Star LED to supply Home Depot


Mountain City, TN. May 11 2018. – Star LED has opened up many doors of opportunity for Mountain City and surrounding areas. The company has just signed a distribution deal with Home Depot, a global leader and household brand name of home improvement supplies, tools, construction products, and services. With over 2000 locations nation wide, Star LEDs new Mountain City location with be the centre of distribution for all orders and sales – subsequently bringing more jobs to the county.

The new facility spanning over 50,000 sq. ft, will not only supply products to Home Depot but will also train Home Depot executives on LED and energy efficiency. Star LED Chairman Garry Garoni, says ‘the new facility with onsite training offices, showrooms and research and development space, provides a one stop location for our brand. It has the capability to supply Home Depot Stores nation wide, train staff and even manufacture some of the products supplied to Home Depot’.

The products that are manufactured in Mountain City will be proudly displayed on packaging. Star LED’s vision for its Johnson County facility is to bring more jobs, good jobs, to the County which is clearly a great move for the economy.

Garoni is full steam ahead with plans to open the factory and training facility to all Johnson County residents and families. The wider community will be able to see what Star LED is forging here in Mountain City. The dream of a country town being competitive on the world stage will soon become a reality, something that the people at the helm of Star LED are very passionate about. Home grown people, products and brands is what’s important to Star LED and essentially, all Americans too. The partnership of Star LED and Home Depot embodies exactly this. Star LED provides LED lighting solutions for commercial, residential, marine and automotive applications. For more information and employment opportunities please visit

Culinary arts students take skills outside the classroom

By Marlana Ward
Freelance Writer

The Johnson County High School Culinary Class is taking its skills outside the classroom to participate in regional competitions and beyond. The team of 17 students from the county traveled to the Skills USA competition to face schools across the region for recognition in a variety of fields of skilled service.

Skills USA is a national program designed to encourage students to build skills during their school years that will allow them to gain successful employment after graduation. The organization also seeks to ensure America maintains a skilled workforce for years to come by showcasing the different fields in which young people can pursue careers. JCHS culinary instructor Craig Cox has seen firsthand how the skills taught in the classroom can ready a young person for life as a working adult.

“I have had several students go on to culinary schools all around the area,” said Cox. “Two of my graduates have already gotten very good jobs while in school. One is a general manager at a national food chain about to move up into district management.”

This year’s team representing JCHS at the Skills USA competition is proud to see three of its students receive special recognition for their hard work and preparation.

“We have done extremely well,” Cox said. “We had two state winners. One group, including Taylor Cox, Taylor Fortner, and Jacob Lashlee, in suitcase display and Austin Trivette in Customer Service. Austin is the only one that gets to go on to Nationals though because the other is just a state event.”

Cox explained that due to the cost to attend the national competition the group has been practicing and raising funds to cover the expenses. “We have to raise the money for it ourselves, so if anyone needs catering or any type of food service let us know, Cox said. “We want to especially the Johnson County Foundation that gave us a $2,155 grant this year so we could take many students to The State Competition.”

Cox is confident of his students’ ability to compete at the national level as Austin Trivette is about to do as a representative of Johnson County. “I think Austin has a good chance to win,” Cox said. “He is confident and works very hard to learn his skill. He is extremely excited to move on to state. It will be a learning event of a lifetime for him.”

The students who participate in the competition make a significant commitment to themselves and the program as Cox shared: “We train. We train a lot. There is a lot of work that goes into these events to get students to compete. They must know their skills and must be able to perform at an extremely high level.”

The culinary program is quite popular at the high school with approximately 150 students participating each year. The students get the knowledge Cox can share from his many years of experience working in various kitchens across Tennessee as well as the instructional materials taught.

“I think it open doors for them because they already get that base education to build strong and good habits,” Cox said.

One reason the program is so popular and successful is the hands-on approach in class. “The students get to eat what we cook,” Cox added enthusiastically. “They love the very hands-on approach I have for them.”

Students of the JCHS Culinary Arts Program are learning the skills and habits to make them the very best service workforce for the future of the community. Cox summed up the program on behalf of his students when he said, “If you are an employer looking for workers my students are trained and ready to get jobs. I could be a great contact to staff your food service business, and without community support, we could not do what we do.”

Suspects charged with Online sale of Alcohol

By Jill Penley
Freelance Writer

Law Enforcement Agents from The Alcoholic Beverage Commission conduct statewide sting operations targeting the online sale of liquor. No two states are alike when it comes to liquor laws, and most are changing from year to year. Anyone intending to sell alcohol through a home delivery service, whether by mail order or online, must hold a valid liquor license.

Seventeen suspects were charged with illegal sales of alcoholic beverages resulting from statewide sting operations targeting online ads on Craigslist and other social media outlets. Agents seized sixty-nine bottles of alcohol that were sold to them during the undercover operations which took place on street corners, parking lots, and places of business.

Tennessee Alcoholic Beverage Commission (TABC) Executive Director Clay Byrd cautions consumers of the inherent dangers of buying or selling beer, wine, or spirits through social media or unlicensed online marketplaces.

“Our agency has seen an increase in website and social media posts where buyers and sellers engage in illegal, unlicensed sale of alcohol,” said Executive Director Clay Byrd. “Any sales outside Tennessee’s regulatory structure and permitting process are not only illegal but could also pose a significant and unknown health risk.”

