County receives its new bond rating

By Angie Mayes

Special to Mt. Juliet News

Wilson County’s bond rating remains at a strong AA+, Wilson County finance director Aaron Maynard told the newly seated Wilson County Commission on Sept. 17 at its meeting. 

Standard and Poor’s looked at the county when they began the recent bond sale and determined they are “very strong,” in relationship to their debt service and general fund, Maynard said.

There are only six counties in Tennessee with AA+ bond ratings. That is the second highest rating possible, Maynard said. Only two counties – Williamson and Hamilton – have a higher rating at AAA+.

“We’ve taken great strides to remain AA+,” Maynard said. “When I first came here, we have an ending general fund balance of $100,000. Now it’s at $10 million and is stable. We pay off our debit on time and have strong reserves. Standard and Poor’s recognized that and reaffirmed our bond rating.”

The only voting business the commission had Monday was when it passed a resolution to request unclaimed funds from the state. The funds are then put into the general debt fund, according to Maynard.

Maynard told the commission he was tasked by Hutto to prepare a Powerpoint presentation to detail the need for, and benefits of, a countywide sales tax increase referendum. The referendum would be on the Nov. 6 ballot and would, if passed, increase the county’s sales tax from 9.25 percent to the state maximum of 9.75 percent. The funding would strictly be used for education purposes such as education debt services or new schools.

The alternative to the sales tax referendum is a property tax increase, Maynard said. That does not have to be approved by the public’s vote. 

Maynard and Hutto said they would be available for presentations to various groups, businesses and other interested parties. The county may also send out mailers and hire an independent public relations firm to help spread the word about the need for the half-cent sales tax increase.

New commissioners, who met for the first time since the Aug. 2 election, took no time to elect committee members.

Hutto was elected the commission’s chairperson, and Commissioner Wendell Marlowe was chosen as commission chairperson pro-tem.

Four members were elected to the Budget Committee. Annette Stafford, Gary Keith, William Glover and Marlowe were chosen by paper ballot. Also chosen by paper ballot were members of the Finance Committee. Diane Weathers, Bobby Franklin, John Gentry and Dan Walker were elected.

Sue Vanatta, Terry Ashe, Gary Keith, John Gentry and Jerry McFarland were chosen by commissioners to serve on the Insurance Committee. Hutto appointed residents Nancy Andrews and Chris McAteer, along with Marlowe, Sonja Robinson and McFarland, to serve on the Animal Control Committee.

The Ethics Committee will consist of Terry Ashe, Cyndi Bannach, Chris Dowell, Mike Kurtz and citizen Earl Ray. Diane Weathers was appointed to the Planning Commission.

The road commissioner for Zone 2 will be Chad Barnard, and Robinson will be the road commissioner for Zone 4.

Don Chambers was reappointed to the Water and Wastewater Board, while John Lavender was reappointed as a parks and recreation advisory board member.

Twenty-five commissioners and their families will help build a Habitat for Humanity home Oct. 13 in Wilson County. Their work will take place during the one day, Hutto said.

Community grieves loss of teen who drowned

By Jared Felkins

Keon Dotson

jfelkins@lebanondemocrat.com

WATERTOWN – A tight-knit community continued Monday to mourn the loss of a 17-year-old boy who drowned Saturday while swimming at Old Hickory Lake.

Wilson Emergency Management Agency divers found the body of Elijah Keon Dotson, of Watertown, on Saturday evening after about a three-hour underwater search at Cedar Creek Boat Ramp in Mt. Juliet. 

Dotson was a senior at Watertown High School. He previously played football and was a member of the track and field team. According to Watertown High School principal Jeff Luttrell, counselors were made available Monday to students who needed support. 

“We are so saddened as a school and community at the loss of our student, Keon Dotson,” Luttrell said. “He possessed a powerful smile and a personality that drew people to want to know him. We will take every step possible to ensure we assist our students as they grieve the loss of a friend and classmate.”

A community prayer service was held Sunday evening in the library at Watertown Middle School, organized by the Bridge’s parents of teens life group and the church’s youth group. All community members and students were invited to participate. 

According to social media posts, students and faculty wore red Monday to school in honor of Dotson. According to a tweet by a member of the football team, the Purple Tigers dedicated their season to Dotson, and the student section plans to have a “red out” during Friday night’s game against Westmoreland. 

Wilson County sheriff’s Lt. Scott Moore said the incident on Old Hickory Lake happened Saturday at about 2:30 p.m., and divers found the Dotson’s body at about 6 p.m. He said Dotson tried to swim to a buoy beyond the swim area, and there was a change in water depth where he went under and was unable to surface. 

Wilson County sheriff’s boat patrol and Wilson Emergency Management Agency water rescue crews searched for Dotson on Saturday afternoon in Mt. Juliet. 

WEMA director Joey Cooper said divers were called to the boat ramp to search for the teen. Moore said it’s believed no foul play was involved. 

Cedar Creek Boat Ramp is at 9264 Saundersville Road in Mt. Juliet. Old Hickory Lake is part of the Cumberland River.

Guilty plea ends 7-year sexual exploitation case

By Jared Felkins

Dennis Lee Arnold

jfelkins@lebanondemocrat.com

A Mt. Juliet man pleaded guilty Monday to felony soliciting sexual exploitation of a minor in a case that took seven years to reach a conclusion. 

Dennis Lee Arnold, 54, pleaded guilty to three counts of soliciting sexual exploitation of a minor in Wilson County criminal court a day before he was scheduled to stand trial on 18 counts of sexual exploitation of a minor by electronic means and simple assault.

Judge Brody Kane sentenced Arnold to serve two years on each of the three counts included in a plea deal to run consecutive to each other for a total six-year prison sentence. The six-year sentence will run consecutive to a 27-year sentence Arnold received in Davidson County.

Arnold was arrested in August 2011, originally charged with two counts of solicitation of a minor and assault. He was held in the Wilson County Jail on $252,500 bond until February 2015. 

In 2011, Wilson County sheriff’s detectives investigated the case, and the investigation revealed Arnold committed crimes against the same victim, an adopted family member, in Davidson County where the family lived when she was younger, according to Assistant District Attorney Tom Swink. He said the family later moved to Wilson County. 

Swink said Arnold was convicted in Nashville in July 2013 of two counts of felony aggravated sexual battery and one count of solicitation and sentenced to 27 years in prison, which is why it took seven years to go to trial in Wilson County. 

“He was convicted in Davidson County and had a 27-year sentence, so there was no prejudice to the defendant by the delay,” Swink said. “His sentence was upheld on appeal.” 

In the Wilson County case, Swink said Arnold would intentionally expose himself in front of the family member and her friend. 

