City Board of Mayor and Aldermen urged to enforce property maintenance

A large group of citizens and officials attended the June meeting of the Mountain City Board of Mayor and Aldermen. Multiple citizens took to the podium to discuss concerns and requests before the board. Asking the town’s intervention in a continuing problem with overgrown and neglected properties was a primary concern for one town resident. Photo by Marlana Ward.

By Marlana Ward
Freelance Writer

While most public comments made at the monthly meetings of the Town of Mountain City Board of Mayor and Aldermen concern requests to allow fundraising on town streets or official support for community events, this month’s meeting zeroed in on a passionate plea for city government intervention.

Ted Gentry, a Mountain City citizen who lives on Reece Avenue, took advantage of the opportunity to approach the town’s officials to voice his discontent at the town’s lack of enforcing property maintenance regulations as presented in the town’s ordinances. Gentry explained to the governing body that multiple properties on Reece Ave, as well as residences sharing the Reece Ave/Murphy St alleyway, were failing to comply to the ordinance and causing health concerns for other residents in the neighborhood as rats and other rodents were increasing in number due to overgrown vegetation and failure to keep garbage contained.

Gentry’s first complaint was that one property owner repeatedly refused to mow their lawn or remove motor vehicles, which had been inoperable for years. He expressed how everyone else in the neighborhood understood their responsibility to maintain their property and how other property owners should be expected to do the same. Gentry went on to say that if the town refused to enforce its ordinances, he would like to be included among those not required to abide by the rules or excused from paying his city taxes since he did not see the town as meeting its obligations to taxpayers.

City Recorder Sheila Shaw stated that when she was given a list of properties, which were not in compliance with town ordinances, she issued letters requesting action by property owners to come into compliance. She had not been instructed to send the letters for this year but would do so as soon as she was given a list of properties to be contacted.

Shaw explained in an email later how properties are brought to her attention and how notice is given to landowners. “The violations are, for the most part, brought to my attention by complaints from the public,” she stated. “Most complaints happen around this time of year. Last year, I sent out around 20 letters to property owners and residents. In cases of rentals, I send a letter to the property owner as well as the resident.”

The town’s policy regarding property maintenance is outlined and defined in Title 13 of the town’s ordinances. Section 13-105 states: “Every owner or tenant of property shall periodically cut the grass and other vegetation commonly recognized as weeds on his property, and it shall be unlawful for any person to fail to comply with an order by the town recorder or chief of police to cut such vegetation when it has reached a height over one foot.”

Section 13-107 explains citizens’ responsibilities to help ensure public health safety by maintaining their property. “Every owner or tenant of property shall maintain yards and/or vacant lots in a manner as not to be a menace to public health; but in a clean and sanitary condition, free from refuse or debris which might provide harborage or breeding place for rodents, vermin, insects or snakes.”

Ordinance #1347 details the actions, which may be taken by the town to ensure compliance with the Title 13 regulations concerning properties deemed a risk to public health. The ordinance states that a notice of record in violation of a particular subsection shall be served to the offending property’s owner. The notice will include a statement explaining the violation, contact information of the department issuing the notice, a cost estimate for remedying the violation, and an explanation of how the property owner can return a copy of the notice indicating the desire for a hearing.

According to the ordinance, if a property owner takes no action to come into compliance within 10 days of receiving notice the town may take action to remedy the offending condition. The ordinance also states that the city will hold the property owner responsible for the costs of clean up. If payment is not made, the city may place a lien upon the property to be placed on the tax rolls in the Register of Deeds office and will be subject to the same fees as delinquent property taxes if not paid.

Also outlined in the ordinance is a method of appeal for property owners. The ordinance states that an appeal must be made within 10 days following the receipt of the notice and failure to request an appeal within that time will constitute a waiver of the right to a hearing. Citizens may request a copy of the town’s ordinance or obtain more information by contacting City Hall.

Democratic Party to hold Three Star Dinner

Democrats from all over the state are now making plans to attend one of the season’s most significant events scheduled for this weekend. The 2018 Three Star Dinner to “honor the past, celebrate the present, and get fired up to fight for the future,” is now scheduled for Saturday, June 16, at 6pm (CDT) at the Wilson County Expo Center, 945 East Baddour Parkway, Lebanon, TN. According to event organizers the annual fundraiser Democratic get-together, will see a sizable crowd while welcoming government officials and current candidates including special guest and keynote speaker, U.S. Senator Doug Jones (D-AL).

“We are proud to have many of our Democratic elected officials joining us, as well as candidates up and down the ballot,” spokesperson Amanda Yanchury in a recent press release for the members of the media.

Other notable guests planned to attend the event includes, U.S. Representative Jim Cooper, U.S. Senate Candidate, Governor Phil Bredesen, Gubernatorial Candidate, State House Minority Leader Craig Fitzhugh, Gubernatorial Candidate, former Mayor Karl Dean, Chair of the Tennessee Democratic Party Mary Mancini.

Officials said that additional elected officials and candidates will be announced.
​For more information obout the Tennessee Democratic party please visit www.tndp,org.