Without proper permits and licenses, unscrupulous sellers may produce fake or otherwise counterfeit products and sell these products to unsuspecting consumers. It is impossible for an alcohol manufacturer to guarantee the integrity of their product if it is sold outside the regulatory framework provided in federal and state law.

Youth access is another major concern for the TABC with unlicensed online transactions. Law enforcement agents from the Tennessee Alcoholic Beverage Commission spend a great deal of time protecting our youth by preventing the sale of alcohol to minors. Social media and unlicensed online marketplaces are extremely difficult to monitor since the exchange of products does not occur in a licensed location.

If a person sells or gives alcohol to someone under 21 years old, then they are providing alcohol to a minor and selling alcohol without a license. Even if sellers require proof of identification, buyers can give a false age.

In addition to the many public safety concerns, the illegal sale of alcoholic beverages results in tax evasion, which harms the economic interests of the state and creates an unfair burden for businesses that operate within the parameters of the law. Illegal sales of alcohol can result in criminal penalties for sellers and for buyers.

Consumers who see social media or other online posts for liquor or suspect illegal alcohol sales activity should contact the TABC at 615-741-1602. For more information on state alcohol laws, please visit the TABC’s legal resources webpage:

Mountain City man dies at Shoun Lumber

By Tamas Mondovics

A Mountain City man died at the Shoun lumberyard, a large sawmill in Butler, TN, last week when he reportedly fell on a saw.

According to Johnson County Sheriff Mike Reece, Mountain City resident Edward Maines, 40, an employee at the company was on the job when he was found dead at the scene around 5 p.m. Thursday, May 10, at Shoun Lumber, 147 George Shoun Lane.

“Upon arrival investigators found that Maines had an accident at the mill,” Reece said, adding, “He had fallen on a saw, and was deceased.”

Reece explained due to the death occurring at a place of work the incident is now under investigation by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, OSHA and the Tennessee Occupational Safety and Health Administration, TOSHA. TOSHA investigators have reportedly surveyed the scene, as well as reviewed company procedures and protocols, and interviewed witnesses along with company management personnel.T OSHA officials emphasized that the completion and reaching the results of the investigation may take months, as the agency reportedly will not release any information during the investigative process.When complete and the investigation is closed, findings will become available for review by the citizen of the state of Tennessee.Officials reported that Maines’ body was sent for an autopsy and that they are waiting for those results.

Sadly the accident comes only days after a large fire that broke out at the Shoun Lumber, reportedly damaging nearly half the yard.

Johnson County designated as a healthy community

TN Healthy Communitym Logo

By Meg Dickens
Staff Writer

On May 5, Governor, Bill Haslam and the Governor’s Foundation designated Johnson County as a Healthier Tennessee Community for Health and Wellness. Johnson County Mayor Larry Potter proudly presented the award at Doe Mountain Adventure Center. According to State Representative Timothy Hill, Johnson County is the first county in Tennessee to receive this award.

“More than anything I wanted to come and visit and say thank you for drawing a line in the sand and saying this is something important to our community.” Representative Hill said. “It’s an incredible designation for the community.”

Mayor Potter agreed with Hill’s sentiment. Potter stated, “it’s going to make our community as a whole a little bit better and that’s what it’s all about.” This award goes hand in hand with the Walk Across Tennessee program. Walk Across Tennessee is meant to help people get moving. This is a clear success considering that the participating 284 residents walked a collective 52,707 miles over the last eight weeks, which equals approximately fifteen laps around the state of Tennessee.

Johnson County’s designation makes the statement that health is essential to Johnson County residents and that we are fighting for better health outcomes in the community. The event could not have ended in a more fitting way. Residents took a scenic hike through the Doe Mountain trails. Johnson County is working towards a better and healthier future.

May 12 honors brave warriors

By Tamas Mondovics

May 12th is International Awareness Day for Chronic Immunological and Neurological Diseases (CIND) since 1992. The CIND illnesses include Myalgic Encephalomyelitis (ME), Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS), Fibromyalgia (FM), Gulf War Syndrome (GWS) and Multiple Chemical Sensitivity (MCS). The day is also the birthday of Florence Nightingale who was believed to have suffered from ME/CFS. According to awareness day organizers, every year multiple events are held to mark May 12th, either be held on the day or sometime during May.

Clarissa Shepherd, is one of those who wanted show support by sharing her thoughts when in part she wrote, “As we walk this journey of Fibromyalgia, Lyme, or ME/CFS – day after day – year after year – the trip can become enormous. What do we do to sustain or withstand it all? That’s the burning question, isn’t it?
As one who’s been to the darkness – been bed bound for years – lost family and friends – felt the loss of a career and a life once lived – all due to getting ill, the answer still eludes me. We can find our way to some type of acceptance while living with chronic illness, yet while in this place, feel stuck in an endless loop.

After all, we’re still human, so we still have wants, needs, and dreams. There are times we may feel that we no longer want to dream – we no longer want for anything, other than to be well. We may feel as if life has passed us by or has gone from our sight of vision. These are all typical emotions for anyone, who has been in this place for so long. It’s not about anxiety, panic, or depression. It’s about the length of time we’ve endured. It’s about being so worn of illness that we simply want to lay down and not get up. Not everyone could endure – not everyone could find new ways to invent themselves. We become creative in ways to accomplish what must get done, to survive. We see new talents; we didn’t realize we possessed. We become a type of magician in the way we learn how to accomplish things uniquely, unknown to most people. Those of us who’ve found this particular type of strength, due to illness, learn to rise another day again. It’s a strength, born out of years of adversity, disappointment, sorrow, loneliness, isolation, and struggle. It is an amazing example of your being – a mighty warrior. I’m not sure how we do this. It has to be a special type of strength that we possess – even in our weakness. Wherever it comes from, know it has made you who you are today. Letting out the grief isn’t a weakness. It too requires enormous courage.

