Stephanie Welch’s official launch to her campaign for the First District seat on City Council drew a healthy crowd of high-profile friends, supportive neighbors and far-flying family.
Welch, vice president of operations for the Great Schools Partnership, held her event in the carriage-house area of the Candoro Marble building in Vestal recently and was blessed with perfect spring weather.
Attendees snacked on hors d’oeuvres from Sweet P’s Barbecue & Soul House and Holly’s Eventful Dining and thumbprint cookies from Village Bakery, and they quenched their thirst with cold-brewed coffee from Three Bears Coffee and virgin spritzers made with Welch’s grape juice.
Welch cleared up a mystery, explaining that her campaign color theme – purple – was inspired by Welch’s grape juice.
Term-limited First District City Council member Nick Pavlis enthusiastically introduced Welch before her speech, and Welch returned the compliments warmly. But she saved her greatest thanks for her father, Gordon Welch, who flew 1,000 miles from his home in New Hampshire in hopes of surprising her at the event (she found out he was in town earlier in the day).
She said that while both her father and mother had made her the person she is today, especially her work ethic, she had learned about service from her father.
“There isn’t anyone I know in my life who knows more about service than my father,” she said. “He served in Vietnam. He served in Desert Storm. He’s a longtime veteran and finished a long career in the New Hampshire Army National Guard. He then went on … to work at the New Hampshire Veterans Cemetery and served our veteran families in a very respectful manner.”
She pointed out that even though he is “retired,” he still serves with the volunteer fire department.
“He has taught me about service, and it lives inside of me.”
Welch said she brought that service gene with her to Knoxville 22 years ago when she started graduate school at the University of Tennessee.
“Within five years of being in Knoxville – I was still in my 20s – I’d served as the president of two boards. I had commissioned as an officer in the United States Army. I had organized the first Walk to School Day in Knoxville, which still lives today.”
Welch is still in the Army Reserve, and she serves on the boards of the YMCA, Ijams Nature Center and Leadership Knoxville. This winter she was appointed to the Recode Knoxville advisory committee.
“These types of experiences and the relationships that you’re able to form and the systems that you’re able to understand through those experiences have really positioned me well to serve the First District and the city of Knoxville in the very best way that I can, plus I’ve got the work ethic on top of it,” she said.
Welch said she was excited about the “positive forward momentum in Knoxville” but also wants to preserve the “personality and character” of the city. She wants to be mindful of historic preservation while also supporting “quality growth and redevelopment.”
Welch said she’s worked to build “strong and healthy neighborhoods” since her first day in Knoxville. The Island Home Park resident said, “It’s important that we support neighborhoods that are diverse, that are welcoming, that are strong and actively engaged” and to make sure the city departments that help make that possible “have the resources they need to be able to be effective at serving our strong, healthy neighborhoods.”
Welch’s next event will be an ice-cream social at 4 p.m. Saturday, June 24, hosted by the Roundup Restaurant, 3643 Sevierville Pike.