Local eco-activist prepares for next chapter

Frances Lamberts’ vision and commitment are credited with creating Jonesborough Ardinna Woods Arboretum.


Associate Editor


Seated at a desk at the Ardinna Arboretum in Jonesborough, Frances Lamberts, for many years a columnist at the Herald & Tribune, quoted the Roman philosopher Cicero: “Sic hortum et bibliotheca habes, nihil deerit.”

That means, she explained, “if you have a garden and library, nothing will be wanting for happiness and satisfaction.”

Despite plans to return to her native Germany, Lamberts continues to work on her beloved local green spaces.

Lamberts recalled this same phrase being used in 955 A.D. by the German emperor Otto the Great. After decades of strife, war and suffering by the people of Saxony and the east Germanic tribes, Otto had felt that his subjects would see the philosopher’s wisdom, demand peace and be happy, if given the essential goods of gardens and books.

He made good on this notion, bringing monks from the western part of the empire to make transcriptions toward “libraries,” teach horticultural skills and develop gardens and farmland around the city of Magdeburg, his residential capitol.

One might well see gardens and books as a motif in Lamberts’ life. She spoke somewhat wistfully about all of  this, as she looks toward her planned retirement and return to Germany later this year.

Lamberts grew up in a village in the Eifel, close to Germany’s border with Belgium, where the forested landscape and deeply eroded mountains and river valleys supported many small farming communities.  She recalls the self-sufficiency of her parents’ farm, as well as memories of the war’s danger and oppressive atmosphere at the end of World War II. 

For example, seeing the city of Cologne burning again during an Allied bombing raid, Lamberts remembers her father urging the family not to talk about the sighting.  Merely expressing what was deemed a “defeatist” attitude toward the war for the “fatherland” was known as sufficient reason to get one executed by the Nazi government.

Her mother kept three gardens close to the home.  Fields and pastures grew grains and other crops the family and its many animals lived on. What was not needed at the farm was sold.  A mill on the village creek ground their flour.

All the children – Lamberts had seven siblings – helped on the farm, clearing weeds and rocks from the fields, spreading molehills in the meadows before spring mowing, guarding the cattle, stacking hay in the summer and foddering the animals.  This work and the parents’ example gave Lamberts a lasting awareness of gardens’ and nature’s sustaining gifts and ever-renewed beauty.

During the winter months her father worked for the regional forest service. With his horse team, he pulled the logs of trees, individually marked by the forester and cut and trimmed by local forest workers, out of the forest.

Lamberts came to Washington, D.C. in 1962 with a wish, she said, to “spend some time in an English-speaking country.” A nearly nine-year stint of secretarial and abstracting work there, for a bibliography being developed at the Center for Applied Linguistics, saw her attend night school at the University of Maryland, graduating with a bachelor’s degree in psychology.  She vividly remembers seeing President John F. Kennedy, as well as her enjoyment of many of the city’s cultural events, museums and monuments and the National Arboretum.  She also became aware of the work of the League of Women Voters at that time.

In many ways, however, it was the lure of America’s wide-open landscape and great natural beauty, as seen in Shenandoah National Park nearby and the Blue Ridge Parkway, that caused her to seek and adopt U.S. citizenship.

Lamberts settled in Jonesborough in 1979 for teaching in East Tennessee State University’s Department of Human Development and Learning, following masters and doctoral studies in special education and educational psychology.  Receiving psychologist licensure for Tennessee after several years at ETSU, she worked and became the psychology director at the Greene Valley Developmental Center, until retirement in the late 1990s.

Small gardens had given Lamberts leisure enjoyment and fresh food during graduate study days (Penn State and Northern Illinois universities) but in Jonesborough, space for a much larger garden allowed many native trees and wild flowers to support a Monarch Waystation, as well as give all kinds of vegetables and work satisfaction.

She joined the League of Women Voters here, adopting its natural-resources portfolio as her area of responsibility and serving for 25 years. The League’s position on the management of air, water and other natural resources “is so common sense,” she said, reflective of most citizens’ desire that they be preserved for the children.  Its advocacy for citizen’s ability to participate in the government’s decisions about them inspired Lamberts’ long conservation-related public work.  It also made her accept an invitation by the Herald  & Tribune publisher, 15 years ago,  to write regularly on conservation issues – as she did in her “Eye on the Environment” column.

Soon after her retirement, Lamberts began the volunteer work toward Jonesborough’s Ardinna Woods Arboretum. With encouragement from Mayor Tobie Bledsoe and town officials, planning assistance from landscape designer Ken Soergel and continuous help from other volunteers, this task also was accomplished.  The roughly 3-acre space at the town’s Environmental Services site – badly infested with invasive weeds before – became certified as a TN native-plants arboretum in 2011, and again in 2016.  Containing more than 70 species of trees of the Southern Appalachian – Ohio Valley region, and numerous native shrubs, wild flowers and other plantings, it now serves as an attractive, new park for the Town.

For Frances Lamberts, gardening and care of nature, and a “library” containing favorite writers like Aldo

Leopold and Henry Thoreau, Wilma Dykman and Teddy Roosevelt, Wendell Berry, Rachel Carson and many others have been values in life that leave “nothing wanting,” just as the medieval emperor surmised. She hopes to continue them in her remaining years in Germany.

Boone Street store to reopen in February

The image above gives an idea of the future renovations. Note the “brick walls” illustrating where the expansion will be.


Staff Writer


Folks driving in downtown Jonesborough in the past week may have noticed some construction at the Boone Street Market.

The work underway is an expansion of the market to accommodate more local products as well as the addition of café seating to allow in-house meals to be served there.

The market as it looks right now, closed but getting ready for a grand reopening.

According to Jonesborough Locally Grown Executive Director Shelley Crowe, these additions will benefit local farmers and producers in the area.

“Our priority is to give (our farmers and producers) a place to sell and to promote those products, through events and through our kitchen,” Crowe said.

“That’s the main reason for our kitchen. To promote, to educate people on how to use those products and to be able to enjoy some meals based off the local products.”

Jonesborough Locally Grown is a non-profit organization that manages the Jonesborough Farmers Market and the Boones Street Market.

“Our mission,” Crowe added, “is to connect the farmers, food and the community using the Farmers Market, and the Boones Street Market, which is really considered to be a farmers market, a year-round market where local farmers and producers can sell.”

Final plans for the expansion were brought before the Jonesborough Board of Mayor and Alderman during the November meeting.

At that time, Alderman Adam Dickson commented, “Mayor, I do want to say that it’s real exciting on a Saturday to drive through downtown Jonesborough and just to see the bustling activity there on the corner (at Boones Street Market). It’s become a hub, a hub of activity, really good to see. So I’m grateful that we have a relationship with Jonesborough Locally Grown.”

The other members of the BMA agreed, and approval of the plans was given, setting the project in motion.

Half of the funding necessary for the expansion came from a $50,000 grant from the Tennessee Department of Agriculture while the other half came from private donations.

“We have been very pleased with the support from donors, our members and the community helping to make up the difference,” Crowe said. “So between the TDA and private donations we’ll be able to cover the cost of the expansion.”

Plans for the expansion call for a 10-foot addition to the front of the existing building towards Boone Street. Crowe said the addition will add 30 percent more floor space and that, once finished, the storefront should look similar to the existing front.

“The whole project is estimated to be about four to six weeks, depending on the weather, which would put us into early to mid February when we should be back open.”

Once the construction is completed, more local products and new services will be available.

“(We will) provide more products, display and sale space. We’ll have more prepared meals, in addition to our to-go meals that we’ve done in the past. We won’t be what you think of as a traditional restaurant, but yes, we’ll have some seating so people can come in and have a sandwich or some soup or a daily special and eat there at the store.

“We do have special events with the store, we do fundraisers as special events, but we’ll also have special meals, dinners or special things there at the store.”

Crowe added that some topics were still in discussion and have yet to be finalized.

The store opening times would remain the same Monday through Saturday, but business hours for the dining side had yet to be decided.

And while the store had beer available for retail purchase, the market does not have a license to allow on-premise beer consumption. Crowe said that would need to be worked out.

Although all the details haven’t been decided, Crowe said she believes the expansion of the market will help them in their goal.

“Making sure that we are a source, a place for farmers and local producers to connect to those consumers who want to buy from and support local farms. That’s the most important reason why we’re doing all this. The expansion is also to help the market be sustainable, too. We are a non-profit but we definitely want to make a profit and be sustainable so we can be there for our farmers.”

History is hiding right in front of us

The Sesquicentennial Fountain in downtown Jonesborough was originally located right in front of the courthouse. The monument is inscribed with significant dates in the history of Washington County and the town of Jonesborough.


Associate Editor


On the far wall of the History Museum at the Jonesborough Visitors Center a large informational placard reads, “COURTHOUSE SQUARE MONUMENTS.”  The information is situated behind a large World War I mortar, the subject of one of the three monument descriptions.

An introduction to the display includes a poster stating, “FIGHT OR BUY BONDS THIRD LIBERTY LOAN.” A Liberty bond (or liberty loan) was a war bond that was sold in the United States to support the allied cause in World War I. Subscribing to the bonds became a symbol of patriotic duty and introduced the idea of financial securities to many citizens for the first time. The Act of Congress which authorized the Liberty Bonds is still used today as the authority under which all U. S. Treasury bonds are issued.  The Third Liberty Loan mentioned in the poster was issued April 5, 1918 and offered citizens the opportunity to purchase a portion of $4.1 billion in bonds at 4.15 percent.

A paragraph under the words “COURTHOUSE SQUARE MONUMENTS” reads, “Jonesborough is recognized as the Oldest Town in the State of Tennessee. As part of that heritage, monuments have been erected through the years to honor the town and Washington County’s past.  Today there are two different monuments on Courthouse square, the Sesquicentennial Fountain and the Boone Trail Highway Marker.  These monuments were both placed as part of the 150th Anniversary Celebration of the town on July 4th, 1930.  Thousands of people from over 25 states, including many descendants of early town leaders, reportedly attended the festivities which involved the unveiling of two monuments, speakers, songs, and a parade complete with a birthday cake.”


