“Hands-free” law takes effect July 1

By Jill Penley
Freelance Writer

It’s already against the law in Tennessee to text and drive. More recently hand-held cellphone use was banned in Tennessee school zones, but beginning July 1, when Tennessee’s “hands-free” law goes into effect, drivers will not be allowed to hold a cellphone in their hand at all while behind the wheel. The law prohibits texting, calling, or switching songs on your phone, but technology isn’t completely cut out as hands-free devices which utilize Bluetooth features, like earpieces and headphones, are still allowed.
“It’s great to have these laws in place, but it goes further than that,” AAA representative Megan Cooper said, adding that cell phones are a distraction whether they are in a driver’s hand or mounted on a dashboard. “Even if you have your hands on the wheel, your eyes on the road, if you’re not thinking about driving, you’re not doing your job as a driver.”
Supporters hope Tennessee’s new hands-free law will save lives and usher in a new era of public awareness that makes fiddling with phones behind the wheel as
objectionable as drunk driving.
Exempted from the law are law enforcement personnel, campus police and public safety officers, emergency medical responders, emergency medical agency officers, persons communicating with emergency services agencies in a “bona fide emergency,” employees or contractors of public utility service providers during the course of their duties as well as persons stopped or parked in their vehicles.
Rep. John Holsclaw, R-Elizabethton, who sponsored the bill, was the only lawmaker from Northeast Tennessee to support the bill. State Reps. Timothy Hill, Micah Van Huss, Matthew Hill, Bud Hulsey,
David Hawk and John Crawford all voted in opposition. Based on the debate on the House floor preceding the vote in mid-April, most opposition revolved around the idea of government overreach and the ambiguity of the emergency services exception.
“It bothers me that you make an out for police who are going to write the ticket for you talking on the phone, and then drive down the phone and talk on the phone,” said Rep. Hulsey, a retired police lieutenant, who represents Sullivan County’s second district, during the debate.
According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, currently 19 states, D.C., Puerto Rico, Guam and the U.S. Virgin Islands prohibit all drivers from using hand-held cell phones while driving.

Substance abuse addressed at meeting

Four-member panel hosted by A.C.T.I.O.N. Coalition regarding substance use, misuse, and abuse in the community.

Staff Report

The Johnson County A.C.T.I.O.N. Coalition held its second Community A.C.T.I.O.N. Meeting on earlier this month at the First Christian Church Life Center.
With approximately 50 community members and staff present the four presenters for the evening, in a town hall-style meeting, provided much valuable information to area residents regarding substance use, misuse, and abuse in the community.
Members of the community in attendance questioned the four-member panel, that included Johnson County Sheriff, Eddie Tester, pharmacy owner, Sam Adams, State Representative Timothy Hill, and Frontier Health as a Pathfinder Coordinator for the State Opioid Response, Kevin Fisher.
“Each presentation eluded to the tremendous concerns our community has for these issues their effect on our youth and our community as a whole,” said A.C.T.I.O.N. Coalition Executive Director, Trish Burchette.
First to address the audience was Johnson County Sheriff, Eddie Tester, who provided information regarding the methamphetamine issue that has been plaguing the community and what local law enforcement is actively doing to curtail this issue.
Local pharmacy owner, Sam Adams, also provided information regarding prescribing practices and laws, and changes that
are affecting the
community at this time concerning opioid prescribing and dispensing.
The event’s third presenter was State Representative Timothy Hill who, of course, spoke to the audience about what the state legislator is doing to help communities with the opioid crisis.
Hill was followed by Kevin Fisher who is employed by Frontier Health as a Pathfinder Coordinator for the State Opioid Response
grant at Overmountain Recovery, a medically assisted treatment facility. Fisher spoke about treatment options for communities suffering from substance use disorders.
Burchette emphasized that A.C.T.I.O.N. Coalition is a non-profit anti-drug coalition funded through state and federal resources, working together to create a community free of substance use disorders.
“Our mission is to help Johnson County become free of substance use disorders,” she said, “to strengthen the economy, families, and community of Johnson County through the elimination of substance use, misuse, and abuse.
A.C.T.I.O.N. also works tirelessly to bring
together anti-drug stakeholders to create a healthy community by strengthening individual and community assets and eliminating the use, misuse, and abuse of drugs and alcohol, Burchette said.
The next Community A.C.T.I.O.N. meeting will be held in August.

Families enjoy Free Fishing Day at Ralph Stout Park

By Beth Cox
Freelance Writer

The fish were biting, and the kids were ready to catch them last Saturday morning at Ralph Stout Park.
The Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency (TWRA) designated Saturday, June 8 as a free fishing day in Tennessee to help draw more attention to the sport.
The Town of Mountain City hosted a local Kids Fishing Day in conjunction with Tennessee’s Free Fishing Day, only permitting children under sixteen to fish from 8:00 a.m. to 12 p.m.
TWRA provided the funding for the fish, fishing supplies, and personnel for this recreational sport, with TNT Outdoors as the local sponsor and many other businesses in the community who contributed fishing poles and other fishing supplies to any child that didn’t have the essentials for the free fishing event.
Johnson County Public Health Educator and Go JOCO representative Angie Stout boasted that within 30 minutes, there were more than 75 fishing poles handed out to the children who
didn’t have their own fishing pole.
“It is such a nice gesture by TWRA and local sponsors to make sure the kids have what they needed to start fishing,” Stout said.
Stout enjoys attending the free fishing day because it is a great venue for her to share important health information and hand out some goodies for the kids.
Nearly $2,100 worth of fishing poles, fishing supplies and monetary donations were given by local businesses such as Doe Valley Sportsman, Taylor Animal Clinic, Danny Herman, Danny Herman Trucking, Farmers State Bank, Johnson County Bank, Pure Fishing, Mountain View Exxon, and the Bass Club of Mountain City and Watson’s Marine toward the event.
The Town of Mountain City has worked hard to make sure everything was just right for the big day, while JCHS teacher, Mr. Thomas Boyd and some of his high school students made sure the creek was prepared for the fish. TWRA stocked the pond at the city park with 700 lbs. of catfish, and the creek
was stocked with 600
individual trout for this special day.
Crowd attendance may have been down a little due to rain, but it was a good day for fishing.
Stout emphasized the importance of the free fishing day, adding, “It’s a great day to get out and do something together as a family; it’s so nice to see the excitement on a child’s face when he or she catches the first fish.”

