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One couple’s journey from San Diego to the Model City | Local News

By MATTHEW LANE

KINGSPORT — When Steve and Anita Hill were looking for a place to retire, Kingsport was one of the cities on their short list.

The San Diego couple did all their due diligence. They researched multiple states for just the right place to live and took into account such issues as taxes, faith, gun laws and potential flooding issues. The search included Texas, Florida and Tennessee, then narrowed to cities in the Volunteer State. Eventually, Kingsport topped the list.

Everything was going along just fine. The couple had sold their home in California for a nice profit and determined that Kingsport was their ultimate destination.

That is until Steve did an online search of crime statistics for the Model City.

“We found that Kingsport met all our needs, but the crime rate in accordance with every metric was substantially higher than the national average,” Steve said. “I dismissed Kingsport instantly and continued the search.”

Steve and Anita found a few homes in other cities that met their needs, but the offers fell through. However, homes in Kingsport kept popping up in their real estate search and eventually the Hills found one they fell in love with.

The couple then spoke about their fears with their Realtor, who said she would call Kingsport’s police chief, who in turn would call them.

“Right. The police chief would personally call me,” Steve said.

In fact, that’s exactly what happened.

A CALL FROM CHIEF QUILLIN

“He did call, and we talked for a long time,” Steve said of his conversation with former Kingsport Police Chief David Quillin. “He walked me through how the reporting system worked and assured me that the crime rate in Kingsport was in fact lower than most cities and not higher. He made me feel welcomed and comfortable, and in terms of crime, my choice to live in Kingsport would be the correct one.”

Quillin, who retired from the Kingsport Police Department in December after 35 years with the agency, said he’s made similar calls to folks during his time as chief, maybe one or two a year.

“Some (of the crime statistics) are skewed and some are tied to alarm systems they’re trying to sell you. Whatever he looked at, there was some concern,” Quillin said. “I did call and try to answer his questions and alleviate any concerns he may have and talk to him about Kingsport.”

Apparently, Quillin’s call did help alleviate the Hills’ concerns. The couple relocated to Kingsport in October 2020.

MOVING TO THE MODEL CITY

Steve retired from the U.S. Navy, and he and his wife lived in San Diego for 33 years. Serving in the military allowed Steve to see many different parts of the country and the world, including Millington, Tennessee., where he was stationed in the 1970s. And hailing from Detroit meant that Steve had seen some of the largest, more hectic cities in the nation.

However, when it came to retirement, the Hills wanted to live somewhere with a smaller tax burden that didn’t lean so far to the left.

“(Kingsport) definitely has a slower pace of living. People living here complain about the roads and traffic and I laugh hysterically about that,” Steve said. “Compared to San Diego, there is no traffic here.”

The couple instantly fell in love with Kingsport, though the weather is taking a little getting used to, especially compared to the warmer climes of San Diego. Steve hadn’t seen snow in about 25 years, after all.

“We’re not used to this cold so we’re hibernating a bit right now,” he said.

When winter breaks and warmer temperatures return to our area, the Hills plan to visit our local parks and learn more about Kingsport and Tennessee, about what makes each one tick. What the couple has seen so far has been breathtaking, Steve said.

And what’s making the transition to Kingsport even better for the Hills are the people both in their neighborhood and across town.

“We literally pulled into our driveway and the first hour people pulled in behind us, our neighbors, to welcome us here. They brought us dessert and they actually knew who we were before we got here,” Steve said.

“I have not seen anything so polite in all my places of being in the military, and I’ve literally been all over the world. You go to the stores and people are smiling and talking to you. It’s been absolutely mind-blowing.”