The first monument to be described at the History Museum is the fountain where many residents and visitors have taken a drink on a hot summer day.  The description states: “The Sesquicentennial Fountain was originally located in front of the courthouse.  Constructed of five separate pieces of Crab Orchard, TN Marble, the monument is inscribed with significant dates in the history of Washington County and the town of Jonesborough.  It was gifted by the State of Tennessee and Washington County and received by former Tennessee Governor Alf Taylor during the opening ceremony of the day.  The fountain not only marked the history of the town, but also its progress as the public water system had just been completed the preceding year.  This is why the celebration was held in 1930 instead of 1929, the actual 150th anniversary.  When Courthouse Square was redesigned in 2013, the fountain was moved to the west side of the building to open up the front step area for special events.”


The next monument appears as an arrowhead, with this explanation: “The Boone Trail Highway Marker was presented to the town by J. Hampton Rich of NC after the parade and followed by a torchlight processional and Daniel Boone memorial service.  This marker is one of many placed from 1913 to 1938 by Rich to ‘promote highway improvement, pioneer lore appreciation, patriotism, and education.’  The metal tablets in the markers were produced with metal salvaged from the USS Maine, which exploded and sank in Havana Harbor, Cuba in 1898, just prior to the start of the Spanish-American War.  Jonesborough’s marker was constructed locally of cement and includes several Native American stone tools.  It also once held an image of the Boone Tree near Boone’s Creek where Daniel Boone reportedly carved ‘D Boon cilled a bar on tree in the year 1760.’”


The presence of the mortar in front of the History Museum placard is detailed as follows: “In addition to other markers, the Newton 6-inch Mortar once sat on Courthouse Square as a monument to Washington County’s involvement in World War I.  6-inch mortars came into use at the end of the war to replace the 2-inch Medium Mortar commonly used in trench warfare.  This particular example was manufactured by Hadfields of Sheffield, England, sometime during 1917. It was transported to the United States, but records as to how and when it ended up in Jonesborough have yet to be located.  The mortar was removed and given to the Museum by the Town of Jonesborough as part of the 2013 Courthouse Square Renovations.  This mortar, mounted on its original base, is only one of a few 6 inch Mortars still in existence worldwide.”


The most photographed artifact previously located in Courthouse Square is not mentioned in the History Museum’s COURTHOUSE SQUARE MONUMENTS.  However, it sits just outside the Visitors Center in front of the parking lot nearest the Washington County / Jonesborough Library. The artifact made of wood is a pillory.  Its use is mentioned in Miriam Fink Dulaney’s “History of Jonesborough.”  A dictionary definition provides: “A wooden framework on a post, with holes for the head and hands, in which offenders were formerly locked or exposed to public scorn as punishment.” Now, with the legend “HISTORIC JONESBOROUGH, TENNESSEE” written on the wooden frame, the town’s pillory is the occasion for a souvenir photograph visitors can show the “folks back home” when they talk about their vacation in Tennessee.

Farewell Mayor: Town gathers to say goodbye

Tobie Bledsoe




Family, friends, neighbors and colleagues gathered Monday at the Jonesborough Senior Center to say farewell to former alderman and town mayor, Tobie Bledsoe.

Jimmy Neil Smith shares memories of Tobie Bledsoe (inset photo) to the crowd that gathered at the Jonesborough Senior Center for memorial.

“The town today is due in part to all the work Tobie had done since 1978,” said International Storytelling Center founder, Jimmy Neil Smith, who served as mayor when Bledsoe first became an alderman. “Everybody has benefitted. The town is a better place to live, to work and to raise your family (because of Tobie.)”

A surgical nurse at Northside for more than 25 years, Tobie, her husband Baxter (who passed away in 2017) and their four children moved to Jonesborough in 1974 — and the town was never the same.

According to Bob Browning, town administrator for Bledsoe as well as long-time friend, her love for people was one of her greatest strengths.

“She connected with people so easily,” he said, citing the number of times she would motion to him saying, “Come here, Bobby. I want you to meet my new best friend.”

“She was just an amazing person,” he said.

Bledsoe’s warmth and welcome were ever present, Alderman Terry Countermine agreed.

“She and I started at the same time,” Countermine said. “She became mayor my first year as alderman. We were big buddies. We always kidded that she was my favorite mayor and I was her favorite alderman.”

“In terms of relationships, she was so good because she didn’t have any pretenses,” Countermine continued. “She just was who she was.

She was welcoming. And she was good listener. She made like what you were saying was important. She may not agree, but she listened. And that is very important for a leader.”

Yet there was more than warmth in Bledsoe’s reign in public office, according to Browning. There was also grit.

“She was always heartfelt,” he said. “But she could also be fierce when the situation called for it.

“She loved the town and she loved public service,” Browning continued. “And I think it’s important for people to know what kind of impact she had from the very beginning.”

Her contributions were many, he said, not the least of which was the Jonesborough Senior Center that now bears her name. Long before the new center’s walls began to go up, Bledsoe had been advocating for and working toward such a center to benefit the town’s older citizens.

Bledsoe is also credited for roles in everything from the building of a new town hall and the visitors center, the development of Persimmon Ridge Park and Mill Spring Park, inroads into town flood prevention and the redevelopment of the town’s infrastructure.

Former town alderman Jimmy Rhein recalled the days that he served on the board along with fellow aldermen Countermine, Jerome Fitzgerald and Homer G’fellers.

“Homer and I were the bookends (at each side of the board seating) because we were both bald,” Rhein shared with a chuckle. “Homer always said that.”

He also remembers Bledsoe being one reason he joined the board.

“She was extremely good,” Rhein said. “I told her ‘I’m concerned about infrastructure.’  She said ‘I understand that. Why don’t you run? If you are so concerned about it, why don’t you just run?”

Rhein campaigned, and was elected.

“We had a common purpose,” he said. “We were making it all happen.”

The loss of husband Baxter in September of last year was difficult for Bledsoe. “She never got over the loss of Baxter,” Browning said. Ill health also kept this once gregarious mayor out of the spotlight over the past several years.

She never got to step inside the building that bears her name, Browning said, but he believes her legacy carries on. She was a brilliant nurse, a fearless mother, a loving friend and a determined advocate for a town she loved, Browning, friends, family and colleagues agreed. And she helped make Jonesborough what it is today, they said.

“She always had the town at heart in anything she did. And she stood firm,” echoed newly elected town alderman Virginia Causey, who worked in the town hall office while Bledsoe was mayor.

Smith summed it up this way:

“She gave all she could give,” he said. “She gave all she had to give.”

McKinney Center students show off their masterpieces

Caitie Morgan’s artwork was one piece on display at the show.


Staff Writer


The McKinney Center held a Student Art Show on Thursday, Dec. 6, to display the work produced by students attending art classes at the Center this semester.

From pottery to pen to paintings, the walls of the old Booker T. Washington school were covered with masterpiece upon masterpiece.

However, the most important accomplishment the arts program produced could not be found hanging on the wall, according to McKinney Center Director Theresa Hammons.

“A lot of kids don’t have the opportunity to do those creative things at school. So we’re a place where, if you have a child that has an artistic flair or a passion for something specific, we might be able to fill that need for them.

“There are studies that prove that if you have a child in music, they’re going to do better in school. There are (studies) that have shown that kids with special needs or behavioral issues, when you get them into a creative outlet, those (issues) get better.”

The art show, a culmination of the lessons learned from the fall semester classes, rewarded the students by allowing them to have family and friends see their artwork neatly framed and hanging on the wall.

The genesis of the event began years ago with a teacher who worked in the building, at that time a school. Hammons said, “The whole idea behind the student show actually comes from the Booker T. Washington school. At the end of the year, in the spring, Mrs. Ethel Brown, who was a teacher here for many, many years, organized an end of the school year program.

“That was a time when, if you were a student here, maybe you read a poem on stage, or you did a dance or you sang. Some kind of talent. A lot of it was art-related. And it was a big deal.”

Hammons added that the popularity of the program led to families being bused from outlying areas to the school to watch their loved ones perform.

The director said that Mrs. Brown’s program was very influential to the current Student Art Show, along with the goal of having the program’s students experience the thrill of seeing their finished projects more as works of art in an exhibit.

“We wanted them to have that experience. So we thought (the art show) was the perfect thing. After every semester we honor that tradition of having an end of the year program.”

The end of the year show in the spring semester was named after Mrs. Brown, while the fall semester show is more holiday-themed.

In addition to paintings and pottery, a musical performance by the ukulele class at the McKinney Center added to the holiday spirit.

The class, taught by Terry Countermine, a Jonesborough alderman, plucked a few holiday classics for the attendees. The 12-week-long class contained students of all ages, the youngest being 4 years old.

Another student in the ukulele class was Caitie Morgan, who also volunteers at the center. A home-schooled ninth grader, Morgan also had artwork on display.

“I really feel like (the show) is to help get the students ready to do more. In this case it’s to show off what they’ve learned. But that means they can use it being put in the Student Art Show to eventually get their own gallery or something.”

Morgan felt that the evening was a success. “It went wonderful, I think. It’s a lot better that last year’s was. They always improve, it seems.”

While the center does have many younger students who use the classes as a creative outlet, Hammons said that many of the students are adults.

“We had a lot of adult students here that brought their families and friends and spouses to see the artwork they had done. And they really work hard.

“Half the students are 12th grade and under and half are out of school. Most of our adult students are retired. They’re from all walks of life. We have teachers. We have doctors. There is one who is a pediatric oncologist. We have farmers, you name it. They’re just looking for a creative outlet.”

But whether the students are 6 years old or 60, Hammons believes each one is valuable.

Or as she put it, “It’s worth celebrating and acknowledging all their hard work.”

Jonesborough School future remains in limbo

The “Scheme 6” design plan illustrates the road that would cross through the property currently owned by Joe McCoy.


Staff Writer


The current situation for the Jonesborough K-8 School project and the option to purchase the property setting next to the current Jonesborough middle and elementary schools is a bit like the chicken and the egg. Which comes first? And can one be decided without the other?

