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Southern Middle Tennessee Today News for May 22, 2023

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

We start with local news…

Connect Columbia (CDH)

The future of how a city will be shaped and developed is determined by many factors, one of them being input from the public on the top priorities.

Connect Columbia, the city's long-term comprehensive plan, is set to receive an update later this year. Adopted in January 2018, the plan serves as a blueprint covering many aspects of future growth and development, such as preserving green space, road and infrastructure projects, capital improvements and regulations to preserve certain character areas.

In February, the city hosted a public forum at Fairview Park, where the public was allowed the opportunity to give its input on what projects it would like to see happen, what decisions it hopes future leaders will make and how they envision Columbia over the next 10-20 years.

A second and final Connect Columbia town hall will be held on Tuesday, May 23rd from 5:30-7:30 p.m. at Riverwalk Park, 102 Riverside Drive, with the public invited to share input, as well as learn about the major topics suggested at the first meeting.

"This second one will show people some ideas for changes, since the first one was about gathering general input from people, as well as some further input before we prepare a draft for the planning commission on the new plan," City Planner Kevin McCarthy said.

"People were giving suggestions on parks and greenways, certain amenities they want to see. Some people shared what transportation projects they thought were most important, but the big thing was directing where people want to see growth occur in the city and what the character of that growth should be like."

McCarthy added that this will be the last opportunity for the public to be given an open forum to make suggestions. And it will provide information about what the new plan would suggest prior to it entering the approval phases with the city. While city meetings provide the opportunity for public comment, meetings like Tuesday's town hall are the most direct approach to providing input to city planning staff.

"There will be opportunities for public input [at those meetings], but this will be the last informal, more of a festival-like sort of meeting," McCarthy said.

For more information, contact the city's Planning & Zoning staff by calling (931) 560-1531. To view the current Connect Columbia comprehensive plan at

Columbia Youth Council (CDH)

Finding a way to connect the city's youth with what's happening in their community, while possibly inspiring a few future careers, has been a priority for Columbia Mayor Chaz Molder.

In August 2021, Molder launched the first Columbia Mayor's Youth Council. The council's first year, he said, has been one of the proudest moments during his time as mayor, partly because he remembers being young and developing an interest in local politics, and that the same desire remains among young people today.

The Youth Council recently completed its second year and continues to grow for high schoolers to get first-hand experience on civic engagement, teamwork, decision-making and developing community projects.

"We've learned a few things over the last couple of years, one of which is that a lot of other cities have mayor's youth councils, and so we are excited to be on that roster of cities that help 'bridge the gap,' so to speak, with our youth and public service," Molder said. "This council was created not just to be a resume builder ... but more importantly was an opportunity for them to learn about the city of Columbia."

Molder added that the group is comprised of students from schools all over Maury County, with this year's class featuring 26 participants.

"When we first started this, we figured it would be mostly Central High School, but we soon learned that we've got students from every high school in the county," Molder said. "We really like that fact as well."

Savannah Honea, this year's council president and graduating CHS senior, previously served during the Youth Council's first year. In addition to her role as president, Honea is also the recipient of the Daughters of the American Revolution Award, the Military Officers Association Award, the American Legion Scholarship Award, the Nacy Preparatory Program and Navy ROTC Scholarship and the University of Memphis' Dean Scholarship Award, the Hope Scholarship and a Tiger Success Grant.

Honea commented on this year's Youth Council's accomplishments, which included a toy drive hosted at all participating schools.

"We collected over 600 items of toys, books and clothes, and then we decided to give them out locally, donate them to the King's Daughters' School, Maury County Public Library, The Family Center, as well as Boys & Girls Club," Honea said. "And throughout the summer, many of our members have also volunteered at community service events, such as the Rotary Club's Pancake Day and litter cleanup days to help keep Columbia clean."

Molder recognized the Youth Council with a proclamation, noting that their accomplishments set an example for other young people interested in the civic participation.

"It's worth it, what we do to facilitate this," Molder said. "Because we try to make decisions and move this community forward in a way that it's a place you all will want to come back to."

Independence Student Gets Presidential Scholarship (TheNewsTN)

Independence High School senior Nate Martinez was named a 2023 U.S. Presidential Scholar on Monday, one of just 161 students in the country to earn the honor, including only two in the state of Tennessee. 

Martinez was selected from a pool of more than 5,000 candidates from across the country. U.S. Presidential Scholars are comprised of one male and one female student from each state, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico and US families living abroad, while 15 additional students are chosen at-large, as well as 20 scholars in the arts and 20 scholars in career and technical education.

"Words cannot describe Nate's academic talent, preparation and motivation," IHS teacher Chris Manor said. "He is an incredible student. He continually embraces any academic challenge and is always prepared to rise to any occasion."

