Johnson County faces first taste of winter

Road crews from the Johnson County Highway Department worked all day clearing ice and snow from the county’s roads on Sunday. Photo by Jill Penley

By Jill Penley

The first taste of wintry weather this season has caused headaches across the entire south and especially western North Carolina and east Tennessee including Johnson County.
The large snowstorm was accurately predicted, but that did not make it any easier for the hundreds of workers who were faced with keeping roads passable and area homes with electricity.
Road crews from the Johnson County Highway Department worked all day clearing ice and snow from the county’s roads on Sunday.
Road Superintendent Jeff Wagner said that as much as a foot of snow covered the roads at higher elevations, which was no news for local residents.
Barely over a month after being named interim Road Superintendent by the Johnson County Board of Commissioners to fill the position previously held by the late Darrell Reece, Wagner faced the situation head-on orchestrating the county’s 20 trucks, most donned with chains, to the areas of the county hardest hit. Wagner could not be reached for comment Monday as he was personally out plowing roadways, as many remain covered in packed snow and may be icy, so motorists should drive slow and use extra caution.
The Tennessee Department of Transportation (TDOT) offers some tips when it comes to winter driving and snow plows including avoid crowding plow vehicles. Snowplows plow far and wide and the front plow extends several feet in front of the truck and may cross the centerline and shoulders during plowing operations. Drivers should never tailgate or stop too close behind snowplows.
Driving in the mountains during winter calls for patience and diligence. TDOT suggests reducing speed in wet, snowy, or icy conditions; when visibility is poor; or when conditions are changing or unpredictable; no matter what type of vehicle you drive.
As expected when a heavy wet snow begins to accumulate, sporadic power outages were reported throughout the day on Sunday and Monday as Mountain Electric crews were dispatched to outages in Johnson County mostly around Watauga Lake in sections of Butler, Poga, Sink Valley, and Dry Hill.
The National Weather Service calls winter storms “deceptive killers” because most deaths are not directly related to the storm. Instead, people die in traffic accidents on icy roads and of hypothermia from lengthy exposure to cold.
For more information, visit or

Snyder named Farm Bureau District V Director

By Meg Dickens

Staff Writer

More than 1,500 farmers came together on December 1- December 4 for the 97th Annual Tennessee Farm Bureau Federation Convention in Franklin, Tennessee. This convention was set to elect leadership, present awards, learn about trends and issues in agriculture and network with Tennessee farmers. Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam was in attendance as well as Governor-elect Bill Lee and Tyson Foods CEO Donnie Smith.
Local Terry Snyder was named the new District V Director. This Johnson County man and his wife Diana farm 300 acres where they raise 300-400 head of beef cattle each year. As District V Director, Snyder will help the rest of the Tennessee Farm Bureau Board of Directors and President Jeff Aiken lead the members that make up the Tennessee Farm Bureau Federation.
“It’s just a tremendous honor,” said Snyder. “Farm Bureau works for all of agriculture from the county level to people at the state and national level.”
Snyder started his career with the Johnson County Farm Bureau Board of Directors in 1984. He spent 25 years as vice president and four as president.
Snyder’s relationship with Farm Bureau, however, began much earlier. Snyder has been a Farm Bureau member for 42 years and believes that this organization is vital in future agricultural success in Tennessee.
“Educating the public about why we do what we do in agriculture, where their food comes from and what happens on the farm continues to be an important aspect of the Tennessee Farm Bureau mission,” said Snyder.
Find out more information about the 97th Annual Tennessee Farm Bureau Federation Convention and Tennessee Farm Bureau at