“In our case, both victims would testify about him exposing himself to them,” Swink said. “Detective [B.J.] Stafford interviewed the defendant back in 2011, and the defendant made admissions corroborating victims’ disclosures.”

Corn maze to open at fairgrounds

By Matt Masters

Mark Bellew • All Hands Fire Photos
A corn maze will open Saturday at the Wilson County Fairgrounds in honor of News Channel 5’s longtime meteorologist Lelan Statom.

Mark Bellew • All Hands Fire Photos
The Farmers’ Corn Maze will open Saturday and remain open weekends through Nov. 5 at the Wilson County Fairgrounds in Lebanon.

mmasters@lebanondemocrat.com

A corn maze will open Saturday at the Wilson County Fairgrounds in honor of News Channel 5’s longtime meteorologist Lelan Statom.

Sunshine and Justin Gregory with Farmer’s Produce in Castilian Springs planted the maze with the help of the James E. Ward Agricultural Center and Wilson County Expo Center staff.

Sunshine Gregory said they have transitioned from growing tobacco into produce and agri-tourism and saw the Wilson County Fairgrounds and the James E. Ward Agricultural Center as the perfect place to have the attraction.

“The maze is actually not corn. It’s sorghum sudangrass. We did that because corn wouldn’t grow tall enough in the ground, and it’s about 4 acres,” Sunshine Gregory said. “We are celebrating 25 years of Lelan Statom this year, and we will have pumpkin painting, face painting, pumpkin bowling, duck races and other activities. Everyone knows about the Wilson County Fairgrounds, so we couldn’t think of a better place to have this celebration.” 

The maze spells out “Celebrate 25 years with Lelan” with the likeness of Statom cut into the maze. 

Charity Toombs, director of marketing and events for the Wilson County Expo Center, said that the maze is just one way the fairgrounds and Expo Center plans to offer new attractions to the people of Wilson County.

“When the county purchased this land, it was solely for the fact of promoting and having a place for agriculture, and so we’ve continued to take that mission and improve upon it. So with the new director, Quinton Smith, and myself and our staff, it has been our mission that the ag grounds become a place where people can literally be a part of agriculture and to get their hands dirty. And so it’s our passion to have these events where they can experience agriculture directly,” Toombs said.

The maze will be open  weekends from Saturday through Nov. 3 from 10 a.m. until 5 p.m. Admission is $8 per person, and children 3 years old and younger will get in free. 

Sales tax increase placed on November ballot

By Angie Mayes

Special to the Democrat

Angie Mayes • Mt. Juliet News
Thirty-five-year military officer Rita Wilson, a Wilson County resident, explains what the Pledge of Allegiance means. She broke down the words and explained what each section meant for Wilson County commissioners Monday night at their meeting.

To raise funds for educational projects, Wilson County placed a sales tax increase in the form of a referendum on the Nov. 6 ballot. 

It will be on the ballot for voters to decide instead of the Wilson County Commission’s consideration of a property tax increase, according to county finance director Aaron Maynard.

If voters approve it, the sales tax would increase from 9.25 percent to the state maximum of 9.75 percent. The .50 percent equals a half-cent increase, Maynard said.

“On $100, the increase would be 50 cents,” Maynard said. “By law, the sales tax increase has to go on a referendum. Half of the amount raised in sales tax has to go to education. It depends on where the sale took place. The state gets 7.50 percent of the money. The cities and the counties get 2.25 percent, depending on where the sale takes place.”

For example, if the sale is in Mt. Juliet, the city gets the money. If the sale is in the county, Wilson County gets the sales tax money.

In most recent statistics available, Lebanon received $11 million in sales tax revenues per month, while Mt. Juliet had $10.3 million in sales tax revenues, Maynard said.

In addition to Wilson County Schools, Lebanon Special School District gets money from the sales tax referendum, as well, he said. 

“It is based on the average daily attendance,” Maynard said. “This year, they received $886,000 that didn’t come to the county.”

The county received $5.2 million from the sales tax coffers during the previous fiscal year.

Maynard said the “driving force behind the sales tax referendum is infrastructure. We can manage operating co

sts through growth. That could be hiring teachers, deputies and paramedics. It’s hard to manage through population.”

In 2012, the U.S. Census Bureau estimated there were 113,993 people in Wilson County. In 2017, the estimate was 136,442. That’s the approximate number of people the census bureau had originally estimated would be in the county in 2019.

“Over the past seven years, we added 22,449 people,” Maynard said. “We’re expected to add 21,389 in the next six years. In 2023, we are expected to have 157,930 people. The census bureau does come in on the low side, so we could have more.”

Maynard said the only option other than a sales tax increase, is to raise the property tax, which will hurt homeowners and businesses.

“The sales tax option affects everyone who spends money in Wilson County,” Maynard said. “It will be spent by residents who shop here, tourists or even people who just drive through and stop.”

Maynard said 49 of the 95 counties in Tennessee already have their sales tax rate at 9.75 percent and 11 counties are at 9.5 percent. 

“That means that more than 63 percent of the counties in Tennessee have a rate of 9.5 percent or higher,” he said. “Williamson County just raised theirs to 9.75 percent. Rutherford County is at 9.75 percent. Montgomery County is at 9.5 percent, and Sumner County is at 9.25 percent.”

Maynard said the county supports school renovations and construction. In the past few years, Wilson County Schools expanded Carroll-Oakland School, Gladeville Elementary School, Rutland Elementary School, Southside School, Tuckers Crossroads School, Watertown Elementary School, West Elementary School and West Wilson Middle School. Lebanon High School and Watertown High School were built within the past seven years. Gladeville Middle School is scheduled to open next fall. The new Green Hill High School is expected to be ready to open in two years.

Maynard said a property tax hike does not go before the citizens. The state allows a county to raise its rate by commission vote.

He admitted there were three referendums to increase the sales tax since 1994, and all three failed. He hopes it will be different this year.

“We’ve been asked by property owners why we increase the property tax,” Maynard said. “We don’t want to penalize the property owners, but that’s what we will have to do if this doesn’t pass. This is our bottom line. Hopefully people will turn out to vote for this. This is an opportunity for people to choose what kind of tax they want.”

Wilson County honors POWs, MIAs

By Matt Masters

mmasters@lebanondemocrat.com

Matt Masters • Mt. Juliet News
A POW/MIA memorial service concludes with the posting of two POW/MIA flags outside the Wilson County Veterans’ Plaza and Museum where they fly high in memory of those lost but never forgotten.

Veterans, active-duty servicemen, former prisoners of war and their civilian supporters gathered Friday morning at the Wilson County Veteran’s Plaza and Museum to remember America’s prisoners of war and missing in action.