Honorees are selected based on a criteria of academic success, artistic and technical excellence, essays, school evaluations and transcripts, as well as a commitment to community service and leadership.

"Nate is an exceptional student in every way," IHS teacher Donna Henderson said. "He is not only very intelligent but also polite, kind and well-rounded. He manages his own learning in a mature way that allows him to achieve a tremendous amount of learning in a very efficient and productive manner. He is a leader and an example to his peers in both the classroom and on the sports field."

As part of the application, Martinez, who also runs for the Independence track and field and cross country teams, nominated IHS teacher and boys track and field/cross country coach Luke Finley for the Distinguished Teacher honor.

"I told everyone at Nate's signing for MIT that, in 17 years of coaching at Indy, I've had guys who were incredible students, guys who were incredible athletes and guys who were incredible leaders," Finley said. "But no one I have coached here has been a better student-athlete-leader than Nate. He is the standard from which future student-athlete-leaders will be measured."

Nate and the other US Presidential Scholars will be recognized for their achievements at an online recognition program this summer.

"There are approximately 250,000 high school seniors in Tennessee," IHS teacher Deborah Bohn said. "But it's no surprise that Nate was one of only two seniors selected for this tremendous honor. He puts total effort into everything he undertakes."

War Fighters Garden (CDH)

For many veterans, one of the hardest parts of service is returning home and adjusting to normal life — finding a way to cope while learning to live with the experiences they've been through.

While there are many programs offered by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), there have also been groups and programs created by veterans, their families, and many supporters to help combat things like depression, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), grief and many other lifelong afflictions, both mental and physical.

A Warrior's Garden, a nonprofit created in 2016 by U.S. Military vet Malachias "Doc" Gaskin, provides a mechanism for self-therapy to veterans and first responders, the kind that gets their hands dirty, but with fruitful results. After returning home in 2016, Gaskin discovered the therapeutic nature of keeping a local garden, digging your fingers through the soil, and cultivating crops to feed the community.

"There are a massive number of studies out there that say by getting your hands in the soil, there are microbes in the soil that will absorb and help with things like depression and bringing down anxiety attacks," Gaskin said. "My goal was not just to provide that as a piece of it, but also create food sustainability, to create an opportunity for people to come out and do something productive, rather than sitting on their couch."

Since its creation in 2016, A Warrior's Garden has founded 54 veteran community gardens in five states, though Gaskin said his goal is to one day have one in all 50 states. The latest opened this week at 413 Rutherford Lane, just a mile or so from Columbia State Community College.

"My goal is to have a garden in all 50 states before I retire, but the main thing is to build a garden for a veteran to do their own personal therapy at, where they can get their hands in the soil," Gaskin said. "There are just so many benefits, such as if you overgrow you can donate to your neighbors and your community. That's really the whole purpose of the nonprofit, to inspire all of that."

The garden already has a wide variety of crops including yellow squash, green zucchini, corn, tomatoes, okra, three types of lettuce, jalapenos, other peppers, spinach, peas and green beans, as well as basil, cilantro and parsley.

Gaskin wanted to thank the many sponsors and supporters for the project, including Summertown Medals, The Tilted Mule, Vet 2 Vet, Beasley's Yard, Muletown Coffee Roasters, A Ballon Shop, Dunkin' Donuts, as well as Maury County Mayor Sheila Butt, who helped provide water lines to the garden.

The Warrior's Garden project was made possible by many local sponsors, donations and supporters, but it began as an idea from local Scout Jesse Hood to earn his Eagle Scout status.

Hood said he wanted to do a project that would not only benefit the community, but also be able to last for many years. Having it be something that has veterans and local first responders at heart made it all the better. Hood is appreciative of the support the project has received.

"I wanted to deliver this as a project that would benefit the community, and that we had the right backing for it," Hood said. "It's about growing community, being able to come out and not have to worry about working until the next paycheck."

The garden's design is 50 x 30 feet containing multiple plantings creating the image of the American flag, and is open to the public at no cost.

More than anything, Hood and his scout master Mark Blackwood, are happy that the project could be completed, which took about four weeks and was finished in time for its official opening Wednesday.

"The therapeutic aspect, if it can help with veterans that struggle when they come back, that's one of the goals," Blackwood said. "It's not just about providing food, but the therapeutic aspect of being able to help heal, both spiritually and physically."

Wednesday's dedication also included comments from local veterans, including Maury County Commissioner Gabe Howard, a U.S. Marine.

"It's amazing, and I've seen this across the country and there is a lot of healing," Howard said. "It's kind of emotional for me to see this, to be honest. I thank you for what this is doing for the community."

