Local News Articles

Willoughby and Foster Ask State Representatives to Oppose School Voucher Program

January 21, 2013
Pody and Weaver hear from Mark Willoughby on School Vouchers

Governor Bill Haslam's embrace of a limited school voucher program is not sitting well with DeKalb County Director of Schools Mark Willoughby.

In an open meeting with State Representatives Mark Pody and Terri Lynn Weaver Friday, Willoughby said he doesn't like the idea of the state taking money from the DeKalb County public school system and giving it in the form of vouchers so parents can send children to other schools. "I'm against vouchers that the governor is wanting," said Willoughby. "From what I've read, vouchers would be $9200 per child. In our county, we get a little over $8,000 per child (state and local funds). I don't see why a child getting a voucher should get more that we get per child," said Willoughby.


A voucher program, which supporters call the "opportunity scholarship program" would divert state and local funding to private schools.

"As near as I can tell, they've (those in support) got the votes to do some sort of vouchers," said Representative Pody. " There's a group that says give us 100% and there's a group that says don't give any (vouchers) because it will gut the public schools. Is there a number in the middle? Is there a compromise? What would happen if there was a voucher available for $3,000 or $3500 or $4,000," asked Pody.

"Lets just say for DeKalb County it's $8,000 (that we get in state and local funding per child) and I think its more than that," said Willoughby. " If you have ten students that go to a charter school, that's $80,000. That's not quite two cents but its close to two cents of the property tax for DeKalb County that we would be losing and $100,000 for DeKalb County to lose in our education budget is a lot of money," said Willoughby. "Lets say if you're in DeKalb County and you're driving to Lebanon to work and you want your children to go to Friendship Christian. You could get a voucher for $9,200 and you can just drop them (children) off there or there could be a private school set up that won't have anything to do with churches or God and they'll take that (voucher) money away from our school system," said Willoughby.

Once the voucher program is in place, Willoughby fears it will expand creating an even heavier financial burden on the public school system. "I think the voucher system would get just like the charter school system where it would be expanded. The state started charter schools and I look at vouchers as a crack in the wall. If there's a crack in the wall I can put my knife in there and get a little bit more out of it. Later on I can put a crowbar in there and pry it open a little more," said Willoughby. Charter schools are for profit but the average charter school is not any better than your regular (public) school. I think data proves that," he said

County Mayor Mike Foster, who was also at the open meeting, agreed with Willoughby. "I agree with Mark. I don't think it's a good idea to fragment the public schools. The people you're going to be taking out of the schools, traditionally are going to be from upper class people. If you remove them from the classroom and put them in private school, you remove their mama's and daddy's support for that school and their involvement in that school. I think that's the wrong message. I think that it is so harmful to the public schools. I think if we have a problem with public schools we need to be addressing them and fixing that problem if there is a problem rather than sending kids to a private school who are probably going to go anyway. When you start doing vouchers, you're probably going to take the wealthiest four or five percent of the people out of the county and their kids out of the school and their parents out of the involvement of the school," said Foster.

Representative Pody said he has not yet made up his mind about vouchers. "There are a lot of people who want the vouchers and they want 100% of that money to go wherever their student goes and they want to be able to take it out of their public schools," said Pody. "There's a lot of people who say that would gut the public schools and their funding. I am not going to take a side here. I've got to find out more information about it. I don't agree that 100% of that money should be taken out of the public schools. I think the public schools have to educate everybody and if we withdraw all that money I think that will have a detrimental affect on those who couldn't leave that system for whatever reason. We need to fix our public schools if they need fixing. Taking the money out isn't going to do it. However, if there is somebody who wants to take their child out and move him to another school and that education dollar that is part of that could follow the child, I would see some reason in doing that. Having it go to a public school and moving to a private school, I think we would have serious concerns about that. If an individual wants to have their child go to a private school and they are willing to pay for that, its fine. I'm all supportive of that. But using public money to support private schools, I would be hesitant about doing something like that," said Representative Pody.

Representative Weaver said she too has some concerns. "I've got quite a few concerns about it (voucher program). I have not made a decision on it. That's the wonderful thing about committees, debates, and discussions. There still has to be a lot to help me make that decision," said Representative Weaver.

