Artist creates beauty in glass



The rhythmic ping of a shard of glass ever so delicately placed on a swirl of green and blue that will soon be fired anywhere between 1,099 °F to 1,501 °F ending with a result of a fluted vase, a 4-piece plate, or a coaster is sure to complement any coffee table. This is how Karen Hitchcock, a seasoned glass fusion artist and McKinney Center teacher, spends many of her days.

As Hitchcock lays a sheet of glass beneath a blade to begin the glass fusion process, she tells how her life as an artist and instructor unraveled. Hitchcock comes from a long line of artists, she grew up in New York with parents who worked at the Corning Glass Center and a sister who was an accomplished potter. A young Hitchcock reminisces on visiting the Corning Glass Center for school trips, recalling that as the instant when her love for art first blossomed.

As her eyes are fixed on the minuscule glass piece in-between the tweezers she is carefully holding, she points with her other hand to a small kiln in the corner of her studio. “I’ve had that one since the beginning” Hitchcock says, alluding to a story waiting to be told through a simple object. Hitchcock once owned her own business as a custom picture framer until her husband bought her that small kiln, she then sold her business and got into glass.


When Hitchcock is asked to dot the moment in the time line of her life when she decided glass fusion was her true passion she would say, “When I began teaching at Rochester Arc and Flame.” Those students and experiences provided her with life-lasting inspiration that delivers her daily motivation.

One of the things that drew Hitchcock to Tennessee would be the lower cost of living and one of the cleanest lake in the world, Watauga Lake. However, one of the things that keeps her in Tennessee is the McKinney Center in Jonesborough.

Hitchcock’s first experience with the McKinney Center demonstrates the friendly and welcoming nature that is typical of Jonesborough. Hitchcock happened upon the Art Glass gallery on Main Street, amidst searching for a piece for her kiln. There she met Steve Cook who pointed her in the direction of the McKinney Center, but not without displaying true southern hospitality. Cook first took her to Earth and Sky so she could experience their delightful chocolate masterpieces.

When Hitchcock walked into the McKinney Center she ran into Pam Daniels, Special Programs Coordinator. Hitchcock explained what she was searching for and Daniels knew just where to get it.

Daniels offered to pick up the piece for Hitchcock, considering she was heading to the kiln parts store, but in the meantime Daniels offered to take that piece off of her kiln for Hitchcock to use until she could get the new one. Hitchcock was blown away by the kindness from Daniels, “I was like Wow! I’m not used to that. Up in New York it’s not really like that.”

That simple encounter snowballed into Hitchcock being part of Fine Art in the Park, a fine art show the McKinney Center holds annually, and then becoming one of their art teachers.

You can find Hitchcock at the McKinney Center working with glass while sharing that passion with her students.

Be a part of Karen Hitchcock’s story by joining in on one of the Glass Fusion Workshops she will be teaching at the McKinney Center Feb. 17, March 6 and April 4. For more information contact Theresa Hammons, McKinney center Director, at or call 423-753-0562.

New grant one more part of Jackson puzzle




A recent tourism enhancement grant, announced last week from the State of Tennessee, has put Jonesborough’s Jackson Theatre one step closer to opening night.

But it is also a clear validation of a project, town officials say, they have long believed will provide a badly needed boon to an historic downtown.

“The Jackson Theatre project can and will be transformational for Jonesborough,” Mayor Kelly Wolfe said after receiving word about the grant. “You look at the impact that the creation of the historic district made back in the early ‘70s. That forever has shaped the identity and trajectory of our town.

“Storytelling was another transformation phase.

“Now, the Jackson Theatre is a genuine article and a part of our history that will generate interest in people not just from the area, but from around the region.”

And that interest means more revenue for the town, local businesses and the region – enough revenue to catch the interest of the state.

“This grant is another recognition by the State of Tennessee that what we’re doing is worthy of investment,” Wolfe said.

The grant was awarded to the town specifically for its Jackson Theatre Project in the amount of $50,000 through the Rural Economic Opportunity Act, an act designed to help rural communities improve assets that will aide in the economic impact of tourism in an area.

The $50,000 will be added to such recent funds as a recent $200,000 donation from local arts philanthropist Sonia King for Jackson Theatre staff and facade work and an additional donation of $300,000 from King along with $200,000 from Wolfe and his wife, Jennifer, toward the purchase price of the Dr. Charles Allen building located next to the Jackson Theatre Building that will become part of the project.

Jonesborough was among 29 Tennessee communities that will each receive a share of more than $1 million in grant money. Nearby Carter County was also a recipient.

The theatre project in Jonesborough, a longtime dream of town officials and residents, includes the restoration and renovation of the Jackson Theatre on Main Street, as well as its expansion to include the Jonesborough Repertory Theatre – all to create a state-of-the-art, yet highly Jonesborough-appropriate theater complex.

“We have advertised this thing as a potential triple threat,” Wolfe said, adding that the complex would include live theatre, music and film.

More importantly, however, according to town officials, it would bring in the people needed to produce a healthy tourism revenue.

“The Jackson Theatre Project, as we have said all along, is a program to generate a customer base after 6 p.m.,” explained Town Administrator Bob Browning.

Statistics have shown, he said, that 80-85 percent of tourism dollars are collected after 6 p.m. Yet in a town the size of Jonesborough, keeping stores and restaurants open after 5 or so can be a challenge without the guarantee of more customers And without a number of shops staying open, he said,  customers tend to stay away.

“It’s a chicken and egg kind of thing,” Browning said of the dilemma of what to tackle first.

For Jonesborough, one solution is to provide something that will draw customers to Jonesborough at night.

“We’re looking at least 300 days a year of activity for our town,” Wolfe said of the anticipated Jackson Theatre schedule. “And that benefits every part of town.”

The $50,000 will help ensure needed renovations on the theatre’s important third floor of once unused space, which will now include a rehearsal and educational room, a costume storage area and prop space.

“There is a lot of initial work to be done,” Browning said.

Currently, the town is looking at a late 2018 opening date for its new Jackson Theatre, with work set to begin this summer.


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.”

Sensabaugh walks a new path



Staff Writer

It took him a second to remember the quickest way to the football field. But in all fairness, for the 6-foot, 1-inch former safety for the Dallas Cowboys, the walk from the David Crockett High School front office to the stadium is somewhat new. And so is his new position as the Pioneer’s head football coach.

“I walk around the school and everybody’s so happy-faced,” Gerald Sensabaugh said smiling at how welcoming the community has been. “People were just offering me their lunches while they were eating. They’re like, ‘Are you hungry? We don’t have anything, but you can have this.” Man. It’s just a real warm welcoming.”

Jonesborough has been buzzing with the news of Sensabaugh’s new post since it was announced on Jan. 16. Crockett held a meet and greet the following night in the school library where folks peeked over bookshelves to get a look at the new head coach. Meanwhile, two billboards in town show the former NFL footballer in his Dallas jersey with large letters saying, “Welcome to Pioneer County.”

And now, looking out onto the patchy, almost-green Crockett football field surrounded by pasture land, it isn’t exactly a glorious scene on a Thursday morning in January. But for Sensabaugh, he doesn’t see the field or the program as something small or needing to be fixed—he sees it as an opportunity.

“I know the repertoire around here at Crockett,” Sensabaugh explained, still gripping the football used as a prop for a photo earlier. “They say, ‘It’s just Davy Crockett. It’s a small school. Why would you go there?’ And it’s really not a small school. The community is doing their best to put a lot of enthusiasm in their athletics. And that’s what I really like about this program.

“I wanna come to Crockett and bring a winning tradition to Crockett. I wanna win as many games as possible. I can’t promise anything, but I can tell you—I’m gonna give it my all. We can do big things here.”

Sensabaugh spent his NFL career playing for the Jacksonville Jaguars and the Dallas Cowboys. He also has a cousin, Coty Sensabaugh, who now plays for the New York Giants and who has worked with organizations like the nonprofit “Soles 4 Souls” to grant aid to children in the Dominican Republic. But of all the places the new Pioneer head coach has lived and could have chosen to begin coaching, the Kingsport native was drawn back home.

