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Guthrie, Joseph William

Longstanding Fixture In Economic Development In Southeast Tennessee

  • Thursday, May 16, 2024
Joseph William Guthrie
Joseph William Guthrie
Joseph William Guthrie, a longstanding fixture in economic development across Southeast Tennessee, died on May 12, 2024. He was 77 years old.

Joe served for 28 years at the Chattanooga Area Regional Council of Governments, Southeast Tennessee Development District, first as Planning Director and then for 19 years as Executive Director. He grew the joint organizations’ staff from 11 to more than 80 people who were instrumental in securing new developments and services to meet critical needs identified by local officials across the region.

His work resulted in new private job creation through industrial locations developed with local electrical distributors and through strategic business loans developed in partnership with federal agencies and local banks, in better services for elderly populations, workforce training, and long-term investment and growth in critical infrastructure. He worked with local and state officials to leverage the construction of multi-million-dollar Tennessee River bridges on Highway 30 and on Highway 60, helping to knit our region together. With local and state leaders, he was instrumental in securing the Olympic Whitewater venue on the Ocoee River in Polk County. Under his leadership, over time his staff secured more than 100 million dollars to provide access to safe and reliable drinking water in rural areas of Southeast Tennessee.

He served in 1998 as Chair of the Association of Development Districts of Appalachia.

In his later career, he organized the non-profit Brightbridge to manage local and regional revolving loan funds and to tap Federal business lending funds with area banks. Brightbridge established and operated a startup small business loan fund for the City of Chattanooga and an EPA Brownfield revolving loan fund.

With his business partner Hale Booth and with EPB Chattanooga, Joe developed the successful stimulus grant that provided $111 million to extend EPB’s smart grid to every address in its service area.

In recognition of his leadership, Joe was named Chattanooga Manager of the Year in 2004. He was also a member of the Chattanooga Downtown Rotary Club.

Joseph William Guthrie was born September 9, 1946, in Dayton, Tn. He is survived by his wife of 53 years, Glenda Carol (Millard) Guthrie. They met at age five and grew up together, attending Dayton schools and Mountain View United Methodist Church and sharing a piano teacher. They raised their family first in Knoxville, where Joe earned his master’s degree in Urban and Regional Planning from the University of Tennessee, and then in Chattanooga. From their 25th anniversary forward, they found particular joy in traveling regularly, most often to Hawaii and across the continental United States and Europe as well.

Joe is also survived by their three children, Valerie Guthrie Worth of Houston, Texas; Carol Guthrie (John Dickas) of Paris, France; and Joseph William Guthrie, Jr. (Kendra Nye) of Atlanta, Georgia; four grandchildren: Meghan Worth Clingan (Josh Clingan), Lauren Worth, Benjamin Guthrie, and Liam Guthrie; great-grandchildren Bryson, Emma Kate, and Elijah Clingan; and a sister, Joy Guthrie Rodriguez of Lake Isabella, California.

He was preceded in death by his parents, Dayton attorney and former Rhea County school superintendent Thomas Franklin Guthrie and small business owner Dorothy Shaver Guthrie.

Joe was a longtime member and leader at Red Bank United Methodist Church. In lieu of flowers, donations honoring his deeply held values should be made to the Chattanooga Community Kitchen, to your local United Methodist Church, or to the United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR).

A memorial service honoring Joe Guthrie’s life will be held in Chattanooga on June 12, at 11:30 a.m. at The Historic (1601 Rossville Avenue).
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