Johnson County seniors take to the skies during annual Aviation Day

A single-engine plane flies by the Johnson County Airport hanger just south of Mountain City, TN, while members of the Johnson County Senior Center watch or await their turn to take to the skies during the annual Senior Aviation Day organized by Senior Center Director Kathy Motsinger. Each trip took passengers on a 15 to 20-minute fly over the town of Mountain City, a lap around Doe Mountain, and Doe Valley to see part of Watauga Lake before coming over Roan Valley and landing back at the airport. Photo by Tamas Mondovics

By Tamas Mondovics

It took two helicopters and eight airplanes and their pilots to take 76 seniors to the skies last week when the Johnson County Airport hosted its second annual Aviation Day.
The fun-filled day organized by Senior Center Director Kathy Motsinger allowed local seniors to soar the skies over Mountain City and for many a chance to fulfill a lifelong wish.
“Many had never been in a plane,” Motsinger said. “This event was so special to many of our seniors as it marked something off their bucket list.”
Each trip generally took passengers on a 15 to 20-minute fly over the town of Mountain City, a lap around Doe Mountain and Doe Valley to see part of Watauga Lake. The ride ended with coming over Roan Valley and landing back at the airport.
Motsinger emphasized that thanks to the success of last year’s event, many more came out to watch while enjoying the beautiful day by supporting the event as spectators.
Showing his continued support of the event, airport manager and pilot Dave Garis donated his time and money to cover the fuel for more than a dozen seniors.
“The local pilots look forward to helping the senior center, and we really enjoy it,” Garis said.” I’m already lining up pilots for next year.”
Motsinger agreed when she said, “These pilots are amazing and so generous to donate their time and fuel for this event, not to mention all the ground crew working along with my volunteers that came from the center to help with scheduling the riders.”
Of course, an event such as taking nearly a 100 for a flyover the town is by no means without cost.
“It costs a lot of money to fly a plane, but it’s even more expensive to fly a helicopter,” Motsinger said. “We ask the seniors that took a ride to donate $10.00 if they were able to pay. All the money was given to the airport to help with the fuel expenses.”
Seniors have also enjoyed snacks and refreshments and cheered on their friends
getting on and off the
Local pilots that participated were chopper pilots, Steve Harris, and Steve Arnold.
Arnold is a 25-year veteran pilot who did not hesitate to take part in the event.
“There is nothing better than enjoying a beautiful day in the skies,” he said during one the number turns on his helicopter. “I enjoy sharing my passion for flying with our local seniors.”
Jim Gardner, Tom Sharpe, Tim Lewis, Bradley Spatz, Mark Lehmann, Steve Elks, Doug Pratt were all the airplane pilots. Lynn Campbell (pilot) and Liz Edgar (pilot) were also there helping ground crew and offered their planes as well.
All the pilots and ground crew that participated have been invited to breakfast this Thursday, October 17, at 8 a.m., at the Johnson County Senior Center.
“It is just a small way for the senior center to show our hospitality,” Motsinger said. “We will be doing this again next year. Dave and I decided to make it a yearly event.”
Those wishing to learn more about the Senior Center, the programs it offers,
or volunteer opportunities may call the center at 727-8883.


Town approves select alcohol sales

By Meg Dickens

The Mountain City Beer Board met at City Hall last week to discuss beer permit applications for local grocery stores PriceLess Foods and Food Country.
The very detailed permits unanimously by the board include demands such as having separate public bathrooms available for both male and female patrons. According to City Recorder Sheila Shaw, the ordinance names not satisfying these conditions as “unlawful.”
Price Less was only waiting on board approval to start sales. Food Country received coolers and deliveries this past week, making them ready as of Friday, October 11.
Food Country Manager and representative Daryel Robinson reports that Food Country is considering carrying wine, while PriceLess has not considered this at their location.
“I think this is a good thing,” said Robinson. “It’s keeping tax revenue here. We need tax revenue to help this town grow.”
City Mayor Kevin Parsons confirmed that a liquor store in Mountain City could open as soon as next month. Robert Blackwell’s Mountain Spirits store passed all local guidelines and is waiting for state approval. Parsons and Shaw estimate that Blackwell’s store at the Pioneer Shopping Center will open by the end of November.
On related news, Parsons confirmed that the City Council approved Sunday beer sales starting at 12:01 PM. County Mayor Mike Taylor confirms that the County Commissioners will discuss this issue for the county at their meeting on Thursday, October 17. The County Commissioners’ meeting is open to the public and will take place at the Johnson County Courthouse at 6 PM.