Willoughby is also troubled that the state may create a statewide charter authorizer to take authority to establish charter schools away from local school boards. "When the state started (charter schools) there were good regulations on that and there are some good charter schools but then we saw last year where that the Governor and the Commissioner of Education saw "Great Hearts" and they wanted "Great Hearts" (an Arizona-based charter operation) in Nashville Metro schools. But "Great Hearts" did not meet the requirements for charter schools as were set up so after it was voted down (by Metro schools) the commissioner took $3.2 million dollars away from Metro schools, which I think is illegal. I don't think the commissioner has a right to do that. Its like they now want state control over who grants charter schools so that if a local board doesn't grant a charter school and it can be appealed to the state its going to make them (state) rubber stamp it. Its sort of like saying we (state officials) want local control on some things. When we (state officials) run for office we say we want local control but yet when we don't get our way we're going to say that we (state officials) want control. I think that's what's happened with charter schools," said Willoughby.

Representative Pody said he is in agreement with Willoughby and plans to submit a bill to reign in the authority of the commissioner of education who has the power to override statutory law." It cuts the commissioner's authority. Right now he can override statutory law. But we are submitting a bill specifically to stop him from doing something like this, specifically on charter schools. We are in agreement that this has to be reigned in," said Pody.

Governor Haslam said recently that he plans to push a limited education voucher bill in the Legislature this year. The poorest children in Tennessee's worst-performing schools would be eligible, the governor said. He expects to release details in about two weeks.

State Senator Mae Beavers Congratulates New Chairman of Judiciary Committee

January 21, 2013
Mae Beavers

State Sen. Mae Beavers (R - Mt. Juliet) has congratulated her friend and colleague, Sen. Brian Kelsey (R - Germantown), on his recent appointment to chair the Senate Judiciary Committee. Senator Beavers also expressed gratitude for the honor of serving as chair of the distinguished committee for the past six years.

"I am very proud of the hard work that was exhibited by the committee members and the committee staff over the past six years," said Sen. Beavers. "I took great pride in efficiently completing our committee work in a timely fashion, and was excited to lead the committee towards becoming the most technologically advanced committee in the legislature. Also, Im appreciative of my colleagues who consistently praised the great work that the committee produced, and I'm proud to have been one of the few women in leadership in the state legislature."

Sen. Beavers was elected to the state house in 1994, and to the state senate in 2002. She was chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee from 2007 until last year, being one of the only females and non-attorneys in recent times to do so. Sen. Beavers was consistently recognized by Republicans and Democrats alike for effectively and fairly running the Senate Judiciary Committee - one of the largest committees in the legislature in terms of legislation volume, and one that covers all legislation dealing with civil and criminal laws. Under her leadership, the committee became the only committee in the legislature to operate in a completely "paperless" fashion. Sen. Beavers is particularly grateful for the hard work of her three past research analysts and her executive assistant, some who have served the committee for over six years.

In addition, Sen. Beavers served as the contact person for hundreds of Tennesseans who expressed their frustration with the lack of accountability and transparency amongst Tennessee's judiciary. She conducted numerous hearings on judicial oversight, and was considered by many to be one of the driving forces behind increased transparency and accountability to the board that oversees complaints against judges, the formation of more stringent judicial recusal rules, as well as the online publication of trial judgment statistics brought about after her 'Report Card for Judges' legislation.

"In addition to laws regarding greater judicial accountability, I am proud of all the legislation that we shepherded through the committee, including tort reform, tougher DUI and meth laws, laws increasing our 2nd Amendment rights, important constitutional amendments protecting the rights of the unborn and prohibiting a state income tax, and numerous other laws to help increase the efficiency and effectiveness of our civil and criminal justice system," said Sen. Beavers. "I am also thankful for all of the senators - Democrats and Republicans - who served on the committee (often late into the evening) and all that they have contributed to the state of Tennessee."

Finally, Sen. Beavers is appreciative of the opportunity to serve as 1st Vice Chair for both the Senate Transportation & Safety Committee and the Energy, Agriculture & Natural Resources Committee, and welcomes the possibility of bringing better roads and bridges to District 17. In addition, she looks forward to the additional time she will get to spend interacting with the citizens of Cannon, Clay, DeKalb, Macon, Smith and Wilson counties, serving as their senator for the remainder of her term and for what she hopes will be additional terms after that.

"I was honored to have served on the Judiciary Committee and am proud of all that we accomplished," said Sen. Beavers. "However, I know that it is time for me to move on and provide my expertise in other areas of the legislature, and I look forward to spending more time in my district serving the citizens of the six great counties that I represent for what I hope will be many more years."

Tennessee Unemployment Benefit Tax Information Now Available

January 21, 2013

Recipients of Tennessee unemployment benefits during 2012 will be able to access the information they need for income tax purposes on the state Department of Labor & Workforce Development homepage: https://tdlwd.tn.gov/ui1099/ on Saturday, January 19, 2013. They can also go straight to the log-in page: https://tdlwd.tn.gov/ui1099/login.aspx.