ACA Open Enrollment Period to end Dec. 15

By Jill Penley

Medical insurance remains a thorn in the flesh for most Tennesseans. Whether it is the cost of coverage, confusion of what is and is not available, or lack of availability, many are wondering what needs to be done, if anything, during the federal marketplace’s “Open Enrollment Period,” which is set to expire in less than two weeks.
According to a recent study published by the University of Tennessee’s Boyd Center for Business and Economic Research, the statewide rate of uninsured
Tennesseans has risen in the past year, leaving additional state residents without any form of health insurance. Despite this rise, the uninsured rate remains lower than it was before the Affordable Care Act, also known as the ACA or Obamacare, took effect in 2014.
Although one of the least healthy states across the nation, Tennessee is among the states that have not yet expanded Medicaid to single, low-income adults ages between the ages of nineteen and twenty-four leaving approximately 451,000 Tennesseans uninsured. The new study, based on an annual phone survey of 5,000 households, found the reason most participants remain uninsured is economic.
TennCare, Tennessee’s expanded Medicaid program, provides health care coverage for approximately 1.2 million Tennesseans and the survey measured the overall satisfaction of TennCare members with 95 percent of respondents reporting satisfaction with the program and the services rendered from TennCare providers.
“I am pleased that TennCare continues to be recognized for providing access to high quality care for our members,” said TennCare director Wendy Long. “We collaborate with our health plans to promote the delivery of the right care in the right place at the right time, and those efforts are paying off.”
During the recent survey, those identifying as “uninsured” overwhelmingly reported remaining uninsured because they could not afford coverage, but did not qualify for TennCare, In many cases, children in these households were eligible for TennCare coverage, but their parents were not.
Tennessee’s Health Insurance Marketplace sells individual and family healthcare benefits that qualify as minimum essential coverage under the healthcare reform law. Plans sold through the Health Insurance Marketplace are also eligible for income-based financial assistance in the form of premium tax credits and cost-sharing subsidies.
Those who do not qualify for federal credits and subsidies or prefer to explore other coverage options may shop for minimum essential coverage in the private marketplace. These plans may differ from those in the Health Insurance Marketplace. provides Tennessee health insurance quotes for ACA-compliant major medical plans and more and Tennessee employers with 50 or fewer full-time employees can offer healthcare benefits through the Small Business Health Options Program (SHOP).
Premiums in the Tennessee exchange started out as some of the lowest in the country in 2014 but have increased rapidly since then. The premium increases appear to have caught up to claims costs, however, and the average rates are lower for 2019 than they were for 2018. The premium subsidies are also smaller, though, so enrollees are encouraged to pay close attention and shop carefully.
Open enrollment for 2019 health plans runs from November 1, 2018 to December 15, 2018, with all plan selections and changes effective January 1, 2019. Existing 2018 plans expire on December 31, 2018. In order to avoid any gaps in coverage, it is highly recommended you sign-up by December 15, 2018.

Building a new Heritage Hall holiday tradition

Johnson County Middle School and High School combined chorus performed Saturday night at Heritage Hall. Photo by Bethany Anderson

By Bethany Anderson

The Johnson County Middle and High School Band Programs and Choir are no strangers to the annual Christmas Concert. But thanks to last week’s performance on the Heritage Hall stage in Mountain City has begun a new tradition for the young artists.
While the crowd was mostly family, friends, and faculty,
that gathered for the two-day event on Thursday and Friday evening (Dec. 6, 7) the students seemed excited and milled about happily as they greeted the arriving
The concert started promptly with the Beginning Band Program, which included 7th and 8th graders from Johnson County Middle School, followed by the Concert Band Program that included 8th and 9th graders. Band director Kaitlyn Cole, who without a doubt is much loved by her students, leads both programs.
The band boasts of some recognition after participating in the Appalachian Band Classic earlier this year at Sullivan Central High School where it received several second place awards in Music,
General Effect, Color Guard, Percussion, Drum Major, and Band in Class A1.
Friday, December 7 was the Choir’s turn to take the stage at Heritage Hall for their annual “Winter Spectacular.” Led by Director Nathan Jones and accompanied by Alissa King on piano, the choirs put on quite a show for their families, friends, and others who attended for the evening.
The lineup began with the Combined Choruses, then Johnson County Middle School Choir featuring soloist, Elijah Haynes; followed by Vocal Intensity who was accompanied by Johnson County
High School Choir for their a cappella performance of “Carol of the Bells.”
The Johnson County High School Choir performed a selection of three songs, and then the concert was closed with the Combined Choruses taking the stage for two more final selections, featuring soloists Connor Long and AJ Reece.
After the performance, Choir Director Nathan Jones, emphasized just how much it meant to him for the students to perform in such a space as Heritage Hall.
“It just means so much that the kids get to experience this in a professional setting,” said Jones. “Here we have professional lighting, professional sound equipment, and such a really beautiful theater. At our school we don’t even have a real auditorium for them, so it’s just so great for them to have such an opportunity.”
Randy Dandurand, House Manager of Heritage Hall, couldn’t agree more, when he said, “We are thrilled to be able to provide these young people with the experience of performing in such a great space like Heritage Hall. Hopefully it will help inspire them.”
As an added boost, Heritage Hall has already extended and confirmed the invite to Johnson County Middle School and High School for next year’s Holiday performances as well.
So, it would seem a new town tradition for local student performers and their families has begun.
More information about Heritage Hall can be found on their website at
Student Holiday Concerts at Heritage Hall

State adds pressure over towns water rates

Town Council Face Legal Action

City Mayor, Alderman face subpoenas over proposed water rate changes.

By Marlana Ward

The State of Tennessee Water and Wastewater Financing Board (WWFB) recently issued a letter to the Town of Mountain City expressing their rejection of the town’s proposed rate changes as well as ordering immediate action by the Board of Mayor and Aldermen to come into compliance.
The order issued by the state is a continuation of the situation discussed previously by the Board in earlier meetings including its October session, when Shaw explained that the State had become involved with the town’s rate situation after an audit, which showed the utility operating in the red for two years in a row.
The town followed the direction and requested a rate study to be performed by the Municipal Technical Advisory Service (MTAS). The city used suggestions from the study to form its own proposed rate increase schedule, which was then submitted to the state.
The Water and Wastewater Financing Board’s order for immediate action on the part of the Mountain City Council was the result of the review.
“I gave each of you a copy of another order from the Water and Wastewater Financing Board,” Shaw said as she introduced the topic for discussion. “They met and rejected MTAS’s recommendations on our water and sewer rate increases and gave us another order of what we have to do.”

