Roadwork heats up throughout Wilson County

Several new or ongoing Tennessee Department of Transportation road projects could cause drivers some delays in the coming days and weeks throughout Wilson County.

Lanes will be closed on Interstate 840 from 8 p.m. until 5 a.m. from north of the Rutherford County line to east of Stewarts Ferry Pike to allow workers to repair bridge decks. There will also be lane closures nightly from 8 p.m. until 5 a.m. to allow workers to clean bridge decks, repair them and apply epoxy in the same area of I-840.

State Route 141 widening work continues daily from 6 a.m. until 6 p.m. from south of Spring Creek to north of Lovers Lane. Temporary lane closures will take place, but one lane will remain open in each direction.

Bridge repair will continue on Baddour Parkway over Sinking Creek in Lebanon. Baddour Parkway was reduced to one 10-foot lane in each direction at the bridge and will remain that way until the work is completed sometime in the fall.

Resurfacing on State Route 26 from U.S. 70 to the Smith County line will continue daily from 9 a.m. until 3:30 p.m. There will be temporary lane closures in both directions to allow for paving. One lane will remain open.

Bridge repair on the Interstate 40 eastbound overpass at Sparta Pike will continue after an oversized tractor-trailer hit the bridge and damaged it recently. Permitted loads will detour onto South Hartmann Drive and Maddox-Simpson Parkway at exit 236 on I-40 eastbound until further notice. A detour sign is in place.

Paving daily from 9 a.m. until 3:30 p.m. on U.S. 231 from Market Street to near Forrest Ave. in Lebanon will cause temporary lane closures in both directions. One lane will remain open.

Paving daily from 9 a.m. until 3:30 p.m. will cause temporary lane closures in both directions on State Route 141 from east of Stokes Street to Sugar Flat Road. One lane will remain open.

Widening work will continue on State Route 109 daily from 9 a.m. until 3 p.m. Rolling roadblocks will be used for rock blasting and excavation. Traffic will also be reduced to one lane in both directions at the intersection of State Route 109 and Callis Road to allow workers to put in a turn lane and crossover.

State Route 10 will be reduced to one lane daily from 9 a.m. until 3 p.m. to allow workers to install a gas line from Vesta Road to Flat Woods Road.

TDOT officials said drivers are encouraged to use caution and obey reduced speed limits in all TDOT work zones, regardless of lane closure activity. Most work will be weather dependent and subject to change due to inclement weather.

State gas price average drops 5 cents in May

NASHVILLE – Tennessee’s state average gas price was $2.57 per gallon Monday for regular unleaded, which was 3 cents less than the average a week ago and 3 cents less than a month ago.

The national gas price average Monday was $2.86, 3 cents less than last week’s average, 4 cents less than one month ago and remained flat compared to the same time last year.

“For the first time in three months, gas prices are declining slowly but steadily across the country,” said Stephanie Milani, Tennessee public affairs director for AAA.

Sadie Ford Heritage Farm unveiled at Cedars of Lebanon State Park

Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation officials cut the ribbon Saturday on the 73.3-acre Sadie Ford Heritage Farm and Art Center as a naturally and culturally significant addition to Cedars of Lebanon State Park.

The property is will be restored and incorporated into the state park as a complex of cedar glades and barrens ecosystems interspersed with woodlands, reflecting the state of the land prior to European settlement.

“We are excited to bring this site under the umbrella of Tennessee State Parks,” said Anne Marshall, acting deputy commissioner of TDEC. “It will encompass natural beauty, historical significance and will be a center for public programming that should attract many visitors. We believe Tennesseans will love having this gem be part of Cedars of Lebanon.”

The core of the property is about 8 acres that include a home, barn and outbuildings that will be set aside as a historic district. The site is opposite the entrance to the state park. The 1920s bungalow-style house was built for local schoolteachers, Delta and Sadie Ford, who lived there with their children until the mid-1940s. Museum displays will describe aspects of the area’s history.

Tennessee State Parks acquired the property in the fall. The tract corners existing state-owned land to the west and north, as well as adjacent land east of U.S. 231. Within the adjoining tracts are Cedars of Lebanon State Park, Cedars of Lebanon State Natural Area and Vesta Cedar Glade State Natural Area, all part of the 10,000-acre Cedars of Lebanon State Forest.

The property offers recreational significance, as well as the cornerstone for access to the western portion of Cedars of Lebanon State Forest and more opportunities for park visitors, including a multi-use hiking-biking trail. The homestead and WPA-era museum will be a center for educational events for families, students and history buffs regarding rural life in the 1920s and 1930s.

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. 

Community Calendar and The People’s Agenda

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

May 15

Wilson County Hiring Event

9 a.m.

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

Mt. Juliet Chamber Connect Luncheon

11:15 a.m.

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

Lebanon Senior Citizens Center Health Fair

12:30 p.m.

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

May 16

Kindergarten Night at W.A. Wright Elementary School

4 p.m.

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

Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 5015 meeting

6 p.m.

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

Fiddlers Grove Model Train Club

7 p.m.

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

Celebrate Recovery

7 p.m.

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

May 17

Tennessee State University National Alumni Association Mid-South Regional Conference

8 a.m.

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

May 18

Think Green, Think Clean Challenge

8 a.m.

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

Ali’s Rae of Hope 5K Walk and Run

8 a.m.

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

Antique Tractor, Antique Truck and Gas Engine Show

8 a.m.

