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Southern Middle Tennessee Today News for March 27, 2023

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 Led Police on Chase (WilliamsonHomepage)

Charges are pending against a Columbia man who law enforcement officials said led deputies on a multi-county pursuit before attempting suicide on the interstate.

According to the Williamson County Sheriff's Office, around 4:30 p.m. on March 19, a WCSO deputy attempted to pull over a vehicle traveling eastbound on Interstate 840 following a BOLO (Be On the Lookout) call made by a medical official about a reckless driver who was swerving across lanes in a van. 

WCSO Lt. Chris Mobley said that the driver, later identified as 54-year-old Patrick Lomantini, refused to stop and led deputies in a pursuit at speeds over 100 mph into Rutherford County where Rutherford County Sheriff's Office deputies joined the pursuit and were able to use a spike strip to disable the van's passenger side rear tire.

The van was recorded on police dash cameras swerving around vehicles, and WCSO officials said that at one point the van swerved towards a deputy's vehicle, causing the deputy to drive into the grass median.

The pursuit passed the I-840/I-24 interchange, coming to an end at the 58.2 mile marker when the van pulled over and stopped, at which point deputies are seen approaching the vehicle with their guns drawn.

"When he raised his hands up, they could see blood all over his hands so they went ahead and approached the vehicle since they could see his hands, and that's when they could see that he had an arterial bleed from the right side of his neck," Mobley said. "So they kind of switched gears and got him out of the van and got their medkits."

WCSO said that the wound was self-inflicted. 

Lomantini was transported to a Vanderbilt University Medical Center and has yet to be released and booked on the pending charges of speeding, failure to maintain lane, evading arrest with a motor vehicle, reckless endangerment with a deadly weapon and aggravated assault on a first responder.

WCSO said that Lomantini resisted the deputies who recovered a knife from the van's floorboard, adding that no one else was injured in the incident.

Duck River Win (CDH)

Cheers erupted in the chambers of the House Agriculture & Natural Resources Committee on Wednesday when the committee voted 11-6 in favor of expanding Class II Pastoral protections for the Duck River following weeks-long rigorous debate.

Packing the committee chamber in the Nashville Cordell Hull building, dozens of Maury County citizens, advocates, business professionals and elected leaders showed up in droves — wearing green buttons and special T-shirts — to support the bill.

Maury County attendees threw their hands in the air, cheering and applauding as the final vote was finally announced.

Maury County citizenry wrote over 1,000 letters to legislators in support of the bill.

House Bill 0447 will designate the Duck River a scenic and agriculture area extending from Industrial Park Road in Maury County to the Hickman County line.

Rep. Scott Cepicky, R- Culleoka, sponsor of the bill, and river advocates have been fighting for the legislation since last fall when developer Trinity Business Group filed a permit application with the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation to reestablish a solid waste landfill near the river at the former Monsanto Company chemical plant site last summer.

The former Monsanto property is now a Superfund site overseen by the federal government and state through a mandatory decades-long cleanup protocol to guard against hazardous runoff or leachate.

TBG, a Baton Rouge Louisiana company founded by Sid Brian, has owned 1,330 acres of property on the Monsanto plant since 1986. Brian's attorney Tom White of Tune, Entrekin & White, P.C., staunchly argued Wednesday that Brian holds property rights to establish a landfill at the site, which was previously grandfathered.

Rep. Bryan Richey, R-Maryville, along with a few other dissenting committee members expressed concern about trying to settle a "property rights issue" at the state level.

“For me, this is more of a property rights issue and a battle locally than [here],” Richey said during discussion.

However, a majority of the committee members sided with the citizens of Maury County and Cepicky in their efforts to protect the waterway from future pollution, landfills and other unwanted development.

Rep. G.A. Hardaway, D-Memphis, said he would support the bill even though questions linger about local establishment of the landfills and ordinances surrounding it.

"There are lots of questions, but if I have to ere, I am going to ere on the side of the people," Hardaway said.

Maury County constituent Dan McEwen, local real estate broker, maintained that the fight is not just about thwarting a landfill but about the long-term ecological health of the river — one of the most biodiverse rivers in the world.

"We have been working to make the Duck River a scenic river on this side of town," McEwen said. "We are thinking about two to three generations down the road. We have wanted this to happen for a long time. It’s not about just one issue."

Although questions remain about whether the bill’s passage will ultimately stop the landfill proposal from being approved at the plat in question, Maury County leaders are hopeful.

A portion of the acreage owned by Brian has supported a long-dormant landfill at the ex-Monsanto site.

Other regulations are also at play such as the existing state statute commonly referred to as the "Jackson Law," adopted by the city and county, which requires an applicant to seek city and county approval before a landfill can be built. TDEC representatives also confirmed that even though TBG filed permits with the state, the state's approval or disapproval cannot supersede city and county land use regulations and restrictions.