Included in the order issued to the town were the following:
•The city shall hire a qualified expert to complete a comprehensive cost of service study of the Town’s water and sewer system. The qualified expert shall be pre-approved by Board staff. The Town shall be under contract for the said cost of service study by December 31, 2018, and shall notify Board
staff of the contract by January 15, 2019.
• If the Town does not provide Board staff with the information required in paragraph 1 by January 15, 2019, Counsel shall issue a subpoena for the attendance of the Town’s Board of Mayor and Aldermen at the Board’s March 14, 2019, meeting.
•The Town shall submit the completed cost of service study and supporting documentation to Board staff by May 31, 2019.

Shaw went on to say that she had been in contact with the Finance Board and that there were two qualified experts they recommended for use.
“The offices suggested, the quoted cost of a rate study was $15,000,” Shaw said.
City Mayor Kevin Parsons was the first of the council to respond. “Here’s what I would like to do,” Parsons began. “I would like to see if we could get our legislatures up here and have a work session and let’s talk to them about this. This is another overreach of our state government. It is our local board that controls this and that makes me mad.”
Unhappy with the State’s involvement and the additional cost to the city to conduct another study, Parsons said, “Our residents are burdened enough already. “I am trying to save money, and instead we are asked to spend more even though our proposal showed that we are out of the red.”
“Well, I’m sorry, but they are very plain,” Shaw explained. “The Comptroller’s office had told me that they had even read the article in the local newspaper about the water and sewer rate increases and they weren’t happy about how it all transpired. We have to have a contract with these people by the end of the month.”
Reasoning on the reality of the issue Shaw added, “I don’t think we have any other choice. We do what the Water and Wastewater Financing Board tell us to do, or I guess we go to court. I am asking for permission to contract with somebody. We have to get this underway. The study has to be back to the Finance Board by May 31.”
While replying to the concern of the cost associated with the hiring of a State-approved expert to conduct a study, WWFB spokesperson John Dunn, stated, “The Water and Wastewater Financing Board discussed and passed a motion requiring the town to hire a qualified expert to perform a cost of service study. The Board felt this was an important step.”
Dunn added that while the WWFB office has not seen any initial cost estimates from the town or received a request to approve the qualified expert, “the Board believes this study could potentially save the town and its ratepayers much
more than the cost to complete the study.”
Parsons asked the council members if they would be available for a continuation of the council meeting on December 18, saying, “If we can get our state senator and representative here at the same time we can express our opinion about this and then we can make a better decision.”
Alderman Lawrence Keeble expressed his belief that the town should not tarry in acting on the order received from the Finance Board. “I don’t know if we want to open a can of worms or not,” he stated. “The state board is going to win in the long run. I think we need to act.”
City Attorney George Wright said that postponing the decision until the meeting on December 18 could delay the town’s ability to enter the ordered contract with the qualified expert by the deadline given.
Alderman Bob Morrison recognized the same concern, but offered a solution.
“I think we are all in agreement that we will have to do this regardless. I think Sheila can go ahead and maybe even get him up here and whatever we need to do to get the process started and get the paperwork in by the deadline to the state.”
While in agreement with having the expert attend the upcoming workshop meeting, Parsons voiced his continued stance saying, ‘The expert can answer questions the board may have regarding what the study would further do beyond what MTAS had already done.
The group then suggested having the contract in hand and ready to sign if it was decided to move forward as directed by the state.
“When we have that workshop on the 18, if everyone is in agreement, we will use that date, and he can take it back with him,” suggested Vice Mayor Jerry Jordan.
Parsons later told the Tomahawk, that “if that what it takes, I am looking forward to stand in front of the Financing Board.”
The meeting closed with a recess rather than adjourned to reconvene on December 18.

Multiple festivities kickoff holiday season

Students pose for a photo with Buster the School Bus the educational robot that is used to teach school transportation safety, during the Christmas Parade last Saturday in Mountain City. JCS borrowed Buster, who made his first appearance in Johnson County to the crowd lining the streets watching the parade. He was driving along wishing everyone a “Merry Christmas.” Buster has yellow caution lights, red stop lights with a stop arm and even speaks to help students learn how to stay safe when loading and unloading on our school busses. Bus safety is extremely important and JCS is looking forward to working with Buster to effectively teach its students. Submitted photo