“I have a pretty good name here,” Sensabaugh said. “I‘d kind of rather influence a community that I’m from before I wanted to venture out. That’s why I like to talk to my cousin Coty. He does a lot of stuff overseas. I’m like, ‘I’ll handle back home. We can do what we can with our hometown and you go overseas and do what you can and impact the whole world.’ I try to focus on keeping our community up and letting everybody know about Kingsport and the Tri-Cities area.”

But Sensabaugh’s time in the NFL holds unforgettable memories—like the time he intercepted a pass from Peyton Manning during Jacksonville’s game against the Indianapolis Colts (a story he shared with the crowd during the night of the meet and greet at Crockett). He said the play launched his career and meant so much to him, he had the moment painted and it now sits proudly in his home.

His career also included the moment he discovered another dream of his—one he hadn’t completely realized until an interview with a college student in Jacksonville.

“He asked me what I plan to do after my career’s over,” Sensabaugh recalled. “And I started thinking, ‘I really wouldn’t mind getting into coaching.’ I still have it on DVD. My oldest son, he was like 6 months at the time. My 10-year-old, he was so little. I could see him in the background and he was tiny. There’s actual video footage. But I was just like, ‘Man. I really want to get into coaching one day.’”

From the moment the Crockett coach realized his new aspiration, playing among the world’s top football players and coaches gave him a new perspective—and those plays still swirled around in his mind as he led the way back towards the front office.

“I started paying attention to more details of both sides of the ball, learning ‘Why are we doing this?’”, Sensabaugh explained. “My first three years, I was just trying to make a big name for myself as much as possible. My last three years I was more focused on, ‘Hey, why is Jason running these routes like this? Why do they keep attacking me every time I get in this formation?’ You learn the ins and outs of the game—that’s what I was doing those last three years.”

Sensabaugh is well-aware his students aren’t playing on the professional level from which he absorbed so much information, but he’s ready to use it in a way that will apply to his athletes.

“It’s my responsibility to make sure these kids are coached well and that I implement a system that they can adapt to,” Sensabaugh said. “If some kids can be pushed harder than others, I’m gonna try to max them as much as I can. I don’t want to have a ceiling on any kid.”

But the head coach’s sights aren’t just set on football in his new role; before the NFL, Sensabaugh was a Kingsport kid trying to figure out his life. Now he’s also ready to instill the lessons he learned before playing professional football became a reality.

“When Coach Clark and Coach Barrett (of Dobyns-Bennett) talked me into playing football, my one goal was to get to college. With a 1.5 GPA, that’s pretty unlikely,” Sensabaugh said. “Colleges weren’t giving me scholarships because I was borderline. I quit when I was in tenth grade. I absolutely had no love for the game. I hated the game of football. They just said, ‘You have some talent, maybe you can get a scholarship, maybe not, but if you come out here, it’s at least an opportunity.”

“It’s more about the kids It’s not about football. Football is just another tool. It’s not everything. That in there is more important than out there on that field,” Sensabaugh said, pointing to the school. “If you’re not getting the grades, that means more than some football game.”

When asked what that young man who was deciding if he wanted to keep playing football was like all those years ago, it wasn’t far off from the students that periodically passed the new coach.

“Probably like a lot of these high school kids nowadays; you’re just young, you’re still taking on the world,” Sensabaugh said. “You’re pretty lost at that time. You really need some good guidance to show you the right ways. It’s great to bring in people that have successful lives because those will be your major influences. At that age, you’re really a sponge.”

By the time Sensabaugh had covered the story of his career, from quitting football to talking with his first team as a head coach, he had made it back around to the front of the building. Just like his career, part of the conversation had ended—and part of it was still going.

“I wanna practice with them. You’ll see me out there on days when I’m wearing cleats as well, to where I can show them how to get it done and show them how I’m doing it. And they’ll say, ‘Oh that’s how it’s done.’”

“I wanna live it with them. I wanna live it with them.”

Get ready for JRT’s ‘Kiss me Kate’



“Cole Porter meets William Shakespeare” is how director Jennifer Ross describes the musical “Kiss Me Kate,” opening Friday, Jan. 27, and running through Sunday, Feb. 12, at the Jonesborough Repertory Theatre.

Written by Samuel and Bella Spewack, with music and lyrics by Cole Porter, this play-within-a-play features newly divorced Broadway stars Fred Graham (Joe Gumina) and Lilli Vanessi (Brittany Whitson), who are appearing in an adaptation of Shakespeare’s “Taming of the Shrew.” Joining them in the cast are young rising actors Lois Lane (Heather Allen) and Bill Calhoun (Christopher Ward), who are notorious for doing anything they can—inside the law and out—to get their big break. Complications arise with romantic misunderstandings between Fred, Lois, and Lilli, who has just become engaged to another man. A pair of prison-educated gangsters adds to the chaos backstage, when Bill’s gambling debts mount up, and he signs an IOU in Fred’s name.

“I think this show is fun for audiences because it lets them see what happens in shows behind the scenes, and how that can affect an actor’s performance on stage,” said Brittany Whitson. “That, and the music is really wonderful.”

Cole Porter, whose music dominated mid-century America, wrote the score for “Kiss Me Kate,” which won the first ever Tony Award for Best Musical in 1949. The show is filled with songs that have since become American standards, such as the romantic “So In Love,” sung by Lilli and Fred.

Other numbers include a rousing rendition of “From This Moment On,” the flirtatious “Why Can’t You Behave,” and the hilarious “Brush Up Your Shakespeare”.

“Another Op’nin’, Another Show,” which has become an anthem for theaters across the world, first appeared in the musical “Kiss Me Kate,” and is performed by the talented ensemble cast in an energetic, toe-tapping dance number.

The show features several breath-taking dance sequences, expertly choreographed by Heather Allen.

The songs from “Kiss Me Kate” are instantly recognizable, and they’re part of the American musical landscape. In 2015, Kiss Me Kate’s 1949 original cast recording was inducted into the Library of Congress’ National Recording Registry for the album’s “cultural, artistic and/or historical significance to American society and the nation’s audio legacy.

Rounding out this spectacular cast are Josh Baldwin, Austin Bird, Will Bishop, Summer Boothe, Brooklynn DeFreece, Jaclyn DiDonato, Ben Garber, Caroline Garber, Madelyn Goward, Shawn Hale, Lindy Ley, Jacob Maurer, Paul McQuaid, Mike Musick, Dominic Peterson, Dakota Reynolds, Jessica Shelton, Derek Smithpeters, Don Squibb, Connie Taylor, Corey Tickles, Kari Tuthill, Alex Vanburen, Michelle Weintre, Heather Whalen and Tara White.

Shows will run on Fridays and Saturdays at 7:30 p.m, and Saturdays and Sundays at 2 p.m. Tickets are $16 general admission, $14 for students and seniors. To purchase tickets, call the Historic Jonesborough Visitors Center at 753-1010 or go online to


Taxi! Local driver continues to hit the road in style



H&T Correspondent

Watch out, Uber: Dick Conger is ferrying natives and tourists alike through downtown Jonesborough in his “Old Time Taxi,” educating folks on local history, all for free.

Conger downplays his service as “not really a taxi as such; just a fun ride, in an old car, with some historical trivia about Jonesborough.”

The current taxi is “a personally remodeled 1919 Model T Ford depot-hack,” Conger said.

The term “depot-hack” comes from the car’s original purpose as a taxi between the end of a train depot and a traveler’s ultimate destination.

“Nineteenth century technological change transitioned from the original, Model T Ford depot-hack [which Conger owns] to the current station wagon, which is the direct descendent of the depot-hack. The idea was to move people around efficiently, even after their train had stopped,” Conger said.

At first, however, Conger and his wife, the late Jane B. Conger, maintained Ford Model T “depot-hack” taxi as well as a 1931 Model A bus.

In the 1970s Conger and his wife owned and operated a Venetian blind installation facility in St. Petersburg, Florida.

According to Conger, the couple owned a Model T Ford depot-hack taxi as well as a 1931 Ford Model A bus, but had no place to store either of the vehicles.

Thus, in 1981 the Congers moved to the Jonesborough area and promptly purchased Jonesborough’s old town hall building.