Washington County’s Health, Education and Welfare Committee doesn’t think so.

The HEW Committee held off on voting on the latest design plan “Scheme 6” for the Jonesborough School project at its Thursday, Nov. 29, meeting after tabling the decision at the committee’s last meeting on Nov. 1. The committee also unanimously approved the county attorney’s recommendation for a 90-day extension on the purchase option for the property setting adjacent to the two current Jonesborough schools.

“I’m the last one to want to slow this project down,” Commissioner and HEW Committee Chairman Danny Edens said at the meeting. “But what I’m being told is if we don’t do it this way, we’re putting the cart before the horse. We’re not going to accomplish much.”

The committee approved the extension on the property, which is currently owned by Joe McCoy, after the Washington County Attorney’s office recommended the extension. Staff Attorney Allyson Wilkinson told commissioners the attorney who reviewed the contract was concerned with restrictions set on the property. Those restrictions came from neighboring business Lowe’s Home Improvement, located beside the McCoy property. Wilkinson also said the property owner and Lowe’s will meet on Dec. 6 to discuss lifting those restrictions.

“The most concerning to (the attorney who reviewed the contract) was a limitation that allowed Lowe’s to review the architectural plans prior to construction and then as built,” Wilkinson said. “There was a concern that that would be a limitation on the use of the property.

Commissioner Jodi Jones asked if the design plan for the Jonesborough School project could even be approved without an answer on the McCoy property.

The design plan, which was chosen by the Washington County Board of Education on Oct. 2, includes renovations and additions to the current middle school building for a $17,560,000 total cost. The plan also includes a road that cuts through the property currently owned by McCoy. That road would bring buses to the school from Main Street rather than Jackson Boulevard.

However, Washington County Attorney Tom Seeley said McCoy has not been able to request that restrictions be released until he had a design plan.

“The restrictions do affect the building of the road. (McCoy) could not go and finalize getting the restrictions released until we had the plan. When (the director of schools) came to this committee with a proposed Scheme 6, (the county attorney paralegal) immediately sent that to Mr. McCoy so he could set up this meeting.”

Though the restrictions on the land are to be discussed this month, another question loomed in the courthouse conference room during the HEW meeting: How much money is available for the Jonesborough school project?

County finance director and current school board member Mitch Meredith reiterated that five pennies from the 2016 tax increase would support a $10 million project in Jonesborough. He added that the commission could consider borrowing and utilizing pennies in the capital projects fund to assist in funding the project.

“You have essentially 26 pennies that we’re utilizing for school capital projects,” Meredith said. “Those are the resources you have at your use in addition to choosing to borrow money.”

As part of the school board’s newly drafted capital improvement list of priorities, Director of Schools Bill Flanary asked on behalf of the board that the commission either consider Scheme 6 or allocate funds to re-roof the elementary and middle school buildings in Jonesborough.

“If Scheme 6 is fully funded, those two (re-roofing items are not necessary,” Flanary said. “If the money can’t be found, we need roofs.”

The meeting didn’t produce an answer for the future of the Jonesborough School project, but Washington County Mayor Joe Grandy proposed a question regarding funds for the school project.

“We can go over these numbers again if you want to, but the reality is it’s not different than it was a month or six weeks ago,” Grandy said. “It’s really not so much ‘is there a magic number for Jonesborough?’, it’s a matter of where the trade-offs are. What are you willing to sacrifice to do this much, or this much, or this much in Jonesborough?”

The committee discussed holding a called HEW meeting on Wednesday, Dec. 19, following McCoy and Lowe’s Dec. 6 meeting. The called meeting has yet to be set on the county’s calendar as of press time, but commissioners said the called meeting would focus on the McCoy property status, Scheme 6 and funding options provided by Meredith.

The Dec. 19 meeting would be held at 5 p.m. in the first floor conference room of the Historic Courthouse at 5 p.m. To view the county’s calendar, go to http://www.washingtoncountytn.org/events.

Fall Branch School digs into history

Fall Branch Principal Mark Merriman, former principal Susan Kiernan, and students Alyssa Sears and Aidan Monette revealed the items buried in the time capsule in 1993 at Monday’s event at the school.


Staff Writer


In the summer of 1993, Bill Clinton was the president, Janet Jackson had a hit song on the radio, cell phones were nearly the size of your face and a time capsule was buried in the ground at Fall Branch Elementary School.

photo of Susan Kiernan, the principal at Fall Branch in 1993, was just one of the treasures uncovered.

And on Monday, Nov. 26 — 25 years later — that time capsule was uncovered.

“We had a great time pulling it all together,” recalled Susan Kiernan, the principal of Fall Branch in 1993. “But we had a better time looking at it this morning.”

The time capsule — opened by current Fall Branch Principal Mark Merriman, Kiernan and two Fall Branch students during Monday’s event at the school — contained items such as newspapers from 1993, a copy of the deed to the school, a laminated history of the school and Fall Branch community, picture albums and a video tape from 1993.

In addition to the items found in the 25-year-old capsule, the former principal read her remarks from 1993 to alumni, community members, and the current students of Fall Branch.

“Never give up on the dream of always having a school in our precious community,” Kiernan read. “May we all be alive in 25 years to witness the opening of this capsule by those who come after us. May they value our mission of quality education and may they have a tradition that carries on to another day. See you in 2018.”

For some, however, the capsule held more than just ‘90s memorabilia.

Alumni, students and community members gather around the time capsule items.

After the time capsule had been carefully unearthed and unpacked, alumni and community members were invited to look through the items and step back in time to relive history.

For former Fall Branch students, Kaylan Ferguson and Kensey Brown, the event served as a chance to look back on those memories and to go back to the place they once called home.

“We haven’t been back in town since we moved. We haven’t been in this area since then so we wanted to come back and visit the school and everything,” Ferguson said, standing in the school she once attended. “It’s just awesome to come back and have all these memories come flooding in. The community hasn’t changed. There are a few things that have changed, but it’s almost all the same. It makes you feel like home I guess.”

Now, history will continue on.

Fall Branch will now replace the 1993 time capsule with a 2018 one, filled with newspapers, Pokemon cards, Fall Branch memorabilia, a jump drive downloaded with pictures, school event programs, the student newspaper and a 2018 yearbook.

But the time capsules provide more than just an exciting event, Merriman said. He also said he felt the time capsules are a great way to preserve history and create an interest in the past and future.

“It’s important because it creates a flashback on what it looked like 25 years ago,” Merriman said. “It also creates a conversation for students and they’re going to get a chance to look at things like a VHS tape or the deed to the school or the newspapers back then.

“They’re also going to get to put their own stuff into the time capsule to really show what we’re about now in 2018. So it’s a really cool moment to try to look in the past but also look to the future when these guys are hopefully here in 2043.”

Though it will be another 25 years before the newest time capsule is dug up in Fall Branch, there could be another time capsule unveiling in at the school before then, as multiple alumni said they remembered another time capsule being buried on the school’s campus.

“I remember us (burying a time capsule) later on,” Ferguson said. “There’s another one they buried, but I think it was like in 1999. I remember it more vividly than this one. So they’ll do that one again in about five years.”

For now, Kiernan’s advice to the newest generation of time capsule students focused on making the years count rather than counting the years, which she said have a tendency to fly by.

“I am amazed at how quickly 25 years passed,” Kiernan said after the time capsule had been presented. “Some of my best memories were in this school building first as a student, but during the rest of my school years here at Fall Branch … I have great memories of Fall Branch.

“Twenty five years passes very quickly. Enjoy every minute of every day of every week of every year. Don’t let it slip by you.”

Pioneers historic season ends in Knoxville


David Crockett’s Ronquille Joyner runs for a first down in the first half. (Photo by the Johnson City Press)


H&T Correspondent


KNOXVILLE – The David Crockett football program’s most successful season in its 48-year history came to an end against a red-hot opponent in below-freezing temperatures Friday at Knox Central.

Crockett’s unprecedented 12-0 record under first-year coach Hayden Chandley finally absorbed a blemish as the Bobcats clinched their third straight 5A semifinal appearance with a hard-fought 23-12 victory.

The underdog Pioneers made it a 48-minute battle. Junior quarterback Cade Larkins’ 10-yard touchdown pass to senior Micah Robinson cut Central’s lead to 14-12 with 1:53 left in the third quarter. But a draw play to Prince Kollie for the ensuing two-point conversion failed, and Central responded two minutes later with a 32-yard TD pass from Dakota Fawver to Demetrien Johnson.

Bobcats fans finally exhaled when Jarred Swislosky made a 21-yard field goal with 4:28 remaining to make it a two-score lead and conclude the game’s scoring.

“Up until they kicked the field goal – I think with about four or five minutes to go – that game was anybody’s game,” Chandley said. “I’m just so proud of our kids and the way that they battled all season long and never giving up. It’s hard now for them to realize it, but this doesn’t define our entire season.

“We’ve done so much for the community and our East Tennessee area. This little blemish isn’t gonna take that away. What we were able to accomplish this year is just second to none and it’s something that these kids and this community will never forget. I just love our kids to death and I hate it for them, because they fought, man, they played hard. But the breaks just didn’t go our way.”

Larkins, a Mr. Football finalist, passed for 251 yards and two TDs. But the speedy ‘Cats grabbed four interceptions against Larkins thanks, in part, to the Pioneers’ lack of a threat with the ground game.

The Pioneers finished with minus four yards rushing for the game.

“Speed kills,” Chandley said. “And we’ve got some speed, but man, they’ve got it everywhere. … It was definitely the best (defense) we’ve faced. In the back end they’ve got speed like we hadn’t seen all year.”

Fawver and Johnson connected for a 30-yard TD on the game’s opening drive. The Pioneers answered when Kollie caught a 19-yard TD pass from Larkins on a fourth-and-nine with 4:54 remaining in the first quarter.

