The Keep the Tennessee River Beautiful board of directors announced Kathleen Gibi, former public affairs specialist for the City of Knoxville, as its new executive director.
Keep the Tennessee River Beautiful (KTNRB) is the first Keep America Beautiful affiliate in the nation to solely focus on a river. The non-profit has already rallied 703 volunteers to remove 55,655 pounds of trash from the river in its first three years, hosting cleanups in Tennessee, Alabama, Kentucky, and Mississippi.
“Protecting the beauty of our river doesn't happen by accident—regional and local action are key to conserving the Tennessee River waterways,” said Julie Graham, board president and executive director of the Middle East Tennessee Tourism Council. “KTNRB serves as the regional entity to connect the local efforts.”
The KTNRB non-profit started shortly after Keep Tennessee Beautiful and the Tennessee Valley Authority sponsored Living Lands & Waters' Tennessee River Tour in 2015, which Ms. Gibi helped to conceptualize and implement. The tour stopped along six cities within three states as the Living Lands and Waters barge showcased trash removed from river cleanups along the way.
KTNB and TVA wanted to continue the work of Living Lands & Waters and created Keep the Tennessee River Beautiful, working in communities along the river’s 652-mile stretch to preserve, improve, and protect the river for generations to come.
“We were all inspired by the collaborative energy that we experienced through the Tennessee River Tour, and we wanted to make sure to keep the momentum going,” said Missy Marshall, executive director of Keep Tennessee Beautiful. “Our team at Keep Tennessee Beautiful is eager to continue increasing our efforts together with our strong partners as we work to protect and beautify our river.”
Ms. Gibi is following the organization’s original Executive Director Laura Howard, who has led KTNRB since its inception and currently serves as Environment Health & Safety Manager/Recycling Coordinator at Sevier Solid Waste, Inc. Ms. Howard will continue to serve on the KTNRB board of directors.
Ms. Gibi has served as public affairs specialist at the City of Knoxville since 2004, first working in the Parks and Recreation Department under then Mayor (now Tennessee Governor) Bill Haslam and then moving to the Communications Department under Mayor Madeline Rogero.
In 2015, the National League of Cities named Ms. Gibi as its Most Dedicated Staff Award recipient, a distinction she earned for her local collaborative efforts for First Lady Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move! Cities, Towns and Counties initiative (in which Knoxville and Knox County were ranked no. 1 in the nation).
In her role with City of Knoxville Communications, Ms. Gibi has worked on communications for the Public Works Department, which included Parks and Recreation, Engineering, Public Service, Fleet Services, and Plans Review and Inspections. In Knoxville, she is responsible for initiating and organizing programs such as the Tennessee River Tour, the annual Father’s Day Fishing Event, the CrossKnox Race, and Neighborhoods to Nature.
“We owe so much to the Tennessee River—it’s a foundation for our economy, our health, and our culture,” Ms. Gibi said. “I’m looking forward to KTNRB collaborating with many regional partners along the Tennessee River in a continued effort to preserve its beauty and worth.”
KTNRB currently holds four annual river cleanups with assistance from Living Lands & Waters. The organization also coordinates an Adopt-a-River-Mile program.
For more information, visit www.KeepTNRiverBeautiful.org.