Bishop case causes school board unrest

By Meg Dickens

Former Transportation Supervisor Barry Lawrence Bishop was arrested on January 3, 2019, for one count of theft over $10,000. TBI agents found that Bishop collected nearly $50,000 in fees that he failed to report to the Johnson County Trustee.
Sources at the Thursday, October 10 school board meeting confirm that Bishop is still carried on unpaid administrative leave through Johnson County Schools. When asked about the school board’s consideration of paying Bishop a large sum and allowing him to retire, instead of terminating his employment, Simcox said that she would “not comment on these rumors,” but did not deny the allegation.
Things got a bit heated as board member Gary Matheson brought up the Bishop employment issue near the end of the meeting to demand answers from Simcox, while Chairman Howard Carlton attempted to diffuse the situation.
Carlton brought up previous information and confirmed that the board has communicated about the case. The school board’s lawyer Chris McCarty will have an open session with the board to further explain the case.
Matheson demanded that McCarty be dismissed. “I’m not talking to you. I’m not talking to you, okay,” Matheson raised his voice as he
argued with Chairman Carlton. “I’m talking to the director. I want an answer from her.”
Simcox repeatedly told Matheson that she was following their lawyer’s
advice. Carlton assured Matheson that McCarty would explain the situation further. Matheson did not accept that answer and stated that he did not need to hear the lawyer explain; he wanted an explanation from Simcox herself.
“Our attorney is taking care of everything,” Simcox again said when asked for a comment. “This is a personnel issue and can’t be discussed at this time.”
Matheson jumped up as soon as the meeting adjourned. After a few moments in the crowd, Sheriff Eddie Tester escorted Matheson from the premises. The other board members posed for The Tomahawk with their newly bestowed Board of Distinction award during the incident.
According to Circuit Court Clerk Melissa Hollaway, the court will set a trial date for Bishop on October 31. The court date was originally for a juried trial, but complications with the legal council led to the postponement.

Fall fun at Cranberry Fest

Dozens of vendors welcome a large crowd during the 2019 Annual Shady Valley Cranberry Festival held last weekend. The two-day festival nestled in the mountains of northeast Tennessee has been a community staple for years, celebrating faith, family, and farm, and included a Cranberry Festival bean supper sponsored by the Shady Valley Cranberry Festival Committee and supported by dozens of
local businesses. Photos by Tia Thomas

Changes sought by frustrated business owners

By Katie Lamb and Tamas Mondovics

“I love Mountain City and Johnson County,” said John Coolahan, Project Manager and Senior Operations Manager for many years, and owner of Antiques and Treasures of Mountain City, located at 107 S. Church Street.
Joined by Sylvia Silverberg, owner of Sassy Cats, and Silver Keys Bed and Breakfast both of Mountain City, Coolahan added that he is invested heavily in the area and that Mountain City needs change. “I just want it to be right,” he said.
The two share the street for their business locations and are hard at work to develop a concept appropriately named “Antique Alley” to honor the four antique shops lining Church Street.
While the intention of promoting the idea, which by all counts lacks no merit, achieving it will likely take more effort on the part of business owners and city officials.
Coolahan wasted no time expressing some of his frustration with the City, alleging inaction on the part of the ‘powers that be,’ which he said contributes to the town’s stifled growth.
“I want people to know what is going on,” he said, before listing what he believes has an affect not only on his business and nearby stores but the entire town.
Coolahan expressed his concerns that the County and the City have monies in the budget for tourism, but that no money has been spent on it in the last three years.
“They have not contributed to tourism, which is a necessity for local businesses,” he said, adding that public trash cans have also been removed on Church Street and have not been replaced, which resulted in people leaving trash on the sidewalks and the side of the road.”
As director and past president of the Johnson County Chamber of Commerce (JCTNCC), Coolahan also lamented on resident’s and businesses’ lack of excitement for the annual ‘Scarecrows on Main’ event, the participation of which he said has seen a huge decline since it came under the City’s supervision.
“When the JCTNCC was operating the event, there were thirty or more participants, covering every street corner,” he said. “Now we are lucky to see maybe six to eight at best.”
Neighboring storeowner Silverberg, agreed when she said, “The scarecrows brought a lot of people in.”
Coolahan’s wish list of improvements also included such items as “log trucks coming through here several times every day even though there is an ordinance against such activity,” as well as the “Chamber’s decision to cancel Christmas on Main that traditionally included “tree lighting, caroling, different displays on street lights and decorations throughout.”
The passionate storeowner said, “Main Street is made for hosting celebrations. That’s what you do on Main Street. No Christmas lights on Main Street? It is just sad.”
And when it comes to Main Street Coolahan made reference to the City reportedly receiving $60,000 in grant funding from the Tennessee Department of Transportation (TDOT) for fifteen sidewalk bump-outs ( a curb extension for traffic calming and beautification measure) to be located within city limits that “could have been beautifully landscaped and such an asset,” but claimed that the City gave the money back to TDOT, and built just the one bump out on East Main Street at the intersection.
Commenting on the concerns Mountain City Mayor Kevion Parsons did not hesitate to share his agreement with the need for change and many updates.
“I was actually the one that requested the installation of sidewalk bump-outs in 2010, but was unable to follow through after Lawerence Keeble became City Mayor in 2011,” Parsons said.
As for some of the other issues raised by business owners, Parsons expressed his own desire to see the changes in the City’s appearance and the promoting of tourism.
“I am working hard to address these concerns, which by the way includes a facelift or renovation of the old army surplus building, on the corner of Main and Church street,” he said, adding that he was not aware of the trashcans missing on Church street but that he will “follow up for sure.”
Joined by his fellow store owners, Coolahan is still hopeful that the idea of Antique Alley will maintain momentum and that bringing some attention to the issues will encourage city officials to act on behalf of the town, which is busting at the seams with potential for growth only to add to the beauty that surrounds it.
For more information, please contact Antiques and Treasures of Mountain City at Or call Sassy Cats at 423-727-4774, or the Mountain City Welcome Center at 423-727-5800.