Watauga Lake Winery holds fundraiser for Fisher House

Jim Gee, left, is joined by John Kob, and LeAnn Baker,during a recent fundraiser held at Watauga Lake Winery to benefit the Tennessee Fisher House, a place that provides housing for military and veteran families at no cost while service members receive medical treatment.
Photo courtesy Watauga Lake Winery.


By Jill Penley
Freelance Writer

Butler may be located some 300 miles from Murfreesboro, Tennessee, but when it comes to caring, commitment, heart, and dedication for the nation’s military families, distance means little to Linda and
Wayne Gay. For the past five years, as owners and managers of the Watauga Lake Winery, the couple has hosted fundraisers to benefit the Tennessee Fisher House, a place that provides housing for military and veteran families at no cost while service members receive medical treatment.

“The Fisher House Foundation is essential to our veterans and their families,” said Linda Gay, who comes from a military family being the granddaughter of a Marine, a daughter of a Navy Seaman, and the wife of an Army Colonel. “We have met so many people who have used the services of a Fisher House, and they are all so very thankful that it exists.”

Close to 200 guests attended the special fundraising event despite the heavy rain plaguing the area on Memorial Day weekend. Highlights of the evening included music, dancing, and a silent auction to raise money to cover the services provided by Fisher House. Additionally, several veterans in attendance shared experiences and stories of their military days followed by the music of the era by DJ Billy Gambill.
According to Gay, it remains unclear as to just how much money was raised to benefit the TN Fisher House since many donors chose to donate privately by placing donations in sealed envelopes.

The TN Fisher House, located on the Alvin C. York VA Medical Center Campus, in Murfreesboro, Tennessee, opened in November of 2013, to provide “a home away from home” for veteran’s families. The Murfreesboro location is one of 27 “comfort homes” operated as part of Fisher House program, named after founders Zachary and Elizabeth Fisher, who dedicated more than $20 million to the construction of comfort homes for families of hospitalized military personnel.

“Eliminating financial burden when faced with such emotional turmoil is priceless for those in need,” said Gay.

Popular walking route officially recognized as community trail

By Marlana Ward
Freelance Writer

The Johnson County GoJoCo Wellness Committee in partnership with other community organizations have recently released a website and published a brochure featuring ideas and tools for helping Johnson County continue to be a “Healthier Tennessee Community.”Among the information displayed online and in print is a list of walking trails which makes it easy for citizens to find the path most convenient for them and their physical capabilities.

At the June meeting of the Mountain City Board of Mayor and Aldermen, Jana Jones, a representative from the Johnson County Wellness Committee, presented the board with proposed signage marking the newest trail called “The Downtown Mile.”According to city officials, the designated trail takes walkers through Mountain City to enjoy classic storefronts and local neighborhoods.The route travels along South Church Street, West Main Street, Shady Street, and includes the Welcome Center.

Angela Stout, Public Health Educator with the Johnson County Health Department, emphasized that The Downtown Mile was chosen due to its use among walkers within the town. “The route was already identified as this was a route already being utilized by some individuals who live and/or work nearby,” Stout said. “Our committee chose to continue with what was already being utilized and design a way to promote it.”

Stout expressed confidence that local citizens and businesses will consider the trail’s convenience as an opportunity to encourage healthy lifestyles, when she said, “We hope people will take advantage of the connections to downtown, to the Welcome Center, Goose Creek Trail, and Ralph Stout Park as well. “We also hope local work sites nearby will incorporate promotion of the walking path into their employee wellness program (if they have one) or develop an employee wellness program that would allow time for employees to take a wellness break and walk the downtown mile.”

Raising public awareness about opportunities to be more active and take advantage of the many trails and paths available for fitness training is an ongoing goal for the GoJoCo Wellness Committee.

“The GoJoCo Wellness Committee, with help from ETSU Medical Students, created a brochure that highlights 17 public access walking/hiking paths/trails in Johnson County,” Stout added. “All of the trail information found in the brochure is also available on the website with directions on how to get to each of them.”

Since Johnson County’s recognition as a Healthier Tennessee County in May, many groups and individuals have been taking advantage of the county’s healthy opportunities

“There’s a lot of good health promotion taking place in the county, and it will take persistence, consistency, and support for us to move these efforts forward in a way that makes positive improvements in health outcomes for our residents,” she said.

Stout is encouraged by the response the public has given the program and hopes that people will share their excitement as well as inspire others.

“We would love to see individuals and groups share photos of themselves on our GoJoCoTN Facebook page as they are walking, biking, or hiking the downtown mile or any other spaces in Johnson County,” she said.

More information about the GoJoCo initiative can be obtained online at or by visiting the Johnson County Health Department.

