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The best for the most

Trousdale County Mayor Jack McCall joked about practicing his speech on area kindergarteners earlier in the day as he began his state of the county address to the Hartsville-Trousdale County Chamber of Commerce on Tuesday.

Since taking office last September, McCall indicated that he has really enjoyed his first six months a mayor but has learned what he calls the speed of government.

“If you ask me how it’s going, I have to tell you, I’ve really enjoyed the first six months and two weeks,” said McCall. “We have a great county.

“One thing I’ve had to learn fairly quickly as mayor is the concept called the speed of government. In business, if you want something done, you do it. In government, you start the process.”

During his address, McCall recounted the various grants and projects that the county is currently undertaking, but he also talked about the challenges that the county is facing, such as building a new jail and revitalizing the downtown district.

“Everyone knows that we are about to build a new jail because ours has been decertified,” said McCall. “And $25 million at 4.5% (interest rate) over 20 years would translate into an annual payment of $2 million. If our county had to make a $2-million payment every year, it would put incredible pressure on other services.

“Everyone also knows that for a long time, downtown has looked sad. But where there’s a will, there’s a way, and we will keep moving forward to make things happen downtown.”

Furthermore, the mayor called for input from area residents and said that it is going to take a lot of energy to do what needs to be done.

“I have people bringing me ideas all the time, but I found that the hardest part of this job is to keep things moving forward,” said McCall. “It takes incredible energy to keep things moving forward. And if you want mediocre results as a mayor, this is a piece of cake. If you want to do a great job, it’s a very challenging job, but fun. So far, it’s been fun, and I want to keep it that way.

“I am most interested in your input, but I also need worker bees. It is going to take tremendous energy to do what we want to do.”

McCall ended his address by saying that his goal as mayor is to improve Trousdale County.

“It is a privilege to serve the county,” said McCall. “I ran for mayor for only one reason. That was to improve the county. That is my passion ... to do what’s best for the most (citizens).”

A new brew

Hartsville coffee lovers will soon have one of Nashville’s favorite coffee brands, Frothy Monkey coffee, served locally at the Ridge Coffeehouse, which is slated to open on Monday morning next to the Hartsville-Trousdale County Volunteer Fire Station on Broadway.

Hartsville resident, coffee lover, and owner of the Ridge Coffeehouse Kelly Lehr decided to leave her nursing career after 22 years to open the new drive-thru coffee shop in order to spend more time with her family.

“Two-and-a-half years ago, we moved to Tennessee from Mississippi — me, my husband, and 10-year-old son,” said Lehr. “We liked the small-town, Hartsville feel.

“I have been a registered nurse (RN) for 22 years and had a really good job offer in Nashville. But after COVID, I said, ‘I need a break. I need to do something different.’ It took so much time away from family. So, we thought this move would be a good thing. We did it, and we have absolutely no regrets. We love Tennessee. We love Hartsville. We love everything about it.”

Lehr said that she started toying with the idea of opening a coffee shop in Hartsville a couple of years ago.

“We tossed the idea around for about two years,” said Lehr. “But four months ago, we decided this is what we were going to do. I was ready to get out of nursing and thought this would be a good thing. So, we started looking around.

“We first thought about brick and mortar, but in Hartsville, nothing would accommodate a drive thru. And to buy a lot and start fresh, with the interest rates being so high, we just thought that it may be a little more than we wanted to do starting out. So, we decided to do a mobile trailer.”

According to Lehr, although the Ridge Coffeehouse will be operating out of a mobile trailer, it will be consistently located near the downtown square in an empty lot next door to the fire station.

“At first, we thought we could hop here and there to several small towns, but then we thought that that would defeat our whole purpose in wanting to serve our town, our community, and let them reap the benefits of having good coffee and having a drive-thru coffee shop,” said Lehr. “So, we decided to set up in Hartsville every day, at least Monday through Friday and just see how it goes.

“The city actually owns the lot beside the fire station. It’s just a gravel lot that is an easy in and out for a drive thru. There is plenty of room. We got permission to set up there, so that’s where we’ll be.”

Because Lehr is so passionate about serving only the best coffee, she has contracted with local Best of Nashville coffee shop and roaster Frothy Monkey as her supplier.

“Me, my husband, and little boy went all around Nashville and looked at local roasteries to get fresh coffee beans, good coffee beans,” said Lehr. “We want to serve something good. So, we taste tested. We all thought Frothy Monkey, by far, was the best.”

According to Lehr, the Ridge Coffeehouse will offer customers a comprehensive drink menu, with plans to implement other menu items moving forward.

“We are going to start off with just the coffees and different flavors of Lotus Energy drinks,” said Lehr. “We will also have some kids’ frappe drinks without caffeine. We are going to see how it goes first. Frothy Monkey also does wholesale fresh pastries. So, if everything goes well, we’ll implement those about three or four weeks after we open.

“Our menu, right now, is pretty extensive. We’ll have caramel latte, caramel macchiato, French toast latte, southern pecan latte, the mocha monkey from Frothy Monkey, and of course, plain drip coffee. We’ll also have blended frappes, all of our specialty drinks, and some chai (tea), and may implement some green tea as well. So, we’ll have a few different things on there. We have a good variety that I think will suit everyone. We have a pretty extensive menu already, but we’ll add as we go.”

Looking ahead to the future, Lehr indicated that a brick-and-mortar coffee shop was not out of the question for the Ridge.

“I’ve talked to the mayor,” said Lehr. “Of course, (the city) is wanting to have a coffee shop downtown on the square. So, we have an understanding that if it takes off, then, we’ll look at opening a brick-and-mortar downtown. That’s the ultimate goal.”

