Did you know? 18 inches between good, bad decisions

Most doctors say there are about 18 inches between the heart and brain of the average human, which got me to thinking about life and the decisions we are faced with each and every day.

Throughout my entire life, I never really noticed or thought much about how I made my daily decisions. I just seemed to make the decision and move on without much thought. After hearing of the 18 inches between the heart and brain, I got to thinking about the processes I went about when making decisions and was somewhat alarmed by my findings.

Upon reflection, I immediately realized, on occasion, I had made decisions out of anger, frustration or pure old simple haste, while at other times I seemed to think it through and be more patient. The more I thought about this, the more I realized, on many occasion, I had used only my heart to make decisions, while other times I used only my brain to make decisions.

I began to envision how much better those decisions might have been had I used my brain and heart together.

For example, let’s say you are a man awaiting a table in a busy restaurant waiting area. You are sitting with your family waiting for your name to be called so you can be seated for dinner. All around the waiting room there are many men and women standing because all of the seats are taken. As a man, you were taught that when a lady is standing, you offer her your seat so she doesn’t have to stand. This is called being a gentleman and doing the right thing.

One of two things will happen here. If you think with your head and not your heart, you will let the lady stand and say to yourself, “she can stand just like me; I was here first.”

If you are thinking with your heart and your brain, you are more likely to offer the lady your seat. If she declines, look around the room to see if there are any other ladies, senior citizens or those with disabilities and offer them your seat. If they all decline your offer, then you are free to retain your seat.

The moral of this story is that if we think with our hearts and our brains, we will do the right thing the majority of the time. But when we don’t use these two vital organs together, we sometimes falter and slip.

We all know we can’t live without either, and they are meant to be used, so why not use them together every chance you get in your daily future decision making.

Kenny Martin is city manager in Mt. Juliet.

Firefighters battle Elementary school fire

Mt. Juliet firefighters extinguished a fire Sunday morning at Mt. Juliet Elementary School that damaged at least one classroom.

Firefighters responded to the school at 2521 W. Division St. at about 8 a.m. According to Mt. Juliet fire officials, the fire started in “hotel-style” heater” that activated one sprinkler head in a classroom, and the school’s sprinkler system contained the fire. Fire damaged the classroom, and four adjoining classrooms suffered water and some smoke damage.

“Something did malfunction, and it did ignite,” said Mt. Juliet fire Chief Jamie Luffman. “There was a significant fire as you can see by that wall over there and it came through the wall.”

Luffman said the sprinkler kept the fire contained until firefighters arrived and extinguished the remainder of the fire. The single sprinkler head released a significant amount of water that then leaked into adjoining classrooms, Luffman said.

“Obviously this fire was intense for a short period of time,” Luffman said. 

Wilson County Schools spokesperson Jennifer Johnson said in an email clean-up crews responded to the school after firefighters extinguished the fire. Firefighters remained on the scene for several hours.

Johnson initially said classes would resume as normal with students returning from spring break Monday, but she later said Monday would be considered a “student holiday” for students. All teachers and staff are expected to report for work as a teacher in-service day to help get the school ready for classes Tuesday.

“We are so grateful to the Mt Juliet Fire Department for their quick response and ability to contain the fire to such a small portion of the school,” Johnson said.

Mt. Juliet firefighters also extinguished an unrelated car fire reported Sunday just after 1 p.m. on North Mt. Juliet Road near Creekside Drive.

By Jared Felkins

jfelkins@lebanondemocrat.com

Wilson County Democrat Party to elect new officers at convention

Staff Reports

The Wilson County Democrat Party will hold its biennial reorganization convention to elect new party leaders Saturday at 151 Maddox-Simpson Pkwy. in Lebanon.

Doors will open at 9 a.m. and close promptly at 10 a.m.

Local Democrats will elect a new chairperson, vice chairpersons, secretary, treasurer and executive committee for a two-year term. All Democrat residents who are eligible voters of Wilson County are invited to attend to discuss the party’s agenda and events for 2017-2018. During reorganization, attendees will evaluate the effectiveness of their county party bylaws and leadership.

The reorganization convention is open to all Wilson County Democrats. Attendees should arrive early to complete credentialing forms. No attendees will be admitted into the convention after 10 a.m., per state guidelines.

For more information, call 615-549-6220, visit wilsoncountydemocrats.org or email contact@wilsoncountydemocrats.org.

911 Board votes to move toward centralized dispatch

By Jake Old

jold@lebanondemocrat.com

The Wilson County Emergency Communications 911 Board unanimously voted Monday to support co-location of dispatchers from all county and municipal emergency and law enforcement agencies in a centralized dispatch location.

Although there are several options for centralized dispatch, the board made a move toward using the existing 911 facility at 1611 W. Main St. as the site for centralized dispatch by voting to authorize the 911 executive committee, emergency communications Director Karen Moore and 911 board member Terry Ashe to negotiate with a civil engineer to determine what work would need to be performed to get the existing building to a point to where all agencies could house dispatchers there, and to have questions about the process answered.

Board members discussed possibly modifying the building to house all dispatchers and equipment, then potentially adding on to the building to house administrative offices, as such offices could be less expensive to build.

Board member David Hale made motions to approve co-location with other agencies and to look into modifying the existing 911 building to be that location.

Other options would include building a new facility and finding an existing building that could be bought and repurposed. Board members determined those options would likely be more expensive.

The 911 building has 2,448 square feet of space, Moore said during the meeting Monday. To house dispatchers from every agency, which includes 911, Wilson County Emergency Management Agency, Wilson County Sheriff’s Office and police and fire departments from Lebanon and Mt. Juliet, as well as administrative space, it could take more than twice that space, Moore estimated.

