Hours extended for St. Jude dream home tours

Tickets are almost gone for a chance to win the St. Jude Dream Home Giveaway, but hours for open house tours of the home were extended past last weekend.

The house, built by Signature Homes and estimated to be worth $450,000, is in the Jackson Hills community in Mt. Juliet. The house and other prizes, including a car, will be given away live June 25 at noon on WZTV Fox 17.

Additional open houses have just been added for the public to see the house for the last time. 

The house will be open June 21-24 from 9 a.m. until 7 p.m.

Everyone who visits the house has the opportunity to reserve a $100 ticket to win the St. Jude Dream Home Giveaway house while tickets last and also register free for a chance to win a $10,000 shopping spree at Ashley HomeStore.

The first 500 people to visit June 24 will receive a cookie from Christie Cookie. Tickets reserved by June 23 will also be eligible for the bonus prize, a 2017 Ford Escape, courtesy of Two Rivers Ford.

“We had more than 500 people tour the house this past weekend, so we decided we should extend the open house dates,” said Jennifer Gailey, volunteer coordinator.  “We just want everyone to come see this beautiful home that has been built with so much talent and love. It’s exciting that one lucky person will win June 25 for just $100.”

Other prizes also up for grabs include two $1,000 Visa gift cards, Brizo Artesso articulating faucet with smarttouch technology in stainless steel finish, two Segway tours of downtown Nashville for six people and a $1,000 gift card at Shaw Floors.

To reserve a ticket while they last, call 800-746-6713, and for directions to the home and more information, visit dreamhome.org. Tickets are also available at Two Rivers Ford while they last.

Sponsors of the fundraising campaign include WZTV Fox 17, Signature Homes, the BIG 98, Two Rivers Ford, Ashley HomeStore, Crowe Horwath and national sponsors, Brizo, Shaw Floors and Trane. 

Staff Reports

Prospect benefits from Eagle Scout project

When Eagle Scout candidate Charles Marrder, of Mt. Juliet, first contacted Prospect, he had no idea what to expect from the service opportunity.

Submitted to Mt. Juliet News
Eagle Scout candidate Charles Marrder (center) swings with Prospect service recipients on one of the swings included in the gazebo he built as part of his Eagle Scout project recently for Prospect.

Marrder inquired about completing an Eagle Scout project for the nonprofit, and although he knew the organization provided support services for individuals with disabilities, he could not predict the magnitude of effort, joy and fulfillment the project would ultimately bring to him.

After brainstorming ideas for the project, Marrder developed plans for a gazebo, complete with swings. With the help of scouts, various volunteers and several donors, Marrder recently completed his project for Prospect, which bolstered 229 volunteer hours total.

“Every day we have people who come to the day center for activities, services and volunteering, but we have very limited resources for outside activities,” said Prospect director of development Laura Swanson.

Marrder’s project not only fulfills an immediate need, but it also sets the stage for future outdoor activities, Swanson said.

Marrder’s Eagle Scout project is the culmination of his 10 years in scouting.

“I am overjoyed knowing my decade spent with the Boy Scouts of America has concluded in cheerful service to some of the world’s kindest people,” said Marrder. “Thank you to everyone who has contributed to the success of this project, especially 5 Bravo Construction, Lebanon Distributing, Sherwin Williams, Hall Group Architecture, Lester Digital Reprographics, Fakes and Hooker Lumber, Elite Welding, Darrel Gilley Trucking, the leaders and scouts of Troop 293 and, of course, my ever-supportive parents.”

Swanson said the project was a welcome addition to the outdoor activities, and it has been a big hit with the individuals who visit Prospect. The swings are used almost daily, weather permitting. Angel, one of Prospect’s service recipients, said, “I think it’s cool.”

Marrder is a member of Boy Scout Troop 293, which meets at College Hills Church of Christ, and a 2017 graduate of Father Ryan High School. He plans to attend the University of Notre Dame in the fall.

Staff Reports

Helicopter arrives at Wilson County Veterans Museum

A Vietnam War-era helicopter arrived at its final resting place Thursday after rain delayed its move to the Wilson County Veterans Museum.

Xavier Smith • Mt. Juliet News
Workers prepare to move a UH-1 Huey helicopter into the Wilson County Veterans Museum on Thursday as spectators and guests watch. The Vietnam War-era helicopter was restored after it was moved to Lebanon from Nashville last year.

The UH-1 Huey helicopter arrived in Lebanon last year from Nashville and was restored and housed at the James E. Ward Agricultural Center before its move to the museum. Conrad Construction Co. workers assisted in both moves.

Wilson County Commissioner Jerry McFarland said the helicopter, which is a loan from the state of Tennessee, would be the focal point of the museum. He said the UH-1 Huey helicopter was used to fly U.S. soldiers in Vietnam from 1966-68, and the Tennessee National Guard later used it from 1980-85.

The state acquired the helicopter and used it as a training aid most recently, McFarland said.

According to McFarland, former Wilson County sheriff and current Commissioner Terry Ashe flew in an UH-1 in the Vietnam War as part of the 48th Assault Helicopter Co. attached to the 101st Airborne, which is based out of Fort Campbell, Ky. The 48th AHC was active from Nov. 6, 1965 until Aug. 23, 1972 and participated in 16 campaigns in the Vietnam War, according to military historians.