By entering their birth date or the same PIN they used to certify or inquire on their unemployment claim, claimants can view a summary of total unemployment benefits paid to them, view the total amount of federal income tax withheld, and print a summary of this information.

The department also began mailing the IRS Form 1099-G to more than 245,888 benefit recipients on January 14, 2013. The forms will reach claimants no later than January 31, 2013. The U.S. Postal Service will not forward 1099-G forms.

Recipients of unemployment benefits are not required to submit a copy of their 1099-G form with their income tax return. If claimants do not receive their form in the mail and do not have access to the Internet, any Tennessee Department of Labor & Workforce Development Career Center allows use of a computer to print the needed form. Claimants unable to visit a Career Center and not having Internet access may send a written request, including their name, address, date of birth, Social Security number, and phone number, with signature, to

Special Services Unit

TN Department of Labor & Workforce Development

220 French Landing Drive

Nashville, TN 37243-1002

Lucas Phillips Named Tiger Football MVP; Callie Gash is Most Valuable Cheerleader

January 20, 2013
Dwayne Page
Callie Gash and Lucas Phillips
Jacob Parsley Receives Clay Edwards Memorial Tiger Pride Award
Tiger Football Player Award Winners
Tiger Football Cheerleader Award Winners

Senior Quarterback Lucas Phillips was named Most Valuable Player of the 2012 DeKalb County High School Football Team during the annual Awards Banquet held Saturday night at the Smithville First Baptist Church Life Enrichment Center building. The awards were sponsored by Liberty State Bank

The MVP trophy was presented to Phillips by Coach Steve Trapp. Phillips helped lead the Tigers to an overall 10-2 record and another appearance in the state play-offs in 2012. The team won its first ever home playoff game but was eliminated the following week in the second round at Livingston Academy. Coach Trapp said Phillips had 5,368 yards passing for his high school career and threw for 71 touchdowns in twenty eight games played. Phillips rushed for 1,307 yards on 263 carries and scored thirteen rushing touchdowns. "He has been an absolute pleasure to coach", said Coach Trapp. "He has one of the highest competitive spirits I have ever had in a player and that's why he was perfect to play quarterback for us. To get a quarterback to play in our system and do what he did is very special. It's a lot of work. Its different from any other position. And what he knew about defenses and offenses I think will help make him be a special player on the next level," said Coach Trapp.

Phillips set the following school records at DCHS:
Most passing touchdowns in a game: (7 TD's against White County in 2012)
Most passing yards in a game: (420 yards against York Institute in his first career start)
Best season completion percentage in 2012 (almost 60%)
Number one in DCHS history with single season passing touchdowns (43)
Number two in DCHS history in touchdown passes for a career (71)
Number two in pass and rush touchdowns in a career (84)
Number one in pass and rush touchdowns in a season (49)
Number two in DCHS history for total offense in a season at 3,434 yards

2010 Team voted Offensive Back of the Year
2011 District 8-AA Most Outstanding Quarterback
2011 Upper Cumberland 1st Team Offense
2011 Team Voted Offensive Player of the Year
2012 Twice voted Upper Cumberland Region Player of the Week
2012 DTC Sports Player of the Week
2012 DTC Player of the Year
2012 District 8-AA Offensive Player of the Year
2012 Upper Cumberland 1st Team Offense
Pre-Season Academic All American

Phillips' state records:
TSSAA- #5 single season passing touchdowns in 2012 (43)
TSSAA-#4 single game passing touchdowns (7)
TSSAA-#6 for touchdown passes in a career (71)
TSSAA-#9 in pass and rush touchdowns in a career (84)
TSSAA-#6 in pass and rush touchdowns in a season (49)
TSSAA- #10 for 3,434 yards of total offense in a season

Meanwhile, Senior Callie Gash was named Most Valuable Cheerleader. The presentation was made by Cheer Coaches Amanda Fuller and Sonya House. "This award is voted on by the girls," said Fuller. " We probably knew this from day one that she was going to be our go to girl. She was the number one at try-outs and had the highest score and for that reason we were going to her as our captain. We worried sometimes that maybe we were putting too much on her but I think she wanted the responsibility . She did an excellent job at everything. We watched her excel so much as a cheerleader and as a captain and we are truly going to miss her," said Fuller.

"When she made the squad her freshman year she really didn't speak that much," said House. "She was quiet, timid and shy. But I saw a spark there that I wanted to bring out. I kinda took her under my wing and by her junior year she became more vocal and demanding. She became a mini me. My child. My heart. She might have taken this year on her shoulders but she carried it with style and I could not be more proud of my angel," said House.