HVAC problem closes Roan Creek Elementary School for the day

By Tamas Mondovics

Roan Creek Elementary, 2410 Roan Creek Rd Mountain City, TN closed for the day after Johnson County emergency crews and Sheriff’s deputies responded to a fire alarm this morning (10-11-19).

On its website, Johnson County Schools officials stated, “Roan Creek Elementary School will be closed today (10-11-19) due to concerns with the heating and air system at the school. This schedule change impacts Roan Creek Elementary School only. All other schools in Johnson County will be in session and on a normal schedule.”

The call came in the County EECD-911 just before school opening during the morning drop-off time, which resulted in all students and school busses to be temporarily housed at the nearby Pleasant Grove Church parking lot.

Shortly after firefighters arrived, school officials desided that due to the nature of the problem on its HVAC system, the Roan Creek Elementary School to be closed for the rest of the day.

‘Go Longhorns’

Joining a sizable crowd that lined the streets downtown Mountain City for this year’s Homecoming parade, Hadley Ingle, 3, is ready to cheer on the Longhorns last Friday. The evening festivities proved to be a huge success with the crowning of Emmy Miller and Natalie Winters as junior princess and homecoming queen, respectively, not to mention the boys’ 33-6 victory against Claiborne County. See more Homecoming on page B-1. Photo by Tamas Mondovics

Officials promote drug abuse awareness, Red Ribbon Week

Executive Director Trish Burchette, Grant Coordinators Denise Woods, Kandas Motsinger, and Roxanne Roedel along with City Mayor Kevin Parsons

With ACTION Coalition Prevention Specialist, Denise Woods by his side, Mayor Mike Taylor signs a Red Ribbon Week Proclamation, supporting and promoting substance abuse awareness. Submitted photo

Staff Report

Town of Mountain City Board of Mayor and Aldermen declared October 23 through 31, as Red Ribbon Week during its regular meeting held this month on Tuesday, October 1.
“The town values the health and safety of all our citizens,” stated Mayor Kevin Parsons, “substance abuse is particularly damaging to our children and a contributing factor to the three leading causes of death of children – accident, homicide, and suicide.”
The goal of Red Ribbon Week is to involve the entire community and promote awareness and prevent drug use. During the meeting, City Council granted a request by the A.C.T.I.O.N Coalition to purchase banners to be placed on Main Street to promote this event.
Red Ribbon Week began in 1985 by the National Family Partnership. The non-profit organization is dedicated to educating children, teenagers, and parents about the dangers of drugs.
“I urge all citizens to join me by wearing a red ribbon all week to raise awareness about the dangers of drugs and educate others,” said Parsons.
A.C.T.I.O.N. Coalition brings together stakeholders to support a healthy community by strengthening individual and community assets. Parsons’ support of this group began over 12 years ago when he turned what was at the time the mayor’s office and adjoining unused office space at the old city hall over to the Action Coalition led by Trish Burchette.
Parsons concluded by saying, “Giving up that space accounts to over a quarter of a million dollars of in-kind money supporting their efforts. Trish, her staff, and volunteers do a wonderful job of educating our community about the dangers of drug and alcohol abuse through special seminars held throughout the year, along with counseling and informational activities. They coordinate highway checkpoints with our police department to reduce the number of drivers who ignorantly think operating a vehicle under the influence is ok.”
Parsons signed the proclamation at the A.C.T.I.O.N. Coalition this past week.
The effort is supported by Johnson County Mayor, Mike Taylor, with an
official declaration in
hopes of increasing awareness, while addressing the rising tide of deaths and the growing burden of the disease of substance use disorders.
ACTION Coalition along with Johnson County Coordinated School Health have planned a number of Red Ribbon Week activities that will be aimed at all members of the community to include school announcements, pledge signings, photo contest (JCHS) in area schools, a red ribbon campaign on Main Street in Mountain City, inserts in local church bulletins, a social media campaign, and more.
Red Ribbon Week will be celebrated in the schools during the week of October 21 – 25.
Action Coalition is urging area residents to “Show
your personal commitment
to a drug-free lifestyle through the symbol of
the Red Ribbon, October 23 – 31.”

Jo. Co. Courthouse to receive repairs

The County Commissioners and Budget Committee approved a bid to repair the Johnson County Courthouse’s damaged roof. The construction will begin this month and is promising to cut heating and cooling costs. Photo by Meg Dickens.

