Our great City got an early Christmas present back in August when Money.com announced that Clarksville had been selected the Best Place to Live in America.
What a significant honor! Money.com is a respected business publication and their Best Place to Live designation is among the oldest and most prestigious of its kind in the “place marketing” and “site selection” pantheon.
Some of the other recent Best Place designees -- Frisco, Texas, in 2018, and Carmel, Ind., in 2017, both cities with great success stories -- show that this is a mark of distinction.
Here’s part of what the Best Place to Live report said about us: “Clarksville’s affordability is hard to beat, yet it’s not the only thing that makes the city special. There's a unique charm to the place; it feels like the quintessential small American town. Not only are there small, locally-owned businesses, but public places where residents can go to relax, like the new park at Downtown Commons or the RiverWalk, whose paved path provides a beautiful view of the Cumberland River at sunset.”
Yes, we have great places. But I think it’s the wonderful people who live here that truly sets Clarksville apart. Recently, the First Lady and I spent a delightful and busy holiday-season Saturday visiting places in our city. We attended a basketball tournament, a dance recital, and the annual BWC Christmas Party. This gave us an opportunity to bear witness to the extraordinary generosity of the Bikers Who Care, and all our local social-service community. The BWC, it must be said, gave more than $100,000 to local non-profits at the party!
But the most poignant part of the day for us was visiting the home of Don and Paula Gilliland, a couple who have called our city home for more than 26 years.
Paula is an avid collector of butterflies. Their home, near a local school, is a museum of art and artifacts that tell their life’s story. Don served our nation proudly in the Armed Forces, and is enjoying retirement. But there is more to their story.
Don has, for many years, positioned himself and a spare chair at the end of his driveway each morning to share an encouraging word, a prayer, and always the Good News of the Gospel. He told us about the students, bus drivers, and others who often stop and just talk or ask for him to pray for them.
Yes, I think we are the Best Place to Live in America. Our growth, amenities and strong economy are factors, for sure. But it’s the character and caring of people like the Bikers Who Care and Don and Paula Gilliland that make our community No. 1 and the envy of the state and nation.
I hope you will look toward 2020 and find your opportunity to “sit at the end of your driveway” and offer an encouraging word to those you meet.
Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!
Mayor of Clarksville