being ranked in the top 20 of a list of America's best small cities in the opinion of a man who says he has spent some 50 years traveling the country to research the subject.
Charles Nathan Anderson, of Winter Haven, Fla., a genial, soft-spoken retired educator in his early 70s, has not published a book on "the best small cities," as some other researchers have done in past years.
Instead, he explains, he has focused on compiling a list that he calls "In Search Of Eden: America's Best Small Cities," designed to be of assistance to those who are looking for a desirable small city in which to make their home, or perhaps their retirement home.
His 2013 list ranks Greeneville 19th among what his research leads him to believe are the nation's best towns with populations under 35,000 residents. The list currently includes a total of 60 towns, according to material provided to The Greeneville Sun by Anderson.
One other East Tennessee town, Athens, located in McMinn County, was also included on Anderson's list, ranked at #39. Collierville, Tenn., outside Memphis, is ranked #59.
His choice for the #1 Best Small City in America: Gettysburg, Pa. Others in his top five are Montrose, Colo., Belmont, N.C., Concord, N.H., and Summerville, S.C.
The list includes not only the numerical rankings but some comments about each community mentioned.
In a letter to the Sun, he states warmly about this community, "Greeneville is a really good place [for someone] to call home."
ALSO CITED BY CRAMPTON
This is not the first time that Greeneville has been paid the compliment of being included on a list of "the best" small towns in the nation.
The first mention of that type came in 1993, when widely-known author Norman Crampton published his book, The 100 Best Small Towns in America.
Crampton ranked Greeneville #66 on his list.
In 1995, Crampton came out with a new edition of his book. This time, Greeneville had risen to #39, and to #7 among the 32 Southern towns that Crampton listed.
Crossville, ranked 66th in the second edition, was the only other Tennessee town on the list.
Crampton defined small towns as communities with between 5,000 and 15,000 in population that have stand-alone economies that make good because of their own initiative.
His books received considerable publicity in the mid-1990s, and it is not impossible that some current residents, or businesses, first learned of the town through Crampton's research.
No ranking of "overall best small towns" has come to local attention since then, although there are many "best of" books on the market focusing on particular characteristics of a community.
VARIOUS FACTORS CONSIDERED
Anderson explains that the "great small cities" included on his list, which has not been published as a book, was determined based on several factors.
He points to attractive downtown areas, a town's setting -- such as what he terms Greene County's "lovely countryside" -- and a pleasant 12-month climate as his top three criteria.
In explanatory material, he writes, "No matter the fancy malls and beautiful homes, a community is no better than is downtown area. The main business district should be attractive and thriving."
Concerning "the setting," he writes, "Attractive outdoor recreation areas should be within easy reach, and the immediate town setting should be aesthetically pleasing."
Other factors he considered include identity and population patterns, which take into account a town's own unique character and a spacious greenbelt that prevents it from growing outward in a way that it becomes a suburb of another, larger city.
Anderson also states that he considered a town's accessibility to other cities by Interstate highway, the quality and availability of medical care, good school systems, cost of living, and employment.
Entertainment opportunities, the state where a town is located, and personal safety were also among determining criteria in his rankings.
BELIEVES HIS LIST 'BEST'
It is impossible to "definitely" name and rank the country's best cities, Anderson said, but, he added, the towns on his list make an excellent starting point for "seekers" to begin their own search for their own personal "Eden."
Anderson is complimentary of Crampton, and particularly o f Norman Ford, a respected earlier researcher and writer.
But he believes, he says, that his educational background -- which includes a degree in geography from an unnamed "Big Ten university" -- and "countless hours of investigation" make his list of the best small towns what he considers "the best ever compiled."
In his recent letter to the Sun, Anderson spoke admiringly of the countryside surrounding Greeneville and the "handsome" downtown area.
He also complimented Tusculum College, calling it a "terrific" school and adding that it is home to his favorite small college football stadium.
"The classic design has a very 'Ivy League feel,'" he noted.
Greeneville Mayor W.T. Daniels said he is "tickled to death" that the Town was recognized on Anderson's list.
"It's something to be proud of," he said.
Greeneville was given the highest ranking of any Tennessee town on the list, something which "in itself is quite a statement," Daniels said.
He added that "people in Greeneville should certainly be proud to be recognized as one of the top cities in the state and in the country."
Daniels also noted that the list is "an opportunity to showcase our community.
"But it didn't just happen. There's been a community effort that's been going on for a long time," he said, referring to such organizations as the Greene County Partnership, Main Street: Greeneville, and, most recently, the Town of Greeneville's official effort, Vision 20/20.
The Vision 20/20 project is aimed at "realizing" Greeneville's full potential by the year 2020 by setting goals, strategies, and markers of success in five different areas, which are:
* downtown revitalization;
* organizational effectiveness as it relates to the functions of Town administration;
* promoting a "healthy" Greeneville;
* having prepared infrastructure; and,
* being at the forefront of education.
'IT'S A SELLING POINT'
Greene County Partnership President Tom Ferguson commented in an interview that, although Anderson is not the first author to rank Greeneville in a top 100 of best small towns, he is the most recent to do so.
"It's nice to have more recent recognition to validate what, I think, most of us in Greeneville already know," Ferguson said.
He added that lists such as Anderson's and others in previous years are valuable marketing tools when trying to recruit new businesses.
"That's marketing we don't have to spend any money on," he said.
"It becomes a selling point to attract new people here. It's a selling point when you're trying to recruit new companies."
OTHER TOWNS LISTED
The top 20 "great small cities" in the U.S., according to the January 2013 revision of Anderson's list, including his parenthetical notes, are, in order:
Gettysburg, Pa.; Montrose, Colo.; Belmont, N.C. (focus includes Mount Holly); Concord, N.H.; Summerville, S.C.; Cedar City, Utah; Christiansburg, Va. (focus includes VPI and Radford); Seward, Neb. (area features Lincoln);
Cody, Wyo.; Georgetown, Ky. (focus includes the University of Kentucky and Lexington); Windsor, Colo. (focus includes Fort Collins); Watkinsville,Ga. (focus includes Athens and the University of Georgia); Bentonville, Ark. (area alternate Fayetteville);
Clemson, S.C. (plus upper Anderson County); Murray, Ky.; Beaufort, N.C. (focus includes Morehead City); Oxford, Miss.; Athens, Ohio; Greeneville, Tenn. (focus alternate Johnson City); and Paola, Kan.
Sun Editor John M. Jones Jr. also contributed to this article.