The particular UH-1 was active in Vietnam from 1966-68, when it was sent back to the U.S. to replace the engine with a heavier engine. It never returned to Vietnam, McFarland said.

In combat, it was able to fit 13 people, by weight. However, if there was equipment to be shipped, then fewer people could fly in the machine.

Visitors to the museum will be able to go into the helicopter, put on headsets and talk back and forth as if they were riding in the machine. The engine components will be removed and only enough power to light and work the console and headsets will be used.

Correspondent Angie Mayes contributed to this report.

Staff Reports

Handguns, rifle part stolen in gun store burglary

Mt. Juliet police are investigating a burglary at Guns and Ammo on North Mt. Juliet Road last Wednesday in which 15 handguns and a rifle part were stolen.

Mark Bellew • All Hands Fire Photos
Mt. Juliet police are investigating a burglary at Guns and Ammo on North Mt. Juliet Road last Wednesday in which 15 handguns and a rifle part were stolen.

Officers were dispatched to the gun store after the burglar alarm system activated at about 12:30 a.m. Police arrived within moments of the initial dispatch to find damage to the front glass of the business.

Police believe unknown suspects burst through the front glass of the store and stole the weapons.

Detectives responded to the scene to gather evidence in hopes of leading them to the suspects. Agents with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives are assisting in the investigation.

Surveillance footage showed possible suspects parking across the street from the gun store near Suntrust Bank before the burglary. Police hope someone in the community will recognize the vehicle, which appears to be a white Kia Optima four-door sedan.

Police will release more information about the incident as the investigation continues.

The ATF and the National Shooting Sports Foundation, the trade association for the firearms industry, offered a reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of those responsible for the theft of firearms.

The ATF reward is up to $2,500, and that will be matched by the NSSF for a total reward of up to $5,000. The reward is part of a larger national cooperation initiative.

Anyone with information about the crime should contact Mt. Juliet police at 615-754-2550 or the ATF at 800-283-4867. Information may also be given anonymously by calling the tip line at 615-754-8477 or at mjpd.org.

Staff Reports

Wilson County Commission highlights several county schools achievements

The Wilson County Commission honored several personnel and students of Wilson County Schools on Monday in the group’s first meeting since the 2016-2017 school year ended.

Xavier Smith • Mt. Juliet News
Wilson County Schools director Donna Wright watches Monday as Wilson County Commissioner Frank Bush recognizes Mt. Juliet’s theater director Rodney Park, principal Mel Brown and senior Amanda Dowswell. Wright also received recognition for her superintendent of the year award.

The group honored Mt. Juliet High School’s Rodney Parks and principal Mel Brown, as well as Wilson County Director of Schools Donna Wright, for their accomplishments.

Parks heads Mt. Juliet’s theater department, which consists of nine classes, beginning with theater I for beginners and theater IV for advanced students. There are about 250 students involved in the school’s theater classes or productions, which allows the department to present productions year round.

The group welcomed upcoming senior Amanda Dowswell. Dowswell, who played the lead female role in the school’s recent rendition of “Phantom of the Opera,” sang two songs for the group, including “God Bless America.”

Commissioner Frank Bush led the honoring after he said Commissioner John Gentry boasted about the Mt. Juliet High School production.

The commission also honored Mt. Juliet principal Mel Brown, who was named principal of the year by the Tennessee Association of Secondary School Principals.

Brown has served as Mt. Juliet High School principal for 13 years, beginning in 2004.

“I really want to emphasize this is a family thing. It starts with immediate family, but this is a Wilson County thing. We can’t do anything in education without you. We can’t do anything without Dr. Wright. We can’t do it without the board of education,” Brown said. “This is a very humbling thing. The key is it takes everybody for anybody to do anything.”

The commission also honored Wright after the Professional Educators of Tennessee, a nonpartisan statewide association of Tennessee teachers, named Wright its superintendent of the year for 2016.

“I’m blessed and I feel privileged to not only live and reside in this county, but to work for this school district. It was here all along. I’m a great cheerleader. I will say that,” Wright said.

“[School educators and staff] create the magic and I’m the one that makes sure they have the resources, tools and everything they need to do it. Once again, thank you, but I thank them for making this job what it is.”

The commission also approved a continuing budget and tax rate for the fiscal year that begins July 1.

It is possible the fiscal year budget will not be approved until after the beginning of the fiscal year, and under the provisions of the 1981 Financial Management Act, Wilson County does not have to adopt a budget for the new fiscal year until Aug. 31 but must adopt it during July or August or get the approval of the comptroller.

The amounts set in the current appropriations budget will be continued until a new budget is adopted.

Xavier Smith • Mt. Juliet News
Mt. Juliet High School principal Mel Brown receives a handshake from Wilson County Commissioner Dan Walker on Monday. The commission recognized Brown for his principal of the year award, along with Mt. Juliet’s theater department under the direction of Rodney Parks and schools director Donna Wright.