By Meg Dickens

The Johnson County Courthouse is in desperate need of repairs. Both the Johnson County Commissioners and Budget Committee discussed this at their September meetings. The most pressing issue is the roof. This issue is leading to more damage, which will increase future expenses.
The jury box damage is an excellent example of this. The damaged ceiling has curled the relatively new hardwood flooring in the box. Other than cosmetic damage, County Lawyer Perry Stout pointed out the possible health risk in the upcoming winter months. Toxic molds, such as the common mold Stachybotrys chartarum, thrive in moist wood, paper, drywall, and other similar materials.
“The roof is currently a liability,” Stout pointed out. “It’s a matter of public record.”
This project will reduce liability as well as increase building value. The courthouse’s R-value will increase from R4 to R24 after repairs. R-value measures insulation effectiveness, which affects heating and cooling costs.
No local companies put in a bid for the job, although one showed interest before the formal bid. Morristown Roofing gave the best price at $109,685, which includes repairing the jury box hole, painting, replacing skylights with LED lights in the current frames, and giving the currently flat roof a 6-inch drop.
Keeping the skylights would increase repair costs by $8,000 and increase heating and cooling costs. Funding for the roofing project will come from the Capital Projects Fund.
“In the process of time, things like roofing wear out and must be repaired or sometimes replaced,” said Mayor Mike Taylor. “I am happy that the County Commission was able to appropriate the funds to replace this portion of the roof. We are pleased to say that this year, we are able to make these repairs while maintaining a balanced budget without a tax increase.”
Morristown workers estimate that this project will take five days. It is paramount that repairs are finished before winter, so construction is set to start sometime this October. The specific date is to be determined.
The Johnson County Commission meets the third Thursday of each month at
6 PM at the Johnson County Courthouse. These meetings are open to the public.
Concerned citizens can
sign up to speak before the meeting.

Sidewalk project causing traffic woes 

Traffic backs up due to construction on South Main Street towards State Highway 67 near the Johnson County Health Department. The project is slated for completion before Christmas. Photo by Tamas Mondovics

By Jill Penley
Freelance Writer

It doesn’t take very long for vehicle congestion, particularly at the beginning of the school and workday, and the issue is compounded in the midst of a construction project, which is forcing one-lane of traffic.
Work crews began setting up barriers and temporary signage on South Main Street towards State Highway 67 near the Johnson County Health Department a few weeks back.
The project is now leaving adjacent homeowners and all those who commute
into town from Doe Valley and Butler, wondering what was being constructed
and, perhaps more importantly when it would be completed.
According to Mountain City Mayor Kevin Parsons, the project allowed for 150 days, but considering the unseasonably nice weather, which has kept delays at bay, hopes are that it can be completed ahead of schedule and possibly before Christmas.
“As I understand it,” said Parsons, “the road will be opened back to two lanes when they get the retaining wall built.”
Parsons added that this phase of the project should be completed well before the project completion date.
“When everything is done, there should be a nice retaining wall and new sidewalks on both sides of the busy street,” he said.
Mountain City residents are encouraged to attend the city council meetings held the first Tuesday of each month to stay up to date on current and future projects as well as to share their thoughts and questions with the Mayor and Aldermen.
For more information about Mountain City TN, please visit

Building Inspector, package store moving forward

Jill Penley
Freelance Writer

After the liquor store referendum passed in Johnson County last November, the Town of Mountain City adopted an ordinance establishing specific regulations regarding the retail sale of liquor. The Town of Mountain City Board of Alderman then held a public Work Session in mid-August, during which the board unanimously approved two package store applications with the stipulation that they pass building inspections and are deemed “insurable.”
Locals began noticing renovation projects preparing to house the city’s first package stores. Robert Blackwell’s 2 Sisters will be located in the Pioneer Shopping Center while Tom and Becky Stanley have been working for months on renovating a building along South Shady Street known by locals as “the skating rink.”
Both projects stalled, however, when it was time for an Order of Compliance to be granted from the city, which is required before applying to the Tennessee Alcoholic Beverage Commission. Before the town would grant said order, each respective building was needed to be inspected and passed for occupation, and unfortunately, the acting building inspector for the city was not state-certified.
The services of an out-of-town, state-licensed, inspector was utilized.
The package store certificate of compliance for 2 Sisters was signed by all city officials at the regular monthly meeting of the Town of Mountain City Board of Alderman on October 2, and has now been sent to Nashville for approval. “The one for Stanley on the old skating rink building is awaiting his compliance with whatever the building inspector from
Rogersville told him to do,” said City Attorney George Wright. “The Blackwells only had some cosmetic changes, and they have been approved.”
After a completed application for a retail store is received, the application must be placed on the agenda and approved by the TABC commission at a regular monthly commission meeting.
When contacted for comment, Tom Stanley remains optimistic. “We are still in the renovation process,” said Stanley, “and hope to complete the next few weeks.”
In other action, the board appointed Darrell Potter as the new building inspector. He has served in the position in the past, and while he isn’t currently state-certified, he should be able to get it in less than a year.
Mountain City Mayor requested a financial report for the operations of the swimming pool to be given to each board member to gather ideas on how to generate more income from the pool. “This past summer, the cost to operate it was over $17,000 in the red,” said Mayor Parsons, “and we cannot keep losing that kind of money on it.”
Representatives from the A.C.T.I.O.N. Coalition addressed the board regarding the upcoming Red Ribbon Week, which is celebrated annually on October 23-31 and is the nation’s oldest and largest drug prevention awareness program.
Doe Mountain Recreation Executive Director Tate Davis was also present at this month’s board meeting to ask the council to proceed to the next level and have the town expand certain city streets for off-highway vehicle (OHV) use.
The topic has been something “in the works” for quite some time and would make Mountain City more OHV friendly, which in turn, is expected to boost tourism. No official action was taken, but lots of information was provided.
“We have an opportunity to expand direct access for DMRA visitors from eight current businesses via the Pioneer Village Shopping Center to 25 or more by creating a Town of Mountain OHV Zone,” explained Davis. “Funding for the necessary improvements for an expanded OHV Zone is potentially available to the DMRA if the town of Mountain City is willing to do its part to authorize the zone and join with the Authority to persuade funding sources to allow the expenditures.”