Annual Comic-Con draws large crowd

Everyone is a winner in the 12 and under cosplay contest at the Dragon’s Mountain Comic-Con. The Comic-Con held Saturday and Sunday at Forge Creek Community Center. Photos by Meg Dickens

By Meg Dickens

Comic-Con made its second annual visit to Mountain City this past weekend. Dragon’s Mountain Comic-Con, previously named Longhorn Comic-Con, drew residents and visitors alike to the Forge Creek Community Center on June 8 and June 9 despite the rainy weather.Guest numbers were so impressive on Saturday that organizers now hope to find a larger venue for the upcoming years. Current consideration is on the local armory. This year’s featured guests included author Stephen Semones, artists Albert Morales, Kevin Hawkins, and actor Matthew Atchley.

To everyone’s delight, cosplayers went above and beyond with their costumes.

Traditional costumes like Batman and Green Lantern made an appearance along with originals and anime favorites. Cosplayers ranged from children barely older than toddlers to senior citizens. Judges Kevin Hawkins, Albert Morales, and Sierra Burke could not decide who wore it best for the 12 and under category. Each child received a featured artist’s print and a specialized prize. Comic character Tank Girl won first, Toga from anime My Hero Academia won second, and original costume duo Steampunk Safari won third place in the 13 and up category. Each winner received a 5 dollar gift card to Poblano’s and a featured artist’s print.

The venue held dozens of booths selling anything an attendee could want. Local artists Brittany Dunn and Victoria Meadows helped represent Mountain City with wares such as handmade figurines, prints, buttons, decals, and more. The friendly vendors made attendees feel at home. Author William Becker drew curious attendees to his table to check out his murder mystery novel with a fake body prop. Coloring book star dachshunds Zombie and Flippy enjoyed a lot of love from passersby.

Upstairs attendees gathered for tabletop one-shot campaigns. Skilled Dungeon Masters (DMs) for both Dungeons & Dragons and Pathfinder were available. Role Playing Games (RPGs) such as Fiasco, Vampire: The Masquerade, Secret Hitler, and more happened throughout the event.
Local individuals and businesses made this event possible. Organizers Mark and Cole Gladden partnered with local business Double D’s Variety Store to host the event. The Tomahawk Newspaper, WMCT Radio, Double D’s, Americourt, Lazy Day Market, Hux & Lipford Funeral Home, Farmers State Bank, Poblano’s, O’reilly’s, and State Farm sponsored this convention. Come out next year and watch the event continue to grow.

Cold Springs Utility District wins Region One Best Tasting Water Contest

Members of the Cold Springs Utility District Mary Short, Mayor Kevin Morrision,
Reid Seals, Carolyn Ferguson, Lana Moore, Royce Fout, Richard Hammons and Scotty Wallace enjoy recognition for Best Tasting Water in Region One. Submitted photo

By Tamas Mondovics
TAUD Release

Tennessee Association of Utility Districts (TAUD) the state’s primary source for utility training, technical assistance, and advocacy for the more than 400 water, wastewater, and natural gas utility members was pleased to announce the winner of its Region One “Best Tasting Water Contest.”
The event was held at the Econo Lodge in Greeneville On Thursday, April 18 and crowned Johnson County’s very own, Cold Springs Utility District, awarding it Best Tasting Water in Region One.
According to TAUD officials, Region One consists of Carter, Greene, Hancock, Hawkins, Johnson, Sullivan, Unicoi, and Washington counties.
Other Region 1 utilities submitting samples of their drinking water for the competition were: Bloomingdale Utility District, the City of Bristol, Brown low Utility District, Erwin Utilities, Greeneville Water Commission, the City of Kingsport, and Lakeview Utility District. Mary Short of USDA Rural Development, Carolyn Ferguson with Congressman Roe’s Office, Lana Moore from Senator Lamar Alexander’s Office, Greene County Mayor Kevin Morrison, Royce Fout with TDOT, and Reid Seals with WGRV Radio participated as judges for the contest.
The drinking water samples were judged on their clarity, bouquet, and taste.
It is an honor to represent the facility and considered best in the region,” said Richard Hammons with Cold Springs Utility District.
TAUD officials confirmed to conduct the Best Tasting Water in Tennessee Contest in each of its eleven regions in the upcoming months.
Each regional winner, including Cold Springs Utility District, will compete at TAUD’s 2019 Business Utility Conference at the Gatlinburg Convention Center on Thursday, August 8, 2019.
The statewide winner represents TAUD at the Great American Taste Test held in conjunction with the National Rurally Water Association Rally in Washington DC in February of 2020.
For more information on TAUD, please visit www.taud.org or follow on Facebook (Tennessee Association of Utility Districts).

Town Council; Heritage Square, tennis courts among issues discussed

Mountain City Board of Aldermen and Mayor Kevin Parsons meet on Tuesday, June 4. The Council was divided on the issue of adding convenience stores to the current Beer Ordinance, but came to a consensus on the proposed downtown home for the Johnson County Farmers Market. File photo

By Bethany Anderson
and Tamas Mondovics

Tuesday, June 4 the Town of Mountain City Board of Alderman met to discuss such matters as grants and new committees as well as other current affairs of the town.
Alderman Bob Morrisson proposed the new Heritage Square Development Board Committee, which would include leaders from all the businesses and organizations in the area.
These include the Library, Heritage Hall, Farmers State Bank, Arts Center, Senior Center, Community Center, and the UT Extension Office. The committee will now be able to apply for grants and other improvements for the area. It is unclear at this time who would head the committee or details of when they plan to meet.
Paul Maulden from the “Friends of Tennis” group was present to help explain the loan from the Town of Mountain City and the grant that would soon repay that loan. According to Maulden, the deadline for the city’s contribution is April 2020.
In years past, the Mountain City Budget Committee already approved the loan, so it would just be a completion of that pledge. The monies would be put to use resurfacing the tennis courts at the Community Center as well as replacing lighting and other equipment such as nets to get the courts up to standard for play.
It was also announced that there would be a blood drive on Thursday, June 20, from 8 a.m – 1 p.m. at First Christian Church’s Life Center. The blood drive is part of Taylor Parsons’ Miss Tennessee’s Outstanding Teen platform of “The Color Red,” which includes her being the Red Cross Ambassador.
Taylor 16 of Mountain City, was crowned as the new Miss Tennessee’s Outstanding Teen in April at Gallatin High School, and will now represent Tennessee in July at Miss America’s Outstanding Teen competition in Orlando, FL.
Taylor was also among
32 Johnson County High School students recognized by the National Honor Society in April witnessed by friends and family. The National Honor Society is one of the most prestigious organizations at Johnson
County High School. The Society stands for Character, Service, Leadership, and Scholarship.

