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 honors its oldest veteran

By Matt Masters

mmasters@lebanondemocrat.com

Wilson County’s oldest veteran, Max Anderson, a retired World War II U.S. Navy pilot, celebrated his 100th birthday on Memorial Day in Mt. Juliet with a police and motorcycle club escort Monday afternoon down Mt. Juliet Road.

State Sen. Mark Pody, state Rep. Susan Lynn, Wilson County Mayor Randall Hutto, Lebanon Mayor Bernie Ash and Mt. Juliet Mayor Ed Hagerty awarded Anderson with several proclamations and gifts.

All three mayors proclaimed May 27 as Max Anderson Day across Wilson County as a crowd of more than 100 people gathered for the event at the Mt. Juliet train station. The event coincided with the close of the “Honoring Our American Flag” display, a display of dozens of American flags, which was organized by the local Exchange Club and American Legion.

Lynn presented Anderson with an American flag and Tennessee flag, both of which flew above the state capitol and hand-delivered a birthday certificate on behalf of Gov. Bill Lee.

“Thank you all for coming out to my birthday,” Anderson said. “On this occasion, we are here to give thanks to those who gave our lives so that our country might see freedom again, and as an airplane pilot flying over the countryside, I’ve looked down to so many pretty things – Niagara Falls half froze up, Yosemite, San Francisco – so many places that Lord you have put here for us. Now, I thank every one of you for the greetings on my birthday, and I thank the Lord for 100 years living on Earth, this beautiful planet.”

The ceremony ended as Anderson cut an American flag birthday cake and a long line of grateful people awaited their turn to meet, congratulate and thank Anderson.

Fire chiefs respond to mayor’s remarks

By Angie Mayes

Mt. Juliet News Correspondent

Mt. Juliet fire department leaders took exception to Mayor Ed Hagerty’s comments about the lack of response by the Fire Department of Mt. Juliet to a 911 call at his home earlier in May.

Fire Chief Jamie Luffman and Deputy Chief Chris Allen responded to his comments during the May 10 meeting.

During the meeting, Hagerty recounted how he called 911 to get help with a relative and only the Wilson Emergency Management Agency showed up to the call.

Hagerty is a longtime opponent to a proposed property tax increase that would earmark 39 cents to the fire department.

“I do want to comment further, because there’s been quite a bit of discussion about this,” Hagerty said. “Quite frankly, I’ve been a very vocal opponent against this. One primary reason that I have repeated often is we do not have a revenue problem. We have a spending problem.”

Hagerty then spoke about the 911 call and response.

“The Fire Department of Mt. Juliet did not come when called,” Hagerty said. “They were not on another call. I checked. Given the ranker and emotion of this tax discussion, I don’t even want to speculate why the city of Mt. Juliet [fire department] did not come when called.”

Allen said Thursday he did not appreciate the implication and was upset “politics had been brought into that conversation.”

“For someone who has been in fire services for 33 years, it’s pretty disheartening and kind of a punch to the gut,” Allen said. “Politics aside, we go to someone who needs help.”

“Things shouldn’t go that low. To be accused of personally not responding to a call, it’s disgusting. It’s ironic, because the mayor’s been a frequent critic of ours for running medical calls to begin with.”

Allen said when the fire department first entered service six years ago, “We ran every medical call. Part of it was to learn the city. Part of it was due to dispatch in the county.”

All 911 calls go to the Wilson County dispatchers before they are transferred to a particular agency.

“Probably three years ago, we stopped running low-acuity medical calls,” he said. “Low acuity is a medical term for “not a serious medical call. General complaints of pain, sprained ankle or ‘I don’t feel good, I need to go to the hospital.’”

Luffman further explained the situation and why the fire department did not respond in an email to The Democrat.

“Initial investigation information was that a mistake was made at the Wilson County 911 Center on a recent medical call in Mt. Juliet,” Luffman said. “Upon further investigation, it was found that Wilson County 911 did not make a mistake. The issue found was one of protocol and logistics, which has been reviewed and adjusted to accommodate.
“WEMA and Mt. Juliet Fire Department share a low-acuity protocol that does not require the dispatch of a rescue fire engine. Lebanon Fire Department first responds to all calls for medical service. In this instance, the ambulance that was serving the zone for this call was already out on another call.”

There are two categories dispatchers have when those types of calls come in and an engine is automatically sent, Allen said. They are, car wrecks, anything trauma, heart attack chest pains or diabetic. The second list includes “if the complaint is this. We’re not going to send an engine unless WEMA asks us to,” he said.

Luffman said it prompted two things to happen by WEMA protocol. The next closest ambulance, WEMA Medic 4 in Lakeview, was dispatched for the medical call for service, and the WEMA Engine 3 that serves this zone, was dispatched for first response. Even though the call met the low-acuity criteria, WEMA’s policy is to have the rescue engine respond.

“Since WEMA has a high medical involvement with transport, they will, in times of pulling transport from other zones to cover a call, will dispatch the fire engine for first response,” Luffman said. “The protocol for the Mt. Juliet Fire Department did not address this scenario since we do not control the dispatch locations of the WEMA ambulances and did not foresee this logistical setup, that facet has been added to our protocol. Mt. Juliet did receive the call from Wilson County 911; however, in the fact that the dispatch information received fell under a low-acuity criterion, no Mt. Juliet rescue engine was dispatched.”

Allen said, “We did not have to go on that call. What really hurts is the fire crew, the chiefs, we didn’t know about the call. When it was dispatched, the dispatchers made the decision. We had no knowledge of it.”

If given the chance, Allen said, “I wish we could keep it professional. We’ve been accused of having a ‘spending problem.’ What is frustrating is that our budgets have been approved each year by all five members of the board of commissioners. That includes the mayor. If there is a spending problem, then he’s approved it.

“We’ve not gone over budget. In fact, we’ve returned funds to emergency services every year. So, whether or not you agree that a tax increase [is needed] or not, there’s got to be some type of solution, because we desperately need a third staffed station.”