Board member Larry Stone said he wanted to be sure that, as the board moves forward with co-location, every agency would be in a position to handle further growth in Wilson County.

“Wilson County has seen incredible growth in just the last 10 years, and we should be ready for more growth,” Stone said. “I don’t just want to put a Band-Aid on this thing.”

Other board members shared Stone’s sentiment, and they agreed that as they move forward with the process, they should keep further growth in mind.

The board met in a work session Friday to discuss the matter with heads of various local agencies. Several of those agencies were represented again at the Monday meeting when a vote was taken.

The board has discussed the topic in several other meetings, but Monday’s votes were the first actions the board has taken to move forward with centralized dispatch.

WEMA Director Joey Cooper, Sheriff Robert Bryan and officials from Lebanon and Mt. Juliet police departments have all voiced support for centralized dispatch.

Hale said he did not know when or about how soon dispatchers from all agencies could be in a common location.

“We’re trying to move as fast as we can,” he said. “I would say we are now officially a work in progress, and that’s something we couldn’t say before.”

In other business, Moore, in her report to the board, told them pursuit of a new computer-aided dispatch system is “on the back burner” due to a larger focus needed to be placed on moving toward co-locating dispatchers with other agencies. Emergency communications will need a new system at some point regardless, she said.

Moore also notified the board that the sheriff’s office has interest in dispatchers attending a national emergency communications conference to learn more as the agencies prepare to move forward with co-locating. The sheriff’s office will pay for plane and hotel tickets, and it will apply for a scholarship grant to cover the cost of convention attendance. Otherwise, the 911 Board may vote to help with funding. The topic will be discussed further next month.

The board also:

• authorized the purchase of a backup recording system for calls.

• voted to move expiring CD funds into a new account.

• Ashe made a motion for the board to sponsor the National Junior High Rodeo Finals in Lebanon this summer for $1,000. It failed due to a lack of a second on the motion.

• Ashe applauded Moore and her staff for their work in applying address numbers to buildings in Wilson County.

“I’ve never heard a single complaint, and I don’t think you get the recognition you deserve for that,” Ashe said.

Committee to resume domestic animal tax talks

By Xavier Smith 

xsmith@lebanondemocrat.com

The Wilson County Animal Control Committee will continue its discussion regarding the eliminated $2 domestic animal tax after an hour-long discussion Thursday raised more questions than were answered.

Committee chairman Wendell Marlowe said the discussion deserved more time and attention than an hour and said future work sessions and meetings would need to take place before a proper decision could be made.

The Wilson County Commission passed a resolution, sponsored by Commissioner Joy Bishop, last month with the intent to discuss the tax collection, which ceased in 2013.

Marlowe said feedback he’s received on the issue did not favor re-instating the $2 domestic animal tax, which went toward New Leash on Life, which was then the county’s de facto animal control agency until the county started its own animal control department in 2003.

New Leash On Life now operates as a non-profit organization.

Marlowe said the primary question he received was if the organization still met the minimum requirements set forth in the resolution that authorized the collection.

Wilson County Mayor Mike Jennings said he was not prepared to answer the question Thursday night and would need to receive more information about New Leash on Life’s procedures and policies before he could give his opinion.

Commissioner Chad Barnard said although the collection seemed like a good idea in former years, he believed a lot has changed since collection started, including the county forming its own animal control department.

He also pointed to problems regulating collections, which were done collected through the cost of pet vaccinations. The group pointed to the possible and realistic loopholes veterinarians could use in order to avoid paying the tax.

Commissioner Jerry McFarland’s motion to designate $40,000 annually to New Leash for spay and neuter procedures failed during the meeting, although the group agreed the service is needed in the county.

Angela Chapman, New Leash director, said the organization performed 1,034 spay and neuter procedures last year.

Bishop’s last attempt to reinstate the tax ended in 2015 after it did not get approval from the Animal Control Committee after the full commission voted to send it back through committee.

That push to have the commission revisit the issue came on the heels of the release of Tennessee Attorney General Herbert Slatery’s opinion on the issue.

Slatery’s opinion stated the Wilson County Commission had the right in 2013 to stop a $2 domestic annual fee originally approved by voters in 1980.

Irish stepping to return St. Patrick’s Day weekend

By Xavier Smith 

xsmith@lebanondemocrat.com

The Celtic Rhythms on Fire, featuring the Nashville Irish Step Dancers, will return St. Patrick’s Day weekend for Irish music lovers and holiday enthusiasts to enjoy.

The show will be March 18 at 7 p.m. and March 19 at 2 p.m. at the Texas Troubadour Theatre in Nashville. Tickets are $20 for adults and $15 for seniors older than 65 and children 3-12.

The Nashville Irish Step Dancers, currently in their 18th year, feature several Wilson County dancers, including Olivia Rush, 10, Kaitlyn Szkwarok, 10, Hannah Frattini, 11, Sammie Hite, 11, Mary-Cate McNamara, 13, Emma Helton, 13 and Brianna Burch, 18.

The Nashville Irish Step Dancers is a “full-service” Irish dance school and offers many aspects of Irish dance, including all levels of competition, solo and team dancing, performances, learning the tradition of the Irish culture and more.

Mary Moran is in her 27th year teaching Irish dance and said the Celtic Rhythms of Fire celebrates the Irish culture and dance.

She said the event would feature traditional and authentic Irish music and dance, as well as progressive styles.

“We have some new numbers, but it’s still authentic Irish music and Irish step dancers. It’ll be a great way to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day,” Moran said.

Moran said the music would feature live Irish music and dancers of all ages and skill levels, as well as performances with audience participation.

“It’s going to be nonstop entertainment,” Moran said.

The Box Elders will return to provide the music for the event.