By Xavier Smith


Windtree Pines development denied by city commission

The Mt. Juliet City Commission denied preliminary plans for a residential development at the site of the Windtree Pines Golf Course during Monday’s commission meeting.

The plans, which were considered in the second reading Monday after the first reading was approved in April, included 351 single-family homes on about 184 acres.

In April, commissioners debated at length about putting in a roundabout on Nonaville Road. City engineer Andy Barlow recommended the roundabout.

The roundabout was a cause for concern among commissioners again Monday, as there was some worry that many traveling through the area will haul boats and trailers through the roundabout. Commissioners also had general traffic concerns.

Ray Justice, who is the commissioner for the district where the proposed development is located, was strongly opposed to the roundabout.

Mayor Ed Hagerty, Justice and Brian Abston voted against the preliminary plans.

In April, commissioners agreed to allow developer Danny Hale to voluntarily contribute an additional $1,250 per lot to go toward additional improvements in the area, rather than the normally recommended amount of $2,500 per lot. Hale would have also been responsible for putting in sidewalks going to Lebanon Road.

In the preliminary plans, the existing amenities center would have remained, and a community swimming pool would have been built. The site also would have dedicated green space that would include an existing lake.

According to Hale, if the project were approved, it would take 10 years before it was completed.

If the developer wishes to attempt to move forward with a modified version of the project, it will need to go before the Mt. Juliet Planning Commission and, if approved, may then be reconsidered by the city commission.

By Jake Old 


Windtree Pines development denied by city commission

The Mt. Juliet City Commission denied preliminary plans for a residential development at the site of the Windtree Pines Golf Course during Monday’s commission meeting.

The plans, which were considered in the second reading Monday after the first reading was approved in April, included 351 single-family homes on about 184 acres.

In April, commissioners debated at length about putting in a roundabout on Nonaville Road. City engineer Andy Barlow recommended the roundabout.

The roundabout was a cause for concern among commissioners again Monday, as there was some worry that many traveling through the area will haul boats and trailers through the roundabout. Commissioners also had general traffic concerns.

Ray Justice, who is the commissioner for the district where the proposed development is located, was strongly opposed to the roundabout.

Mayor Ed Hagerty, Justice and Brian Abston voted against the preliminary plans.

In April, commissioners agreed to allow developer Danny Hale to voluntarily contribute an additional $1,250 per lot to go toward additional improvements in the area, rather than the normally recommended amount of $2,500 per lot. Hale would have also been responsible for putting in sidewalks going to Lebanon Road.

In the preliminary plans, the existing amenities center would have remained, and a community swimming pool would have been built. The site also would have dedicated green space that would include an existing lake.

According to Hale, if the project were approved, it would take 10 years before it was completed.

If the developer wishes to attempt to move forward with a modified version of the project, it will need to go before the Mt. Juliet Planning Commission and, if approved, may then be reconsidered by the city commission.

By Jake Old


Wilson County cities ready to celebrate Fourth of July

With everything from water gun parades to firework shows, families who want to find a fun event to celebrate the Fourth of July have plenty of options in Wilson County.

Mt. Juliet

Providence Marketplace will play host to Mt. Juliet’s Fourth of July celebration. There will be live music beginning at 4 p.m. in the town center in front of the Providence 14 Theater.

A 30-foot video game trailer, featuring several gaming systems such as an XBox 360, PlayStation and Nintendo Wii, will be available for enjoyment, along with several high-definition LCD televisions.

There will be face painting, balloon artists, caricature artists, inflatable slides and more to satisfy the younger crowd.

There will be musical performances by Mikki Zip, Scott Honaker, Alayna, Jeremy McComb and the Tim McDonald Band.

The fireworks show will begin at 9 p.m. at the Paddocks Shopping Center. The fireworks will be shot from the empty lot beside Academy Sports.

All activities are free. All Providence Marketplace stores will be open regular hours during the event.

Mt. Juliet has the same rules about fireworks as Lebanon.


Lebanon will hold its fireworks show at the James E. Ward Agricultural Center. The fireworks show will begin at dusk at around 9 p.m.

People who plan to attend the event are encouraged to bring their own lawn chairs.

The personal use of fireworks is only permitted from June 20 until July 5. Fireworks may only be discharged between 10 a.m. and 10 p.m.

The rules for use of fireworks are:

Children younger than 18 years old are prohibited from buying or using fireworks, unless the child is under the supervision of a guardian.

It is unlawful to explode or ignite fireworks within 600 feet of any church, hospital, funeral home, public or private school or within 200 feet of where fireworks are stored, sold or offered for sale.

Fireworks shall not be launched or fired onto the property of anyone who have not given permission.

No person shall ignite or discharge any fireworks within or throw from a motor vehicle or at a motor vehicle or group of people.


Watertown will be have its annual Stars, Stripes and Squirtguns Parade, sponsored by the Watertown Chamber of Commerce, on July 4 at 3 p.m. Parade participants should line up at 2 p.m. at Watertown Elementary School or Round Lick Baptist Church. The parade will continue through Main Street in Watertown.

There will be a no squirt zone for people who do not want to get wet.