“We bought the old town hall because it had depot bays, proper places to store and maintain our model T- Ford and our Model A bus,” he said. Conger immediately began giving tours in the area; all the while his wife, Jane, founded Jonesborough Accommodations, the first bed & breakfast in Jonesborough.

In 1982, the Congers renovated sections of their old town hall which they “turned into several shops that, subsequently, became the Old Town Hall Marketplace” and an incubate for roughly 30 local businesses, Conger said.

Conger also noted that, in that same year, he and his wife founded Print Distribution Services because “we felt like we could do a lot by promoting Jonesborough tourism through our brochures.”

Jonesborough’s mayor and aldermen “were extremely helpful in the process of establishing a business within the framework of local laws,” and even asked Conger to “make and distribute brochures” for Jonesborough’s abounding attractions, he said.

When asked why he felt motivated to start these several projects, all within a window of three years, Conger jovially added that he “could not let [his] degree in marketing and merchandising go to waste.”

During this period of activity, Conger would still drive his Model A depot-hack even “when things began to get very busy with the brochure business,” said Conger.

Eventually, Conger noted, he stopped giving local tours altogether.

Although he is now retired, Conger said he has started to give “Old Time Taxi” tours again and manages “300 to 400 short tours in his current Model T Taxi, every week.”

Given that his taxi can only muster a 35 mph top speed, his tours are restricted to “taking back roads through the country and little tours around downtown Jonesborough,” Conger said.

He admitted, however, that these restrictions may not be a problem for those who enjoy being immersed in Jonesborough’s flora, especially when warmer weather returns to Northeast Tennessee.

Conger is also active in the East Tennessee & West North Carolina Railroad Convention as well as the Model T Ford International group. The latter group meets bi-annually and is comprised of over two-hundred American chapters.

Little Library on the corner


Lisa Barnett


Staff Writer

On Emma Grace Drive a tiny bird house-like structure bearing a Tennessee three-star emblem resides, proudly awaiting a kid with a thirst for reading to come get his or her fill.

Lisa Barnett was once one of those eager children, ready for her next adventure waiting inside the pages of a book. And now, Barnett is giving that opportunity to kids and folks of all ages through the Little Free Library sitting watch in her yard.

“I have loved books since I was little. I have always loved books and there were times when I didn’t necessarily have access to books,” Barnett recalled. “When I saw my first Little Free Library in Glencoe Village,  North Carolina I knew then—and that was two years ago—I knew then that I wanted one. And I knew I could put one in my yard.

“It’s just something I felt drawn to have.”

Little Free Library is a nonprofit organization designed to offer free books to the community. The creator originally built the first one to look like an old school house in honor of his mother who was a teacher and also loved books. They’ve spread across the country, but the idea remains the same—“take a book, leave a book” in order to encourage folks of all ages to take whatever book they like and to leave one as well.

But Barnett’s library, which was constructed by her husband as a Christmas gift, was built on more than just the Little Free Library’s original intent; the Little Free Library is a labor of love.

“It’s just a love of books and a love of having something to read,” Barnett said when explaining her reason for wanting a Little Free Library. “I think that’s important. Things like that are going by the wayside—cursive writing and you know…I just think a physical book in your hands means something. You can look at an iPad, you can look at a telephone, a computer screen, but to me, just having a physical book in my hand always meant something. I’m sure there are still people out there that enjoy that.”

Though the Little Free Library centers around books, this particular structure’s creator built the library with the community in mind.

“The focus is on kids with this. In the summertime, they may be walking around the neighborhood, they see it, they pick out a book. Nothing would make me happier,” Barnett said, laughing. “I felt like this is something I can do for my community, something I can do to get people talking, to get people meeting—give somebody something to read.”

Offering a resource from which kids can discover new favorites and classic tales isn’t all Barnett wants to give her community. To this Emma Grace Drive resident, a book is the perfect device to take its reader to places far beyond the Washington County limits.

“It’s just an escape. A book is an escape. You read it and you’re there. I used to get encyclopedias off the shelf and read them,” Barnett said, laughing at the memory.

“You can read a book and suddenly you’re wherever that book’s taking place. That’s what’s wonderful—it encourages imagination.”

The hope for Barnett’s Little Free Library is to offer adventures, but also to provide opportunities that differ from much of today’s technological world.

“They need something,” Barnett said with a sigh. “There’s too much social media and electronics, and I sound like an old woman by saying that, but there’s too much technology. They’re just bombarded by sounds and screens and maybe something like this, something different—I can see like a 5-year-old who learns there’s a little library in the neighborhood saying, ‘Mommy, will you take me? I want to get a book.’ That would just thrill me that it would encourage something different. Or that they could say to their friends, ‘Hey I went to the Little Free Library’ or ‘Have you been to the Little Free Library?’ It might encourage them to read a little bit more.”

Kids aren’t the only ones encouraged to enjoy the Little Free Library; Barnett said she has seen parents catch a glimpse of an old book they once read as a kid and immediately go right back to that feeling of reading it for the first time.

“It may be something that you’ve read before like a classic when you were a kid,” Barnett explained. “We’ve had moms walk by here with their strollers say, ‘Ah I read that when I was little!’ And you might want to read it again.”

The red, white and blue, house-shaped home for short stories and chapter books alike — standing at the edge of Barnett’s yard — doesn’t just symbolize a love of reading and the memories associated with books and stories; Barnett also wanted to honor her beloved state of Tennessee with the tri-star symbol she carefully painted on the front.

Barnett said she was inspired to paint the symbol on the Little Free Library after seeing the help so many Tennesseans offered to Gatlinburg after the town’s wildfire devastation. After she painted it, Barnett even sent information and a photo of her little library to the Tennessee Governor’s office who tweeted a picture of it on the Read to be Ready twitter page.

The heart of Barnett’s project, however, dates back further than a time when her home state made her proud; after discovering her love for books and doing all she could to get her hands on those printed pages as a kid, Barnett’s passion for reading never burnt out. Instead, this project might have reignited her love for books—and her life.

“I’m just partial to the printed word. If I get books from Amazon, I get the printed books. It just comes from being a child of my generation,” Barnett recalled. “We had books and I always worked in the library when I was in elementary school and middle school. I was drawn to books. Why I never pursued a career in that, I do not know.”

After a moment of thinking about the career tied to reading she could have pursued, Barnett looked ahead with hope for the future: “My second life may be starting.”

Artists to share skills in drawing, painting classes



Drawing and Print Making classes will begin Monday, Jan. 30, and Tuesday, February 1, respectively, and will be taught by Sharon Squibb. Squibb received her BFA from the University of Tennessee, her MFA from the University of Cincinnati, and her MAT from East Tennessee State University. She lived in New York City, working as a non-fiction and art book editor for Random House, among other publishing houses. A woman of many talents, while in New York, Sharon performed several one-woman shows, as well as “Don’t Tell Mama” on 44th Street. She also performed in several shows in the West Village. After a successful decade in New York City, she relocated to Jonesborough, where she has shown her fine art work in Jonesborough’s Juried Art Shows, The Women’s Fund Art Shows and more. In her personal art making, she has worked extensively with drawing, printmaking, and painting media, and particularly enjoys exploring the figure as subject matter. Ms. Squibb is also involved at the Jonesborough Repertory Theatre as an artist. She has been teaching art at University High School in Johnson City since 2000, and has been a faculty member of Jonesborough’s Mary B. Martin Program for the Arts at the McKinney Center since the center opened its doors.

Studio Art, with a focus on oil painting, and with an introduction to drawing, watercolor, and acrylic, begins Monday, Jan. 30, and will be taught by Bill Bledsoe. Bledsoe is a working artist, and is known for his work in creating the paintings and posters for the National Storytelling Festival for more than 23 years. While in the military, Bledsoe was an official artist for the United States Air Force, for which he received the Achievement Medal and the Award of Excellence for his artistic contributions upholding the moral of his fellow airman and commanding officers.

Bledsoe has worked for the Walt Disney Company as an assistant to Emmy-award winning director of the television mini-series Roots, Charles Bennett. Bledsoe has illustrated numerous children’s books, including “Everyone Has a Story to Tell” by Rebecca Isbell and Marilyn Buchanan. He has designed public murals including those in the pavilion on Boone Street in Jonesborough, and has been commissioned to paint the portraits of dignitaries from across the United States. He received his MFA in Studio Art and Graphic Design from East Tennessee State University, and serves as head of the secondary studio arts program at Providence Academy.

