State of Wilson is strong

Wilson County Mayor Randall is excited about how far the county has come, where it stands and where it's going. Hutto's State of the County address Wednesday at the Lebanon Golf and Country Club touched on all those aspects and more as he highlighted all that is going on in Wilson County, ...
Apr 2, 2013
Hutto  Photo: Jared Felkins • Lebanon Democrat

Wilson County Mayor Randall Hutto gave a comprehensive overview of the State of the County in his address Wednesday at the Lebanon Golf and Country Club.

Wilson County Mayor Randall is excited about how far the county has come, where it stands and where it's going.

Hutto's State of the County address Wednesday at the Lebanon Golf and Country Club touched on all those aspects and more as he highlighted all that is going on in Wilson County, as well as plans for the future.

Rick Smith, board chairman of the Lebanon-Wilson County Chamber of Commerce, which sponsored the event, introduced the mayor to the audience that included a host of county notables that included Lebanon Mayor Philip Craighead, Sheriff Robert Bryan, Veteran's Services Officer and County Commissioner Bernie Ash, Commissioner Annette Stafford, District Attorney Tommy Thompson, county attorney Mike Jennings and City Councilor Fred Burton, among others.

"We're tickled to death with the crowd today," Smith said. "It's good to see people who are interested to see what's happening in Wilson County."

He introduced Hutto as a Watertown native, lifelong county resident and "a very special person."

Hutto took the podium and got things started with an announcement many were waiting for – that he would be running for re-election.

"I've enjoyed my first term, and I hope you will allow me to continue in 2014," Hutto said.

He also acknowledged the audience as a lot of the people who make the county work – the "20 percent of the people who do 80 percent of the work."

Hutto said there is a reason "Wilson County is the place to be," and that includes the county school building program.

"Education comes first in Wilson County," he said. "When Watertown High School is complete, there will be no high school in the county [more than' 11 years old. The county has worked to make sure the schools are a secure environment and that there are no portable classrooms."

Hutto thanked outgoing Wilson County Director of Schools Mike Davis for leading the system through the building program. The mayor said the county schools rank high in several areas of academic performance, its outstanding 95 percent graduation rate and how high school graduation results in better jobs, fewer criminals and fewer people who require public assistance. He also addressed per-pupil spending, which he said needs to be improved. Hutto also said the county needs to give teachers higher salaries.

"We need to recruit and retain the best teachers," he said, adding the Lebanon city schools and many local private schools are excelling as well – all of which lure many people to the county for the betterment of their children's education.

The mayor said the best thing any community can do to improve schools is to make family units stronger and to reach out to children who don't have the best home life to help them succeed in addition to their peers.

Hutto highlighted public safety in the county by detailing how law enforcement and emergency services are growing and striving to make everyone safer.

"We had a smooth transition from Sheriff [Terry] Ashe to Sheriff Bryan," he said.

He saidt crime is down 15 percent and DUI convictions are up 91 percent in the county.

Next he discussed the Wilson Emergency Management Agency, which increases efficiency by cross-training firefighters and paramedics.

"Cross-training fire and medical personnel saves costs," Hutto said, adding WEMA is expanding with two new stations on Rutland Road and Maddox Simpson Parkway.

"With these new stations there will be better coverage in and outside of Lebanon," he said, adding new fire departments in Mt. Juliet would make people on west side of the county safer as well.

Hutto touched on the proposed expansion of the county jail and the recent addition of school resource officers in each school. He said the addition of SROs in every county school is a feather in the county's cap. He said he had meetings with other county mayors after the shootings in Sandy Hook, Conn. and all were scrambling to put more school security in place.

"The mayors all wanted SROs, and our sheriff's department made that happen," he said. "Other counties still don't have that today."

As he looked toward the future, the mayor said there are a lot of plans in the works that would make the county better and safer, including building another WEMA station near Highway 109, and a backup 911 building on the grounds of the Ag Center.

Hutto also said the county needs to consolidate all the various courts into one, centrally located building.

"Our goal is to obtain the property and build a three-story building with underground parking for judges and for prisoner transfers," he said, adding one new building would free up the Justice Center for the expansion of the county jail and the sheriff's department and for other county agencies to use other buildings now used for the courts.

Hutto urged everyone to show appreciation for the law enforcement and emergency workers when they see them out and about.

"It's not an easy profession for their families," he said, citing the difficult hours and often dangerous duties. "It's a thankless job until you need one of them."

Hutto also touched on the quality of life in Wilson County, describing it as "what brings joy to us." He said the county ranks eighth in the nation for quality of life among small communities.
 
He said quality could be enhanced with more park and recreation areas, and is already made better with places like the Ward Agriculture Center, and the famed Wilson County Fair, which was ranked best in the nation by USA Today. He also said things, such as the Stardust Drive-In in Watertown and the annual Whip Crackin' Rodeo as events locales that make life better in the county.

Hutto highlighted the Veteran's Service Office, which serves the county's 9,000 veterans, and the soon-to-be-built Veteran's Park and Museum planned for the land next to the county courthouse.

He said $100,000 was raised, and construction of the park is set to start in May.

"We're still looking for private donations of money and materials," Hutto said.

Overall, he said the future of Wilson County is now.

"It's gonna grow, and we've got to get ready," he said, urging residents to tell people about all the good things going on in the county. 

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