Last year, the department ran more than 2,670 calls, Allen said, with two stations. Because there is no department on the north end of the city, emergency calls often take 10 minutes when it should take five, he said.

The Lebanon Fire Department has 18 staff members working each shift, he said. Mt. Juliet has a higher population and six members split between two stations.

“They are an older city with some of the challenges that come with that,” he said. “So, we should be somewhere in between.”

Allen said Mt. Juliet encompasses 28.1 square miles, and there are 37,400 people in the city.

“There is a total of 22 full-time, two part-time and 17 volunteers within the department,” Allen said. “Their annual budget is $2.7 million. Compare that to Lebanon, which is 38.6 square miles and has a population of 32,200 people. Their department has 71 full-time and two part-time employees. Their annual budget is $6.8 million.”

Further comparisons included LaVergne, which is 25.1 square miles and has a population of 41,000. It has 46 full-time and 13 part-time employees, and its budget is $4 million.

Allen said he wished the conversation about the department and the potential tax increase, “would be kept professional. I just wish things wouldn’t have evolved to a personal level.”

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.

Mt. Juliet Christian wins Spotlight awards

NASHVILLE – Out of 28 participating high schools and more than 1,200 drama students, Mt. Juliet Christian Academy’s performance of “Guys and Dolls” took home the top honor of outstanding musical last Saturday at the 2019 Spotlight Awards at the Tennessee Performing Arts Center.

Mike Fernandez, dean of Lipscomb University’s George Shinn College of Entertainment and the Arts, created the Nashville High School Musical Theatre Awards, or Spotlight Awards to recognize excellence in local high school theatre. Presented in partnership with Tennessee Performing Arts Center, the program evaluated musical productions from 28 Tennessee high schools.

With American Idol alum Piper Jones as host in TPAC’s Jackson Hall, the Tony Awards-style ceremony May 11 recognized individual and ensemble talent in 27 categories after students participated in all-day workshops on the Lipscomb campus.

Mt. Juliet Christian Academy also won Spotlight Awards for outstanding choreography and outstanding costume design.

“We are absolutely honored and grateful to have received the Spotlight Award for outstanding musical out of all the amazing high school theater talent in Tennessee,” said Kimberly Overstreet, theatre and choral director at Mt. Juliet Christian Academy. “Participation in the Spotlight Awards has provided my students with many invaluable and wonderful experiences, and to be recognized for all their hard work in ‘Guys and Dolls’ was the highlight of their year.”

Seniors Markie Scott and Kenslea Rose were recognized as part of the 2019 all-star crew, and seniors Mason Tabor and Abigail Wilson were recognized as part of the 2019 all-star cast.

“As a teacher and theater director, I am constantly looking for new ways to challenge my students so they can grow and enhance their skills,” Overstreet said. “This production of ‘Guys and Dolls’ has done just that by challenging this incredible group of students to perform at a higher level than thought possible either onstage or behind the scenes. I am blessed with an amazing cast and crew and am incredibly proud of their dedication to the theater program. It is a pleasure to work with them every day.”

Mt. Juliet Christian Academy’s production of “Guys and Dolls” was nominated in the top five for seven school awards in the categories of outstanding choreography, outstanding ensemble, outstanding costume design, outstanding hair and makeup, outstanding design concept, outstanding technical elements and outstanding musical.

Mt. Juliet Christian theatre students were also nominated for four individual awards, including senior Abe Gibson for outstanding male soloist; senior Mason Tabor for outstanding comedic actor and outstanding lead actor; and senior Abigail Wilson for outstanding lead actress.

Lipscomb University’s George Shinn College of Entertainment and the Arts is the fastest-growing college in the university, with a variety of undergraduate and graduate degrees. The mission of the college is to be a Christ-centered, innovative, entrepreneurial arts community committed to rigorous artistic training, creative collaboration and professional growth that seeks to train the next generation of believer artists who seek to uplift, challenge and entertain. For more information, visit cea.lipscomb.edu.

Wilson Central choir closes out year at Carnegie Hall

By Matt Masters

mmasters@lebanondemocrat.com

The Wilson Central High School choir held its spring choral concert at the end of April, which marked the final school performance for 10 seniors.

Senior Christina Bailey, who was recognized as most dedicated, shared tears and hugs with her classmates after the performance. Bailey said her four-year commitment to the choir paid off in friendships and priceless memories to carry with her as she prepares for college.

“From day one, Mrs. Morin has been like a mom to me, somebody that I can always talk to, and the choir itself has always been a big dysfunctional family in a way,” Bailey said. “Without them, I feel like I wouldn’t be able to stand here tonight and feel as proud as I do.”

Wilson Central’s director of choral activities Lynn Morin said the group of choral students was especially important to her as they became more like family than simply students.

“Every year we finish our year in a traditional way. We sing traditional songs, and every time it just kind of signifies the end of four years for our kids but the other kids also connect with it because of the beauty of the text, the beauty of the music, and they’re very comfortable with it because they sing it every year,” Morin said. “This year’s senior class, as I said, was extremely special to me. I came into this job and didn’t know a soul moving to this area and these kids were literally my family from day one. They accepted me from day one, and they have stuck with me, and they just have my heart.”

While the school performance marked the end of the year for some, 18 students left on an airplane for a historic performance at Carnegie Hall in New York City, where they performed with Grammy-winning composer and conductor Eric Whitacre.

This once-in-a-lifetime opportunity was a focus of the chamber choir who has worked for months to prepare and perfect its performance and raise funds to travel for the April 28 performance.

Morin said it was possible because of the support for the arts throughout the community, Wilson County Schools and especially from the community and administration at Wilson Central.

“There are a lot of people here in Wilson County who love the arts, and it’s evident at all of our concerts, and I can just say thank you to those who do support the arts,” Morin said. “Sometimes these kids feel like they’re in the background, but on a night like tonight, they weren’t. They were in the spotlight.”

