published Sunday, January 29th, 2012

Rhea County economic director John Payne eyes restructuring

Kimberly McMillian/Correspondent
  • photo
    John Payne, the Rhea Economic and Tourism Council's new Executive Director.
    Staff Photo by Kimberly McMillian/Chattanooga Times Free Press

DAYTON, Tenn. -- Rhea County's economic Three-Star program might undergo restructuring once the state announces changes next month, said John Payne, executive director of the Rhea Economic and Tourism Council.

Payne said the state plans a "major revamp" of the Three-Star program that will make it simpler. The program teaches best practices for communities to prepare for economic growth, according to

In December, Payne began as the new economic director, taking over for Raymond Walker.

Payne led his first RETC meeting last week and said "limited resources" had made it difficult for the communities to help fund past participation and its continuation.

He further challenged the group to "determine what we want to do" if the state restructures the Three-Star program and how much money RETC would allocate.

Also at the meeting, Graysville Mayor Ted Doss announced that a state grant had funded the purchase of five motorcycle safety signs at Graysville's city limits. Motorcycle safety touches nearly every family, Doss said.

Jerry Levengood, director of the Rhea County Schools system, said recent heavy rains wouldn't delay the new high school's construction because officials had taken into consideration bad weather during the winter months.

"We should be on track by August 2013," Levengood said.

He praised the county's teachers and the growth in the county graduation rate from 69 percent over a 10-year period.

The county's graduation rate reached 89.3 percent this year, Levengood said, which surpassed its goal of 85 percent. Tennessee challenges schools to reach a graduation rate of 90 percent.

Kimberly McMillian is based in Rhea County. Contact her at

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