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Top stories of 2012, Part 2
Jan 02, 2013 4:00 pm
It was a year that featured longtime eras that came to an end while others saw their beginnings as The Democrat continues its countdown of the top Wilson County stories of 2012.
Leaders announced their resignations and retirements while city and country governments showed progress through creation amidst controversy. In spite of successes and despite failure, these are the top stories of 2012 in Wilson County as voted on and compiled by The Democrat staff.
5. Mt. Juliet enters the fire service business
The protracted and tenuous decade-long quest toward Mt. Juliet operating its own fire department finally ignited with commissioners voting unanimously to reinstate a city-run fire department.
And they managed to knock out a plan that will do this without an additional tax increase, but rather using the predicted $1.2 million annual tax revenue from the recently implemented 20-cent property tax and funds built up in a city reserve fire service fund. The plan will double ambulance and fire service in the city short term and triple it in a couple years. The city has had an inter-local agreement with the county for fire service since 1985.
However, for nearly 10 years city leaders – during various administrations – have asked Wilson County to augment fire and ambulance service in the ever-growing Mt. Juliet.
County Mayor Randall Hutto had previously made it clear to city commissioners the county would not expand service to Mt. Juliet residents. Mt. Juliet Vice Mayor James Maness was appointed liaison to continue to work with the county on a mutually agreeable plan. However, the city had recently hired a firm to build a new fire station off Providence Parkway and the ball was already rolling on its construction.
As part of the plan, the county will provide automatic aid and lease and operate Station 3 in back of City Hall, as well as provide two ambulance personnel at the new Providence station.
Maness said the city-run fire department will be a combination department manned by career firefighter/EMS personnel and volunteers.
4. Davis resigns as director of schools
The Wilson County’s director of schools, Mike Davis, announced his resignation in early December.
Davis, who served as director of Wilson County schools for the past 5 ½ years, resigned in a letter read by board chairman Don Weathers to begin the December meeting. The board was supposed to vote on whether to renew Davis’ contract as its first order of business.
His resignation is effective June 30.
Both Davis and the board had recently come under fire after a surprise plan to create a new Lebanon Middle School within the old Lebanon High School building failed to garner a motion at a November board meeting. Board member Wayne McNeese made the motion to accept Davis’ resignation, and member Ron Britt seconded. The vote was unanimous.
Davis was the focus of scrutiny since he became the director of Wilson County schools in 2007. On his watch, the county school system has seen unprecedented growth and the construction or renovation of numerous schools. Davis said he thinks the things the system accomplished on his watch are a legacy of which to be proud.
3. Mt. Juliet officials exposed in ‘sexting’ scandal
A sex scandal that rocked Mt. Juliet City Hall resulted in the termination of the city's assistant public works director and the resignation of four other longtime employees.
Five city of Mt. Juliet employees are now out of a job because they were sending naked pictures of themselves, sending sex messages and visiting a racy adult website, among other questionable things on the taxpayers' dime, and time. Each time, any city employee logs onto his or her company computer a message flashes that says, "This computer and its accessories are the property of the city of Mt. Juliet." It warns employees it is to be used for "city business only," and that use is monitored, and that use, other than for city business, could result in termination.
The scandal included a handful of employees sending inappropriate pictures and messages on city-owned equipment, creating "spoof" accounts on city computers to cover up inappropriate behavior, and a top-level manager using a city email address to take part in a "pyramid" type company and soliciting a subordinate to also take part in it.
An internal investigation team released its 52-page packet, including the investigation's findings regarding the sexting scandal that blew up when a complaint was filed May 4 by now former Mt. Juliet Police Department Sgt. James Crosslin about four city employees using city cellphones and email to "sext" and send inappropriate messages, among other allegations.
One of those employees was his now-estranged wife, city purchasing clerk Charlene Crosslin, who was alleged to have had an affair with city project manager Casey Binion. The others named in the complaint were longtime Assistant Public Works Director Shannon (Cajun) Joyner and city tax clerk Amanda Graves, who was alleged to be having an affair with Joyner.
2. New Lebanon High School opens to students
Wilson County schools’ new Lebanon High School opened to students in August.
The school was officially unveiled to the public during a Presentation of the Keys ceremony in July, when the public was also welcomed to tour the state-of-the-art facility.
Director of Schools Mike Davis said at the time he was excited for Lebanon to see the school, which has taken two years to build.
"People [have been] looking forward to this being completed,” said Davis. "I'm just happy that we have been able to make this happen on time, on budget and without any really difficult issues. It's been wonderful."
Many have compared the school, which is a replica of Mt. Juliet High School, to a college campus, according to Davis.
In December, Davis announced the Tennessee School Board Association awarded the new Lebanon High School the top new facility award, as well as the people's choice award as voted on by state school directors and superintendents.
1. Longtime Wilson County Sheriff Terry Ashe retires
Longtime Wilson County Sheriff Terry Ashe announced in September he would retire from the office he held since 1982 to take a position as executive director of the Tennessee Sheriff's Association.
His last day on the job was Sept. 30. Assistant Chief Robert Bryan assumed the role of interim sheriff from Oct. 1 until the County Commission officially named him successor in late October. Bryan will serve until the office is up for election again in 2014.
Ashe said he struggled with whether to give up the job that has made him a legend in state law enforcement circles. Wilson County voters elected him to eight consecutive terms.
"This was tough; the hardest decision I've ever made because I love what I'm doing. I prayed about this a lot, and I think I've made the right decision," he said. "But the office will be left in great hands."
He said he kept news of his retirement quiet in order to settle the department's budget.
Ashe is more than just a well-known county sheriff. He also served with distinction in the 101st Airborne during the Vietnam War, where he was awarded three Purple Hearts, the Bronze Star and the Cross of Gallantry for service as a paratrooper and recon scout.
At the press conference, Ashe said while he was proud of the job his department had done protecting the public and bringing criminals to justice, there were other, less expected, things he was even happier to list as accomplishments.
"There are so many things we've done," he said. "There's the [Senior Citizens Awareness Network], our Explorer Program, our jail ministry is awesome. Our county was also in the forefront of getting the first [School Resource Officers]. Long before Columbine, this organization protected our schools."