So we walk hand in hand, learning as we go, walking a path less taken – given the choice we wouldn’t be on at all. Still, this is our life, and this is where we are – not who we are, at all. For we are mightier than we can comprehend within our minds – mightier than the darkness, which is a chronic illness – mightier than the hopelessness and despair that sometimes consumes us. In those times when doubt and fear grip you, know you’re fierce, unbroken, and a force of nature. When you feel as if you may crumble into a million pieces, take hold of the might and strength that surrounds you, hold you, binds you, and is truly who you are.”

Student’s patriotic pride rewarded

Flag presentation

Johnson County Middle School student Andrew Reece is assisted by Flag Duty teammate Donnie Curd carefully fold the American flag after it was lowered and replaced by a brand new flag to be flow over the school. The new flag was personally delivered and presented to Andrew by Tennessee Rep. Timothy Hill, following the young student’s letter to Hill’s office requesting a new flag since the old one was damaged. Photo by Tamas Mondovics

By Tamas Mondovics

To raise the flag in front of the school each morning, and lower and fold it each afternoon is an opportunity to demonstrate responsibility and citizenship on the part of students that have accepted the assignment Flag Duty is also the assignment that 13-year old Johnson County Middle School student, Andrew Reece has been conscientiously performing each school day for the past two years.Andrew, and his Flag Duty teammate Donnie Curd, 13, enjoyed the spotlight and some much-deserved recognition last week when Tennessee Rep. Timothy Hill visited the school bearing gifts by bringing a brand new American flag to be flown over the schoolyard. The visit was the result of Andrew’s direct letter to Hill’s office requesting a new flag after the young student noticed that the one flown over the school is damaged.

“I was lowering our flag, and I saw that it was ripped and felt that we needed to have a new one,” Andrew said, adding, “I decided to write to a letter and ask our state representative if we could get a new flag.”

Impressed by the diligence, Hill did not hesitate to respond and personally present Andrew with a new American flag along with a recognition letter acknowledging Andrew’s commitment and hard work on behalf of his school, community, and country.

“We do get a lot of calls for a flag, but this was different; something that we do not get often,” Hill said. “I really appreciated Andrew’s request and effort of personally writing to us, which demonstrated his commitment to his assignment and patriotism.”

Hill added that he enjoyed seeing the young student’s strong concern for his community. But Hill was not done bearing gifts just yet. Aside from the new American flag and a recognition letter, Hill also gave Andrew a Tennessee State flag, which he said “was actually flown over the state capitol. Following the presentation, Andre and Donnie proudly lowered the tattered flag to replace it with the new one to be flown above the Johnson County Middle and High Schools in Mountain City.
For those who think that Flag Duty, or to properly take care of the nation’s flag is a simple task might want to review a few flag etiquettes that include some specific standards.

The Flag Code formalizes and unifies the traditional ways in which respect is given to the flag, containing instructions on how the flag is not to be used. Here are some important ones to remember:

•The flag should never be dipped to any person or thing. It is flown upside down only as a distress signal.

•When the flag is lowered, no part of it should touch the ground or any other object; it should be received by waiting hands and arms. To store the flag, it should be folded neatly and ceremoniously.

•The flag should be cleaned and mended when necessary. When a flag is so worn it is no longer fit to serve as a symbol of our country, and by burning in a dignified manner should destroy it. Note: Most American Legion Posts regularly conduct a solemn flag burning ceremony, often on Flag Day, June 14th. Many Cub Scout Packs, Boy Scout Troops, and Girl Scout Troops retire flags regularly as well.

•The flag should be raised briskly and lowered slowly and ceremoniously. Ordinarily, it should be displayed only between sunrise and sunset. It should be illuminated if displayed at night.

•The flag of the United States of America is saluted as it is hoisted and lowered. The salute is held until the flag is unsnapped from the halyard or through the last note of music whichever is the longest.

For more information on flag etiquette, please visit

Flag presentation

Tennessee Rep. Timothy Hill presents Johnson County Middle school student Andrew Reece with a Tennessee State flag. Photo by Tamas Mondovics

STAR LED Chairman arrested for vandalism

Gary Garoni


By Jill Penley
Freelance Writer

Getting upset and losing his temper over a closed gate followed by taking matters into his own hands did not turn out well for STAR LED Chairman Garry Garoni, who was arrested on Monday, April 30, 2018, and charged with vandalism amounting to $1,000 damage. According to Johnson County Sheriff’s deputies, Garoni could not get past a locked gate the previous Tuesday night, at the Red Tail Golf Course leading to the residence he is renting.

Garoni allegedly began to shake the gate physically, tearing it down and causing the damages. Deputies spoke with property owner Lyle Habemehl, who explained that someone had broken the main gates off of the hinges and busted the electric gate opener. Habemehl said that Garoni had tried to access the area through the call button but was unable to provide the security code to gain access. Lt. Shawn Brown went to the location of the incident to gather information such as the cost to repair, and any documents associated with the repair and replacement of the gates. Thanks to video evidence, Garoni was then identified as the vandal.