Construction underway for new Taco Bell and KFC

A banner on South Shady Street in Mountain City, TN advertises the building of Taco Bell and KFC restaurants now slated for opening later this year, bring dozens of jobs into the community.  Photo by Tamas Mondovics

By Tamas Mondovics

With the news in March of two new restaurants, Taco Bell and KFC coming to Mountain City, area residents have been waiting to hear more details, about the project, its economic impact for the community as well as the accompanying new employment opportunities promised by officials. Building construction is now clearly underway, and officials are pleased to announce that the restaurants are slated for opening later this fall bringing to the city nearly three-dozen jobs each.

To join the Fulenwider KFC/Taco Bell family, the company is currently looking to fill many positions including assistant and restaurant general manager along with team members, while offering competitive starting wages, health, and dental insurance benefits, and paid vacations, to name a few.

Officials have also confirmed that the restaurants will consist of two separate buildings at 465 South Shady Street, with KFC’s entrance off Vandilla Street and the Taco Bell entrance off of Shady Street.
The pair of new eateries will not only promote a brand new addition to the list of local facilities to choose from, but Taco Bell will be featuring one of its new restaurant designs that launched in Orange County, California,

“While each of the four designs has a different look and feel, they all truly express the Taco Bell you’ve grown to know and love,” officials said.

The restaurant’s updated look in Mountain City will reportedly be in the “Modern Lite” design, a variation of the company’s “Modern Explorer” design that was inspired by the farm to table movement, reinforcing Taco Bell’s commitment to preparing food using the best ingredients.Modern Explorer uses an open kitchen concept in the restaurant so guests can watch food being prepared right in front of them.

For its brand new restaurant slated to open later this year, Taco Bell will be featuring one of its updated looks “Modern Lite” design, which was inspired by the farm to tablemovement. Photography by Gamma Photography Studio

Last year, Taco Bell announced its plans to grow as a system to approximately 9,000 restaurants globally by 2022, opening the door of opportunity for 100,000 new jobs in the U.S. alone. The new restaurants are promising to assist in supporting the Taco Bell Foundation, which according to the company’s website, has been committed to supporting the passions of America’s young people, since 1992, helping them follow their dream and reach their potential.

The Foundation has reportedly reached more than 3.5 million youth across the country and has awarded more than $72 million in grants and scholarships, focused on education and career readiness.
For more information about the Taco Bell Foundation, visit

Sales tax increase now in hands of local voters

By Marlana Ward
Freelance Writer

At the May meeting of the Johnson County Commission, a proposal was made to offer county voters the choice to raise the sales tax rate by 0.5 percent. The increase would allow Johnson County to retain one of the two lowest sales tax rates in the state. The change would also bring more funds in for county programs and functions, county officials said.

Since 1969, the local option sales tax rate in Johnson County has stood at 1.5 percent. This number has remained unchanged though inflation and property tax rates have increased steadily throughout the decades. While the 1.5 percent added to the state sales tax of seven percent should mean that customers are always charged a flat 8.5 percent, there are instances in which buyers are already being charged more at the register.

Because today’s sales transactions being calculated electronically, specific sales amounts trigger an automatic rounding effect, which raises the rate at which local consumers are charged sales tax.
Johnson County Director of Budget and Accounts Russell Robinson explained that the simplest way to explain the rounding issue is that the majority of the time the local option rate calculates out at the 1.5 percent rate, but in some cases, a rounding effect happens that generates an additional half-cent.

“That half cent we the consumer pay and the county receives no benefit from the rounding that occurs,” Robinson said. “Odd dollar amounts such as $1, $3, or $7, generate a rounding effect that often time generates an additional half-cent.”

Robinson added that the extra funds generated by the rounding effect are funds, which some county officials see as a missed opportunity to benefit Johnson County and its citizens.

“As an example, if you purchase an item for $1.00 the sales tax on that dollar purchase is eight and a half cents that round to nine cents,” he said. “The State of Tennessee keeps seven cents as the state portion, and the remaining two cents is broken down with one, and half cents returning to the county and the State of Tennessee keeps the remaining half cent.

The Tennessee Department of Revenue is under no obligation to return the remaining half-cent since the official local option tax rate for Johnson County one and a half cents.”

Neighboring counties in Tennessee have sales tax rates well above that of Johnson County. For example, Carter County and Washington County have a sales tax rate of 9.75 percent. The state’s average sales tax rate is 9.49 percent.

If the proposed increase is adopted by voters, Johnson County’s rate would increase to 9.0 percent.
Robinson said that the increase would provide a boost to the county budget.

“To increase the local option rate from 1.5 percent to 2 percent would generate an estimated additional $300,000 to $500,000 a year,” he said. “A majority of the time we as the consumer would see an increase at the register but not in all cases. Often the consumer is already paying the additional half cent.”

The fund received by the county through the collection of local sales tax is used for a variety of purposes.
“The additional revenue generated by the increase would benefit county, schools and city operations,” expressed Robinson.

Previously when the county needed to increase revenue through taxes, the county’s property owners were the ones to feel the pinch as the property tax rates increased. This new proposal would better allow all consumers in Johnson County to shoulder a portion of the tax burden.

