Longtime town employee steps down as director

Rachel Conger


Staff Writer


Outgoing Jonesborough Parks and Recreation Director Rachel Conger probably never gave much thought to how many different areas she would need to master at her job.  Monday’s Board of Mayor and Aldermen meeting might have clued her in.

Conger, who oversaw the entire department during her 12-year tenure, has shifted to a part-time position which was approved at the meeting.

The BMA also debated and ultimately approved the merits of dividing the position into two areas of responsibility.

Jonesborough Operations Manager Craig Ford said, “With what we have going on, at least certainly what we’ll have going on in the future, there are very distinct differences between what goes on in the Arts as opposed to what’s going on with, as an example, the little league athletic programs, the water park and the green spaces. So they are very different. And typically you have very different personalities doing those jobs.”

The loss of a director involved in so many facets of the department, the addition of so many green spaces over the years and the contrasting areas of the department prompted a recommendation to the BMA that the Parks and Rec Director’s job be split into an Assistant Recreation Director for Parks and Athletics Department, which would be filled by the former Assistant Director under Conger, Matt Townsend, and an Assistant Recreation Director for Arts and Special Projects, which would be advertised.

Alderman Virginia Causey began the discussion with the suggestion to fill the Parks and Athletics position and hold off on the Arts and Special Projects position.

“I think the Assistant Recreation Director that was recommended for the Arts and Special Projects should not be done. I think it should be that the McKinney Center staff and group will be the arts side and let’s re-evaluate in July … Let the staff that we have now, see what they can do. If they’re not doing what they need to do then we’ll look at hiring again in three to six months.”

At issue was the cost to fill Conger’s position, and whether the economic development of the arts required a director.

“From an economic development standpoint, the arts activities and a lot of the downtown activities have been very positive. The arts are already developing and I think we need to cultivate that and build on that,” Alderman Adam Dickson said. “If we embrace this idea of arts as economic development, then it seems like to have a person in place to make the plan work would be a good strategy. So I think that having a director that would cover all of the arts programming would be wise.”

After further discussion, a motion by Causey to approve the position description for the Recreation Director for Parks and Athletics, and fill the position with Matt Townsend was made and passed unanimously.

Another motion was made to approve the position description for Assistant Recreation Director for Arts and Special Projects but to wait three to six months to advertise in order to gauge how the town’s cultural and artistic venues, such as the McKinney Center and the Jonesborough Repertory Theater, could manage themselves.

Aldermen Terry Countermine and Dickson voted “nay” while Aldermen Causey, Stephen Callahan and Mayor Chuck Vest voted “aye” to approve the motion.

The final recommendation was the creation of a part-time position for Conger.

The board approved the position of Recreation Capital Project Planner.

The job would utilize the skills and knowledge she attained during her time as the Parks and Rec Director.

The Agenda Presentation from the meeting stated, “We are undertaking some capital projects, and it would be extremely helpful to have someone responsible for working with the architect, engineer, etc. to detail out every aspect of these capital projects.

“(Conger) has obtained very valuable insight on on-going capital projects because she helped develop them … The other area Conger can continue to be helpful with is revenue generation. We really need to focus on revenue producing activities, and obtaining sponsorships for a lot of our programming.”

County audit shows budget, purchasing deficiencies


Staff Writer


The 2018 audit for Washington County is complete and includes six findings from the year.

Three of those findings were from the county mayor and director of accounts and budgets, one was from the clerk and master, one was from the director of schools and one was from the sheriff’s office.

Though the county tallied multiple findings, the number of audit findings decreased from 25 to six between last year’s audit and the most recent from the Tennessee Comptroller’s Office, with last year being the first time the state had completed the county’s audit. Washington County Mayor Joe Grandy said there was still a bit of a learning curve one year after using state auditors but that he felt the financial state of the county is in the right place.

“I think it’s really good. Really some of the things that were on there this year have already been addressed and resolved,” Grandy said. “It’s not perfect but I feel like we’re definitely making progress and trying to understand some of the different interpretations that the auditors have that vary from the auditing firm that had done the audit for the county for 50 years.”

Three of 2018’s findings occurred in the office of the county mayor. The audit lists accounting records that failed to match the chart of accounts, a lack of authorization of budget operations and purchasing deficiencies as the three findings for the mayor’s office. Mostly, the audit seemed to circle around issues that carried over from the 2017 audit to the 2018 audit.

The audit reported that the per record estimated beginning fund balance reflected in the general capital projects fund was $8,077,362 less than that of the estimated beginning fund balance. The county mayor’s office response to the finding as listed in the audit said the mismatched figures “were recorded because the county completed a bond issue in June of 2017 but did not record the obligation for education debt sharing with Johnson City,” which was paid in fiscal year 2018.

The deficiencies in budget operations included $3,420,000 that was set aside for the excavation work for the athletic fields at Boones Creek. The funds were included in the original budget approved by the county commission, but the appropriation was not posted to accounting records since it was “reportedly an amount that had been included in the prior year’s budget,” the audit said.

“We just didn’t want to end up showing $3.4 million appropriated twice, once in 2017, once in 2018,” the county’s director of finance and administration, Mitch Meredith, told the Herald & Tribune. “That’s why we did not post that although it was in the budget.”

As for the county’s purchasing deficiencies, $369,638 from the general capital projects fund for education projects tops the list as the largest amount. Meredith said the amount, which is for architectural fees for the Jonesborough School project’s architect, was not booked because the commission had planned to pay it in phases as the commission approved those next steps in the project.

“Our position was that we weren’t going to extend those dollars until the commission authorized that next step,” Meredith said. “We didn’t book the whole architectural contract. We were going to book it in phases, but the comptroller thinks that it needs to be encumbered in total.”

So far the commission has paid 15 percent of the fees. Meredith added that should the Washington County Board of Education want to continue the next phases for the project, the board would have to bring that before the county commission.

“If the board of education moves to phase two of the architectural services contract,” Meredith said, “they don’t have any money for it until they come back to the commission and say ‘we want to go to the next step.’ And that’s the way it was intended from day one. Once they decide where to go, then the commission’s going to have to come up with and appropriate some dollars to finish out that architectural services contract.”

Come next year, Meredith said he believes it’s likely that the county could have zero audit findings and that the findings listed in the report have been or are currently being addressed.

“The county’s finances are being well manage, well handled, there’s not any errors or irregularities. I think that’s important to point out.”

To view the county’s full audit report, go to https://apps.cot.tn.gov/repository/CA/2018/FY18WashingtonAFR.pdf.

McCoy property restrictions could be lifted


Staff Writer


“Since the last time this body met, a whole lot has happened but nothing has changed,” Washington County Director of Schools Bill Flanary said in regards to the Jonesborough School project and adjacent property at the county’s first Health, Education and Welfare Committee meeting of 2019.