Lebanon Mayor Bernie Ash gave the keynote speech and issued a proclamation to honor the day in recognition of POWs and MIAs. Ash also said Wilson County Mayor Randall Hutto also issued a proclamation.

“To those that are still missing, we will not rest until you or your remains are returned home. To all those former POWs, we will never forget your service and sacrifice that you and your families have given to this country and for us individually,” Ash said.

Ash also invoked the memory of possibly the United States’ most famous POW, Arizona Sen. John McCain who died Aug. 25. McCain was shot down over Vietnam in 1967 and held as a POW for five and a half years.

“There is a continuous effort by the United States government and activist groups like Rolling Thunder, who we heard from today and others, to bring these soldiers home, but it takes all of us to keep the pressure on until every last soldier has been accounted for,” Ash said.

Linda Yates, president of the Associates of Vietnam Veterans of America Chapter 1004, said education and recognition of the sacrifices is key to keep the history and memory of POWs and MIAs alive.

“There’s way too many POWs and MIAs unaccounted for. As we heard, there’s over 90,000 between all the different conflicts and wars, so it’s important that we remember them and work toward bringing them home,” Yates said. “This is one of the under recognized ceremony days and we wanted to make sure that it’s memorialized because of the connections to our community right here in Lebanon.

“The other part that we wanted to do today is to educate the younger generation and we are fortunate also that they publicized it in some of the schools, particularly Tuckers Crossroads, which actually did a program with their children, and we showed them the [POW/MIA] flag and explained to them the significance behind it. It’s important because it’s being forgotten. You have Bill Leslie, who in his 80s, his story is very important and those stories could be lost.”

Wilson Central JROTC cadets laid a uniformed cap on the Missing Man Table to remember those who await their honorable return home. State Rep. Clark Boyd and Dennis Guillette with the Vietnam Veterans of America participated in the roll call ceremony to remind the crowd just how many people never made it home from each of America’s engagements.

Bill Burkhart, whose father was shot down in Vietnam, spoke about the hardships of growing up not knowing if his father was alive and the challenges to find his final resting place. Burkhart said in the past year, advances were made to locate his father’s crash site, and work is ongoing to try and make more discoveries in the hope to bring his remains home.

Bill Leslie shared a unique story as a civilian POW as a child during World War II when he and several thousand people were held in a concentration camp by the Japanese while living in Manila, were they faced starvation and disease among other horrors.

Burkhart and Leslie laid a wreath in memory of those lost, provided by the American Legion Post 15.

Paul Williams with Rolling Thunder Tennessee Chapter 1 in Middle Tennessee, an advocacy group that seeks to bring full accountability for the country’s POW/MIA service members, said it’s important to support those who have sacrificed so much, especially those who did not make it home through their sacrifice.

“The main tenant of Rolling Thunder is the POW/MIA issue. We want to help keep it in the forefront so that we can get as full an account as possible for all of our missing servicemen and women. Today is the National POW/MIA recognition day, and we also do things to help current active-duty servicemen and women and our veterans, including providing a motorcycle escort for anyone who asks for it during a veteran’s funeral,” 

The service concluded with the posting of two POW/MIA flags outside the Wilson County Veterans’ Plaza and Museum where they fly high in memory of those lost but never forgotten.

Ten local schools named Reward schools

By Jared Felkins

jfelkins@lebanondemocrat.com

The state Department of Education named 10 local schools, seven in Wilson County Schools and three Lebanon Special School District schools, as Reward schools, which is the highest honor given annually to individual schools.

Education Commissioner Candice McQueen announced Friday the 2018 Reward and Priority schools, which are two key designations under Tennessee’s school accountability system. It was the first year Tennessee implemented its new school accountability model, which was developed with educators and stakeholders across the state and which looks at multiple measures of success.  

Wilson County schools named Reward schools were Mt. Juliet High School, Watertown High School, West Wilson Middle School, Elzie D. Patton Elementary School, Stoner Creek Elementary School, West Elementary School and W.A. Wright Elementary School. No Wilson County schools were named priority schools. 

“By any standard, the start of this school year has been exceptional,” said Wilson County Director of Schools Donna Wright. “Last month, we learned that the district has now achieved a Level 5 status for the academic growth of our students. Nine of our schools – almost half – received the highest ranking possible. Today, we’ve learned that seven of our schools have also achieved Reward School status. I can’t say enough about the hard work and dedication that’s been exerted by our students, teachers and administrators.”

For the second year in a row, the Lebanon Special School District earned exemplary status, which indicated the district exceeded state growth expectations in all indicators. Half of Lebanon schools achieved Reward status. Byars Dowdy Elementary School, Sam Houston Elementary School and Walter J. Baird Middle School were named Reward schools. No Lebanon schools were named Priority schools.

“Our administrators, teachers and students across the system work so hard,” said Lebanon Director of Schools Scott Benson. “It is a major accomplishment to have half of the schools in the system recognized by the Tennessee Department of Education as Reward schools and for the system overall to be classified as exemplary for the second year in a row. We were celebrating our Level 5 status when the additional accolades were announced. I am extremely proud of everyone involved. We will continue to focus on areas of improvement and, at the same time, celebrate success with our students and teachers.” 

Reward schools improved overall student academic achievement and student growth for all students and for student groups, and they are identified annually. In 2018, 318 schools in 85 school districts – about 20 percent of schools in the state – earned Reward status.  

Priority schools are identified at least every three years, and they are schools most in need of support and improvement. Priority schools fall into the bottom 5 percent of schools in the state test scores in the past three years and have low graduation rates. Following legislation passed last spring, 2017-18 TNReady data was not used to identify Priority schools. The 2018 Priority list included 82 schools across eight districts, and these schools will be eligible for additional funding and will be supported by the department, in coordination with their districts, to develop a plan to improve.  

“In this first year with our new system, it is incredibly encouraging to see more than 300 of our schools are earning Reward status for how they are supporting our students’ academic achievement and growth,” McQueen said. “At the same time, we see a number of places where we need to improve. Our new school improvement model takes a student-focused, evidence-based approach to tailor interventions for our Priority schools, and we will be working closely with these schools and their districts over the coming year to improve academic outcomes and strengthen whole-child services that support student success.”    

Tennessee’s new school accountability system was developed through a 16-month process of gathering feedback and hearing input from students, parents, teachers, administrators, and community members. Tennessee has designated Reward and Priority schools since 2012, but this was the first year with an updated methodology as required by the federal Every Student Succeeds Act. As part of federal requirements, the plan was submitted to and approved by the U.S. Department of Education.  