“An increase to the local option rate would more equally distribute the tax burden to all citizens,” Robinson explained. “Anyone who happens to spend money in Johnson County or Mountain City that doesn’t live in Johnson County would also be paying the additional increase in the local option rate. An increase in the local option rate means that property tax rates for county residents would not necessarily increase to cover shortfalls in county operating costs.”

The decision whether to increase the local sales tax option will be placed on the November 6, 2018, General Election ballot.

A winning smile

Nola Furches smiles after winning a bicycle during the 14th Annual Turtle Derby held last week at Ralph Stout Park. Joe Herman of Herman Trucking donated a pair of bicycles that added to the door prizes awarded during the race. Matthew Forrester had the winning ticket for the boy’s bike contributing to another successful event. Submitted by Joan Trathen.

Mountain Music Stage opens season Saturday

Harbin Hill Farms uses it’s Mountain Music Stage to support local programs and showcase local musicians. Photo courtesy of Harbin Hill Farms.

By Tamas Mondovics

Since established in 2017, Harbin Hill Farms “Mountain Music Stage” has had a chance to entertain visitors and music lovers with a series of benefit concerts. Thanks to the event’s success farm owner Richard Calkins was pleased to announce plans to host five concerts planned for this season, promoting the legacy of bluegrass and “old-timey, mountain music” that originated in the mountain hollows of North East Tennessee, Western North Carolina, and Southwestern Virginia.

The first concert is scheduled for Saturday, June 9, benefiting the new Arts Center building located at 127 College Street in Mountain City. After several years of searching, Calkins and his wife Kathy found the property they’d been looking for  a 42-acre farm nestled in the foothills of Doe Mountain on Harbin Hill Road. The two bought the farm in the fall of 2013. Richard emphasized that the purchase of the farm was the result of a hike that included the crossing of Rt. 67 near Hampton, TN, to the top of Iron Mountain.

“I was so taken with the beauty of Lake Watauga and the surrounding mountains that I knew that this was the area I wanted to live in when I was finally done working,” he said.

While proud of seeing his dream of owning a working farm become a reality, Richard admitted that creating the mountain music stage, was a bit more than just a walk in the park. A working farm would need, at a minimum, to pay for itself and preferably, return a profit.

“Not one to do things halfway, I knew that I would not be satisfied with a “hobby farm,” Calkins added.
“That is when our thoughts returned to preserve and enhance the legacy of traditional music in the region, in particular, the JAM program that is training young musicians to play the traditional instruments and to learn the repertoire of famous old songs from the originators of mountain music,” Richard said.

The next step seemed obvious. “We will host concerts,” Richard said, before realizing an important factor. “I knew absolutely nothing about that music, or about promoting concerts.”

That was only scratching the surface. The farm needed a stage, seating for the audience, and parking area.
Determined to make things happen, Richard enlisted the help of his friends and his farm interns and, within weeks, the hay was moved, and a simple wooden stage was built. A canopy provided shade for the musicians, a sound-system, complete with microphones, speakers, and wiring was installed.

“The idea was to offer “lawn chair concerts,” where the audience would bring their own seating – lawn chairs or just a blanket to spread on the ground,” he said.

Thanks to key members of the Johnson County Arts Council the first event a benefit concert for the Jam Program, launched “The Mountain Music Stage” on the green, at Harbin Hill Farms.This year’s first concert supporting the Arts Center will feature the descendants of “Fiddlin’ Fred Price” – including Kenny Price, Lois Price Dunn, and fourth generation pickers Andrew and Kyman Matherly.

Other planned concerts are expected to benefit the JAM program, the Library Expansion Project, the Church-based Johnson County food banks, and Flow Bellamy’s Feed the kids after school Program.
The Calkins hope is that the Mountain Music Stage will accomplish three things: provide great, family-friendly entertainment; help to preserve and enhance the legacy of mountain music in Johnson County, and strengthen and support key institutions that make Johnson County an ever-better place in which to live.

Heroes take center stage

By Marlana Ward
Freelance Writer

The two-day, Longhorn Comic Con presented the opportunity for fans of fictional characters and worlds to come together in a community setting where all were accepted and encouraged to freely express their enthusiasm for their favorite, superhero or comic character. The Johnson County High School gym, which was transformed into a meeting place of old friends and new acquaintances welcomed all to share their enthusiasm for their beloved characters and fictional universes.

According to event organizers, the Longhorn Comic Con was the first convention of its type to be held in Johnson County. Co-founder of the event, Cole Gladden explained how she and her husband Mark worked with other local enthusiasts to bring the event to Mountain City. The event was a combined effort, which began with Green Dragon Comics and Double D’s Consignment from Mountain City.

“We along with Daniel Shoemaker and David Watson decided to do the comic convention,” she shared. “We have all gone to other area cons, and all love all things comic, sci-fi, fantasy, and horror. We just wanted to bring something fun and affordable to the community.”

Over 200 people visited the convention to explore what the 19 vendors and artists brought to offer fans of all ages. Artist, Albert Morales, headlined the event bringing artwork for fans to purchase and enjoy as well as a special edition print only available at the Longhorn Comic Con. Artist Kevin Hawkins and author Stephen Semones, who happily autographed prints and books for excited fans.