Local issues press, divide City Council

By Bethany Anderson
and Tamas Mondovics

When it came time to discuss the possibility of the Johnson County Farmers Market plans to relocate to a permanent home in downtown, Mountain City Mayor, Kevin Parsons, and Aldermen did not hesitate to share their view during the monthly City Council meeting.
It was only a month ago that Mountain City and Johnson County officials had the opportunity for a JCFM permanent location involving the Johnson County Airport that has been awarded a grant to help make improvements to the airport. The plan includes removing and replacing some of the older hangars.
To comment on the topic last week, however, Parsons shared his experience, which included discussions he said he had with Johnson County Mayor Mike Taylor.
Parsons then gave his opinion on the matter, stating, “It just can’t happen.” Adding, “I just don’t see it happening.”
Parsons’ comments prompted Mountain City Alderman, Bud Crosswhite, to add that he had gone to look at the proposed hangar in person and then gone to look at the proposed site. He stated that “it didn’t look like a good fit,” adding, “There is no money in the current budget to purchase the land.”
Parsons agreed when he said, “We sold that land to make room in the budget. It just doesn’t make sense for us to buy it back at this time. The money’s just not there.”
The topic that seems to do more than just press the Council—even dividing its unity—was what Alderman Keeble wanted to address before the meeting came to a close.
Keeble asked that the current Beer Ordinance be amended to include convenience stores, not just grocery stores and package stores. The ordinance was unanimously past at the last Council meeting followed by the town of Mountain City purchasing and posting a public legal notice for Ordinance No. 1630 (Alcoholic Beverages Ordinance of the Town of Mountain City) and Ordinance No. 1632 (Beer Ordinance of the Town of Mountain City) in this edition of the Tomahawk.
City Attorney George Wright explained that such a move would mean an amendment to the current ordinance, not just a vote.
Wright said that the Council could, of course, “vote in favor of making such an amendment.”
When it came to a vote, however, only Mayor Parsons and Alderman Lawrence Keeble voted “yes,” with all other alderman voting “no.”
The division on the
matter led to the current ordinance remaining in place unaltered.

Mayor Parsons case dismissed at trial


By Bethany Anderson
Freelance Writer

On Wednesday, May 29 Mountain City Mayor Kevin Parsons faced Judge Ray Conklin at the Johnson County Courthouse for Obstruction of Justice charges, which ended in a dismissal due to the court finding a lack of intent of
obstruction on the Mayor’s part.
The stage was set with
Attorney Leon Marshall represented the prosecution,
and Attorney Perry Stout
(who is also the Johnson County Attorney) represented Parsons.
The only members of the public in attendance were
two of Parsons’ family members.
The trial was for a case that originated with a traffic stop of Parsons’ vehicle on December 22, 2018. Parsons was
driving southwest on State Hwy 67 when Johnson County Sheriff Deputy Joshua Peters stopped him.
According to Peters’ testimony, the Deputy had just completed a traffic stop on another vehicle and was at or near Dewey Christian Church facing South West on the highway. He stated that Parsons’ vehicle passed him at “a high rate of speed,” so he proceeded to follow him. Peters stated that he “paced” Parsons’ vehicle traveling at speeds of at least 67mph in a 45mph zone. The vehicle was also observed crossing the centerline several times. Peters then reportedly made the decision to pull over the car.
The traffic stop was conducted at or near Bethany Baptist Church.
Peters’ testimony continued to state that when he approached Parsons’ vehicle he “shined his flashlight on
both the driver and passenger” as he “advised the
driver (Parsons) of the reasons he was stopped.” When the light shone on the passenger, he “turned away from the light as not to show his face.” Peters testified that Parsons was “argumentative and refused to name his passenger.”
The entire traffic stop was recorded on Deputy Peters’ body cam, and the video with audio was played in entirety for the court.

The following is a transcript of the Deputy’s body cam footage:

Johnson County Sheriff Deputy Peters: Who you got with you?

Mountain City Mayor Kevin Parsons: A friend. You doing all right?

Peters: Has he got a name?

Parsons: Just a friend of mine.

Peters: (to passenger) You got an ID on you?

Parsons: I don’t.

Peters: (to passenger) What’s your name?

Passenger – Kenneth Cornett: (no response)

Peters: (to passenger) What’s your name?

Parsons: Do you have to give it? Does he have to give it or… (indiscernible)?

Peters: I need his ID too.

Parsons: Are we being detained? Why are we being detained?

Peters: I just want to know who I’m talking to.

Parsons: You know me.

Peters: I do know you, but I don’t know him. You can’t give me his name?

Parsons: I prefer not to, just the simple fact that you don’t have to. It’s just part of the constitution. I’ve seen videos online, and you don’t have to if they’ve not been charged with a crime themselves.

Deputy Peters then stepped away from the vehicle to radio dispatch. He can be heard explaining the situation to Sheriff Tester over the radio.
Tester then responded by saying, “Tell them you need to know who’s in the car.” Shortly after, Sheriff Tester arrived on the scene.
When Tester arrived, he was on a phone call with Parsons. Parsons recorded this phone call, and a brief portion of it was played for the court.

The recorded portion of
the phone call from
Kevin Parsons to Sheriff
Eddie Tester is as follows:

Mountain City Mayor Kevin Parsons: “Is that a law that they have to?”

Johnson County Sheriff Eddie Tester: “No, it’s not a law.”

Sheriff Tester arrived on scene at the traffic stop, and the following is the continued transcript
from Deputy Peters’
body cam video:

Parsons: (to Peters) Did you get a hold of Eddie?

Tester: I’m here.

Parsons: (no response)

Tester: Is this your brother in law in there?

Parsons: I don’t know. I’m not at liberty to say.

Tester: Got a warrant on him if it’s your brother in law.