The HEW Committee meeting was a reflection of that statement as no official decisions were made by the five-member committee. However, the committee discussed the status of the property which is vital to the Jonesborough School’s construction plan.

The property, owned by Joe McCoy, has been held up by restrictions from neighboring business Lowe’s Home Improvement throughout the past year. But Washington County Attorney Tom Seeley said Lowe’s has most recently expressed willingness to lift the restrictions on the property.

“We kind of had a couple flip flops in this initially,” Seeley said. “It sounded like they weren’t going to be willing to release (the restrictions) and then there was some change of heart. The last (response) seemed more positive. They’re working on the language on the release and will get that to the county and Mr. McCoy.”

So where does this leave the “Scheme 6” design plan that was chosen by the school board for the Jonesborough School?Commissioner and HEW Committee Chairman Danny Edens said the McCoy property is a critical part of the design plan decision that awaits the commission. Until restrictions are officially lifted it seems inaction will be the only action.

“I think we need to hear from Lowe’s (before deciding on the design plan),” Edens said. “We need to know that they are releasing those restrictions to the county. Once we know that, I would be happy for this committee to meet for a special called meeting. But right now, I think we have to wait on Lowe’s.”

The county’s option to purchase the property runs out at the end of March, but commissioners said they’re hoping it’s sooner rather than later that a Jonesborough plan is considered.

“When I ran for office, I went to the town hall meeting that was held at Jonesborough School,” Commissioner Jodi Jones said at the HEW Committee meeting. “There were so many parents, teachers and administrators who had been dealing with this decision process for several years. Every time I sit in this chair, I also try to put myself in the shoes of people who are waiting on this decision. And I realize how frustrating it has been and is continuing to be.

“Some of these things feel quite outside of our control. Lowe’s making a decision on something is not something we can do anything about. I think all of us are really committed to putting in the extra time to make the decision making go quicker, but it is a really challenging decision.”

The project also effects the school system’s capital project priority list, which was redrafted by the school board in 2018.

In regards to the school’s priority list, the county’s accounts and budgets director, Mitch Meredith, sent a memo to Edens listing the county’s revenue dollars as well as the funds already used or committed. Meredith listed a negative amount of $2,092,227 — leaving $0 of actual education funds available in the capital projects fund.

“I don’t want to speak for (Meredith), but he left me with the impression that any capital projects that we vote to send on to budget to fund will have to be based on borrowing capacity,” Edens said. “There are no funds available other than borrowing, if I understood him correctly.”

While the memo was discussed, the priority list has yet to see action from the committee. In consideration of impending school needs, and other needs throughout the county, Jones said she felt the commission will have to consider the importance of its upcoming projects, mainly the Jonesborough School project.

“From everything I’ve heard, the cost of Scheme 6 takes us pretty close to our debt ceiling,” Jones said. “As we meet as commissioners and consider what our priorities are county-wide, this would have to be right at the top of the list because we won’t be able to address other priorities we have as a county if we take on that project. I’m not saying we shouldn’t.

“We’ll just have to be able to say this one school trumps a lot of other things that might be important. We’ll have that conversation when we have it. And we need to have them in a time sensitive way because our constituents are waiting for an answer.”

Report of prehistoric peccaries at Gray site

Evidence of peccaries have been found in Gray.


East Tennessee was once home to a stunning diversity of remarkable animals, including rhinos, tapirs, mastodons, alligators and more.  Scientists know all of this thanks to the fossil-rich clays of the Gray Fossil Site, which preserve an ancient ecosystem that dates back around 5 million years.  At that time, the site was a large pond surrounded by a lush forest.  Now, East Tennessee State University scientists have found another animal to add to the picture of this ancient ecosystem: peccaries.

Peccaries may look like pigs, but they are not.  True pigs, members of the family Suidae, are native to Europe, Asia and Africa, while peccaries belong to the family Tayassuidae and live in the Americas.  In some places, they are also known as javelinas. Like pigs, they are medium-sized omnivorous animals with small tusks. 

Crew members at the Gray Fossil Site have been pulling up peccary bones for many years, but a new study has revealed that these fossils belong to two different extinct species of peccary that roamed the ancient forests of Tennessee: Mylohyus elmorei and Prosthennops serus.  These peccaries were identified by well-preserved remains of their skulls, including nearly complete lower jaws of both species.  They would have been about the size of a German shepherd, which is a bit larger than modern-day peccaries.

These findings are particularly exciting since neither of these species has ever been found in this part of the country before, according to Dr. Chris Widga, head

McCoy property restrictions set project into 2019

Washington County Board of Education Chairman Keith Ervin explains to the board why he wants to hold off on a vote regarding the Jonesborough School at the Dec. 13 meeting.


Staff Writer


It’s been a year and a half since the Jonesborough School design plans were first discussed. And the project’s future won’t be decided before 2019 either.

At the Washington County Commission’s Dec. 17 meeting, county officials voted to extend the option to purchase the property setting next to the current Jonesborough Elementary School building for the seventh time. The approved extension will last through March of 2019.

The Washington County Board of Education plans to build a road on the property that would lead to the Jonesborough K-8 school as part of the board’s most recent design plan, “Scheme 6.” But building restrictions on the property held by neighboring business Lowe’s Home Improvement are yet to be lifted after a meeting earlier this month between Lowe’s and the property owner, Joe McCoy.

Commissioner and Health, Education and Welfare Committee Chairman Danny Edens said that by extending the option, the restrictions could be discussed between now and March.

“Without the restrictions lifted, we can’t do what the school board intended to do,” Edens said. “As long as the terms are still being negotiated, if there’s any chance at all, we’d want to extend the property option. If we don’t extend it that price could change.”

The commission also voted to have the county’s and Jonesborough’s mayors send a letter to Lowe’s board of directors, asking them to lift the restrictions.

“I still think it might be worthwhile to send a letter asking them to lift the restrictions as a public service, not looking at it as strictly commercial,” Commissioner Jim Wheeler, who made the motion, said. “They’ve been a good corporate partner and I think we could appeal to them in that way.”

But would the school board want to wait three months for a decision on the school project?

Edens asked Washington County Director of Schools Bill Flanary if the board would want to wait three months for an answer on the McCoy property restrictions or if the board wanted to put money into replacing the roofs at the current Jonesborough Middle School and Elementary School buildings instead.

“If they’re going to move forward and its detrimental to us buying this property, I wouldn’t want to extend (the option for the property),” Edens said. “This is something we really have to work together on. Will the board still be on board with this plan if you get a three month extension?”

Flanary said he felt the board would want to stay with its Scheme 6 design plan, but that the roof leaks at the two schools weren’t getting any better.

However, the school board did consider reroofing the schools at its monthly Dec. 13 meeting.