By Bethany Anderson

Festivities kicked off on a cold and wet weekend in Mountain City, but locals tried not to let it interfere with their beloved Community Christmas traditions.
Attendance may have been a little lower than years past when the weather had cooperated, however, the holiday spirit was as cheery and bright as ever.
Despite the weather, Friday night’s Second Annual Christmas on Main had a quite a few participating vendors and attendees. The event is thanks in big part to Megan McEwen and the Johnson County Chamber of Commerce.
“I had the idea for the festival, and the Chamber was very supportive. We wanted to do something special for the community during the holidays and give the Christmas season a good kick start,” said Megan McEwen.
There were food vendors, crafts, baked goods, clothing, holiday decorations, and many local organizations were there as well. The City’s Christmas tree was lit much to the delight of everyone in attendance, especially the children.
Santa’s mailbox is “open for business” and was noticed by many of the little ones in attendance. Families with umbrellas in hand enjoyed the hot cocoa and twinkling lights while shopping for unique holiday goodies and gifts.
Saturday morning the Johnson County Farmers Market had a Christmas themed market complete with Santa Claus. It may have still been rainy and cold outside, but it was warm and inviting inside the lower level of the Welcome Center.
Many of the vendors had Christmas themed crafts and goodies for sale. Santa made a big entrance and made sure to meet and greet with all who were there before starting photos with the kids. Being a dog-friendly market, some pups in attendance also had a chance to get their pictures taken with the Santa.
The children all enjoyed coloring while eating Christmas cookies and making new friends, and the parents found some great deals and unique gifts as well as beautiful holiday decorations for their homes.
The Christmas market is a new one for Mountain City but enjoyed the support of the board of directors giving the event-idea the green light during its November meeting. Given the event’s success, it is sure to be repeated next year.
“We weren’t quite sure what to expect out of it since this was our first attempt, said Bethany Anderson. “I am overall pretty pleased with it though. The vendors did well, and we were able to introduce the Farmers Market to families who may not usually shop here.”
The Annual Christmas Parade went on despite the continued cold rain Saturday evening. Attendance was noticeably lower than in years past but still looked as though quite a bit of the town showed up to see all the floats and fire trucks and such. The children all enjoyed grabbing candy by the bag full as always, with big smiles to match. Normally darkened downtown was quite a site with all the beautiful twinkling lights and friends and neighbors out together to enjoy this annual tradition.
Christmas is a time for coming together as a community, and the holiday spirit seems to be alive and well in Mountain City come rain or shine.

Arts Center has big plan

The Arts Center in Mountain City TN. Photo By Tamas Mondovics

By Bethany Anderson

The Arts Center is entering its second year. Now that renovations to the building are nearing completion, the focus has shifted reaching all segments of Johnson County’s population, including Youth, Seniors, and people living with disabilities.
“Participating in the Arts builds confidence and resilience,” said Cristy Dunn, Executive Director. “Benefits include improved grades in school, a reduced risk of Alzheimers and Dementia as we age, building social connections, and reduced rates of dependency on drugs and alcohol. We hope that the Center for the Arts can become a resource for all residents of Johnson County.”
More than thirty local artists are represented at the center. A dedicated group of volunteers keep the doors open and strive to make everyone feel welcome.
Classes currently scheduled include Glaze your
own Christmas Ornaments, Jewelry making, Leather
Earrings, and the Fundamentals of Drawing and
Beginning in February, Leather Working classes, an Illuminated Manuscript Workshop, Paper Mosaics, and a Charcoal Portrait class will all be offered. The Arts Center will also soon provide monthly family STEAM Challenges, where Math, Science, and Engineering meet the Arts and Design.
A grant from Tennessee Arts Commission currently allows seniors and Youth to take classes at a reduced rate.
The Arts Center also schedules a special class for
the Senior Center on the
last Wednesday of every month.
“The Arts make our lives richer and fuller and
empower us to weather the storms of life. We love to
see people discover their talents and connect with others in the Arts community,” Dunn said.
You can find more information at

There’s a new inspector in town


Compton accepts position as Building Inspector for Mountain City.

By Jill Penley

The Town of Mountain City has hired Jesse Compton of Madison, North Carolina, as the city’s new building inspector.  Compton, who served 10 years in the United States Marine Corps, moved to the area in August and is also co-owner at Contingency Weapon’s Care, which specializes in honing protection skills.
“I am excited about this opportunity,” said Compton, who replaced Alan Hammons, the former city building inspector in October.
The building inspector primarily ensures that buildings adhere to the state code of compliance in fire safety, electrical work, plumbing, and other construction standards. Compton becomes the sixth building inspector hired by Mountain City and has up to a year to become certified.
The state requires municipalities to have a building inspector according to Mountain City Mayor Kevin Parsons. “Building codes are put in place for the safety of the public,” Parsons said. “The requirements are mandated by the state and are set in place to meet minimum requirements.”
Mountain City previously adopted the 2009 international building codes as suggested by the state.
Counties within the state have the choice to opt
out and may not require the use of building codes.
Johnson County had previously decided against
making these codes mandatory, but they are required
to vote again on the issue within six months of the seating of the new county commission. The state encourages all counties to adopt the codes.
“I am excited that we have hired a new building inspector,” said Parsons, “especially considering the hard time the city has experienced over the past several years in being able to keep an inspector past the first year.”
Parsons explained that a building inspector can be tentatively hired, but is required to pass a state exam to remain in the position.
“I feel that Jesse will be able to pass those tests as he is already preparing for the first of six that he will have to qualify for to obtain his building inspector license,” he said.