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

Special Needs Vacation Bible School

9 a.m.

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

Lebanon Cumberland Presbyterian Church Barbecue Fundraiser

9 a.m.

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

Dream Riders Benefit Motorcycle Ride

9:45 a.m.

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

Free Groceries Giveaway

3 p.m.

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

Good Wheel Cruisers Saturday Night Cruise-In

4:30 p.m.

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

Daddy-Daughter Princess Ball

5:30 p.m.

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

Centerstage Theatre Co. presents “Our Town”

7:30 p.m.

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

May 19

The Fessenden House Raise the Roof

2 p.m.

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

The People’s Agenda

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

May 16

Wilson County Ag Management Committee meeting

5 p.m.

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

Wilson County Health and Welfare Committee meeting

6 p.m.

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

May 20

Wilson County Commission meeting

7 p.m.

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

May 21

Wilson County Development and Tourism Committee meeting

5:30 p.m.

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

May 30

Wilson County Board of Education work session

5 p.m.

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

June 3

Wilson County Board of Education meeting

6 p.m.

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

– Staff Reports

Antique tractor, antique truck, gas engine show upcoming

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

Gates will open at 8 a.m.

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

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

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

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

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

Top Wilson student-athletes honored

By Matt Masters

The Lebanon-Wilson County Chamber of Commerce Sports Council Division held the best all-around student athlete awards luncheon Friday afternoon at Cumberland University’s Baird Chapel, where two students each received a $1,500 scholarship to the school of their choice.

Athletes represented a myriad of high school sports, all who were nominated by their athletic directors, coaches or principals based on not only their athletic abilities and achievements, but also their outstanding academic records.

Wilson Central High School student Mia Catherine Yin Harris and Friendship Christian School student Daniel Lucas were both selected for the scholarships.

Other honorees included Cameron Burton, who also represented Friendship Christian School; Jasmine Fuqua and Ryan Brown, who represented Lebanon High School; Samantha Clark and Logan Collier, who represented Mt. Juliet Christian Academy; Isabella Agee and Michael Ruttlen, who represented Mt. Juliet High School; Abby Groce and Brandon Allison, who represented Watertown High School; and Barrett Streeter, who represented Wilson Central High School.

Former University of Tennessee coach, defensive coordinator and radio host Doug Mathews was the guest speaker. He spoke about not giving up, teamwork and working hard.

“Don’t ever let anybody tell you that you can’t do something,” Mathews said.

New Leash on Life sells land to continue expansion

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wilson County recognizes May as ALS Awareness Month

By Matt Masters

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

The Big Payback weathers rain to support local nonprofits

By Matt Masters

The third-annual Big Payback took over the Lebanon square Thursday to raise money for various nonprofit organizations who work to assist the citizens of Wilson County.

Jenni Moscardelli with the Community Foundation of Middle Tennessee said despite the short but strong rainstorm that popped up during the middle of the event, the community really showed up to support nonprofits in Lebanon and all of Wilson County.

“We have 40 organizations within the county participating in the Big Payback today, and this year we have 24 organizations on the square participating in a poster contest, minute to win it games, and also we’re giving away additional pop-up prizes for the organization that raises the most money during the rally and then the organization that has the most online donors during that time frame, so it’s a way for the local organizations to get together, to have more opportunities for social media content and to celebrate the Big Payback together as a community,” Moscardelli said. “The reception has been fantastic. We’ve got more organizations on the square than we have ever before. The community has really come out to participate, to play the games, to eat the food and to visit with the nonprofits.”

One of the participants was Heather Sadler whose husband, Geoff Sadler, died last year of esophageal cancer. The local nonprofit Sherry’s Run helped Sadler and her family through their loss, and now she’s giving back.

“We had a Sherry’s Run team for him last year called Geoff’s Jedis, and they just supported us the whole time through his battle. They actually paid our utility bill for 14 months, even after he passed away,” Sadler said. “I have a 4-year-old and a 2-year-old, so we have devoted to give back what they have given to us. So my 4-year-old Sophie wanted to do a lemonade stand or as she calls it, a ‘lemon stand,’ and we built it, and Sherry’s Run invited us out here to the Big Payback, and we’re going to do her lemonade stand throughout the county, so if anyone wants us to come to sell lemonade, we’d be glad to,” Sadler said. “This community has supported us 110 percent. I can’t even tell you. You know, I’m a 38-year-old widow, and I couldn’t do it without my village, and Lebanon and Wilson County is my village.”

Lebanon-Wilson County Chamber of Commerce president Melanie Minter said the partnership with the Community Foundation of Middle Tennessee was crucial to help Wilson County’s nonprofits connect with the citizens who need them most.

“Our chamber decided to gather all of the nonprofits that wanted to come out on the square and celebrate the Big Payback, so this just gives our community and opportunity to come out and enjoy the nonprofits in Wilson County and to decide where they want to give their money,” Minter said. “The chamber and our board rally stands behind bringing people together as a community, so this just shows that 24 of the nonprofits that are local within Wilson County wanted to get together and spread the love and the knowledge of what they do.”

The Big Payback is a community-wide online giving day designed to give the public the opportunity to pay back the nonprofits that make communities better places.

During the Fifth Third Bank’s Big Reveal on Friday in Nashville, the preliminary final amount totaled just more than $4.1 million from 28,458 gifts. The total included funds raised and prize totals. In its six-year history, the Big Payback has helped hundreds and hundreds of area nonprofits raise about $16.6 million in cumulative donations. The event’s previous one-year record total was 2018 at $3,163,463.