Parsons: Really?

Peters: If I look at the warrant and it is him, you’ll be charged with a felony for telling me you don’t know who he is.

Parsons: I don’t know.

Tester: You don’t know if it’s your brother in law?

Parsons: It’s my brother in law, yes, but I don’t have to tell you who it is. As far as being a passenger in my vehicle, I don’t have to tell you who he is.

The passenger was then asked to exit the vehicle. He was identified as Kenneth B. Cornett. Mr. Cornett was taken into custody on the scene with his arrest warrant for non-payment of
child support. Parsons was given a verbal warning about his driving and was
The Johnson County Sheriff’s Department later charged Parsons with “Obstruction of Justice.” He was arrested on January 8, 2019, and bond was set at $2,500.00. The charge was changed to “Obstruction of Service Process” at trial.
According to his testimony during the trial, Deputy Peters had previously talked with Parsons about the arrest warrant for Cornett when he attempted to serve Cornett with the warrant, as Parsons’ address was co-listed on the warrant. Parsons said he knew of the warrant and had told his brother in law
(Cornett) to “do the right thing.”
In closing arguments, Prosecuting Attorney Leon Marshall cited a previous case that showed precedence for officers to ask for ID from passengers as well as drivers. He also mentioned that it is illegal to prevent officers from knowing identifications or lying to them when questioned. Marshall also pointed out that the previous conversation between Deputy Peters and Mayor Parsons proved that Parsons knew his brother in law (Cornett) was wanted by the Johnson County Sheriff Department at the time of the traffic stop on December 22, 2018.
Defense Attorney Perry Stout responded to this by stating, “Mr. Parsons does not have a civic duty to help police serve a warrant.” He also pointed out that to prove “Obstruction of Service
Process,” the prosecution would have to prove that Parsons “intentionally prevented an officer from serving justice.”
Upon making his ruling, Judge Conklin made the following statement:
“Obviously not a good look for the Mayor of the town to not be fully cooperative. There’s no doubt from listening to the video and phone call that there’s some evasiveness. To me, the most damaging testimony is that “He’s a friend.” and those kind of answers. This court cannot find that there was intent. So, this case is dismissed.”
Parsons released the following statement a few hours following the trial, “I would like to go on the record and say this: We have the greatest judicial system in the world, and it works. The court made the right decision and now I along with my family are looking forward to getting this behind us and as Mayor, looking forward to continuing promoting Mountain City and the wonderful community we live in.”

A.C.T.I.O.N Coalition receives $200,000 HRSA grant award

A.C.T.I.O.N Coalition members, Stephanie Walters-administrative assistant, Roxanne Roedel-grant coordinator, Mark Sijthoff-board chairman, Kandas Motsinger-grant coordinator, Trish Burchette-Executive Director, Denise Woods-grant coordinator, Mike Taylor-Mayor Johnson County, Andrew Norman-Ministerial Alliance, Angie Stout-Tn Department of Health, Chastity Trivette-Ballad Health pose for a photo, while thankful for being one of the recipients of the second round of Rural
Communities Opioid Response Program (RCORP) planning grant. Submitted photo.

Submitted by Trish Burchette

Early last month, the Health Resources and Services Administration’s Federal Office of Rural Health Policy awarded $24 million for the second round of Rural Communities Opioid Response Program (RCORP) planning grants.
Recipients across 40 states will now receive $200,000 for one year to formalize partnerships with local stakeholders, conduct needs assessments, and develop plans to implement and sustain substance use disorder (SUD), including opioid use disorder (OUD), prevention, treatment, and recovery interventions.
That is, of course, great news for the Johnson County A.C.T.I.O.N Coalition, just one of the 120 recipients nationwide to receive the grant.
“RCORP-Planning is part of a multi-year initiative by HRSA to support treatment for and prevention of SUD/OUD,” said HRSA Administrator George Sigounas, MS, Ph.D. “The goal is to reduce the morbidity and mortality of the diseases in high-risk rural communities.”
Associate Administrator for the Federal Office of Rural Health Policy Tom Morris added, “Rural communities continue to face several challenges in accessing SUD/OUD prevention, treatment, and recovery services.”
“The A.C.T.I.O.N Coalition has been a part of Johnson County for over ten years, and the grant will help us connect with all sectors of our community in an even more targeted approach to be able to openly discuss what will help our community better serve its residents,” said A.C.T.I.O.N Coalition Executive Director, Trish Burchette. “We applied for this grant in January as part of our initiative to replace funds from the Drug-Free Communities Grant, which after this, our 10th year, we will no longer be eligible to receive. We are very excited to be able to continue our work in our community alongside our grant partners, the Johnson County School System, Ballad Health, Johnson County Ministerial Alliance and the Johnson County Health Department.”
Director of Schools Michelle Simcox stated “We are very thankful for the partnership we have with Action Coalition and all of the wonderful things they do for the students of Johnson County. We look forward to working with them on the HRSA grant.”
Andrew Norman, Associate/youth pastor of First Christian Church said, “We, as the alliance of churches in Johnson County, are excited for what A.C.T.I.O.N has done for our community, and we are looking forward to what they will do in future, especially with this newest grant.
Johnson County Mayor Mike Taylor was also pleased with the announcement, praising both the organization and Burchette’s efforts.
“First of all, I am very proud of the A.C.T.I.O.N. Coalition for their dedication to end the opioid problem we face in Johnson County,” Taylor said. “Trish Burchette and her staff have worked very hard on this grant, so I am very pleased to hear they have received the $200,000. The funds from this grant can really make a difference in our county, and I am sure the A.C.T.I.O.N. Coalition will do some remarkable things with this grant.”
For more information on A.C.T.I.O.N and what they are doing in our community, please visit their website at www.actioncoalition.org, or check out our facebook page facebook.com/ACTIONcoalitionTN/
Stop by our office at 138 East Main St. Mountain City across from Tri-State or call us at 423-727-0780.

