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Southern Middle Tennessee Today News for February 7, 2023

All news stories are aggregated from various sources and modified for time and content. Original sources are cited.

We start with local news…

Standoff at Gholston Woods (WKOM Audio 3:08)

A domestic dispute turned violent yesterday at the Gholston Woods Subdivision in Columbia where a standoff between a man and the police lasted most of the day. WKOM/WKRM’s Delk Kennedy was on the scene.

Unfortunately, later in the day, word was received that the standoff ended in a loss of life. WKOM/WKRM’s Clayton Harris has more details…

Yellen Visiting Ultium Cells (Press Release)

On Wednesday, February 8, Secretary of the Treasury Janet L. Yellen will travel to Spring Hill, Tennessee to visit the Ultium Cells battery plant to highlight how the Inflation Reduction Act and other Biden-Harris Administration policies are incentivizing historic investments in clean energy manufacturing and the onshoring of battery production. Since the Inflation Reduction Act was signed into law six months ago, dozens of companies across the clean energy spectrum have announced tens of billions of dollars in investments in the United States that are expected to create thousands of good-paying jobs. China currently produces 70 percent of batteries for electric vehicles, and the Inflation Reduction Act’s incentives for battery manufacturing will help the United States grow the domestic clean energy economy.   


Ultium Cells is a joint venture between General Motors and LG Energy Solutions. Ultium Cells will manufacture battery cells for the Cadillac LYRIQ, which is produced at the adjacent General Motors plant. The new Ultium Cells plant is expected to employ nearly 1,700 workers when it is fully operational. 


Secretary Yellen will deliver her remarks at the site of the future Ultium Cells plant at 3:00pm on Wednesday.

Principal of the Year Named (CDH)

J.R. Baker Elementary Principal Jon-Micah Clanton was surprised recently when he was at a principals’ meeting when Maury County Public Schools Superintendent Lisa Ventura announced him as the district's “Principal of the Year.”

“It was certainly an honor,” said Clanton, who is in his seventh year of being principal.

Clanton and the formerly announced teachers of the year were recognized on Jan. 19 at a district banquet.

Originally from Truckee, a resort town near Lake Tahoe in California, Clanton graduated from Harding University in 1996 and began working in special education, including 5 years in Fresno. Active in wrestling and football in school, he played football in college for a couple of years, while obtaining his two majors in special education and elementary education.

After a move back to Fresno with Allison, his wife of 25 years, Clanton added a Master’s Degree in Education and Administration and Supervision from Fresno State University. Teaching special education and coaching in both wrestling and football, Clanton moved to Tennessee in 2004 when he accepted a position at Independence High School in Thompson’s Station.

From there, Clanton’s next step was his role as assistant principal at Whitthorne Middle School in Columbia before accepting the principal position at Baker.

Capping off his education he obtained an additional Education Specialist degree from Lipscomb University.Clanton’s three children all attend Maury County schools as well.

Now, at age 50, if he’s not leading the charge at Baker, he’s camping or just spending time with family and friends.

“I believe [the award] is a testament to the teachers and staff I have at Baker,” Clanton wrote in a bio submission to school administrators. “Seven years ago, we all sat down to develop a vision so that we had a foundation on which to build.

“That vision is ensuring we all GROW, Clanton says explaining the acronym as being Goal-oriented, Risk-taking to promote growth, Owning our own behavior and Working collaboratively to learn.”

Clanton said as well, he has to credit the hard work of his assistant principal Robin Smith, who he says is to be honored as part of the reason he was chosen.

“Mr. Clanton is so steady and consistent,” Smith said. “He’s always done what’s right for kids as individuals and as members of our collective student body. I don’t think that people realize how much thought and preparation he puts into the 'every day' of running a school.

"He’s truly interested in what’s going on with our students, both in and out of the classroom, and that goes a long way."

Smith said the past few years have been difficult in education, but because of Clanton’s steady leadership and willingness to tackle things head on, "our staff is one that now handles the hard things better,” Smith said.

“Our kids pick up on that too."

“I witness extraordinary things on a daily basis,” Clanton said. “… Many of those things are never measured at all.”