“If you love Irish music and St. Patrick’s Day, it’s the best way to celebrate it,” she said.

Moran said the group would be at the Nashville Symphony’s Schermerhorn Symphony Center on Thursday and Saturday with the Chieftains, a world-renowned Irish Group, and March 17 at the Grand Ole Opry.

For more information and tickets, visit nashvilleirishstepdancers.com or call 615-424-5998.

Charis advances to ‘Supported 16’ in Nashville Brackets For Good

Staff Reports

Charis Health Center outscored Tennessee Kidney Foundation on March 10 to win its Round 2 bracket in Nashville’s Brackets For Good fundraising tournament.

There are 16 local nonprofits that remain in the competition to win $10,000.

Charis will compete against The Little Pantry That Could in the “Supported 16” round. Charis’ opponent was strong in Round 2, and it needs to put up some significant points this week to advance to the next round, the “Engaged 8.”

Each dollar donated to Charis Health Center through bfg.org is a point scored for Charis. To donate, visit nashville.bfg.org/matches/1240. The “Supported 16” competition ends Friday at 8 p.m.

Charis Health Center provides primary health care to uninsured residents in the Middle Tennessee area. Despite the Affordable Care Act, health care is still not affordable to many hard-working people in the community. Charis serves the individuals and families in the coverage gap. Charis operates similar to a regular doctor’s office, but it’s staffed primarily by volunteers. Through support from the community, Charis is able to limit the cost to patients to $25 for an office visit. For more information on becoming a patient or volunteer, call 615-773-5785.

Brackets For Good is an Indianapolis-based nonprofit charitable organization focused on activating new donors and increasing awareness for other nonprofit organizations through competitive online fundraising at no cost. Since the inaugural tournament in 2012, new awareness, fundraising capacity and more than $2.75 million dollars was raised for hundreds of charitable organizations across the country in an innovative and fun way. For more information, visit bfg.org.

Trump commemorates Jackson’s 250th birthday

Staff Reports

NASHVILLE – President Donald J. Trump commemorated Andrew Jackson’s 250th birthday at the seventh president’s Nashville residence, the Hermitage, on Wednesday afternoon as part of his first official visit to Tennessee as president.

Tennessee legislators and Nashville Mayor Megan Barry attended the private ceremony with around 350 guests. During his visit, Trump laid a wreath at Jackson’s tomb, took a brief tour of the site and delivered remarks from the front porch of Jackson’s home.

“Andrew Jackson was a military hero and genius and a beloved president,” Trump said. “But he was also a flawed and imperfect man, a product of his time. It is the duty of each generation to carry on the fight for justice.

“We must all remember Jackson’s words that in the planter, the farmer, the mechanic and the laborer we will find the muscle and bone of our country.”

Trump is the 14th president to visit the home of Andrew Jackson, and the first since Ronald Reagan participated in the birthday commemoration ceremony in 1982, 35 years ago.

“We are honored that the president of the United States visited the Hermitage to celebrate the 250th anniversary of Andrew Jackson’s birth,” said Howard J. Kittell, president and CEO of Andrew Jackson’s Hermitage. “The president has an interest in Andrew Jackson, and we are humbled by his request to join us for this historical event.”

The Hermitage, closed to the public for the ceremony, will reopen Thursday with half-price admission and the launch of a 12-month series of programs to commemorate Jackson’s 250th birthday, including the premiere of the new introductory film “Jackson” about the seventh president’s life.

For the rest of the week, birthday activities at Jackson’s residence will include a Tennessee National Guard concert, hickory pole racing, and chocolate sampling, along with a campfire tour and birthday cake.

To see the full lineup of Andrew Jackson’s 250th birthday celebration events and to buy tickets, visit thehermitage.com/andrew-jacksons-250th-birthday-celebration.

Andrew Jackson’s Hermitage: Home of the People’s President is one of the largest, most well-preserved and most visited presidential homes in the United States. Opened to the public in 1889, the Hermitage is one of America’s first presidential museums. The Hermitage is currently a 1,120-acre national historic landmark with 27 historic buildings, including Jackson’s mansion and tomb, restored slave cabins, a church and gardens. In recent years, new interpretive initiatives and educational programs such as archaeology and the history of slavery have enhanced the experience of 200,000 annual visitors. In 2015, the Hermitage launched Andrew Jackson: Born for a Storm, a state-of-the-art exhibit that delves into the life of Andrew Jackson, including his military and presidential careers. For more information, visit thehermitage.com.

Mt. Juliet wraps up winter with box project

By Sinclaire Sparkman

ssparkman@lebanondemocrat.com

Streetscapes in Mt. Juliet recently received an artsy twist thanks to a project by the city to beautify metal control boxes.

The boxes house electrical components, water system controls and various mechanical devices that are essential to the function of buildings, traffic lights and businesses. The city came up with the box wraps as part of a community beautification project, and they are not meant for marketing purposes. Funding for the wraps came from sponsors, and they may get their logo placed on the box, but the overall picture portrays themes of community wellness and quality of life.

“A lot of times they just become industrial metal boxes sitting all over the place, but if you wrap them in art or make them more scenic, they blend in and become part of the streetscape,” said Kenny Martin, city manager for Mt. Juliet.

Sinclaire Sparkman • Mt. Juliet News

The wraps are made of vinyl, which also serves to keep the boxes cool during hot weather. Martin said part of the effort is to also keep graffiti from the boxes.

The city uses Advance Signs in Lebanon to create the wraps, since there is no vinyl wrap company in Mt. Juliet and they wanted to keep the job local.