Other individual Football Player Awards are as follows:

Offensive Player-Will Molander
Offensive Lineman-Matt Boss
Offensive Back- Chris Chapman
Receiver-Sonni Fullilove
Defensive Player-Cody Puckett
Defensive Lineman-Eli Gill
Linebacker-Conner Apple
Defensive Back-Alex Hayes
Special Teams Player-Devonta Milan
Most Improved-Spencer Stanfield
MVP-Lucas Phillips
Coach Clay Edwards Memorial Tiger Pride Award-Jacob Parsley

Individual Cheer Awards are as follows:

Best Stunts-Chelsea Lewis
Most Spirited-Elizabeth Mason
Best Jumps- Taylor Marshall
Best Dance-Cassi Lester
Most Improved- Carlee White and Hannah Walker
MVC-Callie Gash
DEAR (Dedication, Enthusiasm, Attitude, and Responsibility)-Grace Webb

(TOP PHOTO: Tiger Football Most Valuable Cheerleader Callie Gash and Most Valuable Player Lucas Phillips)

(SECOND PHOTO FROM TOP: Clay Edwards Memorial Tiger Pride Award Winner Jacob Parsley (second from left) pictured with wife and children of Clay, Tena , Abram, and Sarah Edwards)

(THIRD PHOTO FROM TOP: Football Awards:(FR) Spencer Stanfield, Alex Hayes, Lucas Phillips, Will Molander, Chris Chapman, Jacob Parsley (BR) Devonta Milan, Cody Puckett, Eli Gill, Sonni Fullilove, Matt Boss, Conner Apple)

(BOTTOM PHOTO: Football Cheerleaders:(FR)- Grace Webb-DEAR; Cassi Lester-Dance, Callie Gash (MVC), Chelsea Lewis-Stunts; (BR)Taylor Marshall-Jumps, Carlee White & Hannah Walker-Improved, Elizabeth Mason-Spirited)

Smithville Firefighter Danny Poss Receives "Highest Attendance" Award

January 20, 2013
Dwayne Page
Chief Charlie Parker presents award to Danny Poss
Members of Smithville Volunteer Fire Department

Smithville Volunteer firefighter Danny Poss received the "Highest Attendance Award" Saturday night during an appreciation dinner for city firefighters at the Smithville First United Methodist Christian Fellowship Center.

The award was presented to Poss by Smithville Fire Chief Charlie Parker.

Poss attended the most incidents, training, and activities during 2012. A total of 124 out of 148 calls. Deputy Chief Hoyte Hale was next having attended 114 calls and Lieutenant John Poss attended 105 calls.

Meanwhile city firefighters were also presented pins for years of service including the following:

Cody Jenkins- 1 year
Kevin Adcock- 2 years
Cory Killian- 2 years
Ronald Whitaker- 4 years
Glen Lattimore- 5 years (absent)
Stephanie Wright- 7 years
James R. Hunt- 8 years
Gary Johnson-8 years
Wallace Caldwell- 9 years
Charles Young-14 years (absent)
William Brown- 15 years (absent)
Greg Bess (Photographer- 18 years (absent)
Anthony Wright (Lieutenant)- 21 years
John Poss (Lieutenant)- 22 years
Jeff Wright (Captain)- 27 years
Hoyte Hale (Deputy Chief)- 28 years
Donnie Cantrell (Lieutenant)- 33 years
Danny Poss (Lieutenant)- 33 years
Charles Parker (Chief)- 33 years.

In addition to the firefighters and their spouses, the event was attended by Mayor Jimmy Poss and Aldermen Danny Washer, Jason Judd Murphy, Tim Stribling, and Shawn Jacobs and members of their families. City officials expressed appreciation to the firefighters for the work they do and their commitment to helping improve the operation of the fire department to keep residents safer.

"We do appreciate you and commend you for everything that you do," said Mayor Poss. "The city is proud of you. I am proud of you. You go through a lot of danger. The ladder truck is a good help aid for you. We hope we won't ever need it but its there if we do need it and it's paid for which is a good thing. Keep the good work going," said Mayor Poss.

"This is certainly just a very small way of the city showing its appreciation for all that you do," said Alderman Jacobs, who is also Police and Fire Commissioner. "It's a tremendous amount of work that you all do behind the scenes not to mention when the alarm sounds and you actually have to respond to fires. Its all very appreciated. I wish we could pay you what you're worth. We've made some progress this year. We were able to get the ladder truck. We hope to keep the progress going," he said.

