Lorax coming to Washington County schools

XDr Seuss lorax bookBy MARINA WATERS

Staff Writer


“Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better. It’s not,” reads the children’s book “The Lorax” by Dr. Seuss.

The story, about a Dr. Seuss character who seems to be the only one concerned about the cutting down of the Truffula Trees, has projected the importance of protecting the environment for over 40 years. And now 582 copies will go home with all second grade students in the Washington County School System as part of Project Lorax.

Project Lorax’s mission is to encourage young readers, to celebrate Earth Day (on April 22) and to highlight the importance of environmental stewardship. The organization originally served the the Johnson City School System and now reaches to Washington County’s elementary Schools as well as Happy Valley Elementary in the Carter County School District. And to distribute the books, a storyteller will read the story at each school along with the Lorax himself.

Not only does the story provide a message about the environment, but this project could also be helpful in sparking an interest in reading in the county’s second graders. Washington County Director of Schools Kimber Halliburton said the district’s goal of lifting the third grade reading proficiency level from 55 percent to 75 percent is also on her radar in working with similar projects.

“(Increasing reading rates,) that’s definitely in our minds,” Halliburton said. “I think the more books you get into the homes of families that maybe can’t afford a huge library of children’s books, the better. Any organization that wants to donate books to our schools, we will take them.”

In improving the reading rate, projects such as Project Lorax can lend a helping hand, but the director also said the community could donate in a similar way—if only they take a second look at the books their children have outgrown.

“I remember when my children grew out of their primary storybooks, there were a few I held onto just for memory’s sake, but for the most part, what I did was I boxed them up and I took them down the street to my local elementary school, which happened to be the school that I was serving in as principal,” Halliburton said, laughing. “But what I think happens many times is that our community doesn’t think about the schools.

“So don’t box up these books and take them to the Goodwill. That’s great, but take them to a school, and we can divvy them out for free for our boys and girls or we can use them for our classroom library sets for teachers.”

To view the Project Lorax distribution schedule and to volunteer go to http://www.projectlorax.org/events. To contribute to the project visit https://secure.campaigncontributions.net/51830/Contribute-to-Project-Lorax.

Lessons from boot camp; local merchants lay groundwork for year of amazing growth




Jonesborough’s downtown merchants have survived boot camp.  And right now, they’re working hard to share all that they have learned.

“I look at things differently now,” said Corner Cup owner Debbie Kruse, who was one of the seven downtown store owners who recently returned from Destination Business Boot Camp, a two and a half day, intensive business-promotion training offered by nationally known consultant Jon Schallert at his base in Longmont, Colorado. “I think (everything we learned) can totally promote Jonesborough as a destination. Any business that really applies some of the things that we learned can only promote their business in a more favorable way.”

The idea to have Jonesborough merchants attend such a training got its start nearly five years ago, according to Main Street Director Melinda Copp, when Jonesborough was first dipping its toe into the water as a Main Street destination.

“Before we became designated as a Main Street community, we got invited to a community summit in Greeneville,” Copp explained. “Jon Schallert was one of the speakers there. He spoke for two hours. And after he got done, we all just looked at each other and said, ‘Wow, that was amazing.’”

Copp knew right then that Jonesborough needed this type of information to help its businesses grow into everything they could be.

A USDA rural development grant of $10,000 last spring suddenly brought her hope into the realm of possibility. The town researched several possible avenues to meet the criteria of the merchant consultant training grant, but none quite measured up to Schallert’s program.

But that program also had its own challenges.

“You have to go to him,” Copp explained. “He does not come to you.” And the grant would only pay consulting fees, not any travel expenses.

By tapping into Main Street Program reserves earmarked for such expenses, and through some help from the Jonesborough Merchants and Service Association, participating merchants would be offered $500 to offset their travel expenses.

The only thing left was to put out the word and see who responded.

“We sent out an email to all the downtown merchants,” Copp said. “Seven replied.”

Kruse was one of the first.

“I had no experience in marketing a new business,” said Kruse, whose business has been open just about a year. “I think what it did immediately for me is that everything he was saying, I was able to apply it to my situation. And I thought, ‘Oh, I can do that.’ ”

Other merchants who attended included Zac Jenkins with Main Street Cafe; Blake Yarbrough with the Eureka Inn; Janet Browning with Hands Around the World; Amber Hopson at Type A Design; Jeff Gurley with the Lollipop Shop; and Stephen Callahan at Tennessee Distillery.

“We went out there with a hope and a dream,” Copp said with a smile. “It started at 8 a.m. sharp every day. And we did breaks every hour and a half. After the first break, almost all of (the merchants) came to me and said, ‘He is awesome!’

“They have also all come back really motivated and really full of ideas.”

And ready to share.

As part of the Community Reinvention package they signed up for, Copp and fellow boot-camp survivors have been meeting with other downtown shops owners and managers to talk about what they have learned.

“There is so much to cover we’re really trying to pick out the meat,” Copp recently explained to a group of interested merchants at a meeting last Thursday.

And on April 11, area merchants will get the chance to hear the ideas from Schallert himself, as he comes to Jonesborough to check on their progress and present a seminar with more ideas on making Jonesborough businesses into consumer destinations.

“I think everybody was excited to hear what we brought back,” Kruse said. And now she can’t wait to see what happens to her Corner Cup, and those fellow businesses around her.

Gubernatorial candidate talks state goals in Jonesborough


Randy Boyd


Staff Writer


Knoxville businessman Randy Boyd made his way through Jonesborough’s Historic Courthouse on Monday, April 10. But he wasn’t just there to tour the downtown landmark after visiting a Washington County Republican Women’s lunch—he was also there to visit community members and speak on his latest goals as he runs for Governor of Tennessee.

The gubernatorial candidate, who was also a Tennessee Department of Economic Community Development Commissioner, has worked on education initiatives such as the Tennessee Promise that offers free tuition for Tennessee high school graduates for two years at any community or technical college in the state. Boyd was also part of the Drive to 55, the state initiative of getting 55 percent of Tennesseans equipped with a college degree or certificate by the year 2025. But for the Knoxville native, the work in bettering Tennessee education is just starting.