Johnson County 4-H students host horse clinic

Isabella Ray and Lydia Lovelace were two of the students and alumni attending this years 4-H Horse Clinic held Saturday, September 14 at Chamber Park in Mountain City. Isabella placed 3rd Halter Conformation, 4th Showmanship, 2nd Western Pleasure 2-Gait; while Lydia placed 5th Halter Conformation, 2nd Showmanship, 3rd Western Pleasure 2-Gait. Submitted photo

By Danielle Pleasant

The Johnson County 4-H hosted a Horse Clinic on Saturday, September 14, 2019, at Chamber Park.
The horse clinic offers a safe and fun environment for students to engage in hands-on learning without having to own a horse.
During this year’s clinic, 17 students focused on safely interact with horses, while learning how to groom, saddle, lead a horse, how to prepare for and respond to emergencies and natural disasters.
Students can exhibit their horse in an assortment of classes during the show.
“This year, we had eight students enter the various classes to exhibit their horses’ athletic ability in a variety of disciplines,” said Danielle Pleasant. “We had a special Alumni class for 4-H Alumni to showcase their skills. All of our exhibitors did a wonderful job showing their horses.
Pleasant emphasized that in addition, each of the participants displayed exceptional sportsmanship for one another.
“The Johnson County 4-H would like to thank all the volunteers, parents, coaches, students, and supporters that worked together to make this event a success,” she said.

New jobs coming to Mountain City

By Meg Dickens

Both the Budget Committee and County Commissioners approved a resolution at their Thursday, September 19 meetings that will bring a projected 8 to 10 new jobs to the area.
The resolution will help business owner Greg Jones upgrade Jones Hardwood Flooring’s storage facility to a working production line for prefinished products. Jones must have a 165-foot building with 150 feet dedicated to the production line to move from Lebanon, VA. The Lebanon building recently sold, which makes Jones’ move more pressing.
Jones Hardwood Flooring is a family business. Johnny Bauguess and his nephew Greg Jones bought the company from Greg’s father, Harold, in 1998. They hold the titles manager and president, respectively. According to the Better Business Bureau, the business began in 1980 and currently employs 18 employees. Jones Hardwood Flooring has a showroom in Forge Creek as well as a storage facility on Industrial Drive.
“I feel good about our expansion,” said Bauguess. “We’re bringing jobs back to the county and getting everything together.”
Jones has asked Johnson County for assistance. The county will use funds from the Community Development Fund to purchase a 40×40 metal building. Total county cost, including lining and roofing, falls at $15,890.63. Jones assured both boards that he will do all of the renovations himself at his own expense, including fusing the buildings and creating a partition for storage. He estimates the work will take approximately six weeks. Bauguess states that the work should be finished by December 1, 2019.
“It sounds like that’s what this money is here for,” said District 2 Commissioner Scott Mast during the discussion. “It’s to help our community grow.”
Johnson County owns Jones’ current building on Industrial Park Road. The Commissioners plan to increase his rent from $1,800 a month to $2,000 a month to accommodate the 1,600-foot addition. The extra $200 per month will pay back the loan in approximately 6 1/2 years. The County Commissioners agreed to renew his lease agreement for a minimum of 6 1/2 years. Mayor Mike Taylor is currently looking into lease information.
“Jones Hardwood Flooring is a stable wood product facility here in the county. I am excited about their business growth and the addition of 8-10 new jobs,” said Budget Committee Chairman and Mayor Mike Taylor when asked for a comment. “I appreciate the County Commission’s continued support of our local industries.”

Five inmates injured at NE Correctional Complex during fight

By Tamas Mondovics

Officials at the Northeast Correctional Complex (NECX) 5249 Highway 67 West in Mountain City, reported on Monday morning that a fight occurred Sunday night, in which five inmates were either treated on-site or sent to area hospitals for treatment of non-life-threatening injuries.
East Tennessee Region Public Information Officer Robert Reburn said that “appropriate security measures were put into place and the fight is under investigation.”
”Security measures included a modified lockdown of the facility, meaning offender movement was and currently still is restricted to an ‘as need’ basis,” Reburn said on Monday.
The cause and reason for the altercation are under investigation
at the time of the writing of this article.
Northeast Correctional Complex in Mountain City is a close custody facility that incarcerates up to 1,880 male inmates, 300 minimum-security inmates at the Annex, and 180 inmates at Carter County.
The NECX participates in the TRICOR program employing inmates in hardwood flooring production.
Offenders can also work in community service programs that provide labor to local state and government agencies performing tasks like clearing roadways of trash and debris, as well as landscaping and painting. Vocational training and educational courses, which include adult basic education, and the ability to earn a GED are also available for inmates.
On its website, the facility boasts intensive substance use and anger management counseling programs, when it states, “Both sites operate extensive community service programs, which provide thousands of hours of skilled and unskilled labor to state and local government, as well as nonprofit agencies in East Tennessee. NECX offenders may attend Adult Basic Education classes or one of six vocational programs. Those who do not have a high school diploma can earn a GED certificate. In addition, NECX has mandatory Career Management for Success
and Release for Success programs for those nearing release.”
Visits at Northeast Correctional Complex occur on Saturdays, Sundays and state holidays from 8 a.m.-3 p.m., and on Mondays by scheduled appointment only from 5 p.m.-8 p.m.
Visitors arriving any earlier than 7:30 a.m. will be denied visitation.
Visitation starts to end on the weekends around 2:45 p.m. and around 7:30 p.m. on Mondays.
For more information, please visit

