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Leading Mt. Juliet

The improbable stories of how Mt. Juliet’s most influential men reached their ranks

City Manager Kenny Martin, Police Chief James Hambrick, Chamber of Commerce President Mark Hinesly, and Parks and Recreation Director Rocky Lee all share a love for Mt. Juliet that is evident in their work. Each of them has left an imprint on what has become of the most desired cities to live in in one of the most desired states. Servant leadership is something they all model within their departments, which makes a difference in the identity of the City, as you will find out.   

The title of Police Chief tells only a snippet of who James Hambrick really is. Christian. Minister. Veteran. Husband. Father. Grandfather. Musician. He takes great pride in serving all of those roles. That pride is what landed him a career in law enforcement. Hambrick often tells the story of working nights at the Mapco in Mt. Juliet, when now City Manager Kenny Martin, a former Police Chief of Mt. Juliet, “saw something” in Hambrick by the way he handled the store and his conversations with customers. Hambrick told Mt. Juliet Police during his interview that he was coming for a career, as he worked his way from dispatch to reserve office to then patrol officer in 1996. All stepping stones that led him to become Police Chief in 2012. A Co-Pastor at Cloyd's Cumberland Presbyterian Church, Hambrick wants you to know he’s been ministering much longer than policing. Perhaps it's why he’s best known for often telling his officers and any group he’s speaking to, “I love you, and there’s nothing you can do about it.” “That’s because of the Christ in me,” he says. You can see it in his on display in his daily interactions, by the success of the Mt. Juliet Police Department. You can hear it in his eight-song album titled “Somebody’s Gotta Tell Them,” written off his experiences in law enforcement.

Kenny Martin has worn many hats within the governing walls of the City of Mt. Juliet, from patrol officer to Police Chief, to Economic Development Director and now City Manager since 2011. He would tell you simply his job for all four has been the same – to serve the citizens within Mt. Juliet. Martin is one of two City positions, City Manager and City Judge, that is appointed. His primary job is to run the City's day-to-day operations but also carry out the vision of the four elected commissioners and the Mayor. His 11 and ½ years serving as City Manager is enough evidence to show his success, as it’s rare to find someone in that role to serve that long. Martin is most prideful of the cleanliness of Mt. Juliet, picking up trash daily on his four-mile-long walks to Lebanon Road and back from City Hall every day and starting a City Beautiful department, who’s tasked with picking up litter and improving the city’s aesthetics any way possible. It’s the broken window theory that Martin credits as why parents choose to move to Mt. Juliet, why new businesses invest, and why crime isn’t an issue locally. “Make Mt. Juliet better today than it was yesterday and better tomorrow than it is today,” Martin often says. No one is a better example of that than Martin himself over the last 33 years working for the City of Mt. Juliet. 

Rocky Lee is just one of the guys. He acts, dresses, talks, and works just like the rest of his team, which is why he’s had their utmost respect for the last 10+ years as the longest-tenured Parks Director in the City of Mt. Juliet’s history. “My dad was like that, and he taught me that don’t ask someone else to do something you wouldn’t do.” Whether it’s shoveling rocks, landscaping, etc., don’t be surprised to see Rocky sporting a high-visibility orange shirt and getting in the trenches with his crew. His construction, house painting, welding, and maintenance background still comes in handy. That blue-collar mentality helped him get hired in the City Parks Department in 2000, where Rocky admits he was the “lowest man on the totem pole.” But as opportunity would have it, Rocky, through consistent work and a positive attitude, was named Parks Director in 2013. The renovation of Planet Playground, the addition of Ava’s Splash Pad, and the continuous improvement to the Parks infrastructure are what he’s most proud of. Rocky’s most known for his work between the lines coaching ball teams for 30 years. If you said he was the most recognizable face in the city, it would be hard to argue against it. His wife, Rene, of 43 years, jokes that the two can never go out without him talking to a handful of people he sees. Again, he’s just one of the guys. 

Mark Hinesly remembers the day he had a pickup truck, measuring wheel, a fertilizer spreader, and not a single customer for his chemical lawn care business. He had mortgaged everything to go into business for himself. He recalls the sheer terror and excitement of owning a business yet being responsible for everything, which is why he can relate to every new member joining the Mt. Juliet Chamber of Commerce, located in the middle of downtown Mt. Juliet for the past six years. He loves the enthusiasm, passion, and risk-taking that comes with being a business owner. Those characteristics make Hinesly, President of the Chamber, appreciate the Chamber of Commerce now as much as he did 25+ years ago when he was just a member. By now, Hinsely understands his role precisely. “(We’re) not in the real estate business, not in the marketing business; we are here to create an environment that makes it a place where people want to do business.” Look no further than the long list of new businesses coming to Mt. Juliet despite the tough economic structure stemming from the 2020 Covid shutdown. While Hinesly’s made a significant impact over three decades, he points out the foundation was laid well before him. “The people in Mt. Juliet today, we are drinking out of the well that somebody dug a long time ago.”

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