“We need to continue the Drive to 55. When I started it, we were at 32 percent, today we’re at 39 percent,” Boyd said. “We still have a long ways left to go, so as governor, that’s going to be my top priority to make sure that people get the skills they need to be able to meet the jobs of the future and the jobs of today.”

Those jobs are a part of Boyd’s three-pronged set of goals he is aiming to enact.

“If anybody really understands economic development, they realize educational attainment is workforce development which is economic development,” Boyd explained. “You can’t desegregate the three. So you’ve got to be able to invest in education. If you’re going to have the workforce you need, it’s going to attract the businesses you’ll want to have.”

Boyd is also wanting to get Tennessee in the top spot in the southeast for high-quality jobs. Tennessee is currently at No. 4. He is also focusing on reducing business taxes and rules and regulations for small businesses.

“I am a businessman and not a politician. I think one thing that will be different is I’m not going to define myself as being a great talker. I want to define myself as being a great listener. I’m going to work really hard to listen to the people across the state,” Boyd said. “In business you actually have very quantifiable, countable goals. I don’t believe in vague generalities. We’re gonna actually have very specific things we’re gonna get accomplished. We want to make Tennessee the state of opportunity.”

The state, which hit it’s all-time-high annual rate of deaths due to a drug overdose at 1,415 in 2015, is facing an opioid battle. Boyd sees this problem as a foundation which needs to be repaired before other goals can be met.

“Before we can be successful in any of those three objectives, we have to make sure we have a healthy population,” Boyd said. “One of the biggest threats today is the opioid epidemic. And in upper East Tennessee, it’s particularly acute. And we’ve got to find dramatic and urgent solutions to this crisis, Otherwise, we’re not going to be able to be successful in education or jobs or anything else we try to do.”

In gauging the needs of the state, the East Tennessee candidate said he’s looking at all areas of the Volunteer State.

“I think the things that are important for the entire state are also important for East Tennessee. When I look across East Tennessee, there are many places  that there’s not a good technical college closely. If you live in Johnson County, there’s not a technical college there. So we can tell them that it’s free, but we don’t give them a school to go to. So we’ve got to start making physical access as well as financial access possible.”

It’s these neighbors that Boyd is also wanting to aid; he was a part of TNECD’s initiative to provide grants to assist in improving economic indicators in Tennessee’s distressed counties. Now, he’s looking to continue that state-wide work.

“We’ve got to provide an opportunity for everyone. We’ve got too many of our counties that are struggling,” Boyd said. “Many of our counties are in what’s called the distressed category. Many of those are neighbors of Washington County. Johnson County, Hancock County, Cocke County are all distressed counties. Some of our others are on the bubble. So we’ve got to really double-down to make sure that our neighbors are doing well too.”

Commissioner wants to keep up the hard work


Richard Johnson


Staff Writer


Four candidates vying for the vacant Washington County Commission seat sat in the Jonesborough Justice Center during the commission’s meeting and night of election on Feb. 27. That’s when retired chancellor Richard Johnson won a title he knew held a lot of meaning.

“We had a lot of good candidates,” Johnson said. “I’m very fortunate under all circumstances of the competition to be here. And it says something for the seat that we had four people competing for it. So this seat must have some sort of special meaning.”

But it wasn’t just the position that caught the former judge and lawyer’s eye; Johnson was looking at the big picture and the direction in which the county’s governing body is headed.

“I see some great things happening in the county. We have, I think, one of the best commissions we’ve ever had, people who are genuinely interested and will dive deep into the subject, whatever it may be,” Johnson explained. “That was another reason I decided to run. I like the people. Plus I wanted to be a part of something that was enduring—that was big and enduring.”

Johnson was on the bench as a chancellor for the first district for over 20 years. He also served two terms on the Board of the Tennessee Trial Lawyers Association and was the president of the local Washington County Bar Association. He’s worked with groups such as the Chamber of Commerce, the United Way and the Johnson City Jaycees, but one of the accolades he said he is most proud of is writing the instructions for the Tennessee Human Rights Act.

“I think what my legal background has provided me is I think like a lawyer,” Johnson explained. “I can think analytically. And also, not as a lawyer but as a judge, I had the opportunity to come in contact with all kinds of different kinds of people. I think that has helped me a lot. I haven’t been within a segment or one group. My experience is more spread out over the population. Working with people. Trying to resolve differences.”

And now the newest Washington County Commissioner is ready to roll up his sleeves and involve himself with everything from committee work to studying up on the latest issues, including the water projects that are soon to break ground in the county.

“I was also astounded to find that we had very few water lines in the county. Obviously one runs to the industrial park and also into the commercial parks of Jonesborough, but out in the county, if we lay a line, we buy the water either from Kingsport or from Johnson City,” Johnson said. “I think providing water to those who want it and need it, that should be done. The only problem we have is, we have to have kind of a neighborhood. We can’t run a line 10 miles for one house. We have to have so many houses per mile for it to work. Right now we have three water projects going on. And we have the number of houses required.”

Education is also at the forefront for Johnson.

“The county has a lot going for it, particularly with education,” Johnson said. “I’ve found that our students in the county are doing exceptionally well on the ACT and we have many students who are ready for the advanced classes like what a magnet school would offer. The facilities part as well as the teaching part of education, I’m interested in. The better our students are prepared, if they stay here, the better off everybody will be and the better they will be.”

Johnson’s understands a school system’s effect on a student’s success; after two high school teachers suggested he look into becoming a lawyer following a debate Johnson particpated in—he saw the extent to which good, quality teachers can inspire and motivate students.

“This is kind of unbelievable. In the 9th grade I took a class on civics. The teacher’s name was Beatrice Haygood—I’ll never forget her. And Mrs. Haygood asked me to stay after class. And she said, ‘Richard you did a real good job. You ought to be a lawyer. And I want you to think about that.’ And I did.

“Those two teachers stayed after me through high school and even followed me in college to see if I was pursuing law. Of course I heard from both of them when I was in law school…So two public school teachers got my head turned in that direction and encouraged me and told me I could do it.”

