Named a Finalist Because: With racial unrest and anti-police sentiment making for a toxic combination in communities across the country, Gallatin, Tennessee, found a way to turn conflicts into a lesson of healing.
From the Editors: When a white police officer in Gallatin, Tennessee, shot and killed an African American woman who was wielding an ax last year, residents in all corners of this Nashville suburb were understandably on edge. Deadly encounters between white police officers and black residents have resulted in civil unrest from Baltimore to Dallas to Minneapolis, and there was a real fear that violence could erupt here too. Instead, something miraculous happened. Local residents hopped on Facebook and started to plan a prayer vigil to recognize victims of violence around the country. About 60 people—including nine pastors, 20 police officers, and the chief of police—gathered in the parking lot of Gallatin City Hall. It was a diverse crowd, representing Gallatin’s diverse and growing population.
“It was a good moment for the city,” said Josh Cross, a reporter at the Gallatin News. “You’re going to have divides anywhere, but there’s an open dialogue. The chief of police is out talking with folks. They can call him on his cell phone if they have questions.”
Gallatin is very much a symbol of the booming new South, where an influx of new residents has remade the city in unexpected ways. The population has grown from 8,000 to nearly 40,000 in recent years, creating vibrant communities of Sudanese, Asian American, and Hispanic residents learning to celebrate each other—and their shared home.
And yet the small-town spirit still lives in Gallatin. “People greet each other and wave when they pass on the streets. They help in times of need,” says Mayor Paige Brown, who nominated Gallatin. “In the true tradition of Tennessee, we volunteer.”
Read Paige Brown’s nomination below to learn more about why Gallatin might just be the Nicest Place in America.
This is a city that fits the Reader’s Digest description of “Nicest Place” exactly. People greet each other and wave when they pass on the streets; they inquire about others and genuinely care; they pull over for funerals; they help in times of need (our city experienced two tornadoes and a flood in the past decade); they are engaged in the community; and in the true tradition of Tennessee, they volunteer.
Our city is in the Middle Tennessee area, so we are experiencing amazing growth. People are relocating from all over the country. Sometimes people are a little uncomfortable with our inquisitive nature, but they are also charmed by it. It’s interesting that those who choose Gallatin as their new home are soon acting just like us, perpetuating our city’s personality. Gallatin is a very diverse community, yet we have a 200 year history of pulling together regardless of faith, income or race.
We’re not only nice, we say thank you — which is how I’m aware of so many acts of generosity. Almost daily I observe a social media outreach where someone is saying thanks for the kindness of others — a police officer who helped change a tire, donations for a family in need, multiple returns of lost wallets and purses, help with home repairs, rides, meals, prayers, and on and on.
We even had a high school student that secured the donation of an old school bus, renovated it and then gave it to a young autistic girl as a play house. Whether it is a natural disaster, loss of life, lost pet or basic needs for folks in a hard place, people are taken care of by their neighbors and our local organizations.
Sadly, we had a police officer involved shooting that resulted in loss of life. Instead of protests like those that happened in other parts of the country, our community came together for a prayer vigil.
I remember as a young girl my father always raised a finger to wave to the passing cars when we are in town. It’s many, many years later and my significant other does the same thing.
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