While Clanton acknowledges the challenges of working as an educator today, he said sometimes the job is just to help some students get their most basic needs met, while keeping them educated at grade level.

“Many critics don’t know what it is like to be in a school nor do they know the people who daily put the needs of students first and experience the growth and sometimes heartache our students deal with,” Clanton said.

Clanton said he is not really sure why he was chosen in favor of the other principals in the district, but says he is certain his strong suit is working with people including students, parents and other staff.

“I don’t know how I’m doing things any differently than my other colleagues, but every one of them does a fantastic job,” Clanton said.

One of the most important values he says is having a relationship of trust with his coworkers. Peers might describe him as someone who wants people to succeed.

“I enjoy people, and I’m not a micromanager,” he adds. “I let teachers do their job – still holding them accountable as well.”

The challenges ahead Clanton admits is watching children who come into the schools who have grown up with difficult home lives. While acknowledging his leadership in areas of instruction and budgeting, he looks directly at problems some students are having, such as homelessness, saying there is a need to ensure a child has basic needs met so they best receive academic instruction.

What he enjoys most about his job?

Students seeing him out and remembering him, watching students progress and graduate, and particularly at Baker, he enjoys all the hugs he gets from kids that make him look forward to coming to school every day.

Two Police Lieutenants Retire (MauryCountySource)

Congratulations to Lieutenant James Shannon and Lieutenant John Ussery on their retirement from the Columbia Police Department.

Lt. Shannon started his career with the Columbia Police Department back on February 27, 1996.

During his tenure at Columbia Police Department (CPD), Lt. Shannon has served in many capacities including the COPS Unit, Crime Suppression Unit, Motorcycle Patrol, Narcotics & Vice Unit, FBI Violent Crimes Task Force, Patrol Sergeant, Lieutenant of Narcotics & Vice, and as a Lieutenant of Patrol.

Lt. John Ussery started his career with the Columbia Police Department back on December 12, 1994.

During his tenure at Columbia Police Department (CPD), Lt. Ussery has served in many capacities including as an Explorer, a Patrol Officer, a Master Patrol Officer, a Sergeant of Narcotics & Vice, Lieutenant of Narcotics & Vice, and Lieutenant of the Criminal Investigations Division.

We thank both Lieutenants Shannon and Ussery for their service to our community.

Mt. Pleasant Scales Back on Wastewater Lagoon (MainStreetMaury)

Mount Pleasant’s commissioners discussed repair work at the city’s Wastewater Lagoon and approved a reduced bid.

City Manager Kate Collier told the council that bids came in well above initial estimates, saying, “The bid came in at $824,895, quite a bit more than we anticipated it being. But we are mandated by TDEC (Tennessee Department of Environment & Conservation) and the state to fix some of the problems, shore up the berms.”

Rawso, LLC was the lowest of four bidders on the project at the quoted $824,895 price.

Collier said the city’s finance department had reduced the scope of the project to fit within previous estimates of $535,000. Mobilization, access and erosion control construction, along with riprap armoring and buttressing of areas B, C and D on the north end of the lagoon will proceed, while repairs to the south lagoon and other areas will have to wait, Collier indicated. Riprap is defined as a layer of large stones that protects soil from erosion in areas of high or concentrated flows.

“I’m not saying we won’t have to come back next year to do the rest of it, but we’re getting started and the state will see we’re making some progress,” Collier said.

“We’re going to be spending money every so often on these lagoons,” Commissioner Mike Davis said, “but we’re always going to have problems up there. We need to find a way somehow of doing away with these lagoons.”

Collier noted that the lagoons prevent the city’s sewer plant from being overrun during heavy rains by providing storage capacity.

Commissioners gave initial approval to a number of budget amendments, including over $1 million for downtown revitalization.

Also included was $888,490 for construction of the city’s second fire hall, to be located at 209 Bond Street. The City Commission approved a long-term bond in 2022 to pay for the construction.

The council also approved a $4,000 match for a Property Conservation Grant, which will be used to replace the outdoor lighting at the city’s community center.

Commissioners also passed a minor change, on first reading, in the city’s wastewater regulations. City Attorney Kori Jones noted that the state had found some errors in the new regulations, none of which affected the impact of the rules. Jones described the errors as typos.