“The video also shows Garoni to do the same to another gate,” Brown said. “A female in the video is seen trying to stop Garoni but was unable to do so.”

Based on all the facts, information and video evidence, Garoni was charged with Vandalism.

Market ready for opening day at Ralph Stout park


More than 15 vendors are now confirmed to display their wares forJohnson County Farmers Market’s opening day, Saturday, May 5.

By Jana Jones

“What a perfect location for the Farmers Market” is the comment heard from locals as well as out of town visitors in connection with the Johnson County Farmers Market (JCFM). But, after seven years of setting up at the Courthouse parking lot, the market has outgrown its space. Mountain City Mayor and the Town Council were instrumental in securing a new location at Ralph Stout Park adjacent to the playground so that the JCFM will have room to expand.

“We feel that this venue will provide better visibility for us as well as draw in some customers that would be coming to the park for other activities,” said Richard Calkins, president of the JCFM Board of Directors.

More than 15 vendors are now confirmed to display their wares on Saturday, May, 5 featuring a variety of beautiful greens including kale, arugula, Swiss chard, mustard greens, lettuce, and spinach. Broccoli, carrots, and chives will also be among other vegetables offered. Visitors can look forward to mouthwatering baked goods such as apple krugans, lemon tarts, Russian tea cakes, creme brûlée tarts, Irish oatmeal raisin cookies, and gluten-free triple chocolate cake slices. Fresh-out of-the-oven French bread, Jalapeno bread, Asiago garlic bread, bagels, and five varieties of croissants will be waiting for you. Also featured will be pasture raised pork summer sausage, smokey bacon cheddar sausage, bratwurst, pork tenderloin, 100 percent grass-fed beef (all cuts), and field raised chicken eggs. Homemade jams and jellies, including strawberry, raspberry, and blueberry jam, brandied cherry, strawberry sunrise, and citrus rum punch marmalade along with lemon curd, sauerkraut, granola, chili marinade are just some of the “value-added” products on the list. A number of craft vendors will offer stained glass, jewelry, ceramics, homemade soaps, lotions, sunscreen, bath bombs, lip balm, as well as Mother’s Day gift tins with assorted bath products.

Make sure to the manager’s tent to check out our “Fresh is Best” t-shirts, pick up free recipes, a local food guide, and sign up for the JCFM email list to get up-to-date listings of weekly specials and items available. Next door to the market manager tent will be the new “GoJoCo Kids Club” tent with a variety of healthy activities for children. As always, we accept EBT cards and will again this year be offering the FRE$H Savings Program which gives SNAP shoppers double their money on produce purchased at the market.

The Acorn Valley Bluegrass band will help launch the Farmers Market’s 10th year serving Johnson County. On any Saturday morning, May through October motorists will see colorful tents set up in the east parking area at the park. All are encouraged to stop by and enjoy the live music, a cup of coffee and a melt-in-your-mouth sweet bun, and stroll among the booths to see the beautiful fresh produce, freshly baked wonders, and local crafts. Because FRESH IS BEST.

Mountain City debuts new Girl Scout Troop

Madison with Rescue dog

Girl Scout Madison Johnson, 6 enjoys some puppy love during a special presentation at the Johnson County Public Library last week. The new group is the first to locally represent the Girl Scout Council of the Southern Appalachians in Mountain City.

By Jill Penley
Freelance Writer

An excited group of girls congregated in the Johnson County Public Library’s meeting room last week for a special presentation as Melissa Gentry, Rescue DOG and End of Life Sanctuary Founder, was on hand to explain the organization’s mission. “It was so fun,” said Elizabeth Mann, one of the girls in attendance. “My favorite part was the puppy.”

The girl’s group, has now grown in number to 12, came together this spring as part of a Daisy campaign by the Girl Scout Council of the Southern Appalachians (GSCSA), which serves 46 counties from southwest Virginia, through East Tennessee, and into north Georgia. The campaign, which challenged scouts to create new Daisy troops consisting of kindergarten and first-grade girls, lead to GSCSA staff getting an opportunity to visit at least three of the county’s elementary schools to present the girl scout experience to any interested.

“This troop has gotten off the ground quickly in a very short amount of time,” commented Heather Blanton, GSCSA Experience Manager. “They have already started to tackle the Girl Scout Law and Promise and learn a few words in different languages.”

According to Blanton, the troop plans to meet throughout the summer to earn their “Petals,” including two they will receive at their next meeting – Sunny and Zinni. The petals all represent a line of the Girl Scout Law. The troop will meet every other Tuesday at the library unless on one of their field trips or outdoor group activities and plans to welcome special guests from time to time to grow their knowledge of the surrounding community. Adult volunteers run the Girl Scout troops with the support of a GSCSA staff Experience Manager. For more information regarding volunteering or registering, contact Heather Blanton, GSCSA Experience Manager at or call 800-474-1912.

Local banks donate $9,000 towards new scoreboard

By Tamas Mondovics

Brad Reece, (left) is joined by David Arnold for a photo on at Ralph Stout Park last week following the joint donation from Farmer state Bank and Johnson County Bank of $9,000 for a new scoreboard for the Johnson County Little League softball program. Photo submitted by Farmers State Bank

The annual Johnson County Little League opening day festivities began with the traditional parade through town, supported by parents, coaches, fans and hundreds of spectators.  Aside from recognizing each team, the day’s activities also included the gratitude of s everal much-loved and respected members of the community such as the late Steve Marshall and Gary Woodard. Thanks to the generous support of local businesses, the league enjoyed another special surprise in the form of a check presentation to the Little League from Farmers State Bank and Johnson County Bank for a scoreboard for the softball program at Ralph Stout Park. “Our Little League program has shown tremendous growth and advancement under League President Brian Day,” said Farmers State Bank Vice President and Compliance Officer, Cliff Mahala.