Many of the wraps have appeared at traffic lights along Mt. Juliet Road, and the library is home to a wrap as well. Charlie Daniels appears on a box at the traffic light just outside of Charlie Daniels Park. A box near Providence Marketplace displays school logos in Wilson County, including Lebanon and Watertown high schools.

Martin said it is not dangerous to go near or touch the boxes, and they are locked so no one can get inside. They are government property, and tampering with or vandalizing the boxes could lead to prosecution.

“You can take pictures with them if you want, and the only folks that have keys are the ones who run the maintenance on them,” Martin said.

Possibilities for future wraps can be seen all over the city, including along greenways, on street corners and beside businesses.

“We really appreciate all the individuals and businesses that have stepped up and made it much more popular than what we thought,” Martin said. “The sincere intent of the program is to enhance the community and make it more beautiful.”

Snow returns to Wilson County

By Jared Felkins

jfelkins@lebanondemocrat.com

Wilson County residents awoke Saturday morning to find a significant swing in temperatures compared to the past couple of weeks, along with a light dusting of snow.

As predicted, Wilson County received about a half-inch of snow that mildly affected travel for motorists. National Weather Service forecasters predicted any measurable snowfall should last until about noon.

Meteorologists issued a freeze warning from Tuesday at 7 p.m. through Wednesday at 10 a.m. A northwesterly flow of colder air came in overnight Tuesday. Temperatures dipped down near 20 degrees in some parts of Middle Tennessee.

Temperatures will warm during the day Wednesday, but could drop back into the 20s again Wednesday night.

A freeze warning means subfreezing temperatures are imminent or highly likely. The conditions will kill crops and other sensitive vegetation. The back-to-back freezing nights will be devastating for any outdoor vegetation that has already started to grow, forecasters said.

Student describes Commerce Farms’ impact

By Xavier Smith 

xsmith@lebanondemocrat.com

Wilson Central High School students, staff, parents and administrators are working on a possible solution to keep an access point to a large industrial development off the school’s only access road.

Wilson Central student Preston George, the school’s student school board representative, updated the Wilson County school board Monday on talks between school officials, school board and school district representatives and developers on the issue.

The Commerce Farms distribution center will be 652,00 square feet and feature 116 truck docks, two drive-in doors and a parking lot for 84 trailers and 257 cars. The access point on Wildcat Way would be available to about 60 employees.

“The largest concern we have as a school is they’re putting an entrance on Wildcat Way. This is an issue because we already have traffic issues because that light at [State Route 109] is the only access point for students, faculty and staff to get into the building,” George said.

The Wildcat Way access point would be about 50 yards from the traffic light.

George said based on conversations with personnel with the Lebanon Planning Department, state law allows the development to feature an access road on Wildcat Way because the property backs up to a city or county road.

George said, however, the group has sought other alternatives to alleviate potential congestion and reduce safety hazards.

He said one of those options included extending Wildcat Way through property adjacent to Connect Church, which currently sits at the end of Wildcat Way. George said that plan was likely not feasible due to grading costs due to hills on the property.

However, George said the parties also discussed taking any excess rock from blasting and use it as a road that would access Wilson Central near its baseball field, which could be used during games and other events.

George also discussed the project’s traffic impact study, which showed the peak access times for employees would be between 6:30-8:30 a.m. and 4:30-6:30 p.m.

“Those p.m. hours are not necessarily going to affect us unless we have a basketball or football game. Our primary concern is the morning peak hours,” George said.

George said the Lebanon Planning Department has tried to improve traffic and safety issues on Wildcat Way, but has not been able to find a feasible option.

“We’re working together to find common ground where we all three can benefit,” George said.

Wilson County Board of Education member Tom Sottek has been involved in the conversations and said although one access point will likely be on Wildcat Way, the primary entrance would be through Franklin Road.

“They also have the option to go the other entrance, as well. The expectation is, more than likely, they will adjust,” Sottek said.

Make-A-Wish makes student’s dream true

By Jake Old

jold@lebanondemocrat.com

Mt. Juliet Middle School sixth grader Sarah Meers, who is battling leukemia, wished she could visit France someday.

The 12-year-old student’s dream came true Friday, when the Make-A-Wish Foundation visited the school in a special assembly in which Sarah was presented with a check of more than $5,600, raised by her fellow students.

Sarah, along with her parents and older brother, will visit Paris later this year.

The trip, along with the special assembly at the school, came as a surprise to Sarah. One of her teachers, Johnathan Wilson, led Sarah to believe she would be visiting some of her fellow students during a physical education class that is regularly scheduled during the time period.

Sarah was unable to be in school in recent weeks due to her illness, and even the scheduling of the assembly was up in the air for some time, because she was hospitalized.

Sarah and her family came into the building away from the gymnasium, where the assembly was held. Meanwhile, the gym was packed with her fellow students, who were energized with the help of some special routines by the school’s cheerleaders.

The students were urged to be quiet as Sarah approached, to ensure Sarah did not suspect anything before walking into the gym.

All eyes were focused on the doors to the gym before Sarah came in, and as the door opened, hundreds of students shouted in unison. Sarah walked a lap around the gym with her parents and a classmate and friend, Barrett, who held hands with Sarah as she walked into the gym.

“I’m so happy for her,” Barrett said outside the gym prior to the assembly. “She had to miss school because she’s sick, and I miss her.”

“I’m sorry I had to lie to you,” Wilson said to Sarah after the chaos died down a little. He smiled and leaned in to give her a hug. “We wanted it to be a surprise.”

Sarah gave him a sheepish grin and told him his apology was accepted.

The young girl was left nearly speechless in the immediate aftermath of the event.

“Yes, I was very surprised,” she said as she answered a couple of questions from the members of local media who attended the event.

Sarah’s parents, who wore grins from ear to ear throughout the event, said they were humbled by the outpouring of support and happy for their daughter.