Charcoal Portraits from Photograph begins Thursday, Feb. 2, and is taught by Janet Browning. Browning taught art in public schools for seven years, before founding ArtSmart Inc., an after school art enrichment program that later became KidSmart. This program operated in eight states and employed over one hundred teaching artists. Browning has also worked as a portrait artist in resort areas, on cruise ships, and in malls. After twenty years of this work, Browning began focusing on buying art from all over the world, with a particular passion for traditional arts of the indigenous tribes in the Amazon area. Browning makes several visits each year to deep jungle locations along the Amazon, along with a guide, and participates in fair trade with these indigenous artists. She has also recently been visiting other places, such as Nepal, where she has started discovering fabric artists. She owns Hands Around the World, a shop on Main Street selling handmade art items from these locations and others around the globe. She received her degree in Art and Education from East Tennessee State University.

Rounding out the painting and drawing classes is the Watercolors course, beginning Tuesday, Jan. 31, taught by Ginny Wall. Wall spent most of her life in the far north of Minnesota, where her appreciation for nature began. Her artwork largely depicts her interpretations of natural things that inspire her.

While most of her work centers on realism, she also has a focus on more experimental, impressionistic work involving mixed medium, collage, print-making and calligraphy. She has been featured in numerous art shows and exhibits over the last ten years, and has won several awards for her work. She has been published, and has a huge following on Pinterest, where hundreds of her watercolors are featured.

Registration for these classes and others continues through Jan. 21. Registration forms are available at the McKinney Center in Jonesborough on 103 Franklin Avenue, and can be found online, along with the full catalog of classes on the Town of Jonesborough website at:

For more information, email Theresa Hammons at: or call 423-753-0562.

Making 2017 best year ever for the Herald & Tribune

ht-fbook-logoFor a newspaper that has been publishing since 1869, vowing to make this new year the finest ever is certainly brave, if not a little foolhardy.

After all, the Herald & Tribune has been covering the iconic town of Jonesborough and its surrounding Washington County communities, even the world, for nearly 150 years now. (We’ll be celebrating that in 2019!)

We have already heralded the advent of war more than once; followed the workings of schools, town, county and state governments in both detail and broad strokes;  and shared brilliant stories of neighbors, friends and sometimes even adversaries as they opened their doors and told their tales.

As the years have gone by, the job of  America’s daily papers have also become more difficult.

We have gone from a field of competition made up mostly of radio and television news broadcasts to now include the immediacy of the internet with its promise of countless blogs, e-editions, Facebook and more.

Still, while our staffs have become smaller and our challenges greater, our dedication has never waned.

And this year, in 2017, we are convinced that dedication — renewed fresh and bright at the beginning of each year — is going to make all the difference.

You see, we still believe that no one can provide a a better snapshot of a community than its community newspaper.

We have the ability to tackle the hard news when necessary, but also include the sweet moments of life that truly make it all the more worthwhile — like a young student proudly bringing in a perfect ACT score, a group of older first-time authors creating their own book or a hardworking sports team beating the odds in tribute to a fallen classmate.

And we have you, our readers.

A community newspaper is only as good as its community, and we believe we represent one of the best Tennessee has to offer.

Your calls, comments and encouragements have often pointed us in the right direction and kept us going when we became weary.

Now, we have another request — or two.

First, let us know what you want to see.

The field of news, the way it is delivered and the impact it has on our lives continues to change each year — and we want to be able to meet your needs.

What interests you? What causes you to pick up the paper and what stories catch your eye?

For some it may mean the most up-to-date coverage of local government. For others, it might mean garden tips, a good recipe or two or even something we have yet to create.

If you love something we offer, let us know. If you wish we included something we don’t, let us know that too.

And, finally, as we move throughout 2017, never let us off the hook. Continue to be our guide as to what you, the community, needs to see.

You are the most important part of the Herald & Tribune.

And together we are going to make 2017 the best year yet.

County mayor eyes school construction for 2017



Staff Writer

The year of 2016 was one of planning for the new Boones Creek K-8 School. And now, 2017 is slated to be the year of breaking ground at the upcoming school’s site.

And that’s something Washington County Mayor Dan Eldridge says must remain a priority in order for the school to open in August of 2019.

“Based on what (the school board’s) architect has given as a timeline, there are a lot of decisions that are going to have to be made in the next three months to keep this project on schedule,” Eldridge said. “If we don’t get this stuff out of the way in the next two or three months, it’s certainly going to be in jeopardy.”

So far the county commission has established a fund set aside for the new school while the school board has discussed the location at length and most recently at the last Board of Education meeting on Dec. 8, the new school’s layout. Eldridge said for the new school’s plan to run smoothly, both the county commission and the school board will need to align both groups’ concerns.

“It is so important there is good communication and collaboration during this process,” Eldridge said. “The county commission knows how much money it has to spend. The school board knows what they want in the way of a facility. There has to be a very deliberate effort made to align those two priorities. I’m disappointed that there hasn’t been more interest in making sure that those two things are aligned from the beginning. If we’re not careful, that’s going to end up being the stumbling block in the next few months.”

Finding common ground wasn’t the only concern from 2016 that will affect the new year; one of the biggest discussions the county commission faced was the tax increase. The tax hike was levied in order to fund the new Boones Creek School as part of the Washington Way plan. Eldridge said it was a decision the commissioners weren’t anxious to make. However, Eldridge is most concerned with seeing tax payers’ investments pay off through the new school.

“It is important that they see a return on that investment. And that’s what is it—it is an investment,” Eldridge said. “We raised taxes to invest in the school system. They need to see a return on that investment, not just in the form of new bricks and mortar, but even more importantly, they need to see a return on that investment in the form of improved student achievements and outcomes, career readiness, college readiness as a result of the Washington Way vision that’s been cast.”

Though the new school will be at the forefront of both the county commission and the school board’s priorities, Eldridge also has other topics he is looking forward to working on in 2017.

Eldridge said establishing a long range, general fund budget plan will help manage expenses from year to year. The financial plan will involve studying how current expenses will affect finances down the road.

“That’s not something that I would say is common in county government in Tennessee, but having that long range plan is invaluable as a management tool,” Eldridge explained. “When you project that into the future budgets, it’s amazing how you see the compounding effect of these recurring expenditures that are being approved. This is just a very important tool that we have to incorporate.”

But with all the talk of budgeting and planning, somehow the conversation with any Washington County school board member, county commissioner, or county official always circles back around to the new Boones Creek School.

“I’m optimistic that we’re gonna get this (the plan for the school) headed in the right direction. I think that long term, it’s gonna make a huge difference in Washington County,” Eldridge said. “Not just in the school system, but for everybody.”

Top Stories of 2016:Washington County brings in Kimber Halliburton

Kimber Halliburton stepped into her new role on July 1.

Kimber Halliburton stepped into her new role on July 1.

The new year is approaching, but for Washington County Director of Schools Kimber Halliburton, everything has been new.

Halliburton, the first ever female Washington County Director of Schools, took over July 1, 2016, after Ron Dykes’ retirement. And after serving as a principal in Nashville, Halliburton headed for East Tennessee with some changes in mind.

The words “Washington Way” are nearly synonymous with the new director of schools; Washington Way is the proposed constructional and instructional plan for Washington County schools and involves a range of priorities from new schools to new technology.

The original plan included a new Boones Creek K-8 school, a new Jonesborough K-8 School, and those schools’ previous locations to become the site for a magnet school. Halliburton also wanted to add a vocational site for students opting out of the college route after high school.

Though her plan has seen some revisions thus far, the Washington Way is still at the forefront of Washington County Board of Education meetings and discussions.

As of late, the BOE has been concentrating on deciding the layout of the new Boones Creek K-8 School while they also have decided to simultaneously make Jonesborough Middle School into a magnet school.

Building changes aren’t the only innovation Halliburton came ready to ignite in Washington County; Halliburton has also been an advocate for technology in the school system.

Halliburton was the principal of Waverly-Belmont which is one of two technology demonstration schools in the Nashville area. Clearly, this appreciation for technology has not been lost in the move.