Alderman Crosswhite, Keeble take oath of office

Bud Crosswhite is sworn in as Mountain City Alderman this week for his four-year term. Submitted photo

Lawrence Keeble is sworn in as Mountain City Alderman this week for his four-year term. Submitted photo















By Tamas Mondovics


The Town of Mountain City held an organizational meeting on Monday, December to administer the oaths of office for the newly elected Aldermen that received the highest votes in the November election.
City Judge Bill Cockett swore in a pair of elected men, Bud Crosswhite and Lawrence Keeble for their four-year terms.
“Members of the council welcomed the newly elected Aldermen,” said Mountain City Mayor Kevin Parsons.
Ahead of the recent elections on a local level, citizens of the Town of Mountain City had their choice to pick from a field of four to fill alderman seats.
Aside from incumbent Crosswhite, and former Mountain City mayor Keeble, qualified candidates, included Robert A. Blackwell, a retired business owner, and former Mountain City Police Officer, Jason Panganiban.
An alderman is a member of a municipal assembly or council in many jurisdictions. The term denotes a high-ranking member of a borough or county council.
Interestingly, a little search reveals that the title is derived from the Old English title of ealdorman, literally meaning “elder man,” and was used by the chief nobles presiding over shires.
Similar titles exist in other Germanic countries, such as the Swedish Alderman, the Danish and West Frisian Olderman, the Dutch Ouderman, the Finnish Oltermanni and the German Ältester which all mean “elder man” or “wise man.”
As it is the case in all elections, residents are counting on both the individual as well as the collective wisdom of the council, even as Mountain City hopes to build on a momentum of progress instead of just maintaining the norm.
Such topics as a skating rink, bowling alley, downtown streetscape, sprucing up the local Farmers Market, as well as efforts to boost local tourism are just some on the roster for local officials to consider in hopes of giving testimony to the council’s wisdom.
While intentions are often good, the results and what gets done remains to be seen.
“We are all looking forward to working together for the betterment of the city,” Parsons said.
For more information about Mountain City, please visit

Library expansion nears completion


By Marlana Ward

Patrons of the Johnson County Public Library will soon be enjoying a new, expanded work area as the renovation and expansion project at the library is entering its last few weeks. Crews are working long hours to ensure that the work will be done soon and that visitors to the library have an improved experience when they open the doors to the new addition.
Library Director Linda Icenhour shared how the expansion will help library patrons: “The addition will be a space to sit and read, study, do research, or work on their personal devices. We will move reference books and magazines into that space along with the two big tables. We are purchasing nine one to two-person tables that will be spread not only in the new space but in the old space as well. We will also have some short shelving to put reference books on as well.”
The project started in July 2018, has had various crews of different vocations involved with the construction. Currently, crews continue work on the outside of the library, the bathroom renovations, and on electrical work. The crews have recently completed the flooring for the bathrooms and the new addition.
The bathroom renovations were some of the most needed for the library and Icenhour shared that there now will be separate, multi-stall restrooms for men and women.
The project as a whole has gone well as Icenhour shared, “We have had very few hiccups in the construction such as a debris field under the concrete where the flagpole stood and the wrong size water line running into the building. Corrections were made at minimal cost for the debris field and for the replacement of the water line, the Town of Mountain City very generously replaced it at no cost to us.”
As far as the construction affecting day-to-day operations at the library, the staff and construction crews have tried to keep disruptions to a minimum. “Other than being closed for several days and the fact that we have had no bathrooms (thank you, Board of Education, for letting us use your bathrooms) we really have not been overly affected by construction issues,” explained Icenhour. “We will have to be closed another day for cleaning purposes. I’m not sure exactly when that will be though.”
The project is slated for completion before Christmas but the staff hopes for an even earlier opening date for the new area. “On paper, the completion date is Dec. 23,” said Icenhour. “However, we expect to be done before that.”
Throughout the expansion project, the library has seen help and support from many in the community, and they are extremely grateful to all who helped make the improvements possible. “Of course, Kathleen Mount has been our biggest benefactor and our greatest champion on this project and past projects,” expressed Icenhour. “We could not have done it without her and the support she has always shown for this library. She stood and fought at difficult times in this county when the hospital and Burlington closed to make sure this county had a library. And I’m thankful for the support of the entire community, whether they purchased a brick for $100 or a bookplate for $1 every single dollar we have raised went into this new addition. This county should be proud of its library. It’s well used and thanks to the great assistants and awesome volunteers I have, it’s well run. We have a great board of directors and a terrific Friends of the Library group. Also, I’m thankful for the grants we were able to obtain through Tennessee State Library and Archives and Louis Trivette with the USDA for making this addition come to fruition.”