Sarah was joined by several members of her family in seats in front of a row of bleachers in the gym. Students presented her with a book filled with notes of support from every student in the school.

“That’s just Mt. Juliet Middle School for you,” Wilson said. “That’s the character of these students.”

Students raised the money through selling Make-A-Wish Stars. School officials said they hoped to maybe raise $2,000, but students came through and more than doubled that prediction.

“We are very proud of our students … and the community for supporting Sarah,” said Ashley Putman-Serbin, student council advisor. “We are very excited to help grant her wish.”

After presenting Sarah with the check and book, students had a special chant for her.

“Dreams,” the sixth graders all said in unison.

“Come,” the seventh graders followed.

“True,” the eighth graders said.

Chamber updates businesses

By Xavier Smith 

xsmith@lebanondemocrat.com

Mt. Juliet and Wilson County leaders discussed several aspects of business and development Friday during the Mt. Juliet Chamber of Commerce development meeting.

Dennis Buchanan, Mt. Juliet public affairs director, Mt. Juliet commissioners Brian Abston and Ray Justice, Rep. Susan Lynn, Wilson County Joint Economic and Community Development director G.C. Hixson and Wilson County Tourism Director Jenny Bennett updated business leaders on developments and trends.

“We’re meeting every day with several people who are wanting to come to Mt. Juliet. Our biggest problem is finding locations,” Buchanan said.

“We are seeing some issue with some brick-and-mortar buildings because the e-commerce is making a difference right now. Amazon is busting at the seams. People might go look at what they want to order online, but they don’t buy it in the store. We’re starting to see that, and to be honest, I’m worried about that.”

Hixson said Buchanan described a new trend called last-minute distribution, which means consumers order online and pick up at stores, or purchase at stores and have items delivered to their homes.

“What I see is some of your big boxes becoming less retail sales but more of that last-minute distribution – Uber drivers delivering things, drones someday possibly,” Hixson said. “We see some of those trends going on.”

Justice and Abston discussed business in Mt. Juliet, including HH Gregg, which recently announced it filed for bankruptcy and would close its Providence store.

“It’s such a great location, and I know a lot of people are already looking at that, so somebody will probably go in that real quick,” said Abston, who said he was told Gander Mountain and J.C. Penney would remain open despite recent reports of financial troubles.

“Like a lot of the places in the Providence area, they’re some of the top performing in the country, so those two are safe for now,” he said.

Justice said he is working with city and state officials to bring more sidewalks to the north side of town. He said he has inquired about the possibility of including the sidewalks with state projects.

Bennett introduced herself to the crowd and described her purpose as tourism director, which she became earlier this year. She previously worked for Cracker Barrel’s home office and has lived Wilson County resident for 15 years.

She said she sees the potential for tourism growth in Wilson County, especially with its proximity to Nashville and major highways.

“I just feel like the sky is the limit. We have a lot of opportunity here. I have some big audacious goals and plans, and I’m excited for the future. I feel like we have a lot to offer, and I can’t wait to tell our guests all about it,” Bennett said.

Home catches fire in storm

By Jake Old

jold@lebanondemocrat.com

A lightning strike may have caused a Thursday night house fire just outside the city limits of Mt. Juliet, and severe weather conditions challenged firefighters in putting it out.

According to Wilson County Emergency Management Agency director Joey Cooper, a caller reported a fire at 808 Harrisburg Lane after lightning apparently struck the house. A follow-up call said everyone was out of the house, but one person had gone back in with a fire extinguisher.

WEMA firefighters responded shortly after 11 p.m., and when they arrived, everyone was safe and out of the home, along with their pets. No injuries were reported.

Flames extended through the roof as crews arrived to the large two-story brick house. It was about 75 percent involved in flames when firefighters started their attack. Firefighters started with a defensive effort to protect exposures next to the home.

Operations continued, although an ongoing severe storm with continuous wind gusts and lighting in the area, as well as unstable structural walls in the home, made conditions difficult for firefighters, Cooper said.

“It [took] longer than normal due to the circumstances of wind, unstable walls and roof contents falling in on top of the floor,” Cooper said. “Our personnel [used] caution during the overhaul phase while extinguishing any hot spots. Our No. 1 concern is safety of our personnel since all occupants made it out safely.”

Crews worked into Friday morning and had to dig through the rubble to find hot spots to extinguish. They were able to recover some items for the family.

Wilson County sheriff’s deputies also responded to help. The Fire Department of Mt. Juliet posted on its Facebook page it had received many calls about the fire, but because it was outside its jurisdiction, firefighters there only respond when WEMA officials request assistance, which did not happen during the incident.

“As far as Mt Juliet, their assistance was not needed,” Cooper said. “We had people, we had engines, we had water. We were fighting the elements more than anything. Naturally people would ask them about the fire since most people don’t know the difference between the departments.”

Community Calendar and The People’s Agenda

POLICY: Items for the Community Calendar may be submitted via email at editor@lebanondemocrat.com, in person at The Democrat’s office at 402 N. Cumberland St., by mail at The Lebanon Democrat, 402 N. Cumberland St., Lebanon, TN 37087 or via fax at 615-444-0899. Items must be received by 4 p.m. for the next day’s edition. The calendar is a free listing of nonprofit events, community club and government meetings. The Democrat reserves the right to reject or edit material. Notices run on an as space is available basis and cannot be taken over the phone. Include a name and phone number in case of questions.

March 9

High School Equivalency Test

8 a.m.

The Wilson County Adult Education program will offer the high school equivalency test Thursday, March 9 at the Tennessee College of Applied Technology in Lebanon.  For information on taking the test, call 615-443-8731.