A record 964 Middle Tennessee nonprofits – including schools and religious institutions – from 35 counties signed up to participate in this year’s the Big Payback, an initiative of the Community Foundation of Middle Tennessee.

“Not since the flood of 2010 has Middle Tennessee come together to make so many good things happen,” said Ellen Lehman, president of the Community Foundation. “And isn’t it funny that it all happened in the hours of May 2 – virtually the same day as our flood rains kept coming years ago.”

“The fact is, all of us owe a debt of gratitude to our nonprofits serving Middle Tennessee. We at the Community Foundation are honored to play a part in this vital and critical work. If you live here, you should give here.”

New report outlines teachers’ raises across Tennessee

By Angie Mayes

Mt. Juliet News Correspondent

Between 2014-15 and 2017-18, Wilson County teacher salaries increased 6.3 percent, from $44,988 to $46,816, according to a new report from the Office of Research and Education Accountability.

The Lebanon Special School District raised salaries 9.8 percent, from $49,582 to $54,433, according to the report.

Wilson County Director of Schools Donna Wright said, “Teacher salaries have been increased in an effort to attract responsible, dedicated and highly qualified employees while retaining employees through longevity to build an experienced staff.”

She said an increase in teacher pay “is our top priority.” She said it’s one way to retain the teachers they have. 

The numbers issued this week by the Office of Research and Education Accountability are average salaries among the school’s instructors.

“We do not work on a pay scale,” Wright said. “We offer a differentiated pay plan that allows teachers to receive yearly increases based on their level of effectiveness without reaching a salary cap. In 2014-15, teachers could receive a yearly increase of up to $750, and by 2017-18, that amount had increased to $900.”

Lebanon Director of Schools Scott Benson said compensating teachers is vitally important to the district.

“It is absolutely important that we retain the teachers. One way of doing that is by appropriate compensation of teachers,” Benson said. “Even though we rank No. 14 [on the state’s list of highest-paid districts] out of 145 school districts, we don’t pay enough to what they’re worth and what they contribute. One of the reasons we rank so high is our board has a longstanding commitment to appropriately compensating our teachers.”

The report said, “More than $300 million in new, recurring state dollars were appropriated by the General Assembly through the instructional salaries and wages category of the Basic Education Program, the state’s education funding formula, between 2016 and 2018.

The legislative intent for the appropriations was to increase teacher salaries across the state, according to the report.

“Some legislators have expressed concerns that state dollars have had less effect in improving teachers’ salaries than expected, however,” the report said.

The purpose of the report was to address questions raised by former Speaker Beth Harwell, Senate Education Committee chair Delores Gresham and Sen. Brian Kelsey regarding “how much new state funding was used to raise teacher salaries; to what degree districts concurrently increased local funding for teachers or relied on the influx of new state money to provide teacher raises, and how much new state and local funding was used for purposes other than raising teacher salaries such as hiring new teachers; enhancing benefits for teachers already employed; or funding teacher aides, assistants or similar support positions, and whether districts used state funding for teacher salaries for unallowable purposes.”

Districts were most likely to give raises by increasing the district salary schedule, which, in most districts, sets base pay for all teachers at specified education and experience levels, the report said.

“One-time bonuses and across-the-board raises outside of the salary schedule were also used by districts to increase teacher pay,” according to the report. “Because of the variation within and across districts in how they awarded raises in different years and which staff received raises in different years, the survey did not collect data on the number of raises awarded.”

Neither Wilson County nor LSSD offer bonuses to their teachers. Wilson County’s increases are performance driven, Wright said. The LSSD increases are based on years of experience and degrees and the percentage raise on an annual basis, Benson said.

The BEP formula allocates staff positions based on a ratio of enrolled students. For example, for every 25 fourth-grade students, the formula allocates one classroom teacher position. More students will result in more positions. More positions, generated by more students, results in a larger funding allocation, the report said.

The Office of Research and Education Accountability’s fall 2018 survey reported awarding salary increases to teachers for three consecutive years in 2016, 2017 and 2018, which resulted in a 6-percent increase in average classroom salaries statewide.

Wilson County Deputy Director of Schools Mickey Hall said teachers have received an increase every year since his employment in 1993, according to Wright. Last year, the Wilson County Board of Education asked for a 12.5-percent increase, but the Wilson County Commission voted it down because of the tax increase that would have been needed to fund it.

LSSD has increased its salaries, as well.

“Steve Jones, our board chair, has been on the LSSD board since 1988,” Benson said. “Our teachers have had a raise every single year he’s been on the board. When I was assistant director and did our budget, it was ingrained in me to give raises. That’s what we look at first, to give the employees and teachers a raise.”

Districts used increased state salary funding to add instructional positions, in addition to provide pay raises, as allowed by the state statutes concerning the BEP, the report said. “The share of new state salary funding spent on adding instructional staff versus increasing salaries for staff already employed could not be determined.

“Total local revenue budgeted for school districts increased at about the same rate as BEP state revenue, but salary expenditures – whether for new hires or raises – could not be linked back to their revenue source, either state or local,” the report said.

The Tennessee Department of Education found for the past three years, all districts have complied with a 2016 state law that requires districts to maintain their budgeted level of local funding for salaries and wages from the prior year, and to not use increases in state BEP instructional salaries and wages funding to offset local expenditures in the categories.