Alderman Stribling also thanked the firefighters for their hard work and dedication to the city.

"We appreciate you helping us out this past year," said Chief Parker. "We still have plans. We look to have continued support I hope with the backing of the mayor and aldermen as we try to proceed forward with the fire department. We had a pretty good year in 2012 with the purchase of the ladder truck. That is something that we have been actively pursuing for the last four years ever since the completion of the fire hall. Its good to have that behind us. We've also added one full time personnel. That gives us a starting point to keep moving forward from there. For the new aldermen who have not been around very long, we don't like sitting still. When you give us an inch we want to take twelve so be ready we're still wanting to grow and proceed forward and we hope to get your blessing as we do that," said Chief Parker.

(Bottom Photo: seated left to right: Cody Jenkins, Kevin Adcock, Cory Killian, Ronald Whitaker, Stephanie Wright, James R. Hunt, Gary Johnson, and Wallace Caldwell) Standing left to right: Anthony Wright, John Poss, Jeff Wright, Hoyte Hale, Donnie Cantrell, Danny Poss, and Charles Parker)

Repasy Repeats as "County Firefighter of the Year"

January 20, 2013
Dwayne Page
Kristie Johnson
Steve Repasy (Photo by Callie Mullinax)
Brad Mullinax (Photo by Callie Mullinax)
Ronald Merriman (Photo by Callie Mullinax)

Steve Repasy of the Midway Station was named the "2012 County Firefighter of the Year", for the second consecutive year, Saturday night during the department's annual awards banquet held at the DeKalb County Complex.

County Fire Chief Donny Green, who presided over the ceremony, said Repasy met all the department's criteria in earning this award. "Steve was nominated this year and the evaluation of his nomination considered his fire call, training attendance, and community service participation. The fire calls and training attendance stand for themselves. He excelled in both of those. As far as his community service, Steve has been very instrumental in helping DeKalb County reorganize the Red Cross Chapter that had became fairly inactive in the recent years. Steve is also an active member of the Smithville Lions Club. Within our department, he has made himself available for countless hours of running errands, performing routine maintenance tasks, and helping organize and implement our fire prevention/safety programs in DeKalb County schools and other civic organizations. The donation of his time and skill has saved DeKalb County a lot of money because we would normally have to pay for these services. These are things we look at which are above and beyond the normal training and fire response duties. The DeKalb County Fire Department attempts to recognize firefighters who reflect a positive image of our department in the community and Steve has and certainly continues to do this, as can be seen by him being selected for DeKalb County Fire Department’s “Firefighter of the Year” for two years in a row.

Captain Brad Mullinax received the "Officer of the Year" award. Chief Green said the same three elements for selecting “Firefighter of the Year”, training attendance, incident response attendance, and community service, are used select the “Officer of the Year.” One of Brad’s most noted contributions during 2012 was his direction and guidance in converting the entire county’s emergency communications frequencies to the FCC-mandated narrow-band spectrum. This was a huge undertaking, as he had to coordinate this effort with all county and city law enforcement, medical, rescue, and fire agencies. The entire operation took months of planning and coordinating and went very smoothly. In addition, Brad has worked with numerous agencies and community groups assisting them with CPR certification and re-certification. Brad’s work, both inside the department and outside the department, is an example of the community involvement that we like to see in our members. It speaks well of the community involvement of our department and that’s why he is being recognized as our 2012 DeKalb County Fire Department “Officer of the Year”, said Chief Green.

The "Rookie" award went to Kristie Johnson of the Main Station. Chief Green said this award is exclusively based on hours of training and goes to a firefighter that completed his/her basic recruit training during 2012. Green says his department feels that the most important thing we can do for our new recruits is to give them basic training and reinforce the importance of training. Consequently, training is the sole criteria that we use in the “Rookie of the Year” selection. For 2012, Kristie had 161 hours of training which is a significant amount of training. Included in that 161 hours was the 64 hour Basic Firefighter Training. “In addition to her Basic Recruit training, she has done extra training to improve her fire fighting abilities. We certainly want to recognize that because Kristie has done a good job, as have all these other new recruits that have come along this year”, said Chief Green. Johnson was unable to attend the banquet to receive the award due to a death in her family.

Thirteen firefighters were recognized and presented pins for their years of service including the following:

Five years of service: Kelly Cantrell (Belk Station), Kyle Casper (Main Station), Donnie Johnson (Liberty Station), Kenny Maynard (Cookeville Highway Station), Shawn Puckett (Midway Station), and Chris Wyke (Main Station).

