After taking a look back into the first four months of the year in our Tuesday edition and the middle four months of the year in our Thursday edition, we — the editorial staff of the Lebanon Democrat — conclude our glance back at some of the top happenings in Wilson County in 2021 by focusing on what took place from September through December.
Mt. Juliet, WEMA look at changes
Mt. Juliet’s board of commissioners met with county officials to discuss ambulance relocations that it fears could lead to increased response times for city residents.
The county’s emergency management agency, (WEMA), is in the process of building two new stations on Central Pike and Clemmons Road, which will house ambulances that previously were stored at Mt. Juliet fire stations on Belinda Parkway and East Hill Drive.
The WEMA stations are expected to be operational in about a year.
Thermo Fisher to bring 1,400 jobs to the county
Thermo Fisher Scientific officials announced in September that it would be establishing a new manufacturing facility in Wilson County that will create 1,400 new jobs.
The company is building a new single-use technology-assembly facility, where it will produce bioprocess containers and fluid-transfer assemblies by biopharma companies to develop and produce therapeutics and vaccines.
Available jobs include positions in manufacturing, assembling, packaging, engineering and site leadership.
Wilson County officials depart
Three roles in county government were vacated in September, leaving Wilson County’s commissioners to fill them.
Wilson County School Board member Jon White resigned, citing a need to spend more time with family.
Long-time county judge Haywood Barry announced his retirement from the bench.
Meanwhile, Wilson County Commissioner Cyndi Bannach stepped down from her seat after moving outside of District 2, which she represented.
County at a loss with unfilled positions
Staffing shortages began taking a toll on the county’s emergency management agency (WEMA). During a commission meeting in September, the agency director, Joey Cooper, described the situation as dire straits.
First responders are leaving in droves in a problem that continues for the county.
Less-than-competitive wages have been cited as the primary reason for many employees’ departures. Looking to stop the leak, the county commissioned a pay study, due back this month, to get those responders up to a rate comparable with neighboring counties’ departments.
Mt. Juliet earns first No. 1 ranking in AP poll
The Mt. Juliet High School football program earned its first No. 1 ranking in the Tennessee High School Football Associated Press rankings on Sept. 27.
The Bears won their first six games, with the first five of those wins coming by 12 points or more.
Mt. Juliet was ranked atop Class 5A, receiving 13 of the 17 first-place votes and 173 points (20 points more than second-ranked Knoxville West.
The Golden Bears finished 6-5, suffering a 30-10 loss at Columbia in their playoff opener.
Gore’s appearance opens Peace Forum
Cumberland University hosted its first-ever Peace Forum, a month-long celebration of its most prominent alumnus, Cordell Hull.
There to deliver remarks for the opening ceremony was former U.S. Vice President Al Gore.
During his address, Gore referred to himself as an ideological descendant of Hull, a man who’s legacy “belongs to the whole world.”
Hull’s resume is a mile long, but he’s best known for his role as Franklin D. Roosevelt’s secretary of state during World War II and for his efforts to create the United Nations.
Horror film festival kicks off Halloween season
For the first time, the Macabre Faire Film Festival was hosted at Lebanon’s Capitol Theatre. The four-day festival kicked off the Halloween season, featuring a lineup of horror films of all types.
Called the “Sundance with Fangs,” by Newsday Long Island, the festival’s former home, the festival now welcomes contestants in categories spanning horror, science fiction and fantasy. The only real requirement is that it has some scary elements.
The father-son duo of Adam and Addison Ginsberg co-directed the event. Addison attends film school in Nashville. In fact, the festival is already booked again for the Capitol Theatre next year.
Historic home demolition has ripple effect
The demolition of the Nathan Green Home on West Main Street in Lebanon drew harsh criticism from community members and brought discussions of a preservation district to the table for city officials.
Over the ensuing couple of months, the city council, the planning commission and the historic preservation commission worked together to craft a perimeter for a protected district in the West Main Street neighborhood where the Green home once stood.
By December, the city council was prepared to act and voted to approve creation of the district in a move cheered on by Historic Lebanon Executive Director Kim Parks.
“This is a vital step for the city and for (Historic Lebanon) to continue our progress for preservation in the community,” Parks said.
WCS starts to search for new school sites
Wilson County Schools began searching for land to build two new schools in an effort to keep up with the county’s fast-paced growth.
Wilson County Director of Schools Jeff Luttrell told the school board in October that requests for proposals will go out for two plots of land. By the end of the year, the list for potential parcels had actually gone up to seven as the school board continued its search.
The district will look for land in two areas. The first area is bounded by Interstate-40 on the south, the Cumberland River on the north, the Lebanon Special School District on the east and West Elementary School on the west.