The Carnegie Hall performance is still almost unbelievable to some of the returning students who are more than aware of the unique opportunity in which they took part.

The buildup to the trip was described as nerve wracking and exciting by some of the students, but the tension soon melted away, said senior Audrey Darnell.

“As soon as he [Eric Whitacre] walked into the room, and we started, there was just this calm over everybody and we focused. As soon as we started to sing it was this unified, pure sound and all my worries were just out the door,” Darnell said. “Really he didn’t dwell on technical things because we had such a long amount of time to learn these pieces and kind of dig into them, and he really just being so knowledgeable about that stuff and expecting us to kind of rise to the occasion, he really just talked about the feeling of the music and the emotion that we wanted to convey and the picture in our minds, and that just delivers the song to another level,” Darnell said.

“For instance,” Junior Aelmira Esmaeilpour said, “one of the pieces is called, ‘I Carry Your Heart,’ and at first when we would sing it, no one was really as into it as much as he was hoping, so he just kind of started explaining things and saying how love should feel and just explaining what love is. That just hit a lot of people really deep and everyone got emotional, I cried when we re-sang it, and you could just tell that he could tell what a big difference it made from the beginning to after he explained everything. I think everyone realized that these songs aren’t just written to be sung, they’re written because they mean something.”

That professionalism and passion is something that stuck out to each performer and inspired some to consider involving music performance even deeper into their lives and plans post-graduation.

“It’s really cool to see someone who wrote the music conduct it, because I would watch him while he was conducting and at the end he would close his eyes, and it was almost like he was visualizing what he was saying with his writing. It’s all directly from him, you’re not getting it second hand or from a director who thinks they know what the composer wanted, you’re getting it from the composer who knows what he wants. It’s like his child almost,” sophomore Avery McClure said. “After this trip and seeing how Eric Whitacer was with his music, how it was like his child and seeing how excited he got when he heard what he wanted to hear, I’m considering going into composing or just joining a professional choir and totally threw my other plans out the window.”

In addition to their Carnegie Hall performance, the students visited many New York City landmarks like Central Park. When asked what the best thing besides the performance was, they all replied, “food,” in unison, Ellen’s Stardust Diner to be specific.

While the performance highlighted their hard work and talents, the students made sure to point out the leadership and support from Morin, someone who they all speak of as if she’s family, someone who’s helped them all become more connected.

“I think it just really highlights the caliber and the experience and the talent and the connections of our director. She’s the one who got us into this, she’s the one who lead us into this event and prepared us and I think that she’s just really helpful and amazing,” Darnell said. “She believed in us,” Esmaeilpour said. “She knew we would do it and she was right. This is why we love her.”

“She didn’t give up on us at all,” said junior Samantha Mored.

For Morin, this trip was an affirmation that she and her students had worked their hardest, never taking the opportunity to perform, whether it be in the walls of Wilson Central or Carnegie Hall for granted.

“Just as I had hoped, the first experience, the first rehearsal, the first time that they all sang together under Eric’s direction, it was just magical,” Morin said. “I knew from that point that everything was going to be fine, and I was specifically proud of their preparation. I worked them very hard, and the expectations were very high, and they completely rose to them. In rehearsal, they reaped the benefits of that. I know they realized that. They never reached for their binders of music not once, and that’s pretty cool. There were kids reaching for their binders from other schools, but my kids were just like, bring it. So I was very proud of them in that regard. I had some beautiful seats in Carnegie Hall right on the first tier, front box seats, and I got to see them come out, and it just made my heart swell that they had this experience, one that they will take with them for the rest of their lives. It may very well be a once-in-a-lifetime experience for many of them.”

Former Wilson County Mayor Bob Dedman dies

Lifelong Lebanon resident and former Wilson County Mayor Robert Dedman died Thursday at home. He was 85.

Dedman served as Wilson County mayor for 12 years, from 1998 until he retired and current Mayor Randall Hutto became mayor in 2012. Before he was sworn in as mayor, Dedman served on the Lebanon City Council and as property assessor for three terms.

Dedman’s accomplishments are many, and those in the community remember him fondly.

“When I think of Bob Dedman, I think of a true champion and leader, whether it be in sports, politics or in life. He was always someone who listened to the people and wasn’t afraid to stand up for what was right. My thoughts and prayers are with his family,” former Wilson County Property Assessor Jack Pratt said.

Before Dedman was a politician, he was an athlete. He played on several championship football teams, including for Paul “Bear” Bryant at the University of Kentucky. When Dedman played for Lebanon High School from 1951-53, the Blue Devils football team was undefeated.

“Mayor Dedman was a great statesman in my mind in that he never lost an election. He really ran the county with ease. He got things done, not only as property assessor but also as county mayor for 12 years. He was a great man and a great mentor for me when I first thought about becoming a mayor,” said Hutto.

Statton Bone, who met Dedman at Lebanon High School in 1952, said he always made time for everyone. Dedman graduated from Lebanon in 1953.

“He did many, many good things for Lebanon and Wilson County over the years. He served in several different areas. He was very supportive of the Nashville Superspeedway back in its day and the development along I-840. He was a good public servant,” Bone said.

Dedman began his political career in 1972. He served as Lebanon’s first purchasing agent, worked for the secretary of state in 1978 and was then elected to the Lebanon City Council. During his time on the council, Pratt said he was influential to bring ward districts to Lebanon. He served as Senate sergeant-at-arms for the 100th Tennessee General Assembly.

“Bob was a great man. He was awfully good to me. I served as ag director when he was the county mayor. He was a good guy, a good leader. The county lost a good man. My sympathy goes out to his family,” Larry Tomlinson said.

Funeral services for Dedman were Monday at 1 p.m. at Sellars Funeral Home in Lebanon. Visitation was Sunday from 4-8 p.m. and Monday from 11 a.m. until the service at the funeral home. 

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. 

Mt. Juliet students excel in German

Mt. Juliet High School students Nicole Saul, Albert Hylmar and Addison Reiter were awarded gold medals and special recognition on the presidential honor roll for outstanding performance on the 2019 National German Exam for High School Students.

