As the November elections draw near, Thompson's Station residents will have two seats to fill in the town's Board of Mayor and Aldermen — political newcomer Andrew Zinn is one of four candidates vying for one of those seats.
Having graduated from the University of Delaware with a degree in marketing, Zinn moved to Tennessee in 2013 with his wife, Kate.
Both Zinn and his wife work together running an independent financial practice, and when not counseling businesses and families on their economic goals, Zinn and his wife are busy raising their two twin boys.
What motivated you to run for office?
I want to contribute to my community, and this is the most fitting avenue I saw for that. I love Thompson’s Station from the people to the landscape, and it has given my growing family so much over the years that it only feels right to give back. As the saying goes, 'if not you, then who? If not now, then when?'
What qualities/experience do you possess that you feel would make you a good town leader?
I have over a decade of experience in the financial industry, so I bring a sharpened skill set when it comes to understanding the broader fiscal picture and how that relates to long-term goals.
It’s one thing to say that we want to do X, Y, and Z by this date, but it’s a whole different thing to ensure that the plan has definitive and time sensitive goals and that we’re even set up for success from a financial perspective. I listen to folks’ challenges and concerns every day, and there are no better qualities for an alderman than being an active listener and a critical thinker.
As a husband and father of twin boys, I also think I bring a pretty good temperament of calm and patience to the board. We’ve had some very distinct and even abrasive personalities there in the past, but I believe in working together despite our differences.
At the end of the day, we all want the same thing: the best Thompson’s Station for our residents of today and our residents of tomorrow. We may just differ on how we do that and what that looks like sometimes.
Thompson's Station is a unique municipality in that it has maintained its rural character. How important is this to you, and do you plan on pushing for this to remain?
As far as my priorities for development, I think we need sound and aesthetically pleasing commercial development. Folks want to keep property taxes down, and I’m adamantly a fiscal conservative, so we’ve got to make up the revenue elsewhere to support services, and that should come from sales tax revenue. It’s what most fiscally strong communities can rely upon and it aligns with the financial vision and model our state has established for growth and development.
I want more Mayberry, and less Spring Hill, however, the zoning for many key developable areas has already been decided. Anything zoned for Community Commercial, which includes a good chunk along 31 and along Lewisburg, can be just about anything in terms of commercial development.
I don’t think folks understand that point clearly enough… if you look at the LDO and then you look at the zoning map for the town, you’ll see that of the items listed in the LDO as 'Permitted by Right' for Community Commercial are non-banking financial services. [This] would mean check cashing for payday loan businesses to my understanding, as well as large footprint retail, which means retail with over 50,000 square feet, which to me, translates to big box stores.
Right now, the only thing truly blocking that development is that we don’t have enough taps for new businesses, even though we need the sales tax revenue. But once that bottleneck gets relieved from the town’s new wastewater system, we’re in for an interesting few years after.
As far as how we go about mitigating some of that, I think that relies on us going out and finding the development we want before the development we don’t want finds us first.
Are there any resolutions you have in mind that you may propose if elected?
Our biggest challenge is what’s just around the corner, metaphorically speaking.
There are things we absolutely know that are coming at us. Developments at Littlebury, Avenue Downs, Whistle Stop, etc. We know we’re going to have a new wastewater system. But there are many more things that are around the corner that we can’t see.
We don’t know what development on 31 is going to look like once we have more taps available. Sure, maybe that’s a problem for five years from now, but that mindset is what Spring Hill is still digging out of from years ago.
Think of what this town looked like just six or seven years ago, right? Ask the rural landowner 10 to 15 years ago what they thought would be sitting on Clayton Arnold.
There are plenty of things that are just around the corner from us and that’s why I think that having a strategic plan for the town is so critical.
We have a lot of things working in our favor, but we’re missing a sense of synergy, direction, and unified action. We have outstanding volunteers serving on our boards and commissions, we have outstanding town staff, and we have outstanding folks in our community with invaluable wisdom, knowledge, and talent. We need to harness all three of these critical pieces
A strategic plan is something that helps guide the town staff’s work, it can help focus BOMA’s attention, and it can help inform the next several years as we get closer to that corner.
That strategic plan is helpful for economic development discussions, conversations with community stakeholders, and most importantly, it serves as an excellent report card for progress the town is making and whether the elected representatives of this town are doing their job or not.
We also have major infrastructure improvements that need to be tackled in the next several years and we don’t have enough cash reserves to tackle them. That’s just a fact of the numbers as of today.
Two years from now, the situation may be entirely different, but you have to make decisions today based on the facts today. I would like to see our town budget broken down in more detail, with line items to increase transparency for our residents.
I think we also need to start creating some sort of spending model that helps put some brakes on the expense train so we don’t gamble what we have today on the hope that it never rains tomorrow.
What is something you feel the town of Thompson's Station could improve on? (offering more amenities, lowering taxes, etc.)
I don’t think it’s intentional, but the town doesn’t do a very good job of actually talking to residents and communicating ideas, plans, or even agenda items clearly. The town also doesn’t do a stellar job, in my opinion, of celebrating its successes or selling those outcomes to residents.
There’s an old saying that if you don’t toot your own horn, someone is going to spit in it. Well, if you don’t communicate clearly then of course folks are going to draw their own conclusions, whether they’re right or wrong.
So whether it’s purchasing a new wastewater system, hiring an assistant to the town administrator, or launching a new event at the parks, the town has got to do a better job of communicating these things clearly, early, and building support and consensus.
Too often, it seems the attitude is that it’s up to the resident to do all the heavy lifting to find information and that it’s there somewhere, they just have to get it themselves. That’s not service at all. Certainly, the town can’t hold someone’s hand, but if you want folks to support what you’re doing, they have to know what you’re doing, and that means you have to help them get there.