Float judging takes place before the parade. The entry fee for floats is $20. There is no fee for nonprofits, schools, churches and non-business individuals.

Applications to join the parade are available at watertowntn.com/events or at Jim’s Antiques, Watertown Public Library or Wilson Bank & Trust in Watertown.

The city’s firework show will begin at 9 p.m. prior to the ballgames at Three Forks Community Park. Concessions will be available. There will be free watermelon and freeze pops.

Firework sales will begin July 1 and continue through July 7. Fireworks should be shot only between 8 a.m. and midnight.

By Kaitlin Vatrease


Wright inducted into bus driver hall of fame

Wilson County school bus driver David Wright became the ninth inductee into the Tennessee School Bus Driver Hall of Fame last week.

Photo courtesy of Facebook
Wilson County bus driver David Wright (right) smiles with his family during Tennessee School Bus Driver Hall of Fame ceremony last week. Wright is the first Wilson County driver and seventh person in the state inducted into the hall of fame.

Wright, one of the longest tenured drivers in the state, has spent 49 years with the school system, starting in 1967. Wright has driven a bus for every school in Wilson County.

Wright has said he takes pride in his bus and making sure his pupils arrive at their destination without harm. He is also known for his love of Wilson County sports and can be spotted at athletic games after driving a busload of athletes.

Last month, Wilson County Deputy Director of Schools Mickey Hall said he knew Wright would take any route or help in any way possible if he received a call from Hall.

The Wilson County Commission honored Wright in 2015.

“Wright is the only emergency driver in Wilson County due to his experience and has driven for every school in Wilson County,” Hutto said. “Mr. Wright is so knowledgeable of the roads in the county and has such a good rapport with teachers and students. They ask him personally to drive on field trips. He’s known for having the cleanest bus and takes pride in his work.”

Wright also worked for the Wilson County Sheriff’s Department for 37 years as a reserve deputy, along with Middle Tennessee Electric Membership Corp., Sadler Funeral Home and more.

Wright has been married to his wife, Helen, for nearly 50 years, and the couple has a son, Calvin.

By Xavier Smith


Local cinematographer to unveil his new film

Documentary follows American veterans returning from Iraq

Submitted to Mt. Juliet News
An award-winning documentary film from a Mt. Juliet cinematographer that follows American veterans returning to Northern Iraq is set to play June 30 at the Full Moon Cineplex.

An award-winning documentary film from a Mt. Juliet cinematographer that follows American veterans returning to Northern Iraq is set to play June 30 at the Full Moon Cineplex.

Showtime will be at 7 p.m. with a question-and-answer session to follow.

Filmed in Iraq and Syria, “The Longest Road” follows retired Army Sgt. Richard Campos, Vietnam veteran Stan Rapada, and Gold Star father Kevin Graves as they head to the front lines of combat to see the atrocities that ISIS has committed firsthand. But this isn’t just a sightseeing tour. Campos and his team of veterans, turned humanitarians, are now giving back to those who have suffered immeasurable loss at the hands of the enemy.

“We’ve seen how the refugee crisis has turned so political in our country. This isn’t about politics. It isn’t about religion. It’s about humanity,” said Grammy-nominated musician turned cinematographer Jimmy Cooper.

Cooper, a Mt. Juliet resident, made three trips to Iraq to serve on the film in two years. While in the Middle East, the production befriended a Muslim heart surgeon who shares her story in the film. Dr. Nemam Ghafouri, a former refugee herself, brought the finished film to London and Sweden, where it played to packed theaters filled with diverse crowds. The filmmakers were even invited to attend a meeting at Swedish Parliament to discuss the current refugee situation in the Middle East.

“We are very excited to bring this film to the Nashville area,” said Cooper. “We have been forever changed and will continue to raise awareness for all of these beautiful displaced people. Their dream has become our dream…to find healing, peace and hope while rebuilding what has been lost.”

Full Moon Cineplex is at 3445 Lebanon Pike, Suite 3 in Hermitage.

Staff Reports

County names two new principals

Dunn to lead Carroll-Oakland, Price to run Watertown

Jason Dunn

Wilson County Schools recently announced the appointment of two new principals for the upcoming school year. 

Jason Dunn, who served as assistant principal and athletic director at Carroll-Oakland Elementary School for the past three years, will assume the role of principal at Carroll-Oakland. 

Kayla Price, who served as assistant principal at Watertown Middle School since 2014, was tapped to lead the school as principal.

School leaders said Dunn and Price were instrumental leaders in the district for a number of years.

Prior to his work as assistant principal at Carroll-Oakland, Dunn worked as a teacher at MAP Academy, where he was often praised for going above and beyond for students who were the most “at risk” of failure.

Kayla Price

Since assuming the role of assistant principal at Carroll-Oakland, Dunn has demonstrated his strong work ethic among peers and parents alike, Wilson County Schools officials said.

During her 16 years with the district, Price also made a name for herself because of her willingness to tackle some of the district’s tougher projects.

Prior to her appointment as assistant principal for Watertown Middle School, Price spent 10 years working as an elementary teacher in and around the Watertown community.