Wilson County Pastors’ Prayer and Informational Breakfast

9 a.m.

The Wilson County Pastors’ Prayer and Informational Breakfast, presented by Wilson County Right to Life, will be Thursday, March 9 at 9 a.m. at Comfort Suites in Lebanon. Contact Trecia Dillingham at 615-443-5458 to RSVP.

Spring Forward with Wilson County Health Department

11 a.m.

A spring forward event will be Thursday, March 9 from 11 a.m. until 3 p.m. at the Wilson County Health Department. It will feature information and displays from several local agencies. An American Red Cross blood drive will also take place, along with a visit from the Saint Thomas Mobile Mammogram Bus.

Watertown High School and Watertown Middle School Band Concert

6 p.m.

The Watertown High School and Watertown Middle School will have a concert Thursday, March 9 at 6 p.m. at the Watertown High School theater. Admission is free.

Rep. Susan Lynn Town Hall Meeting

6 p.m.

State Rep. Susan Lynn will hold a town hall meeting Thursday, March 9 at 6 p.m. at Labry Hall on the Cumberland University Campus at 1 Cumberland Square in Lebanon. She plans to discuss the proposed state budget, budget surplus and road funding. For more information, call 615-741-7462.

March 10

Mt. Juliet Chamber Community Development meeting

7:45 a.m.

The Mt. Juliet Chamber of Commerce will hold a community development meeting Friday, March 10 from 7:45-9 a.m. at the chamber office. It will be an opportunity to hear about local development projects in the community. The meeting is open to everyone, and breakfast is included, but online registration is required at mjchamber.org.

Encore Theatre Co. to Present “Par For The Corpse”

7:30 p.m.

Encore Theatre Co. will present “Par For The Corpse” by Jack Sharkey. The comedy will be Friday, March 10 and Saturday, March 11 at 7:30 p.m. and Sunday, March 12 at 2:30 p.m. at Encore Theatre at 6978 Lebanon Road in Mt. Juliet. Tickets are $15 for adults, $12 for seniors 60 and older and $10 for children 12 and younger and are available at encore-theatre-company.org, ticketsnashville.com or by calling 615-598-8950.

March 11

American Legion Post 56 Pancake Breakfast

6 a.m.

The American Legion Post 56 of Trousdale County will hold a pancake breakfast Saturday, March 11 from 6-11 a.m. at Keller’s Restaurant in Hartsville to raise money to send children to Boys State and Girls State. The cost is $6.50 per meal.

Next Step Resource Center Fish Fry

11 a.m.

The Next Step Resource Center will hold its open house fish fry Saturday, March 11 at 11 a.m. at the center at 402 E. Main St. in Lebanon. Plates are $5 each, and door process will be available. For more information, call 615-547-9999.

Stones River Chapter of Gold Star Wives meeting

1 p.m.

The Stones River Chapter of Gold Star Wives will meet Saturday, March 11 at 1 p.m. at the Alvin C. York VA Hospital at 3400 Lebanon Pike in Murfreesboro. Gold Star Wives is a national nonprofit service organization.  Anyone living in Nashville and the surrounding area whose spouse died while serving on active duty or of a service-connected cause is welcome to join. For more information, call Bonnie White at 423-421-2849.

Encore Theatre Co. to Present “Par For The Corpse”

7:30 p.m.

Encore Theatre Co. will present “Par For The Corpse” by Jack Sharkey. The comedy will be Saturday, March 11 at 7:30 p.m. and Sunday, March 12 at 2:30 p.m. at Encore Theatre at 6978 Lebanon Road in Mt. Juliet. Tickets are $15 for adults, $12 for seniors 60 and older and $10 for children 12 and younger and are available at encore-theatre-company.org, ticketsnashville.com or by calling 615-598-8950.

March 12

Encore Theatre Co. to Present “Par For The Corpse”

2:30 p.m.

Encore Theatre Co. will present “Par For The Corpse” by Jack Sharkey. The comedy will be Sunday, March 12 at 2:30 p.m. at Encore Theatre at 6978 Lebanon Road in Mt. Juliet. Tickets are $15 for adults, $12 for seniors 60 and older and $10 for children 12 and younger and are available at encore-theatre-company.org, ticketsnashville.com or by calling 615-598-8950.

March 14

City of Lebanon Retirees Group meeting

9 a.m.

The city of Lebanon Retirees group will meet Tuesday, March 14 at 9 a.m. at Shoney’s Restaurant at 814 S. Cumberland St. in Lebanon. The group is comprised of and limited to those people who have retired from the city of Lebanon municipal government. The group meets the second Tuesday of each month from September until May.

Tyler Cates American Legion Post 281 meeting

6:30 p.m.

The Tyler Cates American Legion Post 281 will meet Tuesday, March 14 and the second Tuesday of each month at Rutland Place at 435 N.W. Rutland Road in Mt. Juliet. Social time begins at 6:30 p.m. followed by the meeting at 7 p.m. All veterans are invited to attend. An American Legion Auxiliary Unit is also part of the post. New members are welcome to join. Former members or transfers from other posts are also invited to join. For more information, contact Pat Unger, commander, at 615-210-6156.

March 15

Mt. Juliet Chamber Connection Luncheon

11:15 a.m.

The Mt. Juliet Chamber of Commerce will hold its monthly chamber connection luncheon Wednesday, March 15 from 11:15 a.m. until 12:30 p.m. at Rutland Place. Early registration is $18 by March 14 or $23 for late registration. The guest speaker will be Courtney Kissack with St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. Online registration is required at mjchamber.org.

Johnson Heights Subdivision Neighborhood Meeting

6 p.m.