Meanwhile, Maury County Mayor Sheila Butt led the establishment of the Maury-Marshall County Solid Waste Board, which will meet about issues related to the establishment of landfills and the handling of waste in Maury County and beyond.

Three permits submitted by TBG to build an “eco” park with solid waste processing, including a tire shredder and construction waste shredder are pending under the purview of TDEC.

The bill will next be heard by the House Government Operations Committee.

Mule Day Queen (MainStreetMaury)

With Columbia’s annual Mule Day right around the corner, visitors can expect traditional events such as the Mule Wagon Train, live music, Liars’ Contest and the Mule Day Parade, among others.

Many of these events will be attended by 2023 Mule Day Queen Addyson Codling, who took home the title last month. Codling, a junior at Columbia Academy, moved to Columbia three years ago.

Despite being fairly new to Mule Town, Codling said last month’s pageant was her fifth overall.

“It’s like having a job,” Codling said, who is originally from Franklin.

After moving to Columbia, Codling was encouraged to get involved with the Mule Day pageant to meet new people. In addition to being the newly named Mule Day Queen, Codling also currently holds the titles of Miss Maury County and Maury County’s Fairest of the Fair, whose mission is to promote agriculture awareness and education.

Codling admits nerves get to everyone, including herself.

“I go in knowing it’s not just about the crown, it’s about the impact I can make on the community and meeting new people,” she said.

After graduation, Codling said she plans to go to Belmont University to get her degree in interior design, before getting her real estate license, after which she plans to restore homes in Columbia.

“Even though I’m not a Columbia native, I appreciate Mule Day for the traditional values of integrity and hard work,” she said.

Codling’s event schedule includes riding the Mule Wagon Train on Wednesday, March 29, hosting Miss Mule Day on Thursday, March 30, and attending the Liars’ Contest on Friday, March 31. On Saturday, Codling will join her Mule Day Queens runners-up in the annual parade.

“Unless you have participated in a pageant or know someone, you will never know how much work and integrity goes into the events,” she said.

Where’s Maury the Mule? (MainStreetMaury)

The Maury County Chamber & Economic Alliance kicked off their annual shop local passport adventure, “Where’s Maury the Mule?” last week. This event, presented by Stan McNabb Chevrolet of Columbia, encourages people to discover, explore, and support small businesses across Maury County.

Maury Alliance launched this event in 2016 to support local businesses and provide a fun activity for families during spring break and Mule week. “Where’s Maury the Mule?” is just one initiative from the Maury Alliance to help support the small business community, but it is one that both people and businesses look forward to each year. The event has grown every year since its inception and is now a two-week event with 35 participating businesses.

“I’ve lived in Maury County my whole life and discovered many new businesses while participating in Where’s Maury the Mule last year. It was my first time to participate in that event and me and a friend went to 30 businesses in a single day!” said Marvin Russel, the 2022 grand-prize winner.

Those interested in joining the search for Maury the Mule this year can pick up a passport from event sponsor Stan McNabb Chevrolet of Columbia, Maury Alliance, or any of the 35 participating businesses, beginning Monday, March 27. Once you have a passport, visit as many local businesses as possible, find the Maury the Mule image hidden at each business, and get your passport stamped or signed by an employee.

Visiting at least five businesses will enter you into a participation drawing for Local First gift cards.

Visiting 20 businesses qualifies you for the grand-prize drawing. If you visit 25 businesses, you will get a double entry into the grand prize drawing, and if you visit 30 businesses, you will get at triple entry into the grand prize drawing.

To be entered into the grand prize drawing, passports must be turned in at the Maury Alliance office by Tuesday, April 11 at 5 pm. Winners will be randomly selected on Tuesday, April 12. Two lucky people will win the Grand Prize – which is $450 in gift cards from participating businesses. Maury Alliance’s Local First Gift Cards will also be given away.

Visit for more information.

Mike Wolfe, Grand Marshal (MainStreetMaury)

The Maury County Bridle and Saddle Club announced earlier this month that TV personality and local restoration expert Mike Wolfe will be the grand marshal of the Mule Day parade. 

Wolfe, best known for his role on the History Channel television show American Pickers, first came to Columbia six years ago after falling in love with the history, architecture and – at the time – sleepiness.

“I liked the sleepiness of it at that time, and I still feel like we’re light years behind a lot of the area in Middle Tennessee,” he said. “There aren’t many places within an hour in any direction of Nashville that have what Columbia has to offer in terms of lifestyle and the beauty.”

Being named the grand marshal of the city’s biggest annual event after being involved in the city for a short period of time just shows the immediate impact he’s had on the town he now calls home. 