Staff Reports

Stolen truck chase ends in crash

Driver runs away, leaves injured passenger behind

Photo courtesy of Mt. Juliet police
A stolen truck chase ended in a crash Saturday night on Hobson Pike near Smith Springs Parkway.

A stolen truck chase ended in a crash Saturday night on Hobson Pike near Smith Springs Parkway, according to Mt. Juliet police.

Mt. Juliet police dispatch received a call at 7:38 p.m. from a concerned citizen about a woman running away from Target at 401 S. Mt. Juliet Road with a lot of merchandise. The caller told police he felt as if the woman had just stolen the items, and she jumped into the passenger side of a truck in the Target parking lot.

The caller described the truck and gave its tag number to dispatchers, who found the truck was stolen Saturday from Robertson County.

Dispatchers then relayed the information to officers in the area, and one officer spotted the stolen truck.

After spotting the stolen struck on South Mt. Juliet Road near Providence Parkway, the officer tried to stop it. However, the driver did not stop and ran from the officer at high speeds. The truck’s driver continued to drive recklessly as the officer continued to chase it. At one point, the driver crossed into oncoming traffic and hit a car head on. The stolen truck driver ran away from the crash scene and left an injured woman passenger behind, according to police.

Metro-Nashville officers immediately responded to the scene and assisted in the search of the driver who fled. The driver was not found. The woman passenger in the stolen truck was taken to Vanderbilt University Medical Center’s emergency room in stable condition. The man driving the car that was hit head on was taken to Vanderbilt in critical condition.

The Tennessee Highway Patrol responded to the scene. Troopers are investigating the circumstances surrounding the crash. Mt. Juliet police officers continued to investigate the circumstances surrounding the stolen truck and apparent theft at Target.

Mt. Juliet police Chief James Hambrick announced Monday afternoon he tasked the department’s investigative division with the case.

“I’ve assigned this case to our investigative division because I want to ensure the complete resources and capabilities of our department are utilized to quickly identify and apprehend the driver,” Hambrick said. “It is obvious that this individual is dangerous and has no regard to safety of our community. He needs to be apprehended and held responsible.”

Video footage of the pursuit was captured on the pursuing officer’s in-car camera system, and police officials plan to release the video as soon as possible and when deemed appropriate as not to hinder the ongoing investigation.

Staff Reports

Wilson ranks high in children’s health, education study

Wilson County ranked higher than the statewide rate for several children’s education, health and economic well-being categories, according to the recently released Annie E. Casey Foundation’s Kids Count Data Book.

Statewide improvements in health and education placed Tennessee 35th in the nation, and Wilson County ranks higher than most counties in several areas. Overall, Tennessee ranks 26th in heath, 33rd in education, 35th in economic well being and 40th in family and community.

The data book ranks states in measures of child well being across several different categories, including poverty level, school attendance and economic stability. The annual report provides year-to-year data, as well as a five-year overview.

The population of children living in poverty – or living with an income below the official poverty threshold – in Wilson County declined by more than 2 percent from 2014 to 2015. In 2014, 4,193 children were living in poverty, or 14 percent of the child population, and in 2015, 3,582 children were living in poverty, or 11.7 percent.

That percentage marks the second-lowest percentage of children living in poverty in any county in the state, behind only Williamson County, which has a 5.3 percent rate.

Statewide, 355,680 children are living in poverty, or 24.1 percent of the state’s child population.

About 4 percent of children younger 19 years old are uninsured, slightly lower than the 4.2 percent statewide rate.

About 36.5 percent of students enrolled in public schools in Wilson County were measured as either overweight or obese in 2015. The statewide rate was 38.6 percent.

There were a total of 154 substantiated child abuse cases reported in Wilson County in 2015 at a rate of 5.0 per 1,000 children younger than 18. The number is the highest in five years, with 130 cases in 2014, 93 in 2013, 77 cases in 2012 and 90 cases in 2011.

Statewide 8,730 substantiated child abuse cases were reported at a rate of 5.9 per 1,000 children younger than 18.

Wilson County had five child deaths in 2015, at a rate of 20.8 per 100,000, compared to 219 deaths statewide for a rate of 18.9 per 100,000.

Four teenager deaths by accident, homicide or suicide were reported in 2015, at a rate of 47.5 per 100,000, slightly more than the 46.6 per 100,000 rate statewide for 196 total reported teen deaths by accident, homicide or suicide.

About 36.9 percent of Wilson County students are eligible for free or reduced lunches, significantly lower than the statewide rate of 59.7 percent.

About 2.5 percent of Wilson County high school students dropped out in 2016, a decline from 2.9 percent in 2015. The statewide rate was 5.6 percent in 2016 and 6 percent in 2015.

Wilson County’s graduation rate of 95.1 percent in 2016 – a slight decline from 95.7 percent in 2015 and 96.3 percent in 2014 – is higher than the statewide rate of 88.5 percent.

“The 2017 Kids Count Data Book reflects substantial progress during the administration of Gov. Bill Haslam,” said Linda O’Neal, executive director of the Tennessee Commission on Children and Youth, the state Kids Count affiliate.