Take advantage of free support during the Great American Smokeout

November 28, 2018

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Support can make all the difference for those trying to quit smoking, and Tennesseans trying to move toward a life without tobacco products  are not alone. The Tennessee  Tobacco QuitLine, 1-800-QUIT-NOW offers free assistance, resources and counseling to help smokers transition to a smoke-free life. The Tennessee Department of Health urges Tennesseans who want to quit smoking to start their journey during the Great American Smokeout.

“We’re absolutely committed to helping smokers and other nicotine users who want to quit, and the data show most do want to quit,” said TDH Commissioner John Dreyzehner, MD, MPH. “Tobacco and nicotine are a very hard habit to break, but they don’t make you happy in the long run. They make you poorer, sicker and unhappy. The Smokeout is the perfect day to take a step toward triumph over nicotine addiction and a happier, healthier life.”

The annual Great American Smokeout draws awareness to  the health benefits of quitting  tobacco and the tools available  to help smokers quit. In Tennessee, the need is urgent, with  the state’s smoking rate at a hefty 22 percent, considerably higher than the national average of 17 percent. About 40 million Americans, including 1.5 million Tennesseans, smoke cigarettes according to the American Cancer Society. Tobacco use remains the single largest preventable cause of disease and premature death in the world. Tennessee ranks 43rd in the nation for both smoking and premature deaths.

Tennessee Tobacco QuitLine

Quitting smoking has immediate and long-term benefits at any age, and getting help through counseling can double or triple the chances of quitting successfully. The QuitLine’s trained quit counselors prepare and guide tobacco users throughout the quitting process, developing a personalized quit plan with one-on-one, ongoing support. Callers get free access to materials and interactive tools to recognize their unique triggers and cravings along with resources that have proven successful in a quitter’s journey toward becoming tobacco-free.

“Our phone lines are open and we have quit counselors ready to assist with personal plans and free QuitKits available for any caller,” said TDH Assistant Commissioner for Family Health and Wellness Morgan McDonald, MD. “If you are even considering quitting smoking, we encourage you to make the call for your own health and the health of the family and friends around you.”

The call, assistance and an individual QuitKit are provided to all participants at no cost and all QuitLine program services are confidential. The Tennessee Tobacco QuitLine, 1-800-QUIT-NOW (1-800-784-8669) is available seven days a week in English and Spanish. A language line is available to accommodate other callers to the QuitLine. Tennessee Tobacco QuitLine hours are Monday – Friday 8 a.m. to 11 p.m. EST, Saturday 9 a.m. – 6 p.m. EST and Sunday 11 a.m. – 5 p.m. EST. Enrollment can also be completed online at

Learn more about the Great American Smokeout at The mission of the Tennessee Department of Health is to protect, promote and improve the health and prosperity of people in Tennessee. TDH has facilities in all 95 counties and provides direct services for more than one in five Tennesseans annually as well as indirect services for everyone in the state, including emergency response to health threats, licensure of health professionals, regulation of health care facilities and inspection of food service establishments. Learn more about TDH services and programs at

Mushrooms: A Tennessee crop coming into a new light

November 28, 2018

John Lawton

John Lawton of Possum Bottom Farms in Marion County works with a crop that commonly goes unappreciated. Submitted photo.

Nashville- Highly anticipated crops like pumpkins usually get all of the attention during the autumn months. Tennessee mushrooms, however, are coming out of the woodwork this season as a nutrient powerhouse. Mushrooms provide many health benefits, including several nutrients and antibacterial properties. These fungi are typically grown outdoors during the spring and fall months. However, with the help of a controlled indoor environment, one Tennessee farmer produces several varieties year round.

“We cultivate 39 strains of gourmet culinary mushrooms, including multiple strains of shiitake and even a few of the medicinal varieties,” John Lawton of Possum Bottom Farms in Marion County said. “We maintain all of our cultures in our onsite lab. We also produce our own seed spawn onsite, insuring absolute quality control of our products.”

Lawton grows his mushrooms from start to finish using locally-obtained agricultural waste products, such as wheat straw, sawdust, wood chips, and logs. Like many other mushroom producers, Possum Bottom Farms strives to pick and deliver to restaurants and grocery markets in the same day.

“This gives you and your customers the freshest mushrooms available by far,” Lawton said.

For a healthy lifestyle change or a robust addition to your holiday meal, take your family to a local farmers, restaurant, or grocery store to get a taste of these delicious treats.

If you need culinary inspiration for your fresh picked mushrooms, visit or use the free Pick Tennessee mobile app to find a local mushroom producer or farmers market near you. Follow “PickTNProducts: on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram to learn more about current seasonal recipe, products and activities.

2018 Tennessee student mock election yields more than 50,000 students from across state

November 28, 2018

By Tamas Mondovics

In a recent press release, the office of the Tennessee Secretary of State announced that for the second time, the office has successfully sponsored the Student Mock Election. According to Secretary of State Tre Hargett, students from all three grand divisions of the state had cast their votes in the statewide races for Governor and U.S. Senate. These votes reflected who students would have elected as the next Governor and United States Senator of Tennessee if they were old enough to vote in the real election. More than 56,000 students from across the state participated in the 2018 Student Mock Election.