The two banks have equally contributed to the scoreboard, a total of $9,000, but more importantly, to give the players a measure of pride. “This community has given us so much that it is important to give back to those we serve, when possible,” he said. “This was an opportunity to help a league that has benefited so many kids for more than thirty years. It was an easy decision.”

The scoreboard will be 8 feet tall by 20 feet wide and will replace the old board at Ralph Stout Park. Members of the community are all proud of Day’s efforts and accomplishments on behalf of the league including his commitment to bring baseball and softball back into the spotlight. Before Day’s tenure, there was no softball league in the community. Mahala emphasized that prior to the start of the softball program the girls had to play on baseball teams, which of course, fundamentally different from softball. “The Little League Board of Directors made it a priority to bring softball back and properly develop these softball skills,” he said.In 2016 softball returned to the Little League with three teams. Since then, it has grown to five teams with hopes of continued growth in the future. The League has clearly invested time and money into the field at Ralph Stout Park with the help of local volunteers and many donors who are critical to the success of the league.

“When softball play began, it was obvious that the community was excited about the return of softball,” Mahala added. “With its growth over the next couple of years, the need for a scoreboard became apparent.” The League is hoping to have the scoreboard up and installed within a couple of weeks bringing tournament opportunities for the league, and in turn, provide revenue to the county.Ralph Stout Park is located at 210 S Church St, Mountain City, TN.

Johnson County spared by TNReady testing cyber attack

By Jill Penley
Freelance Writer


Under the direction of House Speaker Beth Harwell, R–Nashville, State Rep. Jeremy Faison, R–Cosby, has officially requested a review by the Tennessee Comptroller related to the recent testing issues of the TNReady school assessments.The request follows several days of problems tied to TNReady’s online testing platform, the most significant of which occurred on Tuesday, April 17, when the Department of Education reported its testing vendor, Questar, had experienced a cyber-attack on its computer system. Reportedly, the day before and after this attack, many students were unable to log into or complete their tests.
Fortunately, that was not the case locally.

“We were fortunate here in Johnson County,” said Dr. Mischelle Simcox, Director of Schools. “The vast majority of last week’s issues did not impact us.”
These tests are vitally important to students, teachers, and schools across Tennessee because they count for large portions of final student grades as well as teacher evaluations and school rankings. “We acknowledge that state testing has been very frustrating for students and teachers all across the state,” said Simcox. “We share everyone’s concerns about the amount of testing and the timeframes.

In response to the plethora of issues with TNReady, the State Senate passed legislation, supported by State Sen. Ken Yager, R-Kingston, to hold teachers and students harmless in the TNReady testing assessments conducted for the 2017-2018 school year. Many state lawmakers and educational administrators remain bewildered with the testing debacle and insist Questar must be held accountable.

“While we may have figured out a temporary fix for this year’s TNReady problems, there are still questions that need to be answered, especially related to the contract with the testing vendor,” said Faison. “We need to get all of the facts before us, so we’re able to make the decisions necessary to best benefit the futures of our students, teachers, and school administrators.”

A few of the specific questions posed by Faison during initial talks with Comptroller Wilson include:
•Are there clawback provisions available, financial or otherwise, for failures in testing procedures?
A “clawback provision” is a special contractual clause typically included in employment contracts by financial firms, by which money already paid must be paid back under certain conditions.
•Is Questar required through their contract to act in full faith and fidelity in ensuring testing problems are solved?
•Is Questar contractually required to protect all student testing data? If so, what remedies are available for any personal information accessed or lost during the system’s cyber-attack?

Interestingly, Questar’s $30 million annual contract with Tennessee’s Department of Education expires this year.“We owe it to our students and parents to ensure that their personal and confidential information is not compromised, and what steps will be taken to ensure that information is not vulnerable,” Harwell said. “These assessments are important for accountability, and we need teachers, administrators, parents, and students to have confidence in the integrity of the test.”

Johnson County receives GEAR UP grant

By Meg Dickens
Staff Writer

The Johnson County School System is proud to be one of the counties selected for the U.S. Department of Education’s GEAR UP (Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduates Programs) grant for its third consecutive time. GEAR UP TN is a $617,633 grant spread over a six year period used for services such as mentoring, financial aid counseling, tutoring and so much more to prepare students for postsecondary school success and give access to students who normally would be unable to attend. Ten states are selected and communities go through a competitive process to be chosen.

This program will also includes a local community-based collaborative to spread the influence to students at both Johnson County High School and Johnson County Middle School. Partners help with activities and keep the ball rolling long after the grant is over. Johnson County School District’s GEAR UP partners will include the Tennessee College of Applied Technology in Elizabethton, Northeast State Community College, the Niswonger Foundation, the Johnson County Arts Council, the Johnson County Community Center and Danny Herman Trucking. Members of the Johnson County School System are pleased to see what new success this program will bring.

“I am excited that we were selected to continue our work as a GEAR UP TN Collaborative,” Exclaimed Dr. Mischelle Simcox, Director of Johnson County Schools. “Our college-going rate has increased dramatically since the beginning of our previous grant, and we look forward to continuing that progress over the next six years.”