The motion to reroof both schools was made by board member Todd Ganger, but was later tabled by David Hammond and approved by Annette Buchanan, Mary Beth Dellinger, Chad Fleenor, Keith Ervin and Phillip McLain. Jason Day, Mitch Meredith and Ganger were opposed.

“This roof should have been done two years ago,” Ganger said.

The school system’s maintenance supervisor, Phillip Patrick, said the cost would be an estimated $925,000 to reroof the elementary school and more than $510,000 to reroof the middle school.

Still, some board members felt like asking for funds to reroof the schools would end the possibility of a K-8 school for Jonesborough.

“This is pretty much going to sentence them for 10, 15 more years without anything,” Dellinger said. “That is sentencing them in the eyes of the commission. That’s a horrible idea.”

Ervin, who is the board chairman, said he felt deciding to reroof the two schools would send the wrong message to the commission and could end an opportunity for the Scheme 6 plan.

“I want us to meet with the he architect and talk about the roofs, talk about Scheme 6,” Ervin said. “I don’t want to tie our hands. if we are voting for this roof, they might think we gave up on Scheme 6.”

Meredith, however, said he felt deciding to reroof the school would be a step towards moving forward in regards to the project that has been left in limbo. Ganger remained that the roofs needed attention as the project and property decision is yet again set to be discussed well into the new year.

“Let me remind you, we have held off on this roof for three years now,” Ganger said. “We’ll continue to kick the can down the road. That’s all we do.

BMA swears in new members

Judge John Rambo administers the oath of office for newly elected Mayor Chuck Vest.


Staff Writer


The Jonesborough Board of Mayor and Aldermen met last Wednesday, Dec. 12, at Town Hall for the first meeting featuring newly elected aldermen Stephen Callahan, Virginia Causey and ayor Chuck Vest. Causey and Vest were previously appointed to the board, but this was their first election.

Following the swearing in ceremony that preceded the meeting, Vest said, “We’re always going to give our best to the town of Jonesborough. That’s why we’re all here.”

Vest was elected to a two-year term. Callahan and Causey were elected to four-year terms.

BMA members must be citizens of the State of Tennessee, qualified voters and residents of Jonesborough for a minimum of one year.

The board typically meets on the second Monday of each month, barring exceptions, in the Board Room at Town Hall, 123 Boone Street. The town website features past agendas and minutes.

December’s meeting includes setting dates for 2019’s BMA meetings. The dates for next year are Jan. 14, Feb. 11, March 11, April 8, May 13, June 10, July 15, Aug. 12, Sept. 9, Oct. 14, November 11 and Dec. 9.

All meetings begin at 7 p.m. and are held in the Board Room of Town Hall.

Other subjects of note from the meeting included:

• Bryan Barnett was appointed to the Town of Jonesborough’s Planning Commission

• Two separate people nominated Glen Woodfin as December’s Employee of the Month. Woodfin is an employee with the town’s Street Department One nomination by Water Distribution chief Mike McCracken said of Woodfin, “He is always early for work and usually leaving late. Glen always has a positive attitude and is very knowledgeable of the everyday tasks that he faces each day. He is very dependable and well respected by the staff.”

• During “Aldermen Communications,” Alderman Adam Dickson said he had spoken with residents of the condominiums across from new Fleet Maintenance Building currently under construction and they “are saying very good things about the new construction. And I’ve heard so far, I believe two or three individuals that live in that development, just being pleased with the investments that this board made and that we didn’t just throw something together but that it was thought out and processed.”

• Also during “Aldermen Communications”, Vest asked Callahan, “Do you have anything you’d like to say on your first day on the job?” drawing from Callahan the response, “Just happy to be here,” eliciting laughter from the meeting attendees.

• During the “Town Attorney Comments,” Town Attorney Jim Wheeler told the Board there was a possibility of starting next year with a new occurrence for him. “It’s been quiet on the litigation front. This month we’ve resolved a couple cases on appeal and we’ve got a deadline that’s been set by the court of appeals in another case. The reason I mention it is if all those resolve this month, January I hope to be able to report to you will be the first month in the 20 years I’ve been doing this that we will not have any TML claims or cases against the town. I think it speaks that the folks that you have working for you do a great job at keeping things taken care of.”

Commission looks at new EMS station, improved communications

Plans for a new EMS building in Limestone is being considered by Washington County.


Staff Writer


Coverage could soon be improving when it comes to first responders in Washington County.

The Washington County Budget Committee approved a resolution to put $15,000 towards architectural fees for a potential EMS building, EMS Station 5, to be built on Stockyard Road. Washington County Mayor Joe Grandy said the architectural fees are estimated to cost $30,000 and that EMS already has $15,000 and asked the county to match the amount.

EMS Director Dan Wheeley’s letter to commissioners requesting the remaining funds for the architectural phase said the building would serve as a new EMS station and a fire training site. He also said the new building could benefit the county, offering improved coverage to the far corner of Washington County.

“The relocation of the Limestone Fire unit will decrease the response time for an engine to that end of LVFD’s response area as firefighters who live nearby can respond from Limestone.”

Grandy said he felt putting $15,000 towards the architectural fees would help the county get an idea of how much the new station would cost.

“We really don’t know if we can afford it,” Grandy said. “It’s not budgeted, it’s not scheduled anywhere yet, but we don’t really have much of an idea of how we would move forward until we could get a complete set of drawings and get some estimates for it.”

Communications between first responders could also be improving with Amaeteur Radio Emergency Services equipment for each of the seven local fire stations at $1,200 per station. The $8,400 proposal was unanimously approved by the budget committee.

The equipment would ensure backup communication between 911 dispatch and the fire stations during times of disaster. Commissioner Jim Wheeler, who is also the chairman of the public safety committee, said that during recent tornadoes and the snow storm in 1993, communications went down. With the proposed equipment, communication wouldn’t be lost as it has been in past outages.

“When I first looked at this I thought we were talking about problems we had never dealt with before but we’ve actually had two situations in the fairly recent past where we would have utilized this,” Wheeler said. “Communications were out in part of the county because of the weight of that snow and then when the tornadoes hit we were in another situation where communication was out. Had we had this system, they would have been able to communicate.”

While it would improve communications between dispatchers and fire stations, Wheeley also said it is a system that is mandated by the state for hospitals.

“It really is a state-wide system,” Wheeley said. “We’d still be able to talk to the hospitals through the system.”

Grandy said he felt the equipment would help better serve the area and take services to new heights in the county.

“This puts us at a whole new level.”

These items will be decided upon by the full commission at its next meeting on Monday, Dec.1, at 6 p.m. at the justice center in Jonesborough.

County to consider school design fees, property extension

The plan above is for the yet-to-be-approved Scheme 6.


Staff Writer


The Jonesborough School project is still stuck in the design phase, but Washington County is ready to move ahead in paying the architect for that phase of the project.

