By Cindy Carroll
Kim Hudson White and her dog, Bella, like to wake up early in the downtown condominium they share with Kim’s husband, Jo Dan. The two get outside and pound the pavement to the campus of the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga. White (Chattanooga ’82) challenges herself with as many hills as she and Bella can find, working their way up Vine Street, passing Patten Chapel and other UTC landmarks.
When White returns home, her commute to work is no sweat, taking her literally next door to the RiverCity Company Inc. Recently named president, White leads this private nonprofit entity devoted to keeping downtown Chattanooga the vibrant economic, social, and cultural centerpiece of the region. She enjoys living and working downtown, smack in the middle of the big picture for Chattanooga development and redevelopment.
Before accepting her current position, White headed the real estate firm Luken Holdings. From 1999 to 2006, she was CEO for the Corker Group, the company owned by former Chattanooga mayor and now U.S. Senator Bob Corker. White had previously worked for 16 years with Alltel communications. She was anxious to return to Chattanooga to be closer to family and to see firsthand the way the city was progressing. “I loved what was happening downtown, and I wanted to be a part of it,” she says.
Corker says he can’t think of a better leader for RiverCity Company. He gives White high marks for her understanding of real estate, her sound judgment, and her tenacity to further develop Chattanooga’s downtown as the business, civic, and cultural center of the city.
“As a native Chattanoogan, an experienced business executive, and an energetic community leader, Kim can testify to Chattanooga’s revitalization and has a vested interest in its future,” Corker says. “With Kim’s leadership and dynamic ability to cast a united vision for both people and industry, I believe RiverCity will continue to transform the heart of Chattanooga into a place where business thrives and community gathers.”
Created in 1986 to implement the Tennessee Riverpark Master Plan, RiverCity was originally capitalized with $12 million from 15 Chattanooga foundations and financial institutions. Recently RiverCity brought everyone to the table for Carmike Cinema’s move, creating a new 12-screen multiplex located at Broad Street and Third. It is the first environmentally friendly movie theater in the country to be built to Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification standards.
Since she began at RiverCity, White has pushed to better connect UTC with downtown Chattanooga. “BlueCross BlueShield’s move to its Cameron Hill campus left a void in downtown. There are more than ten thousand students now at UTC, and we want to invite them to enjoy Chattanooga. RiverCity has done some research that shows UTC students often do not know what Chattanooga has to offer until their junior year. We are trying to change that by working with merchants who can provide discounts to those students,” White says.
When White was a student, she developed her leadership skills in her sorority, Chi Omega, which engaged in a variety of community activities.
“I knew Kim when she was a member of the Chi Omega Fraternity and I served as an advisor to the group,” says Dr. Frances K. Bender, UTC assistant provost for student retention and success. “The interesting part of leadership is that one’s peer group usually notices the leadership capabilities of those in their group. Kim’s Chi Omega friends identified her as a leader when she became president of the chapter as a UTC junior. She led with distinction, of course, and learned in that position the skills that she has honed in the years since she was the chapter president.”
White acknowledges her undergraduate academic work prepared her to serve the city she loves.
“My liberal arts degree was very important; it taught me to think creatively and to be flexible. I took a lot of art and communication classes. I joke that I earned my master’s degree in business on the job. But I seriously believe a liberal arts degree lets me see the world through different eyes.”
Bender says White is an intelligent leader with a full set of excellent qualities—she is dedicated, visionary, stubborn (in a good way), and committed to seeing tasks through to the finish.
“Kim cares about our city and possesses the interpersonal skills to bring diverse opinions together to solve problems. That she’s a good listener has always been one of her exceptional qualities. Finally, she’s a hard worker with boundless energy who will do her part to make her goals and visions a reality. I would always want Kim to be on my team!”
An active UTC alumna, White is immediate past president of the UTC Alumni Board of Directors, an experience she says energized her. She also makes it a point to meet with students as often as her busy schedule allows. She encourages them to network, saying “It’s not always who you know; it’s who knows you.”