WELCOME TO WISE!
The Town of Wise Council:
Wise, Virginia: The Place to Be!
Located high on the Appalachian Plateau in the far corner of southwestern Virginia, at 2,684 feet above sea level, Wise is situated in a lovely, lush, mountainous area blessed by an abundance of natural, scenic, and historic resources. Unlike the tilted upthrusts of the land to the East, the Plateau sandstone is layered horizontally, as is evident in the road cuts and occasional highwalls which remain from the early days of strip mining. It was in this sandstone that seams of coal were discovered in the 1800’s, and that high-quality coal changed forever the course of history for the Town of Wise and the surrounding areas. Many of the fine houses built during the economic boom that followed, still line the Main Street.
Formerly known as Clinch Valley College, the University of Virginia’s College at Wise grew out of the commitment of individuals who sought to bring the benefits of higher education to the coalfields of southwestern Virginia. Now over fifty years old, the College is home to more than 1900 students and is listed in U.S. News & World Report as one of the top ten liberal arts colleges in the entire United States. The influence of these culturally diverse students and faculty from all over the world on the community is profound. The work of a well known researcher, author from UVA Wise, Dr. Brent Kennedy, to examine and establish the ethnic background of a group of people settled in Northeast Tennessee and Southwest Virginia and labeled “Melungeons” led to many cultural exchanges with various locales in Turkey and to the development of a sister city relationship between the Town of Wise and Cesme Turkey.
Camp Bethel is located on 160 acres of woodland one mile from Wise and offers guest lodging in rustic log cabins, tent camping, or RV spaces at Whsipering Pines. Activities include camping, hiking, canoeing, volleyball, indoor basketball, softball, and paintball. Organized programs for retreats and wilderness adventure camps are also available. Canoeing, hiking, and fishing can also be found at Bear Creek Reservoir, a beautiful lake which is also the Town’s water supply.
The second full weekend each October, thousands flock to downtown Wise for the Wise County Famous Fall Fling. This arts and crafts festival provides a venue for regional artisans and features authentic mountain food and music.
Only one hour west of Abingdon, and just off Route 58 and US 23, Wise is indeed … the place to be.
Located high on the Appalachian Plateau, in the far corner of southwestern Virginia, at 2,684’ elevation and surrounded by a lush and rugged landscape, the Town of Wise is in a unique setting. Unlike the tilted upthrusts of the land found in Russell County, the Appalachian Plateau sandstone is layered horizontally through alternating beds of shale, coal, and stone, as is evident in the roadcuts and occasional high walls left over from strip-mining. It was in this sandstone that seams of coal were discovered in the 1800s, and that high-quality coal changed forever the course of history for Wise and the surrounding areas. Many of the fine homes built during the economic boom that followed still line the Main Street.
Our Rural Lifestyle
We enjoy a more relaxed pace of life, with a sense of community, a feeling of personal safety, and a neighborly compassion for one another.
Our Unique Heritage
We are proud of our mountain culture and its traditions and history. We will continue to work to preserve it through our art, music, and celebrations.
Our Family Values
We are committed to our children and we recognize that therein lies our best future. We treasure our elderly and recognize their importance as a link to our past. We recognize that families are the backbone of our community.
Our Work Ethic
We believe that a strong work ethic is important, as is law and order, and community values that are moralistic.
Our Commitment to Education
One of the strongest elements of the Wise community is its education system. A quality public school system works in tandem with a solid vocational training program to provide skills required for local employers. The community college and the University of Virginia’s College at Wise prepare students for productive work. We must remain committed to excellence in our education systems.
Our Stewardship of the Environment
The preservation and appreciation of our natural resources is one of our primary concerns.
The Town of Wise operates as a council-manager form of municipal government. Under this system, an elected Town Council (five members) is responsible for making policy, passing ordinances, voting appropriations, and having overall supervisory authority in the town government. They appoint a professionally-trained manager to supervise the implementation of their policies. Wise citizens regularly choose the members of Town Council through popular elections held every two years. The council members are elected to staggered four year terms of office. From among their group, the council members choose by simple majority vote, a chairman or Mayor to preside over the meetings and perform ceremonial duties. The Mayor serves a two-year term.
Boards and Commissions are created by the Mayor and Town Council to provide the Town government with a source of informed opinion and public participation in the shaping of its policies and programs.
All general and commission meetings are open to the public and citizen participation is encouraged.
Board of Zoning Appeals
This board is composed of five members who are charged with the task of hearing and deciding all appeals of decisions rendered by the Zoning Administrator and applications for variances and special exceptions as provided in the Zoning ordinance. Members elect their own chairperson and serve overlapping five year terms. The Board meets on a “called” basis.
The Commission is a five-member body charged with responsibility for formulating a comprehensive plan for the Town’s growth and development and updating it every five years. The commission also reviews and makes recommendations to Town Council on all applications for Zoning Map and Zoning text amendments, annexations, and street closings. The Commission also reviews and approves all subdivision plans and all site plans for special development and conducts such other planning studies and functions as are necessary in the overall planning operations of the Town. Terms of membership are overlapping and run for four years. The body selects its own chairperson. The Commission meets the first Tuesday of each month at 6 pm.
Blue Ribbon Beautification Committee
Town Council tries to make decisions through a collaborative, participative process using a multi-disciplinary team of department heads that bring together various skills and mindsets. Sometimes our teams include partnerships with local businesses, key community leaders, various civic groups, and citizens at large to form focus groups for specific issues. Established in 2002 by the Wise Town Council, the Blue Ribbon Beautification Committee exists for the purpose of acting as an inspiration to unify, revitalize, and beautify the aesthetic qualities of the Town by enhancing the unity and character identity of the town. The committee acts in an advisory capacity to the Town Manager and consists of ten citizens.
The town of Wise is a member of Sister Cities International, a nonprofit citizen diplomacy network that creates and strengthens partnerships between U.S. and International communities through reciprocal educational and professional exchanges to foster friendships and learning.
In 1994, Wise native Brent Kennedy authored a book titled, “The Melungeons: The Resurrection of a Proud People” which chronicled the history of the people of central Appalachia classified as Melungeons. His research has identified probable genetic ties between some of our mountain people and 15th century Turks. Local interest in this possible Turkish ancestry for some Melungeon families in our area led the Town of Wise to forge links with the port city of Cesme, Turkey, from which Dr. Kennedy believes some of the Turks departed for America more than 400 years ago. In recognition of the historical, ethnic, and cultural ties between the Melungeon people of Wise and the people of Western Anatolia in Turkey, in 1995, the Town established a sister city relationship with Çesme, Anatolia, Turkey.
Since that time several visitations between officials of the two localities have taken place. In addition, educational exchanges through the University of Virginia’s College at Wise continue to build upon that dialogue by means of sister institution programs with the University of Marmara and the University of Istanbul.
Today Çesme is a small but very popular resort community on the Aegean coast of western Turkey. Noted both as a fishing and tourist village, its is remarkably striking and is regarded as one of Turkey’s most beautiful stretches of beach. Çesme meaning “fountain” in Turkish derives from the many springs found throughout the area. By day, people flock to the curative springs and thermal baths or to the beaches for a variety of water sports. By night, the village is infused with energy and excitement in the various restaurants, cafes, bars, and discos.