Written & Photographed By Chris Hari
Ann Scott Davis is a remarkable woman. At a time in her life when she expected to be watercolor painting and gardening, Ann tirelessly works two jobs and is making a lasting difference for people in our community. I wondered, “What groundwork inspired Ann to be so motivated and to give so much of her time and talents?”
Ann’s response to my inquiry was immediate. “It was the way I was raised. Both of my parents set great examples of how to treat people, but my mother in particular spent a lifetime of helping those less fortunate.” Ann’s parents are the late Charles “Shy” Scott, a World War II veteran who piloted B17 bombers, and Lola Scott, a retired schoolteacher, who was awarded the statewide E. Harper Johnson Retired Teacher of the Year award from the Education Association of Tennessee. Lola, now 99, taught high school equivalency classes until her vision began to fail when she was 89. Ann’s daughter continues the tradition of giving back to make the world a better place. “I am very grateful that my daughter Whitney, who lives in Nashville, has taken up the practice of giving back to her community through work with the homeless and those affected with mental illness and substance abuse.”
Ann’s career didn’t exactly turn out as she had planned when she was a child. “I was horse crazy and wanted to be a jockey. When it became apparent that I was way too tall, I decided that I wanted to marry a jockey! As I became older and realized I needed a sensible course for my life, I decided to take some business and computer courses at Tennessee Wesleyan College.” While employed in the business world, Ann spent her spare time volunteering at the Athens Area Council for the Arts and at McMinn County Living Heritage Museum. In 1987, she became the first full-time executive director of the museum. During her tenure, the museum outgrew its first location in the Old College building on the TWC campus and moved to the old McMinn County High School facility on Madison Avenue. In 2007, after twenty years, Ann retired to care for her terminally ill husband, Stan.
How then, did politics enter the picture? “I always had an interest in politics. My father was on the City Council. My uncle was Mayor of Athens and another uncle was a judge. One of the last things Stan told me was that I needed to run for the City Council.” As a recent widow, Ann traveled some, started back into watercolor painting, and continued teaching Sunday School (for almost 30 years at First Baptist Church), but something was missing. “I really wasn’t giving much to my community. My favorite saying is, ‘Volunteering is the ultimate exercise in democracy because each time you volunteer you are voting for the kind of community in which you wish to live.’ I knew I had to do more.”
In 2008, Ann made a successful bid for a seat on the City Council. Following her second term in the City Council, Ann’s hard work and dedication was recognized by being named Mayor of Athens, a position she currently holds.
Ann’s ability to coordinate an initiative and succeed in its implementation is due in great part to her strategy. “I approach things project by project. I need a goal in front of me all the time.” One major accomplishment has been the effort to help develop a skilled workforce to meet the needs of area industries. She worked with Stewart Smith at Tennessee Technology Center and other volunteers to develop seven initiatives to structure the process. Their ongoing efforts since 2009 have been so successful that they both were invited to speak to State and National workforce boards in Nashville and Washington, DC to share the program that has worked so well for Athens and McMinn County. Her most current project has been the implementation of Main Street Athens, a program of the National Trust for the revitalization of downtown Athens. “Working with Patti Greek and Missy Ford of the Downtown Business Association was a great collaboration, and it has been very gratifying to see the excitement around the project. I have been blessed to work with so many wonderful volunteers on every project, regardless of size, and I attribute the success to them.”
In 2011, Ann was nominated for the Women in Municipal Government Leadership Award, which included nominees from all 50 states. It was the first time a person from Tennessee won this award. Currently Ann is second vice president for the Tennessee Municipal League and is in line for the presidency. “This position” says Ann, “has been a wonderful help in understanding issues facing our city and where we can find help for funding initiatives.”
Ann’s retirement from the museum didn’t last long. In 2012, she went back to the museum part-time to help with coordination of the Heritage School and target new programs for building membership and museum attendance. In 2014, she took on the executive director’s role once again, and the museum became more involved in the community than ever before. Ann has been very involved in the Tennessee Association of Museums, serving two years as president. Says Ann, “I had no clue how well that would prepare me for working in City government. I became acquainted with grants, budget management, lobbying, and dealing with the public. The Good Lord put me there for a reason.”
In April, Ann was honored as the American Lung Association’s 2016 Tennessee Woman of Distinction. This award is presented annually at a banquet held at the Chattanooga Convention Center to recognize women who have made extraordinary contributions to their communities and who inspire and encourage others to reach their full potential. Ann has certainly made our community a better place to live in both now and for future generations.