“This place reminds me of the small town I’m from. I was so involved there on the tourism board, in the fire department, on city council – I was involved and this place is somewhere you want to make a difference in,” he said.

As he’s learned the history of Mule Day and the significant role the livestock played in making Columbia a destination, Wolfe said he is honored to be in the role and is excited to share it with his daughter.

“When you think about the industry and livestock, how spread out and well-known Columbia is for that. I always say Columbia was the Detroit of mules.If you wanted a mule, you wanted to get one from Columbia,” he said. “I love that it’s unique to this town. I am just a very small piece to a puzzle that I’m so proud to be a part of. It’s very small-town, it’s very Americana.”

When Wolfe first began buying property in the city, it was obvious there was a sort-of changing of the guard, he recalled. Families were selling property or building owners were open to someone else ushering in a new era in the city.

“There are so many towns across the country that are fighting to tell their story and move ahead with heritage tourism,” he said. “Columbia has a leg up, but it’s because they were very intentional in how they laid out the city. They had a plan, and they were very forward-thinking and they’ve been laying the groundwork for a very long time. Now, this is our time to steward the ship.”

Wolfe mentioned the late A.C. Howell, who sold Wolfe the bicycle shop building on the square, and how he – along with many others – made sure Columbia’s rich history would survive.

“They are sitting back and watching what we’re doing, but we’re all standing on their shoulders. Everything that’s happening in Columbia now didn’t happen overnight. This is the effort of a generation,” he said. 

Several downtown buildings are seeing a revitalization, including Columbia Motor Alley, where Wolfe has been spending much of his time recently. 

“Columbia is the county seat, so there is a lot of transportation-related buildings,” he said. “Around town, the work West 7th Co. has done, you can see where a lot of these buildings were service stations, body shops, car dealerships – the great thing about buildings like that is the architecture. 

“The architecture here is beautiful; obviously, there is a lot of history.” 

Wolfe said Columbia holds a high value for people who are seeking unique finds and a place that’s still growing and in the middle of revival.

“Downtown Franklin doesn’t have anything like this. Yes, they have a beautiful Main Street, but when you get out of that it’s mostly residential. When you get off the square here you can find a lot of older neighborhoods with commercial buildings in them,” he said. “They are doing some beautiful work in the Arts District with some unique and interesting buildings.”

Overall, however, the architecture, the history, the mules – none of that matters more than the people who live in Columbia. They are the reason, Wolfe says, that he wants to be here more and more.

“I fell in love with Columbia six years ago. I love the diversity here,” he said. “Overall, though, it’s the people. They’re why I’m raising my daughter here in Tennessee instead of up north. 

“You can have all the amenities you want, but the people are what make a town. They’ve welcomed me and made me feel at home.”

 Johnson Scholarship (Press Release)

The Columbia State Community College Foundation recently established the Johnson Family Student Emergency Grant from Cecelia and Mitchell Johnson.


Cecelia and Mitchell Johnson are former educators who support college persistence and degree attainment. Cecelia is a retired employee of Columbia State where she worked in both academic services and student services for over twenty years combined and also served as associate vice president. Mitchell taught part-time in the history department at Columbia State for several years. They continue to live and participate in organizations in the college’s service area. 

“This fund reflects how important education is to the Johnsons,” said Bethany Lay, Columbia State vice president for Advancement and executive director of the Columbia State Foundation. “The help provided for students to be successful even when faced with unexpected challenges may be just what they need to complete their educational goals.”

The fund is designed to help students who are impacted with an unforeseen life occurrence or emergency that significantly interferes with successful completion of classes. This can be used to assist with such things as books, fees, testing fees or uniforms, as well as, rent, gas, food or car repair. 


The Columbia State Foundation is a 501(c)(3) organization that supports and partners with the college to positively impact student success and the communities in which it serves.

Naval Ship “Maury” Renamed (MainStreetMaury)

Following the military’s recommendation to remove the names of installations inspired by the Confederacy, the U.S. Navy has rechristened the oceanographic survey ship USS Maury to USS Marie Tharp.

The USS Maury was named after Confederate officer Matthew Fontaine Maury and the most recent ship, the sixth to bear the name, was launched in 2000. Previous ships to bear the name include two destroyers that served in World War I and World War II.

Matthew Maury was the nephew of Abram Maury Sr. (1766-1825), who Maury County was named in honor of following its formation in 1807. Matthew Maury was a naval officer for 36 years before joining the Confederacy during the Civil War and is credited with being the father of modern-day oceanography, which gave rise to his nickname “Pathfinder of the Seas.” His 1847 publication “Wind and Current Chart of the North Atlantic” showed sailors how to use the ocean’s currents and winds to their advantage and drastically reduce the length of voyages. He later published “Sailing Directions” and “Physical Geography of the Seas and Its Meteorology,” and his uniform system of recording synoptic oceanographic data was adopted by navies and merchant marines around the world and was used to develop charts for all the major trade routes.

