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Unexpected Romance: Couple proves love can strike at unlikely times

Contributed Photo • Brian and Amanda Delp are used to long work days, but they always make time for themselves and daughter Leah. They met while working extra jobs at a local hotel.

By Richard Rourk

Love has a way of surfacing when least expected — and no couple knows that better than Unicoi County Commissioner Brian Delp and his wife, Amanda, who works as the executive director of the Unicoi County Chamber of Commerce.

Neither Brian nor Amanda was looking for love when Cupid’s arrow struck the two professionals. 

“Brian and I both had been previously married before we met,” Amanda Delp said. “I was recently divorced and began working a second job at the Holiday Inn Express, working one to two nights a week.”

She added that Brian also worked a second job at the hotel at the same time.

“We began working together in November and over the next several months, Brian and I would talk, and he began confiding in me about aspects of his life and future,” Amanda said. 

“It wasn’t until August, that we had our first date  — well, if you can call it that,” she added. 

Amanda explained that the Chamber was hosting a concert in the Gathering Place Park in downtown Erwin and Brian attended the event. 

“The event was ultimately rained out and canceled, so he and I spent the rest of the evening talking,” she said. “Within a few weeks, we were dating.”

Brian grew up on a farm just outside Indianapolis in the small town of Lizton, Indiana. In 1978, he graduated high school and accepted a baseball scholarship to Milligan. There he received his Bachelor of Science in health and physical education. Upon graduation from Milligan, Brian chose to remain in Tennessee and began working at Happy Valley Middle School. 

Amanda grew up in Erwin and graduated from Unicoi County High School in 1994. She attended East Tennessee State University and earned a bachelor’s degree in business administration and a master’s of accountancy degree. While working on her master’s degree, she worked in both public and private accounting before stepping into the role of executive director for the Unicoi County Chamber of Commerce in 2000. At that time, she was the youngest Chamber director in Tennessee.

In his 39-year teaching career, Brian has taught many subjects including science, history, health and physical education, as well as coached several sports, including baseball, softball, football, golf and both boys and girls basketball.

To further his academic career, he returned to the classroom himself, to receive a masters degree in educational leadership and an education specialist degree, both from Union College. 

In addition to teaching, Brian also serves as the director of Happy Valley Middle School’s afterschool program and is a County Commissioner serving the 2nd District of Unicoi County.

Brian was smitten at first sight with Amanda. 

“Of course, when I first met Amanda, my first thought was ‘wow, she is beautiful,” Brian Delp said. “After I got to know her, I found out what a smart and thoughtful person she was.”

Brian described his wife as having “a heart of gold and would do anything to help anyone.” 

He said he was almost immediately drawn to her and within a few weeks of knowing her, they began a friendship. 

“As the months went on, I became more and more interested in her and when she invited me to come to that concert that the Chamber was hosting, I took her up on the offer,” he said.

Amanda didn’t require much time to know that Brian was the one. 

“I know the exact time that I knew I was in love with Brian and that he was the one,” Amanda Delp said. “It was our first Thanksgiving.”

She said they had been dating for about four months. 

“I was making Thanksgiving dinner and my parents were going to join us at my house,” she said. “He was in the living room reading Leah (Amanda’s daughter) a story and playing with Barbie dolls with her and when I looked at him with her, I knew that I was in love with him. Everything felt perfect and I knew then that God had his hand in bringing us together.”

They married a year and a half later in July 2009 on Anastasia Island in St. Augustine, Florida. 

“Brian is the love of my life and I am so thankful for our life, our family and our story,” Amanda said.

Brian said it took him just a little longer to realize that Amanda was the one. 

“I guess for me, it took me a little longer than her to know that she was the one,” Brian Delp said. “I was somewhat older than she was and had been through divorces in my life and had resolved to the fact that I probably would never marry again, but after dating for a little over a year, I know that Amanda was what I had always been looking for and that she completed my life.”

He asked her to marry him and four weeks later they were married on Amanda’s and Leah’s birthday. 

“We now refer to it as the trifecta of days — it’s Amanda’s birthday, Leah’s birthday and our anniversary.”

Amanda said, “Brian and I love to travel and seek out new adventures. We particularly enjoy spending time at casinos playing cards and slots and have traveled to Las Vegas several times for casino trips, as well as Atlantic City, New Jersey; Palm Springs, California; Laughlin, Nevada; and Biloxi, Mississippi.”

