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Southern Middle Tennessee Today News for February 9, 2024

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

We start with local news…

Columbia Man Guilty on Federal Charges (MauryCountySource)

On February 2, 2024, a jury in the Middle District of Tennessee found Jamal Gardner guilty of being a convicted felon in possession of a firearm, announced United States Attorney Henry C. Leventis.

According to evidence presented at trial, on February 2, 2019, Gardner beat and tried to strangle the mother of his children. A little over an hour later, a Columbia Police officer initiated a traffic stop of a vehicle for reckless driving. As the officer approached the vehicle, the driver got out holding an AR-15 rifle and immediately began firing at the officer. As the officer took cover and returned fire, the driver, later identified as Jamal Gardner, fled into a nearby residence and continued firing at responding officers. Over the next two hours, Gardner fired approximately 80 rounds from at least four firearms, before escaping from the house. Gardner fled the scene and was arrested a few days later in Michigan.

“This prosecution underscores the Justice Department’s commitment to hold violent criminals accountable, especially those that are brazen enough to attack law enforcement as the defendant did in this case,” said United States Attorney Henry C. Leventis.

Gardner will be sentenced a later date by United States District Court Judge William L. Campbell, Jr. If the court finds that Gardner qualifies as an Armed Career Criminal, he will be sentenced to a mandatory minimum of fifteen years to life in federal prison.

Additional charges relating to Gardner’s attempted murder of multiple Columbia Police Department officers and his aggravated assault on his former domestic partner are pending in state court. He remains presumed innocent of those state charges.

This case was investigated by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms & Explosives, the Columbia Police Department, and the 22nd Judicial District Attorney’s Office. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Josh Kurtzman and Phil Wehby prosecuted the case.

Maury Continues Economic Growth (CDH)

Maury County's ongoing growth has continued to make top rankings not only statewide, but in the nation based on a recent study by aggregate data generator SmartAsset.

SmartAsset's recent findings ranked Maury County as the top county in Tennessee under four major investment categories, which include business growth, gross domestic product (GDP) growth, new building permits and incoming investment.

In addition, the county also ranked No. 3 for incoming investment and No. 7 for incoming investment nationally, ranking in the Top 10 in more than 3,000 counties.

The SmartAsset study breaks down investment figures over a three-year period, which demonstrates sustained performance.

The rankings come on the heels of the Maury County Chamber and Economic Alliance Annual Dinner last week, celebrating a "record-breaking" year in many aspects of local growth, which has been building momentum for over 10 years in Maury County.

“The SmartAsset report findings serve as a capstone to ten years of sustained growth for Maury County," Maury Alliance Vice President Travis Groth said. "It is important to note that results like this would not be possible without teamwork and the strong local, regional, state, and TVA economic development partnerships that have been developed.

"We are proud of Maury County’s economic performance and the positive benefits it has delivered broadly across the local economy. That said, we are even more excited for what’s still to come for Maury County as we transition the focus of our local economic development efforts from community growth to community enhancement. Maury County is a great place to live and do business and that is getting truer every day."

Groth added that much of the continued success, which dates back nearly a decade, has been the combination of having a good team, a good location and the reputation for Maury County as a place worth investing in for jobs.

"This is an accumulation of all our efforts along the way, a measurement over time as far as sustainment and investment within the community over time," Groth said. "There is a wealth of opportunities that we at the Maury Alliance are here and happy to help assist on."

And while the latest data has focused on the last three years of investment and job growth, much of Maury County's success can be traced back to almost 10 years, with many factory jobs, growth at the General Motors plant in Spring Hill, as well as opportunities for small business entrepreneurs.

"I think over the next few years you'll see our focus will now be from growth to enhancement, and so we are happy and excited to see the next chapter for Maury County," Groth said. "It's a combination of partnerships that we've not only seen locally, but statewide as well, and Maury County is just a perfect strategic location that's led to some really positive things. This is more of an affirmation than anything else, a real capstone."