Ten years of service: Jimmy Martin (Main Station), Billy Parker (Johnson’s Chapel Station), James Pennington (Lieutenant), and Daniel Summers (Belk Station).

Fifteen years of service: Ronald Merriman (Keltonburg Station)

Twenty years of service: Wayne Adcock (Blue Springs Station)

Thirty five years of service: Hugh Washer (Cookeville Highway Station)

Ronald Merriman of the Keltonburg Station was presented an Honorary Lifetime Membership award. Chief Green says that Ronald has devoted 15 years of dedicated service to the Department and, during those years, has served as a Lieutenant and Station Commander. Ronald also has played key roles in organizing several fundraisers for his station that allowed them to buy much needed fire equipment.

Fifty three members of the department were also presented cash awards, funded through a federal safer grant, which Chief Green said is to help retain and recruit firefighters."In 2010, we were awarded a Safer Grant from the federal government that is a non-matching local grant and does not require any local funding, it's 100% federal, to help us recruit and retain firefighters. Some of the things we've done is provide these training award incentives for firefighters such as length of service awards, firefighter of the year, rookie of the year, and for firefighters who made 100% of their monthly training, or at least 75% of their monthly training. We've made those awards and we hope that's a tool we can use to help encourage our firefighters to stay on board and continue being involved with training in our department." Firefighters who made 100% of their monthly training each received $400 (or a prorated amount if they have been active for less than the full year) and those who made 75% of their monthly training took home $200 (or a prorated amount if they have been active for less than the full year) each.

Those receiving 100% Training Perfect Attendance Awards are as follows:

David Agee, Jay Cantrell, Kelly Cantrell, Andrew Colwell, Jeremy Colwell, Billy Crymes, Nelson Davis, Bill Fowler, Donny Green, Shane Hickman, Bradley Johnson, Darrell Johnson, Donnie Johnson, Dustin Johnson, Jerry Wayne Johnson, Kristie Johnson, Gary King, Dick Kinsey, Vert Komorkoski, Ronald Merriman, Bob Myracle, Jeremy Neal, Andy Pack, Billy Parker, Shawn Puckett, Brandon Pyles, Steve Repasy, Jason Rice, Hunter Stanfield, Tony Thomas, Calvin Tramel, Brian Williams, and Jeff Williams.

75% Training Attendance Awards:

Lee Ansell, Jacob Bond, Anthony Boyd, Kyle Casper, Gelasio “Marco” Chacon, Kim Cox, Stephen Daniels, Anthony Johnson, Michael Lawrence, Kenny Maynard, Bradley Mullinax, Danny Parker, Robert Patrick, Tim Pedigo, James Pennington, Jeff Rankhorn, Eric Snow, Robin Summers, Hugh Washer, and Chris Wyke.

Chief Green recognized 4 firefighters who have been promoted in the department. Firefighter David Agee was promoted to Lieutenant and Lieutenant Anthony Boyd, Lieutenant Brad Mullinax, and Lieutenant Michael Lawrence were promoted to Captains. These promotions come after each candidate successfully completed an intensive series of leadership training and practical skills testing. “I want DeKalb County to know what a fine group of dedicated and capable leaders we have leading the DeKalb County Fire Department. This group takes pride in “leading by example” and we are looking forward to having more officer promotions during the course of this year,” said Chief Green.

Weaver Bill Would Allow Teachers to Bring Guns to School; Local Officials Express Reservations

January 19, 2013
Dwayne Page
Mark Willoughby addressing Mark Pody and Terri Lynn Weaver

Several state lawmakers, including Representative Terri Lynn Weaver, are proposing measures to help keep Tennessee schools safer in the wake of last month's massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut.

Representative Weaver has filed legislation that would let teachers with handgun carry permits bring their guns to school, with the permission of the local school system. The bill also would require teachers to go through special training, and it would allow them to load their guns only with "frangible bullets," ammunition designed to break apart to minimize the risk of ricocheting.


"Its not meant to arm all teachers in this legislation," said Representative Weaver. " There has to be a lot of parameters that take place in order for that teacher, who already has a gun conceal permit. We have to tweak it and work with our local police and sheriff's department but we've got to do something because this problem is not going to diminish. This is going to grow. We have got to have safety for our children," said Weaver.