Resolutions accepting sewer improvements to the Sugar Creek area were deferred until February’s meeting at Collier’s request.

Collier noted in her report that the Sewer Trunkline Rehabilitation project was near completion. That project was funded by a 2018 Community Development Block Grant and must be finished before the city can apply for another CDBG, which Collier said officials hoped would be the case this year.

Mayor Bill White reappointed David Workman, William Bryson and Jimmy Hines to the Beer Board, reappointed John Hunter to the Board of Zoning Appeals, reappointed Donna Morency and Jacqueline Grandberry to the Historic Zoning Commission, reappointed Pam Thompson, Jennifer Graham and Hunter and named Cedric Hollis to the Planning Commission, and appointed Lorie Knowles and Grandberry and reappointed Bedford Smith to the Recreation Commission.

The Mount Pleasant City Commission is next scheduled to meet on Feb. 21.

City To Build New Park (CDH)

Columbia’s city park system could be getting a new addition or two as the city is considering a feasibility study to determine a location for a new skate park and splash pad.

The study, which will be overseen by Kimley-Horn and Associates, will cost approximately $43,200 and go before a Columbia City Council vote this month. Ultimately, it will determine whether a skate park and splash pad can be constructed, as well as its location, cost and design.

Parks and Recreation Director Mack Reagan said a major element to the study will be gathering public input.

"This is a strategic planning goal from last year, which basically will give us all of the information, public input other evaluations to make sure we are good stewards of [taxpayer] money," Reagan said. "It will give the public a chance to say what they would like to see moving forward. That way we can make sure what we are doing is what the public wants."

Reagan added that there will be opportunities in the future for citizens to meet with Kimley-Horn representatives, most likely at a future council meeting, to discuss details of the study.

"They will come in and give the public a chance to speak for or against it, just opening it up to the general public," Reagan said. "A lot of these meetings, from my experience in the past, are people who want a certain design, feature or what they would like to see. For example, with skate parks there are a lot of different designs, some with dramatic differences in cost."

Councilman Danny Coleman said having the public give its input is very important to the design process.

"I know there is a Facebook group that's all about 'Columbia needs a skate park,' and so there are a lot of people ready to give their input," Coleman said.

Reagan concluded saying that his department hopes to gather any public input "from anywhere possible."

"We'll do whatever is best for the city of Columbia and its population," Reagan said.

Spearman Art Featured (Press Release)

A new art exhibit recognizing Black History Month is now on display in the Columbia Welcome Center located at 713 N. Main Street. The exhibit, featuring local artist James Spearman, will be on display through the month of February. It is free to view the exhibit and open to the public during operating hours: Monday – Friday 10 AM – 4 PM; Saturday 10 AM – 3 PM; Sunday 12 PM – 3 PM. Art can be purchased directly through the artist.

James Spearman received his Bachelor of Fine Arts at Wayne State University, specializing in Interior Architectural Design and Space Planning. He was commissioned by the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland Ohio, in partnership with Ford Motor Company and The Arts League of Michigan, to paint a piece entitled “Soul of Rock “in 2004. The image was selected as the signature piece for their brochure and traveling exhibit. He was commissioned by the Martin L. King Jr. Task Force, Southfield Michigan, in 2015 to sculpture and create a bronze metal bust of Dr. Martin L. King Jr., which is on permanent display in the main lobby of the Southfield Library in Southfield Michigan. He has received commissions to paint many portraits and subjects of interest and has exhibited in several cities nationally. His work is owned by many collectors. He and his wife owned and managed “Del Gallery”, an art gallery in Lathrup Village, Michigan. His teaching experience includes more than 18 years teaching live art workshops for the Arts League of Michigan. After he and his wife moved to Columbia, Tennessee in 2007, he has taught live and virtual art workshops with the “Healing Arts Project, Inc.”

Spearman says he considers himself a “realist” using a primary medium of oil on canvas. His preferred subject is figurative, but he enjoys painting portraits, landscapes, and animals with an emphasis on sensitivity, strength, and beauty in his images.