Saul and Hylmar received the award they scored in the 94th percentile on the level 1 National German Exam sponsored by the American Association of Teachers of German. Reiter received the award after scoring in the 90th percentile on the level 1 National German Exam. 

Nearly 24,900 students participated in the exam this year nationwide. In Tennessee, 173 students competed on the level 1 exam, and 141 students competed on the level 2 exam. The National German Exam, in its 59th year, rewards students through an extensive prize program and provide a means of comparing students in all regions of the United States.

“The outstanding performance of these German students in our national competition brings honor to their school, their district and their German program,” said Susanne Rinner, associate professor of German at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro and AATG president. “The AATG salutes their tremendous accomplishment and the great work their teachers do.”

Saul, Hylmar and Reiter are students in Janine Zahuczky’s German class at Mt. Juliet High School. Five other students were awarded certificates in the category of achievement, which signified a score of 50 percent in the nation or higher. Jude DeWald at 70 percent, Avery Clarkston at 61 percent, Rosemary Meads at 57 percent, Savannah Lowery at 55 percent and John Zimmerman at 50 percent outperformed half of the students in the U.S. in reading and listening comprehension. They also demonstrated mastery in identifying main ideas, supporting details and German vocabulary.

In addition, 11 Mt. Juliet High School students were inducted into the National German Honor Society recently. The students were Emily Austin, Collin Clark, DeWald, Brianna Hamilton, Hylmar, Jaxon Latta, Lowery, Matthew Niven, Reiter, Saul and Zimmerman. 

Students also participated in the Tennessee German Competition at Vanderbilt University, promoted German at the Mt. Juliet Elementary School multicultural night, spoke to eighth-grade students at Mt. Juliet High School’s parent night to encourage middle school students to take German. 

Teacher Janine Zahuczky said she was proud of all her students’ efforts to study world languages and broaden their horizons in different cultures.

Founded in 1926, the AATG represents German teachers at all levels of instruction. The AATG is dedicated to the advancement and improvement of the teaching of language, literature and culture of the German-speaking countries.

Wilson school board honors retirees

By Angie Mayes

Mt. Juliet News Correspondent

Thirty-seven Wilson County Schools employees who plan to retire were honored with a reception and presentation last Monday night prior to the Wilson County Board of Education meeting.

Among them was Esther Hockett, who worked for the district for 58 years and will retire at the end of the school year as a library media specialist at Mt. Juliet High School.

From 1963-69, Hockett was a teacher and librarian and a guidance counselor at Wilson County High School. At the time, she taught civics, 10th-grade English, health to girls, science, world history and government to seniors.

She said when she retires, she plans to “read, write, complete Bible studies, missionary projects, love and take care of my family, visit loved ones and see more of the world.”

She plans to continue to live in Mt. Juliet. 

Hockett said she decided to retire when she began “receiving answers to prayers. I have been praying to God for several years, and it’s time. Fifty years has seemed just like a very few days on this beautiful journey. Knowing that, I have been truly blessed and loved down through the years.”

She said she “will miss all of our current darling teachers, administrators, staff members and those who are not here, as well. Many of our current teachers are former students. I am so thankful to see them doing an excellent job. It has been a joy to work with each. God truly blesses.”

David Wright retired after 50 years as a bus driver. He was named state bus driver of the Year in 2017. Wilson County Director of Schools Donna Wright said, “When it comes to Lebanon High School, he is always willing to drive.”

Transportation director Jerry Barlow said, “[David Wright’s] blood does run blue.”

David Wright did retire in November due to health conditions, he said.

“I was sick and had to retire,” he said. “I wasn’t ready to give up, but I had to.”

Linda Highers and Patti Smith also plan to retire. Highers said she retired in December and was with the system for 31-and-a-half years.

“I was hired to teach third grade, but then taught kindergarten to third grade,” said Highers, who taught at Watertown Elementary School. “I loved teaching and was a math teacher, as well as an art teacher.”

Smith also taught at Watertown Elementary School and said she has worked for the school system for 30 years. She was hired as a fifth-grade teacher, but then taught third through sixth grades. Smith taught language, reading and social studies.

Janet Spruill and Cindy Willis also plan to retire.

Spruill, who taught at Southside Elementary School, will retire after 41-and-a-half years. She taught first grade and said she will miss teaching.

“I enjoy working with the children,” she said.

Willis, who is a librarian at Lakeview Elementary School, will retire after 29 years with the school system. Twenty of those years were at Lakeview, she said.

“I will miss the kids, but I won’t set my alarm [after she retires],” Willis said. “I will also go at a slower pace.”

Bus driver Charles Lanius plans to retire after 12 years. He said he loved working as a driver.

Math and STEM teacher David Haines plans to retire after 19 years with the school system as 24 years as a teacher. He taught at Mt. Juliet High School.

“I will miss the kids,” he said, echoing many of his fellow retirees.

Others who plan to retire this year are Robert Agee, Tony Batey, Margie Blair, Charles Bowman, Steven Carter, Anita Christian, Cindy Climer, Barbara Coffee, Walter Crawley, Susan Davis, Kelly Eagar, Violet Elliots, Tracy Fialkowski, Samuel Figgins, Kathy Gallager, Cynthia Givens-Harris, Rebecca Ann Laveck, Bridgete Lewis, Barbara Marks, Debra Martin, Robin Morthel, Ann Nored,, Joan Priebel, Donna Robertson, Lorii Sharp, Rick Sink, Linda Gayle Smith, Mary Wheeler and Jerry Williams.

Central Tennessee Soccer seeks new place to play

By Angie Mayes

Mt. Juliet News Correspondent

The Central Tennessee Soccer league seeks for new fields, so league play cannot be interrupted when it starts in August.

Its last game of the season will be Saturday on its current fields at 700 Sullivan Bend Road in Mt. Juliet. As soon as the games are done, team members and leaders will pack their items and take them to storage.