The budget committee unanimously approved a resolution from the Health Education and Welfare committee to approve setting forth $50,000 from the capital projects encumbrance account. The amount would be added to the $100,000 that was budgeted and paid for by the commission to pay the architect.

During the county’s Health, Education and Welfare Committee meeting on Thursday Nov. 29, Finance director Mitch Meredith said in 2017, the county agreed to pay the architectural and engineering fees as each phase of the project occurred. However, the state’s auditors are requiring that the county set aside $900,000 for the architectural and engineering fees, Meredith said.

“Because we signed the contract, our auditors say, ‘you have to encumber and reserve those funds.’ We kind of took a different position and said, ‘as we move from phase one to phase two to phase three, as we approve those, we’ll do that,’” Meredith said. “Our auditors have said, ‘you need to encumber that entire contract.’ They have actually put an additional $900,000 expense in our (Fiscal Year 2018) financials.”

Street has drafted eight design plans for the school project that is yet to be built. The school board saw multiple schemes throughout the past year and voted three of those to the HEW Committee, two of which were voted down by the committee, one of which is yet to be voted upon by commissioners.

Those haven’t been the only hold ups.

The county is yet to purchase the property next to the current Jonesborough middle and elementary schools after opting to enter a purchasing agreement between the property owner, Joe McCoy, and former Mayor Dan Eldridge in January of 2017. The budget committee passed a proposal from the HEW Committee to extend that purchase option for 90 days for what would be the seventh time.

This comes after a year of extensions due to restrictions set on the property by neighboring business Lowe’s Home Improvement and the former mayor asking the commission to again approve the purchase agreement due to “a lack of direction from the school board.” The option for the 15.5 acres is set not to exceed $777,900.

Commissioner Jim Wheeler suggested that the county and Jonesborough mayors send letters to Lowe’s asking that they lift the restrictions from the property. County Paralegal Teresa Stoots said that had already been done.

Washington County Mayor Joe Grandy added that the restrictions, which include permission for neighboring business Lowe’s Home Improvement to view and approve building design and construction on the property, have been on the property “since the beginning” of the Jonesborough School discussion. He also said he felt the property restrictions had to be figured out before a design plan for the Jonesborough School could be set in motion.

“It’s a known fact that we’ve got to deal with (lifting the restrictions) before we can actually buy the property,” Grandy said. “It wouldn’t make any sense at all to buy property and do construction on it, particularly allowing some former owner of it to come back later and after improvements have been made to it, judge whether they’re acceptable or not.

“There’s no way we would invest millions of dollars even in a road on that piece of property with someone having the ability to say, ‘No we don’t like this road. Put it back like it was.’ That’s just not something I would ever support.”

The commission will consider the architectural and engineering fees resolution along with the property purchase option extension at its next meeting on Monday, Dec. 17 at 6 p.m. at the justice center in Jonesborough.

Regional ‘Blue-Ribbon Committee’ formed by county mayors


Sullivan County Mayor Richard Venable and Washington County Mayor Joe Grandy have appointed a Blue-Ribbon Committee on Regional Cooperation to consider potential regional economic development strategies.

“Ultimately, everything is on the table,” Venable said. “Specifically, we know we want to drill down on entrepreneurial development, regional tourism marketing, existing business development and workforce development. Mayor Grandy and I will co-chair the committee, and we are looking for a wide variety of input on how we can work together to strengthen the future of our region.”

The effort builds on a historic October work session between Washington County and Sullivan County local legislative bodies.

“We know the days of chasing smokestacks are declining,” Grandy said. “And we know our communities are stronger together. But we must forge ahead to develop the businesses already located here as well as recruiting new entrepreneurs who desire a top-notch quality of life at a much lower cost than found in the typical technology hotspots.”

In addition to the mayors, who will co-chair the Committee, members will include:

Sullivan County Commissioners John Gardner and Mark Vance; Washington County Commissioners Phil Carriger and Jodi Jones; Johnson City Manager Pete Peterson; Kingsport City Manager Jeff Fleming; Bristol City Manager Bill Sorah; Johnson City Chamber of Commerce CEO Gary Mabrey; Kingsport Chamber of Commerce CEO Miles Burdine; Bristol Chamber of Commerce CEO Beth Rhinehart; NETWORKS Sullivan County Economic Development Partnership CEO Clay Walker; NETREP CEO Mitch Miller; AccelNow Director John Campbell, a former City Manager of Johnson City and Kingsport, as well as a former CEO of NETWORKS; and BrightRidge Public & Government Relations Director Tim Whaley.

Both Mayors anticipate further appointments to advisory sub-committees as an action plan is developed to move forward on a regional basis.

“We know there are many great minds in the region and we want to bring as many of those folks as possible to the table to get their input moving forward,” Grandy said. “As with the historic kick-off when both commissions sat together and broke bread, we know this is just the beginning.”

Further, both Mayors agreed that the committee should meet and speedily work to conclusions, with a tentative deadline set for July 2019.

“We must do all we can to position our region to compete and succeed in the highly technological future,” Venable said.

MyRide to offer important service to seniors

Volunteer drivers for the MyRide program.


Staff Writer


A new program that offers a “lift” to seniors who do not or cannot drive launched Tuesday, Dec. 4 at the Jonesborough Senior Center.

“MyRide TN – Jonesborough” offers “door through door” transportation to town of Jonesborough residents 60 years of age or older.

“Essentially, what it is for is folks who are homebound. To qualify to be a part of the program, you have to be 60,” Senior Center Director Mary Sanger said.

“And this will be serving seniors who don’t have access to transportation, so we have a group of volunteers that will pick these folks up and take them to doctors’ appointments, and then eventually it will include grocery stores, the pharmacy, the bank and things like that. We’re starting with medical appointments first, and we’re starting with folks that live in the city limits of Jonesborough. Eventually we’ll expand out into the county.”

The state-wide program was funded by a grant from the state through “Serving Tennessee’s Seniors,” which is administered by the Community Foundation of Middle Tennessee. Funding also came from a grant with the Tennessee Commission on Aging and Disability.

Senior Center Transportation Coordinator Susan Katko will be the program’s leader and she said she saw the benefits the program could offer.

“I see the need. I see the need for rides. Especially for medical appointments, which is where we’re starting. It’s been proven if you can keep them going to these appointments, you are increasing not only their lifespan but their quality of life.

“And this gives me the chills. Sometimes you may be the only person they see that day that week so you’re helping them to not be isolated as well. Then you’re like a gatekeeper because you can keep an eye on them and see if things are changing and if they need some other assistance.”

While the program may seem to be similar to popular transportation services such as Uber or Lyft, one significant difference is the personal touch offered through the door-through-door service.