You can find out more about James Spearman by visiting the exhibit or see samples of his work online at

Mule du Gras Gumbo Contest (MauryCountySource)

Make plans to attend The Mule Du Gras Gumbo Cookoff Raising Funds for Center of Hope on February 21, 2023 from 6:00 PM to 8:00 PM at Mama Sucre’ (1412 Trotwood Avenue Columbia, TN 38401).

Who’s got the best gumbo in town (besides Mama)?

Entry fee of $10. Want to come judge? $10 gets you three votes, a taste of each entry and a bowl of your favorite!!! Enter for the bragging right and a trophy!

There will be a parking lot party with karaoke, Mardi Gras beads, Gumbo, and more… it’s gonna be a Fat Tuesday at Mama Sucre’! Come by the restaurant to enter in the cookoff.

For more information click the Mule du Gras Gumbo Cookoff on Facebook.

Nashville Mayoral Debates Planned (Tennessean)

The Tennessean — in collaboration with NewsChannel 5, Belmont University and American Baptist College — is hosting a series of three candidate debates in advance of the Nashville mayoral election on Aug. 3 and, if necessary, a fourth in advance of a potential Sept. 14 runoff election.

Dubbed The Nashville Mayoral Debates, the series will feature moderators from both The Tennessean and NewsChannel 5 and include participation from students of the hosting universities.

“Convening leaders to present, discuss and as needed vigorously debate the pressing issues of the day while embracing the principle of civil discourse is one of the core missions of The Tennessean,” said Michael A. Anastasi, the organization’s Vice President and Editor. 

“Nashville is at a crossroads and needs extraordinary executive leadership if it is to continue its ascent as a great American city, a city that works for all and continues to be the economic engine that propels Middle Tennessee and, indeed, the entire state," he added.

The first two debates will take place May 18 and June 22 at Belmont, which has its own impressive history of being the home of political discussion. The school most recently hosted a presidential debate in 2020 and was the site of mayoral debates in 2019.

“We are honored to partner with The Tennessean and NewsChannel5 to host The Nashville Mayoral Debates on our campus as we recognize how vitally important this kind of conversation is to the success and flourishing of our city,” said Belmont University President Dr. Greg Jones. “Belmont is dedicated to collaboration and engagement across diverse perspectives, and we are grateful for the opportunity to further put this into action.”

The third debate is scheduled for July 6 at American Baptist College, arguably the theological birthplace of the modern civil rights movement and alma mater of icons including John Lewis, C.T. Vivian, Bernard Lafayette and James Bevel.

“Voting is an unalienable right, and every citizen should participate in the electoral process.  It is our only way to level the playing field,” said Dr. Forrest E. Harris Sr., president of American Baptist College.

“American Baptist College is a significant place to hold a mayoral forum. Students at the school in the 1960s fought for the right to vote. Now, here in 2023, a mayoral forum is being held on this campus in a building named after one of those students, Rep. John Lewis, who went on to become an even greater champion for justice. We are pleased to partner with The Tennessean in this endeavor and look forward to an exchange that benefits the city, in order to get in ‘Good Trouble.’”

The debates are set to conclude prior to the beginning of early voting on July 14.

A fourth debate, should one candidate not win a majority outright and the race requires a runoff, will take place on Aug. 24 at Belmont University.

Qualification requirements and ticketing information for the public will be announced soon.

Final Story of the Day (MauryCountySource)

Tennessee State University’s marching band has made history after becoming the first Grammy award-winning collegiate band.

TSU’s Aristocrats of Bands took home one of the least achievable musical awards by winning not one, but two Grammy awards on Sunday, Feb. 6.

The band’s album The Urban Hymnal won Best Roots Gospel Album and their feature on J. Ivy’s The Poet Who Sat By The Door won in the Best Spoken Word Poetry Album category.

Created on TSU’s campus, their The Urban Hymnal album was produced by TSU professor Larry Jenkins, Sir the Baptist, and Grammy award-winning producer Dallas Austin.

During his acceptance speech, Jenkins thanked TSU, his students, and AOB calling it the ‘best band in the land.’

TSU hosted a Grammy watch party on their campus on Sunday afternoon, and students’ reactions to the win were posted on the band’s Facebook.


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