Mt. Juliet chamber celebrates during banquet

Rima Austin

Special to the News

Will Snyder, of Under Armour, jokes with the audience while thanking the chamber for the Large Business of the Year Award on Thursday night at the Mt. Juliet Chamber of Commerce Chamber Choice Awards Banquet held at Tucker’s Gap Event Center as newly sworn in chamber board chair Galelynn Wilson laughs.

Members of the Mt. Juliet Chamber of Commerce were recognized with awards Thursday night at the Chamber Choice Awards Banquet held at Tucker’s Gap Event Center. Board members from 2019 welcomed in the new 2020 board and Galelynn Wilson was sworn in as the 2020 chair.

Wilson told the audience she was born and raised in Daytona Beach, Florida. She said she attended the University of Florida where she acquired a bachelor’s degree in exercise science and a master’s degree in education.

“I am the only daughter of a race car driver and a career businesswoman,” said Wilson. “And yes, I am a Gator.”

That drew some good natured boos from the room full of University of Tennessee fans.

“I would like to thank my mom Gloria Wilson or better known as grandma on deck. All that I have earned, all that I have and all that I am she has given me,” said Wilson. “She gave me the spirit of giving in volunteering, taking care of others, hard work, the never give up attitude, serving and leading when asked and the constant seeking of knowledge and betterment.”

Several businesses and individuals were honored during the banquet.

Lifetime Achievement Award winner Peter Schulert, CEO of ESC Lab Sciences at Pace Analytical Laboratories, said he was honored to receive his award and praised the community of Mt. Juliet.

“It couldn’t have happened better for us — from location to all the Mt. Juliet support,” said Schulert. “Mt. Juliet was a perfect place for us to grow our company.”

Other honorees were

Ambassador of the Year — Tina Hutsenpiller

Volunteer of the Year — Tyler Allen

Wilsonian of the Year — Tucker’s Gap Event Center

Business Man of the Year — Gerard Bullock, a realtor.

Business Woman of the Year — Julie Ruesewald, owner of Merit Insurance of Tennessee.

Small Business of the Year — Dunn Commercial Group

Large Business of the Year — Under Armour

The chamber’s top award, the Paul Bauman Award of Excellence, went to Ken Powers, owner of developer Commercial Realty Services. Powers was not at the banquet and could not be reached Friday.

Also recognized was retiring board member Samuel Short and past board chair Kevin Sanders.

Planning Commission explores lifting accessory home restrictions

Ethan Steinquest

Special to the News

Wilson County residents could soon have the ability to build accessory homes on their properties, which could be used for purposes such as long-term rentals or housing elderly relatives.

The Wilson County Planning Commission discussed a zoning ordinance that would allow for those structures at its meeting Friday, ultimately deferring action until February.

“There have been concerted efforts over the years by our different zoning administrators to make sure people don’t have above-garage apartments and other things on the property, largely out of fear of people causing trouble with those,” Wilson County Planning Director Tom Brashear said. “I think we’ve reached a point in our demographic and cultural progress that with the growing expense of health care, we need to have a way for people to be able to put up their mom by having an apartment garage or something to that effect, and given how the regulations are right now we’re hurting more people than helping by not allowing that.”

Under the current draft, accessory dwellings would be allowed on properties zoned as rural residential, suburban residential, agricultural or agricultural preservation districts.

“They must have adequate septic or sewer capacity to accommodate the additional one bedroom before we would allow it,” Brashear said. “They must be no more than 900 square feet in size, they must have permanent connections to all utilities and they must comply with all permanent foundation requirements put in place.”

The ordinance would also prevent those spaces from being used for purposes like short-term rentals or bed-and-breakfasts without approval from the Board of Zoning Appeals.

After some discussion, the commission opted to have the item rewritten to streamline the process for families. Most of the questions raised dealt with which organizations would be responsible for inspections or code enforcement.

“Let’s try to write this where it’s easier, where we can allow people to take care of their elderly parents, sick sister or brother,” commission member Terry Ashe said. “Maybe we need to go back before we vote on this, unless we’re under a time constraint, to try and clean up every question … to make sure the people that need to be taken care of, we’re taking care of the families.”

The commission also narrowly voted to deny final plat approval for a subdivision development on Hearn Hill Road in Watertown, 4-4 with one abstention. Although the property would have allowed approximately 15 lots, the commission only had authority to vote on nine of them due to their acreage.

“I will point out to folks that they have an inherent right, without coming before this board, to make five lots out of these 25 acres,” chairperson Gene Jones said. “It will not have to come before any regulatory board.”

Residents in the area had been battling the proposal for months, citing concerns that the population growth would bring dangerous levels of traffic. District 9 County Commissioner Sara Patton, who represents the area in question, also spoke out against the development at the meeting.

“You’re out there on Hearn Hill Road and you’re going to multiply that population by about four times what’s there,” she said. “You don’t have a red light, you don’t have a stop sign, all you’ve got is curves and drop-offs. Every single school child that risks on that bus … they’re risking their lives. That’s what this is about.”

The developers had meet the requirements and recommendations set forth by the planning department, and those supporting the project cited promoting growth through development.

Commissioners Randall Hutto, Margaret Dixon, Roy Major and Gary Nokes voted to deny, while commissioners Johnnie Ricketts, James Woods, Terry Ashe and John Jewell voted to approve. Commissioner Eric Thompson abstained from the vote.

The Wilson County Planning Commission’s next meeting is scheduled for 10 a.m. on Feb. 21, at the Wilson County Courthouse located on 228 E. Main St. in Lebanon.

‘Project Blue Bird’ signals $70M investment

Ethan Steinquest

[email protected]

Retail and tech giant Amazon is expected to open a facility in Mt. Juliet in spring 2021, but they may have some competition.

A nationally known logistics and e-commerce client, currently unidentified, is looking at investing roughly $70 million into a 400,000-square-foot facility in the area. Wilson County’s Joint Economic and Community Development Board is helping them explore two potential sites for the build, which has been named Project Blue Bird.

“Blue Bird has zeroed in on Speedway Industrial Park,” JECDB Executive Director G.C. Hixson said at the organization’s meeting Thursday. “I’m getting calls from construction companies and calls from all the Realtors, so it appears to me that they’ll pull the trigger this month.”

Hixson said the projected investment is large compared to the facility’s scale because of the quality of life the company aims to provide workers.

“That means underground cooling systems, solar panels, things that are the philosophy of the company,” he said. “Not your typical warehouse distribution-type group. I can’t identify the company coming right now, but if I did, you’d realize their brand. It’s a good project, and I think that’ll be our first one this year to go on the board.”

Amazon itself is moving forward with the site it purchased in Mt. Juliet, which is expected to provide 1,000 jobs once the facility opens.

“We have done all the grant applications that the state asked us to do, and we’ve submitted those to them to be prepared,” Hixson said. “That’s $250 million in investment that will be on the tax roll in 2021.”