The second area is around Gladeville, where the elementary school is at 99% capacity already.
WEMA shuts down station amidst staff shortage
The Wilson County Emergency Management Agency’s staffing woes came to head as the station in Statesville was actually forced to close.
This was done so that available staff could be moved around to optimize coverage with the limited resources. When that will end remains uncertain.
WEMA Director Joey Cooper informed the county commissioner in December meeting that his department was short-handed by more than 25 positions.
County seats filled
During its October meeting, the Wilson County Commission filled three county seats vacated in September. Commissioners voted to appoint long-time Wilson County educator, Melissa Lynn, to fill the school-board seat.
Retiring county judge Haywood Barry’s replacement was a familiar face in the local legal circle. Deputy District Attorney General Jimmy Lea was chosen to take up Barry’s unexpired term on the bench.
For Commissioner Cyndi Bannach’s District 2 seat, her colleagues elected Rick Brown.
Watertown volleyball wins more titles, falls short of state
The Watertown High School volleyball program won its fifth consecutive district and regional championships, but the Lady Tigers’ quest to reach a fifth consecutive Class A State Tournament was unsuccessful as Watertown suffered a 25-23, 25-17, 25-20 loss to Eagleville in a Class A sectional match.
Watertown finished as the state runner-up in 2019.
Under first-year head coach Stephanie Harman, the Lady Tigers ended their season with a 33-12 record.
Eagleville placed fourth in Class A.
Redistricting takes place
The county and its cities approved redistricting measures following the release of the 2020 census numbers. Per state ordinance, with each census conducted, local governments must allocate representation accordingly.
At the county level, much of the growth was seen on the west side of the county.
After two months of the drafting process, the redistricting committee was able to redraw districts without forcing any sitting commissioner outside their district.
Three county football programs reach state quarterfinals
The Lebanon, Green Hill and Watertown high-school football teams reached the state quarterfinal round of the Tennessee Secondary Schools Athletic Association (TSSAA) state playoffs.
Lebanon captured a region title and won a school-record 11 games before suffering a 45-20 loss to eventual Class 6A state champion Oakland.
It was the Blue Devil program’s first quarterfinal appearance since 1995.
Green Hill — in its second year of existence and first year of being playoff eligible — captured the Region 5-5A title and reeled off 11 consecutive victories before suffering a 31-14 loss to visiting Page, which finished as the Class 5A runner-up.
Watertown won its fourth consecutive Region 4-2A championship and finished 9-4, suffering a 23-0 loss to visiting Trousdale County in the quarterfinal round for the fourth consecutive season.
Missing child recovered across the state
A 6-year-old from Lebanon was missing for more than 12 hours before being recovered in Savannah. The Lebanon Police Department was on the cusp of issuing an AMBER Alert for Jocelyn Kennedy Tall.
The child’s biological, non-custodial mother and grandmother were taken in by the Savannah Police Department for questioning.
There was an active restraining order issued against Tall’s mother to stay away from her daughter. The restraining order stated that due to an “immediate threat of harm, no contact shall be made.”
Highway 109 widening completed
The Tennessee Department of Transportation unveiled a widened Wilson County thoroughfare just before Thanksgiving.
State Route 109 had been the subject of construction work to expand the road, and now that it’s complete, commuters can drive the whole way to Gallatin without having to merge lanes.
TDOT deputy commissioner Paul Degges said “(Highway) 109 is a major corridor in this region of the state. When we looked to extend (Interstate) 840 to the north, we knew it needed the ability to carry large amounts of traffic for the growth we are seeing in this area.”
Green Hill senior dies in weekend wreck
A November motorcycle accident claimed the life of Green Hill High School senior Gavin Cole.
In the days after, fellow students and teammates memorialized Cole’s parking space at GHHS with sketches, candles and flower bouquets.
Green Hill track and field coach David Glasscock said, “Gavin was an incredible young man who made those around him better. Regardless of the circumstances, Gavin had a positive attitude that was infectious and a toughness that inspired everyone. Gavin’s impact on myself and on our team will be honored and cherished forever.”
Dotson resigns as Lebanon volleyball coach
Adrienne Dotson resigned as the Lebanon High School volleyball coach after a decade to pursue a career in administration with Metro Nashville Public Schools.
Dotson, who will finish work toward a doctorate degree in May, will become an assistant principal in a Metro charter school.
Dotson led the program to three district championships over a four-year span (2017, 2018 and 2020) and sectional appearances against perennial power Brentwood in each of those seasons.
Dotson was named the district coach of the year six times.