Larkins ended the season 222-of-376 passing for 3,979 yards 42 TDs and a 11 interceptions. Fellow junior Donta Hackler had four catches for 89 yards and a 38-yard kickoff return. Hackler, a junior, finished the season with a team-high 71 receptions for 1,294 yards and 15 TDs.

Robinson finished the season with 56 catches for team-highs in yards (1,337) and touchdown catches (16).

“They’re extremely athletic,” Central coach Bryson Rosser said. “They can find the holes in the zone. If you play zone against ‘em the quarterback can throw it in the right hole. He makes the right reads. … He’s a Mr. Football finalist.

“And it’s hard to defend the pass every single time. They’ve got some playmakers out there.”

The Pioneers held Central’s offense to 295 yards thanks to the likes of senior linebackers Mark Seidler and John Kollie.

“We anticipated this type game,” Rosser said. “We thought it’d be back and forth. We knew they had a good offense and we have one, too. But both coaches have done a really good job scheming against one another.”

Crockett was held to 246 yards of offense.

“Coach Rosser is one of the most underrated coaches in the state,” Chandley said.

John Kollie finished the season with 42 receptions for 605 yards and five TDs. He also had 113 tackles, which was second on the team despite missing a game. Seidler led the Pioneers with 131 tackles.

Adrian Boles and fellow senior Nathaniel McClanahan led the team with four sacks apiece.

The 25-year-old Chandley spoke with pride and compassion while discussing a senior class that helped generate a historic season despite playing for its third head coach in as many seasons.

“When you talk about Mark (Seidler), Micah, John (Kollie), Adrian (Boles), Doc (Coffey) – we lost J.R. (Giles) earlier in the season – I’ve never been around a group of seniors that were able to carry us like they were, just bringing it every single day,” Chandley said. “They’ve set a standard now. The old Crockett standard was play 10 games and go on to basketball season. That’s not the case anymore. Our goal was to have to practice on Thanksgiving. Unfortunately, we didn’t get there, but they set a standard that’s gonna be carried from now on out.

“We believed the whole week. And until late in the game it was a one-score game. … We had a great season and we’re not gonna let this affect us. We’re gonna hold our heads high.”

Schools to begin testing for lead in water fountains


Staff Writer


The Washington County School System is about to become much more familiar with the water quality found in 220 of its water fountains.

Due to a new state mandate that requires all Tennessee school districts to test for lead in drinking fountains, the Washington County Board of Education unanimously agreed to enlist Wingfield Environmental to perform the tests for an estimate of $9,000 total.

“We want to be in compliance,” School board member and facilities committee chairman Todd Ganger told the Herald & Tribune. “We want no lead in our drinking water, of course. That’s the sole purpose of it, to make sure the drinking water is safe for the kids.”

The state requires that every school built before 1998 be tested within the next two years. Therefore, Washington County schools like Sulphur Springs Elementary, West View Elementary and Fall Branch — which are among some of the district’s oldest buildings — will be tested.

The only schools excluded from that list are the county’s newest schools, Grandview Elementary and Ridgeview Elementary.

The state mandate also says that should a school find 19 parts per billion or more of lead in any fountain’s water, the school system must notify the commissioner of environment and conservation, the commissioner of health, the local department of health, the local governing body and the department of education within 24 hours. Parents and guardians of the students enrolled at the affected school must also be notified within five days of the test result.

“Of course, if we have some concerned parents and folks out there it will sure set their minds at ease,” the school system’s maintenance supervisor, Phillip Patrick, said about the upcoming tests. “Do I think we’re going to find some lead in some of our water? I don’t think so. But that’s just something I couldn’t answer for sure until we get the test results back.”

Patrick said the tests will be non-intrusive and will entail drawing a sample from each fountain, which will then be tested in Wingfield’s lab. He also said testing for lead isn’t typically conducted within the school system, but that tests are performed in the schools upon complaints or concerns.

“If we have a suspicion or someone says they heard we had lead, of course we would surely go ahead and check,” Patrick said. “It’s just like we aren’t mandated to test for mold, but if we have a problem in a school or teachers or students are complaining, we will test that area. We just haven’t had a suspicion raised or anything like that to warrant a full-on, system-wide test (for water).”

Patrick also said that the district could test the water themselves, but felt entering a contract with Wingfield Environmental out of Blountville would be the best fit.

“We could take the samples ourselves if we wanted to,” Patrick said, “But I’m thinking to have full disclosure, stay on the up-and-up and not have anyone scrutinize the way we’ve done our testing, I chose to have a third party do everything.”

In preparing for the state-mandated water testing, Patrick said he’s been asked about water used in another area of the schools, but that for now, the state is focusing on water fountains.

“I’ve been getting a lot of questions about, ‘Are you checking the water in the cafeterias?’ And some of my colleagues, other maintenance directors and supervisors in our area here, they’ve talked to legislators,” Patrick said. “I have not talked to any of my legislators. The bill was written mainly for drinking water sources. That’s what we’re testing. We don’t have those type of lead pipes in our kitchens or anything like that.”

The testing is yet to be scheduled, but will conclude with a final report from Winfield, which will include results for each school, spreadsheets of all data and the actual lab data from the tests.

School project design plan held up by finances


Staff Writer


Questions on the money available — or not available — for the Jonesborough K-8 School have left county and school officials grappling on what the next steps will be for the school project.

At Washington County’s Health, Education and Welfare Committee meeting on Thursday, Nov. 1, commissioners opted to defer action on the latest design plan, “Scheme 6”, to make additions and renovations to the current Jonesborough Middle School site. Committee member and Commission Chairman Greg Matherly said he wanted the full financial picture before moving ahead with the latest Jonesborough School design plan.

“There was a lot of discussion the other night about how we would pay for Scheme 6,” Matherly said, referring to a joint commission and school board meeting that took place the week prior. “I’m just going to tell you upfront, before I vote on this project, I want to see all the options on how to pay for it. I just don’t feel like I’m ready to vote on Scheme 6 right at this moment.

“I want to see where we’re going and where we’re headed. We can sit here and recommend it to budget, but I don’t think this committee wants to do that. I think we’d like to see all the options before we move forward.”

Brad Hale, the schools’s finance director, and Director Bill Flanary listen to the discussion on the Jonesborough School’s latest design plan during the HEW Committee meeting.

School board member and county finance and administration director Mitch Meredith painted that financial picture at the joint meeting on Monday, Oct. 29, where he said there are no funds in the current year to spend on a Jonesborough School project without borrowing the money. He also told the group the county paid part of Boones Creek’s total cost with pennies from the Jonesborough School project.

Meredith told the Herald & Tribune the 32 pennies set aside for school capital project improvements — which were collected from the 2016 tax increase — were not allocated specifically for each project.

“Nowhere in official action by the commission are there any pennies allocated to anything,” Meredith said. “The commission had to determine how much we need for our ongoing capital needs. Those were not pennies that were being set aside for any individual project. That was just an amount to determine how much revenue the county could generate to assist in funding those projects.”

For the county school board, however, the current outlook for the Jonesborough project is disappointing, school board member Phillip McLain said.

“After a 40-cent tax hike and being told that 5 cents of that 40 cents would be for Jonesborough,” McLain said, “I cannot begin to describe to you the disappointment that I have in this system and where it is at this moment. I think disappointment is probably the best word I can use at this point.”

From the 32 cents allocated for the school system, 14 pennies were budgeted for the Boones Creek project, five for Jonesborough renovations, three for other school capital items, two for school technology and two for school bus replacements. And in January of 2017, the commission set a budget limit of $25 million for the Boones Creek School, $20,750,000 for the Jonesborough School and $1,815,000 in “contingency for other needs associated with or related to the projects”. However, at that time, the Jonesborough project figure still included renovating the elementary school into a K-8 and renovating the middle school into an academic magnet.

The commission’s resolution also said the figures were “intended to assist the board of education for the purposes of planning, architectural and engineering design and project management, but do not constitute an authorization for expenditure nor a commitment to the funding amounts listed by the board of county commissioners.” It also said “the funding for the projects will be provided through anticipated borrowing.”

Meredith said the tax increase was created back in 2016 with a $10 million renovation in mind for the elementary school and the middle school. Those two renovations, he said, were planned to be supported by 5 pennies for the Jonesborough schools.

Now, he said, the county could either delay the project and let the money build as more pennies are freed up, (Boones Creek will be paid off in 2022 and nine pennies would be available by 2023), or the commission could opt to borrow $40 million for a $20 million project in Jonesborough (half of the $20 million, by law, would have to be shared with Johnson City). He said that last option, however, would come with financial constraints.

“(The commission) would either be out of the borrowing business for a long time or they would have to raise their debt limit restriction (if $40 million was borrowed for a $20 million project in Jonesborough). I guess anything’s possible, but is it fiscally responsible to do that?”, Meredith said. “I don’t know if (the commission) would see that as a fiscally responsible move to do that. From my perspective, it’s pushing it to the limit.”

As for the school board, who is also considering roof replacements at the elementary and middle schools in Jonesborough while the K-8 school plan remains in limbo, the financial outlook is strapped with uncertainty regarding what happens next with the project.

The school board currently has three Jonesborough School design plans that were approved by the county school system in the past year and a half. McLain said the board plans to rescind two of those previous plans, which were both said to be out of budget by the county commission. He also said they plan to keep the latest plan, Scheme 6, on the books for commission consideration. As for the future of the project, McLain said it’s now in the hands of the county commission.

“What’s going to happen with the Jonesborough project is a good question. I don’t know,” McLain said. “Obviously you have to remember it’s the school board’s job to decide what the school needs and it’s the commission’s job to fund it or not. The next step is actually up to the commission and what they decide to do.”

The BOE will meet on Thursday, Nov. 8, at 6:30 p.m. at the school system’s central office. The HEW committee is set to revisit the Jonesborough School design plan and the potential purchase of the school’s adjacent property at its next meeting on Thursday, Nov. 29 at 1 p.m. in the first floor conference room of the Historic Courthouse in Jonesborough.

‘Great Pumpkin’ comes to Hawley House for holiday

Marcy Hawley shows off her new, more permanent pumpkin. The Hawley House has established the tradition of picking the largest pumpkin to display each year.