A key tie-in to his interest in education is creating jobs and an area that will hold steady job opportunities for students coming out of the school.

“It’s my understanding that the student population, not only in Washington County but in Johnson City, is declining. Why? There’s an out migration of people that leave here when they get their education and go somewhere else. I just talked to a young lady who is getting ready to graduate from ETSU to be a CPA. I said, ‘Great, what firm are you going with in Johnson City?” And she said, ‘Oh I’m going to Nashville.’”

“So I think as we grow and as time goes along, we will have more to offer young people in the way of more jobs—more well-paying jobs. Which will make them want to stay here.”

There was a time that a young Johnson considered leaving the area, much like today’s graduates. After graduating from East Tennessee State University (where he studied economics and history) as well as law school at the University of Tennessee Knoxville, he considered becoming a labor lawyer and headed to Atlanta to interview with the National Labor Board.

“It took me an hour and a half to get out of Atlanta. And all the way home I thought about, ‘Do I want to be in a traffic jam the rest of my life?’ Labor lawyers have to go to big cities. And I guess you can take the boy out of the country but you can’t take the county out of the boy. So I came back home and decided to forget all the labor law. I didn’t want to be in a traffic jam the rest of my life.”

After coming back to Washington County, becoming a lawyer and later a judge in the state of Tennessee, Johnson is ready for his new role to better his community and home—and it’s a role he doesn’t take lightly.

“It’s a responsibility. It’s a responsibility,” Johnson said. “You want to leave it better than you found it. And I’m confident this commission, not just me, will leave it better than we found it.”

Commission votes against IMPROVE Act


Staff Writer


A resolution to increase gasoline and diesel taxes and to cut down the food tax failed at the Washington County Commission’s March 27 meeting in a 15 to 10 vote.

The IMPROVE act—which stands for Improving Manufacturing, Public Roads and Opportunities for a Vibrant Economy—is supported by Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam. The commission’s vote on the act is non-binding as the state is yet to hold a final vote on the bill that was created in interest of adding funds to Tennessee’s highways.

The resolution originally stated the gas tax would increase by 7 cents and diesel fuel by 12.  The state’s website also says the IMPROVE Act cuts the sales tax on groceries another .50 percent ($55 million) to 4.5 percent and would bring in $278 million in new dollars to fund 962 transportation projects across all 95 counties.

The state’s website includes other tax cuts too; it says the IMPROVE Act cuts business taxes for manufacturers as well as the Hall income tax (a tax on personal income). The act also places an annual $100 fee on electric vehicles and increases charges on vehicles using alternative fuels.

Commissioner Lee Chase proposed an amendment that included removing the figures from the resolution to allow possible changes in these tax numbers; the act has already switched to a 6-cent increase on gas tax and a 10-cent increase on diesel fuel tax.

“I think it is our obligation to support the highway system that this state and county is responsible for,” Chase said. “Obviously the resolution is not binding. I think most of you are perhaps aware that they (Tennessee Representatives) have publicly stated their position.”

The act has passed through the House’s Local Government Committee and must pass through two finance committees before seeing the full house for a final vote. For this reason, Commissioner Gary McAllister questioned if voting on the act was part of the the commission’s role.

“We’ve sent resolutions up to the state. We sat here for hours one night and debated whether or not we should send it to the state,” McAllister said. “I voted no then (on another resolution) because I didn’t think it was our role to do that.”

“I really don’t know if this is our role to send this forward to the state.”

Commissioner Lynn Hodge said he felt the commission’s vote could have an effect on the way in which the region’s state representatives might vote on the bill.

“If I were a representative in Nashville for this end of the state and I had an opportunity to hear from the people back home or this body or from the different county commissions throughout upper East Tennessee on an issue as hot as this one is, I think I would entertain that information,” Hodge said. “We don’t know how they’re going to vote but I think they would like to know how we stand.”

Meanwhile, Commissioner Paul Stanton said he didn’t have a feel for how his constituents felt about the act while Commissioner Steve Light said he had already heard from many who were opposed to the act.

Dan Eldridge said that because the act didn’t effect Basic Education Funding, it would not have an effect on school system funding.

Market in search of new vendors





Jonesborough’s Farmers Market is getting ready to celebrate its 10th season this year, but organizers are determined to invite a few more farmers to the party.

That’s why they’re getting the word out early that Farmers Market 2017 would love to welcome in some new vendors before this weekly downtown event opens on May 6.

“We really, really do want to continue to serve the farmer and to let people develop a relationship with that farmer,” explained Karen Childress, executive director of Jonesborough Locally Grown, the nonprofit umbrella over the market. “We also did a customer survey in February, and customers want more variety, but they mostly want more produce.”

So the call is going out.

Whatever the response from new farmers, Childress promises that this year’s market will once again offer the region’s finest, farm-direct, 100-percent locally grown produce, plants, meat, goat cheese, breads, eggs, honey, and much more —  and it will continue to offer favorite features like live music, activities for children and families, and breakfast at the market.

The market’s main criteria — held to firmly since its founding in 2008 — is that vendors are only permitted to sell items which they themselves produce.  No reselling is allowed, Childress said.

“It really is about having a relationship with your food supply,” she explained. 

Why is this important?  When you buy directly from the farmer, Childress said, you know you are getting the freshest produce and that farmer is getting the maximum return on his or her product.   

Now, after a decade of service, the market is hoping to bring some more growers into the fold.

“New people are starting to farm all the time,” she said. And spaces often open up naturally as producers move on.

This year the market has space for several additional food vendors, and is currently accepting applications. 

Producers may apply to sell on a daily basis for $10 per day, or for the full 24-week season a special $100 rate is available. 

The priority for the market is to add variety.  Organic or chemical-free produce, early and late-season produce is especially in demand, but all products will be considered.   

Farm visits are required for all vendors offered a space at the market.

Applications and more information are available at jlgvendorinfo.blogspot.com  Applications for season vendor spots will be taken through the month of March and decisions will be made at the end of the month.  Applications for weekly vendors may be filled out at any time and will be reviewed on a space-available basis.