‘The majority of districts reported giving a raise to teachers for three consecutive years, from 2016 through 2018,” according to the report. “In each of the three years, from 2016 through 2018, 88 districts reported giving a raise to teachers, representing 68 percent of the 140 districts surveyed. In 2015, when the state did not provide new state instructional salaries funding, 68 districts reported giving raises to teachers. Following the first year of additional state funding in 2016, the number of districts that reported giving raises increased to 98.

“In the two years following increased state funding for instructional salaries, 2017 and 2018, the number of districts that reported giving raises held steady, at around 96 districts. One district reported giving no raises over the four-year period,” the report said.

The percentage of raises for both Wilson County and LSSD for the upcoming school year will be known during the respective budget processes this year.

Districts reported their teacher raises in a fall 2018 survey conducted by the Office of Research and Education Accountability. A total of 103 districts or 74 percent responded. Districts that did not respond to the survey may have also given raises. The Office of Research and Education Accountability’s survey asked districts about raises they gave to instructional employees, most of which were classroom teachers, but it also included other licensed school staff such as principals and guidance counselors.

Both LSSD and Wilson County responded to the survey. In fact, Hall had many discussions and clarifications with the Office of Research and Education Accountability last fall, Wright said.

Between 2015 and 2018, Tennessee’s average classroom salary increased 6.2 percent, or about $2,979, from $47,979 to $50,958. The growth made Tennessee the third fastest-growing state in the Southeast for instructional teacher salaries, behind North Carolina and Georgia.

State Rep. Clark Boyd guided a bill designed to improve transparency in the state’s education system through the state House, and it also passed the Senate.

The measure – which was part of Gov. Bill Lee’s legislative package this year – requires local education agencies to report to the Department of Education how additional funds are used each year a Local Education Agency receives increased funding from the state for salaries and wages.

“Our teachers work tirelessly to solidify the academic foundations of Tennessee’s current and future leaders,” said Boyd, R-Lebanon. “We must ensure they are receiving the salaries and pay increases they have earned. I am proud to have carried this bill, which will increase transparency on the subject of teacher pay.”

House Bill 946 ensures taxpayer funding allocated to schools is used responsibly and to support educators, according to Boyd.

The bill went to Lee’s desk to be signed into law.

Lantern Lane Farm welcomes crowd

By Matt Masters

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.

Leadership Wilson alumni hear about current projects

By Jared Felkins

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

Leadership Wilson serves to identify, train and motivate individual citizens in community leadership. Leadership Wilson is a nonprofit community leadership organization that serves the community and educates leaders in Wilson County. Each year, about 30 participants from the business, education, civic, religious and government communities of Wilson County are provided a comprehensive leadership training opportunity through experiential learning, daylong seminars, group discussions, field trips and retreats, which creates a forum to exchange ideas and discuss areas of interest. Each class presents the opportunity to understand and analyze a particularly important segment of the county, including government, health care and social services, agriculture, business and industry, public safety, education and quality of life.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Community Calendar and The People’s Agenda

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

May 1

Everyone’s Wilson National Day of Prayer Celebration

6 p.m.

Everyone’s Wilson will hold a celebration Wednesday, May 1 from 6-8 p.m. in honor of the National Day of Prayer at Charlie Daniels Park in Mt. Juliet. For more information, visit

May 2

Wilson County Retired Teachers’ Association meeting

10 a.m.

The Wilson County Retired Teachers’ Association will hold its last meeting of the year Thursday, May 2 at 10 a.m. at the First Church of the Nazarene in Lebanon. The community service project will be a donation of items to Wilson County’s New Leash on Life. Lunch will be served after the meeting by the WCRTA’s hospitality and social committee. Next year’s dues may be paid at the meeting. Call 615-218-7058 for more information.

The Big Payback Wilson County Event

11 a.m.

The Big Payback Wilson County event to encourage online donations for local nonprofits will be Thursday, May 2 from 11 a.m. until 1 p.m. at the Lebanon Square. The event will feature food trucks, live music, mascots, a poster contest and games. Additional prize money will be awarded to nonprofits that receive donations during the event. To reserve a tent or for more information, call 615-444-5503 or email

Blood Drive


An American Red Cross blood drive will be Thursday, May 2 from noon until 5 p.m. at Active Life Chiropractic & Rehabilitation at 12920 Lebanon Road in Mt. Juliet. Download the American Red Cross blood donor app, visit or call 800-RED CROSS to make an appointment or for more information. All blood types are needed to ensure a reliable supply for patients. A blood donor card or driver’s license or two other forms of identification are required at check-in.

Kindergarten Night at Rutland Elementary School

4 p.m.

Kindergarten Night will be Thursday, May 2 from 4-6:30 p.m. at Rutland Elementary School. The event will provide an opportunity for parents and students to meet some of the teachers and staff and learn more about what to expect for the upcoming school year.

Wilson County Day of Prayer

6 p.m.

The National Day of Prayer will be observed in Wilson County on Thursday, May 2 from 6-7 p.m. at Love’s Way Church at 310 Coles Ferry Pike in Lebanon.

Watertown High School Spring Concert Band and Choir Concert

6 p.m.

The Watertown High School spring concert band and choir concert will be Thursday, May 2 at 6 p.m. at the school in the auditorium. Donations will be appreciated.

