Alecia Welbern Keeps Gallatin Square Looking Beautiful
By Hollie Deese
City gardener, Alecia Welbern, is on a mission every day to keep Gallatin looking beautiful as she cares for the landscaping of the city. For the past year, she has tended to the pansies in front of City Hall, maintained the beds at the farmer’s market and kept up the landscaping around the square, all while sweeping up cigarette butts and debris to keep sidewalks clear.
“There is no down time,” Alecia says of the constant maintenance to keep downtown clean of debris and the streetscape looking lovely. Daffodils she planted last fall are blooming now, and she just finished fertilizing downtown for the first time.
She grew up on an eighty-acre farm in Marshall County where her mother grew larkspur, zinnias and other flowers. She moved to Gallatin in 1991 and after her work on the garden at First United Methodist Church in 1997 she won an award from Keep Gallatin Beautiful. She ended up joining the organization herself and was board president for eight years.
“I volunteered and went to many southeastern conferences, and came up with the motto, ‘Trash and flowers don’t mix,’” she says. “So, that’s my motivation. You can’t have flowers with trash.”
Because of that more ashtrays have gone up around the square and more garbage cans are coming she says.
Most days, Alecia is on an open-air, gas-powered mule ATV, battling downtown traffic with all of her supplies. When that’s in the shop, she has to use a manual cart. Either way it’s not an easy task.
“I can put my broom, rake, shovel, bucket, fertilizer, all that stuff, though it took me two or three months to tune out the traffic,” she says. “And I wear a yellow vest, but that doesn’t always stop people.”
North Water is the busiest street because of the many restaurants and foot traffic, which also results in lots of cigarette butts on the sidewalk and along the curb. So it takes her the longest.
It may have started as a part-time gig – she was hired as a temp averaging fifteen hours a week – but it takes a full-time commitment especially once all 148 hanging baskets are up for the summer. It’s a beautification program Alecia started herself in 2003 as part of Keep Gallatin Beautiful, at the time with just eight baskets.
“This was volunteer when I first put them up. The streets department now has them,” Alecia says. “I don’t think we could do much more,” she says. “It’s like six hours a day, watering them. Every day.”
It’s a job that takes two people alternating so they don’t get burnt out on the repetitiveness of the task. And soon Alecia will get more help maintaining the city’s greenery when public works takes it over in the middle of the year.
“I can’t get it all done in one day,” she says.
An employee of the city, Alecia has also naturally fallen into the role of liaison between the merchants who see her every day and her employer, and she has become as much of a welcome sight for that as she is for her green thumb.
“I go in and talk to them and tell them what I’m doing,” Alecia says. “I try to keep everyone happy.”
She is a former Sumner County Master Gardener and personal gardening consultant, and admits to having a pretty extensive garden at home that will keep her busy whenever she decides to slow down with work.
“I’m just about retired, though there’s no retiring from gardening,” she says. “We gardeners have a reason to get up in the morning.”