“The volunteer will go to the (rider’s) house and provide door-through-door,” Sanger said. “So they would pull up, go up to the house, help the person out to the car and take them to the appointment. If it was needed, wait with the person at their appointment and then return them home.”

According to Katko, she has spoken with seniors who are already excited about the program.

“A lot of elderly people don’t want to be just dropped off at the curb of the doctor’s. This lady just called me yesterday and she had seen about the (program) on TV. And she said ‘This is a godsend because when I go to the doctor, I don’t like just being left there.’ She wants someone to stay with her whether it’s in the examination room or the waiting room, knowing someone was there.”

Sanger said they were always on the lookout for more volunteers, and currently there are 13 volunteer drivers who have taken the training.

“It’s a great way to volunteer. We’re always looking to add new volunteers. It’s a very meaningful thing to participate in.”

Those who wish to volunteer to drive must meet the following criteria:

• Be at least a minimum age of 21

• Complete the application

• Pass criminal background check/driving record check

• Pass Tennessee Bureau of Investigation criminal history check prior to their first assignment

• Must interview and take an orientation

• Attend all required training

• Have access to a smartphone or computer

• Have a reliable car and insurance

• Commit to drive at least once per month (Three hour block)

Seniors seeking a ride must meet the following requirements:

• Reside in the town of Jonesborough

• Be at least 60 years old

• Must be ambulatory (No wheelchairs but walkers and canes are permitted)

• Basic self-care (Needs little or no assistance)

• Lives independently/Manages incontinence

• Have the ability to communicate and understand (advanced dementia requires a personal escort, age 18 or over, who ride free of charge)

Members of the program pay a $20 yearly fee and each ride after costs $4.

For additional information, contact Susan Katko at (423) 788-4770 or at susank@jonesboroughtn.org.

BOE dips into fund balance for food, field

School officials covered needed maintenance updates at the called school board meeting on Monday, Nov. 26.


Staff Writer


While the future of some upgrades in the Washington County School system are hazy, the Washington County Board of Education set out to make sure that two of the system’s facility needs are met almost immediately.

At the BOE’s called meeting on Monday, Nov. 26, the board approved two motions to utilize approximately $230,000 from the school system’s fund balance for two sets of school system maintenance requests: one to replace food service’s hot wells, or equipment that keeps a school’s cafeteria food warm, and another to replace the David Crockett High School softball field’s lights.

Board member Phillip McLain’s motion for food service’s new drop-in hot wells not to exceed $80,000 passed with a 8-1 vote (board member Chad Fleenor was opposed). For McLain, the new equipment provides a “necessity” for the system.

“Taking care of our cafeteria staff to feed these kids — that may be the only hot meal these kids get in a whole week,” McLain said. “We need to take care of our kids so we need to do this. We need to get it done ASAP.”

In addition to broken dishwashers, ovens and freezers throughout the school system, Caitlin Shew, the system’s director of school nutrition, said the hot wells are essential to feeding a school’s students a warm meal each day.

“It was really hard to prioritize this list,” Shew told the board at the meeting. “They can’t even use those (broken) wells and if so many of them go down, you can’t run the line.”

The board chose to check the top need off of Shew’s list, followed by another school system issue, the softball lights at Crockett.

The board passed a $150,000 request for the softball field lights onto the county’s Health Education and Welfare committee in August, but the request was voted down by commissioners.

The lights currently contain mercury vapor lamps, which the system’s maintenance director, Phillip Patrick, said were put together by the Jonesborough Little League and are over 20 years old.

Board member Todd Ganger made the motion for new lights which resulted in  a 7-2 vote (board members Chad Fleenor and Keith Ervin were opposed). For Ganger, the poor lighting at the field, which he said has kept the team from scheduling night games, has become a safety concern.

“What they have right now is unsafe,” Ganger said. “There are some other issues that go along with that. But we need to fix it. The board needs to be proactive. They’re having trouble finding bulbs for them when the lights do go out. Before the end of this budget year, I’d like to see us do that. Even if it’s the end of the next softball season. We need to get that done. It’s been long overdue. It’s an embarrassment for those girls.”

In August, the commission discussed the possibility of the need for lights at the softball field becoming a Title IX issue, which is a civil rights law that requires both male and females are given equal opportunities for equipment and supplies. Washington County Director of Schools Bill Flanary said the school board’s attorney advised the board that the lights are “probably not a Title IX issue” and that it is more of a “safety issue.”

Lights and food service equipment weren’t the only proposed needs discussed. Flanary requested that the board come up with a “priority list” that the director could take back to the HEW Committee listing the maintenance projects the board feels should first be addressed.

“We have fallen in the habit of so many pennies for buses, so many pennies for technology, so many for capital improvements,” Flanary said.  “They are asking now that the school board put every thing into a single priority list. I would like to go back to HEW with a one-year priority list.”

Flanary recommended that the board top the list with buses, followed by technology, which would both be reoccurring requests. That list included the Jonesborough School project as the next priority. Board members said they would like to see the project either get a stamp of approval from the commission regarding the latest design plan or new roofs for the elementary and middle school buildings.

The board also came up with another list; Flanary said the county’s Commerce, Industry and Agriculture Committee asked that the board decide what athletic facilities should be constructed on the 37 acres behind the upcoming Boones Creek School on Boones Creek Road.

The board voted in favor of recommending a football field with a track around it, a softball field and a baseball field. The motion included a request that any future concession stands, restrooms and bleachers be discussed with the board. Board members agreed they wanted what is currently at the Boones Creek Middle and Elementary Schools at the new school site.

“Speaking as a parent from Boones Creek Middle,” Board member David Hammond said, “that’s all we’re asking for.”

Though the idea is that the fields would be utilized for school use, the county owns the property on which the athletic facilities would be constructed, thus making the project a county project. When it comes to ownership and decision making for the site, Ganger said that’s where trust in the commission must come into play.

“Right now we’re trusting they’re going to do this for us,” Ganger said. “Now we’re putting it in their court. We have to have a trust thing going. I trust that they’re going to come back to us (with a plan).”

The CIA Committee is slated to meet with the architect for that project at its Thursday, Nov. 29, meeting at 9 a.m. at the courthouse in Downtown Jonesborough. The HEW Committee will also meet on Nov. 29 at 1 p.m. at the courthouse and will discuss various school-related items.

Christmas to go to the dogs Saturday

Dogs will be the stars this Saturday in Jonesborough as town holiday events continue.


The Christmas in Olde Jonesborough series continues on Saturday, Dec. 1, from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. with Doggone Christmas.

Santa will be in his sleigh for visits and pictures with your furry friends.

Professional photography will be available from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. with proceeds going to the Jonesborough Dog Park and the Washington County Animal Shelter; photos are free with donations encouraged.