One of the most anticipated features of the event was the cosplay contest, which saw entries of all ages displaying their love for various characters through homemade cosplay outfits and costumes with varying degrees of intricacy.

The first competition of the day saw nineteen contestants cross the stage for the delight of all in attendance. For the twelve and under category, Abigail Ward won first place for her portrayal of Tenten from the anime Naruto, and Chris Eller was awarded second for his Wolverine. In the teen category, Timmy McClellan placed first for his Punisher cosplay, followed by Daisy Treadway’s Ponyo in second. Judy Durall’s Wonder Woman won the adult competition, which featured impressively detailed costumes, while Fred and Becky Mottern followed close behind with their portrayal of Steampunk Airship Pirates.

A second competition was also held to allow for eleven more cosplay enthusiasts to cross the stage.
The 12 and under category was won by Alyviana Calvo as Merida from the movie Brave. Devrrin Calvo’s Karate Kid won the teen competition. Mark Calvo as White Goodman won the adult division from the movie Dodgeball.

Gladden expressed her appreciation to all who helped make the event a success when she said, “Special thanks to all the volunteers, vendors, artists, and of course the people who came. None of it would
have been possible without them.”

Mountain City honors its heroes during Memorial Day ceremony

By Tamas Mondovics

Overcast skies and the possible rain did not damp the patriotic spirit of Mountain City residents who came to support the annual Memorial Day ceremony, remember the men and woman that paid the ultimate sacrifice for their nation. The ceremony was held on Monday, May 28, 2018, welcoming local, County and State officials, each of whom took the opportunity to express their appreciation for the sacrifice made by many local serviceman and woman in the country’s history. The turnout was exemplary, as both bleachers filled to the limit with many more standing and some sitting on lawn chairs in front of the covered stage at Ralph Stout Park. Former American Legion Department of Tennessee Commander and Johnson County native Robert Hensley served as Master of Ceremonies, while participants included Tennessee Congressman Phil Roe, State Senator Jon Lundberg, State Representative Timothy Hill, Johnson County Mayor Larry Potter, and Mountain City Mayor Kevin Parsons.

Nancy Davis and the Johnson County Community Children’s Chorus under the direction of Marie-Jo Thum provided musical tributes. With a wreath presentation, by the Johnson County Honor Guard, the Republican Woman and the American Red Cross along with a rifle volley and the playing of “Taps” the event made sure to honor those Johnson County veterans who have passed away. Parsons emphasized that while some memories stand out more than others, remembering those that paid the ultimate sacrifice means for much more.

“Memorial day is to truly honor those that died for our country,” Parsons said. Taking his turn at the lectern, Potter agreed when he said, “This is the time to think of the sacrifices of our serviceman and woman as well as their families for our great country.”

Hill followed suit in his remarks while Roe mentioned that Memorial Day is, “the hardest day for me, as I think about the so many lives that have been lost serving our nation including the 34 from Johnson County that died in WWII, as well as those that lost their lives fighting terrorism.”

Perhaps the most memorable moment came when Lundberg emphasized the importance of the day by thanking the large crowd for supporting the event with their presence.“I want you to please stand up,” Lundberg asked all in attendance. “I want to thank you for being here and honoring those who can not be here.” Aside from a few drops, the rain held off until the end of the event adding to the spirit of this year’s Memorial Day ceremony in Mountain City that was a great reflection of its residents’ support of those that died for their freedom.

American casualties during wars and conflicts:

World War I: 116,516

World War II: 405,399

Korean War: 36,574

Vietnam War: 58,220

Desert Storm: 383

Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation NewDawn: 4,484

Global War on Terrorism: 2,394 as of May 2018

Operation Inherent Resolve(ISIS/ISIL intervention): 61 as of May 2018

JCHS students celebrated during Baccalaureate service

Maria Johnson 2018 Baccalaureate service

Maria Johnson informs the audience of her plans to attend Virginia Highlands Community College in the fall to study horticulture. Johnson was one of the 25 JCHS graduating seniors honored at this year’s Baccalaureate service sponsored by the Johnson County Ministerial Alliance and hosted by First Christian Church.

By Jill Penley
Freelance Writer

Members of the Johnson County High School graduating class were individually recognized and officially celebrated during last week’s Baccalaureate Service held at the newly constructed Christian Life Center of the First Christian Church of Mountain City. Twenty-One graduating seniors attended this special service along with friends, family, teachers, support staff and school board administration.

Dwayne Dickson, First Christian Church Senior Pastor, introduced the special guest speaker Andrew Norman, an Elizabethton High School graduate, Milligan College graduate and current student at Liberty University preparing to receive his master’s degree in December. “He is also going to become our Youth Minister here, at First Christian Church, in June,” announced Dickson. “We are looking forward to getting to know him.”