Hargett, along with Senator Brian Kelsey, and Representative Mark White participated in announcing the winners of the statewide Student Mock Election at an event hosted by Germantown Middle School in Shelby County, Tennessee. In the race for Governor, Bill Lee received 36,458 (65%) votes. Karl Dean received 20,012 (35%) votes. In the race for U.S. Senate, Marsha Blackburn received 31,507 (57%) votes. Phil Bredesen received 23,819 (43%) votes.

“The Student Mock Election is a fun and engaging exercise for students to participate in the election process,” Hargett said. “This is part of a larger effort to encourage civic involvement by students so it will be a natural progression for them to be involved when they become adults. I am very pleased with the participation from across the state and appreciate the teachers who worked hard to make this possible in the schools.”

Officials emphasized that the Mock Election was once again open to students in preschool through high school in public and private schools, as well as home school associations. Mock ballots allow students to choose between candidates from both the Republican and Democrat parties for the Gubernatorial and United  States Senate races. Schools are also provided with “I Voted” stickers for students that cast a vote in their mock election.Students also had the opportunity to enter an essay contest that encouraged them
to think about topics that are important to being an actively engaged citizen.

Essay topics were focused on leadership, but varied by grade. Schools had a chance to submit two essays per grade category. Winner of the essay contest will receive a TNStars 529 College Saving Program scholarship worth $100, $250, or $500 in addition to a trip to the State Capitol. The mission of the Tennessee Secretary of State is to exceed the expectations of its customers, the taxpayers, by operating at the highest levels of accuracy, cost-effectiveness and accountability in a customer-centered environment.

Tennessee boasts fastest-growing state for international travel in the U.S.

November 28, 2018

By Tamas Mondovics

Tennessee, the birthplace of the blues, bluegrass, country, gospel, soul, rockabilly and rock ‘n’ roll is delivering a great experience of beauty, history and family adventure, for music lovers and vacationers. As reported by the Tourism Economics, Tennessee’s tourism industry generates $19.3 billion in economic impact, more than $1.7 billion in state and local tax revenue and more than 176,500 tourism-related jobs. Thanks to such numbers, Tennessee now boasts of the highest growth rate for international arrivals in the U.S., and places among the Top 10 travel destinations in the U.S. for the fourth consecutive year, with 113.6 million person stays in 2017, an increase of 3.3 percent over 2016.

“Tennessee experienced very strong growth in both international air arrivals and foreign credit card activity in 2017,” said Geoff Lacher, senior economist at Tourism Economics. “We estimate 11 percent growth in international arrivals for Tennessee, which was the highest state growth rate in the entire United States.”

Tourism Economics data also shows that international travelers spent $933.6 million in Tennessee last year. This is an increase of 38.7 percent over five years from 2012 to 2017.

“Every day we work to showcase the wonderful assets of Tennessee to the rest of nation and the world,” said Commissioner Kevin Triplett, Tennessee Department of Tourist Development. “Our beauty, culture, history, food experiences, family opportunities and, of course, the music…is resonating with visitors.”

For more, please visit and join other Tennessee travelers by following “tnvacation” on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram and YouTube or “Tennessee” on Snapchat.

Laurel Elementary School proud of its Student of the Week


Riley Muncy (Photo submitted)


Riley Muncy shows great leadership and a strong desire to learn and is always on top of his work. He sets a good example of what a student’s work ethic should be in Mr. Taylor’s fourth grade class at Laurel Elementary School. In Riley’s spare time he enjoys riding his dirt bike. He also likes playing with his brothers and sisters. His favorite subjects in school are gym, computer lad and math. Riley would like to become a soldier when he grows up and become a mechanic. Riley is the son of Kevin Muncy and Kim Ellis. He has two older sisters Amber and Zoe and two older brothers Kevin and Chase. Riley has one younger brother Johnny. Congratulations to Riley.

Jimmy Reynolds recognized by Johnson County Imagination Library

November 21, 2018

Jimmy Reynolds, owner of GSC Security and Electronics is reading to his daughters, Miley and Madden at Ralph Stout Park in Mountain City. Johnson County Imagination Library would like to thank Reynolds for his participation and support of the Hometown Labels Program,which is presently serving 722 pre-K children in Johnson County. Please contact the library at 727-6544 for information on how to sign up for pre-K and to receive a free book each month until age five. Photo Submitted

Missing Children’s Day poster contest

November 21, 2018

2018 Tennessee Winner

The design from Tennessee’s 2018 contest winner was Anna McDowell, a student at Lakeside Park Elementary in Hendersonville.

NASHVILLE – The Tennessee Bureau of Investigation is calling on all 5th graders, from across the state, to participate in 2019 National Missing Children’s Day poster contest! The annual contest, sponsored by the United States Department of Justice, strives to demonstrate America’s united effort to bring missing children home safely, while highlighting the importance of proactive education programs. By entering at the state level, each participant will learn about the plight of missing children and, if selected as the national winner, will receive a free trip to Washington, D.C.