The Ridge Coffeehouse will open on Monday at 6 a.m. The regular business hours will be Monday through Friday, from 6 a.m. until 2 p.m., but the days and hours are subject to change upon demand.

“We want to be consistent with times and days and location,” said Lehr. “That way, everyone knows, and it’s not a guessing game as to where we will be. We are set to open March 20 and will be open 6 a.m. to 2 p.m., Monday through Friday. We probably will do a couple of trial days from 6 a.m. to 4 p.m., and if we’re doing well, we may also do some Saturdays and Sundays. We’ll just see how it goes.”

Students of the Tennessee College of Applied Technology (TCAT) machinist program received a Machinist Handbook as part of the memorial scholarship program that Karl and Mary Ann Baker set up in memory of their son, Garrett Baker, who was a graduate of the machinist program at TCAT.

Talks continue with Enbridge

On March 7, a special work session of the Trousdale County Commission was called with East Tennessee Natural Gas (ETNG), which is owned and operated by energy infrastructure company Enbridge, to discuss the proposed Ridgeline Expansion Project.

The project would provide natural gas to the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) as one of the power generation options in replacing the old Kingston Fossil Plant in East Tennessee.

According to Enbridge officials, the purpose of the work session, which was open to the public, was to provide project updates and to present multiple draft renderings in an effort to gather feedback from commissioners and the community as to how the exterior design and solar field of the proposed compressor station (which is needed to run the roughly 117-mile pipeline) might look if the project should come to fruition.

“We greatly appreciate Mayor (Jack) McCall and the commission for allowing us to present an update and to gather feedback on our proposed project,” said Enbridge Manager of Stakeholder Engagement Art Haskins. “Public engagement is crucial to developing a project that supports development with the community’s interests in mind.”

Account coordinator Cameron Snow of public relations firm Hall Strategies (the firm that is working with Enbridge on local communications and stakeholder engagement in Tennessee) added, “Draft renderings (for the compressor station) were based on previous feedback to keep the design in keeping with the community’s agricultural heritage.”

At this time, the preferred property that Enbridge is considering for the compressor station is part of the Bratton farm, located off of Boat Dock Road in Hartsville.

Although Enbridge is trying to put good-neighbor policies in place concerning viewscape and noise level impacts, it remains unclear as to how much tax revenue the project will actually generate for Trousdale County.

“Enbridge is listening to what the community is saying,” said Trousdale County Commissioner David Thomas. “They are not putting an exposed compressor plant, like Columbia Gulf, right here in our town. They are making it look like a barn. It is going to be enclosed, so that helps with visual appeal, and it helps with the sound.

“What I’m still trying to figure out though is how Trousdale County gets any of that money that they (Enbridge) are having to pay in state taxes. As far as what Trousdale County will receive, we will receive something. Are we going to receive the $2.5 million that they kept throwing up on the screen? No. Even they (Enbridge) will tell you, no. The state is not just a clean pass through. They always like to keep their little bit (of tax money) too.”

If given the green light, this one-year proposed project will begin in the fall of 2025, but as indicated by Haskins, communications between Enbridge and Trousdale County should continue for quite some time.

“We look forward to ongoing conversations with residents and county officials as plans develop over the next couple of years,” said Haskins.

Trousdale Turner gets new warden

Private prison operator CoreCivic announced Vince Vantell has been named the new warden of Tennessee’s largest private prison, Trousdale Turner Correctional Center, as the facility is one of several private prisons the company manages throughout the country.

Vantell previously served as the assistant warden at Trousdale Turner Correctional Center and warden at Hardeman County Correctional Facility before being named as Trousdale Turner’s new warden last month.

Vanrtell’s predecessor, Martin Frink, was named warden in May of 2021, but he left to take a new position within the company.

“Vince Vantell was named warden at Trousdale Turner Correctional Facility, after serving as warden at the Hardeman County Correctional Facility,” said CoreCivic Public Affairs Manager Brian Todd. “Warden Vantell replaces Warden Martin Frink.

“Frink has taken a new opportunity at CoreCivic’s facility support center. CoreCivic values our operational leaders such as Warden Frink, and, to that end, periodically provides them with new opportunities that enable us to leverage their existing expertise while further broadening their experience.”

Before accepting the position at Trousdale Turner, Vantell, who holds a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice, served various capacities within CoreCivic since 1997.

“Warden Vantell began his corrections career at CoreCivic’s Northeast Ohio Correctional Center, where he served in multiple roles with increasing responsibility, including correctional officer, sergeant, lieutenant, captain, assistant chief of security, and chief of security,” said Todd. “He then transferred to La Palma Correctional Center as chief of unit management, followed by a transfer to Lake Erie Correctional Institution as chief of security. He was promoted to deputy warden at Lake Erie in 2012. He then started as unit management administrator at Northeast Ohio in 2017 before his promotion to assistant warden at Trousdale Turner Correctional Center in 2019.”

As this is not his first round of service with the Trousdale Turner team, Vantell indicated he is glad to be back.

“I am grateful to have the opportunity to rejoin the dedicated team at Trousdale Turner, which strives every day to deliver the very best services to those in our care,” said Vantell. “It is especially gratifying, as a leader, I have the special privilege of being a part of a facility that is deeply passionate about providing meaningful reentry programs, such as GED (general education diploma), vocational, career computer coding, therapeutic, behavioral support, and addiction treatment, to support residents as they route a successful journey back home to their communities.”

With his new appointment, Vantell becomes the third warden in less than three years, and the sixth warden since Trousdale Turner Correctional Center opened in 2016.