After 27 years of owning and operating his own garage and nearly two decades as an officer in the Olive Hill Chamber of Commerce, John Stegall is still going strong as a voice for civic progress.
A native and lifelong resident of Olive Hill, Stegall has seen his hometown undergo various changes throughout his 60 years.
One thing that hasn't changed for him, however, is the spirit of service that has compelled so many to give of their time and talents to improving the town.
“There have always been community-minded people around here trying to make things better,” Stegall said. “Sam and Gene Waggoner really got me started down that track when I worked for them at the Chevrolet dealership.”
“They're the reason I first got involved doing things in the community, like shooting off the fireworks,” he added.
While he still sees positive change as a worthy goal to strive for, Stegall admits that the town has seen its share of setbacks. Specifically, he laments that the employment opportunities in Olive Hill aren't what they used to be.
“Jobs are the biggest thing we've lost. The brickyard, the sewing factory, a lot of major business have left our town,” he said.
With the loss of industry, Stegall believes that the town should accept that it's evolved into something different than it used to be – a step he feels is key in making important decisions as the town looks to move ahead.
“We're a retirement-type community now. We need to gear up for the kinds of facilities, eye doctors and things like that, that older, retired people need. I don't think we're ever going to get any kind of major industry back in here,” Stegall added.
Though big business has left town and he believes the identity of the town has evolved, Stegall doesn't see a bleak future for Olive Hill.
When asked about his vision for the future, he expressed strong optimism for projects like Trail Town, which he believes hold the key to the city's long-term economic vitality.
“I think we can have a lot of appeal as a tourism destination and get some 'mom and pop' type businesses in here,” Stegall add. “We're really geared up well for something like that to happen.”
According to Stegall, the largest obstacle to overcome won't be finances or manpower, but a negative mindset toward change.
“I don't like negative people. If you have an idea to help improve things, I'll do anything I can to help make it happen,” he said. “I'm just not the type of person who sits sit around and tear everything down.”
Joe Lewis can be reached at email@example.com or by telephone at 286-4201.