Lebanon Mayor Bernie Ash also provided an update on Kroger’s request for tax relief as the company looks to expand its Lebanon location. Representatives had previously come before the JECDB, and the Lebanon City Council discussed the possibility at its Jan. 2 work session.

“We’re not going to do anything,” Ash said. “As it progresses, we might help with some of the fees or something, but I doubt we’ll do anything on taxes. We didn’t want to set a precedent.”

Kroger does not have a timetable or floor plan in place for the expansion, but Ash said the store has projected an additional 40,000 square feet, $1.5 million in annual payroll and 50 new jobs.

The JECDB’s next meeting is scheduled for 7:30 a.m. Jan. 28, at 200 Aviation Way, Suite 202, in Lebanon.

Music City Honda to celebrate opening with entertainment, drinks

Cedric Dent Jr.

Special to the News

Music City Honda is endeavoring to ingratiate itself into the Mt. Juliet community with a grand opening celebration on Jan. 22.

The celebration is intended not as a means to promote sales any more than any other day but, rather, as a way to welcome the community that welcomed Honda according to General Manager Richard Schindler. It’s scheduled for 6 p.m. on a Wednesday evening at the store, which is located at 88 Belinda Parkway on the northern side of Providence Mall.

The grand opening celebration is meant to be a direct yet convivial way of meeting and greeting citizens and neighbors without trying to sell them cars.

“I know we’ve spent a lot of money on advertising, but I still hear from people as they come in, ‘We didn’t know you were open; we didn’t know.’ And I think, ‘My goodness,’ ” Schindler said.

Schindler went further to explain that he can’t spend the store into a profit, and advertisement only goes so far. While they’re making an effort, he wants to be as creative as possible with how he invites the community so that he and his staff can meet people in the area and get to know them.

The celebration will have refreshments, including cookies and beverages. Schindler said they’ll be carefully serving alcoholic beverages but in an amount he described as enough to toast but not for really drinking, so to speak. Moreover, the event will feature entertainment and music as well.

Music City Honda comes from Madison, relocating to Mt. Juliet shortly after changing its name from Trickett Honda. The name change came with a rebranding effort made by Umansky Automotive Group when the company bought Trickett Honda in 2016, and the move to Mt. Juliet was already part of the rebranding strategy.

According to Schindler, the Japanese auto company, Honda, pushed the relocation partly on the basis that Madison is entering a sort of gentrification while Mt. Juliet is a rapidly growing city, previously without any nearby Honda dealerships. Umansky employed the common marketing tactic used by department stores, restaurants and gas stations by pitching tent next to another dealership.

Music City Honda sits right next to Two Rivers Ford, heretofore the sole dealership in the city. Schindler explained that Ford and Honda aren’t direct competitors, so they both benefit from the juxtaposition. Since Ford focuses more on truck models and Honda doesn’t, the two can collectively draw those who are in the market for a vehicle yet automatically divide patrons based on categories of inventory.

Music City Honda opened its doors on Belinda Parkway in late October, slightly delayed by an electrical compliance issue, and it still has yet to mount several signs soon to be installed. Nevertheless, the store brought 75 employees from its previous location in Madison, retaining them all through the approximate two-year wait, and it has already added ten of the 20 new positions they projected they would fill. In time, Schindler said he still expects to fill the rest.

Mt. Juliet artist’s work on display at Nashville International Airport

Jeff Brockett works on a piece at his Mt. Juliet studio.

Cedric Dent Jr.

Special to the News

Woodturning artist Jeff Brockett spent decades becoming an expert on his craft, and his latest milestone positions 13 of his basket illusions on display at the Flying Solo Artist exhibit in the Nashville International Airport.

Beyond the security checkpoints but on the way to baggage claim, some of those leaving but especially those arriving in Nashville last month, this month or next month will notice an array of what might appear from a distance to be shallow bowls or plates embellished with eye-catching designs. These are, in fact, wooden pieces of art, deceptively turned on a lathe and burned with painstakingly precise designs.

Since 1996, the airport has held a quarterly, juried exhibition series in the most visible part of its secure terminal for some of Tennessee’s most captivating art, dubbing it the Flying Solo Exhibition Series. Brockett’s platters are the latest pieces to showcase in the series after having been judged against many other works by a panel of arbiters who opted to draw from Tennessee’s uniquely deep pool of woodturning artists.

The juried exhibit requires all artists to formally apply in order for their works to be considered, and the panel picks a single artist for the exhibit. For Brockett, a minimum of 10 pieces were needed to fill the exhibit, and he contributed 13 in total, about eight of which are for sale — the other five having already been sold prior to display. The price of a piece depends on size and design complexity, ranging anywhere from $100 to $800.

Brockett’s artwork is on display at Nashville International Airport.

Brockett’s pieces have been seen at the TEDx Studio, also called Studio 208, in downtown Nashville as well as several other juried exhibits whose processes were similar to the Flying Solo Exhibition Series. Among them were the Custom House’s Best of Tennessee Exhibit in Clarksville for which he won the Merit Award and Centennial Arts’s Best in Middle Tennessee Exhibit.

Brockett’s concentration as a woodturner is on basket illusions, a specific design pattern that woodturners sometimes employ to illustrate seemingly impossibly intricate designs. It’s based on Native American basket weaving, which involved exceptionally creative patterns. Lincoln Seltzer was the first known woodturner to imitate that creative process on wooden platters, so the history of these kinds of designs dates back hundreds of years even through Portuguese colonization.

The expertise of woodturning art is discerned based on the quality of the woodwork, the thematic imagery implied by the colors applied and how the platter feels in one’s hands. Mastery of the craft is also partly measured by the lack of errant marks and smudges, too, but Brockett further distinguishes his work a bit by deliberately endeavoring to make it as impossible as he can for even an astute observer to figure out how he the piece in question was lathed.

“I like to really look at the back of pieces,” Brockett said. “I want the person that picks that piece up to look at it and say, ‘How in the world did he put that on the lathe and turn it?’ I’ve gone from a satin finish to a gloss finish because I think gloss looks better on these pieces because they’re more art than functional.”

Woodturning is a craft that produces functional pieces with purpose like doorknobs or tool handles or lamps, but the art form associated with it is widely popular the world over. In the U.S., the American Association of Woodturners boasts of multiple

Woodturning is Brockett’s retirement hobby.

chapters in each state. In Tennessee alone, there are 12 official chapters, including the Tennessee Association of Woodturners and Duck River Woodturners, located in Brentwood and Columbia respectively. Brockett is member to both of them among other local woodturning organizations.

“There’s three or four of the top woodturners in the world that live within 15 minutes of here,” Brockett said, referring to his home in northern Mt. Juliet. “You’ve got John Jordan who lives down in Cane Ridge. If you’re going to say who’s the top 10 people in the world, he’s one of them. Then, Pat Matranga lives in Mt. Juliet not too far from here. John Lucas lives over in Baxter.”

