One of Mt. Juliet’s consummate, longtime public servants died unexpectedly Sunday. Friends, county officials and civic leaders said the passing of W.J. ‘Mac’ McCluskey, 90, of Mt. Juliet, is a huge loss to the entire county.
His family said he died “peacefully” at Summit Medical Center in Hermitage. Those who knew him described him as a “proud American, public servant, avid fisherman, family farmer and accomplished cook.”
McCluskey was a Wilson County commissioner 31 years and served on various commissions.
“I got to know him well during my short tenure,” said Wilson County Mayor Randall Hutto. “He was a great statesman. He worked on the 911 Board and the Board of Zoning Appeals. I spent time with him at the Breakfast Rotary, and talking with him he shared his wisdom with me. He had the people in his heart.”
Two months ago, McCluskey was awarded the Lebanon-Wilson County Chamber of Commerce Public Servant of the Year honor, and Aug. 20 was proclaimed “Mac McCluskey Day” last year in Wilson County to honor his lifelong service to his community.
According to friends, McCluskey was involved in many civic and charitable organizations. He gave 55 years of service to Mt. Juliet Big Brothers.
“He was a fine man,” said Mt. Juliet Big Brothers president Sherry Bilbrey. “I graduated with his children. He was absolutely the finest man I’ve ever known. He cared about his community. His family is outstanding. He loved Big Brothers with all his heart.”
McCluskey stepped down from the Big Brothers board about 10 years ago and served his last term on the commission from 2002-06. However, he left lasting impressions on his fellow commissioners, as well as county attorney Mike Jennings. Jennings will be a pallbearer at his funeral Wednesday.
“I’ve known Mac about 30 years,” said Jennings. “He was the finest man in public service I’ve ever known. He cared about what he was doing and didn’t care about getting any glory himself.”
Jennings said the startup of the county’s 911 system in 1986 was “Mac’s baby.” He served as chairman 24 years.
“He wanted this county to be as safe as it could be,” said Jennings. “He was a founding member of the board and the last original member. He didn’t just care about Mt. Juliet, but about the entire county. He wanted the best training and equipment.”
McCluskey served then District 8 while a commissioner.
Jennings said McCluskey’s death seemed sudden, as he had seen McCluskey three weeks ago. Jennings said, “Mac was feeling pretty good.”
“His son said prior to his passing, Mac was planning a garden and planning to fish,” Jennings said.
Some commissioners who worked years with McClusky lauded him as “fair.”
“I worked with Mac for several years,” said Commissioner Bernie Ash. “He was a great guy to work with and knew so much about the county. His passing is an absolute loss the whole county.”
Commissioner Wendell Marlowe served with McCluskey 16 years; both represented Mt. Juliet.
“He’s one of the finest people I’ve ever served with,” said Marlowe. “His loss is great to Wilson County. What I remember is how fair he was. He wanted Wilson County to be the safest place to live. “
McCluskey served in a variety of capacities in Wilson County. He was a charter member in the Mt. Juliet Masonic Lodge and served as past master there. He belonged to Cook’s United Methodist Church, where he was a lay leader and administrative board chairman. He also was a member of the board of directors of the Mt. Juliet Senior Citizen’s Center and worked the ticket gate for many years at Mt. Juliet High School football games. He retired from DuPont in Old Hickory, where he was a mechanic 37 years.
McCluskey is fondly remembered as a great cook for large groups of people at different events. He was famous for his fried crappie and hushpuppies.
“The last time I went to a local fish fry, Mac was the cook, and it was pretty doggone good,” said Jennings.