Homecoming week to bring fun and football

By Beth Cox
Sports Writer

There may be a few shady characters running around Mountain City this week; try not to be too alarmed if Harry Potter is spotted at the red light or someone witnesses Pac Man ordering coffee at McDonald’s. It is homecoming week at JCHS, which means five days of crazy fashion designs and exciting events.
Monday was hippy/tied dye day, Tuesday pajama day, which was expected to help with attendance. Wednesday is character day, Thursday is America day, and the school will be flooded with all the colors of the flag.
Finally, this week will end with all the participants wearing maroon and white for “maroon and white” day.
Michelle Walters, cheer coach, and event organizer has worked diligently to make sure everyone enjoys homecoming week. According to Walters, the students were able to decide what dress-up days they would like to have for the week.
Part of this year’s festivities included the chance for every participant to enter their names into a drawing for a prize. Some of the prizes include footballs with Longhorn logo, two free tickets to Dollywood, and movie
tickets at AMC in Johnson City.
There have been many activities planned for the week including the annual powder puff game on Friday on the JCHS football field.
The homecoming parade is scheduled for Friday at 5:30 p.m. at the First Baptist Church and ends at the Johnson County High School.
The crowning of the Princess and Queen will be held
during halftime of the football game.
Homecoming week is a fun-filled event for everyone and comes at a good time for the Longhorns who have been through a lot over the past few months. They have lost a beloved coach, had injuries sustained to some of the team’s strongest players and reaping in the emotions from a heartbreaking loss against Hampton High School, one of JCHS’s strongest rivals.
The tradition of homecoming is as American as apple pie and of course, football. It is also about school spirit and nostalgia, for players to reminiscence and reconstructs the big games, big plays, and friendships that were created along the way. Homecoming is the best of high school; dressing up, being silly with friends, and lots of laughter. Cheers to the teachers and students for a great week of fun and a few surprises during 2019 JCHS homecoming week.

Local beekeeper keeping ‘beesy’ 

Apiarist Mary Shull in protective clothing, stands next to one of her beehives at her farm in Neva. Mary’s interest in Beekeeping grew in 2014 after taking a class on expanding her honeybee population. Photos by Jill Penley

By Jill Penley
Freelance Writer

After an entire day of working in an office and enduing the Boone, NC traffic and drive time, one would think Mary Shull would retreat to a recliner, but that’s just not Mary. Growing up on a farm that has been in the family for eight generations, she has milked cows, bottle-fed calves, and raised pigs and chickens. While the Grade A dairy ceased in 1996, there’s still plenty to do on the Shull farm in the Neva community including Mary’s latest passion – apiculture, also known as beekeeping.
“I recall helping my dad with the few hives we had growing up,” said Shull, who got really serious about beekeeping in 2014 after taking a class on expanding her honeybee population.
When starting out, she chose a six-acre field that was lying dormant after having been previously used for tobacco and wheat production. “I initially had some trouble with weeds, deer, and weather,” she recalls, “but despite those setbacks, I was able to provide some additional food for my bees and keep them healthy.” Shull continues to care for her bees in the most natural way possible, avoiding harmful chemicals and practices that may hurt
the bees or the natural environment. “Originally I had mixed -flowers and clovers,” said Shull. “After a year or so, I just went to a three-clover mix as the flower annuals were not cost-effective.”
Shull, who currently serves as president of the Johnson County Beekeepers Association, enjoys sharing her knowledge, expertise, successes, and challenges, particularly since that, is what will keep the bees humming in East Tennessee.
“It really is like a big science project,” said Shull. “Bees are so fascinating – how complex their society is, all the little intricacies of how a hive functions, the relationship between the queen and the workers – it’s really, really interesting.”
Apiculture, also known as beekeeping, is maintaining colonies of honey
bees in hives – an enclosed area where honeybee
raise their young ones – by humans to collect honey and other products. As Shull began considering beekeeping, she thought the process seemed relatively easy. “It’s not easy at all,” she said,
noting the northeast Tennessee climate as well as impacts on flower bloom, depleting bees’ food resources, and parasites and diseases for which bees have no natural immunity.
Shull explains the process in layman’s terms. Bees go from flower to flower to gather pollen and nectar, which they break down into simple sugars and store inside honeycombs. They fan their wings constantly, causing the golden, sweet goo.
“Frames fit inside each super, and the bees produce wax comb and fill with the nectar,” explains Shull, “then they cap it off with more wax.” The frames are removed and uncapped, then placed into an extractor that removes the honey. The honey is strained to remove any debris before being bottled and labeled to sell.
Shull, who now maintains several colonies, sells her honey as Neva Valley Apiary. Locally made honey is purported to have special health benefits, including preventing seasonal allergies since the bees use pollen from local plants that eventually end up in the honey.
Even though beekeepers are hands-off in the winter, it doesn’t mean that they stop their beekeeping activities. To the contrary, there are plenty of activities for beekeepers that keep them busy during the next few months such as building new hive bodies and supers, getting them painted and installing foundation in frames.
Bees have been producing honey for thousands of years, and beekeeping can be an interesting and rewarding pursuit, and the rewards are sweet, literally.