Homemade treats will be available for you to custom decorate and add to your dog’s stocking. The Christmas Market will also be offering handmade local goods including several vendors with pet-friendly items.

At 11 a.m., children ages 5 to 12 are invited to make a gingerbread dog house at the International Storytelling Center. The workshop is free and you may register at jonesboroughtn.org.

Dog Costume Contests will begin at 1 p.m. in front of the Courthouse including Ugliest Christmas Sweater, Best Holiday Costume and Pet/Owner Look-a-like.

Prizes will be awarded for best overall in each category.

For more information about this weekend or the Christmas in Olde Jonesborough Series, visit jbochristmas.com or call (423) 753.1010.

Santa breakfast to start new family tradition

The Chuckey Depot is all dressed up for Breakfast with Santa.


Staff Writer


This year, the Town of Jonesborough is encouraging those attending the new Christmas event, Breakfast with Santa, to get their pajamas on and board the Polar Express.

Breakfast with Santa will be held at the Chuckey Depot Museum to go along with the theme from the kid’s Christmas book and movie, “The Polar Express.” For the Town of Jonesborough, the depot, along with the Christmas movie theme, are the perfect pair for the new event.

“People sort of associate Christmas and trains together naturally,” said Rachel Conger, the Jonesborough Parks and Recreation director. “So we thought, ‘We do participate in all of the events the town puts on. We make sure the Chuckey Depot is involved in those, but what other way can we get kids specifically down to the Depot?’ We try to find new ways to get people down to the depot and to bring more awareness to it.

“We found the best thing for us to do is to always get it involved in our regular events downtown. The Chuckey Depot is involved in Christmas in Olde Jonesborough, we’ve got extended hours during those events and we’ve got other things that are going on down there. This was just another fun addition.”

The breakfast, which offers tickets for $15, will include a meal provided by Chick-Fil-A on Market Street in Johnson City and of course, time with the big guy in the red suit. Santa will also read excerpts from The Polar Express.

The proceeds from the event will benefit the Chuckey Depot and the event will also be held with three seatings at 8, 9 and 10 a.m. to accommodate especially for this family centered event.

“We’ve done the dining car fundraiser where people come and eat lunch or dinner in the dinning car. We tried once to do a lunch with kids, which worked out really well, but kids eat very, very quickly,” Conger said with a chuckle. “So if you’re in a different setting than your usual home meal setting, my experience has been that they’re not going to eat quite as much because they’re excited about what’s going on. So we thought, ‘We can only fit about 24 people at each seating,’ and we wanted to be able to accommodate as many people as possible. So putting (the times) back to back like that is the idea behind that.”

Time with Santa isn’t the only perk; a ticket to the event also includes a wooden ornament in honor of the train-themed Christmas event.

“We have a custom ornament being made,” Conger added. “It’s a train ornament. It’s little wooden ones that have an engraved ‘Chuckey Depot’ with the year on it. We anticipate that this will become an annual event so kids can collect the ornaments and put them on their own trees at home.”

Not only is Conger and the rest of the town hoping the train ornaments make a return on Christmas trees next year, but the hope for the event is that it also becomes a mainstay Christmas event in town that also serves as a new tradition for families.

“We hope that they make this into their own tradition with their families,” Conger explained. “People are so busy during the holidays and sometimes you get really caught up in going place to place and doing all those things you’re supposed to do. But with this being a family friendly event, we want mom and dad and grandma and grandpa to be able to come spend precious moments with their kids and just experience Jonesborough at Christmas time with Santa. We just hope that it’s just a really neat experience for them.”

Breakfast with Santa will be held on Saturday, Dec. 15, with seatings available at 8, 9 and 10 a.m. at the Chuckey Depot. Tickets are $15 and can be purchased from the Historic Jonesborough Visitors Center by calling (423) 753-1010 or by going to www.jonesborough.com/tickets.

Two county schools named reward schools

Faculty and staff from Grandview Elementary School received their Reward School banner at the Washington County Board of Education’s Nov. 8 meeting.


Staff Writer


Grandview Elementary School and Jonesborough Elementary School are both on the south side of Washington County. But this year, they have a little more in common; both schools have been named a reward school by the Tennessee Department of Education.

In honor of the reward status, Grandview held a school-wide event on Monday, Nov. 19, to celebrate and to share a little cake with the faculty and staff and popsicles with students.

Grandview Principal Rachel Adams was ready to celebrate with faculty, staff and students at Grandview.

“We are super excited. It’s the most prestigious honor you can get in the state of Tennessee as far as a school goes,” Grandview Principal Rachel Adams said, donning a celebratory shirt the school had printed after receiving the news. “We’re very excited for our teachers and our students. We just want all of them to be able to be proud of this accomplishment and understand how big of a deal it is.”

To be named a reward school is the highest distinction a school can earn in the state and the status is awarded to schools that are improving overall student growth and achievement.

This year, 318 schools received the reward school status, meaning about 20 percent of schools received the honor.

To solidify what it all means to K-8 students gathered around in the gym at Grandview, Washington County Mayor Joe Grandy and Washington County Director of Schools Bill Flanary served as special guests at the school celebration. Flanary made it a point to let the students know how prestigious the reward status is for a school.

Washington County’s Director of Schools Bill Flanary tells Grandview students how big of a deal the reward school status is in Tennessee.

“This is a very big deal,” Flanary said to the students. “You are a very big deal. I want to thank you for making us proud. I want to thank you for all your hard work. And I want to thank you for making Grandview Elementary School one of the very best schools in the entire state of Tennessee.”

For Adams, the award came as no surprise. She said she has seen firsthand the work teachers have put into student growth and achievement and helping students reach their academic goals.

“One of the reasons I attribute to our school being named a reward school is the fantastic, focused job our teachers did of goal setting with our students and monitoring their progress towards their goals,” Adams said. “So with that comes if you meet your goal, you’ve got to celebrate. So we want to celebrate that.”

Meanwhile, Jonesborough Elementary School Principal Matt Combs said his school’s teachers made the difference as well. He said that, specifically, small groups, focusing on student data and reducing the need for remedial education were keys to their success.

Faculty and staff from Jonesborough Elementary School received their Reward School banner at the Washington County Board of Education’s Nov. 8 meeting.

“The teachers have put a lot more focus on their craft and improving themselves  professionally,” Combs said. “It’s paid off in the end. When our third graders go to fourth grade, and they walk in, they’re better prepared. They’re able to walk in and be on that level immediately. There’s less need for remediation and that’s been visible. It’s paid off for the students, but it’s really been a culture change in focusing on our work and our craft in education.”

And with that culture change comes a higher level of expectation; Combs said the award has already pushed them to gear up for next year’s planning for future students.