“I just want to spend some time with you in The Word,” said Norman, using Philippians 3 as the key text, “and to challenge you guys as you move forward in this new chapter of your life.” He also spoke of the importance of having goals in life. “Recognizing the goal is simple,” he said, “yet how we are going to accomplish the goal is not so simple. The ‘what’ is easily understood; however, the ‘how’ is a bit more complex.” Norman currently serves the Country Line Christian Church in Axton, Virginia. He, his wife and three children will be moving to the area next month.

The Baccalaureate, a centuries-old religious graduation tradition which began in England, generally refers to a non-denominational ceremony held a few days before high school or college graduation, and typically offer a quieter, more intimate opportunity to pause and reflect on this rite of passage. Representatives of the Johnson County Ministerial Alliance sponsored the service; a group made up of pastors from the churches of Johnson County “who desire to demonstrate the unity of the body of Christ by working together for the cause of Christ.” Each graduate in attendance was given a gift before sharing their individual plans for post-secondary educations and career goals. A reception for the 25 JCHS graduates who attended followed the service.

Johnson County Senior Center hosts health fair

Seniors enjoy the health fair

Residents are enjoying the recent Johnson County Senior Center Health Fair. The provided services and valuable information local vendors. Photos submitted by Kathy Motsinger.

By Tamas Mondovics

More than 160 seniors stopped by the Johnson County Senior Center in Mountain City last week to take advantage of the variety of services offered during the annual Senior Center Spring Health Fair held annual was held on Thursday, May 24.

The event sponsored by Johnson County Bank drew the large crowd of area seniors, who have received valuable health-related services and information from different vendors. Such services included blood work by Ballad Health of Johnson City Medical Center, while Phlebotomy Coordinator, Terry Shipley, and her team provided a full panel blood work for $10.00 per person, senior citizen age.

Legal Aid, A.C.T.I.O.N Coalition, Quillen Rehab Center, Amedisys Home Health Care, Ballad Health, Caris Healthcare and VR Blind Services were set up to assist seniors and had information for anyone interested. The last week’s fair was a great addition to the Johnson County Senior Center’s Alzheimer’s Awareness Day program the week before.

“Everyone came dressed in purple,” said Johnson County Senior Center Director Katherine Motsinger. “The purple was the color of the day, which saw more than 108 senior citizens, who have enjoyed a nice lunch at no cost. A game of bingo followed and was a big success with everyone winning.”

Motsinger added that the series of recent health events also included a program on, which included a dinner catered by Fatz Café on Monday, May 21. Tracey Kendall Wilson from Alzheimer’s Tennessee spoke about Dementia A-Z emphasizing the theme: “Alzheimer’s is a journey that no one should take alone.”

Alzheimer’s Tennessee, INC was founded in 1983 by a group of Tennessee families and professionals to help everyone understand and cope with the ravaging effects of Alzheimer’s disease and related disorders.  Johnson County Bank, the Mountain City Funeral Home, and Caris Healthcare sponsored Monday’s program.Thanks to their generous support there was no cost for dinner, and many door prizes were won.

For more information about forms of Dementia, please call Alzheimer’s Tennessee at 423-330-4532. The next Health Fair is scheduled for Thursday, Nov. 15.


JCHS bids adieu to the Class of 2018

Abigail Arnett & Josie Ward

Abigail Arnett and Josie Ward, both of graduating class, performed an acoustic version of The Time of Your Life just before Dr. Mischelle Simcox challenged the graduates before officially pronouncing them graduates of Johnson County High School.

By  Jilly Penley
Freelance Writer

The 2018 Johnson County High School graduating class, which racked up an impressive showing of scholarships and academic performance,
took the spotlight on Saturday morning, May 19,

“The Class of 2018 has given us so many reasons to be proud,” said JCHS Principal Lisa Arnold in her opening remarks. “They have given many valuable things to JCHS that we will never forget, but to me the most valuable thing this class has offered us is individuality.”

Arnold went on to say although this class stands strong as a group, she has high expectations for them individually. Maelea Gaylon, JCHS Assistant Principal, presented a beautiful vocal performance of Seasons of Love before Principal Arnold introduced the 2018 Class Valedictorian Abigail Smith.

“It seems as if there has always been something special about our class,” remarked Smith. “Over the years, I have heard many teachers and school administrators comment that they were impressed by all that our class has had to offer. This year, our final year has most certainly proved that point.” Smith provided some
examples including the football team’s undefeated season, the most ever in attendance at Heritage Hall for the high school theatre group’s production of The Adams Family, and the JCHS Class of 2018 saw a record number of students receive Presidential Academic Excellence Award.

“After today, I hope we will all get down to the business of preparing for what lies ahead,” said Smith in her address to the class. “You have already succeeded, and you can do it again. So, congratulations, today is your day. Now get on your way.”

Abigail Arnett and Josie Ward, both of graduating class, performed an acoustic version of The Time of Your Life just before Dr. Mischelle Simcox challenged the graduates before officially pronouncing them graduates of Johnson County High School. Dr. Stephen Long, Johnson County Schools Secondary Supervisor, and GEAR UP Collaborative Project Director, individually announced the name of each of the 161 graduates as they accepted their diplomas from school board members and administrators.