But during an open meeting Friday morning with Weaver and State Representative Mark Pody, several local officials expressed concerns about teachers carrying guns at school. " I am for carrying permits but there's a lot of persons with carrying permits I don't think ought to be armed," said Director of Schools Mark Willoughby. "No I don't think teachers ought to be armed. If there was some place in the school where there was a gun safe for a revolver and lets say you had two or three people who were trained, who had gone through training and you had an emergency situation, then maybe you could have those two or three other people in the building who could have access (to a gun) that might be a good thing. When I was a Middle School Principal, in the right situation I would have loved to have had access to a revolver. Thank goodness I never needed it. But I would not like to have 70 people with revolvers in the school," said Director Willoughby.

"I don't know how you would pick them (teachers to carry guns)," said County Mayor Mike Foster. " I don't know how much training they would need to have," he added.

Smithville Police Chief Randy Caplinger said he is concerned that teachers with guns might lack sufficient training to handle an emergency situation. "When they talk about eight hours (teacher gun training), a police officer now must have a minimum of ten weeks (training) and he's not ready to go then, he's just getting started," said Chief Caplinger. Eight hours training, 40 hours training is not enough. That would be like me getting an eight hour class to fly a jet airplane. I don't think any of you would want to get in there with me. There's a time when that gun can be drawn and a time when it can't. When that weapon is drawn and shot at the wrong time you've got a liability issue there. I think it needs to be people who are specifically trained for that job," said Chief Caplinger

"There are some teachers who don't want to and should not have a gun," said Representative Weaver. " I totally respect that. But for those who want to, I think its something we need to at least discuss. Basically I look at it as an inner-swat team in the school who would remain concealed and no one knows who they are. But we would have to talk about what those parameters are to make that person qualified to do that," she said.

Director Willoughby said he would prefer more school resource officers. Currently DeKalb County has one SRO at DCHS who is employed by the Sheriff's Department. "Safety is our number one priority. School Resource officers, I think would be a good thing to have in schools. The cost of that is going to be tremendous. Again, I don't have all the details but I think the citizens of Tennessee would much rather see money spent on child safety and security rather than something like vouchers," he said.

Willoughby suggested that state lawmakers, instead of reducing the sales tax on food, use the percentage of the tax they are planning to cut, and earmark that for school security measures. "I hear talk of reducing the sales tax on food and I think that's good but since security and child safety is going to be such a big deal this year, instead of that coming off the sales tax, it could just go toward school safety such as school resource officers," said Willoughby.

But County Mayor Foster said the cost of adding more School Resource Officers would further strain already tight county budgets if local governments were asked to go it alone.

"What's the cost for an SRO here,"? asked Representative Pody

"Its in the sheriff's department's budget but I would say if you talk about salaries, benefits, and a vehicle, probably around $55,000 (per SRO) and we have five schools", said Foster. He also questioned how effective adding more SRO's would be in the event of a major event. "The thing that concerns me about an in-school officer, first thing is a quarter of a million to $300,000. If it works, I'd be for it. But if you read about some of the ones (schools) who had them (officers), they were the first ones killed. I don't know the solution but I'm not sure in-school officers are the solution. If you've got just one officer in the school, and if I go in and want to hurt somebody, that's the first person I'm going to kill," said Foster

Representative Pody said state lawmakers should give local school districts options in addressing security concerns and not mandate a one size fits all approach. "There's a big difference in school safety from Memphis to Mountain City and we've got to cover the whole state so I believe that if we can give the locals their option of what's going to be best for their situation and their school district, that should be what the state should do. We want to give each school district as wide of a range of options so they can pick what's best for them. The less the state gets into it, I think the better it is. We need to let the locals decide how to do it. The last thing we want to do is put in some unfunded mandates. We don't want to tell every school system what they have to do and then they have to find a way to pay for it. We would rather let them have the options and let them figure out what they need to do to best secure their kids and to protect them," said Pody.

Smithville Alderman Shawn Jacobs Announces Intentions to Seek Re-Election

January 18, 2013
Dwayne Page
Shawn Jacobs

Shawn Jacobs, the "dean," or longest-serving member of the Smithville City Council, signaled his intent to run for re-election Friday by picking up a qualifying petition at the DeKalb County Election Commission.

Jacobs, who is also Police and Fire Commissioner is concluding his second term, having been first elected in 2009 and re-elected in 2011. He has championed such issues as more open government by having regular reports from department heads at council meetings, more certified operators at the Water Treatment Plant, sidewalk and street maintenance, and improvements at the Smithville City Pool and Golf Club. As Police and Fire Commissioner, Jacobs has pushed for more and specialized training and equipping of both departments, including the city's new Crime-Stoppers program and additional methamphetamine-certified investigators in the Police Department and new generation bullet-proof vests for all officers. In the Fire Department, Jacobs helped secure the city's new ladder truck and was instrumental in the hiring of Smithville's first full-time Fire Chief. These improvements, as well as many others were all accomplished without a tax increase.