From promoting the use of social media such as Twitter profiles for herself as well as school board members to aiming for a one-to-one ratio for students and technological devices, Halliburton has been clear about her intentions to equip Washington County schools with technological improvements—which should be a familiar aspect in the new year of 2017.

At the McKinney Center: Teacher restores magic in young art



“The librarian said it wasn’t art,” Chasidy Hathorn read as she pointed to the words painted on the mixed medium piece hanging on the wall of her historic home.

Hathorn, a former school teacher and now an art teacher at the McKinney Center, said “I had to retire from public school teaching because it got to the point that I couldn’t help those kids anymore. There were so many rules and so much red tape. When I got home I felt like I was crushing children’s dreams, and I wasn’t going to do that anymore. That is why I do what I do, and this painting is a reminder of that.”

As Hathorn continued up the stairs, her fingers traced the woodgrain of each picture frame surrounding the unique pieces on her wall. “When I began my journey at the McKinney Center, I found that the kids were so brilliant and fun!” she said. “It revived in me a child-like view of art.”

The McKinney Center continues to grow as an arts and humanities mecca where creativity and expression come to life.

Now in 2017, the McKinney Center will continue to incorporate classes of all kinds including the one Hathorn will teach.

From brilliantly bright, acrylic-gold speckling works of her own to creatively crafted canvas pieces by students filling her collection, it’s evident the inspiration each brings to her heart.

“Sometimes we get so caught up in details of a still life or trying to make our paintings into photographs, but these kids were just having fun and they loved it,” Hathorn said.

“I want to help them to continue that and not lose it. Let’s not take that away from them. Let them be creative, color outside those lines.”

Every time Hathorn passed a piece on her wall she smiled with each glance. These pieces of art, she believes, are sharing their story.

“And who are we to say what kids do. We are going to have a curriculum and a guide but at the same time I want them to have fun, paint their emotions, paint what they see, not what we see.”

A Mississippian at heart and a well-known artist in the region, Hathorn found a home at the McKinney Center back in 2014.

“When we first moved here I was trying to find my way,” she said. “I was almost afraid to get involved, to get settled. I finally began to explore, and I found the McKinney Center. They made me feel like home.”

While Hathorn worked on a piece inspired by her grandfather, she gently glided her brush over the words “empty chair” while she described days of the past spent with him.

She routinely took a step back while looking at the canvas, then leaned over to dip her brush into the gold paint sitting on the antique British table in the middle of her studio.

In the spring, Hathorn’s journey at the Mckinney will continue, with her teaching children’s fine arts, fine art construction and homeschool art classes. It will entail everything from mixed media collage to clay hand building, knife pallet painting, upcycling and even a bit about historic artists.

“I want them to leave confident with their talent and to know that each child is unique and special.” Hathorn said, “I don’t want them to look at each other’s works and say, ‘my work isn’t as good as so and so’s.’

“I want them to see all of their works as a masterpiece.

“I want them to leave feeling like true artists, like they are creative. I want them to make friends and I want them to leave with a sense of appreciation for art.

“Because every single one will leave as little Picassos.”

If you are interested in taking Chasidy’s class or another class at the McKinney Center email McKinney Center Director, Theresa Hammons at: or call 423-753-0562.

Sports season for 2016 filled with wins, losses


Tears blurred the scope of the 2016 sports scene, where a kaleidoscope of passion projected visions of triumph and tragedy that’ll last a lifetime.

David Crockett’s boys basketball team went to the state tournament for the first time in its 45 seasons thanks to a 73-70 overtime win at Oak Ridge in the Class AAA sectional. Patrick Good’s contested, off-the-dribble 3-pointer from the right corner with three seconds remaining was the game-winner that sent a raucous sellout crowd home emotionally drained.

Good, his coach/father John and his mother Tracy all clinched tightly afterward in a tearful embrace while Oak Ridge coach Aaron Green was shedding tears at the sight of it, recalling playing for his father at Sweetwater High School 21 years earlier.

Good scored 29 points, and fellow seniors Dustin Day (26 points) and Brendan Coleman (11 points, 13 rebounds) were invaluable in defeating Green’s talented Wildcats. It was the Pioneers’ second win of the season against Oak Ridge, who finished the season 34-3.

Crockett beat Oak Ridge 87-85 in double overtime in the Arby’s Classic quarterfinals. With a capacity crowd exhausted from the entertainment and eagerly eyeing him, Good made two free throws with 2.6 seconds left to win it. Day (26 points), Good (24) and senior Peyton Ford (20) led the scoring charge for Crockett in one of the area’s all-time great wins at Arby’s.

The Pioneers lost in the state quarterfinals to Station Camp, 78-68, but Patrick Good wasn’t through with a year for the ages. He signed with Appalachian State after becoming Crockett’s career scoring leader, visited Italy for an exhibition tour during the summer and scored 21 points in Knoxville against the University of Tennessee in his second career game.

Daniel Boone and David Crockett each made the football playoffs for the first time in the same season, and it happened in dramatic fashion.

Boone had to win the Musket Bowl at Crockett in the regular-season finale to clinch its berth, and running back Charlie Cole made certain it happened. Cole rushed for 192 yards and scored two touchdowns in the Trailblazers’ 14-10 victory and became Boone’s first freshman to rush for 1,000 yards in the process.

Senior TK Hill rushed 15 times for 98 yards for the Pioneers, adding to his tally as the Pioneers’ all-time leading rusher.

As it turned out, it was Crockett head coach Jeremy Bosken’s final regular-season game. Bosken, an ex-military man and excellent promoter with as much passion for players as football, surprised many when he made the emotional decision during the first week of December to resign and become offensive coordinator at Cleveland.

Bosken energized the Pioneer program and the community while going 20-23 during a four-season span that included two playoff berths. It would’ve been four playoff berths if not for a two-season ban Crockett and Daniel Boone were given by the TSSAA for the “Musket Brawl” in 2014.

Crockett hadn’t won 20 games in a four-season stretch since 2002.

A couple of solo acts stole the show at Daniel Boone.

Freshman wrestler Isabella Badon pinned Hendersonville’s Jessyca Mumaw in 5:46 to win a state championship in February at the Williamson County Expo Center in Franklin. Badon defeated Madeline Davis (Siegel) and Nena Chrestman (Sycamore) in the quarterfinals and semifinals, respectively.

Junior Ben Varghese won a state championship in the 3,200 meters in Murfreesboro. It was part of a bittersweet meet for Varghese, who was tripped when he got together with Science Hill’s Noah Charles in an entanglement that cost Boone a first-place finish in the 4×800 meters.

The ‘Blazers still managed to finish second in the relay thanks, in part, to an exceptional recovery by Varghese and an impressive finish from anchor Josh Routh, who is now at East Tennessee State.

Two-sport Boone standout Jaclyn Jenkins also moved on to college after a productive senior year. Jenkins concluded her basketball career as a 1,000-point scorer and then helped the Lady Trailblazers reach the Class AAA softball sectional by compiling a 28-9 record and a 0.99 ERA. Jenkins tallied 217 strikeouts in 241 innings. She batted .426 with five home runs and 35 RBIs.

Now, Jenkins is following in the footsteps of her mother, Tonya Bailey Jenkins, a record-setting pitcher at Milligan who was also a 1,000-point scorer in basketball. Bailey Jenkins is in the Milligan College Athletics Hall of Fame.

David Crockett senior volleyball player Addisyn Rowe was named the Big Seven Conference player of the year. Rowe, a middle blocker who has committed to Marshall, also finished runner-up in the state in the pole vault as a junior last spring after coming in third in the state as a sophomore.

The everlasting impression of 2016 for many in Gray surely came during Daniel Boone’s inspiring volleyball and football performances following the Sept. 10 death of junior setter Kaylee Rabun, who was killed on her 16th birthday in a single-car accident that also injured Trailblazers football player Ryan Sanders.

A moving pregame tribute was paid to Rabun in the first football game after her death, and Boone responded with a 46-29 victory against Tennessee High.

“I didn’t know how that was really going to affect us mentally. It’s been a tough week here for us,” an emotional Daniel Boone coach Jeremy Jenkins said after the game.

In Jenkins’ hand was a laminated game plan that included pictures of Rabun.