For Brockett, woodturning art is a retirement hobby. He worked for Target most of his adult life, managing and even launching stores, and through woodturning, he channeled a natural affinity for art shared by his wife and daughter. His wife is a stained-glass artist, and his daughter teaches art at the collegiate level in Texas.

Cumberland’s Phoenix Ball organizers announce sponsors

The Cumberland University Phoenix Ball organizers announced the sponsors of this year’s event.

The 2019 Phoenix Ball – Moonlight and Magnolias: A Night of Southern Elegance will be June 1 on the Cumberland University campus. The Pavilion Senior Living is the presenting sponsor of the Phoenix Ball.

Additional sponsors for the event include ESA, ICT, Hardaway Construction, Lee Co. as design and construction sponsors and ServPro as entertainment sponsor.

The Phoenix sponsors include Scott and Kirsten Harris and Parks Auction Co., Tennova Healthcare-Lebanon and Wilson Bank & Trust. The pre-ball reception sponsor is Novamet Specialty Products and patrons of the ball include ReMax Exceptional Properties-Eastland, Adam and Lori Tomlinson, CedarStone Bank, Chartwells, city of Lebanon, Home Instead Senior Care, Pat Bryant, ReMax, SE Motorsports, Sodexo, Southern Bank of Tennessee, Stewart Knowles, THW Insurance Services, Tim Leeper and Wilson County Motors.

Additional sponsors include Hunt Brothers Pizza as magnolia sponsor, Compass Auctions and Real Estate and Fleming Homes as auction sponsor, Hurdle Land & Realty and Amber Hurdle Consulting as bourbon and bubbles bar lounge sponsor, Chuck and Kathryn Daley as dessert sponsor, Neil and Susan Kirshner as floral sponsor, Square Market as lavatory sponsor, Beauty Boutique as photo booth sponsor, Wilson County Motors as safe ride home sponsor, Kevin’s Automotive as signature cocktail sponsor, Dr. E. Dwayne Lett as valet parking sponsor, Zaxby’s as late-night sponsor and Eddie and Brandi Lovin as wine sponsor.

The annual Phoenix Ball benefits scholarships for Cumberland University students and has contributed to hundreds of thousands of dollars in scholarships for students in the past 36 years.

Tickets and additional information about the ball is available at phoenixball.com.

For more than 177 years, Cumberland University has advanced its long tradition of excellence to rise, endure, prosper and illuminate the world. Recognized as one of the fastest-growing liberal arts universities in Tennessee, Cumberland continues to evolve to meet the needs of a diverse and expanding community while it provides a transformational higher education experience through more than 100 fully accredited academic programs of study in three distinct schools.

Wilson County’s unemployment rate hits record low

NASHVILLE – Wilson County’s unemployment rate for April dropped to a new record low, according to data released Thursday by the Tennessee Department of Labor and Workforce Development.

Wilson County’s rate of 2.2 percent, which was 0.5 percent lower compared to March’s revised rate, rose one spot to fifth lowest in the state behind Williamson, Davidson, Rutherford and Cheatham counties, respectively.

Wilson County’s rate in April represented 1,640 unemployed workers compared to a 75,560-person workforce and did not include those who did not file with the labor department or no longer receive benefits. Compared to the same time last year, the jobless rate was a 0.2-percent decrease.

Lebanon’s rate for April decreased 0.6 percent to 2.5 percent compared to March and decreased 0.3 percent compared to a year ago. The city’s rate represented 400 unemployed workers, compared to a 15,860-person labor force.

Mt. Juliet’s rate for April was 2.3 percent, a 0.5-percent decrease compared to March’s revised rate. It was a 0.1-percent decrease compared to a year ago. The rate represented 450 unemployed workers compared to an 19,630-person labor force.

Unemployment rates for 94 of Tennessee’s 95 counties decreased in April. The unemployment rate in Maury County remained unchanged for the month.

Ninety-four counties had rates lower than 5 percent, and one county’s rate was higher than 5 percent.

Unemployment in Williamson County dipped below 2 percent in April. The county’s current rate of 1.9 percent marked a 0.5 percent drop from the previous month.

Davidson County’s unemployment rate hit a record low during April; it dropped by 0.5 percent and landed at 2 percent. Rutherford County followed at 2.1 percent, while Cheatham, Wilson, Moore and Sumner counties each recorded a rate of 2.2 percent in April.

Along with Davidson County, Wilson, Sumner, Smith and Hickman counties marked record-low unemployment. Rutherford County tied its all-time low rate.

“County unemployment rates continue to be extraordinarily positive,” said TDLWD Commissioner Jeff McCord. “Across our state we are now seeing unemployment rates at or below 5 percent become the norm.”

Clay County had the state’s highest rate in April at 5.6 percent, which was a 0.4 percent decrease from the previous month. Hancock and Rhea counties had the next highest rates at 4.9 percent. Those rates represented a 0.9 percent drop for Hancock County and the rate was 0.8 percent lower in Rhea County when compared to the previous month.

The April rate for the Nashville-Murfreesboro metropolitan area, which includes Wilson County, decreased 0.5 percent from March to land at 2.1 percent and was 0.3 percent lower than a year ago. The rate represented 23,040 unemployed workers compared to a nearly 1.1-million-person labor force.

Statewide, unemployment remained at Tennessee’s historic low of 3.2 percent. It was the third consecutive month the rate was at the record level.

County unemployment rates are not seasonally adjusted, while the state and national rates use the seasonal adjustment to eliminate outside influences on the statistics.

PHOEBE Connections holds scholarship banquet

PHOEBE Connections held its annual scholarship banquet May 14 at First Baptist Church in Lebanon.

PHOEBE Connections is a nonprofit widows’ support group that raises money annually for children of widows in Wilson County. This year, the group awarded 13 scholarships worth $2,000 each. Former PHOEBE scholarship recipient Matthew Baines, of Lebanon, gave an inspiring keynote presentation.

Veronica Mixon, who will attend the University of Alabama at Birmingham; Tawny Ashworth, who will attend the University of Tennessee; Samantha Austin, who will attend Tennessee Tech University; Sabrina Austin who will attend Rhodes College; Jillian Austin, who will attend Rhodes College; Lee Gannaway, who will attend Cumberland University; Jourdin Parks-Bell, who will attend the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga; Damon Smith, who will attend the University of Tennessee; Cori Johnson, who will attend Cumberland University; Benjamin Yates, who will attend Lee University; Alexander Ayers, who will attend Cumberland University, Destiny Barnes, who will attend Cumberland University; and Zachary Scott, who will attend Tennessee Tech University, each received scholarships.

Since 2016, the group has awarded $51,000 in scholarships.

Whitman to visit Andrew Jackson’s Hermitage for 119th Spring Outing

HERMITAGE –Christine Todd Whitman, former administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency under President George W. Bush and former governor of New Jersey, will be the keynote speaker at the Andrew Jackson Foundation’s 119th annual Spring Outing on Wednesday at 11 a.m. at the Hermitage.