Transportation Woes continue for aging rural population

By Jill Penley
Freelance Writer

Every single day at least one senior citizen in Johnson County misses a doctor’s appointment or foregoes needed medical treatment only due to the lack of transportation.
Many assume public transportation is only essential for large urban areas with significant traffic congestion, but public transportation can also play an essential role in rural areas and small towns.
“Even though rural areas could use better public transportation,” said Johnson County Mayor Mike Taylor, “it may be somewhat of an economic challenge for a transportation service to survive in a small town.”
For many residents, longer commute times and lack of transportation options are also common barriers to employment. Even if there are adequate job opportunities, one must be able to get to work to maintain employment. While some type of accessible public transportation would help alleviate the problem, establishing viable public transport service in rural Tennessee is easier said than done.
Some households don’t have a vehicle or share one among multiple family members. While ride share programs, such as Lyft and Uber, where ordinary folks provide others a ride in their cars for a fee, are increasing in popularity and availability, they have yet to catch on in rural areas such as Johnson County. There are, reportedly, some local rideshare drivers; however, many in the senior population don’t have a smartphone or aren’t comfortable using one.
Additionally, many need cars with handicap accessibility, require help getting to and from the door, or simply are looking for a service that provides additional safety features.
“Public transit can be an important factor supporting rural and small-town economies by connecting people with local businesses, healthcare, and job opportunities,” said Scott Bogren, Executive Director, Community Transportation Association of America (CTAA). “Expanding public transit in rural and small towns provides a safe alternative that helps reduce the risk of road accidents for vulnerable populations; while at the same time, its use promotes active lifestyles.”
Locally, transportation services are sparse; however, MyRide TN, an expanding, sustainable, senior-friendly volunteer transportation service, is available to those 60 years of age and older, live independently and walk independently (or with assistance from walkers or canes), but do not drive. Volunteer drivers use their vehicles to take riders to a variety of destinations, including medical appointments.
Perhaps more familiar, the Northeast Tennessee Regional Public Transit, or NET Trans, offers door-to-door non-emergency “demand response transportation” with flexible schedules. NET Trans, which operates as a Not For Profit, is part of the First Tennessee Human Resource Agency and functions in cooperation with the Tennessee Department of Transportation and the
Federal Transit Administration. Public rides are scheduled on a first come, first serve basis.

Sentenced; Jenkins gets 10 years for aggravated robbery on Cold Springs Road


Jenkins gets 10 years for aggravated robbery on Cold Springs Road

By Tamas Mondovics

The second subject in a Late December incident had pled guilty in Johnson County Criminal Court. According to information Jennifer Lois Jenkins, 42, also of Bristol, TN, pleaded guilty to aggravated robbery conspiracy, aggravated kidnapping, and aggravated robbery charges.
Jenkins is ordered to serve a 10-year sentence to be served at 85 percent.
Jenkins along with Willie Davis, 41, of Bristol TN, entered a residence in Johnson County on December 28, 2018, that sparked a three-day manhunt, ending with the couple’s arrest in Sullivan County Tennessee in early January.
According to police reports, the victim was
locked inside one of the
bedrooms of the home but was eventually able to
escape and flee to a
residence nearby to call for assistance.
The victim was then treated at an area hospital for minor injuries.
The incident was investigated by Johnson County investigators assisted by the Sullivan County Sheriff’s Office.
Davis and Jenkins were apprehended on January 1, 2019, after police received
a tip that the duo was
hiding out in a camper on
Big Hollow Road in Blountville.
Davis pled guilty in the Johnson County Criminal Court on Friday, March 29, 2019.
Judge Lisa Rice then sentenced Davis to 20 years to be served at 100 percent.

Flags for Heroes honor soldiers

By Tamas Mondovics

For the ninth time since its inception, an impressive display of 101 flags cover the front lot of the Johnson County courthouse in the heart of Mountain City TN, Memorial Day weekend honoring the natives who were killed or missing in action (KIA/ MIA) in wars from the Spanish American War forward to present.
The display is possible thanks to a local project Flags for Heroes and the members of the Iron Mountain Riders (IMR), the support of Worley Hall VFW Post #6908 and the Johnson County Veterans Affairs Office,
The project is in place to remember and honor Johnson County natives who were killed or missing in action (KIA/ MIA) by placing American flags and crosses, with the name and branch of service for each veteran.
According to William “Bill” McGuire of Mountain City, 101 flags were on display for three days this Memorial Day and will also cover the same lot during Veterans Day weekend representing those either KIA or MIA.
“We owe the Veterans and their families a debt of gratitude that can never be repaid,” McGuire said. “We salute them for their service.”
McGuire emphasized that, while the “Flags for Heroes” project is not the first philanthropic event that the IMR has it became a much-favored tradition, when he said, “We are pleased with the strong support and appreciation that we continue to receive from residents who visit the memorial and from visitors who are just traveling through.”

Car show anchors ‘Senior Center 50’s Fun Day’

Johnson County Senior Center director Kathy Motsinger, left, and My Ride director Danae Marshall pose for a photo during the Johnson County Senior Center’s 50’s Fun-Day and Car Show. The event saw nearly 300 in attendance, enjoying food and entertainment including the display of some of the finest looking classic cars. Photo by Tamas Mondovics

By Bethany Anderson
Freelance Writer

Friday evening the Johnson County Senior Center had quite the party, which included a car show, live music, food, face painting, games, and even a visit from “The King” himself with an Elvis impersonator performing much to the delight of the crowd in attendance.
Live music by local favorite, Randy Dandurand set the mood and got people up and dancing, while they enjoyed the beautiful weather that greeted the evening crowd. Many in attendance even got into “character” by dressing in the style of the 1950s.
The event was a fundraiser to benefit the Johnson County Senior Center, Johnson County Shrine Club, and Order of the Eastern Star. Notable sponsors included Johnson County Bank, Mountain Electric Cooperative, and Hux-Lipford Funeral Home who sponsored the car show.
“A big thank you goes out to Johnson County Bank our 50’s Day sponsor,” said event organizer Kathy Motsinger.
The car show organized by Steve Arnold was undoubtedly one of the more notable presences at the event. Event planners, did not expect the turnout that they received with so many cars joining they ran out of room to display them within the event.
Many later entries were asked to park in an overflow area in front of the event. The classics were quite a popular attraction with many people wandering all around and commenting on their favorites.
“This was our 1st Annual Car Show,” Motsinger said as she boasted of the 37 cars on display, 10 of which were chosen as Best in Show sponsored by Hux-Lipford Funeral Home. “They were judged by the theme of the 50’s Event.
Arnold presented the winners with plaques.
“A big thank you to Steve and all the drivers that came out to bring their cars is in order,” Motsinger said. “ We were overwhelmed with beautiful cars. It was defiantly was a big hit.”
There were many options for food, including BBQ, Hot Dogs, Nachos, Snow Cones, and other tasty treats. Many enjoyed dinner at the event while listening to live music and taking in the sights. There were also so games provided by sponsors including the popular “money grab” from Johnson County Bank.
Once “Elvis” took the stage, people were seen happily singing along and dancing to old favorites. Senior Center Director, Kathy Motsinger encouraged all to “Get up and get moving” and dance to the music.
Attendance was varied with all ages present. Many came with entire families bringing small children who enjoyed themselves just as much as the “typical” Senior Center crowd. Families posed for photos, wandered the car show, enjoyed the food and danced to the music. There were smiles all around, and it seemed to be quite a successful fundraiser.
The Johnson County Senior Center is located at 128 College St in Mountain City. For more information, you may call (423) 727-8883, or email the director at kmotsinger@jocoed.net.