Tennova Healthcare-Lebanon Weight-Loss Surgery Seminar

6 p.m.

Tennova Healthcare-Lebanon will hold a weight-loss surgery seminar Thursday, May 2 from 6-7 p.m. and on the first Thursday of each month at the hospital at 1411 W. Baddour Pkwy. in Lebanon. Those attending should use the outpatient center entrance. Registration is available at or by calling 615-443-2560. Participants should register at least one day before the seminar.

Celebrate Recovery

7 p.m.

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

May 3

Redneck Rumble

10 a.m.

The fifth-annual spring Redneck Rumble car show and swap meet will be Friday, May 3 and Saturday, May 4, beginning at 10 a.m. at the James E. Ward Agricultural Center at 945 E. Baddour Pkwy. in Lebanon. General admission passes are $15, and show entry, which includes a driver pass, is $25. Camping is available for $50 per person and includes daily admission. For more information, visit


7 p.m.

Songs4Students, a benefit for Stoner Creek Elementary School’s Parent-Teacher Organization, will be Friday, May 3 at 7 p.m. at Hermitage Golf Course at 3939 Old Hickory Blvd. in Old Hickory. It will feature an evening of songs from four top songwriters, stories, hors d’oeurves, a cash bar, silent and live auctions. General admission tickets are $45 or a VIP table for eight, including two bottles of wine, is $500. Tickets are available at For sponsorship and auction donation information, email

Encore Theatre presents “Crossing Delancey”

7:30 p.m.

Encore Theatre Co. will present “Crossing Delancey,” a romantic comedy, Friday, May 3 and Saturday, May 4 at 7:30 p.m., Sunday, May 5 at 2:30 p.m., Friday, May 10 and Saturday, May 11 at 7:30 p.m. and Sunday, May 12 at 2:30 p.m. at the theatre at 6978 Lebanon Road, just east of State Route 109, in Mt. Juliet. The house will open 30 minutes before show time. Tickets are $16 for adults and $13 for seniors 60 and older. For tickets, visit To reserve seats and pay at the door, call 615-598-8950.

May 4

Twin States Iris Society Show and Rhizome Sale

7 a.m.

Twin States Iris Society’s annual juried show and rhizome sale will be Saturday, May 4 at Walter J. Baird Middle School at 131 WBJ Pride Lane in Lebanon. Judging will be from 7-10 a.m. Rhizomes will be available for sale from 10 a.m. until 3 p.m. The show will be from 2-4 p.m. A youth horticulture division will be featured for those younger than 18 years old. For information, contact Carol Dillard at

Ducky Derby

10 a.m.

The fourth-annual Ducky Derby fundraiser event to benefit the Wilson County Community Help Center will be Saturday, May 4 at 10 a.m. at the bridge on U.S. 231. For $5, participants can adopt a racing duck, and the owner of the winning duck will get a $2,500 purse. The second-place duck will win $1,500, while the third-place duck will bring in $750. The last duck’s owner will win $100. Adoption tickets are $5 each and are currently on sale at the Wilson County Community Help Center at 203 W. High St. in Lebanon and through help center board members. Participants must be 18 years old or older to participate but do not have to be present to win. For more information, call 615-449-1856, email or visit

Cumberland University Commencement Ceremony

10 a.m.

Cumberland University officials said the largest class in school history will graduate Saturday, May 4 at 10 a.m. in a commencement ceremony on campus. Cumberland’s May commencement ceremony will honor 594 total graduates. For more information on Cumberland’s 2019 commencement ceremony, visit

Spring Fling at the Plantation

10 a.m.

Spring Fling at the Plantation will be Saturday, May 4 from 10 a.m. until 4 p.m. and Sunday, May 5 from 11 a.m. until 3 p.m. at Watermelon Moon Farm at 10575 Trousdale Ferry Pike in Lebanon. The event will feature vendors, a historic home tour, decorating ideas, antiques, vintage jewelry and clothing, farm animals, a gift shop, food trucks and more. Admission is $3 per person, and children 10 and younger will be admitted for free. For more information, call 615-444-2356 or visit

The People’s Agenda

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

May 2

Wilson County Joint Economic and Community Development Board Executive Committee meeting

7:45 a.m.

The Wilson County Joint Economic and Community Development Board Executive Committee will meet Thursday, May 2 at 7:45 a.m. at the JECDB office at 200 Aviation Way, Suite 202, in Lebanon.

Wilson County Board of Education work session

5 p.m.

The Wilson County Board of Education will meet in a work session Thursday, May 2 at 5 p.m. at the central office at 415 Harding Drive in Lebanon.

May 3

Wilson County Road Commission meeting

9 a.m.

The Wilson County Road Commission will meet Friday, May 3 at 9 a.m. at the Road Commission office in Lebanon. The Wilson County Urban-Type Public Facilities Board will meet immediately after the Road Commission meeting.

May 6

Wilson County Board of Education meeting

6 p.m.

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

Mt. Juliet City Commission town hall meeting

6:30 p.m.

The Mt. Juliet City Commission will hold a town hall meeting Monday, May 6 at 6:30 p.m. at City Hall at 2425 N. Mt. Juliet Road in Mt. Juliet.

– Staff Reports

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 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

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

Music and Memories celebrates seniors

By Matt Masters

Music and Memories at Tucker’s Gap Event Center brought music and fun for Wilson County’s seniors last Tuesday and more significantly raised $18,500 for the Senior Citizen’s Awareness Network.