Whitman is president of the Whitman Strategy Group, a consulting firm that specializes in energy and environmental issues. She led the EPA from January 2001 until June 2003 and before that served as New Jersey’s first woman governor from 1994 to 2001. As governor, Whitman earned praise for her commitment to preserve a record amount of New Jersey land as permanent green space. She is the author of New York Times bestseller “It’s My Party Too.”

A Nashville tradition that began in the early days of the Ladies’ Hermitage Association as a picnic on the mansion’s lawn, Spring Outing has evolved into one of the major events held at the Hermitage and regularly features nationally known speakers who present on a variety of topics, including politics and history.

Past speakers include former first lady Laura Bush, NPR’s Mara Liasson, longtime White House correspondent Ann Compton, former Tennessee first lady Crissy Haslam and former Tennessee House speaker Beth Harwell.

“More than any other event, Spring Outing celebrates the legacy of the Ladies’ Hermitage Association, the determination of its founders and their collective foresight in preserving the home of Andrew Jackson for future generations, including ours,” said Spring Outing co-chair Nancy Deaton.

“We are their daughters in many ways, and I think the connection becomes clear when you listen to Christine speak. We’re thrilled she is joining us,” said Spring Outing co-chair Mimi DeCamp.

The Ladies’ Hermitage Association, currently known as the Andrew Jackson Foundation, is one of the oldest women’s organizations and historic preservation organizations in the country, established 130 years ago, in 1889, after the passing of Andrew Jackson’s daughter-in-law, Sarah Yorke Jackson.

The 119th Spring Outing will be Wednesday at Andrew Jackson’s Hermitage with a patrons party at 10:30 a.m. in the mansion, followed by the main program at 11 a.m. on the lawn. More than 500 guests are expected to attend the event, with thanks to the volunteer leadership of DeCamp and Deaton. All proceeds will benefit the Andrew Jackson Foundation’s many projects, programs and events, designed to elevate national awareness of the seventh president and his home at the Hermitage. Spring Outing is an invitation-only event. To receive an invitation, call 615-889-2941, ext. 213.

Deaton is a native of Nashville and a graduate of Hollins University. She and her husband, Mark, moved to Nashville 28 years ago after they lived in Charlottesville, Virginia and Indianapolis. They have three children and enjoy outdoor activities together. Deaton has been an active volunteer, serving on the Antiques and Garden Show of Nashville board and advisory committee since chairing the event. She is an active member of the Garden Club of Nashville, West End United Methodist Church and the Junior League of Nashville and has enjoyed involvement with the Family Center, Ensworth School and Cheekwood.

DeCamp is a native Nashvillian. After graduating from Sweet Briar College in Lynchburg, Virginia, she married her husband, Bill, and returned to Nashville, where she joined her mother in the real estate business and has enjoyed a 30-year career as a realtor. She is an active member of St. George’s Episcopal Church, and her volunteer opportunities have included the St. George’s Kindergarten Board, Cheekwood, the Antiques and Garden Show, the Family Center and Ensworth School. She and Bill have two sons, Will and Rob.

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 more than 20 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 the history of slavery have enhanced the experience of nearly 230,000 annual visitors. For more information, visit thehermitage.com.

Community Calendar and The People’s Agenda

POLICY: Items for the Community Calendar may be submitted via email at [email protected], 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.

May 15

Wilson County Hiring Event

9 a.m.

A Wilson County hiring event will be Wednesday, May 15 from 9 a.m. until 1 p.m. at the Wilson County Civic League at 321 E. Market St. in Lebanon. Employers will include FedEx, American Wonder Porcelain, 202 Census Bureau, Walmart in Mt. Juliet, Leviton, Nissan, Demos’ Restaurant, LSI Landscape Services, O’Reilly Distribution Center, Bojangles, National Guard, Geodis, Ceva Logistics, Abacus Staffing, Crown Services, Under Armour and Cameron Search and Staffing. For more information, contact Sarah Buckles at [email protected] or 615-494-4278.

Mt. Juliet Chamber Connect Luncheon

11:15 a.m.

The Mt. Juliet Chamber of Commerce’s chamber connect luncheon will be Wednesday, May 15 from 11:15 a.m. until 12:30 p.m. at Rutland Place. The guest speaker will be Pastor Jacob Armstrong with Providence Church. Save a seat at mjchamber.org.

Lebanon Senior Citizens Center Health Fair

12:30 p.m.

The Lebanon Senior Citizens Center will hold a health fair Wednesday, May 15 from 12:30-2 p.m. at the center. More than 30 vendors will be featured.

May 16

Kindergarten Night at W.A. Wright Elementary School

4 p.m.

Kindergarten Night will be Thursday, May 16 from 4-6:30 p.m. at W.A. Wright Elementary School. The event will provide an opportunity for parents and students to meet some of the teachers and staff and learn more about what to expect for the upcoming school year.

Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 5015 meeting

6 p.m.

The Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 5015 in Lebanon will meet Thursday, May 16 at 6 p.m. and 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 [email protected]; Senior Vice Commander Ken Kackley at [email protected] or Junior Vice Commander Harold W. Weist at [email protected]

Fiddlers Grove Model Train Club

7 p.m.

The Fiddlers Grove Model Train Club will meet Thursday, May 16 and each third Thursday of the month at 7 p.m. in the Fiddlers Grove Train Museum at the James E. Ward Agricultural Center in Lebanon. This is an all-scale model railroad club. During the meeting, everyone will share their knowledge and introduce the hobby to folks new to the interest. The Train Museum has an extensive O-gauge layout and a small HO-scale layout with plans to expand the HO track. The club is open to anyone interested in model train railroads. For more information, contact Ron Selliers at [email protected]

Celebrate Recovery

7 p.m.

Celebrate Recovery, a Christ-centered 12-step recovery support group for overcoming hurts, hang-ups and habits, meets each Thursday from 7-9:30 p.m. at Fairview Church at 1660 Leeville Pike in Lebanon. For more information, call ministry leader Tony Jones at 615-972-6151.

May 17

Tennessee State University National Alumni Association Mid-South Regional Conference

8 a.m.

The Tennessee State University National Alumni Association Mid-South Regional Conference will be Friday, May 17 and Saturday, May 18 at Pickett-Rucker United Methodist Church at 633 Glover St. in Lebanon and at the Wilson County Schools central office at 415 Harding Drive in Lebanon. For more information, call Virgleen Seay at 615-598-6937.

May 18

Think Green, Think Clean Challenge

8 a.m.

The 11th-annual Think Green, Think Clean Youth Litter Challenge will be Saturday, May 18 with teams to clean up at their schools at 8 a.m., and a celebration from 11 a.m. until 2 p.m. at the James E. Ward Agricultural Center at 945 E. Baddour Pkwy. in Lebanon. The celebration will feature door prizes, games, food and the presentation of prize money to winning schools.

Ali’s Rae of Hope 5K Walk and Run

8 a.m.