Jacobs also serves on the Smithville Planning Commission, the Smithville Municipal Airport Committee, and is Vice-Chairman of Smithville Crime-Stoppers. He's a graduate of DeKalb County High School and has a Bachelor's of Science degree in Mass Communication from Middle Tennessee State University. He's also done graduate work in sociology and education.

County Commission to be Asked to Extend Hours for Beer Sales

January 17, 2013
Dwayne Page

First the city, now the county.

Saying they desire a "level playing field", several store owners, licensed to sell packaged beer at their establishments in the county came before the DeKalb County Beer Board Thursday night to find out how they can be afforded the same opportunity as city stores to extend their hours for selling beer.


The meeting was called, apparently for the purpose of allowing store owners to speak on this issue. No other business was discussed, other than approval of the minutes from the last meeting.

County Beer Board Chairman Edward Frazier opened the meeting and immediately read a passage from state law which states that the county commission has the sole authority in establishing hours for beer sales of county licensees. "The beer board is not authorized to establish distance, rules, or to extend the hours for the sale of beer. This authority may be exercised only by a resolution of the county legislative body," said Frazier.

"Why are we here?", asked first district beer board member Jim Stagi.

"Because interested people would like to know what they have to do," said Frazier. "They've already got a license and they'd like to get extended (hours for selling beer)"

"That's not our responsibility," said Stagi. "They need to talk to their county commissioners. I got a call at twelve o'clock this afternoon saying I have a meeting. Nobody knows what its about. I come here and find out its about 24-7 (beer sales). None of us knew what it was about," he added.

Frazier took questions and comments from the store owners present at the meeting.

"I would just say we should all be on the same playing field. They (city businesses) are now selling beer on Sundays and after hours," said local businessman Jewel Redman.

"Jewel, I understand your point, but you're talking to the wrong board," said Stagi.

Stagi later pointed out that if the county commission should vote to extend the hours for beer sales, store owners who already have a beer license would not need to come back to the beer board for approval of extended hours. "If the county commission decides to change that to a 24-7 situation, this beer board would not (have to) approve or disapprove of it, because it would automatically be okay for everybody who already has a beer license. It won't even come in front of us," said Stagi.

Beer Board members informed the store owners that they would have to see County Mayor Mike Foster about getting this issue placed on the agenda for the next county commission meeting Monday night, January 28 at 6:30 p.m. at the courthouse.

Currently, stores in the county with a beer license are prohibited from making beer sales from midnight to 6:00 a.m. week nights and no beer sales are permitted on Sundays.

The City of Smithville last month changed the city's beer regulations to allow 24-7 beer sales for stores with an off premises permit and on-premises permits are now allowed for eligible restaurants who wish to serve beer with meals.

DeKalb Election Commission Planning for Smithville Municipal Election

January 17, 2013
Dennis Stanley

While City of Smithville officials have announced intentions to try and move its election date from June to August, the DeKalb County Election Commission said this week it will proceed until further notice with its plans to conduct the election June 18.

“The city’s charter specifies when the town’s elections are held and until the charter is changed, we have no choice but to follow that, and consequently, follow general law regarding time frames for certain election procedures,” said Dennis Stanley, Administrator of Elections.

In a workshop last weekend, the Smithville Board and Mayor and Aldermen discussed a plan to ask the state legislature to approve a charter change which would move the election from the third Thursday in June to the first Thursday in August and change the current terms of city officials so that all city elections would coincide with county elections in even-numbered years. City officials believe the move would draw more voters to the polls while saving money at the same time. The board is expected to take up the issue at its’ February 3 regular meeting.

“City officials have been in contact with us regarding this potential change, but we have informed them we will proceed with all the time frames regarding a June election,” Stanley said. “We can’t anticipate what the legislature might or might not do, and we have to follow the current charter and current state law.”

Stanley said petitions for alderman can now be picked up at the election commission office on the first floor of the courthouse. The qualifying deadline is Noon, March 21st.

Stanley said any petitions issued now will be for the June 18 election. If the city is successful in timely getting the charter changed and moving the election to August, candidates who picked up a petition for the June election may have to obtain a new petition with the new election date.

“The best advice for any potential candidate is to stay in touch with the election commission office,” Stanley said. “We’ll explain the process and the obligations of the candidates. We will also certainly make them aware that a potential change is possible. But for now, we are proceeding under all the time frames relating to a June election.”


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