SCAN, a volunteer-staffed nonprofit organization, assists Wilson County’s senior citizens with visits, heaters, air conditioners, walkers and emergency alert buttons.

Leadership Wilson, a nonprofit community leadership organization that provides a comprehensive leadership training opportunity through experiential learning, daylong seminars, group discussions, field trips and retreats with community and business leaders, organized Tuesday’s event.

Organizer Scott McRae said the event attracted nearly 200 community members and exceeded expectations, but it was the stories of seniors who connected with their community that stuck out to McRae as the most important accomplishment.

“It started with a small seed and it grew,” McRae said. “The initial concept was to provide an event for the seniors in our area and let them have some fun to enjoy.

“Our goal was to raise a little bit of money, and it just kept growing and growing with these wonderful surprises, and we’ve raised over $18,000.

“My relationship with SCAN started probably eight, nine years ago when my son was in scouts. We went out and collected a truckload of food and took it to their food pantries. So I’ve known SCAN for many years, and it’s come full circle to be able to give back to them as our team with this wonderful event and to not only raise awareness, but also to put a little joy into our community.”

Peggie Culpepper, 83, said she fell in love with the SCAN volunteers who take their time to form relationships with her and even built her a wheelchair ramp at her Mt. Juliet home. She said the music and atmosphere of the event really illustrated the kindness of SCAN and the community as a whole she watched grow from a little country town to the current busy city.

“I think it’s the most wonderful thing they could do for the elderly people,” Culpepper said. “SCAN has done so much for me. They built my [wheelchair] ramp for me years ago, and I think they’re wonderful people. They do so much for everybody. They’re so loving, and they just make you feel good.”

SCAN volunteer Jacque Dillard has worked with the organization for three years and said it’s the ability to give back that makes the work worth it.

“I enjoy meeting with the people, and it makes me realize how fortunate I am, how blessed I am, and they’re always so glad to see us. It’s just so good to be able to give back to people,” Dillard said.

Andy May and his Band of Friends provided the music, and WANT radio personality M.J. Lucas served as emcee.

Tennova Healthcare-Lebanon provided health screenings, and the event featured an appearance by Tom the mini horse.

Sponsors included Leadership Wilson, Music and Memories Team, Jim and Sharon Putejovsky, Tucker’s Gap Event Center, Andy May and His Band of Friends, M.J. Lucas, Hawk Specialty Services, David Hale, UPS Store Mt. Juliet, Gary Whitaker, Dorie Mitchell, Bonnie Ryan with Zaxby’s, CedarStone Bank, Chad and Betty Williams with Smile Gallery, Christopher and Emily Gann, Kevin and Tina Winfree, The Leadership Wilson Softball Tournament Team, Lanee Young, Silver Springs Baptist Church, Lynn Odum, the Jewelers of Lebanon, WANT FM, U.S. Community Credit Union, Beckwith Missionary Baptist Church, Sammy B’s, the city of Lebanon, Mayor Bernie Ash, John and Kathleen Reaney, The Chronicle of Mt. Juliet, Robinson Properties, Karen Moore, Dave and Martha VanHoven, Sen. Mark Pody, Lisia Tucker, Aqua Bella Day Spa, T.A. Bryan, Hickory Hill Farm, Tennova Healthcare-Lebanon, Demos’ Restaurant, 615 Powerhouse Cleaning, Farm Bureau Insurance, Jeff and Deniece Stonebraker, Cheryl and Jenell Herbert, West Wilson Exchange Club, Cracker Barrel and Judy Cox and Medana Hemontolor with Exit Rocky Top Realty.

County discusses sales tax increase

By Angie Mayes

Special to Mt. Juliet News

The idea of a sales tax increase referendum to help pay for county budget items was brought up again at the Wilson County Finance Committee meeting Thursday night.

Finance director Aaron Maynard presented some of the budget lines at the meeting when the idea of the referendum was again discussed.

“I guess the bottom line is, if we need more money, then we’re going to have to get more money,” said committee chair John Gentry. “So, it depends on how to get that money. When we need a new elementary school or middle school or jail or court system, it doesn’t grow on trees.”

Maynard agreed and said, “Don’t you guys wish, that with every step you’ve taken in life. Don’t you wish you can see it from a perspective of 10 years later. When the real estate market was in the dumps, and construction people were begging for work, that would have been a great time to be building like crazy. But that’s hindsight.”

Gentry said, “In my opinion, we started too late [on the sales tax education] to do the sell job. If we want to have a policy that says we want the sales tax, we have to do it early. To start it early, so we have a concerted effort.”

Maynard said the county commission chose to put the issue on the general election ballot, rather than have a special election. If county funds are spent, they can’t be spent in an advocacy way. They have to be spent in an education manner. I know people have complaints about that.

“We did the best we could under the circumstances that were presented, and I wish, before those 10,000 voters had voted [early], those educational pieces had been out there. Do I think it would have made a difference? Yea, I do.”

The measure failed to pass, with 27,424 people voting against the measure and 25,199 voting for it.

“[The failure] wasn’t from lack of effort on the part of the school system, on my part, on the mayor’s part,” Maynard said. “I worked as hard on that as I have for anything in my life.”

Gentry said, “The decision was made a little too late to get anything done. If we’re going to do it again, we’re going to have to get ahead of the game. We need to get ahead of the game and get it done. We need to make the decision early, whether it be from the budget committee, the finance committee, or someone has to bring the motion up.”