Ali’s Rae of Hope 5K Walk and Run will be Saturday, May 18 at 8 a.m. at the Mill at 300 N. Maple St. in Lebanon. Check-in starts are 7 a.m. Early registration is $25 before May 11, and late registration will be $35. Participants are encouraged to dress as their favorite fairytale character. To register, visit runsignup.com/Race/TN/Lebanon/AlisRaeofHope5k. To learn more about the mission, visit alisraeofhope.org or facebook.com/aliraes5k or call 615-881-2509.

Antique Tractor, Antique Truck and Gas Engine Show

8 a.m.

Wilson County Antique Power Association will hold its 28th-annual Antique Tractor, Antique Truck and Gas Engine Show on Saturday, May 18 at the James E. Ward Agricultural Center at 945 E. Baddour Pkwy. in Lebanon. Gates will open at 8 a.m. Admission is free; however, a donation will be accepted. There will be no fee charged for exhibitors. For more information, call 615-444-6944 or 615-449-5002.

Special Needs Vacation Bible School

9 a.m.

Yee Haw, a special needs vacation Bible school, will be Saturday, May 18 from 9 a.m. until noon at the Journey Church at 212A Leeville Pike in Lebanon for 3 year olds through fifth graders. Registration and more information is available at the Journey Church’s children’s ministry Facebook page under announcements. The registration deadline is May 17. Email [email protected] for more information. 

Lebanon Cumberland Presbyterian Church Barbecue Fundraiser

9 a.m.

Lebanon Cumberland Presbyterian Church will hold its annual barbecue fundraiser Saturday, May 18 from 9 a.m. until 2 p.m. at the church at 522 Castle Heights Ave. at the corner of Leeville Pike in Lebanon. Whole smoked butts will be $40, and pulled pork will be $8 per pound. To place pre-orders, call 615-444-7453, and leave a message if no one answers.

Dream Riders Benefit Motorcycle Ride

9:45 a.m.

The third-annual Dream Riders Benefit Motorcycle Ride will be Saturday, May 18 at 9:45 a.m. at Blue Moon Barbecue at 711 Park Ave. in Lebanon. The police-escorted 30-mile ride will be $20 per driver and $5 per rider, and all proceeds will benefit Empower Me. Live music will be featured when riders return. Online registration is available at empowermecenter.com, or for more information or to register, contact Beth Goolesby at 615-202-5388 or [email protected]

Free Groceries Giveaway

3 p.m.

A free groceries giveaway will be Saturday, May 18 at 3 p.m. in the parking lot of Life Church at 3688 State Route 109, across the street from Dollar General, in Lebanon. It will be open to everyone, and the groceries will be given away as long as they last. Visit lifechurchfamily.com for more information.

Good Wheel Cruisers Saturday Night Cruise-In

4:30 p.m.

The Good Wheel Cruisers will hold its Saturday night cruise-in Saturday, May 18 from 4:30-9:30 p.m. and each Saturday evening through Oct. 20 at the Lebanon Outlet Mall in the marketplace area at 1 Outlet Village Drive in Lebanon. A 50-50 raffle will be featured. For more information, visit facebook.com/groups/552023871629171.

Daddy-Daughter Princess Ball

5:30 p.m.

The Daddy-Daughter Princess Ball, sponsored by Chick-fil-A in Lebanon, will be Saturday, May 18 from 5:30-8 p.m. at the Mill in Lebanon.

Centerstage Theatre Co. presents “Our Town”

7:30 p.m.

Centerstage Theatre Co. will present “Our Town,” on Saturday, May 18 at 7:30 p.m. and Sunday, May 19 at 2 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. at Winfree Bryant Middle School in the auditorium. Tickets are $15 for general admission and $13 for students and seniors. Tickets may be purchased at Iddy and Oscar’s on the Lebanon Square, at brownpapertickets.com or at the door.

May 19

The Fessenden House Raise the Roof

2 p.m.

One of Lebanon’s smallest museums, the Fessenden House, which dates to 1852, needs a new roof. The History Associates of Wilson County and the Margaret Gaston Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution will hold an open house May 19 from 2-5 p.m. and ask for $20 donations per person to raise a roof for the structure at 236 W. Main St. between Cox’s Gifts and Sun Trust Bank. The $20 admission fee is tax deductible and will include a one-year membership to Friends of the Fessenden House. Children 12 and younger will be admitted for free. Refreshments will be provided. Checks should be made History Associates of Wilson County. For more information, call Judy Sullivan at 615-484-0770.

The People’s Agenda

POLICY: Items for the Government Calendar may be submitted via email at [email protected], 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 government meetings and government-related events. 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.

May 16

Wilson County Ag Management Committee meeting

5 p.m.

The Wilson County Ag Management Committee will meet Thursday, May 16 at 5 p.m. in the Gentry Building at the James E. Ward Agricultural Center in Lebanon.

Wilson County Health and Welfare Committee meeting

6 p.m.

The Wilson County Health and Welfare Committee will meet Thursday, May 16 at 6 p.m. in commission chambers at the Wilson County Courthouse.

May 20

Wilson County Commission meeting

7 p.m.

The Wilson County Commission will meet Monday, May 20 at 7 p.m. in commission chambers at the Wilson County Courthouse.

May 21

Wilson County Development and Tourism Committee meeting

5:30 p.m.

The Wilson County Development and Tourism Committee will meet Tuesday, May 21 at 5:30 p.m. in commission chambers at the Wilson County Courthouse.

May 30

Wilson County Board of Education work session

5 p.m.

The Wilson County Board of Education will meet in a work session Thursday, May 30 at 5 p.m. at the Wilson County Schools central office at 415 Harding Drive in Lebanon.

June 3

Wilson County Board of Education meeting

6 p.m.

The Wilson County Board of Education will meet Monday, June 3 at 6 p.m. at the Wilson County Schools central office at 415 Harding Drive in Lebanon.

– Staff Reports

Antique tractor, antique truck, gas engine show upcoming

Wilson County Antique Power Association will hold its 28th-annual Antique Tractor, Truck and Gas Engine Show on Saturday at the James E. Ward Agricultural Center at 945 E. Baddour Pkwy. in Lebanon.                                         

Gates will open at 8 a.m.

The entrance to the show will be at the Fiddlers Grove entrance, which is about a quarter mile east of the main entrance between the main entrance and Peyton Road.

The show will feature exhibits of antique tractors, gas engines, antique trucks, farm implements, corn meal grinding and blacksmithing. Many activities for all ages are scheduled throughout the day. Children’s activities will include a needle in the haystack contest and a kiddie tractor pull for 8-12 year olds. There will also be a parade of power, which will allow owners to parade their equipment through the Fiddlers Grove area. A skillet-throw contest will be held for the ladies. 

The Wilson County Antique Power Association was organized in 1991 and is a nonprofit organization. The primary function is to promote the collection, restoration, improvement and display of antique agriculture equipment. Anyone with those interests is welcome to join the club.