The poster contest provides teachers and parents with valuable tools to educate children, as students explore the contest’s theme of ‘Bring Our Missing Children Home.’ The national ceremony will be held in late May 2019 and will be a time to recognize people who work to bring missing children home safely and remember the children who remain missing. Fifth graders in Tennessee can enter the poster contest by submitting them to TBI, where a panel will select a state winner to enter the national contest.

Each entry requires the completion of an application packet and waiver, which can be downloaded on the TBI’s website: Tennessee entries and completed applications should be mailed to:

Tennessee Bureau of  Investigation
C/O James Coughlin, Criminal Intelligence Unit
901 R.S. Gass Boulevard
Nashville, TN 37216

TBI must receive entries by February 1, 2019 for consideration. The state winner will be notified soon thereafter and their entry will be submitted to the national contest. The national winner will be selected and notified in April 2019.
Anyone with questions about the contest should feel free to email

County Mayor shares hopes for future

November 21, 2018

Johnson County Mayor Mike Taylor

By Marlana Ward
Freelance Writer


During its October meeting, the County Commission decided to move forward with a low-interest loan from Mountain Electric Cooperative to use towards the future Ag Center project. Count Mayor Mike Taylor explained how this option best suited the county’s needs and gives an opportunity for more properties to be purchased for use as industrial sites to entice new industries to locate in the county. In a recent interview with The Tomahawk, Taylor further explained the decision, while also shared his hopes for growth in Johnson County. Taylor first emphasized that to receive the grants needed to move forward with the Ag Center, the county required to match a certain amount of the funds.

“The cost given to us was $500,000. $200,000 is expected in grants, and Rick Thomason stated there should be another $100,000 in private donations from Farm Bureau and others, which leaves a deficit of $200,000,” Taylor said. “When you get grants, there are matching funds expected.”

The details include the low-interest loan from Mountain Electric is one percent interest over ten years. “I recommended this option so we might have money available for potential industrial sites,” he said.

Taylor also emphasized that future industrial sites are a major need for the county to possess.

“We live in a very competitive world,’ he said, adding, “When businesses first call, they ask ‘What incentives do you have for us to come to your county?’ Taylor was clear of his belief that there is a need to be proactive and have industrial properties available.“A property needs to be easily accessible and have some infrastructure such as water, power, and sewer,” Taylor said, as he explained that for a property to be suitable for industry, there are specific criteria that have to be met.

When asked if any businesses had been in contact and shown interest in locating within the county Taylor said, “I have been in conversations with three small businesses. Again, the first thing they ask is what incentives are available if we come there. They soon tell me we are in competition with North Carolina and South Carolina and they will go with wherever it is the best fit for their venture.”

Taylor is currently working with Don Hurst (Business Development Consultant at the Tennessee Department of Economic & Community Development) about grants for the future.

“We have been working with the Department of Economic Development, and we have at least four properties they have stated they will look at with us and then look at possible funding options.”

Taylor shared his greatest goal for the County’s future when he said, “Most importantly to me is that Johnson County and our resources are being used in the best interest for all our citizens.”

Tennessee State Parks host free hikes the day after thanksgiving

November 14, 2018

All 56 state parks participating.

By Tamas Mondovics

Tennessee State Parks officials have announced this week that free, guided hikes at all 56 state parks will be offered the day after Thanksgiving, Nov. 23.

“Tennessee’s state parks are once again offering the opportunity to get outdoors the day after Thanksgiving to engage in healthy, fun activities,” said Brock Hill, deputy commissioner of the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation. “It’s a chance to explore the state parks with loved ones around the holidays, with skilled rangers leading the way.”

Hikes for all ages and abilities will be hosted at state parks from Memphis to Johnson City, including easy, peaceful strolls and rugged excursions.  One of the main benefits of the activity is that each hike is led by an experienced ranger, trained in interpreting the ecological, cultural and historical significance of Tennessee’s state parks.

In a recent press release, Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation Communications Manager Mike Morrow emphasized that Tennessee State Parks will feature the best that Tennessee lands have to offer, from hikes along historical and interpretive trails to stunning views of waterfalls, peaks and plateaus.

“Some hikes are designed for novice hikers at short distances, while others are lengthier and geared toward more experienced hikers,” the release said.

All the hikes are listed at Visitors are encouraged to share photos of their hikes on social media with the hashtag #thankful4hiking. Other statewide hikes Tennessee State Parks offers include First Day Hikes in January, Spring Hikes in March, National Trails Day in June, and National Public Lands Day in September.

New board recognizes Hammons accomplishments

November 14, 2018

Doe Mountain Recreational Authority

Doe Mountain Recreational Authority named the replacements for Willie Hammons (chair) and Larry Potter (vice-chair).   Dan Reese was chosen as new chair and Mike Taylor as the new vice chair.  An emotional and moving tribute was given to Mr. Hammons, before the main agenda as all board members contributed to a memorial plaque for Hammons at the new pedestrian bridge on Doe. Submitted photo