Staff Writer


For 20 years, Marcy Hawley stationed a gigantic, real pumpkin on the front porch of the Hawley House.

“Every year, for as long as we’ve had the Hawley House, we have had the largest pumpkin in the whole area,” Hawley said recently. “And we get the pumpkin from Fenders Farm. Every year I’d pay $40 or $50 for the pumpkin, but I’d been getting them for 20 years.”

She even had a local pig farmer who would pick up the remains for her. However, once he stopped his “disposal” service, the task of removing the decaying giant became a real issue.

“We would try to get the pumpkin across the street into the area where the town would pick up brush,” Hawley said.

“But I’ve had times where I would get the pumpkin off the porch and it would roll down the street and land on the railroad tracks. So the pumpkin has always been an issue.”

Not to mention purchasing the largest pumpkin around is not exactly cheap. So Hawley came up with an idea to make a paper-mache model to use every year.

Her plan was to use one of the large live pumpkins as a model and when the paper strips dried, cut the mold off, remove the live pumpkin and then put the sections back together.

David and Dana Kehs deliver the pumpkin to the Hawley House.

“I had the biggest mess you have ever seen. Well, I was telling somebody that story at the Storytelling Center, and David (Kehs) apparently overheard me,” Hawley said.

“So in August, Dana (Kehs) called and wanted to know if I’d be home and said that David had something for me. They came over and they had that pumpkin he made for me.”

Local artist and Hawley’s friend David Kehs constructed a giant, extremely lifelike pumpkin out of packing foam.

“A local (hardware) company moves big blocks of pristine styrofoam using chunks of packing Styrofoam to pack it so it doesn’t get damaged. And then they just throw it away. So I was over there on another mission, and somebody said ‘Well, we’ve got trailers full of the stuff.’ I came home, free for nothing, with all this Styrofoam I could use,” Kehs said.

“So basically I just cut a bunch of rings, glued them together with expanding foam used to patch cracks, and then surprisingly enough, it does sand down pretty easily. Then I have all kinds of people give me their leftover house paint, and you just put layers and layers of that on there so it develops a skin. Then you go for a final color and then just coat it out with a water-based polyurethane.”

Although the foam pumpkin may sound easy enough to tote around, the size makes it awkward to handle. But it still beats trying to haul a decaying pumpkin down the street.

As Hawley said, “Now with David’s pumpkin we just have to find a place to store it in the winter.”

Kehs said he retired from the sign business a while ago, but he had some experience working with high-density foam before he left. The business he and his wife Dana run, David Kehs Designs, has used foam to construct different sculptures ranging from ice cream cones to hot dogs to four foot tall Bishops.

He also includes painting among his artistic skills.

But the work of art he created for his friend will certainly be admired by all who pass by and wonder whether Hawley has returned to using the real thing due to the realistic appearance.

“She’s been a good friend of the family,” Kehs said. “She was so tickled with it.”

Crockett takes Musket Bowl victory

Coach Hayden Chandley holds the musket high as David Crockett High School’s Pioneers brought in a win Friday, with a final score of 34-27. Though in the past, rival Daniel Boone High School seemed to walk away with the musket one too many times for Crockett fans’ comfort, this year it was all about DCHS and a team that has so far proven unbeatable.


H&T Correspondent

David Crockett’s football team will be taking aim at the program’s first undefeated regular season Friday, and now it has a musket to finish the job.

In a Musket Bowl exceeding the hype that helped fuel cars being lined up from David Crockett to downtown Jonesborough some 80 minutes before kickoff, the Pioneers improved to 9-0 on the season and clinched Region 1-5A’s top playoff seed with a 34-27 defeat of Daniel Boone on Friday at Pioneer Field.

The David Crockett High School Pioneer Football Team topped Daniel Boone High School in a thrilling Musket Bowl match up. The home win keeps Crockett undefeated as they continue their season with a 9-0 record, a program best.

The victory also assured Crockett (5-0, 9-0) at least a share of the Mountain Lakes Conference championship, which it can clinch outright with a win at Morristown East in the regular season finale on Friday. Boone (4-1, 7-2), which will also host a first-round playoff game as the No. 2 seed, will host Cherokee on Friday.

Crockett’s defense was missing leading tackler John Kollie against Boone. The timing of his suspension created as much controversy as Washington County’s heated rivalry has seen since the 2015 Musket Brawl that landed both teams postseason bans.

The Pioneers also lost fellow captain J.R. Giles – a disrupter on defense – to an injury in the first half.

But the Trailblazers and Pioneers each appeared focused and composed, and there were no shenanigans in a critical game despite the body-jarring hits of players such as Crockett’s Tony Davis and Prince Kollie.

Cade Larkins completed 33 of 47 passes for 410 yards and four touchdowns and fellow junior Donta Hackler tallied 12 receptions for 167 yards and three TDs.

“This is the happiest I’ve been in a long time,” Larkins said.

Hackler’s 41-yard TD catch with 2:38 left on a second-and-10 gave Crockett a 32-27 lead, and Mark Seidler’s two-point conversion reception from Larkins concluded the scoring.

“It feels great,” said Hackler, who is being recruited steadily by Cincinnati. “All we’ve been hearing is Boone this, Boone that. We were playing for John, playing for J.R. It’s emotional.”

Crockett’s quarterback, Cade Larkins, gets ready to pass during the Musket Bowl game as Boone’s Charlie Cole (4) and Peyton Nickles (2) prepare to block.

Crockett seemed to be in control when Hackler’s 15-yard TD reception gave the Pioneers a 26-14 lead with 7:31 to go.

But junior Charlie Cole, a bruising speedster, dashed 74 yards for a TD on the ensuing play from scrimmage. Crockett blocked the PAT kick to preserve a 26-20 lead.

However, three plays later, the Trailblazers’ Daniel Lusk made a diving interception at the Boone 42-yard line. Two plays after the turnover, quarterback Easton Harrell dashed 56 yards for a TD. The PAT gave the ‘Blazers a 27-26 lead with 5:18 left.

“We were up two touchdowns in the second half and everything’s going our way,” said first-year Crockett coach Hayden Chandley, who played on back-to-back quarterfinalists at Boone as a junior and senior (2009-10). “And the next thing you know, we’re down a point. And we marched right down the field after that and retook the lead. …

“I tell you, man, our kids have battled so much adversity in the past year or so. They just never quit and never give up. Even up through this week, you know, we’re still battling stuff, and the kids never lost sight of what the task was at hand.”

Senior receiver Micah Robinson had eight catches for 106 yards and a TD. Sophomore Prince Kollie made eight catches for 90 yards.

Boone was led by Cole, who rushed for 170 yards. Harrell added 133 yards and two TDs, and Brennan Blair’s 6-yard TD run via a reverse got Boone within 20-14 with 10:24 to left.

“They had a lot of fight,” Robinson said. “Easton and Charlie did a great job doing what they do best.”

Boone’s coach was impressed with a Crockett squad that didn’t quit or panic when Boone rallied to take a one-point lead.

“My hat’s off to Hayden,” said Boone coach Jeremy Jenkins, who coached Chandley at Boone (class of 2011). “His kids played hard and showed a lot of resiliency right there. In the past sometimes when we go up there they’ve had a tendency to fold. They came right back at us. We just didn’t make the plays when we had to on defense, and that’s all on me. That’s my side of the ball. That’s what we pride ourselves on. …

“I’m proud of Hayden and what he’s done, and they’ve got a good thing going down here right now. Hopefully, both of us can make a run in the playoffs and we can get back against each other.”

Certainly, a rematch would make for a massive gait. There was surely more than 10,000 at Crockett on Friday.

“You don’t really realize how many people it was until you’re up there at halftime and you take a look around, you know,” Chandley said, “just all of Washington County coming out to support this great rivalry game. Hats off to Boone. They played an excellent game. Coach Jenkins does a great job – him and his staff – getting his kids ready to play. We maintained ‘em there pretty good in the first half and then Charlie and Easton got us late there in the second half.”

But Larkins and company always answered. Robinson’s 28-yard TD catch.

“Cade checked us into some good plays there,” Chandley said. “He threw a touchdown on a check. Just an overall great performance by him. Probably the best half of football that he’s played all year there in the second half and he was able to lead us to victory.”

Could the Musket Bowl return to ETSU?

The Boone and Crockett matchup, pictured above from the 2017 game, could be played at ETSU in the future.


Staff Writer


For a stretch of Washington County history, the annual Daniel Boone and David Crockett High School football rivalry took place under the lights at East Tennessee State University. At the Washington County Board of Education’s regularly scheduled Oct. 2 meeting, the possibility of returning the annual Musket Bowl football game to ETSU was considered.

“I just see it as an opportunity for two state-ranked teams to be able to play in a supreme, big unit,” said Todd Ganger, the BOE member who made the motion to move the game back to ETSU. “You’ve got to look beyond just this game. We’ve got kids at both schools that have the potential to play in college. They get to be a part of the locker rooms, they get to see everything. You’re giving them an opportunity they wouldn’t have had before.”

The motion to move this year’s Musket Bowl to ETSU failed in a 2-7 vote, with Ganger and Chad Fleenor voting in favor. Multiple board members they felt it was too close to this year’s Musket Bowl game to move the location, which is set to kick off at David Crockett High School’s Pioneer Field on Friday, Oct. 19.

For some board members, the idea of having the game at home for Crockett’s 13 senior players made them vote to keep the game in Jonesborough this year. Board member Annette Buchanan said she had heard that the seniors wanted to keep the game at Crockett this year rather than ETSU while McLain said he felt moving the game to ETSU would rob Crockett of their chance to play the game on their field.

“Your kids are (undefeated) at Crockett,” board member Phillip McLain said. “You’re taking away their hometown advantage. You’re taking away their home crowd advantage. If we ever do it, we need to do it two years in a row. Crockett’s there and then Boone’s there.”

The board also discussed the possibility of increasing the funds collected from the game should it be held at ETSU’s William B. Greene Jr. Stadium. The failed motion included $10 entrance fees with a presale opportunity for middle school and high school students who could get their tickets for $5.