Contributed Photo • The Delps, Amanda and Brian, right, shown with daughter, Leah, enjoying gathering with friends and family during the holidays.

She said they also enjoy entertaining family and friends – from cookouts and pool parties in the summer to Christmas gatherings and game nights.

“Having family and friends in our home warms our hearts,” she said.

Along with travel, the Delps are always looking to connect. “Every day is an adventure for us,” Brian Delp said. “With our busy lives, sometimes, just being at home, sitting on the couch and watching TV is a fresh idea for us. We love to travel and experience new places. We love spending time together as a family. One of the times that I most enjoy with Amanda is when we are in the car driving a long distance. During this time, we talk about everything – everything from what happened at work yesterday to our plans for retirement. 

Brian said that they also have conversations about history, politics and current issues. 

“It’s just refreshing and relaxing to spend this time together just enjoying each other’s presence,” he said.

For Amanda, finding balance is key to successful family life. 

“With all of my daily demands, some days it feels like a juggling act to balance life,” Amanda said. 

“My job is not your typical 8 to 5 job — some days turn into 10 to 12 hour days, or depending on the time of year, it might be 15 to 16 hour days like during the weeks leading up to the Apple Festival.”

Chamber demands, coupled with the stresses of helping Brian run their personal business of house-flipping and managing rental properties, can become almost overwhelming.

“However, the flexibility of my job has always enabled me to put my family first,” Amanda said. “I can attend Leah’s school programs, field trips and extra activities that she has been involved in. It also enables me to take days off periodically to sneak away for a day of adventure or relaxation with Brian.”

She singled out her spouse for some praise, too.

“Most importantly, I could not do all that I do without Brian’s help and support,” Amanda said. “He has always taken a very hands-on approach to fatherhood and makes sure that Leah’s needs are the top priority in our home and picks up the slack when I am not able to meet all of the daily demands – he has certainly been to his share of dance rehearsals, soccer practices, guitar lessons, golf matches, doctors appointments and much more to ensure that Leah isn’t impacted by our busy schedules.”

Amanda described Brian as a wonderful father.

“I thank God every day for that,” she added.

Many people say that home renovation can strain a marriage, but it’s been the opposite for Brian and Amanda. 

“We began flipping houses and acquiring rental properties several years ago and we have had so much fun with it – if anything, it’s brought us closer,” Amanda said. “We joke that our hot date nights are usually spent at Lowe’s or Home Depot!”

Amanda said that watching the amount of work that Brian puts into their shared business amazes her. 

“He works tirelessly to make sure that our family has everything that we want,” she said.

Brian finds balance by making sure that family is above all. 

“Family always comes first for both Amanda and me,” Brian said. “My main objective in life is to care for Amanda and Leah and make sure they are both happy and taken care of.”

He added that Amanda’s support and encouragement help him to tackle the challenges of a busy life.  

“Most days, I am at school from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m., so I am used to long workdays,” he said. “Regardless of how stressful the days can be, I make sure that I make time for Amanda and Leah.”

For the Delps, love runs deep and can be seen throughout the community. 

“Giving back to the community is so important to me,” Brian said. “I feel like God has blessed my life in so many ways, that helping others is a way to honor Him.”

Brian noted that he has taught for 39 years.

“I have taught so many students,” he said. “It is always heartwarming when you talk to a previous student and they tell you how you impacted their lives or helped them in some way. There is nothing more rewarding.”

He also noted that serving on the County Commission has enabled him to help the community in ways that he could never have done so before. 

“I have spoken with many county residents during my time on the commission and it has given me a greater understanding of what our county needs,” he said. “It’s an honor to be able to serve in this capacity.”

The Delps said that faith is the strongest foundation to any relationship. 

“If I could offer anyone advice on balancing a career and a family, I would first say trust in God, make him the center of your life and pray and seek his wisdom for your direction in life,” Amanda said. 

“Prioritize your life and put your family first,” she said. “At the end of the day, your family and their happiness is the most important thing there is.”

She added, “Brian and I have always put God in the center of our marriage and for every decision that we make and for everything we do, I pray earnestly and ask God to show me the way.”

Finding a supportive partner is also key. 

“And lastly, to be able to balance it all, I would say, find a partner that supports, appreciates and loves you,” Amanda said. “Brian is my biggest supporter; he’s always cheerleading in the background cheering me on and at the end of the day, I know that no matter what the day has brought, I can always depend on him.”