“I wanted her to be with us,” he said, “and she was.”

A large crowd also gathered in Bobby Snyder Gymnasium to watch the Lady Trailblazers’ initial match following the death. And after Boone outlasted Dobyns-Bennett for an epic 25-15, 26-28, 25-19, 22-25, 17-15 triumph of human spirit, spectators repeatedly chanted, “Three!” in reference to Rabun’s jersey number.

The Lady ‘Blazers went on to finish second in the Big Seven Conference, advancing to the regionals.

Top Stories of 2016: Commission, board push ahead for new school projects


The new Boones Creek K-8 school might not break ground until the spring of the new year, but that didn’t stop the project from being a top story of 2016.

After deciding to begin what was originally part of the Washington County Director of Schools, Kimber Halliburton’s vision for the Washington Way plan of constructing two new K-8 schools and repurposing the old buildings, the new Boones Creek K-8 school got the go ahead.

The board agreed to build the new school while simultaneously making Jonesborough Middle School into a magnet school. But when it came to construction of the new Boones Creek School, however, the work had just begun.

Funding was a major player in the plan to construct this new school, but after the county commission approved a 40-cent tax increase to fund the school, it was up to the Board of Education to tackle the next obstacle—location.

From a possible location on Carroll Creek Road to a site closer to Highway 36, location for the new school was at the center of discussion throughout the year. Eventually, the board held a final vote in August that named the 56-acre site on Boones Creek Road and Highland Church Road the new official site for the school.

After funding had been set and the location had been decided, the BOE then voted on a project manager in a unanimous vote for Tom Burleson of Burleson Construction.

However, the layout wasn’t quickly approved for the project. Discussion on the size of the school and the possibility of cutting back on the number of classrooms and adding them back on at a later date took front and center at the BOE’s last meeting of the year.

If classrooms are to be added at a later date, an additional  40 percent would be added onto the cost.

The board also discussed cutting either a softball field, a baseball field, or the auxiliary gym from the new Boones Creek K-8 school layout.

During the Dec. 8 meeting, board member Keith Ervin mentioned that David Crockett High School didn’t have an auxiliary gym in relation to the new school’s plan which includes an auxiliary gym for K-8 students. But mention of high school athletic facilitates didn’t end at the board meeting.

Just a day before, Crockett’s head football coach Jeremy Bosken resigned, citing inadequate facilities among other reasons. Bosken is headed to Cleveland, Tennessee where he will act as offensive coordinator and where he will be closer to his mother and his brother who is the wrestling coach at Cleveland High School.
But proximity wasn’t his only reason for leaving; the athletic facilities at Crockett were a main component.

“It’s kinda been a controversial topic,” Bosken told the Herald & Tribune. “I’m glad it is, I really am. It was just something that I felt like kinda came to fruition over the past couple years.

“I felt like the best way to help these kids right now is to leave. And what I mean by that is, we’ve been trying to get air conditioning in the locker room and it hasn’t come. We’ve been trying to make improvements in the weight room and it’s been very little…and trying to get an auxiliary gym built…and when we’re pushing for these things, we’re not doing it to win more games.”

Though the BOE’s meetings have mostly revolved around the plans for the new Boones Creek School, board member Todd Ganger spoke to the Herald & Tribune in light of Bosken’s resignation.

Ganger said high school athletic facilities are a subject the board will need to assess.

“Granted, there is a huge need at Crockett for an auxiliary gym,” Ganger said. “And it’s been brought up and talked about—to add an auxiliary gym to a new school, it is an issue the board will have to look at. Is there a true need there? That’s just one of those things that the board, once we can get down to the nitty gritty to be at the new school or not to be at the new school, it’s something you have to really look at and focus at.”

Tomita gets ready for new year, new role


David Tomita


Staff Writer

A new year, new role and a new office are just around the corner for Washington County commissioner David Tomita — who is stepping down from his county commission role to assume his new position as the mayor of Johnson City.

During 2016’s last Washington County Commission meeting on Monday, Dec. 19, Tomita officially announced his resignation from the commission in light of his new mayoral role in Johnson City.

“He’s an asset. He’s done a great job,” Greg Matherly, chairman of the Washington County Commission said. “I kind of expected it myself. He was already the vice mayor and with his abilities and as good of a job as he’d done down here, I had no doubt that he would make an excellent mayor for the city of Johnson City.

“If I was up there on that commission, I would have voted for him to be mayor.”

Tomita has simultaneously served as a county commissioner and a Johnson City commissioner, but, his newest role as mayor left him with a decision to make.

“It was a hard decision because I really enjoyed my service on the county commission,” Tomita said. “And I did think that my being on both of them provided a pretty good bridge. Knowing the unintended consequences of what the other body is doing is helpful. It’s easier when you understand what’s going on. So I’m glad I did what I did. I never for a minute thought that there was conflict of interest.

“It would be difficult to serve as city mayor and on the county commission. There’d always be the undertones of preferential treatment and I didn’t want to do that.”

Johnson City will gain Tomita and Joe Wise, who back in May announced his resignation from the county commission if he were to gain a spot on the city commission. Though Matherly said he will miss the two commissioners, opportunity lies ahead for the county commission.

“Those two guys have filled a big role and we’re gonna miss them,” Matherly said. “But there again, you’re going to have them on the city commission which is somebody we know and they know us and they know what’s going on in the county too. Both have high level (of knowledge) of the county government and what’s going on.”

The understanding these two commissioners have is something Wise also thinks will benefit both commissions.

“I believe it helps that two members of the city commission have direct and recent experience serving on the county commission because clearly Johnson City and Washington County’s futures are inextricably linked,” Wise said. “As city commissioners, understanding the kinds of challenges and underlying issues that the county can encounter will help us be more sympathetic or more sensitive to opportunities where we can partner effectively for a mutually beneficial outcome.”

Tomita said knowing those on both the county and city commissions has helped him in the past and will help him in the future.

“It’s easier to not like people you don’t know and I think for many years the city was sort of this nameless, faceless entity,” Tomita said. “And the county was this nameless, faceless entity. It’s harder to do harmful things to people that you know and like so hopefully we can work together better. We’ve come a long way and we’ve got a long way left to go. I suspect we’ll get there.”

With 2017 just ahead, a similar aspiration was in mind for Matherly and Tomita—the chance to work together again.

“He’s been an excellent commissioner for us and we’re gonna miss him,” Matherly said. “But I think too, with him in the role as mayor, I think he’s gonna bring an understanding of county government as well as city government. I think that’s gonna be a plus for him and a plus for us.

He’s somebody we can talk to. I’m glad he’s in that role.”

Shop with a Cop: Jonesborough gets ready for annual event


Staff Writer

This time of year, most people shop with family and friends. But for some local boys and girls, they’re going to be shopping with a police officer or a firefighter in Tennessee’s oldest town.

Tonight, Jonesborough’s annual Shop with a Cop event will provide 73 children from around the area with a chance to receive gifts and get to know local police officers as well.

However, these kids’ families will also experience a bit of this holiday cheer. Not only are the children given already donated gifts as well as toys bought with a $150 gift card from Walmart the night of the event, but the child’s siblings are given gifts as well.

The Shop with a Cop event also provides gifts for parents to put under the tree for kids to open on Christmas.

“Some of these folks are going through a tough time,” Jonesborough’s Shop with a Cop event coordinator Sgt. Jamie Aistrop said. “And we want to make sure they have a positive holiday experience and make sure they have some gifts to open on Christmas morning regardless. That warms our hearts.”

The police and fire departments aren’t the only ones helping with the event; from wrapping gifts to providing a meal for the kids, local businesses and individuals such as the members of the Jonesborough Senior Center have sacrificed their time and money to help with the event.

“The Jonesborough community in general is just very giving,” Aistrop said. “Anytime, they’re always ready to rally around and help.”

This giving Christmas spirit doesn’t stop with the donors and volunteers, though. Aistrop said many of the kids chosen by their schools’ teachers and guidance counselors use their Walmart gift card for their family rather than for gifts for themselves.

“It really humbles you to see how appreciative these kids are and the things that they buy,” Aistrop said, “and how selfless they all are. You’d think they’d all just wanna go buy $150 worth of toys, but a lot of these are going in to buy presents for their brothers and sisters and parents and spending more of their money on their families than they do themselves.”