The new accountability framework is based on principles that all schools can be successful and all Tennessee students must be served well. It includes a variety of measures, including chronic absenteeism and discipline, ACT performance, and TNReady scores, to make a determination. All schools are rated both on how they serve the full student population and how they are specifically serving student groups that have historically been underserved: students with disabilities, English learners, economically disadvantaged students, and black, Hispanic, and Native American students. This fall, the department will publish more information about how all schools perform on these measures as part of a new school dashboard that will be posted online to offer additional information to parents, educators, elected officials, and community leaders.  

As part of Tennessee’s new accountability plan, all Priority schools will move into an evidence-based school improvement model, ranging from district-led plans to intervention by the state’s Achievement School District. To better support Tennessee’s lowest performing schools, the state has invested $20 million into school improvement over the last two years. This funding is specifically devoted for Priority schools.  

Schools appoints committee to name new high school

Staff Reports

With construction underway on Wilson County’s fifth high school, it’s time to start thinking about a name for the new school.  

In conjunction with school board policy, Director of Schools Donna Wright appointed 12 people to the naming committee, including a combination of school board members, community leaders, parents and a recent graduate, who once served as a student board member.  

The committee members are Zone 1 board member Wayne McNeese, Zone 2 board member Linda Armistead, Lakeview Elementary School principal Tracy Burge, W.A. Wright Elementary School principal Bryan Adams, community member Tommy Hibbitt, former Wilson County Commissioner Terry Muncher, former Commissioner Becky Siever, Mt. Juliet planning director Jennifer Stewart, Parents of Wilson County Schools Facebook group administrator Angela Butler, Mt. Juliet High School Parent-Teacher Organization president Julie Ruesewald, community volunteer Britt Linville and Wilson County High School alumnus Preston George. 

School board policy requires all schools be named for:

• the area or community in which the school is located.

• a street, or bordering street, where the school is located.

• a local leader who has made an outstanding contribution to education.

Wilson County Schools officials also seek input from the community. Anyone who has an idea about a potential name for the school may submit it to the school district’s Facebook page on a post to solicit ideas or email ideas to the district via Let’s Talk at wcschools.com.

Volunteers needed for long-term care program

Staff Reports

The Mid-Cumberland Human Resource Agency’s Long-Term Care Ombudsman program seeks volunteers in Wilson County to provide advocacy for residents in long-term care facilities. 

The facilities include nursing homes, assisted-living facilities and homes for the elderly. 

“There are more than 160 long-term care facilities in our 13-county district, and we rely very heavily on volunteers,” said Cindy Rudolph, volunteer administrative assistant with the District 5 long-term care program in Wilson County. “We need volunteers in Wilson County.”

Rudolph said Wilson County currently has three volunteers, and that includes her. The program works in Wilson and 12 other counties in Middle Tennessee and is a partner agency with the United Way of Wilson County and the Upper Cumberland. 

The ombudsman staff consists of three district ombudsmen and an ombudsman assistant, along with 35 trained volunteers. 

Trained, certified ombudsman volunteers pay regular visits to the facilities where they spend time with residents, monitor conditions, investigate complaints, educate regarding abuse and neglect and protect residents’ rights. The program offers mediation, complaint resolution and public education for residents and their families.

The Long-Term Care Ombudsman program is actively recruiting for volunteers in the Wilson County area. Volunteer applicants must pass a background check and attend 16 hours of in-house training. 

The next training session will be Nov. 7-8 in Nashville. Those interested in becoming a volunteer have until Oct. 15 to contact the program by sending an email to crudolph@mchra.com or calling 615-850-3918.

Ex-commissioner files ethics complaint

By Angie Mayes

Frank Bush

Special to Mt. Juliet News

The Wilson County Ethics Committee received an official misconduct ethics complaint against Wilson County Mayor Randall Hutto and county attorney Mike Jennings regarding funding of the new high school.

The complaint, filed by former commissioner Frank Bush, alleges that the two subverted rule 17, which states all resolutions must appear before the appropriate committees before they are submitted to the full commission.

Bush said the complaint “stands on its own” and alleges Hutto and Jennings approved the resolution be considered and voted on by the full commission, without it coming before the education or budget committees.

“The mayor, with the advice of the county attorney, chose to ignore what I believe to be a clear interpretation of rule 17,” Bush said. “This is the largest financial transaction in Wilson County’s history. If that is what the commission wanted, then they needed to do it properly. It might have been delayed a month, but it should have been considered by the committees.”

Jennings said Wednesday in an email he disagreed with Bush.

“This ethics complaint is totally unfounded,” Jennings said. “It is filed by a former county commissioner who was unsuccessful in his battle to stop construction of the new high school. The vote to proceed was 18-6. Neither Mayor Hutto nor I did anything unethical. We followed the rules of order. Mr. Bush was unsuccessful.” 

Hutto agreed with Jennings. 

“The question was from the floor, that Chairman Bush said that we didn’t follow rule, and the paperwork had not gone through committee,” Hutto said. “I asked [Jennings] his opinion.”

Hutto said Jennings told him the issue had been through the committees and discussed for a year.

“The resolution itself was the loan document,” Hutto said. “The real resolution [was about the] building [of] the school and how you’re going to fund it. The third resolution was to approve the [bond] document. Those two relate to the third one. That’s why [Jennings] said it had been sent through committee.”

Hutto said rule 17 exists “for [issues such as if] someone who says they want to buy three pickup trucks, and the issue had not been through committee for discussion.”

Bush said without the paper resolution before the committee’s members, it would be impossible to render a decision.

“First of all, we deal in documents,” he said. “Because the resolution was never presented to any committee, they were never able to properly discuss the issue. They never were able to consider the points that some of us were making [about the cost of the school].”

Bush said if Budget Committee chair Mike Justice was presented with the document, “and he chose to pass it on, then that’s OK,” Bush said. “It was not done that way. There have been any number of cases that the county mayor and county attorney have sent back to committee.”

Former Commissioner Jeff Joines said the Education Committee, which is one of the committees the information was submitted to, did see paperwork about the school and the cost. He said the Education Committee did consider it and passed it, along with a favorable resolution, to the Budget Committee. 

Joines said resolutions do not come to committees. Rather, information is given to the commissioners, and they recommend or don’t recommend a project based on that information.

Education Committee chair Annette Stafford said in an email Wednesday she wants Commissioner Terry Ashe to recuse himself from the complaint.
The email was sent to commissioners, school board officials, school administrators and the media.

“I strongly [request] that Commissioner Terry Ashe recuse himself entirely from this ethics complaint due to the fact, that Commissioner Ashe [has] voted against this resolution in the past, as this is a conflict of interest or lack of impartial opinion based on his votes he made in the past,” Stafford said. 