Bluegrass recording artist Kody Norris strengthens hometown roots

Bluegrass recording artist Kody Norris, right, is joined by Mountain City, TN Mayor, Kevin Parsons while being honored with his name added to the town’s welcome sign. Photo by Tia Thomas

By Tamas Mondovics

Hailing from the northeastern mountains of Tennessee, local bluegrass recording artist and songwriter Kody Norris landed a pair of blessings last week, both of which are closely tied to his love for music, his fans, and his dream.
For starters, Norris was proud to receive recognition by his hometown of Mountain City, Tennessee, after his name was added to the city’s welcome sign.
“I am very flattered to see my name on such a sign,” Norris said. “I am very proud of my hometown and try to represent my community in a positive manner throughout the world. I feel very humbled to be honored in such a way.”
Mountain City Mayor, Kevin Parsons, joined Norris during the new sign revealing ceremony.
Of course, the most significant event in the young artist’s life came just a few yards north of the sign at his newly renovated home, while exchanging marriage vows with Mary Rachel Nalley, a seasoned musician, and performer of The Kody Norris Show. Rachel is known as a skilled multi-instrumentalist, who has played the mandolin for The Kody Norris Show in previous years, but now fills the fulltime role as fiddler. Since Kody’s onstage proposal, Rachell is also known as “sweetie.”
The ceremony was held outside Kody’s home in Mountain City, which thanks to clear blue skies and the abundance of a bright yellow sunflower-décor, lacked no evidence of the newlywed’s musical heritage and love for the beauty of the region.
Now at age 31, Kody has played professionally since 2005 and has clearly reached a considerable measure of success. Today he and his band continue to be loved and supported by the community that had faith in him since he was a young boy.
Kody began his musical journey at the age of nine singing in local churches, which led to his love for the sound of bluegrass. Family and friends stepped up to the plate to ensure keeping Kody on his musical course.
Today, Kody and the band is proud of its 15 albums recorded including nearly 70 songs written by him, many of which have been recorded by numerous artists.
“I am very anxious to see what God has in store for us in both our business and personal lives,” he said, just days after his marriage to Rachel.
In 2011, Rachel began touring with the Eastern Kentucky-based, all-girl band, Hazel Holler. She joined The Kody Norris Show in late 2014.
“Kody is so career-driven, and I love being a part of his dream,” Rachel said.
As for what is next for the newlyweds and the band, Rachel looked back to recent times as a way to spring forward to tomorrow when she said, “We are so proud of our home. Kody and I both are old souls and love that we were presented with an opportunity to own, restore, and call home to such a piece of Mountain City history.
The last three years we have devoted all our home time to the restoration of this house. I am now ready to focus on Us.”
Demonstrating their love for music, each other and their fans, tying the knot did not mean slowing down.
The pair, along with groomsman and bandmate Josiah Tyree, took a break from their reception festivities to make a surprise appearance at the WBCM – Radio Bristol’s Farm and Fun Time Show where the band played their new song, “The Love Bug,” in front of a packed house at the Paramount Theater during Bristol’s Annual Rhythm and Roots Reunion.

“As for business, as usual, we performed on our wedding night after an invitation from Rhythm and Roots held over the weekend in Bristol was extended to us,” Rachel said adding, “Then right back on the road doing what we love best.”

Local students involved in a single-vehicle crash

By Tamas Mondovics

Four Johnson County High School students were involved in a car crash last Sunday evening after their vehicle reportedly lost control and ran off the road in Mountain City.
According to the preliminary report released by the Tennessee Highway Patrol, there were four 16-year-old girls in the car when the crash occurred around 7:30 p.m. on September 22nd, 2019 on Cold Springs Road near Huggins Road in Johnson County.
THP would not release the condition of the four girls, but troopers confirmed that a 16-year-old female driver lost control of her car in a curve while driving at a high rate of speed.
The report says the car went off the road and flipped over.
According to THP Lieutenant Rick Garrison, the car was traveling west on Cold Springs Road. While negotiating a curve at a high rate of speed vehicle went off the roadway and entered the ditch.
The car then struck a culvert and overturned, before coming to a final rest on its top.
The investigation is ongoing.
As an update of the condition of the four students at the time of writing this story, Johnson County Sheriff Eddie Tester said that the four girls are in stable condition.
Please look for updates on the crash on The Tomahawk’s website and Facebook page.