A neighborhood meeting for the Johnson Heights subdivision will be Wednesday, March 15 at 6 p.m. at the Town Meeting Hall at 200 N. Castle Heights Ave. in Lebanon. Ward 2 Councilor Fred Burton will lead an open meeting regarding development in the Johnson Heights subdivision area.

March 16

Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 5015 meeting

6 p.m.

The Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 5015 in Lebanon will meet Thursday, March 16 at 6 p.m. and on the third Thursday of each month in the Veterans Building at the James E. Ward Agricultural Center. Any veteran who has been awarded a campaign medal or combat medal for any hostility is eligible for membership, verified by the veterans’ DD 214 Form. Presently, Post 5015 is having success in rebuilding its post and becoming active in district and local events. It is not a Lebanon post, but a countywide post. To learn more, contact Post Commander John Marshall at jtmarshall2@icloud.com; Senior Vice Commander Ken Kackley at hkenkjr@aol.com or Junior Vice Commander Harold W. Weist at grnmarine@tds.net.

– Staff Reports

Education commissioner advocates local oversight on school bathrooms

By Xavier Smith

xsmith@lebanondemocrat.com

Tennessee’s education commissioner recently said she believed school bathroom policies are best handled at the local level, aligning with Wilson County’s director of schools on the issue.

Commissioner Candice McQueen sent a memo to local school districts earlier this week and discussed federal versus local oversight on bathroom policies in school districts.

Last month, President Donald Trump’s administration revoked guidance to public schools that allowed transgender students to use the bathrooms of their choice. Trump argued states and public schools officials should have the authority to make their own decisions regarding transgender students and their access to restrooms and locker rooms.

Former President Barack Obama’s administration issued the guidance in May.

“As I stated in May, we believe decisions on these types of issues should continue to be made at the local level on a case-by-case basis considering the unique needs of all students and how to ensure their safety and protection,” McQueen said.

McQueen said when the guidance was issued, it created a number of questions at the local level.

“We are confident local school districts are in the best position to appropriately and responsibly respect the rights and concerns of transgender students and others,” McQueen said.

Wilson County Director of Schools Donna Wright shared similar sentiments earlier this week regarding the proposed “bathroom bill” making its way through the Tennessee legislature.

The bill, sponsored by state Sen. Mae Beavers, R-Mt. Juliet, and Rep. Mark Pody, R-Lebanon, was recently assigned to the House Education Administration and Planning Subcommittee for next week. The bill would require students in state high schools and colleges to use restrooms and locker room facilities that align with the sex indicated on the student’s original birth certificate.

Wright said she believed local districts know what’s best for students regarding the issue.

“It’s not an issue for us. We take care of our kids,” said Wright, who said the district is sensitive to student needs, as well as parent and guardian concerns.

Wright said schools feature a single-stall, gender-neutral restroom that any student who feels it’s necessary is allowed to use.

Wright said the district is sensitive to all needs, including those that may fall outside of transgender students. She said she believed the legislation is unnecessary. She also cited oversight difficulties as reason for opposition.

“It becomes sort of farfetched to monitor, because we simply don’t have the personnel.  We don’t want to get into policing bathrooms,” Wright said.

“Our objective is to make sure no child is discriminated against or victimized by whatever life circumstance they may face. We take that very seriously.”

Lt. Gov. Randy McNally also said the legislation is not needed following the Trump administration’s reversal. McNally said he believed local districts handling cases on an individual basis would be best.

Internship Wilson up and running

Staff Reports

A group of six members from the 2017 class of Leadership Wilson announced their “Internship Wilson” project is officially up and running.

It’s been an ongoing three-year project powered by several classes of Leadership Wilson in a concentrated effort to connect local college students to local employers.

“We are pleased to announce that the vision that was laid by several classes before us is still continuing as IntershipWilson.com and through social media platforms,” said Amy Hohimer. “Our primary goal for next few weeks is to raise awareness regarding the site and the mission to connect Wilson County students with local employers to provide meaningful internship opportunities to enhance educational goals and post-graduate employment.”

Internship Wilson was created in three phases. The first phase of the project was spearheaded by members from the class of 2015, when they recognized a need for more opportunities for college students – many who require an internship to graduate – within the community. In 2016, the project was continued with the second phase with the creation of internshipwilson.com to make the internship information centralized. The third phase is the live version of the site and fulfilling the mission to connect local students to local employers.

“We have spoken to several employers who were involved with the project last year and are committed to being involved again this year,” Gloria Maphet said. “Employers in Lebanon such as Wilson County Motors and Prospect Inc. have all committed; while the Courtyard Marriott and Home Instead Senior Care in Mt. Juliet also have internship opportunities this year.”

Employers and prospective interns are encouraged to visit internshipwilson.com to learn more about how to become involved with the project. The deadline to register as a participating employer for a summer internship is April 15. The long-term vision for Internship Wilson is to be a constantly updated database for internship openings within Wilson County.

This year’s members facilitating the Internship Wilson project are Necole Bell, Charlie Brooks, Hohimer, Traci Pope, Maphet and Cynthia Roach; these six members are a part of Leadership Wilson’s class of 2017.

Leadership Wilson, founded in 1993, is a nonprofit community leadership organization that serves the community and educates leaders in Wilson County. Each year, about 30 participants from the business, education, civic, religious and government communities of Wilson County are provided a comprehensive leadership training opportunity through experiential learning, daylong seminars, group discussions, field trips and retreats, which creates a forum to exchange ideas and discuss areas of interest.

Mt. Juliet students excel at state German competition

Staff Reports

Mt. Juliet High School German students turned some heads and broke a few records recently at the German State Competition at Vanderbilt University.

According to Mt. Juliet German teacher Janine Zahuczky, Mt. Juliet was one of three public schools to compete at the primarily magnet and private school event. She said 11 schools participated, and Mt. Juliet had the largest turnout in history with 22 students in competition.