Massage Envy (WKOM Audio 2:18)

Yesterday, Massage Envy in Spring Hill held their grand opening. Front Porch Radio’s Mary Susan Kennedy attended the ribbon cutting and spoke to proprietor Amanda Jerkins to learn more about the services provided at the new spa…

Maury Regional Best Place for Working Parents (Press Release)

Maury Regional Health (MRH) has been named a 2024 Best Place for Working Parents by Best Place for Working Parents for the health system’s efforts to provide progressive benefits packages for the organization’s more than 3,000 employees across southern Middle Tennessee.

Organizations included on the yearly Best Place for Working Parents list are assessed on family friendly policies, including company-paid health care coverage, paid time off, parental leave, nursing benefits, “Best Place” designation, onsite childcare, childcare assistance, backup childcare, flexible hours and remote work. MRH was also included in the 2023 list.

“Maury Regional Health is committed to providing a supportive environment for our team members and their families to thrive,” said Dennis Fisher, chief human resources officer at MRH. “Our organization is known for having one of the most competitive and comprehensive benefits packages in southern Middle Tennessee. To ensure we are meeting our team members’ needs, we consistently evaluate new and existing benefits, striving to support their physical, emotional, spiritual and financial wellbeing.”

In addition to the organization’s comprehensive medical, dental and vision plans, as well as short- and long-term disability packages, Maury Regional Health offers various benefits to help employees meet their personal and family needs.

One of these offerings is the onsite daycare center Hospitots, which is available at a reduced rate for employees. Hospitots opened in 1988 as the first employer-sponsored early education and care program in Maury County. It was also the first facility in Maury County to earn a three-star rating and accreditation by the National Accreditation Commission for Early Care and Education Programs.

Maury Regional Health also introduced a wellness program in 2022 to provide further support for employees as they work to meet their personal health and wellness goals. The Maury Strong Wellness Program promotes action-based goals and includes wellness challenges, educational videos, recipes and meal planning options that can be used by the whole family. Employees also receive an employer-paid subscription to the Calm app that may be shared with up to five family members, as well as behavioral health services to ensure employees and their families have access to timely and high-quality resources on demand.

MRH offers employees free access to financial coaches through SmartPath to provide objective and trustworthy financial advice, in addition to a retirement savings plan with employer-matching opportunities and merit-based pay increases. The health system also partners with Rain to give employees access to earned wages prior to payday.

Some other benefits offered by MRH include career navigation and professional development opportunities; a discount program with Abenity that gives employees access to exclusive perks and savings on things like pizza, zoo and movie tickets, oil changes, hotels, car rentals and more; on-site amenities like free employee parking, access to a fitness center and Employee Health clinic, car maintenance and dry-cleaning services; and family friendly events like movie nights, holiday parties and a family picnic, which will make its much anticipated return this spring.

“Earning this designation for the second straight year is reflective of our appreciation for our employees,” said MRH CEO Martin Chaney, MD. “I am grateful to Dennis Fisher and the entire human resources team for consistently examining and evaluating new and existing benefits for our employees. They help make MRH a great place to work.”

Located in Columbia, Maury Regional Medical Center serves as the flagship hospital for Maury Regional Health, the largest health system between Nashville and Huntsville. The organization employees approximately 3,000 clinical and non-clinical staff members at the health system’s hospitals, surgery centers, outpatient facilities and physician practices throughout the region. 

To learn more about career opportunities at Maury Regional Health, visit

Fire Station 1 Groundbreaking (Press Release)

On Monday, February 12th, at 3:00 pm, the City of Columbia is excited to host a groundbreaking ceremony marking the beginning of a significant project – the renovation and expansion of Fire Station 1. This historic station has been a cornerstone of our community since the late 1970s, faithfully serving and protecting the residents of Columbia. The decision to revitalize Fire Station 1 stems from the leadership of Fire Chief Ty Cobb and City Manager Tony Massey, who recognized the urgent need to enhance the station's capabilities to meet the evolving demands of Columbia's growing population. Their vision for the modernized station reflects the city's commitment to providing top-notch emergency services to residents and visitors of the City of Columbia. City of Columbia Mayor Chaz Molder and City Council have demonstrated unwavering support for the renovation and expansion of the station, and ensured this project has received the necessary resources and attention it deserves.