Ganger said he felt hosting the game at ETSU could generate more funds for clubs like the football boosters and the band, that typically receive funds from concessions at football games. Buchanan added that ETSU has a group who runs concessions at the college stadium, so no booster or student club would run concessions at the facility.

“You’re going to make more money,” Ganger said. “You’ll be able to pay the concession stands, the band and the booster club. It will benefit (the clubs) in the long run because they won’t have to do concessions.”

Ganger added that for many previous players throughout both schools’ histories, who played at ETSU’s mini dome before the college closed its football program in 2003, playing at ETSU was a career highlight.

“You ask anybody who ever played football at Boone or Crockett in the past and they’re going to talk about the game that was played at the mini dome,” Ganger said. “That’s the game they talk about. That was the highlight of their career. These are 0-8 and 0-9 teams. They loved it. Now, this is going to be a high profile game.”

Fleenor added that he felt holding the game at the ETSU stadium could mean a lot to the current players at Boone and Crockett.

“A handful of these kids might get to go on and play college ball, maybe,” Fleenor said. “But the rest of them are going to enjoy going to (play) on a college field. That’s a big time deal. If we lived next door to Neyland Stadium and we got a chance to do this, would we not jerk their arm off (to play there)? I just think it’s a thing for the kids. This is a once in a lifetime opportunity.”

Though some board members said they could see the potential in hosting the game at ETSU, Hammond said he felt this should be considered in the future, but that the time was not now with the game quickly approaching.

“I’m not saying no. I’m saying not now,” board member David Hammond said. “I just think it should be taken on a case-by-case basis each year and let the home team for each Musket Bowl look at the situation on a year-by-year basis. I’m not saying let’s never do it. This is late planning for something as big as the Musket Bowl.”

The 48th annual Musket Bowl will be held on Friday, Oct. 19 at 7:30 p.m. at David Crockett High School’s Pioneer Field. Tickets are $6.

There’s a new school plan for Jonesborough, but are there funds?

The Washington County Board of Education chose Scheme 6 to make renovations and additions to transform the current Jonesborough Middle School building into a K-8 school.


Staff Writer


At the Washington County Board of Education’s Tuesday, Oct. 2, meeting, the board opted for a new design plan for the Jonesborough K-8 School project. But, after a year and a half of design plans and going back to an all-too-familiar drawing board, board members and officials are now less concerned with floor plans as they are the money available for the project.

“I’ve had a problem voting on any scheme because — and I don’t think I’m the only one who realizes this — but it seems the dollar amount we were told we had to work with kept changing,” said David Hammond, the school board member who served as the deciding vote in the BOE’s 5-4 decision to approve the Scheme 6 plan. “In the past, as much as $25 million has been mentioned. But right now, I’m hearing we’re lucky to have the $20,700,000. As far as I know, that money was earmarked so (if it’s not), the county commission would have to explain where that money went.”

The Scheme 6 plan includes renovations to the current Jonesborough Middle School building as well as additions to the left portion of the school. The plan was presented to the board in July, but the group voted the plan down at the August meeting in a 5-4 vote. However, this time around, Hammond was joined by Jason Day, Chad Fleenor, Todd Ganger and Mitch Meredith in voting for the plan. Board members Annette Buchanan, Mary Beth Dellinger, Keith Ervin and Phillip McLain were opposed.

In addition to heavy renovations such as enlarged classrooms and cafeteria, new plumbing and a new heating and cooling system, Tony Street, the project’s architect, said Scheme 6 is $31,000 under the project’s budget which was discussed to be $20.8 million.

But what is the actual budget for the project?

Washington County Mayor Joe Grandy said that is “still being worked out.”

Grandy said the $20.8 million amount was never allotted for the K-8 school project by the Washington County Commission. He also said the school board would need to consider the school system’s other capital project needs in addition to the Jonesborough School project.

“There’s probably no magic number (for the Jonesborough project),” Grandy said. “The funding that supports the Boones Creek School project and a Jonesborough project is no different today as it was when the board of education requested it back three years ago. It’s more complicated than just saying, ‘You’ve got $8 million, $10 million, $15 million for a specific project.’ That’s not the role of the county commission to really just put it in that type of language.

“The question is, do you want to take other capital project funds and eliminate them or move them to try to create more available funds for Jonesborough? It’s just a big picture view that we have to consider.”

The commission and the school board will join forces in a joint meeting on Monday, Oct. 29, to discuss school building and the school system’s capital improvement projects as well as the Jonesborough School. Grandy said he feels that meeting will give veteran and new commissioners and board members alike the opportunity to learn about that process while also allowing county officials to discuss the potential impact a Jonesborough School project with a $20 million dollar price tag could have.

“Having (the school board) put forward a $20 million project in Jonesborough gives us the opportunity to look at specific scenarios based on spending $20 million in Jonesborough and what impact that has on the rest of the school capital expenses,” Grandy said.

“We do have a lot of new players. All of those folks haven’t been brought up to speed on some of the critical information they need to make that right decision. My feeling is that we need to go through that process and be sure that everybody understands the best information we have currently. And then we can get this boat away from the dock a little bit.”

Though the mayor said finances are yet to be discussed for the project, he sees the latest development in the Jonesborough School design plan as a step in the right direction.

“There’s some potential in that Scheme 6,” Grandy said. “I hadn’t really studied it much in the past. But I’m not sure that something won’t come to fruition around that. There are a lot of things to get fixed and work out. There are a lot of moving parts. It is more money than we planned for that project, but it’s not impossible.”

Hometown Barber offers vintage service

Owner and barber Kevin Armentrout finishes customer Kevin Sommers visit off with a shave.


Staff Writer


When Kevin Armentrout, the owner and operator of Hometown Barber, opened his full service barbershop almost a year ago, there was no question as to where it’d be located. For Armentrout, there’s no town like his hometown.

“Jonesborough needed another barbershop,” Armentrout said. “I knew the business would be here. I wanted to stay in Jonesborough. I didn’t want to be in Johnson City or Greenville.”

Now Hometown Barber, nestled on Jackson Boulevard in Jonesborough, brings in dashing men and young boys alike looking for a fresh haircut, a close shave and a trip back to a simpler time.

In the foreground, Hannah Shelton starts a straight razor shave with hot towel.

Armentrout’s shop is filled with classic country music playing on the shop’s radio, the smell of just spritzed Brandy Spice aftershave wafting from the throwback chairs and the constant lull of small town conversation.

And that’s exactly what he wanted when he envisioned his barbershop.

“It reminds me,” Armentrout said, just finishing a haircut for one of his regular customers. “I wanted to do something that reminded me of the shop I went to when I was a kid in Jonesborough. I like the nostalgia of it. I want a shop where everybody’s welcome, a family shop.

That’s what I always had in my mind if I opened a shop.”

The social atmosphere isn’t the only draw for the owner and operator of Hometown Barber; Armentrout also said hot towel, straight razor shaves and classic barber shop haircuts, though often considered things of the past, draw in customers for many reasons.

“I think you get a better hair cut. And they get to know you better, just being consistent,” Armentrout said. “People just get used to one person cutting their hair the way they like their hair cut. It’s cool to see kids whose hair you’ve cut since they were this big and now they’re in college. That’s pretty neat.

“A lot of people don’t do (straight razor shaves) anymore,” he added. “You have to be a licensed barber to do one. A cosmetologist can’t do one. That’s why you don’t see them a lot.”

Armentrout’s start as a barber was one that happened by chance, however; the shop owner said he was led to a barber school in Knoxville after giving his friends haircuts on a college beach trip.

“I was in college and they cut the program I wanted to study,” he said. “But I went on a beach trip with a bunch of my buddies and one of them said, ‘I shoulda gotten a haircut before we left.’ For some reason I said, ‘I bet I could cut your hair.’ I’ve been cutting ever since. We had a set of clippers somebody brought. I cut all their hair. There was nine of them.

“I said, ‘I guess I’ll go to barber school.’”

After Armentrout had found his calling, he discovered that he wasn’t the first one in his family to cut hair. He later learned that both of his grandfathers cut hair from their home.

“I never knew that until they died,” Armentrout said. “That was pretty neat.”

After relocating his business from another location on Jackson Boulevard, Armentrout said he just about has his shop looking like hewants it to. The walls are already adorned with a framed David Crockett High School baseball jersey, vintage barbershop razors, a stuffed raccoon named Captain Connie and old pictures that used to belong to both of his grandfathers who also shared his love for cutting hair.

But redecorating hasn’t been the only change to Hometown Barbers since its opening last year.

Armentrout said the shop is soon to add another full-time barber in addition to Armentrout and barber Jeremy Crain. He said adding Hannah Shelton, the newest barber at shop, is exciting for the shop and that he hopes that will cut down on wait time at Hometown Barbers.

“When I first opened, I was so busy I was losing a lot of business,” Armentrout recalled. “But now we have more barbers if people want to come back. They won’t have to wait so long now.”

Hometown Barbers is located at 400 W. Jackson Blvd. For more information on Hometown Barbers, call (423) 788-3274.

Taking a closer look: Instructional coaches considered in county system

Instructional Coach Alice Ann Smith reads to Gavin Bailey, Claire Roberts, Zander Burker, and Augustus Warren Carver.


Staff Writer


When Alice Ann Smith, the instructional coach at Sulphur Springs Elementary School, walks into the building each school day, she might be heading off to assist in a student’s individualized education program meeting. She might be going to give feedback to a third-grade teacher who asked her to observe her lesson the day before. Either way, Smith’s schedule is full but focused on assisting teachers to better educate students.

Smith is one of Washington County’s 11 instructional coaches, whose roles are designed to mentor and provide teachers with resources and strategies to better improve student learning in the classroom.

But what does that really look like?

The Herald & Tribune sat down with local education leaders to learn more about instructional coaches in Washington County following the board of education’s discussion at their latest meeting to potentially remove four of the county system’s instructional coaches.

What does an instructional coach do?