For Hood and Gaskin, they hope the ultimate benefit from the Warrior's Garden is the positive effect it will have on veterans and first-responders, and how the garden's success will continue to grow, so to speak.

The Warrior's Garden also plans to host annual gardening classes, teaching students everything from what types of soil are best as well as the overall therapeutic benefits of gardening in general.

"We are going to do classes on seeding, classes on drought and other damages to the plant, harvesting, production so the garden can become self-sustainable, classes on wintering and prepping for the spring, things like that," Gaskin said. "Each stage of the year we're going to do classes, and they will be free to the public."

For more information on the Warfighter garden nonprofit, or to donate to help fund future veteran community gardens, visit or the A Warrior's Garden Facebook page.

Columbia Student to Study Abroad (MainStreetMaury)

Emily Stewart of Columbia, who is majoring in International Studies and Arabic at Ole Miss, is headed abroad after being accepted for the Arabic capstone year program. The capstone is a final year of direct enrollment and study at a university in Morocco, followed by an internship.

During the selection process for the capstone program, students are ranked based on their application packages, which include a personal statement, an Arabic writing sample, an Arabic speech sample, transcripts, three recommendation letters and an Arabic resume. All admitted Ole Miss students were consistently highly ranked.

“Completing capstone is a stepping stone for the Flagship students going on to careers in government, business and graduate education, where they will use their high-level linguistic and cultural skills,” said Donald Dyer, UM associate dean for faculty and academic affairs and distinguished professor of modern languages.

The students’ collective results illustrate their dedication to their chosen disciplines and provide a shining example of what anyone can achieve through hard work and an undying passion for honing their craft, said Allen Clark, co-director of the UM Arabic Flagship program and associate professor of modern languages.

“It is a given that everyone learns differently; it is our charge as instructors to unlock each person’s learning potential and provide them with the tools and guidance to realize their individual language goals,” Clark said.

“We couldn’t be prouder of each and every student who not only graduates from our program, but who has achieved a level of proficiency in a language most would consider quite difficult to master.”

The National Security Education Program’s Language Flagship began in 2002 and supports intensive programs in languages deemed critical for American government, business and military interests, including Arabic, Chinese, Korean and Russian.

Ole Miss is among 22 colleges and universities that house Flagship programs and was among the first to launch a Chinese Language Flagship Program in 2003. In 2018, the university was awarded an Arabic Flagship Program, putting it in elite company as one of only a handful with multiple Flagship programs.

Columbia Proclaims Public Works Week (CDH)

It takes a large and dedicated teem to pull off some of Columbia's downtown events both big and small, but a lot of the work that goes into it typically happens behind the scenes.

This includes keeping the streets clean, ensuring the large crowd remains safe and that, by the end, the streets are once again cleaned up and ready for another day. And it all occurs while most of us are either sleeping or moving on to the next thing after events like First Fridays, Mule Day and the Columbia Main Street Christmas Parade have wrapped up.

That's just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to Columbia's Public Works Department, which was recognized this month declaring May 21-27 as the 63rd National Annual Public Works Week, which was made official with a proclamation from Mayor Chaz Molder and Columbia City Council.

"One thing we take for granted when we have large downtown events is, number one, the preparation that goes into those events, and number two the cleanup that happens after those events. A lot of man hours are put into that," Molder said. "But that's not all they do, and so many things that are important to the overall governmental operation."

This year's Public Works Week theme, according to the American Public Works Association, is "Connecting the world through Public Works," as a way to showcase the dedicated professionals employed in departments across the country, including Columbia.

Public Works Administrative Assistant Donna Osmon and Sanitation Supervisor Josh Moore accepted the proclamation on the department's behalf.

"I do want to thank the council for recognizing Public Works, our employees and the work that they do," Osmon said. "We have also a lot of programs we have started throughout the city, and so you'll see us out and about at schools and community events. We invite everyone to come up and say, 'hi.'"

One of Public Works' newest programs was the recent Name a Snow Plow contest, which Osmon said will make a return later this year.

"We had so much fun with that. Just the interaction with the public was outstanding, and from the school children it was even better," Osmon said.

And now, Your Hometown Memorials, Sponsored by Oakes & Nichols Funeral Home…  

Mr. Albert Paul Mall, 83, resident of Columbia, died Tuesday, May 16, 2023 at Vanderbilt University Medical Center. Funeral services for Mr. Mall will be conducted Monday at 2:00 P.M. at First United Methodist Church. Burial will follow in Polk Memorial Gardens. The family will visit with friends Monday from 12:00 P.M. until service time at the church. Oakes & Nichols Funeral Directors are assisting the family arrangements.

Welcome back to Southern Middle Tennessee Today on WKOM, 101.7 and WKRM 103.7. Your hometown source for news and information. I’m your host, Tom Price.