Admission is free; however, a donation will be accepted. There will be no fee charged for exhibitors.

For more information about the show, call 615-444-6944 or 615-449-5002. 

New Leash on Life sells land to continue expansion

Thanks to a recent land sale on State Route 109, New Leash on Life looks to use the proceeds can be used to improve and expand the programs provided for the community to help pets and their owners.

Capital Real Estate Services owner DeAnna Dodd and broker Claude Maynard handled the sale of the property on State Route 109.

“One of the reasons New Leash on Life chose to work with Capital Realty is because they have a give back goal as a part of their business model,” said New Leash on Life executive director Angela Chapman. “True to their mission with the land sale, Capital Real Estate gave our program expansion dream a head start by donating $4,500 to our programs.”

The first phase of the expansion was the Joy Clinic, a low-cost spay and neuter clinic, which was made possible by Joy Bishop and an equipment grant from the ASPCA. 

The spay and neuter program currently fixes more than 3,000 dogs and cats annually.

Chapman said the next phase of the expansion will be to add indoor and outdoor runs for the dogs and a visiting area for potential adopters to spend time with available dogs. The build phase would be behind the current shelter, along with an enrichment space for the dogs.

“Once that phase is done, we can look at reworking the current shelter space to better accommodate the needs of animals in our care,” Chapman said. “The land sale is a great start toward this expansion, and with continued community support, we look forward to making this dream a reality.”

Lantern Lane Farm welcomes crowd

By Matt Masters

[email protected]

Lantern Lane Farm, which provides counseling services to both children and adults, held its largest annual fundraiser to date April 25.

More than 100 guests packed the Tuckers Gap Event Center to raise money for counseling services that have helped people in Wilson County since 2004.

Ralph Cook and his wife, Joni Cook, started Lantern Lane Farm in 2004 in Mt. Juliet after Cook chose to face his own personal challenges through therapy. Cook, a music educator who was active in his church, returned to school where he earned a master’s degree in marriage and family therapy from Trevecca Nazarene University.

The Cooks created Lantern Lane Farm, which became a nonprofit in 2008, with the goal to provide a safe, non-judgmental space for all of their patients with a focus on Christ-like care, while it uses the unique human-animal connection to facilitate healing and openness through the care of horses on the farm.

Cook said the community support was overwhelming and humbling, but he’s looking to an even brighter and stronger future with continued growth and expansion, which will include a continued effort to provide counseling services to everyone regardless of their ability to pay.

“Thinking back over the 15 years of how we started with just the four of us and now being able to see this number of people here who believe in what we do, it’s so exciting,” Cook said. “We never thought that we would be here today. I think it has grown beyond what we could have ever imagined, and that’s because this is what God wanted for this community.”

In addition to dinner provided by Papa Turney’s Old Fashioned Barbecue, live music and a silent auction were featured during the fundraiser.

March unemployment rates continue to stay low

NASHVILLE – Eighty of Tennessee’s 95 counties, including Wilson County, recorded an unemployment rate in March that was lower compared to the same time last year, according to newly released data from the Tennessee Department of Labor and Workforce Development.

Also, in the year-to-year comparison, the rates in nine counties held steady, while six counties had increases.

By comparison to statistics from February, 69 counties, including Wilson, experienced a slight uptick in unemployment, while rates decreased in 17 counties and remained the same in nine Tennessee counties.

Wilson County’s rate of 2.7 percent, which was 0.2 percent higher compared to February’s revised rate, rose one spot to sixth lowest in the state behind Williamson, Davidson, Rutherford, Sumner and Cheatham counties, respectively.

Wilson County’s rate in March represented 2,050 unemployed workers compared to a 74,450-person workforce and did not include those who did not file with the labor department or no longer receive benefits. Compared to the same time last year, the jobless rate was a 0.1-percent decrease.

Lebanon’s rate for March increased 0.2 percent to 3.1 percent compared to February and decreased 0.2 percent compared to a year ago. The city’s rate represented 490 unemployed workers, compared to a 15,840-person labor force.

Mt. Juliet’s rate for March was 2.8 percent, a 0.2-percent increase compared to February’s revised rate. It was a 0.1-percent increase compared to a year ago. The rate represented 540 unemployed workers compared to an 19,590-person labor force.

The March rate for the Nashville-Murfreesboro metropolitan area, which includes Wilson County, increased 0.2 percent from February to land at 2.6 percent and was 0.2 percent lower than a year ago. The rate represented 28,040 unemployed workers compared to a nearly 1.1-million-person labor force.

Williamson County has the state’s lowest unemployment rate at 2.4 percent, which was a 0.3 percent increase from February but was 0.1 percent lower than the same time last year.

Davidson and Rutherford counties followed with a March rate of 2.5 percent. The latest statistics represented a 0.2 percent increase for both counties, but the current rates still best their March 2018 numbers.

Clay County had the state’s highest unemployment rate in March at 6.0 percent, up 0.7 percent from the previous month. The latest rate was also up 0.8 percent from March 2018.

Statewide, unemployment remained at a historic low in Tennessee. The March seasonally adjusted rate of 3.2 percent was unchanged from February when unemployment reached an all-time low in the state.

Across the nation, unemployment in March also remained the same as February at 3.8 percent.

County unemployment rates are not seasonally adjusted, while the state and national rates use the seasonal adjustment to eliminate outside influences on the statistics.

Leadership Wilson alumni hear about current projects

By Jared Felkins

[email protected]

About 300 Leadership Wilson alumni who represented each class since the first in 1994 turned out last Wednesday to hear about the current class’ projects, honor a Lebanon engineer and generally catch up with classmates to support the nonprofit organization during the group’s annual luncheon at Tuckers Gap Event Center in Lebanon.

Leadership Wilson serves to identify, train and motivate individual citizens in community leadership. Leadership Wilson 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. Each class presents the opportunity to understand and analyze a particularly important segment of the county, including government, health care and social services, agriculture, business and industry, public safety, education and quality of life.

At the luncheon, Leadership Wilson director emeritus Lucy Lee presented the commitment to leadership award to Rob Porter, an engineer and founding member of Civil Site Design.

“This person is still active in the community,” Lee said. “This person is still active in Leadership Wilson.

“He’s been here for 40 years, and let me just drop some names of things he’s been involved in building – Opryland Hotel, Providence in Mt. Juliet and there’s this little stadium where a lot of stuff is going on this weekend called Nissan Stadium…Opry Mills and the Five Oaks community in Lebanon – just a few small projects.”

Porter, a member of Leadership Wilson’s class of 2002, has served on the Mt. Juliet Little League board of directors, Leadership Wilson board of directors, a past president of the Mt. Juliet Breakfast Rotary Club, was a Mt. Juliet Chamber of Commerce chairman’s award recipient, a Wilson County Community Foundation board member, United Way of Wilson County and the Upper Cumberland board of directors member, Wilson County Joint Economic and Community Development Board member and a member of the Lebanon-Wilson County Chamber of Commerce.