A Nebraska native who ran track for the Cornhuskers, Dotson came to the Nashville area with her husband, a former Tennessee State football player. She coached volleyball at TSU before coming to Lebanon, where she is second in tenure only to boys’ basketball coach Jim McDowell among the Lebanon High head coaches.
Manufacturing plant announces closure
A plant long-based in Lebanon announced in early December that it would be closing its doors after nearly 60 years of operation.
The company, formerly known as TRW Automotive, was acquired by the global parts manufacturing company, ZF, on May 15, 2015. The Lebanon plant became part of ZF’s commercial-steering division.
At one time, the plant employed more than 2,000 people. Its latest announcement informed the remaining associates, numbering 235, that it would wind down production completely by March of this year.
A spokesperson for ZF said at the time that “the difficult decision of the planned closure of the Lebanon facility needed to be made to align with consolidation plans.”
Tis the Season Extravaganza
The Lebanon Wilson County Chamber of Commerce opted to try something new this past holiday season.
In year’s past, the Christmas tree on the square was lit on the Thursday before Thanksgiving, followed by the Christmas parade on the first Sunday in December and then the Christmas on the square retail experience on the Saturday after the Christmas parade.
This year all three of those events took place during the first ever Tis the Season Weekend Extravaganza, which was held on the square from Dec. 3-5.
“We’ve never gone to this extreme before,” Lebanon Wilson County Chamber of Commerce President Melanie Minter said. “There is something for everyone.”
Nashville Superspeedway has new owner
It was announced in December that Speedway Motorsports had finalized its purchase of Dover Motorsports, which includes the Nashville Superspeedway in Gladeville.
The deal, which was originally announced in November but awaited approval from stockholders and regulators, will put the Gladeville track and its parent facility at Dover under the same umbrella as NASCAR’s other Tennessee oval, Bristol, as well as Cup Series stops at Atlanta, Charlotte, Las Vegas, New Hampshire, Sonoma and Texas. Kentucky and North Wilkesboro, no longer on the Cup circuit, are also owned by SMI, which is based in Charlotte, N.C.
Erik Moses will remain Nashville Superspeedway track president.
Dover, which once owned several smaller tracks around the country, built the 1.33-mile concrete D-oval just inside the Wilson County border with Rutherford County in 1999 and 2000 and began an 11-year run of racing in 2001, hosting NASCAR’s Xfinity (then known as the Busch Series) and Truck series twice yearly as well as ARCA and other lower-level events.
Another tornado hits Mt. Juliet
For the second time in as many years, Mt. Juliet residents found themselves seeking shelter as a tornado ripped through the city limits. While no fatalities were reported, several properties in the western part of town sustained significant damage.
The National Weather Service confirmed that an EF-1 tornado did touch down, with winds reaching a high of 105 miles per hour. The tornado had a confirmed width of 100 yards and traveled 7.5 miles from the Percy Priest Lake area to Mt. Juliet.
In nearby Kentucky, the same storm system that produced Wilson County’s tornadoes, caused catastrophic damage in places like Mayfield and Bowling Green.
Shortly before Christmas, the Lebanon Police Department donated decommissioned cruisers slated for auction to its counterpart in Mayfield.
J. Clayborn’s Bakery closes doors
A Lebanon bakery with roots dating back to the 1950s culminated a decades-long run with one final day of service on Christmas Eve.
J. Clayborn’s Bakery is currently owned by the granddaughters of its namesake who took the reins after Johnnie Clayborn passed away in 2016.
“We were 100% totally raised in this bakery, and being raised around something like that, you’re always thinking eventually, one day, it could be mine,” co-owner Brittany Kimble said. “Our only goal was to restore what it had been to the community and what our grandfather thought it could be.”
The owners remain optimistic that they will find a potential buyer, but no matter what happens, they say they will always hold fast to the memories.
Capps named a Cliff Harris Award finalist
It was announced in late December that Cumberland University defensive end Jace Capps is a Cliff Harris Award finalist.
The award is presented to the nation’s top small college defensive player representing more than 5,000 defensive players from almost 500 NCAA Division II, Division III and NAIA colleges and universities.
An overall winner will be announced today and honored at the Little Rock Touchdown Club’s annual awards banquet on Jan. 14. The winner will receive the $3,000 Cliff Harris Award trophy presented by Cliff Harris. In addition to the overall winner, the top vote getters from each division will also be announced.
Capps is an American Football Coaches Association NAIA first team All-American and an Associated Press NAIA second team All-American.
Capps is one of three Mid-South Conference Bluegrass Division Players listed as a finalist alongside DJ White and Marcus Omosule from Georgetown. White was named the Bluegrass Division Defensive Player of the Year after recording 53 tackles (21.5 for a loss of yardage), 12 quarterback sacks, two forced fumbles and two pass break-ups.