The Mayor of Gatlinburg has vowed that his town will rebuild following the November 2016 wildfires that have decimated the town. In a press conference that was broadcast nationally, Mayor Mike Werner referred to his town as a “very strong, very resellient community.” Werner also made pointed references to the town’s tourism saying that Gatlinburg would remain the “premier resort community” in the area. He had earlier stated, according to CNN, “It’s a devastating time for us, and for Gatlinburg. We’re strong and we’re resilient…we’re going to make it.”
Here’s what you need to know about the Mayor of Gatlinburg:
1. Werner Has Lost His Home & Business in the Fire
Werner said in a press conference that his home and business have been destroyed in the wildfires. Since 1985, Werner and his wife, Cindy Werner, have run the Highlands condos in Gatlinburg. They say on their official website, “Running The Highlands has been a dream because it allows us to share the best of our hometown with visitors from all over the world.”
He has also worked as a real estate agent in the town, while Cindy Werner is referred to as a “property management expert” on their website. The bio also says that “Coincidentally, Cindy’s father helped build the Gatlinburg Bypass: the main road leading to our condos.” The website also says that the condos underwent renovations in 2016.
2. Werner Was Elected Mayor of Gatlinburg in June 2015
According to the Sevier News Messenger, Werner was unanimously elected mayor of the town on June 2, 2015. His vice mayor Mark McCown. He is also an elected member of the board of directors of the Tennessee Municipal League. As part of that role, Werner helps the league promote municipal omnipotence as opposed to state governance. Werner is now in his eighth term as mayor of the town having previously served as a city council member for 18 years.
In addition to his political duties, Werner is known as the announcer for Gatlinburg-Pittman High School football games. On his LinkedIn page, Werner says that he is the president of Werner Enterprises.
3. His Daughter Is a Popular Christian Contemporary Singer in Tennessee
Werner’s daughter, Martha Christian, is a popular Christian contemporary singer in Tennessee. A bio on her says that she grew up in Illinois surrounded by Christian music. She is married to Joel Christian, her high school sweetheart. The couple is in charge of the music at Evergreen Presbyterian Church and has four children together.
In 2011, Martha won a talent show at the local Hard Rock Cafe and soon after released her first album, “Dare You To Trust Me.” She describes her music as “perhaps too honest for churches yet too Christian for bar rooms.”
During one of his media appearances in the wake of the 2011 fires, Werner mentioned that he has seven children.
4. Werner Attracted Controversy in 2016 When He Began Forcing Whiskey Distilleries to Charge for Tastings
In April 2016, Werner attracted controversy when he announced the passing of a law forcing the local Ole Smokey Distilleries to charge for tastings. The Knoxville News Sentinel quoted a statement from the distillery as saying, “The mayor of Gatlinburg, Mike Werner, informed the public that the reason behind this change is to monitor public disorderly conduct.”
The motivation behind the law was to maintain the area’s reputation as a family friendly destination.
In addition, in August 2016, Werner called on congress to help to pay for the repairs needed at Great Smoky Mountains National Park, reported the Knoxville News Sentinel.
The newspaper quoted him as saying, “We need to make sure we care for what I call America’s heirloom. It takes money to maintain these resources…Something has got to be done or people won’t be able to continue to enjoy this beautiful park.” Werner often leads hikes through the park and has called it a “national treasure.”
5. The Superintendent of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park Has Called the Fires a ‘Perfect Storm’
The superintendent of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Cassius Cash, told WTAE that the fires have been “like a perfect storm.” Cash mentioned the heavy winds that helped to scatter the embers in the beginnings of the blaze. He later said that he believed the fire was “likely to be human-caused.”