“We were strong in spelling and German cultural knowledge, scoring two first wins at state,” Zahuczky said. “I am very proud of the work my students did at Vanderbilt University, as there were very strong German programs in attendance, and 150 students competed overall.”

Mt. Juliet German students Margaret Adkins, Ethan Roberts, Regan Ingalls and Joseph Donahue won the Goethe Bowl in levels 1 and 2 without missing a question. The students answered 40 questions correctly in three straight rounds.

The team of Samantha McKinley, Olivia Gaston, Duncan McCampbell and Hannah Hagans finished second in the Goethe Bowl in levels 3 and 4.

“This was a difficult round, which addressed politics and modern events,” Zahuczky said. “Their knowledge is impressive.”

The team of Roberts, Ingalls, Taylor Marvel and Megan Phillips won the spelling bee in German levels 1 and 2.

The team of McCampbell, Harley Pendleton and Brendan Parish received an honorable mention in the spelling bee in German levels 3 and 4.

“This team tied for finals against MBA, but was defeated as our team had three people, and theirs had 4,” Zahuczky said.

Ingalls finished third in poetry recitation in reciting “Mein blaues Klavier” by Else Lasker-Schüler.

The team of Gideon Garcia, Becca Reynolds, Donahue, McKinley and Matthew Bochniak as actors won the skit competition in German levels 1 and 2 with “Romeo gegen Julia.” Roberts wrote the script.

McCampbell finished third in music German level 3 with “I’m Yours.”

With Amber Shugart as director and Parish as editor, the pair won the video competition in German level 2 for their video, “Mt. Juliet.”

Marvel finished second in sweet baking and won savory baking in German level 2. Adkins finished second in savory baking, and Joseph Grah finished third.

Hannah Hagans finished second and Adkins finished third in level 2 extemporaneous speaking.

“This is the hardest category, as a topic for speech is given, and students have one minute to compose their thoughts and speak on a topic in German in front of a crowd,” Zahuczky said.

Evening with the Arts brings Nashville songwriters to Mt. Juliet

Staff Reports

Mt. Juliet Christian Academy’s Evening with the Arts: Writers in the Round featured several notable Nashville songwriters perform at the school Feb. 25.

Billed as a night with Darryl Worley and friends, the event featured performances by Worley, Kenny Beard, Andy Griggs, Mark Narmore and Lauren Kleeberg, winner of the school’s songwriting competition.

Worley has been a songwriter in the country music industry for more than 15 years. His hits include “Awful, Beautiful Life,” “Have You Forgotten” and “I Miss My Friend.”

Beard has been a prominent songwriter in Nashville since the 1990s, with many songs garnering critical acclaim.

Griggs has performed in country and bluegrass groups, and has performed music in Nashville for more than 20 years.

Narmore has had a songwriting career spanning more than 25 years. He has had songs recorded by many notable musicians, including Josh Turner, John Michael Montgomery, Shenandoah, Blackhawk, Terry Clark and Craig Morgan.

Kleeberg is a sixth grader at Mt. Juliet Christian Academy. The school organized a songwriting and poetry competition leading up to the Evening with the Arts event to showcase the bright, young artists at the school. Kleeberg was named the winner a few weeks before the event, and she performed her original song, “And If Only They Knew,” during the event.

The event served as a fundraiser for the fine arts program at the school, and also featured a silent auction that was held that featured many one-of-a-kind items.

The Mt. Juliet Christian Academy Fine Arts Booster Club will use proceeds from the event to replace outdated theatrical curtains and lighting needed to support the fine arts students at the school.

For more information about the annual event, visit mjca.org/fine-arts.

School board takes a stand against voucher bills

By Xavier Smith 

xsmith@lebanondemocrat.com

The Wilson County school board took a stand Monday against several proposed school voucher bills introduced this year in the state legislature.

“In light of current legislation and bills being brought to the floor, I’d like to make a motion for resolution that states the Wilson County school board does not support any bill that promotes school vouchers aiming to remove any form of funding from public schools,” board member Tom Sottek said.

The board unanimously approved Sottek’s motion, which takes aim at a handful of bills in the state legislature.

The most prominent bill, sponsored by Rep. Bill Dunn, R-Knoxville, has failed the last four legislative sessions. The bill would allow students who are zoned in or attend a public school that is identified as in the bottom 5 percent of schools in overall achievement to receive a voucher for participating private K-12 schools.

Another bill, sponsored by Sen. Delores Gresham, R-Somerville, would allow the parents of any students to convert their BEP funding into a debit card for checking account to use for approved education expenses.

Rep. Harry Brooks, R-Knoxville, sponsored a bill that would create a pilot voucher program in Shelby County, in hopes of gaining more support for the program throughout the state.

“It makes me incredibly happy to hear that they are taking a public stance on such an important issue,” Wilson County parent Kristi Dunn said of the school board. “Education is not a business. As a public, what we want for our child, we should want for all children. Our schools are already underfunded. Vouchers will just drain our public schools of further funding.”

Dunn said although legislators have set limitations on qualifications, there’s always the possibility of slow expansion to loosening of regulations.

“We will be the next Indiana. Vouchers have not been proven to work and be successful. We need to actually work on the issues that will make a difference for our kids like hunger, homelessness and equal programs for all of our students,” she said.

Board chairman Larry Tomlinson said the board would send a copy of the resolution to Sen. Mae Beavers, R-Mt. Juliet; Rep. Mark Pody, R-Lebanon; and Rep. Susan Lynn, R-Mt. Juliet, along with Tennessee Education Commissioner Candice McQueen and Gov. Bill Haslam.