The league was at the Sullivan Bend property for eight years, according to Johnny Davis, director of coaches for Central Tennessee Soccer.

“We always knew [the property] was going to be sold at some point, but just didn’t know when,” Davis said. “We were notified right before Easter that we had 30 days to vacate the property.”

About 700 players are in the league each year, which has two seasons, one in the spring and one in the fall. The one in the spring runs March through May, and the fall league runs from August through October. There are about 350 players during each season, Davis said. Currently, there are 30 teams in the league. Players range from 4-18 years old.

“We would love to stay in Mt. Juliet, but we also want to keep our league alive, so we would be open to other options,” he said. “Most of us live in Mt. Juliet and most of our kids live in Mt. Juliet.

“I’m confident we will find land, even though it might not be as much as we would like. We have asked our current families to reach out to everyone they know. We have done some door knocking. We have posted on Facebook. We did a news story on [a Nashville television station] last week. I personally met with Kenny Martin, the Mt. Juliet city manager, and he is trying to help me find some options for fields. 

The league can make 8 acres “work, but would prefer around 15 acres,” Davis said. “On 15 acres, we could put about 12 different size soccer fields. With 8 acres, we would be able to do around six to eight fields.”  

In 2018, the league started what they called the Foundation Program, which allows all the kids in U6 and U8 to play for free or for a donation. 

“We did this, because we wanted every child to have the chance to be introduced to the great game of soccer without having to worry about financial obligations that might limit them from playing,” he said. “For a lot of us involved with the league, these kids have become like family. For me, my son is almost 8 and has been playing in the league for four years now. I have several kids who have played with me for three-plus years. We have several people who have been volunteering with our league for years without having kids involved in the league anymore, because they love these kids and the game of soccer.

“After Saturday’s games, we will start at 2 p.m., packing up the goals to transport them to a storage location. Any help with that would be appreciated.”

To contact Davis, call him at 615-354-3957.

Justice offers city funding options

By Angie Mayes

Mt. Juliet News Correspondent

Mt. Juliet Commissioner Ray Justice gave an optional city funding presentation to a proposed property tax increase Friday at a Mt. Juliet Chamber of Commerce meeting.

Justice told the crowd of various options to fund the fire department and help fund infrastructure needs.

The original proposal from city staff was a property tax increase to a total of 59 cents, which would be broken down to 39 cents specifically given to fire department needs and 20 cents directed to infrastructure projects.

“In 2011, Wilson County passed a resolution that stated Wilson County would not cover the fire services for the city of Mt. Juliet above what they were currently providing,” Justice said in his presentation. “Any enhancement to the city of Mt. Juliet’s fire coverage by the city itself would result in the city having to take over all fire services. The funding of this project would fall to the city taxpayers to fund. Our taxpayers had to have fire service. It had to be funded.”

He said the tax rate for the city of Mt. Juliet was not lowered, although the service was no longer provided.

It was lowered from 20 cents to 16 cents in the past due to reappraisal of properties, according to Mayor Bill Hagerty in a Mt. Juliet City Commission meeting a few months ago.

“The current property tax funds the Mt. Juliet Fire Department,” Justice said in the presentation. “[We have the] lowest city property tax rate in Wilson County. [The] proposed city property tax rate increases to 59 cents or 39 cents would still be lowest city tax in Wilson County.”

The current property tax on a $150,000 home is $62 per year. On a $300,000 home, it is $125. On a $500,000 home, it is $208.

“The current budget deficit for [the fire department for] fiscal year 2018-2019 is $450,000,” he said. “[For the] 2019-2020 projected [fire department] budget deficit at the .1664-cent property tax rate is $565,000. [The] majority of property tax revenue is received between December and February. Depleting reserves creates cash flow problems from July to November. [The] current plan for construction and operational cost of additional fire station is why we are having these discussions.”

To build a proposed fire hall on the north side of the city near the new Green Hill High School, the cost is estimated to be $4.138 million, while operating costs would be just less than $2 million.

Justice said there are additional needs for the fire department. An increase of funding would help the department “close existing budget deficit [of $565,000], add staffing for at least one ladder company [at 12 personnel with four per shift]; critical need based on increasing number of multi-story facilities, including assisted living complexes; staffing could be phased in over time.”

Also, the city would need to replace self-contained breathing apparatus and turnout gear, replace the Center City fire station behind city hall and replace squad 103 and engine 104 in 2023. The need to add staffing for a dedicated shift commander of three personnel with one per shift, and replace compressor and radios, Justice said in the presentation.

Justice said under the first option, which was previously proposed, the city would raise taxes. To fully fund the current operation, it would levy a 23.5-cent tax increase. To fund the operations of the north station, the cost would be an additional 11 cents. To cover the additional needs for the north station, and then the City Center station would cost 4.25 cents, for a total of 39 cents.

The increase for a $150,000 home would be $84, which would bring the total to $146. For a 300,000 home, the cost would be an additional $168, which would bring the total to $293 and for a $500,000 home, the increase would be an additional $280 to $488.

A second option would be to increase the tax rate to 59 cents. That would increase the tax rate for $150,000 from $159 to $221. For a $300,000 home, the increase would be $318 to $443. For a $500,000 home, the increase would be $530 to $738.

Other options include a sales tax increase from 9.25 percent to 9.75 percent, which would generate an estimated $555,000 annually. That would require a public referendum to pass or fail the measure. Last year, Wilson County proposed an increase by referendum, but voters rejected it by about 2,000 votes.

There could be general fund transfers to cover deficit. The general fund supports all other city departments and includes current transfers to state street aid fund, debt service fund, and capital projects fund, Justice said.

Impact fees are also an option, Justice said.

“Impact fees for infrastructure are very common for cities and counties,” he said. “Justification studies are underway to determine actual cost of growth. [We can use] per-capita costs of growth. Williamson County recently was allowed to implement and take advantage of [an] impact fee by the courts.”