For more information contact Erin Geibner at 423-753-4722 or a jbofarmers market@gmail.com

Daniel Boone remains “Boone Strong”



Staff Writer


“His life will affect so many others. And it already has,” Pastor Harold Morelock of Cornerstone Fellowship Church said after the passing of Daniel Boone High School sophomore, Justin Rose. “Out of this tragedy, there’s been a lot of good come out of it.”

Justin was involved in an automobile accident with two other Boone students and an agriculture teacher from Sullivan South. One student returned to school this week while the other will be out of school a bit longer due to her injuries from the wreck that occurred at the intersection of John France Road and Headtown Road in Jonesborough. Justin was the only fatality.

“We’ve actually experienced a wide range of emotions,” Daniel Boone principal Tim Campbell said. “It’s a scary time because we feel like they are our kids just like their parents do. It’s hard to have over 1,300 kids in your family, but that’s how we feel. When one of us hurts, regardless whether it’s a student or a teacher or a faculty member, we all hurt here.”

Campbell said the 1,300 students were silent as they filed into the Bobby Snyder Gymnasium at Boone for a student-led memorial on Friday Feb. 10, just two days after Justin passed away. But after the silence came action from the student body.

“After last Monday, they came in and the entire school was very quiet, still in that shock phase,” Campbell said. “We just kind of let them hurt and lean on each other. But by Tuesday, they showed just how strong they are. And they actually did all types of fundraisers—kids asking, ‘How can we help raise money for the family? What can we do? What can we send to the families?’ It was very, very impressive that our kids’ focus is not on themselves and how bad they feel, but it’s on the three students and their families.”

Justin-Rose-cattleStudents and many in the community have all rallied together to create t-shirts, decals and ribbons to honor Justin and to raise money for his family’s expenses. When the community came together to remember Justin, who was a member of Future Farmers of America and is described by Campbell and Morelock by his contagious smile and his appreciation of the country life, Boone also took the time to remember Kaylee Rabun, the volleyball player who lost her life in a car accident in September 2016.

As Boone students don these ribbons with green for Justin and purple for Rabun, Campbell said the school is still healing from their losses. But they’re also taking up their self-dubbed slogan, “Boone Strong”.

“I guess it’s exactly like losing a family member,” Campbell explained. “For myself and some of the adults, it’s like losing two children. For the students, it’s been like losing a sister in the fall and a brother in the spring. We hurt, but we made the hashtag ‘Boone Strong’. And this has really brought out the strength in numbers. It’s caused each of us I think to look at ourselves again and to look at how we treat each other and how we can support each other. There’s still a sadness here and I think there will be for quite some time, just like there was with Kaylee.”

The lives of Justin and Kaylee didn’t just enhance the popularity of the colors green and purple though; the two Boone students have also bridged a gap between different spectrums of the student body.

“Kaylee was an athlete, Justin was more of the FFA side,” Campbell said. “Kaylee was more the academic side, Justin was more of the after-school activities, work-with-his-cattle and farm type. Justin’s saying was ‘cowboy up’. So it’s really two different segments of our school population. But you can see how these accidents have brought all of our kids together. Because in both of the memorials that we had for each one of them, it’s amazing to see 1,300 kids come in the gym and be silent and reverent knowing that their loved one is passed

“We feel fortunate in that we had each of them here for the time that we shared with them. I guess it just makes you realize how precious life is.”

For members of the community like Pastor Morelock, who led the prayer vigil on the night Justin passed away, it’s Boone’s strength through these two losses that impresses them the most.

“They’ve been through it. They know what they have to do to get through it. And they’re strong enough to do it with the Lord’s help,” Morelock said. “They know who to rely on. Just seeing those kids in the middle of that floor on their knees praying just shows the strength that school has. It’s just amazing to see in young children the amount of faith they’ve got and the strength that they have. Will it be a hard time? Absolutely, but they’ll have the spirit to get through it.”

Silence filled the halls and the gym throughout the days after Justin’s passing, but now Campbell is seeing more than just fundraisers and unity from Daniel Boone High School—he’s seeing a more thoughtful student body than anyone might have expected.

“It seems to me that each person is trying to be a little better, to treat others with a little more respect and to value life,” Campbell said. “I’m always the one telling the students to be careful and to have a good weekend. I’ve had students come to me this past week as they go home headed to the buses or to their cars and they’ve stopped and said, ‘Be careful’ to me.

“You know that the message that each person here is valuable to someone else has reached them. We’ll try to heal together. It’ll be a pain here—we’ll miss Justin for a long time—but again, if we lean on each other, we can make it through this. It won’t be a pleasant experience, but we can.”

Donations are being accepted for the Rose family through the Daniel Boone FFA alumni group. T-shirts are also available on the Daniel Boone homepage at http://www.wcde.org/education/components/layout/default.php?sectionid=11

Town votes to nix fluoride




Jonesborough’s Board of Mayor and Alderman voted to discontinue the addition of fluoride to the town’s water supply after a lengthy Feb. 13 meeting that had speakers weighing both the pro’s and con’s.

“We had a public hearing last year,” Mayor Kelly Wolfe reminded the packed boardroom Monday night. “We have taken a very deliberative pause in this discussion to give our board a chance to talk to folks, to think about all the information we were given and to just really kind of stew on things so we wouldn’t make a hasty decision.”

The board also brought in two local spokesmen — Jonesborough dentist Dr. Allen Burleson and town resident and East Tennessee State University professor Dr. Jay Jarmin — to address both sides of the issue one last time.

In the end, however, the board made their decision, voting 3-1 in favor of discontinuing fluoride treatment in Jonesborough’s water, with Alderman Terry Countermine voting against the measure.

“I believe (fluoride) is one of the best efforts to help those who cannot help themselves,” Countermine said.

The issue, to add fluoride or not to add fluoride, has been a hot topic among board members and town residents alike since it came before the board in early 2016, with one town survey showing residents split down the middle as to the benefits of fluoride in drinking water.

“I’ve probably spent more time on  this issue than any issue in my past 16 years on the board,” Countermine said.

Key points revolved around the importance of fluoride to prevent tooth decay; the benefits of topical fluoride treatment vs. ingesting fluoride; and the possible impact on lower income families in the region.