George Nuber architect and owner of Nuber Architecture has been instrumental in developing the plans for the renovations. His design expertise has breathed new life into this historic structure, ensuring that it will be capeable of serving our community for generations to come. Brindley Construction has been chosen to bring the City’s vision to life. When it is all said and done Fire Station 1 will not only meet but exceed the needs of Columbia's growing population.

For more information or media inquiries, please contact Hanna Miller 931-560-1734.

Ollie and Finn’s and Bad Idea Combine (WKOM Audio 3:36)

Yesterday, the new location for the combined businesses of Ollie and Finn’s Counter and Bad Idea Brewery opened with a ribbon cutting. WKOM/WKRM’s Delk Kennedy attended the grand opening and spoke to business owners Zack Fox of Bad Idea and Ethan Eilerman of Ollie and Finn’s…

Buford Pusser’s Wife to be Exhumed (NewsChannel5)

The case is still open into the murder of Pauline Pusser, the former wife of McNairy County Sheriff Buford Pusser.

At the time, Pusser was the youngest sheriff in office in Tennessee's history. The 1970s movie "Walking Tall" was created about Pusser's life. His wife died in 1967. As was reported at the time, Pusser and his wife were going toward a disturbance in McNairy County when another vehicle came at the two at high speed and opened fire. Pauline died, but Buford survived, even though he was shot in the jaw.

“Today, TBI special agents were at the Adamsville Cemetery to oversee the exhumation of the body of Pauline Pusser," TBI officials said in a statement. "Pauline was fatally shot on Aug. 12, 1967, in McNairy County, and the Tennessee Bureau of Criminal Identification was called in to investigate. As we have evolved to become the independent agency that we are today, the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation, this case has remained an active investigation. As with any unresolved case, agents have continued to reexamine files and follow any and all leads."

The TBI said a recent tip caused a review of the case file, and it showed that an autopsy never happened on Pauline's body.

"With the support of Pauline’s family and in consultation with 25th Judicial District Attorney General Mark Davidson, TBI requested the exhumation in an attempt to answer critical questions and provide crucial information that may assist in identifying the person or persons responsible for Pauline Pusser’s death," officials said.

Pigeon Forge Makes Nat Geo’s World’s Best (Tennessean)

Dolly Parton has put Pigeon Forge on the National Geographic map. The music icon and her popular theme park have made the magazine’s annual Best of the World list.

The 2024 list released Jan. 30 includes exciting, meaningful, and one-of-a-kind travel experiences from around the world. The travel suggestions range from Paris and Niagara Falls to the Caucasus Mountains of Georgia and diving with sharks on Australia's Coral Coast.

Parton and Dollywood made the cut because this year’s Best of the World edition goes beyond geographical locations. It also highlights hotels, restaurants, global travelers and travel products.

National Geographic named Dolly Parton one of the travelers of the year because of her world travels and for bringing the world to Pigeon Forge through Dollywood and her resorts. HeartSong Lodge, Parton’s newest resort, was one of four hotels in North America included in the new “worth a trip” category.

Final Story of the Day (Maury County Source)

The Swanky South Crooner Makky Kaylor is reaching a real milestone this weekend with his 60th birthday bash at Puckett's in downtown Columbia.

Not only will he be marking a landmark year of life, but will also be one of his first shows returning to the stage following a recent open-heart surgery. Kaylor is also celebrating becoming a grandfather for the first time and wants to do what he does best, sing and perform for the town he calls home.

The concert will kick off starting at 7 p.m. Saturday and will feature many award-winning musicians straight from Music Row in Nashville, as well as a few surprise guests.

As of this week, reservations have been fully booked, but Kaylor says "Come on down anyway and we'll find a spot for you." For more information, call Puckett's at (931) 490-4550.


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