Members of the class of 2019 then showcased their projects either underway or in the works.

The team of Heather Schreader, Scott Walters, Britney Wilkerson, Emily Gannon, Becky Smith and Ryan Morris discussed the iGuardian project. The iGuardian program is part of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and presents programs within schools about the dangers of internet and social media use among children. An iGuardian event sponsored by Leadership Wilson will be Aug. 13 from 6-7:30 p.m. at Lebanon High School.

The team of Ryan Bennett, Ben Collier, Richard Felts, Sheridan Henson, Cale Mitchell and Clint Teasley presented a project on adult recreation. The group organized the revitalization and fundraising for Hobbs Field in Lebanon to be used for recreation adult-league softball. The group created a nonprofit organization and also raised funds for Empower Me and the Wilson County Senior Citizens Action Network.

The WilCo Sparks of Kindness team was made up of David Block, Diana Cavender, Karen Moore, Bonnie Ryan, Lanee Young and Betty Williams. The group solicited the help of Wilson County Mayor Randall Hutto, Lebanon Mayor Bernie Ash, Mt. Juliet Mayor Ed Hagerty and Watertown Mayor Mike Jennings to proclaim May 8 as Kindness Day in Wilson County. Throughout the day, the group will stuff busses at Don Fox Community Park in Lebanon and the Providence Kroger in Mt. Juliet to collect food for Wilson County Schools and Lebanon Special School District’s backpack programs. Through May 7, donations may be dropped off at CedarStone Bank and Wilson Bank & Trust’s main office in Lebanon and North Mt. Juliet Road office in Mt. Juliet. The group also had Be Kind license plates made that are for sale for $20 each to further raise funds for the backpack programs.

The Pick TN team was made up of Brianna Burden, Phillip Lacy, Julie Miller Wilson, Tom Walsh, Jay Morris and Kyle Heckman. Pick TN offers free guitar lessons for children, and free guitars for those who stick with the program with eight or more lessons.

The Music and Memories team consisted of Shea Hutsenpiller, Myro Kuzmyn, Scott McCrae, Christine New and Jennifer Hamblen. The team created the Music and Memories concert for senior citizens, which was Tuesday at Tuckers Gap Event Center in Lebanon. The event attracted about 200 senior citizens and raised about $18,500 for the Wilson County SCAN program. The money will allow SCAN to double the number of seniors it serves throughout Wilson County.

More information about each project is included in a video that accompanies this story at lebanondemocrat.com and at The Democrat’s YouTube channel. 

Kenny Martin: It pays to buy Wilson County first

As with any community, the importance of its citizens spending their hard-earned tax dollars locally is vitally important to the community’s economy and its citizens.

With Wilson County’s rapid growth and new businesses literally opening daily, we’re starting to see an even greater need to spend our tax dollars locally.

For example, Wilson County businesses depend upon our tax dollars for survival. They make huge investments in our local community in an attempt to provide a service or convenience and desperately need and deserve our support. Our schools, businesses, roads and many other services depend on the local economy for survival.

When a business sets up shop in Wilson County, its goal is to provide services and conveniences to local citizens. In return, the local economy gets a boost from the additional revenue generated locally, and a trickle-down effect happens. Without local businesses providing these much-needed services, citizens are forced to call on vendors in other cities and towns.

As a result, these vendors have to drive and ship their merchandise further and that cost is passed on to the customer. Unfortunately, money spent in other cities and counties benefits the other community and not ours.

Therefore, I would like for each citizen to make every effort possible to spend your tax dollars locally and not via the internet or in another county.

I totally understand Wilson County doesn’t currently, nor will it ever be able to offer every available service or convenience, but I would like for everyone to please patronize the businesses and services we have first before going outside of Wilson County or shopping the internet.

In other words, if we have a business that offers something we need, we should make every effort to patronize that business and not a business outside our community or the internet. What is spent here benefits here; what is spent elsewhere benefits that community.

For example, if you know that you need gasoline, try and plan your gas purchases locally; if you need groceries, buy them locally, and so on. The more we spend locally, the better off our community will be.

In a nutshell, if you can buy it at home and support our local businesses, then please do so. Current businesses, services and products not currently in Wilson County are much more likely to locate here if they see our citizens support and patronize their local businesses. Our community and its businesses depend upon your support and patronage.

In closing, please buy and shop locally. It’s money well spent and will benefit our community and all of us.

Kenny Martin is city manager in Mt. Juliet.

Rooms to Go seeks move to Wilson County

By Angie Mayes

Special to Mt. Juliet News

A Rooms to Go furniture store warehouse and retail outlet store could be coming to Wilson County.

Rooms to Go officials proposed opening the two businesses in a current building at the intersection of Interstate 840 and Couchville Pike.

There are still a number of steps to take before the decision to move into an existing warehouse is finalized. One of the steps includes buying the building.

Rooms to Go vice president Peter Weitzner said the company is excited to begin business in Wilson County as a retail outlet. Across the 10 states where Rooms-To-Go operates, there are 19 outlet stores.

The issue of lighting and a variance of the main sign height to 50 feet came up last Wednesday morning at the Wilson County Board of Zoning Appeals meeting.

County planning director Tom Brashear said, “[Rooms to Go representatives] have worked with us on every step, and we are excited to see them come to Wilson County.”

Rooms to Go received tax abatements through the county’s payment in-lieu-of taxes program. The issue was discussed at various meetings, including the county’s budget committee.

When the purchase of the 900,000-square-feet building is finalized and other steps are met, Weitzner said the outlet store and warehouse should be open by the end of the year. The retail outlet plans to hire about 240 people in both the store and the warehouse. Weitzner said the retail store would encompass 40,000 square feet of the building.

There are three Rooms to Go retail stores and two Rooms to Go for Kids stores in the Nashville area, Weitzner said. There are also stores in Knoxville and Chattanooga. There are no other outlet stores in Tennessee.

“We think people will pass us [on Interstate 840] and see us, and when they want to make a purchase, they’ll come to us,” Weitzner said.

Another issue approved at the Board of Zoning Appeals meeting was a variance for Chase Lyle to open a home business for firearms sales.

Lyle said the sales would mainly be internet sales, and the weapons would usually go from the manufacturer to the buyer. He would have some items delivered to his home.

Lyle said he wanted to start the business to allow friends, as well as military and police officers, to have the chance to buy weapons through him. He said all sales would have to be approved on a state and federal level before they could buy a gun.

Three neighbors spoke out against the variance and said safety was a main concern.

According to the variance, Lyle would not be able to clean, show or shoot a gun outside the home.

Lyle said that would not happen, and the business would only take up about 8.5 percent of his home’s size.

Other items in the variance included Lyle cannot have a store front or advertise on a sign outside of his home.

He said he would sell specialty weapons such as those for sports shooting.