Though the Shop with a Cop event has provided families in the Jonesborough area with toys and other gifts for eight years now, local law enforcers take this chance to do more than just sneak a gift under the tree like old Saint Nick. Aistrop said they hope to promote positivity towards police officers to these young kids.

“Police and fire aren’t always dealing with everybody in a positive light,” Aistrop said. “Generally, when either one of us are called, there’s a problem. So it’s a really good opportunity to spend time with them in a positive manner and show them that all interaction with police and fire doesn’t have to be negative.”

In return, these officers are left with a gift from these children—but it doesn’t come in a box or a bag.

“It’s just as good for us if not better for us than it is for the kids, “ Aistrop said. “It’s a good break. It’s a great opportunity for us.”

“Just seeing the look on their faces when we escort them to Walmart, actually getting to sit down, talk to them and interact with the kids—it’d be hard for me to narrow it down to a favorite part.”

In Aistrop’s experience, overall, both kids and officers are doing more than just exchanging gifts—they’re building relationships.

“We made some really good relationships over the years with these families and these children,” Aistrop said. “There’s several that we still talk to and have moved on and don’t need the assistance anymore, but we still keep in contact with them. Once we meet these kids and spend that evening with them, that carries on for years. We make lifelong friends with them and that’s kind of the point. They remember it, we definitely remember it, and it helps us down the road in future situations.”

Major sponsors for the Shop with a Cop event include:


Kiwanis of Jonesborough

Foster Signs

Pizza Plus

Clark Family Tours

Shirt Tail Designs

Jonesborough Civitans

And many other area businesses, churches, and residents.

Pizza party donations were provided by:



Food City

Jonesboro Pizza Parlor

Rocky’s Pizza

Pizza Hut

Pizza Plus

Luke’s Pizza

Papa John’s

Tea adds special magic to festivities


Staff Writer

Jonesborough is known for its history and so are the houses featured on this year’s Holiday Tour and Tea event that took over Tennessee’s oldest town on Sunday.

The tour started at the Historic Jonesborough Visitors Center as guests gathered around the decorated Christmas trees as part of the Celebration of Trees. From there, ticket holders were shuttled from home to home to enjoy a plethora of historical abodes all dolled up for the holiday season.

“When people step off the bus after their last stop on the Holiday Tour and Tea,” Tourism and Marketing Director Cameo Waters said, “I hope they feel as if they experienced Jonesborough in a new way—as if each treasured Jonesborough establishment they encountered told a story all its own.”

The first Jonesborough home on the tour was the Deaderick/Williams home on 215 E Main Street. A.S. Deaderick built the home in 1883 and much of the style and decor from the era still thrives from wall to wall inside the house. From intricate wallpaper designs adorning the walls and ceilings to solid wood, canopy-style beds, current home owners Nansee and Bill Williams’ guests seemed to step back into an entirely different time period upon visiting the historic home.

As for Karen Childress’ home just down the road from the first stop, old-school charm wasn’t missing here either. With open rooms and a slightly more-modern-yet-reminiscent style throughout the house, the Patton/Childress home seemed to invite guests right in before any resident might have the chance to. The house also boasts a basement and entertainment room that was recently redone.

But homes weren’t the only buildings on the Holiday Tour & Tea; Team Bridal Wedding & Event Loft on Main Street offered tea, scones, soup, and other hors d’oeuvres for the tour’s guests. Meanwhile, the Chester Inn offered a holiday tour throughout the top and bottom floors of the historic building.

After the Rhein home on W. Main Street offered up the first bit of cottage charm on the tour, the Earnest/Miller home at 305 W. College Street followed suit, but with a touch of fairytale flair.

“Usually I pull out the whole Red Riding Hood collection for Christmas. I mean I’ve got dolls, I’ve got pictures, magazines, coloring books, I’ve got tea sets, marionettes, topsy-turvy dolls …” Miller said. “But I thought if you wanted to get a picture of the storybook cottage year around, you needed to see the fairy part too.”

Small iron fairies were found throughout the historic cottage; the tiny folk-tale creatures congregated everywhere from under a stained glass window to various corners of the dining room and living room areas. Guests also paraded through the Miller home passing tiny fairytale books and even a collection of buttons and pins that seemed to have been collected and displayed by fairies themselves.

The Miller home may have seemed especially enchanting, but the entire tour of some of Jonesborough’s historic homes appeared adorned with just a little bit of Christmas magic as well.

“This tour allows memories to be shared and made with family and friends,” Waters said.

“What a wonderful way to explore the Oldest Town in Tennessee all the while being immersed in the Christmas spirit.”

BOE debates reducing Boones Creek size, scope

To reduce or not to reduce; that was the big question buzzing throughout Thursday night’s called Board of Education meeting to discuss the plan for the new Boones Creek K-8 school.

Architect Tony Street presented the board with several ways to reduce the construction plan, but no other option sparked as much discussion as the possible reduction of the number of classrooms in the plan.

The presented layout is estimated to accommodate 1,100 students before classroom cuts. The school will accommodate K-8 students from both Boones Creek Elementary and Boones Creek Middle schools, but a possible influx of additional students was also on everyone’s mind.

Director of Schools Kimber Halliburton mentioned that building the school around different neighborhoods could draw new students in. However, board member Keith Ervin expressed the idea that students currently enrolled in the county might not want to change schools.

“I think you’re always gonna have that when you build a new school,” Halliburton said. “Change for a community—that always occurs. But once people settle in, they’re happy with the new facilities, they use that word of mouth. We’re offering a quality program. It will attract people there.”

This new-school attraction would require room for growth within the K-8 school, which is a main concern for board member Phillip McLain.

“That’s what worries me about reducing classrooms in this new school,” McLain said. “If you do what you talked about doing with some of these neighborhoods, I don’t know how we’d get away with less classrooms. It worries me, it really does.”

In Street’s proposed plan, reducing just two classrooms would save $195,000 while reducing as many as eight would save $780,000. But if the school needed to add a classroom at a later time other than when the rest of the building is constructed, it would add 40 percent to the cost to build the classrooms.

Classrooms weren’t the only parts of the constructional plan that could be removed; the presented layout included an auxiliary gym, that if cut, would save $400,000.

“I feel like we need to not build it so big,” board member Keith Ervin said. “I mean, we’re leaving a school that’s got a baseball field and a softball field. It don’t have an auxiliary gym—this a K8. I don’t even have an auxiliary gym at Crockett, and I need one there worse than I do anywhere. We’ve got other issues that need to be took care of if we’re gonna build it. This thing’s fixing to be 300 plus kids bigger than what we’ve got.”

Board member Clarence Mabe made a motion to accept the plan as is and without any cuts, but not until he shared his perspective in response to the auxiliary gym discussion.

“I helped them coach for two weeks. And it’s a problem,” Mabe said. “And it’s gonna be worse of a problem. Why not do it right to start with? Let’s don’t cut it before we even know what it is.”

The plan gained approval from the board, but that’s not to say the layout won’t undergo any changes.

“We are going to have to make this thing fit the amount of dollars that are there for us to do the project with,” McLain said. “While we may vote on this at this time, it still may change in the future.”

Coach’s resignation pushes discussion of athletic needs


Jeremy Bosken


Staff Writer

When Jeremy Bosken resigned as the head football coach at David Crockett High School on Dec. 7, it was the shot heard across Washington County.

Not just because the Pioneers would be losing one of their most successful coaches in school history, but because as he left, Bosken brought to light what he viewed as crucial athletic facilities needs at Crockett.

Bosken, who will soon be joining Cleveland High School’s coaching staff as an offensive coordinator, said he has been trying to get air conditioning in the locker room and even rallied a team of alumni and boosters to repaint locker room floors and replace the lockers themselves. Bosken said Crockett’s lack of an auxiliary gym has left numerous sports without a place to dress out before games and practices.

“Those are concerns that I honestly believe that at a 5A school, they need to be addressed,” Bosken said.

He also said he felt like the best way he could help his student athletes was to leave.

“I feel like as I do leave,” Bosken said, “the way I can help the kids there and the coaches there is just to simply bring awareness that this is an issue that needs to be addressed.”