“The economic development and business recruitment gains contributed to economic well-being ranking improvements. The educational strategies related to the state’s ‘Drive to 55’ and ‘Tennessee Promise’ have significantly contributed to improved outcomes for children and families, highlighting the importance of a two-generation strategy for the state’s long-term prosperity.”

By Jake Old


Wilson Bank & Trust celebrates 30 years by giving back

Wilson Bank & Trust, known as Middle Tennessee’s Community Bank, is marking its 30th year in business by donating $30,000 to charities in the communities it serves.

Additionally, each of the bank’s branches and other work group divisions will give at least 30 hours of volunteer time to charities it selects.

The celebration kicked off last month with a caravan tour of executives from Wilson Bank & Trust to area branch locations. Offices also started presenting a $1,000 check to each of their selected nonprofits.

“When we first opened our doors in 1987, we could not have imagined the day when we would celebrate 30 years of serving our community,” said CEO Randall Clemons. “Our customers are the people who brought us to this day. They have placed their trust in us and we, in turn, have worked every day to exceed their expectations. This donation we are making back to the community is our way of saying thank you to all those who have brought Wilson Bank & Trust to this very proud moment.”

Clemons was one of a group of Lebanon business leaders who founded Wilson Bank & Trust in 1987 after recognizing the need for a locally based financial institution. On Feb. 1, 1987, the first share of stock was sold, and Clemons was hired as the bank’s first employee. The first location was in a small, two-bedroom home near downtown Lebanon.

Now, 30 years later, the bank has grown to 26 full-service branch locations in eight Middle Tennessee counties with more than 105,000 customers. Most recently, the bank announced its expansion into Williamson County, and it will open its first branch in downtown Nashville on West End Avenue in the summer.

Wilson Bank & Trust remains an independent, hometown bank owned by thousands of stockholders who gather each year in Lebanon for a picnic with employees. And despite its expansion, Wilson Bank & Trust has stayed true to its core value of community service, investing hundreds of thousands of dollars over the years in area schools, charities, sports leagues and county celebrations and fairs.

“We are honored to serve Middle Tennessee and are proud to work with such a dedicated team of employees, several who have been with us for all of our 30 years,” said Clemons. “We would not be where we are without their continued dedication, not just to our business, but also to the communities we serve. The best part of this anniversary is being able to celebrate with them.”

One of the top banks in the South in stability, products, technology, growth and earnings, Wilson Bank & Trust currently operates 26 full-service offices in eight Middle Tennessee counties, offering a full range of financial products that include secondary market mortgage loans and online banking services.

Staff Reports

Long Hunter State Park to debut new Reading Ranger Story Trail

Submitted to Mt. Juliet News
Long Hunter State Park Ranger Leslie Ann Rawlings stands with visitors along the first Reading Ranger Story Trail in 2016 that featured the book, ‘Over in the Forest: Come and Take a Peek,’ by Marianne Berkes.

Long Hunter State Park will unveil the second edition of the Reading Ranger Story Trail on June 24.

The story trail combines outdoor exercise with childhood literacy through storybook artwork along a quarter-mile trail.

Tennessee State Parks partnered with the Governor’s Books from Birth Foundation and Nashville Public Library to bring visitors the children’s storybook, “Pitter and Patter,” by Martha Sullivan. Engaging artwork by Cathy Morrison reveals the journey of two raindrops traveling through the water cycle and greeting animal friends along the way. The story introduces young minds to this vital environmental concept as they walk along a state park trail.

Submitted to Mt. Juliet News
The cover of the current story trail book, ‘Pitter Patter,’ by Martha Sullivan is featured on the second edition of the Reading Ranger Story Trail at Long Hunter State Park.

Located near Couchville Lake, the story trail will be accessible daily during regular park hours from 7 a.m. until sunset until next spring.

The grand unveiling of the story trail, which will feature children’s activities and crafts, will be June 24 from 11 a.m. until 2 p.m. at Area 2 near Couchville Lake inside the park.

For more information about Long Hunter State Park, visit tnstateparks.com/parks/about/long-hunter. To learn more about the Governor’s Books from Birth Foundation, visit governorsfoundation.org.

Staff Reports

Olympic Day celebration set

Universal Gymnastics to feature Olympic bobsledder

Photo by Joe Rimkus • Miami Herald • TNS
USA’s team No. 2 members Brian Shimer, Mike Kohn, Doug Sharp and Dan Steele begin a run during the 2002 Winter Olympics four-man bobsleigh competition at Utah Olympic Park in Park City, Utah. Sharp will be at Universal Athletics on Saturday.

Universal Gymnastics in Mt. Juliet will celebrate Olympic Day with a variety of activities Saturday from 10 a.m. until 4 p.m. at the gym.

There will be an open gym to promote gymnastics, dance and urban movement as well as a full-scale American Ninja Warrior-style course.

American Olympic bobsled team champion Doug Sharp will be at the event. Sharp won bronze in the Winter Olympic Games in 2002.

Representatives from the Mt. Juliet Police Department and Fire Department of Mt. Juliet will also be there.

Booth space in the parking lot is available, and all proceeds will be donated to Wilson County Special Olympics.

Universal Gymnastics is at 5003 Market Place in Mt. Juliet.