“Sometimes it’s as easy as making copies or observing a lesson and giving feedback,” Smith said, describing the range of her role as an instructional coach. “Last night I got a text saying, ‘I don’t think I’m doing as well in this area. Do you think you could come observe me, give me feedback and see if I could go to another teacher in the district to get some collaboration?’

“It’s just being that person that everyone needs. Every school is different. Every teacher is different, but they know they can come to me and I’m an advocate.”

Though she said Smith’s advocacy is put to work in many different ways on a daily basis, Head Principal at Sulphur Springs Elementary Cathy Humphries said one of the main aspects of an instructional coach is serving teachers without acting as an administrator with an evaluation sheet in hand.

“When she’s working with the teachers, it’s a collaborative thing that is non-evaluative,” Humphries said. “When I go into the classroom — even if I’m not there for a formal observation — it’s like ‘ding, ding, ding the administration is here.’ They connect that with a score and me being critical of what they’re doing. When she goes in, it’s a partnership. They feel comfortable that she’s a mentor and they’re a team. They’re working for the same goal and that is to help the students grow.”

That mentorship can also mean expanding a teacher’s skills in the classroom.

Heather Jeffers and Alice Ann Smith work with Jeffers’ third grade class.

Heather Jeffers, who is a third-grade teachers at Sulphur Springs, said she’s grown as an educator since working with Smith and it’s also helped her transition between student age groups.

“Before coaches, there were questions left unanswered, questions with instruction, resources, ‘Am I doing this correctly?’— just the hesitation there,” Jeffers said. “You kind of researched yourself and who has time to do a whole lot of that?”

“I taught kindergarten previously and now I’m third grade. I swapped grade levels as well. Having someone who knew the grade level, that knew how to pull resources. The unit plans, even. The confidence and reassurance that position has brought to me as a classroom teacher, I truly appreciate it.”

Part of that teacher-coach relationship is built on introducing new state educational standards and constructing curriculum, strategies and plans to put those standards into action in the classroom.

Read To Be Ready, a program designed to increase Tennessee’s third-grade reading proficiency by 75 percent by 2025, is one of the state’s newest initiatives that also involves utilizing literacy coaches to ramp up reading skills through professional development for teachers. Humphries said those kinds of initiatives, along with new and changing learning standards from the state, would not be as successful without instructional coaches.

“Without having that coach here, I don’t think that these initiatives would be carried out, Humphries said. “That’s why the state is pushing for them, so the coaches can help implement the things that we feel are going to help Tennessee move forward. We need to make sure we are giving students engaging instruction.”

However, Smith said her main goal is to focus on individualizing learning for the students at Sulphur Springs.

Smith attends Response To Intervention meetings and studies individual student data to better assist teachers, but she also focuses on catering to the needs of individual students in order to align learning techniques with student learning.

“We have to support that transfer of learning,” Smith said. “We have to know our teachers and know our school to where we can support them as they put this new learning into action. We redeliver professional development, but we have to know the students. Sitting in with IDT (instructional data team) meetings and knowing the classroom data — not just classroom but group and individual data — helps me to say, ‘I know that with this little guy, he struggles with this. How about we just change this just a tad so that we can make this more productive?’”

However, not everyone in the county is satisfied with instructional coaches.

To reduce or restructure?

School board member Mary Beth Dellinger — who said she was in favor of removing some coaches from the system at the latest BOE meeting — said she felt the number of coaches should be reduced and the coaching system in the county school district should be restructured.

“Some of these coaches are excellent and were excellent teachers. But they’re not being utilized the way they could be,” Dellinger said. “(Teachers) have contacted me. All teachers, especially those with crowded classrooms, would rather have lower student numbers to better meet the needs of each student (than have instructional coaches). I just feel passionate about this I guess because I am a retired teacher. I know.”

Mary Beth Dellinger said she believes the instructional coaching system should be reduced and restructured in the county.

Dellinger said she felt the system should utilize six coaches — two instructional coaches in math, two in English and language arts and two in lower elementary, putting three on each side of the county.

“I could see how (six instructional coaches) could be utilized,” Dellinger said. “But the way we have it now, these people would do better in the classroom.”

The school board member, who made a motion back in May to dramatically reduce the number of coaches in the system’s budget, also said she felt the district has too many coaches in comparison to area school systems.

While Washington County currently has 11 instructional coaches, the Johnson City System also has 11 coaches. Kingsport has eight similar positions deemed “instructional design specialists”. Meanwhile, Hawkins County has four, Sullivan County has four and Greene County has three.

Some coaches in area systems are placed according to subjects and/or grade levels rather than entire schools. But Smith and Humphries said they felt understanding the culture and building a relationship with the faculty and staff at a school is vital in the effectiveness of an instructional coach — which would require a coach to be in one school rather than traveling to multiple schools.

“When I have served more than one school, you could not get it done,” Smith said, recalling a time when she served as the instructional coach at both Sulphur Springs and Fall Branch. “You could not be as effective. You could not be in the classrooms enough, you could not give teacher feedback enough. If you leave a school on Friday and you don’t pick up at a school until Tuesday, that’s a lot of time right there for disconnect.

“Honestly it’s just knowing your school and being a part of that school culture. I do bus duty with these teachers. They see me as a part of this school and someone to support them and work with them. I make sure they know I’m here to do what every they need. I’m not an evaluator. I’m a supporter.”

Class sizes

The board discussed removing some instructional coaches from the system to offset what it considered to be overcrowded classrooms by adding teaching positions back into the school system. Dellinger also said the school system’s budget and class sizes are two of the biggest reasons the discussion concerning instructional coaches arose.

“We have a choice,” Dellinger said. “We can choose to fund academic coaches, which assist principals, or we can use that money to lower student-teacher ratios and alleviate our overcrowded classrooms. We are compliant with the state (on classroom sizes). However, the numbers are not ideal for effective teaching and learning. I will always choose to fund the classrooms over more supervisors.

“Since we’re in a budget crunch, I think it’s time we start focusing more on what people want. And they want lower classroom sizes.”

When asked if instructional coaches have an impact on those larger class sizes, Jeffers drew from her own experience — going from teaching a smaller class without an instructional coach to teaching a larger class with an instructional coach — to illustrate the positive effect she feels instructional coaches have on a classroom. Part of that difference, she said, has been Smith’s use of student data to better individualize a student’s learning.

“(Coaches) are helping us take a deeper look at those kids too for those smaller groups in the classroom,” Jeffers said. “I’ve gone from 12 students at my previous school to 18 to 22 here. I’m provided with a much deeper look now with an instructional coach because of the resources provided with, ‘Okay, this group of kids, they struggle in this area.’ Whereas I had less before, but that resource wasn’t there for that closer look for the management of that group.

“Just the overall look at my students as a group and individually now is much different than even with that class size.”

“The value of that instructional coach to every teacher who impacts every student in this building is so important,” Humphries said. “We can manage (class sizes) But we can’t manage to not have an instructional coach to help the teachers in the building to be more effective in their craft in order to help our students grow. It’s not as easy to teach 30 students as it is 25, but it can be managed.

“Being in the school and being an administrator, I can see the value in it that I feel people outside do not see. Class sizes are not the bottom line.”

What’s next?

Dellinger said some board members want to consider any changes to instructional coaching in the county during the next budget season. As for Dellinger herself, she’d rather see something implemented sooner rather than later.

“There are some board members that want to just wait for the next budget year and then address this, but this is a whole year of a kid’s life in a crowded classroom,” Dellinger said. “I just don’t see it.”

Interim Director of Schools Bill Flanary declined to comment on the topic of instructional coaches, but said he was “excited the board has put a focus on it.”He also said he anticipates some new policy language from the board to better reflect its wishes in regards to classroom sizes.

As for instructional coaches, no current school board agendas include that topic. But that doesn’t mean it isn’t in the backs of minds and subject to be discussed at the board’s discretion.

However, Humphries said she hopes others see how teaching has changed throughout the years and how instructional coaches can help with those adjustments.

“Things are bigger in education than they were back 20 or 30 years ago,” Humphries said. “But what was good then is not good today. The world is changing, jobs are changing so we have to prepare kids for the future. That’s why things are coming down to do that for students. We need to do everything we can to help the teachers do a better job to have a students prepared.”

Lending a hand: As Hurricane Florence wreaks its havoc, local hands reach out

Deb Burger gets her “tiny” house ready to house more guests.


Staff Writer


When Deb and Don Burger began building their “tiny house” in their backyard, they envisioned it being used as a sort of clubhouse for their grandchildren or a refuge for themselves when their home was filled with youngsters.

Hurricane Florence provided a reason for the house to become an important refuge for evacuees from a storm.

Over the past week, four Florence-impacted folks have taken up residence in the “tiny house” as involuntary tourists of Jonesborough.

“We had three young people from Myrtle Beach who were here for the past three days,” Deb Burger explained on the afternoon of Monday, Sept. 17. “This next guy is reserved for four days. If he chooses to extend it because he needs to, that’s available. If not, he’ll leave and we may get booked by somebody else.”

Their current tenant is seeking refuge from Savannah, Georgia.

The Burgers are members of a Facebook group called, “Florence evacuation support in East TN/W NC/SW VA”.  They are two of the more than 1,500 members of the group that have extended whatever assistance they can to victims of the most recent natural disaster to strike.

“Every day when I check the postings, there are people who say, ‘I can’t keep somebody. If you need help feeding the evacuees who are staying with you, call me at this number or message me and I’ll make casseroles.’ Or we get other people saying, ‘I can go buy dog food if you’ve got evacuees staying with you who have pets, I can provide dog and cat food.’ We get other people saying ‘I can’t keep people but if they need a place for their livestock, I’ve got a horse stall; I’ve got room for two goats.’

Deb was quick to stress that she is just one of many hands.

“I say ‘we,’”she explained. “I have participated in a group. I was not the brains behind it. That’s Kiran (Sirah) and Ren (Allen) … The Facebook group started last year for Hurricane Irma and we revived it and changed the name and got it going again for Florence. The page acts as a clearinghouse for people who need help and people who are offering help.”