The newest option is to use half of the hotel-motel tax that guests pay in their bill and is collected by the hotel or motel. The funds were originally dedicated to parks capital improvements, Justice said.

“[It is] now bringing in about $800,000 per year,” Justice said in his presentation. “A cap of $400,000 would continue to be dedicated to capital parks projects. The remaining $400,000 would be directed to the fire department to help offset the current deficit.”

Fees for infrastructure are about $1.8 million.

“TDOT has announced four projects being placed in the three-year plan for Mt. Juliet-west Wilson County, all as a result of the IMPROVE Act,” he said.

That includes an interchange at Central Pike, right-of-way acquisition on Lebanon Road and right-of-way acquisition on South Mt. Juliet Road, from Central Pike to Providence Drive, according to the presentation.

“The total cost for road and greenway projects between 2020 and 2024 is estimated to be $37,841,438,” Justice said.

The city projects nearly $17.1 million would come from state and federal grants, the presentation said. City funds for the projects are estimated to be nearly $19 million that would be spent in the next four years, according to the presentation.

For a project, the estimated costs, which would affect road projects are $75,000 for turn lanes, $180,000 for a red-light addition, $300,000 for a road widening and $70,000 for sidewalks along peripheral roadways, for a total of $625,000, Justice said. The per-home impact fee would be $2,500 and with the increase, would be used to help pay for infrastructure projects.

Wilson County recognizes May as ALS Awareness Month

By Matt Masters

mmasters@lebanondemocrat.com

Wilson County Mayor Randall Hutto signed a proclamation last Wednesday that designated May as ALS Awareness Month in Wilson County.

Several citizens, community leaders and family members who were affected by ALS, including Bryan Galentine and Ashley Vickers, joined Hutto at a ceremonial proclamation signing at the Wilson County Courthouse.

The proclamation calls for county residents to help raise awareness about ALS, raise funds for research and reach out to those suffering. Blue is the ALS awareness color, and residents are encouraged to wear blue throughout the month to show their support.

“If we don’t recognize it, and if we don’t continue to raise funds to defeat it, then we’re going backwards. So that is our motive here today, to do this and to get other people involved. I had a chance to be a part of the ice bucket challenge back during the summer [to help the Vickers family raise money for ALS awareness], and we want to do more of these things to kind of help support and to also raise funds to find a cure for this disease,” said Hutto, before he ended the event with a group prayer.

ALS or amyotrophic lateral sclerosis is also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease and affects at least 16,000 people in the United States at any time, with about 5,000 new cases diagnosed each year, according to the ALS Association. More information about ALS, its symptoms and research for a cure may be found at alsa.org.

Lantern Lane Farm welcomes crowd

By Matt Masters

mmasters@lebanondemocrat.com

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.

Crowds gather for National Day of Prayer despite storm

By Matt Masters

mmasters@lebanondemocrat.com

Hundreds of people gathered at Charlie Daniels Park in Mt. Juliet last Wednesday evening for the Everyone’s Wilson National Day of Prayer Gathering, where faithful Christians prayed and celebrated with music, community and food trucks.

Storms rolled in about halfway through the event that drove some to shelter, but the rain didn’t stop the crowd from its mission to celebrate unity between the different churches.

One of the attendees was David Barnard, of Mt. Juliet, who said the event was successful despite the weather, because it brought people together regardless of color or denominations.

“This event was important to me, because this was the first step in combing the churches, combining the colors, combining the Christians and showing the world that Mt. Juliet can be a beacon against racism, against hunger and for God,” Barnard said. “I came here without expectations, but it was beautiful to see even with the rain, even with the bad conditions, people stayed, people praised, and people enjoyed themselves. What the beautiful thing to me was that you didn’t see clusters of black people and clusters of white people and clusters of one church and clusters of another church. You saw everybody blended together and mingled together, and that’s the way it should be.”

More information about Everyone’s Wilson may be found at everyoneswilson.org.

Cameron named CASA volunteer of the year

Chris Cameron, of Mt. Juliet, was named Wilson County Court-Appointed Special Advocates’ advocate of the year for his dedication to the program and to the children who come to the attention of CASA through the court system.

Wilson County Court-Appointed Special Advocates has recruited and trained volunteers to advocate for abused and neglected children for the past 31 years.

Annually, an award is given to one exceptional volunteer advocate, one who goes above and beyond and one who challenges and pushes the envelope. 

Cameron has served as a volunteer advocate for six years, and during this time, he was an advocate for 12 children and donated several hours of his time, along with countless miles, to the organization. 

“Wilson County CASA depends on volunteers like Chris to fulfill the role of a court advocate for children who are navigating the court system as a result of being abused or neglected,” said Cathey Sweeney, executive director of Wilson County CASA. “Children come to the attention of the Department of Children’s Services as a result of reported abuse or neglect, then are routed through the court system where a CASA volunteer may then be assigned to advocate for the child. Volunteer advocates remain on the child’s case for the duration that they are before the court.”

Other award recipients included:

• Public Defender Shelley Thompson Gardner received the community champion award.

• Lee Roy Campbell received the spirit award. 

• David Chamberlain received the heart of CASA award.

• Jenni Bond received the extraordinary service award.

• Lee Campbell received the pinnacle award. 

• Brittany Ash was named rookie of the year. 

• staff program director Diana Haines was presented with a 10-year service award.

Wilson County CASA currently has 85 volunteers, but more are needed. Contact the CASA office at 615-443-2002 or visit wilsoncountycasa.org to find out how to become involved or to make a financial contribution so someone else can be trained.   The next training session is scheduled to begin in June.

Bloodhounds find need in Wilson County, pioneer rescue database

By Matt Masters

mmasters@lebanondemocrat.com

About four years ago, the search for a missing Alzheimer’s patient spurred Wilson County Emergency Management Agency firefighter and paramedic Anthony Nettles to turn to a tried-and-tested asset to find missing people, bloodhounds.