“If Chairman Ashe [does] not see that he should recuse himself, I would like my request to be forwarded directly to District Attorney Tommy Thompson for his review and opinion, to see if any ethic violations had occurred during the August 2018 county commission meeting regarding the funding of the new high school.”

Bush said he disagreed with the way the funding measure for the new Green Hill High School in Mt. Juliet was presented to the commission. The approved bid for the cost of the project was $107 million, and Bush said he believes the school could be built for less than $80 million. He pointed out recently built schools were constructed for less than $80 million.

According to the Wilson County Schools website, Lebanon High School was built for $47 million, “but that project began in 2010, during a severe economic downturn, when construction costs were at rock bottom,” the site said.

Watertown High School cost $38 million, “but that project was bid in 2012, and the school is approximately half the size of the one being considered in Mt. Juliet,” the site said.

None of the commissioners on the Budget Committee were available for comment. Hutto also sits on the committee.

Complaint against mayor dismissed

By Angie Mayes

Ed Hagerty

Special to Mt. Juliet News

The Tennessee Ethics Commission dismissed an ethics complaint against Mt. Juliet Mayor Ed Hagerty filed by his 2016 mayoral election competitor, Jim Bradshaw.
Bradshaw, who lost the election, 7,000-5,621, filed the complaint April 6 that alleged Hagerty, violated the conflict of interest disclosure statutes for six years.

The complaint said Hagerty has rental property, which resulted in more income than Hagerty listed on his financial disclosure statements. He was required by state law to report any private income greater than $1,000.

Hagerty owns 10 rental properties, which Bradshaw alleged could generate possible rental income, according to the complaint. In Hagerty’s disclosure, he reported income from his wife’s job was the only income the family had.

Hagerty, in response to the complaint, submitted disclosure reports from 2013-2018 to the attorney general. On April 20, he submitted an amended financial disclosure statement that listed the rental properties.

On April 26, the complaint was forwarded to the Tennessee attorney general to conduct a preliminary investigation. The attorney general’s investigation was purely a fact-finding mission and did not determine an outcome for recommendation as to whether there was a violation of the rule.

Assistant Attorney General Anna Waller interviewed Bradshaw on May 9, 2018. 

“Bradshaw stated that, prior to the 2016 election, he learned from a few constituents that Ed Hagerty owned investment rental properties, which he did not disclose, as sources of income on his statements,” according to the paperwork associated with the investigation.

“Bradshaw stated that he did not want to initially disclose the information but decided to file the complaint after he learned that Hagerty had not disclosed the sources of income on his 2018 statement.”

Waller interviewed Hagerty on May 11. During the interview, he affirmed he did have rental properties in Mt. Juliet and Sevier County. He listed the nine residences, plus an additional one in Sevier County. In addition to those properties, Hagerty owns his home in Mt. Juliet.

Hagerty appeared before the attorney general on April 20, 2018 and stated that he did not list the rental properties, “he did not disclose the rental income on the statements because he did not earn substantial income on the properties during 2013-2018, after factoring in expenses associated with taxes and upkeep of the properties,” the report stated.

According to the report by the attorney general, “Hagerty stated that he uses money received as rental income to pay for taxes, upkeep, and maintenance of the investment properties. Mr. Hagerty stated that these costs include carpet replacement, interior painting, HV AC repairs, roof repairs, plumbing repairs, and other expenses when tenants vacate. He further stated that some of his rental properties have been vacant at times between 2013 and 2018.”

The complaint was then forwarded to the Department of Ethics and Finance on July 12. That board met July 25, and the case was dismissed. The information from the Tennessee Election Commission stated that Bradshaw had the right to “seek reconsideration of this order and/or judicial review.”
Bradshaw would have 60 days – until Sept. 23 – to request a judicial review, according to the Tennessee Election Commission. He said he will not file a grievance because, “I would have to pay [Hagerty’s] attorney fees. This has been a lot of pressure on me and has taken a lot of time.”

Bradshaw said he is not mad about the results.

“I am very disappointed with the result,” he said. “The commission, except for one person who was not there, voted unanimously to dismiss the complaint.”

He said despite what some people may say, he’s not upset about losing the race. In fact, he said he has run three times, against Hagerty, fire Chief Jamie Luffman and Linda Elam.

“I’m not upset, and this is nothing against Ed, but I think he should follow the same rules as everyone else. If he had omitted the information one year, that would be something. But he left it out from 2013 to 2018. That’s more than just a mistake.”
Bradshaw is running for District 4 city commissioner this year. Because he lost the other races, he said “I’m used to losing. There are 6,000 registered voters in District 4. There are also a lot of things to vote for, so I’m hoping more people will come out and vote.”

Hagerty said, “the decision speaks for itself” and had no further comment.

Auditions for character party business taking place

By Angie Mayes

Submitted to Mt. Juliet News
Ella Rollins interacts with Kamryn Boyd as Beauty, one of many characters that will be a part of By Royal Invitation, a new character party company in Wilson County.

Special to Mt. Juliet News

A new business in Wilson County is expected to be popular among young children thanks to the stars of the show – princesses currently and superheroes in the future.

The company, By Royal Invitation, is owned by Middle Tennessee actress, director and vocal coach Katharine Boettcher.

“I have been wanting to create something like this for the past three years,” Boettcher said. “I played Ursula a few years ago in a production of the Little Mermaid and had an amazing time. Seeing the kids react to the characters on stage just made me smile. I know how giddy I get when I visit characters in the Orlando parks, I can only imagine the excitement is 100 times more in a little one.”

She said as a child, she “hand sewed all of my Halloween costumes and had a blast creating some of my favorite Broadway characters come to life.”

The characters in By Royal Invitation are “based on classic fairy tales and villains. As the company grows, there will be superheroes and heroines and who knows where else our imagination will take us.”

There’s no limit to the number of characters that will be available for shows, parties and the like.

“We will have a small roster to begin with, but as we grow, we will continually expand and bring in new characters,” she said.  Among them will be “the Snow Queen, the Little Mermaid, Cinderella, Mother Goethel, Cruella De Ville and more.”

Not affiliated with Disney, the use of the names is allowed due to the characters taken from Grimm’s Fairy Tales and stories from Hans Christian Anderson. 

“It is not our intent to infringe on copyright,” Boettcher said. “Our fairy tale characters are based on the Grimm Brothers and other historic fairy tale characters. Our costuming is of the highest quality. They are designed by [me], and many are built from scratch by a costumer in Nashville. Our characters have unique names and personalities.”

She said the company will offer “some Jedi knights, and we are hoping to cast a couple of superheroes during the audition process.”