Data shows that university attendance rates in rural areas have grown since GEAR UP TN. Rates rose 22.8 percent from the grant starting in 2005 and 9 percent from the grant starting in 2012. For more information, please contact Dr. Stephen Long, Secondary Supervisor/GEAR UP Collaborative Project Director, Johnson County Schools, at (423) 727-2640,

Appalachian Miles for Smiles to provide free dental care


Dental Clinic

The Appalachian Miles for Smiles Mobile Dental Unit is a state-of-the-art dental clinic with five treatment bays which is equipped to be operational at any remote location 30 minutes after its arrival. It was made possible through collaboration by Friends in Need,
Remote Area Medical, United Way of Greater Kingsport and many local businesses and
civic clubs along with volunteers. File Photo

By Jill Penley
Freelance Writer

Last year dentists and hygienists with Appalachian Miles for Smiles treated approximately 100 people in Johnson County and with the organization planning another two-day clinic this June, appointments are now being booked for those who have no dental insurance, but need dental care.

“The response was overwhelming,” said Ellen Watkins, Johnson County’s Red Cross Coordinator and organizer of the event. “I quit counting after 400 phone calls, and I had a waiting list of almost 50 people in case some of the clients failed to show up for the appointments.”

A few years ago, in her capacity as a Red Cross volunteer, Watkins approached staff affiliated with Appalachian Miles for Smiles inquiring as to why they failed to include Johnson County in the organization’s areas of service. Last year’s dental clinic was a result of Watkins reaching out for help for the residents of Johnson County.

The Appalachian Miles for Smiles Mobile Dental Unit, a five-treatment bay, state-of-the-art dental clinic, is equipped to be operational at any remote location 30 minutes after arrival. The unit was made possible through a collaboration of several organizations, businesses, and civic clubs. Volunteers are responsible for completing the specialized construction unit.

The volunteer effort is supervised by Frank Waldo, co-owner of Tele-Optics Inc. and global volunteer. “Having volunteers do the construction of this unit enabled the project to be completed at a fraction of the commercial cost and led to a design that is far more flexible and adaptable than one purchased from a custom design manufacturer,” said Waldo.

Appalachian Miles for Smiles, a Christian outreach program, currently serves areas in East Tennessee and Southwest Virginia. The program is an additional outreach of “Friends in Need,” a non-profit organization founded in 1995 in Kingsport, which provides both primary medical and dental care where payments are on a sliding scale, based on the federal poverty level.

“Based on research that was done a couple of years ago, there are 31 million people in the United States who are underinsured,” said Bruce Sites, executive director of Friends in Need. “Our area is no exception to that. We have a number of people underinsured, so there’s definitely a need out there.”

The Miles for Smiles mobile unit is expected to be in Johnson County Thursday and Friday, June 21 and 22, from 7:45 a.m. to 5 p.m. each day. Patients will be seen by appointment only, and appointments can be made by calling Ellen Watkins at 423-426-3093.

“The Appalachian Miles for Smiles unit is limited to 100 patients, 50 per day,” said Watkins, “and we still need help with the costs of food and housing the staff while they are here.”

For more information about Appalachian Miles for Smiles, visit To schedule an appointment or to make a donation for the upcoming Johnson County clinic, call Ellen Watkins at 423-426-3093.

AMF Smiles

Blue Ridge Mountains DAR honors Arbor Day with trees at Ralph Stout Park

Ralph Stout Tree Planting

Mountain City resident Izzy Lewis, 10 is joined by her brothers Ezra, 4 and Colin, 2 in planting a one of four trees at Ralph Stout Park. The event was sponsored by the Blue Ridge Mountains Daughters of the American Revolution Chapter for Arbor day. Photo by Tamas Mondovics

By Tamas Mondovics

The Blue Ridge Mountains Daughters of the American Revolution Chapter joined forces with the Johnson County Vocational School, the Soil Conservation Department and the Town of Mountain City for a special event last week. The group planed four trees at the Ralph Stout Park in observance of Arbor Day held at the end of this month.

Organized by members of the local DAR Chapter the small group gathered at Ralph Stout Park with teacher Thomas Boyd and student Dawson Cress from the Johnson County Vocational School to plant four redbud trees. Members in attendance included Martha Elvidge, Maggie Lewis, Mary Nave, Janet Payne, Rosemary Stanbery, Carolyn Roberts, Jane Winters, as well as prospective member Mary Shull. The Soil Conservation Department donated to the redbud trees.

Arbor Day is a holiday dedicated to celebrating and caring for trees. J. Sterling Morton, Secretary of Agriculture under President Grover Cleveland was the founder of Arbor Day which was first observed on April 10, 1872, in Nebraska when more than 1 million trees were planted.Today, Arbor Day–the name derived from Latin, meaning tree–is observed by many countries throughout the world in the spring and across the United States in April. This year Arbor Day is observed on April 28.

The Daughters of the American Revolution is a service organization dedicated to patriotism, education, and historic preservation. Membership is open to women over the age of 18 who are lineal descendants of patriots of the American Revolutionary War. The Johnson County Blue Ridge Mountains Chapter was organized in November 2017.

Passport applications now accepted in Johnson County


Circuit Court Office

Staff in the Circuit Court Clerk Office including Melissa Hollaway, Louise Lawrence, Sherry Sluder,Angel Snyder have and Cheyenne Matheson gone are now certified to process passport applications. The staff trained for the certifications on their own time in order to better serve the residents of Johnson County.