The Burgers offered assistance during Irma in the form of a campsite in their backyard and an RV hookup, which included water and electricity.

In addition to Facebook, the couple’s house is listed on Airbnb, an online marketplace and hospitality service that brokers short-term lodging rentals.

“They have a program called ‘Open Homes’ where you can choose to turn that option on and that flips your cost to zero for people who are refugees,” Deb explained. All fees and rent are waived for refugees of natural disasters.

The decision to offer assistance was an easy one for them, as they know the strain each evacuee is under.

“We try to provide shelter. It’s not luxurious by any stretch of the imagination but you can stand up, you can change your clothes, it’s dry and you have a warm place to sleep. They pay nothing and we provide what comfort we can. It’s clean and dry and there’s electricity.”

While the tiny house has been a blessing for the evacuees, the original use was as far from a disaster as it can possibly get.

“The grandchildren like to camp out there. And when our house is full of grown children and little-bitty ones, then Don and I sleep up there for a few nights while the kids are being noisy in our home … Tiny houses are a thing. There’s the TV shows, there are books about them. We’ve had it in mind for long enough now that I don’t remember where we originally got the idea.”

The house still is not completed, so the recent guests had to make do with a few trips to the Burger’s house for bathroom breaks and showers. But soon enough those trips will be things of the past, Deb said.

“Eventually, our goal for the tiny house is it will have solar on the roof and there will be a composting toilet. The power is from a car battery, which you keep charged from solar. We have plans to build an outdoor shower in the back.”

While the tiny project is still underway, Deb said they have provided as much comfort as they could for the evacuees.

“We have a sink where we put two gallon drinking jugs on so a person can make tea in the hot pot and we keep little tea cups and saucers with some honey and tea out here. There’s drinking water, there’s a place to brush your teeth or wash your face, you just have to empty the bucket every day. There’s a chair and table and places to store things that’s the first floor.”

Upstairs has an inflatable mattress with a window view of the neighborhood.

Deb Burger said her husband Don provided a treat for the recent tenants.

“Don has made, and my husband is a great cook and baker, and he made muffins for breakfast every morning. We make spaghetti or soup or something that we can feed a crowd with for supper and just try to provide comfort and a place to regroup for as long as they need it.”

While the first three evacuees certainly had enough on their minds during their stay at the Burgers’ tiny house, some much needed good news managed to reach them.

“The first guests had found out that their house was not destroyed. They had relatives who rode out the storm and told them they could start working their way back home,” she explained.

While the relief of having a dry, warm place to ride out the storm in safety must be overwhelming, Deb said the thought of offering help was never in doubt.

“When they’re evacuees, we’re seeing people at their worst (moment) and their most stressed out. So the call is to show comfort and mercy. That’s what it’s completely all about.”

Corner Cup seeks permit for beer service


Staff Writer


The Corner Cup is looking to extend its beverage options.

During Monday night’s Beer Board meeting, held prior to the Sept. 10 Jonesborough Board of Mayor and Aldermen meeting, the owner of The Corner Cup, Deb Kruse, submitted a letter to the BMA stating her intention to seek “an on-premise beer license without receiving our ABC (Alcoholic Beverage Commission) license. We cannot currently obtain an ABC license due to the minimum 40 seat requirement. We currently have only 16 seats.”

Kruse spoke to the board about the plans she and the building’s co-owner, Melinda Copp, have for the future.

“What we’re looking at, because we have limited seating, is just a special permit that we can maybe once or twice a month, have receptions on the other half of the building,” Kruse said. “We have Mill Springs Makers Market and they’re (hosting) all local artists. We like to have receptions where we can feature our local artists. They can meet with people and serve beer and food.”

Alderman Terry Countermine spoke in favor of issuing the permit of The Corner Cup, “I think it’s a good idea. Certainly what they would do down there isn’t going to be like a ‘beer joint’.”

Mayor Chuck Vest, however, urged caution. “What’s the risk involved with this?,” Vest said. “To me, we know The Corner Cup, we know the establishment. What happens if we open this up and then somebody that’s not as well known or someone not having the best of intentions (requests a permit)?”

Vest’s concern was setting up a loophole that might be abused by future applicants for an on-premise beer permit.

The main issue was square footage versus seats.

For any establishment to obtain an ABC license, one of the conditions is a minimum seating capacity of 40 seats. The building housing the Corner Cup also contains the Mill Springs Makers Market, which adds considerable square footage, but no seating, as it is a retail store.

Someone trying to slip through a loophole might have a building with ample square footage for 40 seats but not want to install such seating, and still request a beer permit from the BMA without being required to obtain an ABC license.

While The Corner Cup building could hold much more seating, Kruse and Copp set up their businesses to maximize retail space.

As Town Administrator Bob Browning said, “I guess you could say, they’ve chosen to do retail in one part of the building as opposed to adding seats in there. I think it’s reasonable to say from an economic standpoint it’s in their best interest.”

“My concern is not you (to Kruse). I like what you’re doing. It’s to make sure we address anybody in the future that might want to do something that kind of gets around a loophole,” Vest added.

The BMA decided to defer action on The Corner Cup’s petition while the town staff and the town attorney worked on the amendment. A final decision will be made at a future Beer Board meeting.

Courthouse Square to get ‘A Taste of Texas’

From left to right, Roger and Mary Sipple, Amber Waninger and Myra Cardenas are ready to bring Texas to Tennessee.


Staff Writer


Many folks walking through downtown may have noticed activity around the building space that used to hold the “Courthouse Diner”.

Mary and Roger Sipple are bringing “A Taste of Texas” to 109 Courthouse Square within the next month. Mary’s daughter, Myra Cardenas, is also on the team alongside their marketing guru, Amber Waninger.

Their initial plan is to stay open from breakfast to dinner.

“We’re trying to shoot for the next couple of weeks (for the opening). Depending on if everything goes well,”

Cardenas said recently. “We’ve gotten all of our equipment in, we’re getting menus, social media, websites and vendors lined up.” Cardenas will be a chef and will design dish presentations while Mary Sipple will be head chef.

Mary Sipple has a long history in the restaurant business, having run three eateries in their home state of Texas before becoming a nurse and moving to Tennessee.

“I am from Texas. My husband and I met in Texas when he was in the Air Force. His family lives in Tennessee, so we decided one day to move up this way. That’s what brought us here.

“I ran restaurants before. My kids were little, and I got tired of it and decided to be a nurse. My kids have grown up and (Myra) wants to help now so we plan to do it again. I have a lot of support now. When I had the other ones it was just me and that was difficult to do.”

Mary Sipple drove from Morristown to the Veterans Assistance Hospital every day, an extra long commute, which led to the move to Jonesborough.

“We looked around the area and Jonesborough was just beautiful, I just loved it, the downtown historic feel. I wanted to find something around Jonesborough.”

Cardenas added that her mother was also drawn to the location by its history, and her love of all things antique.

“When we found this location she was like, ‘It’s my dream. It’s beautiful’. And we’re trying to keep that history. We are Tex-Mex and we do Mexican food, but we’re also trying to keep the integrity of downtown Jonesborough.”

The decision to stay open for dinner was assisted by folks who have walked by the building and requested they stay open for evening eats.

“We are considering different hours. We don’t know what the town’s looking for yet. We’re thinking maybe 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. to start out and to play it by ear and change our hours to 7 p.m. to start out and to play it by ear and change our hours according to what the people are looking for. Maybe they want us open later. Or maybe earlier, as we’re going to specialize in breakfast burritos,” Sipple said.

While their specialty will be breakfast-fare, the burritos may be ordered at any time of the day. And Cardenas said that their Tex-Mex inspired meals are different from typical Mexican restaurants.

“They tend to have a bigger menu, so you’re kind of overwhelmed. We’re trying to customize it to be our Tex-Mex. It’s not traditional Mexican food. For us, we use a lot of natural ingredients. We have our own spices and seasonings. Tex-Mex style is cumin-based. We don’t do too much with the ingredients because simplicity is key whenever you’re trying to create something that tastes wonderful.

“Queso will be cheddar-based. Growing up in Texas, we always like to add things to our cheese. Again, it’s just simple ingredients but when you mix them all together it creates this wonderful design.”

Cardenas certainly has the background for the task at hand.

She earned her Bachelor’s Degree at Full Sail University and ran the kitchen at the Winter Park, Florida Olive Garden.

Waninger earned her Masters at Full Sail in Marketing and Design and was also a culinary professional at Olive Garden.

According to Cardenas, the initial plan includes a beer license and a “quick service” style restaurant. 

“We’re not going to have serving staff or anything. Up front will be three chalk boards. You come up to the counter, order, sit down and we’ll have someone bring your food out to you. You’ll go up and get your own drink.”

She added that to-go service would also be available and that they plan to source locally and stay as fresh as possible (including homemade chips).

“Everything we’re making is basically fresh. Beans will be made fresh. Rice will be made fresh daily. Ground beef, all of that. We’re trying to stay away from as much frozen food as possible by sourcing locally.”

Other features will be a salsa bar, limited seating outside, vegetarian options and gluten-free dishes.

“We know what it takes to keep our customers happy,” Cardenas said. “We know what it takes to make sure everything in the back is functioning right. ‘These are my standards. This is where they are, and they’re not going to drop because there’s no reason for them to go below that’.

“We never want to be inconsistent, it’s the key to everything.”

“A Taste of Texas” will have phone service on Sept. 7. Their website will soon be online at www.atasteoftx.com.

In Photos: Taking an oath of leadership

Chancellor John Rambo (left) assists the newly named Washington County Mayor, Joe Grandy (center), joined by his wife Lucinda (right), in the county’s swearing in ceremony on Friday, Aug. 31 at the George Jaynes Justice Center in Jonesborough. The ceremony inducted new and re-elected school board members, county commissioners and other county officials into office, while family, friends and Washington County citizens watched at the standing-room-only event. Grandy was met with applause at the swearing in ceremony and took a moment to say thanks to county citizens after taking oath as the Washington County Mayor.