For more information, call 615-758-4791 or visit universalgymtn.com.

County schools deputy director set to retire

Xavier Smith • Mt. Juliet News
Retiring Wilson County Schools deputy director Mary Ann Sparks (right) shares a laugh with her daughter-in-law Courtnie Sparks and Wilson County Director of Schools Donna Wright during her retirement ceremony Friday at the central office. Sparks, who has been with the school system for 30 years, said she looks forward to spending time with family and traveling.

Mary Ann Sparks, current Wilson County Schools deputy director of human resources, has her eyes set on retirement as she will not return to central office in the fall.

Sparks has worked with the school system for 30 years with 10 years as the district’s human resources director.

“I don’t know if I’ll really feel it until school’s back in session, and I’m not here. The last 10 years I’ve been here and working in the summer, it’s our busiest time, because we’re hiring people,” Sparks said.

Sparks started her teaching career in 1975 in East Tennessee. She then stayed at home with her children for seven years before moving to Middle Tennessee and starting her career with Wilson County Schools as a second-grade teacher at Mt. Juliet Elementary School.

“Every once in awhile I still hear from one of them. I love it,” said Sparks, who said former students often share special stories with her.

Sparks said the district, along with the county, has grown drastically during her time working for the district, which she characterized with a story from her time at Mt. Juliet Elementary School.

“I would take my 28 students, and we would walk up to the library on the side of [Mt. Juliet Road]. There were no sidewalks. It was the old Mt. Juliet Elementary building where the Mt. Juliet Chamber of Commerce is now. We may have seen three cars. It was a two-lane road,” she said.

Sparks said she became human resources director after the district’s growth required the position to be full time.

“I always thought even before the position became available that I would enjoy doing it,” she said.

Sparks said her career aptitude tests often resulted in equal scores in nurturing and business.

“This combined those jobs, but there was definitely a learning curve,” said Sparks, who said she adapted with a lot of hard work, something instilled by her parents.

Sparks has emerged as a leader in human resource in the state, which Wright said increases the void she leaves upon retirement.

“She leaves a huge hole, because she’s been a strategic leader in human resources for the state. She’s one of those individuals that others look to for advisement. For us, that’s a huge hole to find someone with the experience, but also the human element that you either have or don’t. She has that,” Wright said.

Sparks said he retirement plans include spending time with her two grandchildren and family, traveling and volunteering in the community, along with picking up old hobbies like sewing.

She said she believed Wilson County, which she described as special, and the school district were headed in a good direction.

“I’ll miss the people, and I’ll miss being part of the school system,” Sparks said.

By Xavier Smith


Ahhaitty to be delegate at future doctors congress

Alyssia Ahhaitty, a rising 10th grader at Mt. Juliet High School, was named a delegate to the Congress of Future Medical Leaders on June 25-27 in Lowell, Mass.

The congress is an honors-only program for high school students who want to become physicians or go into medical research fields. The purpose of the event is to honor, inspire, motivate and direct the top students in the country, who aspire to be physicians or medical scientists, to stay true to their dream and, after the event, to provide a path, plan and resources to help them reach their goal.

Dr. Robert Darling, medical director of the National Academy of Future Physicians and Medical Scientists, nominated Ahhaitty to represent Tennessee based on her academic achievement, leadership potential and determination to serve humanity in the field of medicine.

During the three-day congress, Ahhaitty will join students from across the country and hear Nobel laureates and National Medal of Science winners talk about leading medical research, be given advice from Ivy League and top medical school deans on what to expect in medical school, witness stories told by patients who are living medical miracles, be inspired by fellow teen medical science prodigies and learn about cutting-edge advances and the future in medicine and medical technology.

“This is a crucial time in America when we need more doctors and medical scientists who are even better prepared for a future that is changing exponentially,” said Richard Rossi, executive director of the National Academy of Future Physicians and Medical Scientists. “Focused, bright and determined students like Alyssia Ahhaitty are our future, and she deserves all the mentoring and guidance we can give her.”

The academy offers free services and programs to students who want to be physicians or go into medical science. Some of the services and programs the academy offers are online social networks through which future doctors and medical scientists can communicate, opportunities for students to be guided and mentored by physicians and medical students and communications for parents and students on college acceptance and finances, skills acquisition, internships, career guidance and more.

The National Academy of Future Physicians and Medical Scientists was founded on the belief that prospective medical talent must be identified at the earliest possible age and help must be given to these students to acquire the necessary experience and skills to take them to the doorstep of this career. For more information, visit futuredocs.com.

Staff Reports

Schools OK field trip fees hike

School bus drivers to get paid more for driving during field trips

The Wilson County school board approved an increase to the district’s field trip fees Monday, a move that will benefit district drivers.

The change increases the amount charged to schools for athletic and field trips to make the payment for bus drivers closer to their regular pay. Wilson County Schools director Donna Wright said drivers currently receive $10 per hour for any trips beyond their contracted work or regular morning and bus routes.

Mickey Hall, Wilson County Schools deputy director, said the recommendation rose from conversations with bus drivers. He said the $20 figure came from making slight adjustment to the average pay for district drivers, which is $16 per hour.