Farm Bureau crowned Grand Champion

Children cheer on and root for their favorite shelled-participant during the 16th Annual Lions Club Turtle Derby. The event was a great success and has crowned ‘Farm Bureau’ as its grand champion. Photo by Tamas Mondovics

Jill Penley
Freelance Writer

It was a beautiful evening for racing as young and old alike filtered into Ralph Stout Park for the 16th Annual Johnson County Lions Club Turtle Derby.
The championship race featured the top ten fastest winners from each of the 15 races.
Finishing in record time and leaving the rest of them in the dust by crossing the final heat in just under 24 seconds, the turtle named Farm Bureau, sponsored by Farm Bureau Insurance in Mountain City was crowned the 2019 “Turtle Derby Grand Champion.”
By the numbers, the average speed of the winner from each of the 15 races was just under 23 seconds.
The fastest turtle crossed the finish line of the 16-foot-long track at a lightning fast speed of 11.5 seconds, while the longest time that a race took to determine a winner was 39 seconds.
For 16 years, turtles have raced on the track to improve the vision for many in Johnson County.
Event organizers emphasized that the hard-shelled participants may be slow, but the race as the Lions Club’s largest fundraiser of the year helps raise the money necessary to provide vision screening and eyeglasses for those who need corrective lenses but who are unable to afford vision tests or glasses.
Area businesses that sponsor turtles also provided door prizes, which were awarded throughout derby.
The proud owners of new bicycles donated by Joe
Herman of Herman Trucking and Dewayne Landers, were Jay Young, Sydney
Nicholason and London Nicholason.
In addition to the derby, the Club also raises funds by selling high-quality brooms and mops.
The local Lions Club was instrumental in the construction of the pool in Mountain City. They are also responsible for the display of American flags in the downtown area for several holidays such as Memorial Day, Independence Day, and Veteran’s Day. In addition, the Club supports National Lions Club projects such as leadership dog training and disaster relief.
“We currently have six active members but would love to have more as we face the same challenges as other service clubs across the country,” event organizer and Johnson County Lions Club member Kevin Parsons. “We need more people to help carry on some of the things that we are doing.”
The Lions Club meets at Lois’ Country Cafe on the second and fourth Thursdays of each month at 7 p.m.
“We wish to thank all of the volunteers who assisted
with the Derby, the friends and businesses who sponsored turtles or donated door prizes, the members of our community who attended the event and The Tomahawk for its help promoting it,” Parsons said. We also wish to thank all who filled the bleachers at Ralph Stout
park for an evening of enjoyable clean fun and made the event a great success. We look forward to crowning more turtle champions next year.
The Johnson County Lions Club meets on the second and fourth Thursday of each month at Lois’s Country Cafe at 7 p.m. Those interested in learning more about the Club may call 727-8817 or 727-4119.

Johnson Co. honors its heroes

Officials display the Honor and Remembrance flag to a large crowd attending this year’s Memorial Day ceremony in Mountain City, TN. The flag was presented to Michael Christian, honoring his son, Staff Sergeant Rusty Hunter Christian who lost his life in Operation Enduring Freedom. Johnson County native Robert Hensley a veteran of the Air Force and Post Commander of the American Legion Department of Tennessee was the Master of Ceremonies. Photo by Beth Cox

Memorial Day ceremonies focus on faith, family and freedom.

By Beth Cox
Freelance Writer

The patriotic heart and soul of Johnson County was well represented on Saturday, May 27, 2019 at Ralph Stout Park in Mountain City. The attendance was as inspiring as expected thanks to many in attendance honoring the men and women who lost their lives serving their country.
Johnson County native Robert Hensley who is a veteran of the Air Force and Past Commander of the American Legion Department of Tennessee was once again the Master of Ceremonies.
The Honor Guard presented the flags as Nancy Davis sang the National Anthem followed by the Pledge of Allegiance led by Navy Veteran Don Payne, Commander of Johnson County VFW.
After the prayer by Mr. Frank Woods, the Posting of Colors by the Honor Guard and the ceremonial presentation of colors, Marie Jo Thume, Director of the Johnson County Community Children’s Chorus led the children in two familiar, patriotic songs.

Mayor Mike Taylor, Mayor Kevin Parsons, and Rep. Timothy Hill were honorable participants, each of whom reminded the audience of the importance of remembering the debt that was paid for America’s freedom. Mayor Parsons focused on “why someone would want to do that and possibly give their lives.”
He reminded his audience of some of the reasons Abraham Lincoln suggested;
honor, adventure, and patriotism.
“They didn’t know us but thankfully gave the ultimate sacrifice and out of respect for them; we will not forget,” Parsons said.
Mayor Mike Taylor likened Joshua 4:5-7 to Memorial Day and challenged the crowd, “tell your children what these memorials mean just as Joshua asked what the stones meant to the people of Israel.”
Rep Hill mentioned, “God has given us the greatest nation on earth, and I am grateful to be a part of a culture that takes time on such a difficult day to honor our fallen.”
Taking his turn to address the crowd, Hensley added, “Brave men and women will always step up and forever fight, and if necessary, die for the sake of freedom.”
Army Veteran and Honor Guard Chaplain Terry Reece read the names of the veterans who lost their lives as the wreaths were being presented.