Andrew Robinson, a senior student council member, led the class in the traditional turning of the tassels before applause roared throughout the Ray S. Shoun Memorial Gymnasium one last time for this batch of seniors, who achieved so much over four years and now enter the world as JCHS graduates.

Mountain City welcomes candidates at Johnson County GOP Lincoln Day Dinner

GOP candidates, US House of Representatives candidate Todd McKinley, Congressman Phil Roe, and Congresswoman Marsha
Blackburn speak to attendees during the Johnson County GOP Lincoln Day Dinner held last Saturday, at the Tennessee
Army National Guard Armory, 1923 S. Shady Street in Mountain City, TN. Photos by David Holloway.

By David Holloway
Staff Writer

More than 150 attended the Johnson County GOP Lincoln Day Dinner held last Saturday, at the Tennessee Army National Guard Armory, 1923 S. Shady Street in Mountain City, TN. The event began with a “mix-and-mingle” from 5 pm until 6 pm giving attendees a chance to visit with local, county, and state candidates personally. To start the scheduled program, Karen Weaver, Chairman of the Johnson County GOP, welcomed everyone followed by the Johnson County Honor Guard’s Presentation of Colors.

Anita Smith, Vice President of Republican Women of Johnson County, gave the invocation before the Pledge of Allegiance by the Johnson County Honor Guard. Nancy Davis sang the National Anthem.The ladies of The Levi Retirees prepared and served dinner enjoying the spotlight for their hard work while Randy Dandurand provided the entertainment for the evening with the guitar and singing. With dinner out of the way the evening’s main event; Presenting the Candidates, took center stage as candidates took their turn to introduce themselves and speak to the crowd including Congressman Phil Roe.

“The President is quite concerned over school safety as we all are,” Roe said. “We have a society that there is something terribly and desperately wrong.
Roe emphasized that due to a lack of God in the schools and a lack of God in many places there are “some very confused young people out there.”
“We have an Opioid epidemic in the country,” Roe continued referring to some state statistics.

“In 2016 we lost 1,631 of our fellow Tennesseans,” he said. “This Congress has added funds to our military. We have the smallest Army since before WWII, the smallest Navy since WWI and the smallest and oldest Air Force ever. We lost four times as many of our troops last year in training exercises as we have in combat.”

US House of Representatives candidate Todd McKinley, followed up with his take on the current political status in the state when he said, “There are about 840,000 eligible voters in Tennessee that are not registered. We are one of the last states in voter registration and one of the last in voter turnout. McKinley was clear about his agenda when he added, “I want to focus on getting a Constitutional Amendment in regards to term limits. Three terms, six years is more than enough. Another thing I want to focus on is the Balance Budget Amendment. It is time we get our fiscal house in order.”

As to the reason why Congresswoman Marsha Blackburn was running for US Senate, she said, “The US Senate is in desperate need of solid, conservative change. One of the things I have learned is that I am pretty good at affecting change. When we needed someone to step up and lead the fight against State Income Tax, Ron Ramsey and I stepped up, and we led that fight, and we are State Income Tax-free. Tax cuts are working in Tennessee, and we want more of them.”

The candidates for the local offices were by no means left out as each took their turn on the podium to share few words with all present. With all candidates eager to fulfill their proposed goals and promises, this year’s Lincoln Dinner concluded on a closing “mix-and-mingle” note.

Decision made on town Youth Center


The Board of Mayor and Aldermen discuss plans for a proposed youth center. It was decided to look at an alternative location for the center and to allow Mayor Parsons to seek grants and explore available options for the board to consider in the future. Photo by Marlana Ward.

By Marlana Ward
Freelance Writer

The Town of Mountain City Board of Mayor and Aldermen came together on May 15 to reconvene the meeting began on May 1. This meeting was a special session to make a final decision about the proposed youth center and property agreement as discussed in previous months. The councilmen in attendance, Jerry Jordan, Bud Crosswhite, and Bill Morrison, all voiced concern about the unforeseen costs which could be encountered given the state of the building currently on the property at 1123 South Shady Street. Due to the condition of the building, it was deemed uninsurable by the town’s insurance company and would need to be torn down. The board shared recollections of when the decision was made to take down the old Ramsey’s building on Main Street and the additional costs, which came about after asbestos was found and required proper disposal.

Alderman Crosswhite expressed that he was skeptical of a youth center being profitable for the city and his reluctance to have the town bound to the upkeep of an additional structure given the city’s current obligations to two parks, the pool, and other municipal properties. Vice Mayor Jordan offered a possible alternative to the property, which would allow Mayor Parsons to continue pursuing grants and potential funding for a youth center for the town while not requiring the city to purchase additional property. Jordan proposed that Parsons consider a parcel located next to the old Shouns School, which the city already owns as a possible site for the center.

While the property is not as large as the property first sought, it may be an acceptable size for a skating rink. The motion was made by Bob Morrison for the board to authorize the mayor to pursue grants and explore the possibility of locating a youth center at the location in Shouns. All in attendance approved the motion, and Mayor Parsons voiced his appreciation for Jordan seeking alternatives and his hopes that the center can be established for the youth of Mountain City.