According to Navy Secretary Carlos Del Toro, the USNS Maury was renamed after Marie Tharp (1920-2006), a geologist who produced the map of the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean. The change was made official on March 13.

The Department of Defense began renaming military facilities last December following approval from Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin.

“The installations and facilities that our department operates are more than vital national security assets,” Austin said in a memo to senior Pentagon leadership. “The names of these installations and facilities should inspire all those who call them home, fully reflect the history and the values of the United States and commemorate the best of the republic that we are all sworn to protect.”

Clement to Speak at Clement (Press Release)

Columbia State Community College will host former congressman Bob Clement for a special presentation on March 30 at 4 p.m.


“Like his father, Congressman Bob Clement has enjoyed a remarkable life and career in public service,” said Dr. Barry Gidcomb, Columbia State professor of history. “Because it was Governor Clement and his commissioner of education, J. Howard Warf, who created the community college system in Tennessee, we thought it fitting to invite the congressman to speak at Tennessee's first community college and in Columbia State’s building named for Governor Clement.” 

The presentation is an opportunity for the community to visit with and listen to the former congressman, who has a unique connection to Columbia State.

“We're looking forward to hearing what Congressman Clement has to say about his life and career and the legacy of his father,” Gidcomb said.

The presentation is free and open to the public. It will take place on March 30 at 4 p.m. in the Ledbetter Auditorium located in the Clement building on the Columbia Campus.

…And now, news from around the state…

Speaker’s TennCare Bill Stopped in Senate (TennesseeLookout)

Legislation seeking to block Tennessee’s Medicaid program from contracting with any insurance company that covers gender transition health care in another state has stalled in the Senate. 

House Bill 1215, sponsored by House Speaker Cameron Sexton and Lt. Gov. Randy McNally, would eliminate all of TennCare’s contracts with managed care organizations covering gender affirming care in other states. BlueCross BlueShield, United Healthcare and Anthem are currently allowed to sell TennCare plans and all three cover gender transitions in other states — but not through TennCare. 

TennCare covers over 1.7 million income-qualifying Tennesseans, half of which are children. The bill carried a critical fiscal note, which said TennCare would have to eliminate its current managed care organization system, “forced to switch to a fee-for-service model.”

A fee-for-service model means health care providers would bill TennCare for every test, visit or procedure. Critics argue this model encourages doctors to order more tests and procedures regardless of the outcome.

Sexton, R-Crossville, said he disagreed with the idea that other insurance companies couldn’t step in.

“There would be a lot,” Sexton said. “There are a good dozen that could provide those services.”

Sexton’s office did not respond to a question asking for the names of insurance companies that could provide this coverage. Most major insurance companies cover gender transition care in other states. 

There were also questions about the bill’s legality because the federal government must approve all TennCare changes. 

The Senate has not moved the bill to a committee, and Adam Kleinheider, Lt. Gov. McNally’s spokesperson, said he has “no plans to run the bill in the Senate.”

The House deferred action on it to the end of the legislative session.

Final Story of the Day (Maury County Source)

Tennessee has 56 amazing state parks offering a range of activities from hiking and camping to boating, fishing and biking. Whether you enjoy camping, walking the trails or spending time on the water, Tennessee State Parks has something for everyone.

Here are a few you should check out soon:

Henry Horton State Park gets its name from former governor of Tennessee Henry Horton. The park was constructed in the 1960s on Gov. Horton’s estate. The park offers guided river floats, Biking, Disc golf, Golfing, Hiking, and Fishing 

Standing Stone State Park is located in Standing Stone State Forest on the Cumberland Plateau. The park takes its name from the Standing Stone, a 12-foot-tall rock standing upright on a sandstone ledge, which was supposedly used as a boundary line between two Indian nations. When the rock fell, the Indians placed a portion of it upon an improvised monument to preserve it. The stone is still preserved in nearby Monterey, Tenn. The park offers hiking, boating, fishing, and birding.

Rock Island State Park is an 883-acre park located on the headwaters of Center Hill Lake at the confluence of the Caney Fork, Collins and Rocky Rivers. The rugged beauty of the park includes the Caney Fork Gorge below Great Falls Dam. These overlooks are some of the most scenic and significant along the Eastern Highland Rim. Great Falls is a 30-foot horseshoe cascading waterfall, located below the 19th-century cotton textile mill that it powered over 100 years ago. Rock Island became a Tennessee State Park in 1969. The park offers boating, hiking, picnicking, and fishing.

To learn more about Tennessee State parks, visit


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