Board member Bill Robinson amended Wright’s recommendation Monday of an increase to drivers’ pay to $20 an hour in favor of a smaller increase to $15 an hour after he cited concerns for the impact to smaller athletic programs last week.

“This is going to be a hammer lick to some of these programs,” Robinson said last week, adding he felt the change would not be worth the impact on athletic programs.

“I don’t think this is a part of the issue and I don’t think this is a part of the fix. I hate to have to burden these athletic programs with this because some of these programs don’t take in anything and have to be supported by the bigger programs,” he said.

Hall reiterated the charge would not only apply to athletic clubs and said the recommendation stemmed from conversations with bus drivers, which started earlier this year. He shared input from veteran Wilson County bus drivers during April’s board meeting.

Issues raised surrounding the district’s bus driver shortage included the split-shift format that drivers adhere to, along with a lack of respect from students and parents, inconsistency in handling reports of incidents and driver pay.

The district also gave an update to the report cards delay.

Wilson County Schools spokesperson Jennifer Johnson said in an email to parents May 20 the state vendor responsible for picking up the completed tests arrived several days later than scheduled despite the system meeting its required deadlines. 

Johnson said the raw scores were originally scheduled to arrive May 16 in Wilson County. She said TN Ready scores returned to the district Friday afternoon.

“While we had hoped to verify those scores, bring them into our system and calculate the final averages in time for report cards to be released [Tuesday], the process is taking a bit longer than expected. For that reason, we’ve decided to post report cards in stages,” Johnson said.

Report cards for children in Kindergarten through second grade will post to Skyward on Wednesday, according to Johnson. Paper copies of report cards for those students will be available after Thursday at schools during normal business hours.

Report cards for students in third through 12th grades will post to Skyward on Monday, June 12, and a paper copy will be available at schools after Tuesday, June 13.

Four schools currently under construction will have their pick up locations for paper copies of report cards changed to the following: Watertown High School for Tuckers Crossroads School and Watertown Elementary School; M.A.P. Academy for Southside Elementary School; and Wilson Central High School for Gladeville Elementary School.

By Xavier Smith


Beavers announces run for governor

Mt. Juliet senator pledges staunch conservative platform

Xavier Smith • Mt. Juliet News
State Rep. Mark Pody hugs Sen. Mae Beavers after announcing her run for governor of Tennessee on Saturday at Charlie Daniels Park.

Tennessee Sen. Mae Beavers formally announced her bid for governor of Tennessee on Saturday at Charlie Daniels Park in Mt. Juliet.

State Rep. Mark Pody introduced Beavers to the crowd, naming her the Iron Lady, harking back to the title given to England’s late prime minister Margaret Thatcher. Pody said Beavers’ determination to do what she thought was right, despite the popular vote, made her a strong force within the state.

Beavers, in making the announcement, introduced her family, saying they were her biggest supporters, and her family was the most important people in her life.

“No elected official ever serves without the love and support of their family, and I just want to say today how much I love and appreciate them,” she said.

She said when she “first ran for office in 1990, I brought a clear and concise set of principles to the county commission. As a state representative and now senator, I’ve carried these values and principles with me every step of the way.

“Today is to take those conservative values and principals, the sanctity of life, small and efficient state government, limited and constitutional national government, transparency and accountability of our elected officials, low taxes, commitment to the second amendment, respect for individual liberty and most importantly reliance upon our creator God. It’s time to take those values and principles to the next level.”

After the event at a press conference, Beavers said she believes because of the threat of terrorism, the country needs to vet those refugees who are coming into the country. She said the federal government is not giving the states any information on the refugees before they come to the state. That is something, if she is elected governor, she would like to change.

“We want to keep an eye on them while they’re here to make sure they don’t do harm,” she said.

She said frugal spending is a key issue and will be in her campaign. She pointed out she voted against the gas tax that was recently approved because of the surplus in the government that can be used for roadwork.

At the event were two factions vocal in their opinions. The Wilson County Democrat Party, chaired by Amanda Holloway, were out in force holding signs with the hashtag, #blockedbymae. They protested her values and the various bills and other things she supported in the legislature.

“We’re here today because she has basically refused to listen to her constituents,” Holloway said. “She’s only catering to the small minority of her base that follow her, and she’s refusing to listen to any other opinion who thinks otherwise.  A couple of months ago, she went on a tirade against a couple of constituents who were asking basic questions about some of the policy that she was supporting.”

She said that’s why the group uses “#blockedbymae” as its tag line.

“She has been supporting legislature about social issues about gay marriage, abortion and transgender rights,” Holloway said. “She focuses all of her energy on the bathroom, the bedroom and guns, when she needs to be focusing on things that matter to all Tennesseans such as infrastructure, health care and jobs. Those are things that really matter to all Tennesseans, and if she can’t see that then she doesn’t have any business being governor of the state of all of Tennessee.”

There were a few people who were Beavers supporters carrying American flags and signs who supported national issues such as the Paris Accord, and revival of the coal industry. Attempts to interview them were declined. They simply said, “thank you” and walked away.

The two groups did come together for a few minutes, but it was a peaceful confrontation.