…And now, news from around the state…

SRO Law: What Does It Mean (Tennessean)

Amid nationwide police shortages, it's not clear how long it will take to implement a $230 million school safety bill signed by Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee last week that includes funding to place a school resource officer in every public school statewide.

The new law allocates $140 million to place full-time, armed SROs in each of Tennessee's 1,863 public schools, and $30 million to place more than 100 new homeland security agents in each county to help coordinate school security responses. Funding will become available with the new state budget on July 1. The state Department of Safety and Homeland Security expects to begin distributing funding in the following weeks.

Although the bill was filed before a shooter killed three 9-year-old students and three staff members at The Covenant School in Nashville on March 27, Lee pushed for additional funding, new security protocols and mental health resources after the tragedy.

"Nothing is more important than making sure that Tennessee students return home from school safely each day," Lee spokesperson Jade Byers told The Tennessean in an email.

Sen. Scott Taps Haslam (Tennessean)

U.S. Sen. Tim Scott, R-South Carolina, has tapped former Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam to serve as national co-chair of his 2024 presidential bid.

Scott hasn't formally announced his candidacy, but following an exploratory committee launched last month, he is expected to do so on May 22 in North Charleston. Politico reported Scott's pick on Monday.

It will likely be an uphill battle for Scott and other Republicans vying for the Republican nomination against former President Donald Trump. Haslam has ranked among the more outspoken Republicans who opposed Trump. In 2016, Haslam said Trump should step aside as nominee in favor of his then-running mate, Mike Pence, after the Access Hollywood tape went public with Trump's vulgar comments about sexually assaulting women.

Haslam at the time said he would write in a Republican candidate rather than vote for Trump.

Franklin Alderman Gets Reprieve (Tennessee Lookout)

The Franklin, Tenn. ethics commission on Wednesday dismissed complaints about a member of the Board of Mayor and Alderman, finding the member’s behavior did not violate provisions of the Franklin Municipal Code.

First term board member Gabrielle Hanson was the subject of 64 citizen complaints about her remarks on the March 27 Covenant School shooting, the potential placing of markers to lynching victims in Franklin, the upcoming Franklin Pride event, a Franklin church and allegedly disparaging comments about Franklin Mayor Ken Moore.

“Virtually all of the complaints are related to comments regarding the Covenant School shooting. That’s a thread that runs through all of them,” said Jim Martin, commission chair. “The overriding question is when you look at the provisions of the Franklin Municipal Code, which we started with, assuming all the complaints are accurate and factual, do they state a colorable claim that the conduct of Ms. Hanson violates any provision of the code?”

“You may be offended by what she said  or you may agree with what she said, but the issue is has what she has said or done a violation of the code?” said Martin.

In April, Hanson appeared on the conservative podcast, “Mill Creek View,” to discuss the March 27 Covenant School shooting in which three children and three adults were killed. Hanson claimed the shooter’s motive was due to a romantic relationship involving shooter Audrey Hale that went awry. 

“I felt an active shooter coming,” Hanson claimed on the podcast. “Within 30 minutes of that shooting, I had the whole story. It was a love triangle going on.”

Days after the podcast Hanson was a guest on a 99.7 WTN podcast hosted by Matt Murphy and defended her claims. Murphy called Hanson’s words inaccurate and “devoid of reality.”  

Jason Rowlett, a father of a Covenant School student, demanded Hanson’s resignation during the May 9 Board of Mayor and Aldermen meeting. 

“I’m joined here tonight by other Covenant parents to ask for the resignation of Alderman Gabrielle Hanson,” Rowlett said. “If she will not resign, we ask for her removal. Hanson publicly slandered the victims. She has caused further pain and anguish to surviving staff and families.”

During Wedmesday’s hearing, commission member and former Franklin Mayor Jerry Sharber referred to the First Amendment’s freedom of speech clause.

“I’m troubled by the fact that Alderman Hanson has the right to speak what she wants to say, these complainants  have the same right to disagree,” said Sharber. “I don’t see anything that violates the rules, the ordinance of the city of Franklin.”

The commission voted unanimously to dismiss the complaints against Hanson.

Final Story of the Day (Maury County Source)

Come out for a fun pop-up experience at Summer Paint Day on Thursday, May 25th, 2023 from 11 am – 3 pm at the Factory at Columbia (101 N James Campbell Blvd, Columbia, TN 38401)!

There will be a variety of pottery pieces to choose from starting at $12. Come ready to explore the eateries and shops and take advantage of the photo opportunities this location has to share!

Reserve your spot by emailing

All finished projects will be available for pickup on June 8th at the same location.

For more information follow the Factory at Columbia on Facebook.


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