Nettles started an all-volunteer organization called Wilson County K-9 Search and Rescue, which is dedicated to assist first responders in search and rescue throughout the county.

Otis the hound was the first of Nettles’ pack soon after he realized the need and chance to help save lives. He started his training with experienced dog trainers from the Scientific Working Group on Dog and Orthogonal detector Guidelines.

The team has two full-grown bloodhounds named Otis and Dossi, one German Shepard named Harley and recently welcomed bloodhound puppies, Penny and Gumbo.

“My wife and I started training with them, and it took about two years to get Otis certified and comfortable to where we knew that if it was my kid that we were looking for, that I had no doubt that this dog was going to go out and find them,” Nettles said. “After that, we picked up Dossi from a shelter in Alabama, and we started training her. She’s our human-remains dog. She does cadaver work on land and water.”

The dogs are trained in “man-trailing,” which means the dog follows someone’s scent, while tracking is following footstep to footstep in thunderstorms, snow, across asphalt and rivers, wherever the scent leads them.

“We train at least 24 hours a month and four or five hours each weekend, but that’s just the big training,” Nettles said. “We also do little trainings at home. We have someone go hide in the woods, things like that, so we’ve probably got about 6,000 hours in Otis right now, and Dossi has about 2,000.”

Nettles said the bloodhounds have the ability to smell 1,000 times that of humans, something that makes them especially good at tracking.

“When you walk into a house, and you smell beef stew, he walks into the house and he smells the oregano; he smells the salt; he smells the carrot, all different, and he processes it down. And that’s what makes them great scent-discrimination dogs,” Nettles said. “They’re amazing animals.”

Nettles also said each dog has their own unique command to start, which for Otis is, “Find ‘em,” and for Gumbo is “rougarou,” a reference to Nettles’ Louisiana upbringing.

Wilson County K-9 Search and Rescue’s newest member to the four-person team is Barron Grant, who also works for WEMA.

“I’ve been wanting to get on the team for a while,” Grant said. “Search and rescue has always been a passion for me, always had a love for dogs and animals, and I also work as a firefighter and paramedic for the county, as well, and being able do both is just icing on the cake. I get to do my two loves in this life, and it’s awesome.”

It’s clear for Nettles and Grant, the bond goes beyond owner and pet to the level of an almost spiritual connection. It’s a professionalism that transcends species and requires an understanding their work can help save lives or facilitate healing in the toughest of times.

“We work out heart out. We don’t charge anything for the service. It’s free, and we’re all volunteers. You could blindfold me, and I’d trust Otis with my life, like he trusts me,” Nettles said. “Just working out there, knowing that we’re fixing to go to work, he starts singing and jumping up and down. He loves to do this. Most dogs are driven by food, like Penny here. She’s a hungry little girl, so we treat her. But Otis, he’s gotten such a love for what he does that all he wants is daddy to tell him that he’s a good boy, and we have a little party at the end.”

That party includes lots of pets and a high-pitched praise of the dog’s efforts, something Nettles insists helps to communicate the good work to the copper hound.

Nettles said, while the dogs are able to track people long into their lives, they plan to keep the dogs working for about 10 years before passing the baton – or in this case the dog bone – onto the next generation of hounds.

“Our average is about nine to 10 years, and then we start training the next group and, like I said, we lucked up with Gumbo and Penny, so this will put Otis at right about five or six years. That way, Gumbo and Penny will be about 2 when we get ready to certify them. That way, they’re ready to go, and we can start looking for the next ones,” Nettles said. “You always want to keep enough ammunition to fight the war.”

Nettles said securing a total of six members would be optimal for their group who looks toward an organized future of working in Wilson County, which would include zoning off the county for faster response times. But what he’s most excited about is his development of Wilson County K-9 Search and Rescue’s newest effort, a voluntary database of people with autism and Alzheimer’s who may be most at risk of becoming a missing person.

The program, called Project Safe Autistic Alzheimers Return Assistance, is the first of its kind in Wilson County and as far as Nettles knows, may be the first of its kind in the world to help save precious time and lives in a missing persons case.

“We’ve got 35, 45, maybe even 50 questions that we have to ask to get adequate information so that we can do a search,” Nettles said. “It’s very time consuming and, if you can imagine, if you had a son with autism that walked off, you’re going to be frantic. You’re not going to understand why I’m standing there asking you so many questions when I’ve got a dog right there that could be at work. So I got with [WEMA] director Joey Cooper and [Wilson County] Mayor Hutto, and we’ve developed a link on Wilson County’s website, which should be operational soon, and it has all the questions there, and in your leisure time, you can answer the questions, so that if your child wanders off, you call 911 as usual and tell the dispatcher that you enrolled in Project SAARA, and this is the number that they gave me.”

Nettles said the dispatchers would then send the identification number to the search-and-rescue group, which would save about two hours of vital search time to find someone who may be missing.

“It also tells you how to develop a scent article that you can keep at home. That way, we won’t have to come in and take your toothbrush, your hairbrush, your clothes or pillowcase and shove it up a dog’s nose,” Nettles said. 

Nettles said developing a scent article is as simple as having a person wipe themselves with a gauze pad, and have them place that in a sealed reusable plastic bag, double bag the gauze in another plastic bag and place those in a sealed manila envelope with a recent photo of the person who might go missing. Nettles said the Project SAARA identification number should be written on the envelope, and the envelope can be stored in the freezer without the scent expiring.

More information about Wilson County K-9 Search and Rescue may be found at facebook.com/Wilson-County-K9-Search-and-Rescue.

Wilson Central choir closes out year with songs, tears

By Matt Masters

mmasters@lebanondemocrat.com

The Wilson Central High School choir held its spring choral concert last Tuesday night, which marked the final performance for 10 seniors.

Senior Christina Bailey, who was recognized as most dedicated, shared tears and hugs with her classmates after the performance. Bailey said her four-year commitment to the choir paid off in friendships and priceless memories to carry with her as she prepares for college.