The audition process is currently taking place.

“We currently have a casting call out for face actors and are taking submissions for all characters,” Boettcher said. “Once submissions are gathered, I will pull and have one-on-one auditions.”

Anyone interested in submitting materials must be 16 years old, have reliable transportation, send in a resume with height clearly marked, headshot and full-body shot. The information must be emailed to byroyalinvitation@gmail.com. At the time of hire, eligible talent will have passed a background check and be eligible to work in the United States before a contract will be offered. 

“There is no weight or ethnic requirement,” she said. “I am looking for diversity. Something that will distinguish By Royal Invitation is the fact that a character is not limited by their ethnicity or weight.  I do want to keep true to some height requirements as there are expectations of how tall characters are when they are meeting guests. 

The actors’ auditions, resume and personality will have a lot to do with the hiring process, she said.

“I am looking for people who are fast on their feet,” Boettcher said. “Children can ask a variety of questions, and our characters need to be able to stay in character and answer as the characters.  Our characters are going to be entertaining so they must be able to sing and act, as well as interact with our guests to make their day an extra-special occasion.”

All actors must sing and be able to tell their characters story as if it is their own, she said.  

“We have several options for what our characters will perform-do at a variety of occasions,” Boettcher said. “[That includes] photo opportunities and, of course, corporate and community events. I’m hoping to hold a couple of character nights at some of Wilson County’s local restaurants that have kids’ nights. 

All face characters are paid per event, she said. Each character is accompanied by a paid attendant to assist with children and the character’s needs during the event. All characters are also attendants when not in character.  

“We are hoping to have several special events for kick offs, as well as for charity events,” she said. “My heart is with Make-a-Wish Foundation, and I hope to build a relationship with them. And I am hoping to have a Halloween bash with some fun villains and bad guys, too.”

For more information, contact Boettcher through the company’s Facebook page, By Royal Invitation, or via email byroyalinvitation@gmail.com. Boettcher will launch a website when the full cast of characters is finalized.   

Boettcher said her company is “the first of our kind in Wilson County, and [we] are very proud that we have some amazing Wilson County talent already on our roster of characters. Character parties are huge. So many folks love to have this one-on-one experience with these iconic characters. And if you can’t get to the magic down in Florida, we hope to bring a little fairy tale magic to Middle Tennessee.”  

City approves new high school measures

By Angie Mayes

Angie Mayes • Mt. Juliet News
Melba Checote-Eads with the Trail of Tears commemorative event and Valeria Braun with Grace Methodist Churc, hold the city’s proclamation regarding the Trail of Tears commemorative walk.

Special to the Democrat

Green Hill High School, the planned newest high school in Wilson County, is one step closer to construction, thanks to two votes by the Mt. Juliet Board of Commissioners last Monday night.

The school will be on about 1.84 acres in Mt. Juliet. For Mt. Juliet to provide services to the school, the land first had to annexed into the city. The measure went without input from citizens and was approved unanimously.

Next, commissioners voted to provide a plan of services for the school. The plan of services includes police and fire protection, as well as road and other infrastructure services to the property. That item, also without pubic comment, was approved unanimously.

Grant money from the Metropolitan Planning Organization for alternative transportation projects such as bike paths and sidewalks was awarded to the city. The MPO is a multi-county organization that manages local transportation requests and recommends money to be given to communities by the Tennessee Department of Transportation.

The grant was for $811,812. The city will add an additional $202,953 to the mix for the more than $1 million project. The entire widening project will begin at the Mt. Juliet Road Interstate 40 eastbound onramp and will extend to Parkwood Drive to create two new lanes that will go northbound over I-40. The grant is specifically for bike lanes and sidewalks.

Another grant for the Mt. Juliet Intelligent Transportation System will give the city about $2.3 million with no city match required. The project is designed to allow traffic signals along the Mt. Juliet Road corridor from Central Pike to City Hall to be synchronized to allow travelers to make it through all of the lights without stopping, Mayor Ed Hagerty said.

A grant to extend the Lebanon Road sidewalks project from North Mt. Juliet Road to Park Glen Drive was also approved. This is the second part of the project. The grant, for $140,000 with a $35,000 match from the city, will pay for a sidewalk along one side of Park Glen Drive to connect with an existing sidewalk in Park Glen subdivision. Pedestrian traffic signals the length of the project will also be incorporated.

The commissioners also approved the International Residential Code, the International Fire Code and the International Building Code updates to include in their various building codes. The measure will take effect Jan. 1. 

“That will give the businesses and developers who have questions time to contact us,” Hagerty said. 

The code affects all structures whose plans have not yet been approved. Those current structures and those on commissioner-approved building plans and plats will not be affected.

The commissioners also delayed approval of a list of grants to nonprofits that affect Mt. Juliet residents. Hagerty said he wanted to hear from four new applicants about what they do and what their plans for the money would be. The measure will be discussed at the commission’s Sept. 24 meeting.

Members of the city’s ethics committee were approved. Darryl Blankenship, Harry Jester, Rick Rodriguez, Sam English and Matt Smith were named to the commission. The mayor and commissioners each nominated a person for the commission.

Hagerty also read a proclamation about the Trail of Tears Memorial Day, which is in conjunction with the 15th annual Commemorative “Trail of Tears” Walk on Sept. 15 at Grace United Methodist Church at 3085 Mt. Juliet Road in Mt. Juliet.

The Commemorative “Trail of Tears” Walk recognizes the hardships suffered by the five civilized tribes who were removed from the Southeast, including the Cherokee, Muscogee or Creek, Chickasaw, Choctaw and Seminole.

They were the tribes of the Southeast who were forced to remove to Oklahoma Indian Territory after the passage of the Indian Removal Act 1830. The forced Indian removal became known as the “Trail of Tears.” 

Also announced at the meeting was the 37th-annual Pow-Wow, which will take place Sept. 22-23 at Mundy Park in Mt. Juliet.

Foreign exchange students learn American values

By Tonia Cunningham

Zoe Boizaod

Special to Mt. Juliet News

The transition from childhood into adulthood can be difficult for most, but for students in the American Field Service intercultural program, it can be a culture shock.

The organization held a meeting last weekend at Cedars of Lebanon State Park, organized by American Field Service public relations officer Barbara Willis and chair Becky Haywood. The purpose of the meeting was for students to learn more about AFS and American values.

American Field Service Intercultural Program is an exchange program for young people 15-18 years old. The program promotes world peace and understanding. Many of the students in the program are from foreign countries. They stay with host families in the United States while they attend school. 