Gentry said he didn’t think a special election was the proper form for the referendum because, “we spend too much money [paying for election costs].”

Maynard said he understands the commissioners not wanting to hold a special election, but a special election could offer a “strategic” measure for the issue.

“We sat around for a while saying, ‘how will we fund a $110 million high school?” As we got down to the time where we didn’t have to have a tax increase, [Commissioner] Kenny Reich said, ‘We’re going to have future debt. How are we going to pay for that?’ That’s when he stood up in the commission meeting and said, ‘Hey, let’s put the sales tax on the next election,’” said Wilson County Mayor Randall Hutto

Hutto said by the time the wording was approved for the ballot, the county had 54 days to educate the citizens.

“Williamson County did it in a general election, but they spent a year ahead of time, walking around and going to every city and asked every city there, ‘Hey, you give me your first three years’ of that 50 percent you get so we can help take care of these schools,” Hutto said. “That way, he sold it in each city, and those city people knew that ‘our money is going on the line for this, but we’re going to reap the benefits after year four, five, six and on down the line.’”

He said he talked to the Wilson County cities early on, but never received a commitment from them.

“I think in the time we had, 54 days, I think the people here were giving you a little message, saying ‘Hey, don’t raise my property tax, and maybe not the adequate facilities tax, but raise my sales tax,’” Hutto said. “You can choose to do that in 2020, if you want to do that. If you want to do that then this budget season is the time for somebody to say, ‘This is the way we want to go,’ and give us a year to educate the folks and say ‘Hey, I’ve got debt coming. Is this the way you want to pay for it?’ And we’ll go to work on that.”

TWRA biologist from MJ flexes muscles

By Larry Woody

Mt. Juliet’s Jason Wisniewski, who recently joined the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency along with wife Jenifer, is noted for his muscles.

He’s not a body-builder. He’s a malacologist – a biologist who specializes in the study and management of freshwater mollusks, commonly known in Tennessee as muscles.

“Lots of people don’t realize they are one of our most imperiled species,” says Wisniewski, who works at the TWRA’s aquatic species hatchery at the Cumberland River Aquatic Center in Gallatin.

Why do muscles matter?

“They filter impurities from the water and are good ecological ‘early warning systems’ because they are so sensitive to pollutants,” Wisniewski says. “However, by the time we discover a pollutant is adversely impacting muscles, it’s probably too late to prevent the damage in that particular water.”

He adds: “It’s possible muscles have uses we haven’t discovered yet. That’s part of our research. But we never want to lose any species. We have to assume it has some purpose and function.”

Muscles have long been an important part of life in the Southeast.

They provided food, tools and ornaments for Native Americans. The oyster-like muscle was eaten, and the sharp shell was used for cutting and scraping. The iridescent shell was also fashioned into pendants, beads and earrings.

More modernly, muscles are harvested by divers for sale to the button industry, including foreign markets. Muscles are commercially farmed to produce fresh-water pearls. One such farm is located at Birdsong Marina on Kentucky Lake.

Wisniewski earlier this year joined the TWRA with his wife, who serves as the Agency’s Chief of Communications and Outreach. They settled in Mt. Juliet because of the quality of life and split proximity to their new jobs – Jenifer’s at TWRA headquarters in Nashville and Jason’s at the TWRA’s Aquatic Center in Gallatin.

Both previously held similar positions with the Georgia Department of Natural Resources.

Wisniewski, a native of Pennsylvania, moved to Tennessee in 2001 to attend Tennessee Tech where he earned a Masters degree. He joined the Georgia DNR and quickly gained a reputation as an authority in his field, authoring 15 technical papers, assisting with a Supreme Court lawsuit, and most recently spending time at the Smithsonian to assist a mollusk research project.

Wisniewski says he “stumbled into” his mollusk career.

“I was interested in fisheries management, and the only openings at the time were in mollusk studies,” he says. “I took what was available, and the more I got into it, the more fascinating it became.”

The Aquatic Center was built decades ago by TVA, and in 2006 the TWRA opened an aquatic species hatchery program. Today the TWRA manages and operates the Center in partnership with TVA, Corps of Engineers and U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service.

“It’s a great facility and we’re fortunate to have it,” Wisniewski says.

During his free time Wisniewski likes to hunt, fish and trap. He is a member of the Fur Takers of America Grant Committee. He was a licensed “nuisance trapper” in Georgia and plans to eventually resume trapping nuisance animals here, in addition to his TWRA duties.

Larry Woody is The Democrat’s outdoors writer. Email him at

The Big Payback attracts 39 nonprofits in Wilson County

NASHVILLE – A record number of area nonprofits, including 39 based in Wilson County, are busy preparing for the Big Payback’s sixth annual 24-hour online giving day.

A total of 964 Middle Tennessee nonprofits – including schools and religious institutions – from 35 counties will participate May 2 in the Big Payback, an initiative of the Community Foundation of Middle Tennessee.

