Gatlinburg mayor opens up on juvenile arrests, city reopening

GATLINBURG (WATE) – WATE’s anchor Kristin Farley had a chance to catch up with Gatlinburg Mayor Mike Werner Wednesday night and get his thoughts on the arrests of two juveniles in the deadly wildfires and the reopening of the city.

RELATED: 2 juveniles charged in Tennessee wildfires that killed 14

KRISTIN FARLEY: “Mayor, it has been some time since we’ve a chance to have a one-on-one conversation with you. I appreciate you coming down. We’ve got to start with today’s big developments. Two arrests, but obviously even these arrests cannot possibly comfort the people here. What is your reaction today?”

MAYOR MIKE WERNER: “I know a lot of people have just had a lot of questions. How did it start? You know, how did it happen? I think that it’s closure for a lot of people, but it’s still devastating, the whole thing. Our hearts go out to everybody and we just want to get back to normal. We have such a great relationship with the national park. That’s what’s making Gatlinburg, Gatlinburg. Everybody has done everything they possibly can to help everybody during the tragedy. First responders, they are risking their lives. They are doing everything possible, going door to door, every avenue we had to tell people to evacuate, we were using. And it’s just part of this whole story, but I think it did bring closure to some people today.”

FARLEY: “It did. I think a lot of people were kind of surprised and/or shocked that we got some answers possibly this quickly.”

WERNER: “I think so too, but I know that the TBI, the national park, everybody has been working nonstop, you know like all of us have, to try to get some answers that people want.”

FARLEY: “Let’s shift gears. We’re looking down into your beautiful city. Each and every time we come down here, we see another renewed sense of positivity and a chance of opening back up and returning to some sense of normalcy. How are you feeling tonight taking a look down the street?”

WERNER: “I’m feeling great. We worked so hard to get back and get the business started again and do the things we need to do. And everybody’s joined to gether to make this happen. Friday morning we’re back in business. Tonight there’s nobody in town, but Friday night, come back and it’s going to be packed with people.”

FARLEY: “One last quick question. A huge part of this is getting employees back to work, getting cash flow back in their pockets, if that has stopped through all of this, and getting them back into a routine. And that includes you. You have a lot of employees yourself. How is that going?”

WERNER: “You know, our employees have been like family. We’ve had the same employees for so long and our heart goes out to them and we’re doing everything we possibly can to help them. There was a Facebook fund for our employees. They had a goal of $10,000 and they reached that in a couple of days. People are just really anxious to help everybody. But the businesses are going to be back open and come to town and enjoy Gatlinburg. Gatlinburg is intact. Our downtown is intact, and I think that’s one of the biggest stories we want to make sure that gets out.”

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