By Marlana Ward
Freelance Writer

The Johnson County Circuit Court, Clerk’s office, is now able to accept United States Passport applications. This new certification means that Johnson County citizens can begin the process of obtaining their passport for international travel without having to find and drive to offices in other counties as required in the past. Staff within the Circuit Court Clerk’s office has gone through extensive training to achieve their status as an official site of application acceptance. “We had to pass a background check and be approved by the Department of State committee before we could even begin training and again after each receiving our certificates of training,” Circuit Court Clerk Melissa Hollaway explained.

Hollaway emphasized that after approval the second time, the court clerks office received our facility training designation certificate and identification number, as well as becoming certified passport agents with individual agent identification numbers.“Each of us took an in-depth 12-course online training class with that courses included an intensive focus on security and fraud detection,” she said. “We also went to a passport training class at ETSU which provided hands-on training where we learned how to put the application together and in what order documents go in and how to handle applicants original documents to ensure everything is in order when the processing center gets the application. We are also required to have re-certification training every year.”

The ability to help residents gain their passports has been a goal for Hollaway because she realized how it could benefit the local population. “My office has always received phone calls asking about passports, and sadly we didn’t offer this service,” Hollaway said. “Upon inquiring about this service, the State Department informed me we were required to have a secure email domain. I contacted County Mayor Larry Potter and Purchasing Agent Dustin Shearin and asked about getting a secure email domain. They have been working on getting ungraded phone lines and internet, and when that was finally completed, the email domain was included which allowed me to continue the process of getting approval from the State Department to become a passport acceptance facility.”
All staff in the office is capable and eager to help residents begin the passport process. “We are very excited to be able to offer our friendly individualized approach to help citizens understand what is needed to obtain and update a passport,” Hollaway said. “My staff and I voluntary took the online classes on our on time to not take away from the public during regular office hours.

Making the application process as stress-free and convenient as possible is very important to the staff of the Circuit Court Clerk’s office.
“Our newly established passport facility will offer a community service where convenience is key,” Hollaway said. “My staff and I will take the time to help folks understand the procedure and guide them through the process of obtaining a passport book and card. We also help provide peace of mind and security because passport applications contain private information and my staff and I will use the resources we already have to handle sensitive information. We are equipped with the means necessary to keep applicants personal information protected and secured. Applications will be mailed daily with tracking numbers, and we will keep track of those applications to ensure they are received at the regional processing center within seven business days.

Not only will the service provide convenience to county citizens, but it will also provide funds to the county. “This service will also generate much-needed revenue for Johnson County as an execution fee of $35 per applicant is required in addition to the fees required by the Department of State,” explained Hollaway. “This money will go into the county general fund and be used wherever necessary as determined by county budget officials.”
Fees for a United States Passport varies depending on age and the type of passport. An Adult Passport Card will cost $65 for a first-time applicant while a Passport Book will cost $145 for the same applicant. The significant difference between the two passport types is that for travel by air, a U.S. Passport Book is required. According to documents from the State Department’s website, the passport cards are only valid when entering the US from Canada, Mexico, the Caribbean and Bermuda at land border crossings or sea ports-of-entry.

Those who are considering applying for a passport should do so well ahead of a scheduled trip as it does take a few weeks for an application to be processed and approved. “Allow at least six weeks to get your passport,” Hollaway explained. “My office acquires the necessary documents from applicants and assembles the application. From here it goes to a lockbox facility, next on to processing, then sent to the passport facility for approval. From there, the information goes to the printing center and then the completed passport is mailed directly back to the applicant.”

Since it is the first time service such service is offered by the office, Hollaway recognizes that it may take a little extra time the staff works through all the procedures. “This is something new to us as well. My approach with my staff is that we will all learn together. It may take a little longer at first to get the hang of it, but we look forward to helping Johnson County grow and expand,” she expressed.

For those who are concerned about how long the application process may take, contacting the Circuit Court Clerk’s office ahead of time or visiting the office in the afternoon may help cut down on time spent waiting. “The Department of State recommends allowing approximately 30 minutes to complete the application process maybe longer if multiple applications are being done per customer,” advises Hollaway. “Appointment times are not necessary as we have five passport agents trained to help, but you may schedule an appointment at your convenience. We do follow a rigorous court schedule with four courts and five judges. We also close for lunch from 12 pm to 1 pm. Afternoons have usually settled down in the court system allowing for less crowding in our tiny office.”

Those wishing to learn more about the application process are encouraged to call the Circuit Court Clerk’s office at 727-9012. “We have a new, automated phone system that allows the public to choose an option to be connected to different departments. The passport option is not available yet but will be very soon. When you call, you may press any of the options 3-7 to get any passport questions answered.” Forms, information on required documentation, fees, and other relevant information regarding international travel can also be found at the State Department’s official website,

Roe Statement on Speaker Ryan

Phil Roe

Rep. Phil Roe, M.D. (R-Tenn.), chairman of the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs, released the following statement after House Speaker Paul Ryan announced he would not seek re-election:
“Speaker Ryan is a good man, and I’ll always appreciate him stepping in to lead our conference. Paul has been instrumental in achieving historic reforms – from an overhaul of our tax code to bringing accountability to the Department of Veterans Affairs – and I’m excited to see what we achieve in these final months of his speakership. Paul Ryan has made no secret where his highest priority is, and that’s in Janesville, Wisconsin with his wife Janna and their children. I’m sure this decision was a difficult and personal one for him, and I wish him the best.”