Participating nonprofits from Wilson County include the 15th Judicial District Child Advocacy Center, Cedar Seniors, Cedarcroft Home, Charis Health Center, Compassionate Hands, Cumberland University, the Down Syndrome Association of Middle Tennessee, Empower Me Day Camp, Encore Theatre Co., Fiddlers Grove Foundation, Friends of Cedars of Lebanon State Park, General Assembly of the Church of God, Healing Broken Vessels, Heroes 4 Hope, Hickory Hill Farm, Historic Lebanon Tomorrow, Leadership Middle Tennessee, Lebanon Senior Citizens Center, the Mt. Juliet Animal Shelter Volunteer Organization, Mt. Juliet Senior Citizens Service Center, myLIFEspeaks, the Nathar Foundation, New Leash on Life, Old Friends Senior Dogs Sanctuary, Prospect, Wilson County Emergency Services Rehab 23, Rest Stop Ministries, Sherry’s Run, Small World, Tennessee Artist’s Guild, the Joe Beretta Foundation, United Way of Wilson County and the Upper Cumberland, Wilson Books from Birth, Wilson County Black History Committee, Wilson County Court-Appointed Special Advocates, Wilson County Civic League, Wilson County Community Foundation, Wilson County Community Help Center and Wilson County Salvation Army.

“This charitable event will help area and local nonprofits raise much-needed dollars and bring awareness to a number of pressing needs in our community,” said Bob Black, chairman of the Community Foundation of Wilson County, as he encouraged countywide participation.

Nonprofits and the general public can also participate in the Big Payback in person. The Lebanon-Wilson County Chamber of Commerce and the Community Foundation of Wilson County will play host to a lunchtime party-like event May 2 from 11 a.m. until 2 p.m. at the Lebanon Public Square that will feature food trucks, entertainment and exhibits that focus on local nonprofits.

The record total includes 118 organizations that represent 23 counties that will participate in the Big Payback for the first time. Categories will include human services, education, community improvement, arts and culture, youth development, animal welfare, health, housing and shelter and the environment.

The Big Payback is a communitywide online giving day designed to give the public the opportunity to pay back the nonprofits that make communities better places. Starting May 2 at midnight, there will be 24 hours to make donations to a wide swath of participating local nonprofits at

In its first five events, the Big Payback helped organizations raise more than $12.5 million in donations, as well as foster 24,716 first-time gifts, making possible awareness of and solutions to pressing needs in local communities.

Last year’s event raised a record of more than $3.1 million in donations from 22,071 total gifts.

“The Big Payback’s slogan is ‘Live Here. Give Here’ and provides an easy and fun way for our community to show our local pride and give back,” said Ellen Lehman, president of the Community Foundation of Middle Tennessee.

“Nonprofits do life-changing work every day across Middle Tennessee, and it’s important we recognize the positive impact they have in our own backyards by supporting their efforts. It’s hard to imagine where we’d be without them and their work.”

Gifts to nonprofits from the public will be boosted with additional financial prizes from sponsors of the Big Payback, and an online leaderboard will track donations in real time.

Donors will be able to search and select organizations based on location and focus area, Donors also can support multiple nonprofits and make gifts of any size with ease, from $10 and higher.

The Community Foundation exists to promote and facilitate giving in the 40 counties of Middle Tennessee and beyond. It does this by accepting gifts of any size from anyone at any time and by empowering individuals, families, companies, nonprofits and communities to respond to needs and opportunities that matter. The Community Foundation works with people who have great hearts, regardless of whether they have great wealth, to craft solutions that reflect their intentions and goals. For more information, call 615-321-4939 or visit

‘A Grand Celebration’ planned for the fair

The Wilson County Fair Board selected “A Grand Celebration” as the theme for the 2019 Wilson County Fair, which will open Aug. 16 at 5 p.m. and continue through Aug. 24.

“Our theme focuses on the many milestone celebrations happening in our Wilson County community in 2019,” said Wilson County Fair Board president Randall Clemons.

Clemons said some of the milestones include Wilson County Promotions celebrating 40 years of producing the Wilson County Fair, the city of Lebanon celebrating 200 years and Wilson County celebrating 220 years. Several other businesses such as Cracker Barrel, Demos’, Wilson County Farmers’ Co-op and The Lebanon Democrat, to name a few, each celebrate significant milestones in 2019.

Each day of the fair will be a different celebration to create an overall grand celebration during the nine-day fair.

Agricultural fairs are a tradition in Tennessee. The Tennessee Department of Agriculture was formed in 1854 to promote agriculture through fairs and expositions and continues to support fairs held across the state. Nearly 3 million people visit Tennessee agricultural fairs each year.

As the largest county fair in Tennessee, the Wilson County Fair maintains a focus on fun, entertainment and agriculture experiences for all fairgoers. Clemons said the agriculture commodity focus for 2019 will be the “Year of Wool.” 

“Our fair’s roots and existence remain as an agriculture fair,” Clemons said. “Agriculture feeds us, clothes us and shelters us, and we use a different commodity each year to educate, as well as bring attention to, the importance of agriculture in all of our lives.”

There will be more than 150 events planned during the nine-day fair, and volunteers are making plans to tie the theme in to the many exhibits and competitions during the fair.   

The 2019 Wilson County Fair will again be presented by Middle Tennessee Ford Dealers. The cover of the 2019 Wilson County Fair premium catalog, which will be distributed in mid-July, encompasses both the theme and the agriculture commodity while depicting all aspects of fair events and activities.

Clemons said fair organizers plan for this year to be a great fair. There are lots of plans made to make coming to the fair “a great place for family fun and entertainment.”

“We want ewe at the 2019 Wilson County Fair, along with your family and friends,” Clemons said. “We’re working hard to make this year’s fair the best one ever.”

For more information about the fair, visit