Wilson becomes fastest-growing county in state

By Angie Mayes

Special to Mt. Juliet News

Wilson County may well be the fastest-growing county in the state, according to new data estimates released by the U.S. Census Bureau.

The data, which was released this month, showed Wilson County was the fastest growing county in 2018. It added 4,085 residents during the year. That is a 3.4 percent increase in population and propelled the county to be the 57th fastest growing in the country.

Other Tennessee counties that showed quick growth included Montgomery County, which grew by 3 percent; Rutherford County, which grew by 2.6 percent; and Williamson County, which also grew by 2.6 percent.

Wilson County Mayor Randall Hutto didn’t dispute the numbers.

“There are three things concentrate on from our office, education, public safety and quality of life,” Hutto said. “Two of those reasons were why we are at the top. They are education and quality of life. I do feel good about that. That’s been our concentration on what we’ve been trying to do.

“Quality of people who live here is the No. 1 asset why people move here. There’s no question that the centrality of our location is important to people. We’re a rock’s throw away from Nashville. Our motto is miles from ordinary. We have the best of all worlds here. You can live in a fast-paced city or the county. They can do it here.”

All four counties were also among the fastest-growing counties in the country in the last eight years. Compared to 2010 census data, Williamson ranked 25th in the nation with 26.4 percent growth, Rutherford ranked 38th with 23.7 percent, Wilson at 39th with 23.3 percent and Montgomery at 68th with 19.5 percent, the report said.

Since the last federal census in 2010, Wilson County was estimated by the U.S. Census Bureau to have grown by 26,552 people through 2018. The latest estimate showed Wilson County had 140,625 residents in the county.

Mt. Juliet remained the largest city in the county with 34,726 estimated people living in the city limits. The city is the 22nd largest in Tennessee.

The Census Bureau estimated Lebanon had 32,226 residents in it, which made it it the 24th largest city in Tennessee.

Watertown was estimated by the Census Bureau to claim 1,530 residents. It was the 194th city in the state.

Tennessee has 95 counties and 346 municipalities, known as “cities” or “towns.” According to the 2010 census bureau, just more than 56 percent of the state’s population lives in municipalities.

Counties with the largest numeric growth were all in the South and West, with counties in Texas taking four out of the top 10 spots, according to new U.S. Census Bureau population estimates.

WilCo Sparks of Kindness to Stuff the Bus

The Leadership Wilson Kindness Team plans to begin its second phase of the kindness mission, Stuff the Bus.

Wilson County Mayor Randall Hutto, Lebanon Mayor Bernie Ash, Mt. Juliet Mayor Ed Hagerty and Watertown Mayor Mike Jennings recently declared May 8 as Kindness Day throughout Wilson County, and WilCo Sparks of Kindness reached more than 11,000 people and had more than 4,000 post engagements since that time. 

Wilson County residents will continue to spark kindness with donations of food items for the summer backpack programs. 

“There are hundreds of students who face food insecurity and hunger in the summer when they do not have access to school meals. This program provides food that the students can eat with little to no prep,” said Betty Williams, a Leadership Wilson member. The Stuff The Bus program is designed to gather food and distribute it to qualified students who attend Lebanon Special School District and Wilson County Schools.”

CedarStone Bank’s Lebanon and Mt Juliet locations are drop-off points for food items to Stuff the Bus during Kindness Day on May 8. 

“We are so excited to be a part of this great kindness revolution in Wilson County,” said Bob McDonald, president of CedarStone Bank. “What better way to be kind than to make sure our students have access to food this summer. We look forward to seeing our community rise up once again to demonstrate great kindness.”

Foods items needed include pop-top ravioli and spaghetti, individual macaroni and cheese bowls and packets, beef jerky, cheese and crackers, chips, individual cookie packets, breakfast bars, Pop Tarts, fruit snacks, juice bars or similar items. 

“These are items we have found work best for our students,” Williams said. “Both school systems want to make sure children have food for the summer. Help us meet our goal. Prior to May 8, take your donation to CedarStone Bank. If you want to be part of the big celebration day, bring your food items to Don Fox Park on May 8, where we will literally stuff the bus.”

To join the kindness revolution, visit WilCo Sparks of Kindness on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram.

LifeWay to close all 170 stores across the US this year

By Mike Pare

Chattanooga Times Free Press

NASHVILLE (TNS) – Nashville-based publisher LifeWay Christian Resources, the largest Christian retail chain in America, plans to close all its 170 brick-and-mortar stores across the country this year.

In Wilson County, the Mt. Juliet store at Providence will close by year’s end, according to LifeWay.

LifeWay acting president and CEO Brad Waggoner said last Wednesday the entity is moving into a new era with a strategic digital focus that will prepare it for the future and allow it to better serve customers.

“LifeWay is fortunate to have a robust publishing, events and church services business,” he said. “Our retail strategy for the future will be a greater focus on digital channels, which are experiencing strong growth.”

Bob Munce, president of the Christian Retail Association in Largo, Florida, said the planned closing of all of LifeWay’s stores “comes as a bit of of a shock in the industry.”

“I didn’t know it was as tough as it was for them,” he said. “They’re wonderful stores. Everybody wished this didn’t happen and they’d stay in business.”

In January, LifeWay announced it would reduce the number of its retail locations due to declining customer traffic and sales. LifeWay said last week the Hamilton Place store would close for the last time May 31.

“While we had hoped to keep some stores open, current market projections show this is no longer a viable option,” Waggoner said.

He said the decision to close its local stores is a difficult one.

“LifeWay has developed close connections with the communities where our stores are located, and we have been honored to serve those communities. We will continue serving local congregations as they meet the spiritual needs of their neighbors,” Waggoner said.

The timing of store closings will vary depending on local circumstances. But, LifeWay expects all brick-and-mortar stores to close by the end of the year.

Munce said many Christian bookstores and retailers are impacted by online sales just as secular businesses have been with the growth of Amazon and other e-commerce book sellers.

“All brick-and-mortar retail is under pressure,” he said, adding there’s not a decline in the interest in Christian publications and literature. “It’s a change in the way people buy things.”

Munce said the chains seemed to have struggled more than the independent retailers.

He said he’s optimistic Christian bookstores will rebound, as such retailers expand their offerings to inspirational gifts and other items. He said Bible sales at such stores are doing “extremely well.”

“It has gotten stronger rather than weaker,” Munce said, as buyers seek out expert advice to find the right Bible for them.

Lifeway, in operation since 1891, offers a comprehensive selection of Bibles, books, Scripture reference tools, Bible studies, children’s products, Christian music and movies, gifts and church supplies.

“LifeWay has been serving the church for 128 years, and we will continue to grow our ministry to churches and individuals into the future,” Waggoner said. LifeWay distributes resources in 164 nations and licenses resources in more than 60 languages.

As part of the organization’s strategy, LifeWay has introduced a number of digital resources including online Bible studies, worship planning, live streaming of events and online training opportunities.

In one month, LifeWay said it interacts with five times as many people through its digital environments as it does through LifeWay stores.