“As far as culture shock goes, the family who I stay with does not eat together,” said Zoe Boizaod, an exchange student from France. My family in France eats together. In addition, teachers at Mt. Juliet High School where I attend try to learn about the students. Educators in France do not do that.” 

The program started with ambulance drivers in 1947. Young men could not be drafted for World War II if they had a disability. At that time, there were 52 young people in the program. 

“Since that time, the program has progressed into an event where American students can study aboard,” said Haywood.

The program’s success has since opened up many opportunities financially. Students can currently apply for scholarships. Those financial awards include National Security Language Initiative and Youth Exchange Study. The deadline for NSLI is Oct. 30 and Dec. 1 for YES.

Anyone who would like to become a part of the action can do so, and more volunteers are needed. To volunteer, fill out an application at afsusa.org-volunteer-withafs.

Leedy elected president of state American Legion Auxiliary

Submitted to Mt. Juliet News

Submitted to Mt. Juliet News
Kathleen Leedy, of Mt. Juliet, was elected president of the American Legion Auxiliary of Tennessee. Pictured (from left) are Marge Sterling, Pat Fields, Leedy, Gwynne Qweener and June Spata.

Kathleen Leedy, of Mt. Juliet, was elected president of the American Legion Auxiliary of Tennessee. It’s the first time in the organization’s history a Wilson County resident was elected president of the state organization. Leedy has served as Post No. 281 president since November 2010. As newly elected president, Leedy chose her fundraising project as ‘Healing Waters Fly Fishing,’ which provides service members with disorders such as post-traumatic stress disorder with a therapeutic outdoor recreational activity. Leedy’s home auxiliary Post No. 281 will hold a pancake breakfast to benefit Healing Waters Fly Fishing on Oct. 13 from 7:30-10:30 a.m. at Victory Baptist Church at 1772 Tate Lane in Mt. Juliet. Tickets are $5 or $20 for a family of five or more. Pictured (from left) are Marge Sterling, Pat Fields, Leedy, Gwynne Qweener and June Spata.

Mt. Juliet project in running for statewide award

Staff Reports

Submitted to Mt. Juliet News
A project completed in Mt. Juliet at the Beckwith north distribution center by S&ME, Inc., is among those under consideration in the 2018 Engineering Excellence Awards competition, presented by the American Council of Engineering Companies of Tennessee.

A project completed in Mt. Juliet at the Beckwith north distribution center by S&ME, Inc., is among those under consideration in the 2018 Engineering Excellence Awards competition, presented by the American Council of Engineering Companies of Tennessee. 

The award is one of the highest honors an engineering firm can receive and is considered the “Academy Awards of the engineering industry.”

Panattoni, Inc. contracted S&ME, Inc. to provide permitting, design and construction period support services for the restoration of about 800 feet of an unnamed tributary to Cedar Creek. Property owners had mowed the grass to the water’s edge and installed a driveway culvert crossing. No other vegetation was present near the bedrock-lined channel. These combined conditions created a stream channel that was over-widened and lacked habitat diversity. Also, wetlands adjacent to the stream reach needed to be avoided during construction. 

To address the challenges, S&ME used square Bio-D block coir blocks anchored to the bedrock with wooden stakes installed in holes drilled into the rock. The approach avoided wetland impacts, enabled channel restoration to appropriate dimensions, and stabilized the banks using soil behind the Bio-D block for a cost-effective project. 

Construction was completed in August 2017.  The restoration of the unnamed tributary to Cedar Creek helps to improve water quality to provide improved physical habitat for aquatic organisms and eventually provide shading of the stream to avoid elevated temperatures during the summer as the streamside vegetation matures. This streamside trees and shrubs will also provide a source of nutrients for aquatic macro-invertebrates from leaf fall into the stream.  

Project entries from across the state are up for consideration. The winners of the 2018 Engineering Excellence Awards will be announced during an awards gala at the Omni Hotel in Nashville on the evening of Oct. 26, where ACEC Tennessee will also celebrate its 50th anniversary. Additional information about the awards can be found at acectn.org. In 2017, the TDOT Diverging Diamond Interchange at State Route 66 exit 407 project, completed by engineering firm Gresham, Smith and Partners, won the top prize.

Founded in 1968, ACEC Tennessee is a statewide organization that represents more than 100 Tennessee engineering firms. ACEC Tennessee has chapters in Nashville, East Tennessee, Southeast Tennessee and Memphis. The organization works to advance the business environment.

Changes coming to Music City Star by end of year

Staff Reports

Mt. Juliet News File Photo
The Regional Transportation Authority of Middle Tennessee will have an open public comment period through Oct. 15 to bring new schedule options for the Music City Star commuter rail service to the public for feedback.

NASHVILLE – Customers can attend a meeting in person at one of the three upcoming meeting dates to learn more about the potential schedule changes. Information is also available at the RTA website at musiccitystar.org and click on the service change banner at the bottom of the page.

Meetings will be Sept. 27 from 4:30-6:30 p.m. at the FiftyForward Donelson Conference Room at 108 Donelson Pike in Nashville, Oct. 2 from 5:30-7 p.m. at the Mt. Juliet Chamber of Commerce office at 2055 N. Mt. Juliet Road, suite 200, and Oct. 4 from 5:30-7:30 p.m. at Lebanon’s Town Meeting Hall at 200 N. Castle Heights Ave.

If anyone interested is unable to attend one of the public meetings, feedback may still be provided. Submit comments online at surveymonkey.com/r/starsurvey, provide a customer comment at musiccitystar.org or call 615-862-5625.

For more information on the Music City Star, contact customer care at 615-862-5950 weekdays from 6:30 a.m. until 8 p.m., Saturdays from 8 a.m. until 5 p.m. and Sundays 10:30 a.m. until 2:30 p.m. or visit musiccitystar.org.

Moss sworn in as circuit court clerk

Submitted to Mt. Juliet News

Submitted to Mt. Juliet News
Judge Barry Tatum swore in Wilson County Circuit Court Clerk Debbie Moss recently with her husband, Charles Moss, by her side to begin her second four-year term as clerk. Moss was unopposed in the Aug. 2 Wilson County General Election.

Judge Barry Tatum swore in Wilson County Circuit Court Clerk Debbie Moss recently with her husband, Charles Moss, by her side to begin her second four-year term as clerk. Moss was unopposed in the Aug. 2 Wilson County General Election.  

Wilson County Schools report successes in wake of growth

By Matt Masters

mmasters@lebanondemocrat.com

The Wilson County Board of Education held its September work session and meeting Thursday where they reported record numbers for achievements in English, mathematics and science.

Director of Schools Donna Wright said the district as a whole ranked Level 5, the highest-ranking possible, in the recent TN Ready assessement, a feat that has never happened in the past. 