“From day one, Mrs. Morin has been like a mom to me, somebody that I can always talk to, and the choir itself has always been a big dysfunctional family in a way,” Bailey said. “Without them, I feel like I wouldn’t be able to stand here tonight and feel as proud as I do.”

Wilson Central’s director of choral activities Lynn Morin said the group of choral students was especially important to her as they became more like family than simply students.

“Every year we finish our year in a traditional way. We sing traditional songs, and every time it just kind of signifies the end of four years for our kids but the other kids also connect with it because of the beauty of the text, the beauty of the music, and they’re very comfortable with it because they sing it every year,” Morin said. “This year’s senior class, as I said, was extremely special to me. I came into this job and didn’t know a soul moving to this area and these kids were literally my family from day one. They accepted me from day one, and they have stuck with me, and they just have my heart.”

While it’s over for some, the most significant moment still lies in wait for 18 students who will board a plane early Thursday morning for a historic performance at Carnegie Hall in New York City, where they will perform with Grammy-winning composer and conductor Eric Whitacre.

This once-in-a-lifetime opportunity was a focus of the chamber choir who has worked for months to prepare and perfect its performance and raise funds to travel for the Sunday performance.

Morin said it was all possible because of the support for the arts throughout the community, Wilson County Schools and especially from the community and administration at Wilson Central.

“There are a lot of people here in Wilson County who love the arts, and it’s evident at all of our concerts, and I can just say thank you to those who do support the arts,” Morin said. “Sometimes these kids feel like they’re in the background, but on a night like tonight, they weren’t. They were in the spotlight.”

Prom raises safety concerns

By Matt Masters

mmasters@lebanondemocrat.com

Hundreds of Mt. Juliet High School students packed the front lawn of the school Friday to watch a gruesome mock crash that shut down Golden Bear Parkway with the hopes to show them the sad realities that can result from distracted or impaired driving.

Mt. Juliet police Capt. Tyler Chandler said the annual event is meant to get the attention of students and hopefully bring a little awareness to dangers on the roadway.

“A lot of students are going to be driving to downtown Nashville, and what we just want to impress is driving safely. This demonstration [Friday] gives them a good, visible image of what could happen if they were driving unsafe. So if they’re texting, if they’re driving while impaired, stuff like this, this crash that we see today can easily happen,” Chandler said.

“We’ve received a lot of feedback from students and parents and teachers and, of course, the administration here at the school just thanking us every year for doing it. They reach out to us every year wanting us to come out and do this, and we make sure to always make it happen. Really, it’s something that generates conversation amongst the students, teachers and parents, and hopefully with that, they’ll keep it in the backs of their heads that, ‘hey, I need to drive safe. If I don’t, something bad might happen.’ What we want is to keep people safe on our roadways. We don’t want them to end up in a crash.”

Along with Mt. Juliet police, first responders from the Wilson Emergency Management Agency and Mt. Juliet firefighters took part in the demonstration, which ended with a Vanderbilt Medical Center LifeFlight helicopter that landed in front of the school. Hamblen’s Wrecker Service provided the two cars used in the mock crash.

Health science teacher Kim Brown helped to outfit students from her EMS class with bleeding lacerations, protruding ribs, burns and more as they played the roles of injured and dead students in the mock crash. Chocolate syrup, corn syrup, makeup kits and Q-tips were some of the tools used to bring realism to a scenario she hoped would be both eye opening and educational.

“Students will research wounds, and they have talked about it and then make them, and when it comes to the actual mock crash, I give them two das to prep for it,” Brown said.

“It’s been a really fun experience, and hopefully it helps out everyone to see the dangers of drinking and driving or distracted driving on prom night, because it’s supposed to be a fun night, but everyone needs to be safe at the same time,” said senior Bailey Wheeler. She helped apply wounds to her fellow students like junior Joshua Hoover whose face was donned with road rash, a laceration and a left eye that hung from its socket.

While the preparation and application of the fake wounds is fun for the students involved, for some people, especially the occasional parent who stopped by for the demonstration, the scene could be a bit jarring.

One of those parents was Todd White, whose daughter, Maggie White, is a junior. Maggie White played one of the dead students in the demonstration. Her father said that it was his first time to see a demonstration like this, but he hoped it helped get the message across, especially as his daughter will be one of the students who makes her way to Nashville on Saturday night.

“It’s actually kind of creepy to be honest with you. My wife was kind of scared to see it, because she’s going to be put in a body bag,” Todd White said. “We try and talk about drinking and driving, to never be on your phone, texting and driving and the radio is a big thing for me, to not have it blaring too loud.”

Mt. Juliet High School’s prom will take place Saturday night at the Music City Center. It was a decision principal Leigh Anne Rainey said was based on the desire from both parents and students to have the prom in a more unique and special location than at the school.

This weekend also marks the arrival of historic numbers of people for the NFL Draft, which has congested streets, hotels and parking lots throughout the greater Nashville area.

Both Rainey and the Wilson County Sheriff’s Office, which provides school resource officers for the school, took all of it into account.

“We have hired SRO officers each year for the safety of our students,” Rainey said. “The Music City Center does a wonderful job of also providing security and a secure location for our students. There are normally concerts and other activities downtown during the MJHS prom, but the draft has caused us to use more consideration and helping to provide transportation and parking options with the help of our PTSO that we have not ever done in the past.  Transportation and parking has never been addressed in the past, and this will be our fourth year to hold prom at MCC.”

Wilson County sheriff’s Lt. Scott Moore said while the additional SROs will help with safety, both students and parents should exercise responsible planning and caution while traveling to and from prom.

“Since Nashville will have many things going on that night, we urge all parents and students to make themselves aware of the high volume of people who will be in the city. Allow for ample time to arrive to the prom, don’t be distracted while driving and do not get behind the wheel if you are under the influence,” Moore said. “One of the biggest concerns with any prom that we have is the number of accidents that happen while drinking and driving on prom night. We want to wish all of the students a safe and memorable night, but we urge everyone to be responsible while doing so.”

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.