Doe Mountain Recreation Authority extended for three more years 

By Jill Penley
Freelance Writer

Since Doe Mountain Recreation Area officially opened in the fall of 2013, thousands of riders and visitors were welcomed to the beautiful mountains of East Tennessee, but according to some, the future of the 8,600-acre recreation site was in possible jeopardy when notification came a few weeks ago of a “sunset hearing” scheduled by the Joint Government Operations Committee of the Tennessee Legislature. By nature, a sunset hearing is intended to streamline state government by determining the need for agencies, such as the 15-member board of directors known as the Doe Mountain Recreation Authority, to continue to exist.
“Periodically, the state reviews projects to make sure that they are efficient and functioning properly,” said DMRA Executive Director Tate Davis. Sunset public hearings for DMRA were also held in 2013, 2015 and 2017, leaving some to wonder why this hearing was publicized as crucial to the site’s survival.
The subcommittee of the Joint Government Operations Committee voted to extend the Doe Mountain Recreation Authority for three more years. “The Authority will continue advancing its mission of promoting local economic development while conserving the beauty, woods, water, and wildlife on Doe Mountain,” said Davis in a written statement. “We appreciate the Committee, its Members, and their commitment to regularly reviewing the Authority’s performance and promoting efficient operation within all state agencies.”
When the Nature Conservancy and the state of Tennessee collaborated to purchase the mountain in a purported $8.8 million deal in 2012 it was with the understanding the land would be managed both for multiple-use recreation as well as natural resource protection. By enactment of the Tennessee General Assembly, specifically, TN Code § 11-25-106 (2014), land management jurisdiction over the entire property was entrusted to the Doe Mountain Recreation Authority, which is governed by a 15-member board of directors.
The current members of the Board of Directors are: Dan Reese – Authority Chair appointed by the Governor, background in conservation; Mike Taylor – Authority Vice-Chair and County Mayor; Gabrielle Lynch – Authority Secretary appointed by the Governor from a list of three names submitted by The Nature Conservancy; Frank Arnold – Authority Treasurer appointed by the County Mayor from a list of three submitted by the Board of Directors of the county’s Chamber of Commerce; Michael Farmer – appointed by the Speaker of the Senate in consultation with the Member of the Senate representing the majority of the county’s population; Jerry Grindstaff – elected by majority vote of the governing body of the county; Carolyn Wilson Hawkins – member of the public at large appointed by the Governor, who is a resident of the county or an adjoining county and not otherwise affiliated with specific groups; Kristy Herman – member appointed by the County Mayor, who is a resident of the county and active in a locally organized conservation or outdoor recreation organization; Don Hurst – member serving as proxy for the Commissioner of the Department of Economic and Community Development; Anne Marshall – serving as proxy for the Commissioner of the Department of Environment and Conservation; Dave Jones – serving as proxy for the Commissioner of the Department of Tourism Development; Kevin Parsons – Mayor of Mountain City, Mayor of the largest municipality within the county; Ron Ramsey — Member appointed by the Governor, who shall have experience in outdoor recreation planning, marketing or operations; Captain Tim Sain – serving as proxy for the Director of the Wildlife Resources Agency; and Ray Stout – member appointed by the Speaker of the House of Representatives in consultation with the Member of the House of Representatives representing the majority of the county’s population.
Several letters of public comments were presented at the hearing in addition to an extensive overview of Doe Mountain, including operations, finances, and future plans.
“We are very excited about the three year extension granted by the Joint Committee,” said Mike Taylor, Johnson County Mayor. “Tate Davis and his staff worked hard in preparation for the meeting and furnished some very compelling data. The future of Doe Mountain is bright, and I am excited about the next phase. Together Johnson County and the Town of Mountain City stand at the threshold of economic revitalization.”

Court cost increase to help abused children

By Meg Dickens

The Johnson County Commissioners unanimously passed a resolution to raise specific court costs during their Thursday, September 19 meeting. If the budget committee approves this resolution, crimes that have a victim will have an additional $45 fee imposed on those who plead guilty, are found guilty, or plead nolo contendere to specific crimes to be determined by Circuit and General Sessions Court Clerk Melissa Hollaway.
“First of all, I am in full support of the Child Advocacy Center. It’s wonderful and does a lot of good for our children,” said Hollaway. “I would rather see the money go to someone helping the children.”
All but $3 of this charge goes directly to help children in the area through the Children’s Advocacy Center (CAC). The CAC works in conjunction with law enforcement, Child Protective Services, juvenile court, mental health professionals, medical professionals, and the district attorney’s office in four counties to help child victims as efficiently and noninvasively as possible. Executive Director Samantha Prater presented the proposal after County Attorney Perry Stout brought the motion to the floor. The Tennessee Code Ann. § 40-24-109 statute gives Tennessee counties this right.
“The county legislative body of any county may elect to establish a program to assist victims of crime, their families and survivors or to provide funding or additional funding for an existing program established to assist victims,” reads the statute.
According to CAC records, the organization served 63 Johnson County children in the 2018-2019 period. Two-thirds of these children are female. Locally 70 percent of alleged offenders are 18 years and older and are either an unknown person or parental figure. Statistically, 63 percent of reported abuse in Johnson County was sexual abuse and exploitation.
Remember that Tennessee is a mandated reporting state. According to the Tennessee Department of Children’s Services, failure to report child abuse is a Class A misdemeanor that can lead to up to 3 months of jail time, a fine, or both. Contact the Child Abuse Hotline at 877-237-004 or to report cases of child abuse. Find out more information on The Tennessee Code Ann. § 40-24-109 statute at