“The reward status is nice and it was an honor to receive that, but you don’t want to dwell on the past,” Combs said. “There’s no time to sit and dwell on the past. We’ve got to look at the kids we’ve got in the classroom today and see what they need and how can we best serve them. We’ll start thinking about next year’s students in April or May and try to see what we can tweak over the summer to be better prepared for them next year.”

Adams said Grandview is hungry to keep working towards its goals — and on that list is being a two-time reward status recipient.

She also said that while receiving the high distinction has been unprecedented for Grandview, as it is for Jonesborough Elementary, the effort she sees from the school’s teachers is an every day thing and only adds to her elation with the award.

“As a principal, it’s very exciting, but this didn’t surprise me,” Adams said, “because I saw last year, day in and day out how hard our teachers worked, how focused they were, how much confidence they had in our students. And I also saw the same thing in our students.

“While it’s exciting, I see it every day. And it just makes me super proud to be the principal here.”

Town to put out welcome mat for Small Business Saturday

Small Business Saturday will be celebrated in Downtown Jonesborough on Saturday.


Main Street Jonesborough is the destination for this season’s Christmas shopping as Small Business Saturday kicks off this weekend.

Shoppers can support Jonesborough businesses by shopping locally on Nov. 24 with extended shopping hours from 10 a.m. until 8 p.m.

During Small Business Saturday, participating merchants will be handing out a limited supply of specially designed Shop Small canvas tote bags plus special incentives, holiday treats, give-a-ways and free gift wrapping.

In addition, the Heritage Alliance will be offering free town tours starting at the top of every hour from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. from the Chester Inn State Historic Site & Museum and a free Railroad Tour will be offered at 2:30 p.m.

Local residents are proud to have the streets lined with small businesses that are filled with items that can be found only in Jonesborough. Here you’ll find handmade jewelry from local artisans, special Appalachian Mountain crafts, unique, handcrafted gifts from around the world, nostalgic antiques, handcrafted jewelry, repurposed furniture and more. You’re invited to join The Shop Local Movement and discover Jonesborough’s downtown shopping district on Saturday, Nov. 24 from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m.

For more information visit jbochristmas.com or contact Cameo Waters at cameow@jonesboroughtn.org or (423) 753-1013.

Vest makes it official for mayor’s chair

Left to right, Aldermen Virginia Causey and Stephen Callahan and Mayor Chuck Vest celebrate their win.


Staff Writer


For Chuck Vest, the newly elected Jonesborough mayor and Washington County native, election day was a dream come true.

Vest has been the mayor for the past nine months after being appointed to the position in March of 2018 following Kelly Wolfe’s resignation from the position. But for Vest, being elected the mayor of the town in which he grew up is a huge honor.

“Being someone who grew up in Jonesborough, it’s a privilege to represent the Town of Jonesborough and represent people that I grew up knowing,” Vest said. “We’ve got some important things happening in the next two years. For myself, a local product of Jonesborough, to be able to get some of these things completed that will impact the town for the next 25, 30 years or longer, that’s just a good feeling.”

Now that Vest’s been officially elected as mayor, he’s looking to the future, especially where experienced town employees are concerned. Vest said his top goal as mayor is to create a succession plan for the town of Jonesborough.

“One of the things I want to make sure we do within the next six months is develop some type of succession plan for the leadership of our town staff,” Vest said. “We have a lot of great staff members there in Jonesborough, but many of them are nearing retirement. We just want to make sure that when we do have retirements, we have people in line ready to step up and take their place and for the town to continue on just as it is today.”

When it comes to the future of the town, Vest said he’s most excited to see the Jackson Theatre project completed. The mayor also said he felt that downtown will be adding more than just a theatre in the years to come and that he expects to see new businesses moving into downtown Jonesborough, ready to call Tennessee’s oldest town home.

“I would say the Jackson Theatre, once that’s completed in the next year or more, that’s something that could impact the town for the next many, many, many years,” Vest said. “I’m excited about that. There’s a lot of focus on getting the Jackson done. That will solidify that environment downtown.”

Apart from overseeing town progress, working with the Jonesborough Board of Mayor and Aldermen is another focus for Vest. The board will see returning member Virginia Causey and newly elected member Stephen Callahan added to the BMA. Vest said he feels confident in the group and the decisions they will make up ahead.

“We’ve got four good aldermen that have some great ideas. I want to make sure we continue to hear them voice their opinions and help move the town forward. It’s good group,” Vest said. “They’re definitely capable. We all get along really well.”

Above all, the Jonesborough mayor said he wants to make sure to focus on working towards two goals throughout the years to come: being a good steward of taxpayer dollars and taking good care of town employees.

“There’s nothing more important than making sure we’re good stewards of the taxpayers money because none of this can be accomplished unless we’re really prudent on how we spend the tax dollars,” Vest said. “We’ve gotta make sure we take care of the town staff because a lot of these things we talk about doing take our staff getting these results. We just need to manage our money well and take care of our staff so they can accomplish these projects. That’s going to be our goal.”

Causey proud to earn community’s support

Left to right, Aldermen Virginia Causey and Stephen Callahan and Mayor Chuck Vest celebrate their win.


Staff Writer


As the votes were rolling in on election Tuesday in Jonesborough, an unusual sight could be seen in Jonesborough; the three candidates vying for the two spots as Jonesborough aldermen, Stephen Callahan, Virginia Causey and Charlie Moore, and the mayoral candidate, Chuck Vest, were together, enjoying conversation.

For Causey, who was elected as an alderman along with Callahan, the kindness seen throughout the local election serves as a sign that the future dynamic of the BMA will be a positive one.

“I think Tuesday was a testament for all of us because we stood down there, we laughed, we talked, when people came through, we talked to whoever was there. The camaraderie was excellent,” Causey said. “I think we’re going to all get along. We’re going to disagree because you disagree on things and you agree to disagree sometimes. I believe the board will be very very good.”

“I think Stephen will bring a lot of young ideas to the table,” Causey added. “I’m much older and I can see things from my experience that I’ve had in the past.”

Her background comes with experience; Causey spent 40 years as the executive assistant to the town administrator before she retired two years ago. Just when she thought she was finished, Causey was appointed to the BMA in April of 2018 when Vest was appointed mayor following Kelly Wolfe’s resignation to the post. After spending eight months as an appointed BMA member, Causey said after tallying 1,254 votes in the Nov. 6 election, it all feels official.

“I sort of sat back in the time that I’ve been there because I was an appointed alderman,” Causey said. “But now I feel like I’m finally officially elected by the citizens to represent them. Before, it was like I was appointed, but am I official? Am I not? Even though I knew I was, it was just not the same as it is now.”

Now Causey said she’s ready to see the town’s projects to completion, starting with the town garage and followed by the park to be placed behind the senior center.

“(The goal is) to finish that city garage and start the park because we do have a lot of money waiting to be invested up there. And I think the location of the park is going to be a great place,” Causey said, “But I do think the garage is our main goal because it’s been outgrown for a long time with as many vehicles and things as we have.”