“We want to do the right thing,” said Burleson, who spoke on behalf of keeping fluoride in Jonesborough’s drinking water. “My concern is the underserved and  the vulnerable.”

Burleson cited peer review studies indicating fluoride was key in battling tooth decay and that adding fluoride to water was the most affective way to ensure it reached all residents, irrespective of their income.

Jarmin, who spoke on behalf of discontinuing fluoride in water, said he was also concerned about the health and well being of the community.

But, “fluoride delivered in the public water supply is not the most affective way to provide fluoride and by doing so it causes more problems than it solves.”

He cited a lack of studies showing any benefit from ingesting fluoride and instead listed studies that indicate certain risks, including the possibility of impairing glucose tolerance, damaging kidney function and links to thyroid and endocrine disease.

Jamin also challenged the claim that fluoride is naturally occurring substance found in water anyway.

“That is calcium fluoride,” he said. “That’s not the same fluoride that is added to our water, which can be fluorosilicic acid and fluorosilicate.” And they hold, he said, a completely different chemical equation.

Jarman’s argument, and those like it, left an impact with several board members.

“This is one of those decisions you take seriously,” Alderman Chuck Vest said. “My biggest concern is the impact on the elderly class.”

Vest believes there is a vulnerability for older community members that should not be forgotten. And numerous reports indicating fluoride should not be ingested brought him to his vote to discontinue town fluoride treatment.

Alderman David Sell agreed.

“There is a lot of arguments on both sides,” Sell said. “I hate that we are in this position.”

But what it comes down to, he said, is “we’re medicating the water. And to me, that’s above my pay grade.”

Wolfe also voiced concerns about the changing science that has dramatically changed optimal levels for the substance, nearly reducing the recommended amount by half.

“We are layman here,” Wolfe said. “We’re not health professionals. But we are representatives of this community.”

Wolfe, along with Alderman Jerome Fitzgerald and Countermine, strongly advocated taking the approximately $12,000 that would be saved and instead channeling it into a school and community program to ensure underserved water customers would have better access to topical fluoride treatments such as rinses.

And Vest added that language to his motion to discontinue fluoride.

Wolfe said he had already been in touch with Director of Schools Kimber Halliburton with the idea of partnering in such a project.

For Countermine, who expressed disappointment at the vote, this final proposal to provide additional support to the community so no one “falls through the cracks” is crucial to ensuring the board and the town continue to take care of its community.

Crockett set to host high school readiness event

David Crockett High School will host its annual High School Readiness Event on Tuesday, March 7, from 6-8 pm. The event will help incoming freshmen and their parents gain valuable information to be prepared for a successful high school experience. There will be a presentation from counselors and other school leaders about graduation requirements and future planning and an Involvement Fair. The Involvement Fair is a time for students and parents to meet elective teachers, club sponsors and coaches to learn about ways to get involved in the Crockett community. The Involvement Fair is also open to current ninth graders and their families to revisit.

County set to receive health grant


Staff Writer


The Washington County Health Department presented their 2017 initiatives to the Health Education and Welfare committee—including a grant that could help Washington County implement a project to promote physical activity.

The committee approved the motion to move forward with the $10,000 Rural Access to Health and Healthy Active Built Environments grant opportunity. Each of Tennessee’s 89 counties will receive the grant which is designed to improve health outcomes by enhancing access to physical activity through bicycle, pedestrian, greenway and park plans.

At the committee’s Feb. 2 meeting, Washington County Mayor Dan Eldridge suggested splitting the money into mini-grants for ball fields throughout the county, but Washington County Health Department director Christen Minnick said the suggestion was discouraged.

The plan is supposed to be decided upon by Feb. 28 and put into action by June 30 of this year. However, Minnick said the funds can carry over into the next fiscal year. Minnick also presented the health department’s micro-clinic program that was approved by the committee to be sent to the county attorney for review.

The Tennessee Department of Health’s 16-week, micro-clinic program designed to promote health within the community includes classes with topics such as healthy eating, physical activity, spiritual health and how to quit smoking. Minnick said the classes are also hands-on with activities such as going to the grocery store to pick healthy items. The program is free and open to all ages within the community.

“This actually started in a county in Kentucky and it was very successful there,” Minnick said. “They’ve seen a lot of health improvement in their county with that. That’s why BlueCross BlueShield in Tennessee sort of adopted this model as well and they’re trying to push it out through the health departments.”

Health wasn’t the only topic discussed at the committee’s meeting; Director of Secondary Education for Washington County William Flanary presented an ACT testing event for Washington County. A motion was approved to transfer $8,000 from the previously appropriated Washington County Cannery fund to this initiative.

Washington County and Johnson City are required to issue the ACT college readiness test to at least 200 students, so $8,000 would more than meet that number. Flanary said the test is free to any student. He also said any student that gets a platinum, gold or silver level will get to go to a pizza party.

“That’s going to get the county and the city students tested,” Eldridge said. “To get the program kicked off and get our students on the road to earning this credential, this is a really big deal for us.”

Sweet syrup returns to Tipton-Haynes




Associate Editor


Maple syrup making with a pancake breakfast is scheduled for Saturday, Feb. 18, sponsored by the Tipton–Haynes Historical Association. The event is scheduled from 8 a.m. until 3 p.m. on the Tipton-Haynes Historic Site at 2620 South Roan Street in Johnson City.

Visitors will be able to help gather sap flowing from trees on the property and then can watch it being boiled down to sweet maple syrup. The syrup will be cooked down all day.  Breakfast is $1 extra.

Fifteen area school groups and aftercare organizations visited the site for a day of educational instruction and fun in 2016. The Summers Past History Program celebrated its 32nd year with more than 30 campers attending three sessions.

The site also hosted several outside sponsored events conducted by the Watauga Historical Association, Daughters of the American Revolution and the Tipton Family Association of America.

The historic site consists of 47 acres and includes 11 buildings, a cemetery, museum, education center, prehistoric cave and a wooded area.

Half of the funds used to support the site come from financing provided by the State of Tennessee.