However, Crockett isn’t the only high school in the conversation; Daniel Boone High School athletic director Danny Good said he thought Boone needed an update on their facilities as well.

“I think we need some attention on our athletic facilities,” Good said. “I think you can look at most of our opponents that we compete against and you can see their outside facilities compared to ours and we could be a step behind in that aspect of things.”

To fix this problem, Good believes it takes more than just Boone and Crockett; he believes it would take unity within the county.

“We all need to come together,” Good said. “That’s the school board, that’s the community, that’s the county commission, that’s our director of schools, that’s the mayor. Let’s all us come together and let’s set a goal. Let’s decide what we want as a community.

“I’m talking about Washington County, I’m not just talking about Boone and Crockett. I’m talking about all of us. What do we want? What do we need? There’s a need and there’s a want — what do we need. If we come together as one, we can achieve that.”

Board member Todd Ganger said Bosken’s comments have brought the discussion of updating these athletic facilities to the forefront along with recent Board of Education priorities such as the new K-8 Boones Creek School’s layout that was recently discussed at the latest school board meeting and the new technology that will soon be implemented in Washington County Schools.

“It’s just things that this board has got to continue to look at and the county commission has got to continue to look at,” Ganger said. “As board members, all we can do is relate our needs to the county commissioners and they’ve got to fund it. They’ve stepped up with the Boones Creek School and we’re trying to fulfill Mrs. Halliburton’s vision for Washington Way and implementing technology into the schools. So it just comes down to a matter of balance. “

It’s a broad spectrum of needs we have in the school system and all of our needs come with a price tag.”

The price tag on the construction of the new Boones Creek School also included a conversation about athletics; an auxiliary gym is included in the layout for the school that was presented by architect Tony Street at Thursday’s called school board meeting. Street’s presentation stated that removing the gym from the plan would save $400,000. During the board’s discussion of the plan, board member Keith Ervin brought Crockett’s athletic facilities into the conversation.

“This is a K-8,” Ervin said. “I don’t even have an auxiliary gym at Crocket, and I need one there worse than I do anywhere.”

School board members aren’t the only ones noticing the construction of these new and soon-to-be-built schools in the area.

“You’re going to have 60 percent of these kids that are going into these nice middle schools that have these facilities,” said Good. “And then when they go to high school, they’re going to kind of step down a little bit.”

For Ganger, these topics are all about finding a balance.

“Granted, there is a huge need at Crockett for an auxiliary gym,” Ganger said. “And it’s been brought up and talked about. To add an auxiliary gym to a new school, it is an issue the board will have to look at. Is there a true need there?

“That’s just one of those things that the board, once we can get down to the nitty gritty to be at the new school or not to be at the new school, it’s something you have to really look at and focus at. But just because you do not put an auxiliary gym in the new Boones Creek School, does not automatically mean you’re getting one at Crockett. You have to have that balance. You don’t not give one school something just because another school doesn’t have it.”

Ganger also said the issues the board faces take time before improvements come to life. In the meantime, rolling up their sleeves for fundraising is something that Good said Boone wouldn’t shy away from. The work put into programs such as Crockett’s football team during Bosken’s time there also didn’t go unnoticed.

“There’s a pride down there at Crockett when you talk about football now,” Ganger said. “I even told Coach Bosken after the football season this year, I told him thank you for helping build the football program — not the football team— he has built a football program down there. And I think that’s huge. And hopefully the next coach that comes in can just build on what he’s done cause he has set a nice groundwork for the next coach to come in. The next coach isn’t going to come in bare-to-nothing; he’s going to come in with something to build upon.”

The foundation the coach has set goes further back than just four years for Bosken. And that’s a story he told his players at Crockett.

“The story I tell my guys is what saved me was a football field/soccer field down the street from me. And luckily, the school always cut the grass,” Bosken recalled. “And if they didn’t cut the grass on that field, I don’t know where I would have spent most of my time. I honesty feel that if they didn’t commit to the simple things like cutting the field, or making sure it was lined and had no rocks on it…I mean I spent most of my childhood on the field. If there was’t a field for me to go to, I probably would have gotten in a lot of trouble.”

“I believe with athletic facilities and nice things, you get more kids out and coaches and parents and teachers working together. It’s a ministry. And its gonna help our community as a whole in the long run.”

In that future, Ganger hopes Bosken will one day see these changes he, in part, left Crockett in order to bring back into discussion.

“Hopefully if he comes back to Washington County 10 years down the road, he’ll see a huge change,” Ganger said. “He’ll see some of these things he was needing and wanting when he was here and hopefully they’ve been implemented.”

“He’ll see those and he’ll feel a little sense of pride because he did have something to do with the changes.”

Doggone it! Pets, owners gather for holiday day of fun, giving


Staff Writer

There was a howlin’ good time had by all in downtown Jonesborough on Saturday.

The town’s Doggone Christmas event included dog owners and furry friends of all sizes to celebrate the holiday season as part of the Christmas in Olde Jonesborough event series.

Santa Clause sat in his sleigh as pet parents lined up to snap a picture of his or her dog with old Kris Kringle himself while a pet parade travelled down Main Street in a myriad of costumes.

But it wasn’t all just for fun.

The Humane Society of Washington County came out to celebrate the Christmas season but to also help local animals. Current president Lucinda Grady says the number of homeless animals is growing with more than 200 animals in foster care.

“Anything that can bring awareness to us, that’s great” Grandy said, “because we’re not the animal shelter. We’re a no-kill rescue and we pull animals from all of our local shelters — especially with animals that are not readily adoptable that people look over because they’re not pretty.”

Of course, there is no reason that — while helping the cause —  these pooches couldn’t also look fashionable.

Wearing fun winter garb from Santa hats to reindeer antlers, dogs who had entered in everything from the ugliest Christmas dog sweater and best holiday costume contests to the pet/owner lookalike contest took over downtown.

But no one enjoyed the costumes quite as much as the owners.

Angela Mayhew from Kingsport brought her 11-year-old Pomeranian named Kita to Doggone Christmas for their first year at the event. But Mayhew admitted the main reason she came to Jonesborough was Kita’s Christmas costume.

“(I’m here) just because I like to decorate her up and bring her out and show her off,” Mayhew said. “She probably would rather not have it on, but she does really good, doesn’t she?”

Small dogs weren’t the only canines having fun. Joseph Michaels brought his Irish Wolfhound, one of the tallest dog breeds in the world, to downtown — not for looks, but rather for socialization.

“It’s real convenient and gives us a chance to take the dogs out and let them socialize, which is good for him,” Michaels said. “You don’t want to have a dog that is this size and is not used to people.”

Though Michaels’ dog in particular was a large spectacle at the event, owning an Irish Wolfhound goes deeper than just having a furry companion—it’s part of a childhood dream, he said.

“My mom’s family’s Irish and she used to tell me about the wolfhounds in Ireland when she was a kid,” Michaels recalled. “It took a long time before I could afford to have a house and a yard and a fence. But she always told me stories about them so I wanted one.”

For those who’ve always wanted a cat, Saturday didn’t completely go to the dogs; the Humane Society of Washington County also featured their Cat Adoption Day at the Library Saturday morning as a way to get more of their feline friends adopted out.

“The director came and he wanted to work more with local organizations and bring awareness to nonprofits, and he picked us,” Grandy said. “It’s been a success. We’ve adopted four cats out already this morning and received donations down there.”

Whether these animal people and their four-legged friends were downtown for an adoption or for a picture with Santa, the love between humans and their pets was celebrated in Jonesborough this past Saturday with a particular cause in mind. The money raised at Doggone Christmas and the donations collected by the Humane Society of Washington County all go toward aiding pets and pet owners in Gatlinburg.

After the mountain town suffered a fire disaster which claimed over 700 homes and businesses last week, many humans and pets alike were left without a home. That’s where Grandy and many concerned citizens come in.

“We’re asking for donations and people can bring stuff by,” said Grandy. “Right now they’ve gotten stuff and they don’t need anything, but in two weeks they’ll need some more. So we’re letting it pile up and then in two weeks we’ll head back down there.”

“Because they’ll use what they’ve got, but they’ll run through it very quickly.”