In addition to maintaining her top goal to serve as an advocate to the town’s employees, Causey said she is set to work on communication both between the board as well as the constituents of Jonesborough.

“I hope and pray that I can make a difference (with) communication especially because that’s a problem we’ve had,” Causey said. “And that’s with anywhere. I feel like people can call and talk to me. If they talk to me, I will find them an answer. It might not be an answer they want to hear sometimes, because I’m just one person, but I do feel like the confidence they’ve shown in the votes will reflect in me also.”

In preparing to represent the people, Causey said she wanted the people of Jonesborough to know that each and every decision she makes on the board comes with a lot of weighing and prayer.

“I’m just very blessed they elected me,” Causey said. “Before I make decisions, I really pray hard about it because I want to make the right decisions that are good for the town and good for whoever is involved in the situation. I just think as long as you’ve got God on your side, you’re okay.”

School district boundaries shuffled on north side

Washington County’s plan to redistrict the northern part of the county will involve several changes, including new bus routes.


Staff Writer


The Washington County School District will be seeing changes in the northern part of the county.

The Washington County Board of Education unanimously voted to approve a redistricting plan for the north side of the county map. Board member and planning committee chairman Phillip McLain said the plan was constructed to relieve the high occupancy at Ridgeview Elementary, recruit enrollment at the future Boones Creek School and increase enrollment at Sulphur Springs Elementary and Gray Elementary.

“The adjustments that are recommended have to do with bus routes. The first thing I want to tell you is as the bus routes change, where those students ride a bus to changes. If they still want to go to that school, they have to become car riders. The way this process works, it’ll actually take seven years to completely work through the total rezoning.

The rezoning will effect the northern zones in the county.

“They may not all ride the bus to the new school. Mom and dad may take them to RidgeView. We’ll allow that to happen for seven years. As those children move on, (future students in those same zones) will be at the new school from that particular bus route.”

The plan includes moving 75 students from Ridgeview to Gray, 70 students from Ridgeview to Sulphur Springs and 44 from Ridgeview to Boones Creek. Meanwhile, 32 students will be moved from Gray to Boones Creek and 18 from Sulphur Springs to Boones Creek.

Board member Mary Beth Dellinger said she felt the shuffling still won’t put enough students in the new Boones Creek School. Meanwhile, board member Chad Fleenor said he felt part of the map near Bugaboo Springs should be in the Boones Creek School district.

“I’m just saying the bus is going to go right by there. To me, they ought to be going to Boones Creek. The hold up is that we’re afraid they’re going to Boone verses Crockett. I just think that’s not a very good idea. I’d like to see that amended to grab that, myself.”

Director of Schools Bill Flanary said as of now, Daniel Boone High School is at about 95 percent capacity. Crockett, he said, could use some added students. BOE Chairman Keith Ervin said he opposed changing the boundary of that area.

“Chad, I understand what you’re saying, but I can’t support Crockett kids, and Jonesborough verses Boones Creek, Boone,” Ervin said. “We’ve had these lines the same for 40 years.”

Board members said a future town hall meeting will be scheduled to allow parents and citizens to voice their opinions about the redistricting plan.

Holiday Soups and Songs event to raise funds for Yarn Exchange


It’s dinner and a show.

The Yarn Exchange presents its annual fundraiser at the McKinney Center to kick-off the holiday season on Monday, Nov. 26 at 6 p.m.. The event will include hand-crafted ceramic bowls, appetizers, an all-you-can-eat soup  buffet, salad, dessert, and drinks followed by a sing-along with stories by the Yarn Exchange Radio Show players and the Jonesborough Novelty Band. Proceeds benefit the Mary B. Martin Programs for the Arts at the McKinney Center.

Tickets are $25. For more information call (423)753-1010 or purchase tickets, go to www.jonesborough.com/tickets.

Callahan earns most votes in first election

Left to right, Aldermen Virginia Causey and Stephen Callahan and Mayor Chuck Vest celebrate their win.


Staff Writer


When Stephen Callahan was waiting for the results to return for the race for one of Jonesborough’s Alderman seats, he found the feeling quite unique.

“I was down at town hall waiting for them to post results on the door down there, and it was a cool experience, nerve-wracking. I’ve never done anything like this,” Callahan said, who competed with Virginia Causey and Charlie Moore for one of two open alderman positions.

Callahan won 1,344 votes at the Nov. 6 election, with Causey coming in second with 1,254, and Moore at third with 840.

“I’ve put myself out there a lot, but as far as this election goes,” Callahan reflected. “I’m surprised that we won but I’m glad we did. This is my first go at any (public office). It’s a great feeling to know that the community trusts you with their votes. I’m very excited to work with the other board members, people I’ve admired for a while now.

“And now I get to sit beside them and help push the town that I love so much hopefully to a prosperous future, and that’s the most special part about it.”

Speaking prior to the Monday night Board of Mayor and Alderman meeting, Callahan, proprietor of the downtown Tennessee Hills Distillery, shared some of his experiences so far and some hopes he had for the future.

“First and foremost, I want to get settled in and learn the lingo, so they say. One of the biggest things I want to do early on is try to get some type of initiative regarding an economic development board down here to hopefully, basically help people understand where we are now and where we can go as long as we make the right decisions.

“We can look at some of the other towns that are flourishing right now, because there are some towns that are around us right now that are doing very well … we also need to take note on how they’re doing things and try to figure out where we can do it better. And I think Jonesborough is in a great position right now, with the board they have and I’m excited because Jonesborough chose me to lead the community.”

Callahan added that he hoped his youth would draw other young voices forward.

“A lot of people coin this town as an old town, being stuck in our old ways. For me to be able to come in and kind of capture not only the young audience, but I captured some of the elderly audience as well, there’s something to be said for that.

“And to be able to be the sounding board for the younger generation, you know, I’ve been out and I’ve experienced some other communities and some other cities and I’ve got great ideas. It’s kind of cool to be the spokesman for my generation here in Jonesborough, which still surprises me.”

While Callahan won’t be sworn in until December 12, he said some current board members have been in contact.

“Nobody’s really tried to pull me one way or another. Everyone knows I’m kind of my own man in that regard. But a lot of them have reached out to congratulate me and I think a lot of them are excited to see that I was the winner of the election and I think they have actually seen me in this room, with some of the things I’ve done with my business and I think they see how it’s impacted the community. Which is a great feeling.”

Callahan has yet to make an impact on the new BMA, but urged anyone who wished to get in touch with him.

“I’ve always got an open door policy. It’s not very hard to find me, pretty much seven days a week. If people want to call me, they can leave a message and we’ll schedule an appointment, and I’ll be glad to sit down with anybody.”