Wright presented information and a slideshow that reported 76 percent of schools were at Level 3 or higher with 43 percent of schools at Level 5. 

In science, Wilson County ranked in the top 10 for science achievement and improvement. In English-language arts, Wilson County exceeded the state achievement average with third through fifth grades ranked in the top 10 for achievement, and in math, Wilson County exceeded the state achievement average. 

Wright praised the district’s teachers, administrators and staff for their efforts to continue to improve education for all students.

“We are all making steady gains, and it’s all taking place in the classroom,” Wright said. “Our kids are definitely benefiting.”

Wright also said about one third of the schools in the district will be recognized as reward schools Sept. 21. She said the schools hit goals based on both achievement and growth, with more details to be provided about the recognition in the coming days.

Providence United Methodist Church recently donated $10,000 to Wilson County Schools, with $500 going to each school to address delinquent lunch accounts, which ensures students who are not able to pay for lunch are still able to eat.

Wright said Angel McCloud, an attorney with expertise in special education, was hired as deputy director of special education, a new position created and included in the current budget to ensure the system properly handles special education challenges. 

Wright said in October, candidates would be interviewed for positions at the new Gladeville Middle School, which is scheduled to open in 2019.

Deputy Director of Schools Mickey Hall gave a presentation to the board to show projections of the increase in students with rezoning suggestions for middle schools to accommodate the influx of students. Hall said it was only suggestions based on student population growth and that he will give updates to the board throughout the year to keep everyone up to date with growth.

Hall also said construction continues at the new Gladeville Middle School, which is currently getting a new roof, and it will open in 2019.

Ben Baker with CareHere, a Nashville-based employee health care provider, gave an annual report on the state of Wilson County School employees’ health. Baker said Wilson County Schools showed the greatest amount of savings of any school district that works with CareHere. He said using Wilson County Schools as a model of how to get the best out of health care for employees and reported strong numbers of employees doing preventative screenings. CareHere has worked with Wilson County Schools for 10 years.

County attorney Mike Jennings gave his report and called a 10-minute recess to speak in private with the board to discuss pending litigation. No action was taken as Jennings was only giving information to the board in the closed meeting. Jennings pointed out while he is able to have discussions about litigations in private with the board, any actions or votes must be made in public.

Recommendations from Wright to have surplus cubicles given to Wilson County government passed unanimously. 

Approval of a the school facilities use procedures, along with another line item, was delayed until October’s meeting to give board members more time to research the issue. The facilities use procedures refer to the discussion to require at least one school system employee present when a non-school group uses a facility.

The board unanimously approved to retain Melissa Lynn as a member of the Wilson County Education Association Sick Bank and approved the fixed asset missing inventory list.

The board also unanimously approved naming the Mt. Juliet Middle School football field after NASA astronaut and former student Barry E. Wilmore, along with approving the textbook adoption committee recommendations for new science textbooks. 

A motion for Kaatz, Binkley, Jones and Morris to submit an application to the Tennessee School Boards Association Convention School of the Year Awards for the central office was passed unanimously.

The first reading of the attendance during postsecondary school visits board policy was passed unanimously. The policy allows for college visits and tours to be counted as excused absences.

Upon final reading, approval of a board policy for personal, professional and bereavement leave and a policy for sick leave was passed unanimously.

The board voted to re-elect Larry Tomlinson as board chair with a 5-1 vote and to elect Linda Armistead as vice-chair with a 5-1 vote. Board member Wayne McNeese was the no vote on both.

The board also voted to re-nominate Bill Robinson as the Tennessee School Board Association – Tennessee Legislative Network member and Linda Armistead as the Federal Relations Network member both with a 6-1 vote with both Robinson and Armistead abstaining from their respective votes.

Board members Kimberly McGee and Tom Sottek were both elected and voted in as the two sick leave bank committee members, which passed 5-2.

McNeese, Sottek and Chad Karl were all nominated by Larry Tomlinson to serve as ethics committee members where they all were voted in to the role with a 5-2 vote.

Wright recognized all Wilson County principals with plaques to commemorate their Level 5 rankings.

The board recognized new student-school board members who represented their schools with a progress report on activities and happenings at the high schools.

Third graders from Elzie D. Patton performed space-themed songs for the school board, complete with aliens and astronauts.

Wilson County Fair honors Cragwall farm as century farm

By Lounita Howard

The Edge

Cragwall Beechgrove Farm, owned by Thomas O. Cragwall and his wife, Doris, was the 93rd farm added to the roster of certified century farms in Wilson County at the 24th-annual Century Farm Luncheon on Thursday at the Wilson County Fair.

Founded in 1848, Beechgrove Farm was certified for more than 150 years of continuous agricultural production. Located on Canoe Branch Road in Lebanon, the farm originally had 242 acres. The Cragwalls own 90 of the original acres, where they raise Angus cattle, hay and a small garden.

The founder was T.O. Harris, great-great-uncle of T.O. Cragwall, who is the fourth generation to own the farm. Harris’ sister, Ellen Brooke Cragwall, was T.O.’s great-grandmother. Harris sold the farm to his nephew, William Temple Cragwall, and T.O.’s father, William Clarence Cragwall, was one of four siblings to inherit their father’s farm.

During its prime, Cragwall’s farm produced tobacco, corn, wheat, oats, barley, cotton and large gardens. They raised cattle, hogs, sheep, chickens and mules. A bill of sale from April 18, 1919 showed 104 hogs were sold for $3,599.31, an average of $34.60 per head. The oldest structure on the farm is a log crib built circa 1876. In it’s fifth location, it is still in remarkable condition. The farmhouse was built in 1927 and was remodeled to excellent condition.

Although the Cragwalls live in Lebanon, they are at the farmhouse almost daily. In 1993, T.O. Cragwall built a hay barn large enough to house 140 rolls of hay, and they have a cattle barn complete with Priefert squeeze chute, sweep tub and alley – one of several Tennessee Agricultural Enhancement Program projects in which they have participated. Cragwall Beechgrove Farm is also a part of the grassland reserve program through the Wilson County Farm Service Agency.

Ryan Ingram with Farm Bureau Insurance served as emcee at the luncheon. The guest speaker was Pettus Read, retired Tennessee Farm Bureau Federation director of communications.

Spinning humorous tales throughout his presentation, Read complimented the Wilson County Fair on its history of tradition, of friendliness and greeting everyone with courtesy. He said it’s amazing how the volunteers come together to make the fair happen, provide something for people to enjoy and particularly how agriculture is woven into the fabric of the fair.

Agriculture “is our future, and it’s the future of this country, as well,” Reed said.