One of the most poignant moments of the ceremony was honoring Staff Sergeant Rusty Hunter Christian who lost his life in Operations Enduring Freedom.
Reece presented Sgt. Christian’s father, Michael Christian the Honor and Remembrance flag in memory of his son.
“I accept this on behalf of all those who have lost a child,” Christian said. The 2019 Memorial Day ceremony ended with a rifle volley and the playing of Taps and a benediction from Dwayne Dickson.

Presenting the JCHS Class of 2019

By Jill Penley
Freelance Writer

JCHS held its 96th annual Commencement ceremony on Saturday, May 18, in the Ray S. Shoun Memorial Gymnasium before an audience of friends and family.
JCHS Principal Lisa Throop opened the ceremony by remembering Jacob Sluder, who attended Mountain City Elementary through third grade. “Jacob passed away at age sixteen due to an extended illness,” said Throop. “He would have been a member of the Class of 2019.” A moment of silenced was observed for Sluder before Throop introduced special guests including Dr. Mischelle Simcox, Director of Schools, Dr. Stephen Long, Secondary Supervisor, JCHS Assistant Principals Leon Henley, and Marcus Dunham, School Board Chairman Howard Carlton, Board Vice-Chairman Kevin Long, school board members Gary Matheson, Mike Payne, and Jo Ann Reece. Throop also acknowledged Michael Eggers as graduation director and special guests from central office.
“I cannot wait to see what the Class of 2019 will accomplish,” said Throop. “Your determination and love for life will help you accomplish whatever you desire to do.”
Maelea Gaylon, former JCHS Assistant Principal, presented beautiful vocal performance of Humble and Kind before Principal Throop introduced the three 2019 Class Valedictorians: Renie Morrow, Noah Mullen, and Mason Stanley, who each took part in presenting My Resignation Letter, their collaborative graduation speech.
“I think I can speak for all of us in saying that we will all miss something about our time here,” said Noah Mullen. “However, we cannot stay here forever. This is only the start of a long and arduous journey that lies before us. Each of us will follow different paths, but that does not have to mean they diverge forever.”
Valedictorian Renie Morrow continued the stirring speech. “I want all of us to look back on life years from now with the sense of accomplishment to have known life’s passage would come,” she said, “and go just like these four years, and made every moment memorable.”
“Life after high school is full of so much potential for all of us,” said Valedictorian Mason Stanley. “If we ignore the differences we have and focus on the goals we share, we can accomplish miracles. So much about our Earth is left for us to discover and for us to protect.”
Stanley concluded by acknowledging parents, coaches, and teachers. “As we resign from our position here at the high school,” he said, “we accept a more responsible role as adults and here’s to hoping we get it right.”
Dr. Mischelle Simcox challenged the students one last time. “The future is yours,” she said while addressing the graduates. “You are about to start a new and exciting adventure.” She then gave them the following advice: “make the most of your life, live your dreams, follow your passion, stay true to yourself.” Finally, she added, “each of you can be and do anything you want, you just have to believe,” before pronouncing them official graduates of Johnson County High School.
Dr. Stephen Long, Johnson County Schools Secondary Supervisor, and GEAR UP Collaborative Project Director, individually announced the name of each graduates as they accepted their diplomas from school board members and administrators.
Senior student council member, Zach Peake, led the 128-member class in the traditional turning of the tassels before applause roared throughout the Ray S. Shoun Memorial Gymnasium one last time for this batch of seniors, who achieved so much over four years and now enter the world as JCHS graduates.

Your vote needed

Long Journey Home preparation kicks off with T-shirt design contest

By Tamas Mondovics

Summer has not yet arrived, but organizers of Johnson County’s annual arts and music celebration Long Journey Home, held each year over Labor Day Weekend is already in high gear.
To get the community involved and prepare all music and arts lovers to get a chance to have a hand in contributing to the late summer festivities, event organizers have reached out to the community to assist in designing the logo for the 2109 or fifth annual Long Journey Home T-Shirt and win $100 under the event theme, This year’s Legacies.
“We are excited to have the community choose this year’s design,’ said Johnson County Center for the Arts Director Cristy Dunn.
The contest yielded two finalists, so organizers created a survey and now asking residents to vote by email at www.longjourneyhome.net for their favorite design, by midnight Friday, May 24.
While held every Labor Day weekend, in reality, Long Journey Home, celebrated year round.
Of course, during the event, there is no shortage of musical entertainment as a clawhammer banjo is played on the front porch of the Clarence “Tom” Ashley homeplace. Visitor can pay their respects at G.B. Grayson’s grave, the site where the infamous Tom Dooley was captured or reflect on the regions musical heritage at the location of the historic 1925 Fiddler’s Convention. A new mural is unveiled each year as the hills come alive with the sounds of Old Time and Bluegrass.
Dunn mentioned that while organizers are looking forward to this year’s festival and Musical Heritage Homecoming Tour, they are especially excited about a partnership with Appalachian Memory Keepers.
“They are producing a film called “Short Life of Trouble” about local music legend, GB Grayson, who first recorded Tom Dooley back in 1929. The film will be shown outdoors on busking night downtown.”
Dunn said that plans are already underway for the best year yet, mentioning that the region’s traditions “live on because they are passed on.”
This year’s murals will be a series of paintings of records by 20th century Johnson County musicians.
GB Grayson’s The Ballad of Tom Dooley will be included along with Train 45, as well as Tom Ashley’s Amazing Grace, Greenback Dollar, and House of the Rising Sun.
The legendary Old Time Music at Clarence Ashley’s and the Ballad of Finley Preston will round out the set.
For more information about the event and this year’s mural workshop for a chance to help paint one of the murals, please visit the Johnson County Center for the Arts or the website www.jocoartcenter.org.
Johnson County’s
Heritage Arts and Music Celebration is proudly sponsored by:

East Tennessee Foundation,
Johnson County Community Foundation,
Danny Herman
Johnson County Bank
Farmers State Bank
Mike and Temple Reece
The town of Mountain City
The Sunflower Festival
Positive Thinkers
Mountain Electric

