Bluff City, TN

Bluff City Suffers Tragic Loss in Death of Mayor Wells This Week

John M. Dabbs

Bluff City Mayor Irene Wells died Tuesday in being transported to the hospital on Sunday due to problems with pneumonia - according to friends.

Mayor Wells dies

A press release from the Sullivan County Mayor's office said Wells passed away on Tuesday after being transported to the hospital on Sunday. County Mayor Richard Venable says “I was sad to hear today that she passed. She was a longtime friend.”

Politics run in the Wells family. Wells' husband, Billy Wells, was mayor of the small Tennessee town in the 1980s. Mrs. Wells was appointed mayor to fill a long-vacated seat when she was serving as a Bluff City alderman in 2011. In the 2009 election she was running for one of two open alderman seats, winning with the majority of votes cast.

In 2013 she was duly elected to the post for the first time, beating out Vice-Mayor Lon Gene Leonard by only 32 votes. She won reelection in 2017. County Mayor Venable said he worked closely with Wells and her husband throughout the years.

“I’ve known her for decades. We worked together for 30 years on various projects in Bluff City and before she was elected mayor. Since she was elected, we had probably three or four meetings a month. It’s always a pleasure to be with Irene.” - Richard Venable, Sullivan County Mayor

Venable said Wells will be remembered for her passion and dedication to Bluff City. She was full of energy and loved her town. She wasn't controversial, but she was definitely her own person and put the town first. She worked tirelessly for them.

Further details are unknown at this time. At present, leadership in Bluff City falls to Ray Harrington, who as Vice-Mayor, will assume the role of Mayor.

Bluff City alderman Jeff Broyles says "Our town family mourns her loss and will honor her memory." She and her family worked both behind the scenes and in public for the town.

The small town in Northeast Tennessee has been known for many headlines over the years. In the 2017 election, mayoral challenger Carolyn Harris Payne used the ongoing sewage issue and budget as talking point in her failed campaign.

The small town has changed with the completion of the four-lane highways between Johnson City and Bristol, and the new four-lane highway to Elizabethton. The loss of some communities along Route 66 in the west probably know this theme all too well.

As for Bluff City, the small town is fairly close-knit. The family atmosphere is cherished in this part of the country. Mayor Wells was a not only a steward of the community, she was icon.

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An outdoor enthusiast with a passion for travel and adventure. John is a professional consultant and photojournalist.

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