Activities planned for 2017 at Tipton Haynes include a Civil War Encampment on March 18-19; Springtime in Haynesville on May 6 -7; the Summers Past History Program from June 12 through June 30; a Sorghum Festival on September 16; Stories from the Pumpkin Patch on October 14; and Visions of Christmas: 1862 on December 2.

The Civil War Encampment includes preparations for a battle plus the battle performed by reenactors.  Events in the life of Confederate Senator Landon Carter Haynes and a tour of his home will be featured during Springtime in Haynesville.

The Summer Past History Program for individuals six through 15 years of age is divided into three week learning sessions. 

The first week is Native American History, the second week is Revolutionary War History and the third week is about Civil War History. 

Sessions run from 9 a.m. until 2 p.m. on Monday through Friday.  There are fees for those participating in the programs.

Visitors will watch mules turning the mill to make sorghum during the Sorghum Making Festival. 

The process of cooking the juices and other step by step processes in making sorghum will be shown.  The Stories from the Pumpkin Patch features an evening event with fun crafts and storytelling.  Participants can also roast a hot dog over an open fire for a dollar extra as they listen to Spooky Stories.

The Visions of Christmas: 1862 is a rendition of life at the Haynes family during the Civil War. 

The day illustrates occurrences in preparation for Christmas and Landon Carter Haynes’ birthday.  Holiday treats will be cooked on the open hearth at a cabin on the property. 

Reservations for tours of the property are suggested on this date.

Admission to the Tipton-Haynes Historic Site is free for members of the association. 

Otherwise, adult admission is $5 per adult, $2.50 for children 12 and under and free for infants less than three years of age. 

Fees for joining the Tipton-Haynes Historical Association are $20 for students; $25 for individuals and $35 for families.

Additional information about these events or membership can be obtained by contacting Tipton-Haynes at 423-926-3631. 

Nurse position to undergo a change at Jonesborough Senior Center




Nursing care at the Jonesborough Senior Center is about to expand.

Currently, the center offers a rotating visiting nurse every Tuesday between the hours of 9 to 11 a.m. for blood pressure checks, blood sugar checks and other basic services.

But thanks to an agreement between Mountain States Health Alliance and the town, which was approved by the Board of Mayor and Alderman at its January meeting, that visiting nurse is soon to become more of a part of the Senior Center team.

“It has been a worthy service,” said Senior Center Director Mary Sanger of the current Wellness Clinic program. “It’s just time to move to the next level.”

That level will be to offer the services of one nurse  provided by MSHA through its “Faith Community Nurse Program,” eight hours a week to offer a more consistent level of care and a greater knowledge for the center’s senior members.

”This person will be more like a staff member,” Sanger said. “They will be able to build more of a rapport with the patients.”

In addition, she said, a regular nurse will be more likely to spot health changes and help seniors address them more quickly and more effectively.

According to Town Administrator Bob Browning, the arrangement seems like the perfect solution as the center moves to expand its Wellness Clinic offerings.

As part of the program, MSHA will incur half the expense for the new nurse and will advertise for the position, Sanger said. The center director will also be able to play a part in the interviewing process, so as to ensure a better fit for the center’s new nurse.

All of this fits well with the Senior Center’s wellness focus — a key component from the moment the doors opened in 2015.

With an expansion of the nurse’s role and presence at the center, Sanger said “our members can develop comfort level. They can get to know the nurse and the nurse can get to know them,”

And that, she believes, will continue to enhance the health and well-being of all of their members.

Boone student works outside the box for big scholarship win



Staff Writer


Just a few months ago, Daniel Boone High School senior Connor Wilson informed Duke University—his dream school—that he wouldn’t be interviewing for their college program.

Now, he’s ready to continue chasing the premed dream he’s had since he was a kid.

Wilson has been awarded a QuestBridge Scholarship worth over $200,000. The scholarship is designed as a way for lower-income students in rural areas to attend the nation’s top schools. QuestBridge is partnered with schools like Yale, Princeton, Vanderbilt, Dartmouth and Columbia University to allow students who are academically eligible to pursue their college dreams though they might not have the funds to do so otherwise.

Wilson will be attending Colby College in Waterville, Maine in the fall of 2017. Though it’s not the school he always pictured for himself, it’s a dream come true for the Boone student.

“I’ve always known I wanted to go somewhere big, go somewhere I feel like I’d have the best chance at,” Wilson said. “My sister was always super focused on her education and she always wanted to go big. I was like, ‘I really wanna go somewhere that I’m extremely proud of.’ When I looked at QuestBridge, all the schools were somewhere I was like, ‘I could see myself going here.’ It’s what I wanted since I was a kid.”

Wilson said he concentrated on his academics and community service to land a spot at an elite school. Activities like academic clubs, the soccer team and outside community service have kept Wilson busy. And his former AP chemistry and physics teacher Mike Taylor said Wilson’s well-roundedness also played a large role in his college search.

“I don’t want to say he was a model student because those aren’t really as well-rounded as he,” Taylor said. “And I know that the colleges and the QuestBridge people would rather see someone who is more well-rounded than someone who is so focused on studies; they don’t do anything else around the world. He is so involved that for him to do what he did in my class is wonderful.”

Before Wilson involved himself in his community, his mother Sarah recalled the moment she felt her son was meant for something big.

“I saw something at a very young age,” Wilson’s mother said. “I told him to go hang up his jacket. He couldn’t have reached that jacket. There’s no way he could have reached to hang his jacket up, but I just wasn’t thinking. Next thing I know, I hear this noise … He had gotten into his daddy’s tool box and he had gotten a hook and somehow had put this through a door where the key is. He figured out how to be able to make this concoction so he could hang up his jacket. He was a problem solver. And of course I totally knew it was my fault. I told this child to do this and he totally ruined the door, but he just saw things outside of the box.”

Now the high school senior hopes to solve some of the world’s problems; Wilson plans to double-major in neuroscience and Spanish. Pediatric neurosurgery is his main goal, but he has known since his grandfather was diagnosed with leukemia that he wanted to pursue a future in the medical field.