Library to host new writers club for autobiographers

By Bethany Anderson
Freelance Writer

A new writing club at the Johnson County Public Library is in the making next month to encourage and help people become autobiographers to share their life stories.
The club is appropriately named Johnson County Autobiographers Club (JCAC) facilitated by Brenda Turner who explained that her goal is to help encourage others to share their stories with family members, loved ones, or just for themselves.
“Our group will be welcoming, supportive, and a good environment for everyone from first-timers to more experienced writers.”
Johnson County is home to many who have lived their whole lives here as well as those who moved to the area for a variety of reasons. Each resident has their own unique story to tell, and Turner hopes that this group will help to encourage people to do just that.
“I want people to feel like they can attend when they are able to and not feel obligated to return,
but of course it would be great if they enjoy it and come back,” she said.
Turner added that JCAC is a group, not a class, so there are no mandatory
writings, nothing will be graded, and nobody will be forced to share anything with the group that they don’t want to. I want to be able to help people find their voice to share their life stories.”
The JCAC will meet each Monday from 1-3pm in the library’s conference room. It is free and open to all ages and skill levels. The first group meeting is on Monday, June 3, and all are invited to attend.
For more information about the Johnson County Autobiographers Club (JCAC), you can email
or call group facilitator
Brenda Turner at (317) 316-7336.

JCFM “Main Street Market” moves forward

By Bethany Anderson
Freelance Writer

The Johnson County Farmers Market (JCFM) may finally have found the permanent home it has been seeking since its inception more than ten years ago.
Recently an opportunity presented itself for the market to take advantage of a series of events that would lead to a permanent home in downtown Mountain City that many agree would be ideal for several reasons.
The most obvious being that the market would no longer need to relocate seasonally.
The JCFM has had many locations and has continued to grow and thrive at each one. Most recently the market has been held at Ralph Stout Park during the summer months and indoors at the Welcome Center during the winter months to provide a “year-round” market.
According to Mountain City and Johnson County officials, the opportunity for a JCFM permanent location involves the Johnson County Airport that has been awarded a grant to help make improvements to the airport. The plan includes removing and replacing some of the older hangars.
The hangars that are to be removed would then be available for a variety of uses by others. One idea has been the topic of discussion between the Johnson County Farmers Market, The Johnson County Tourism & Development Council, The Johnson County Board of Commissioners, The Mountain City Board of Alderman, and a local landowner (who wishes at this time to remain anonymous).
The plan is for the airport to gift a hangar to Johnson County, which will in turn gift it to the Johnson County Farmers Market.
The parcel of land proposed for this project is currently vacant and is located along Main St (between the former Sassy Cats location and Cornetts store) in the heart of downtown Mountain City.
The land to place the hangar on would come from the town of Mountain City and would be available as a “multi-use” location for many possible uses beyond the Farmers Market.
The money to make all this possible would come from a $75,000 Tourism Enhancement Grant from the state of Tennessee. The joint effort is enthusiastically endorsed
by both Johnson County Mayor Mike Taylor and Mountain City Mayor Kevin Parsons. When it was brought to a vote at this month’s County Commission Meeting, the motion to endorse this project passed unanimously.
County Mayor Mike Taylor said, “If we can get this downtown, I believe this would be a good start to revitalize our downtown.”
Airport manager David Garris added, “I’m glad to be able to give back in some way.” He also said, “I’d hate to see it (the hangar) just thrown away.”
Mayor Kevin Parsons said, “I’ll take this to the council and see what they say, but I’m excited to get this going. It could be really good for our town.”
Next moves involve Mountain City Mayor Kevin Parsons presenting this to the Board of Alderman for their official vote regarding the land. Once that happens, the project will move forward as quickly as possible,
given the multiple steps that will need to occur with all parties participating in the project.
“Farmers markets play a vital role not just in generating real income for farmers, but in forming a healthy, prosperous food system,” says Jen Cheek, Executive Director of the Farmers Market Coalition. “By providing the opportunity for farmers to connect directly with consumers, markets serve as education centers. Vendors are teaching customers about agriculture and sharing recipes and new foods with their neighbors. Markets are making people and communities stronger and healthier.”
For more information on the Johnson County Farmers Market, visit their website at johnsoncountyfm.com or email johnsoncountyfm@gmail.com

Area works together for $1 million grant

State Senator Jon Lundberg addresses the Mountain City town council in support of the $1 million grant offered by the Governor’s office. The grant requires a $50,000 commitment from the town of Mountain City. Photo by Bethany Anderson

By Bethany Anderson
Freelance Writer

Doe Mountain Recreation Area Improvements are on the way thanks to a joint effort by DMRA, Johnson County Board of Commissioners, and now the Mountain City Board of Alderman.
Many were in attendance to show their support of the joint effort to gain a possible grant offered by the Governor’s office. Notable supporters and speakers included DMRA’s Frank Arnold and Tate Davis as well as Johnson County Mayor Mike Taylor and State Senator Jon Lundberg (R from District 4). There were even some impassioned pleas from the crowd of supporters who spoke to their hopes of a partnership with the city to help achieve the grant.
The grant from the state would total $1 million and would require a $50,000 commitment from the town of Mountain City in addition to the money already committed by both the county and DMRA. The money could be paid out in installments of $12,500 per year for 4 years.
Mountain City Mayor Kevin Parsons expressed his concerns saying, “I think the town is looking for a return on our investment from sales tax dollars.”
Johnson County Mayor Taylor responded by saying, “My goal and my vision is to get those people in town and to the cash registers.”
According to DMRA Executive Director, Tate Davis, sales are up significantly this year as compared to last, and new related local businesses have been created and others have benefited from DMRA and their customers.
With the grant proposal due by May 14, the deadline is looming pretty soon. Mayor Parsons noted, “We have our budget meeting coming up and I’d recommend that we go ahead and support this.”
Alderman Jerry Jordan had a few questions asking, “4 years at $12.5, is that negotiable at all?” He then
added, “We want to work together, but how many years until we get that back in sales tax?”
Alderman Lawrence Keeble also expressed some concern saying, “We have so many other pressing issues that I’ll be frank, I can’t put this at the top of my list.” He also said, “With all the other things that we need in our town – pay raises for city employees, street repairs, and other things, I just can’t put it at the top of my list. I’m sorry.”
After more discussion and input from speakers, Mayor Parsons made a motion to commit the $50,000 clarifying, “If we can break that down in our budget.” The motion went to a vote and passed with all but Alderman Keeble voting “yes”. A crowd of those in attendance then broke out into applause and cheers, clearly happy with the resulting partnership between DMRA, Johnson County, and now the town of Mountain City.