Johnson County JAM program holds JAMboree concert April 10

Joshua Holloway playing guitar to the song “John Henry”

By David Holloway

Staff Writer

Tuesday night marked the end of the 2017-2018 season for the participants in the Johnson County JAM program. Approximately 300 people attended the annual JAMboree concert at Heritage Hall.
JAM, an acronym for Junior Appalachian Musicians, is a program for students in grades 4 through 12. Students learn Appalachian music on instruments including the fiddle, guitar, banjo, and mandolin. The Johnson County JAM program began in the 2016-2017 year and was an immediate success. The initial response was so great that many students had to wait until the next year in hopes to be a part of the program.
The JAM musicians learn about Appalachian music and culture through enrichment sessions held each week as part of the program. The students have a music lesson each week on their chosen instrument taught by master musicians who have volunteered their time to work with the kids.
The JAMboree opened with the invocation from Buddy Morefield. The Emcees for the night were Russell Love and JAM Band Students. There were performances from the different groups of the band students. Led by their instructor, each group of students took the stage and performed the songs they had been practicing.
“I believe our JAM program is a wonderful way for our children to experience who they are by participating in traditional mountain music,” said Mike Taylor, Director of the JAM program. “We as a community are better when we have a common vision and music is a great tool for that.”
JAM has an incentive program for the students. “Because of the grant we received this year we were able to offer incentives to students who have the most points – they get points from attendance, practicing at home, improved grades, improved attitude, improved behavior, performing in public, etc,” said Celia Pennington. “We’re awarding 15 students new instruments or scholarships for individual lessons. We hope to be able to do a similar incentive program next year.”
“The JAMboree is becoming a tradition for our JAM program and is so important because it gives our young musicians a valuable opportunity to perform on stage for their family and friends,” said Marty Pennington, guitar instructor.
“The thing I love about JAM is I get to learn to play the instrument that I love and get to learn more about the history of the music and the instruments that we learn here at JAM,” said Gunner Hutchins, guitar student.
A special guest from Nashville was part of the celebration of JAMboree. Jody Sliger, Community Development Director with State of Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development, along with Mayor Larry Potter presented the JAM program with a $25,000 grant.
“Programs like this make generational changes,” said Jody Sliger. “The JAM program is very impressive, I do believe that there will be others created across the state once they see the student impact in Johnson County.”
The Johnson County JAM program was the first of only three across the state to be awarded the prestigious Governor’s TNECD Renaissance Award at the TNECD Governor’s Conference last fall as a model program for community development.
JAM presented Danny Herman Trucking with a plaque of a tree carved by Mike Taylor. The plaque is embossed with the fingerprints of some of the JAM students and represents the leaves. Tim Horne accepted the award for Danny Herman Trucking.
JAM will begin it’s 2018-2019 program year this fall. If students in rising 4th -12th grades are interested in participating, they may request an application via email at or complete one online from the link on our facebook page. Applications deadline is the end of August.

Woodard, Marshall honored on Little League opening day

Members of the Marshall and Woodard families pose for a photo last week during the annual Little League Opening Day ceremony. The event named the league’s field and a dugout in honor of the late the late Gary Woodard and Steven Marshall. Pictured L-R: Sawyer, Tanner and Danae Marshall, Lisa Woodard, Adrian and Anthony Hall and Gary Woodard jr. Photo by Tim Chambers

By Tim Chambers

It was only a year ago that a story titled, “role model to all” ran in the Tomahawk.
Those were the most fitting words one could find to describe Gary Woodard who died shortly after coaching the 11-12 Little League All-Star team in 2017.
His Marlin’s team had just run the table by going undefeated in league and tournament play. It was a memorable season for many that will never be forgotten.
The season became even more memorable last Saturday when 23 teams marched into Cunningham Park for the 2018 Little League’s opening day celebration.
Tears were flowing everywhere at “Gary Woodard Field” as mayor Kevin Parsons addressed the large crowd. A sign hung on the scoreboard as Parsons read the proclamation that the field from that day on would bear Woodard’s name, whose family was on hand to watch as a standing ovation followed Parson’s announcement.
There wasn’t a dry eye anywhere.
“I don’t know what to say,” said his widow Lisa Woodard with their children Adrian and Anthony Hall and Gary junior by her side. “Gary would not have wanted all this attention, but it does mean so much to our family and me. I will forever be grateful to our Little League, Mayor Parsons and everyone involved. Gary was a blessed man, and I know he’s
looking down and smiling at everyone.”
A dugout was also named in honor of Woodard who spent ten years as a coach including five at the major league level.
But the dedication didn’t stop there.
The tears kept flowing as league president Brian Day honored the late Steve Marshall’s family with a plaque naming the other dugout in his honor.
Marshall was a fixture at all the youth games and was often in the dugout or on the sidelines as a coach. Many young players were able to see their names in the paper because of Marshall. He always took the time to record the stats
and made sure that every player got recognized that contributed.
“It’s really special because we didn’t expect it,” said Marshall’s widow Danae. “This was his world when it came to youth sports. He loved helping his sons and all the kids. I know that he would be humbled if he were here to see what took place today.”
Somehow I feel like they were. Long live the names of Gary Woodard and Steven Marshall.