“I want to do research. That’s one of the reasons I decided to go into neuro,” Wilson explained. “You can’t really research a whole lot on the heart because we’ve got the heart pretty figured out, but we know hardly anything about the brain. There’s so much more that we can do to figure that out. I’d like to do research because impacting one life is huge; impacting thousands or millions of lives through research is a totally different scale. I’d love to be able to contribute.”

Along with his academic goals, the incoming college freshman also wants to aid those without proper medical care.

“I went actually on a mission trip in Nicaragua so I saw the health disparity there,” Wilson said. “These people, they live on matted dirt. So I definitely want to do something to use medicine. Go and help people outside of the country—those are future goals.”

In order to consider his future in such a large frame of mine, Wilson said he felt he had to think bigger than most high school students.

“Most people around this area, they don’t really go out and push the boundaries of what you can do educationally or even athletically,” Wilson said. “They kind of go for the norm. Coach Taylor for me was the teacher that was like, ‘Hey, you don’t have to be normal’. He was the guy that was like, ‘You can do better things than most people do.’”

When asked what he would tell other students aiming to attend an elite college, Wilson relayed similar advice to what he received from Taylor.

“You can do it is the main thing,” Wilson explained. “It’s totally possible. Don’t let people really tell you that ‘Yeah you can shoot, but you’ll probably just go to some other lower place.’ You can do it. It’s possible. All you have to do is put in the effort if you want it bad enough.”

He may be heading 18 hours from Northeast Tennessee to Colby College, but his mother, who is a fourth-grade teacher at Ridgeview Elementary School said she is proud her son is a product of Washington County schools. And now more than ever, she believes she was right all those years ago when she saw a big future for her son.

“(A small future) That’s not what he was made for. And to get a scholarship, period is awesome. But to get it based on merit and academics, as a teacher, I was so extremely proud,” Wilson’s mother said. “But I also expected it from him. I expected it. He wasn’t made—I’ve told him since he was little, he’s like David in the Bible. You weren’t made for small things. You’re not capable of small things. Go big or go home.”

Player of the week

macie 1-25

Congratulations to Daniel Boone High School’s Macie Culbertson on earning the spot as this week’s player of the week. Macie has led the Lady Trailblazers to their the top of the Big Seven Conference list. Look for next week’s winner in the following edition of the Herald & Tribune.

County Commission locks down school projects


Staff Writer


Part of the Washington Way dream has been made official.

The Washington County Commission passed three top priorities from the Board of Education’s Washington Way plan Monday night. The resolutions amending the budget for 2016-2017 included a purchase agreement for the 15-acre site of a new Jonesborough K-8 school, the initial design and engineering of the new Jonesborough school, and the project management fee for the new Boones Creek K-8 project.

The proposed cost for the new Boones Creek school is around $26.8 million while the Jonesborough and academic magnet school are estimated at $20.8 million. And as talk of a sports complex as part of the Washington Way school projects was weighed, Chairman Greg Matherly brought the 40-percent tax increase that was levied in Washington County last year onto the table.

“I supported  that 40-cent vote and I told my constituents that’s what we were gonna have,” Matherly said. “I made a commitment to them. And I’m gonna hold you accountable for every commitment I make. And this commission I hope holds every one of us accountable for this money. I voted for the schools and I still have a list of what I voted for—what we all voted for. And that’s what I’m gonna make sure happens.”

When that 40-cent increase was voted upon, 14 cents was set aside for the Boones Creek school while five cents was set aside for the Jonesborough school. Commissioner Bryan Davenport thought back on the tax increase as well, but spoke in favor of putting a financial cap on the projects.

“I voted for the same things (as Matherly),” Davenport said. “We need to make a commitment, but I think it’s okay to adjust the plan as long as we’re not exceeding what we said we were going to spend.”

The commission also discussed who would operate the sports complex—the schools or a body like parks and recreation? Davenport spoke on the possibility of coming together with the complex.

“I also think this (sports complex) is a great opportunity. How many times have we heard the word ‘collaboration?’” Davenport asked. “This is another way of doing it with the county and city. The two governments come in together and work something out that will be beneficial to everyone. Boones Creek deserves to have a new school and they deserve to have that kind of complex. I think this is a good way of doing that.”

Among talk of pennies and ball fields, Commissioner Todd Hensley offered a perspective on the commission’s decisions in past and present meetings regarding school projects.

“Something that also changed between the time the original plan was put together that all came before us and we all voted on was we got a new director of schools,” Hensley said. “So all we’ve done here is adjust our mechanism of funding to meet the vision that she and her board has. We’re not changing the dollars and we’re not giving up anything. In fact we’re gaining a third school, a magnet school.”

State Library & Archives steps in after the fire


When Sarah Jo Myrick and her husband Robert evacuated their Gatlinburg home ahead of the fast-approaching wildfire in late November, they were rightly more concerned about their safety than their possessions.

“We didn’t take anything with us,” Sarah Jo Myrick said. “We just got out of the house.”

When they returned to their home of almost 47 years, almost nothing was salvageable.

The couple had kept their important documents stored in a fireproof cabinet, but the cabinet was broken when it fell from an upper floor to a lower one as fire spread through the house. The Myricks are in the process of rebuilding and replacing what they lost in the fire, with some assistance from the Tennessee State Library and Archives and other agencies that keep copies of records.

The Myricks were one of several families victimized by the Gatlinburg fire who asked the Library and Archives to help them find copies of their marriage certificates.

“We’re very thankful to the Library and Archives for providing copies of those records for us,” Sarah Jo Myrick said.

While the Gatlinburg fire was an unusual and tragic situation, the Library and Archives provides replacements for vital records to citizens on an almost daily basis.

“Most Tennesseans don’t realize that the Library and Archives can provide them with copies of older birth certificates, marriage certificates and, in the case of deceased loved ones, death certificates,” Secretary of State Tre Hargett said. “These records are kept by other agencies until they are at least 50 years old, then the records are transferred to us. When fire or other tragedies strike, people often need copies of those types of records in order to get on with their lives. Providing those records is a service we offer that people don’t know they need until they really need it.”

The Library and Archives stores preservation copies of records for the local courthouses in Tennessee’s 95 counties. If records in the county archives are damaged or destroyed, they can be replaced with those copies. The Library and Archives was able to provide invaluable help, for example, after the Van Buren County Archives burned two years ago this month, destroying the property deed records for the entire county.

“Sometimes people think of the Library and Archives primarily as a place to go if you’re conducting historical research of some sort,” State Librarian and Archivist Chuck Sherrill said. “And that is certainly an important role that the Library and Archives plays. However, we also provide these vital records that people need in their everyday lives. That’s what we really want people to understand – that we’re here to serve all Tennesseans, not just those with specialized interests.”

Teacher taps gardening to win grant


Staff Writer


South Central Elementary School’s kindergarten teacher Jill Leonard may be purchasing Chromebooks with the Quality Educational Support for Tomorrow grant she was awarded, but she’s also implementing one of the world’s oldest and most well-known practices—gardening.

Leonard is one of six teachers in Washington County to receive part of the $17,927 QUEST grant. The grant offers funds for educational projects and items the school system might not have readily available. Now Leonard will use her $2,776.60 to buy five Chromebooks and  landscaping materials for her “Learning by Growing in Our Kinder-‘garden’” project.

“For many years I have had the idea to secure funding for a gardening project,” Leonard said. “I love to do gardening projects with my students and wanted to help them learn on a larger scale than just planting in containers inside the class.”

Leonard said the Chromebooks will be used to explore kid-friendly websites and apps in order for the students to design their gardening project. However, for Leonard and her students, the project also has a larger importance.

“This project is important because it can offer students in a high poverty school the opportunity for learning about material that can help them in their future,” Leonard explained.

“By learning more about gardening and plant life cycles they can understand this information as a future career endeavor and they can also use the information to help provide food for their families by growing gardens at home.”

Not only does Leonard hope the project has a positive effect on her students, but she also wants to grow her project into the community just like the seeds that will soon be planted at South Central Elementary School.

“Students are always so excited when we work on the plant life cycle and the more opportunities that I can provide for them to use all their senses within the lessons, the more knowledge and understanding they will have the opportunity to gain,” Leonard said.

“My hope is that we can partner with DCHS Ag Department and other interested gardeners or business partners to grow this into a community outreach program and expand this for an opportunity for other classes to use this garden space as a learning tool too.”

Once the kindergarten teacher realized her planting provisions were secured, the celebration began for her—and her students.

“I was actually pumping my arms and cheering in my classroom alone! Then I went into the hall to find someone to celebrate with,” Leonard said. “The day I left school for the awarding, I told my students where I was going. They began to jump and cheer when I told them we had won some money to make a garden outside in our science space.”

“Then I told them how much we won and they were all saying ‘Oh my gosh!’ and hugging each other. It was great and I wish now that I had videoed them. It was priceless!”

County discusses water woes


Staff Writer


It may be a new year, but the Commercial, Industrial and Agricultural Committee is still discussing the water projects that would aid homes with no or contaminated water on four roads in Washington County.

During the Jan. 5 meeting, county commissioner and CIA Committee chairman Todd Hensley made a motion to bring the project to the full commission in order to request funding. Hensley said the projects could serve between 12 and 14 families. He also said many of the families had no water this summer or only had contaminated water.

To aid the project, Hensley is looking to the funds from the recent tax increase.

“Right now, we’ve raised everybody’s taxes 40 cents and so far, we’ve not done much,” Hensley said. “That’s not entirely our fault, but the perception is that we’re sitting here on this cash fund that’s not going anywhere.”

The commission had tabled the discussion for a survey that is still being conducted to see if the areas qualify for low-to-moderate income grant money.

However, commissioner Mitch Meredith was concerned with precedence which he said had been mentioned during their last discussion on the topic.

“If we proceed in those specific projects, we set a precedent that is going to be very tough for future commissions,” Meredith said. “If your goal is to earmark money, I think you could approve whatever that number is for projects to be determined.”

The committee also discussed reimbursement; if they go forward with the project before the survey is finished, they could be reimbursed should grant money become available from the conducted survey.

With the amendment to request the option of reimbursement should grant money be offered for the project, the resolution will go to the budget committee for a recommendation before seeing the full commission.

Firefighters eye adding new positions in county


Staff Writer


Public Safety officials are hoping to add new positions in Washington County.

During the Public Safety Committee meeting on Thursday Jan. 5, Fall Branch Volunteer Fire Department Chief Jim Dawson said information about possibly adding full-time firefighting positions in Washington County will soon be forthcoming.

The positions are something county commissioner Pat Wolfe said is a need for the county—and has been for years.

“We’ve always needed people during the daytime at these fire stations. Those volunteers just fill so many spots,” Wolfe said. “It’s something that like I said, has been looked at I know firsthand since ’98. And it all boils down as much as anything to money. Also, we’ve never had a real good suggestion as to who’s gonna be in charge.”

However, EMS could play a part in these new roles; Dawson also said during the meeting that EMS could possibly be involved in administering the new positions as well as placing some of their personnel into the new positions.

“To have two (full-time firefighters) there (at each fire station) that you know are going to be there if you have a fire you can call and get a truck there on the move—it’s got a lot of possibilities if EMS can help out,” Wolfe said.

Wolfe also said the discussion is only in the preliminary stages, but that the conversation which will also concern funding the positions will continue.

“You’re not just talking about a salary; you’d be talking about benefits also,” Wolfe said. “It’s going to be a pretty big load of hay as far as trying to fund it, but at least it’s a starting point that we’re going to be looking at.”

The main concern among public safety officials is staffing during the day time. Though volunteer firefighters aid the community, Assistant Chief at Sulphur Springs Volunteer Fire Department Bruce Brocklebank expressed his concern for protecting the area while volunteers aren’t available.

“It’s going to be an uphill battle, but we need to get our communities protected especially during the daytime,” Brocklebank said. “That’s going to be the thing, is during the daytime when 90 percent of our volunteer members who receive nothing are at work.”

Though more information will be coming, the public safety committee also discussed adding a full-time cook position at the Washington County Detention Center. County commissioner and detention center head cook Mike Ford said they made over 62,000 meals last month. The motion was passed.