Commission gives the green light to Ag Center proposal

By Marlana Ward
Freelance Writer

Much discussion and some debate happened as the Johnson County Commissioners met in regular session on May 17, 2018. While the majority of the meeting was business as usual, one topic brought up before the group led to more questioning and concern than is usually encountered at the monthly meetings. Commission Chairman Mike Taylor asked County Mayor Larry Potter to present the topic, and Mayor Potter introduced UT Extension County Director Rick Thomason who would further explain the item.

Thomason began by sharing that for over a year, he and representatives from the county and local agricultural organizations had been exploring the feasibility of a Johnson County Ag Center. The center would serve as a formal meeting place to allow for banquets and group meetings hosting larger numbers of participants. The building would also be made available to other organizations as approved by the county.

Thomason explained that he and Mayor Potter had been in communication with the State of Tennessee Department of Agriculture and they had agreed to a $150,000 matching grant to use towards the project if the county decided to pursue the project. He added that they had also spoken to representatives from the USDA who seemed supportive of the project and had forecasted that they might be able to provide a grant between $40,000 to $80,000. The USDA could not make a binding agreement until the project was officially underway and paperwork submitted.

When asked about possible locations for the center, Thomason stated that after discussions with Mayor Potter and Commissioner George Lowe, a field in front of the industrial park on Highway 67 was the best option for the project. Given the property’s flat surface and highway access, it was believed to be a very suitable choice for a center with ample parking. The county owns the property and is currently under lease to a local farmer for raising corn.

The commissioners and other county officials had questions about the costs of the project and were concerned about the county committing to the $150,000 match amount required by the TN Department of Agriculture grant. “We have to discuss the grant match,” County Accounting and Budget Director Russell Robinson reminded.

“We are entering into a contract and have to show where that money is coming from.”

Thomason told the commissioners that he had also been speaking with someone from Farm Credit about a possible donation towards the ag center as they had recently assisted Sullivan County in building a similar building.The appraised value of the proposed property designated by the county for the project could be used towards the county’s portion of the match and that it was also hoped that any funds given by the USDA could be used towards the match.

After a comment, regarding the financial ethics of politicians, the discussion took a strange turn. The remark drew a quick rebuttal comparing the integrity of local politicians to that of the local clergy. Much chatter and responses of varying degrees then erupted around the courtroom as Commission Chairman Mike Taylor used the gavel on the judge’s bench to bring the meeting back to order and to continue the discussion at hand without personal disagreements between any parties.
Several of the commissioners voiced their concern about the financial commitment but agreed to allow further exploration of the idea. Commissioner George Lowe made the motion to authorize Mayor Potter to begin applying for grants and gathering cost estimates for the commission to review and decide upon later. After ensuring that no official commitment or contract would be entered into by the mayor’s office until approval by the commission was voted upon and received, all commissioners in attendance voted in favor to proceed.

Longhorns in lead group at Bristol


Solar GoKart

Everything gets one last safety check before JCHS junior Annah Thompson takes off to compete in the recent
Solar Powered Go-Kart Challenge at Bristol Motor Speedway on behalf of her school. Career and technical
education students from high schools across Northeast Tennessee plan to continue to test upgrades in preparationfor next year’s challenge. Photo contributed by Annah Thompson

By Jill Penley
Freelance Writer

Bristol Motor Speedway played host to 20 schools from 15 different school systems for their second annual solar go-kart race earlier this month. The event, sponsored by First TN Solar Go Kart Challenge and the Northeast Tennessee Technical Education Alliance, allowed area student s to showcase their karts created as part of the Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) curriculum.

“I really enjoyed it,” said Annah Thompson, a junior at JCHS and driver for this year’s race. “We are already looking forward to next year.”

Last year, each school received a “Perkins Reserve Grant” from the Tennessee Department of Education to fund the go-karts and their construction. “The students had to figure out how to convert a gasoline-powered go-kart to solar power,” said David South, JCHS automotive instructor, “by placing solar panels, a charging system and other equipment on the karts.” This year, the schools were given $1,000 to make modifications or improvements to their karts. South continues to head up the project for JCHS not only due to his extensive knowledge as an automotive instructor but also because of his decades of drag racing experience.

Given a broad overview of how their kart should work and a list of requirements and regulations they must conform to, the students have a great deal of freedom in how the team may make modifications using the information they glean from research and testing.

“In automotive you’re always problem-solving. That’s part of what we do as auto mechanics. We listen to customer complaints and figure out how to resolve those problems and issues,” South explained. “We’re looking at some problems with this project that will enhance these student’s awareness on how to solve issues.”

The challenge had a qualifying round and endurance races where teams attempted as many laps as possible in the allotted time provided. When all was said and done, Clinch School took the top spot in speed followed by Hampton High School in second, and Johnson County High School in third. For the endurance race, Elizabethton High placed first; Johnson County High came in second, and Greeneville Center for Technology came in third.

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: