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Southern Middle TN Today News with Tom Price 5-20-24

Columbia State professor missing after being hit by wave in Brazil (WKRN)

A Columbia State Community College professor is missing after being hit by a rogue wave while walking along a shoreline in Brazil.

According to the community college, the professor and three students were walking on an oceanside road and stopped to take photographs when a wave hit them.

“The three students are safe and I believe were not seriously injured when the wave struck,” said Amy Spears, spokesperson for Columbia State Community College. “Unfortunately, our professor is still missing. Search and rescue operations by Brazilian authorities were launched immediately and, I understand, are still underway.”

The Tennessee students and professor were among a group of 12 who were in Brazil on a study abroad program, officials said.

Of the 12, eight are reportedly from Pellissippi State in Knoxville, two are from Columbia State, one from Walters State, and one from Southwest Tennessee Community College in Memphis.

Columbia State did not provide the name of the professor, but did say they are “greatly saddened” about the incident.

“Our college family was greatly saddened to hear of the tragic accident that happened on the TnCIS study abroad trip in Brazil. We are thankful that no students were seriously injured. Our thoughts and prayers remain with our professor and family as we await additional information from Brazilian search and rescue efforts,” said Dr. Janet F. Smith, Columbia State Community College President.

School officials said the students are being provided with counseling, and early transportation home has been arranged.

No additional details were immediately released.

Columbia honors Mayor's Youth Council, project to enhance and protect Duck River usage (CDH)

As the school year comes to an end, the city recognized this year's Mayor's Youth Council at City Hall and shed some light recently on the group's project to better utilize The Duck River.

The group gathered at City Hall during the council's May regular meeting. There, they were joined by council members and Chaz Molder, who founded the Youth Council as a way for young people to better understand the workings of local government as well as undertake a project that could benefit the local community.

"This year's work was particularly exciting and admirable," Molder said. "This was the first year that the Mayor's Youth Council has sort of taken the steps to 'level up' the youth council. We've had some returning youth council members, and we had our very first freshman this year."

This year was the first since the council's founding in 2021 that it had grown beyond Columbia, Molder said, noting that schools were being represented this year from all across the county.

"We've had county schools represented, city schools represented, private schools represented, home schools represented," Molder said. "It's just been really unique seeing the service that these young people have already committed themselves to to make their community a better place."

Former Mt. Pleasant principal Dr. Ryan Jackson, who helped facilitate the group's project, also recognized its work and potential for the community's youth.

"I knew this was going to be cool, but I wanted to challenge the council in such a way that we can empower young people to do something special," Jackson said. "We came up with a challenge for these students that would empower them in such a way to make a direct impact in their community, and it started with this idea of environmental conservation."

Earlier this year, The Duck River was named among the top endangered rivers in the nation. The designation was primarily due to its over-usage, caused by rapid growth in the region, officials have noted.

For the Youth Council's project, students were broken up into teams with two goals in mind. The first goal was for the students to create a policy as if they were a part of an actual city council. The second goal was for them to take that policy and create a social media outreach campaign to maximize its influence.

"They truly stepped up to the plate, went above and beyond, created not only some very interesting policy ideas for the mayor to chew on, but then knocked it out of the park with their social media outreach videos," Jackson said. "They did absolutely amazing."

Council members were later shown three videos created by the students, each offering facts and data about The Duck River, its biodiversity and ways residents can benefit from conserving their water usage. It not only saves people a few bucks on their monthly power bills, but ensures the Duck River can continue to thrive.

The social media campaign was also part of a contest, wherein the mayor and council would choose the best to post on social media. After seeing all three, Molder made the executive decision to post not just one, but all of them to the McEwen Group (the project's sponsor) website and the City of Columbia Government's social pages.

April Hardison Promoted To Principal At Marvin Wright Elementary (Release)

Maury County Public Schools (MCPS) Superintendent Lisa Ventura is delighted to announce the promotion of Ms. April Hardison to the position of principal at Marvin Wright Elementary School. With 11 years of administrative experience at Woodard and Marvin Wright Elementary schools, Mrs. Hardison brings a wealth of knowledge and dedication to her new role.

Ms. Hardison boasts an impressive educational background, having completed her Bachelor of Science in Elementary Education from Freed-Hardeman University in Henderson, TN. She furthered her studies with a Master’s in Curriculum and Instruction, specializing in Early Childhood Education, from MTSU, and obtained an Ed.S. in Administration and Supervision from the same institution.

Her teaching career spans 15 years across Maury and Williamson Counties, where she taught both Kindergarten and 2nd grade. Ms. Hardison's commitment to excellence in education was recognized with the attainment of her National Board Certification while teaching in Williamson County.

Ms. Hardison served as an Instructional Coach at Woodard for one year, collaborating with students and teachers alike. She then transitioned into a leadership position as Assistant Principal at Woodard Elementary for four years before joining Marvin Wright Elementary in 2017, where she continued to serve as Assistant Principal for the past seven years.

Superintendent Ventura expressed confidence in Ms. Hardison's ability to lead Marvin Wright Elementary School to continued success, stating, "Ms. Hardison's extensive experience and dedication to education make her the perfect fit for the role of principal at Marvin Wright Elementary. Her leadership will undoubtedly contribute to the school's ongoing commitment to academic excellence and student achievement."

The Enclave to bring 'first of its kind' downtown development to Columbia, developer says (CDH)

Finding a place to call home can mean more than four walls.

Sometimes, it's about community, especially when a place is right in the heart of a thriving downtown.

The Enclave is one of downtown Columbia's newest residential developments and its developers say its set to change the game for living, opportunity and more. Located just off East 9th and South Main Streets, The Enclave will include 16 units, with primarily townhome-like layouts that each include three stories, a drive-in garage, lots of natural light and picturesque views of downtown.

The first four units have already been completed, with the rest estimated to be ready sometime in 2025.

Over the last year and a half, owner Dawson Reigns and his wife, Whitney, have been hard at work on the project, which has involved a lot of approvals, inspections and assessments about whether downtown Columbia was ready for something like this.

After all, the Reigns' say The Enclave, once completed, will be "the first of its kind" for the district.

"We feel like we've become a part of the community since we chose to develop here, but meeting other business owners and other people ... it makes us feel like part of the community," Dawson Reigns said. "And when people are seeing these units, they are seeing certain patterns starting to develop downtown. It's a big part of not just what people can get with the building, but in being part of the community."

Hailing from Ontario, Canada, Reigns and his wife moved to Columbia in 2011 after many visits, some which left a lasting impression that "something good is happening here, and we want to be a part of it.

"I've had family in Ann Arbor, Michigan, my grandparents for half of my life in Florida. I've been 'snowbirding' as they call it, coming down for six months to get away from the cold weather," he said by way of explanation. "The U.S. has been just like a second home, and we love it down here, especially Tennessee, because there is so much to see, so much to go to."

In particular, they had their sights set on the downtown Columbia district.

Of The Enclave's 16 units, no two units will be exactly alike, Dawson Reigns said

"Basically, when I was looking at design, it was open concept, big windows and a lot of natural light, which has really been received well," he said. "I think once we get people moved in here, when everything is lit up at night, it's really going to intensify this corner."

This could include something like different color schemes, positioning and other certain visual aesthetics.

"We are doing four different designs that are set, whereas if one sold, you've got the choice of the next three," Dawson Reigns said.

Price points for each model include:

Clean Modern - $485,000

Modern Boho - $485,000

High Contrast - $475,000

Modern Farmhouse - $475,000

Each unit is set up on three stories, with three bedrooms, a two-car garage, dining room, full and half-bathrooms, as well as spacious walk-in closets and pantries. There is also space for laundry and an outdoor terrace for lounging.

"Hopefully we can have all of the southside along East 9th built by 2025, with everything done by Christmas. That's our target," Dawson Reigns said.

And as far as pets are concerned, Dawson Reigns said they are welcome, within reason. The units have been designed to provide decent sound-proofing for residents.

While developing, selling and providing a home for future residents is the goal, the Reigns' also feel like what they are offering goes far beyond a standing structure, but a lifestyle.

This is part of why they say they chose downtown Columbia specifically, as The Enclave will provide walkability to downtown events like First Fridays, not to mention private parking for things like parades, the New Year's Mule Drop and other major celebrations.

Beyond having first-rate access, it's about building a community that continues to grow, and has a lot more on the way over the next few years. This includes Columbia's first high-rise apartment complex, The Drake, which broke ground earlier this year.

"When people ask about Columbia and aren't aware of it, we love telling them about how great it is," Dawson Reigns said. "There is so much more to offer now that Columbia does. We want people to know that while you are buying here, there is a vast number of other things the city tries to bring to the people. A lot of people don't really know about that."

For more information on The Enclave, visit Muletown Development's website at or call Whitney Reigns at (615) 878-6690 or (615) 895-8000.

Columbia Central tabs Stewart as girls basketball coach (MSM)

Impressing the search committee with her level of preparation, Johne Stewart has been named as Columbia Central’s new girls basketball coach.

“She had already seen film, she was aware of who was graduating, she was aware of who’s coming back, she knew the type offense we ran, she knew the type defense we ran. She was all of our No. 1 choice,” said Central assistant athletics director and former Lady Lions coach Megan Moore in confirming Stewart’s hire this week.

Stewart’s preparation and passion precluded her lack of previous experience. The 24-year old recently completed two years as a graduate assistant at Heidelburg University, an NCAA Division III school in Tiffin, Ohio after playing collegiately at Jacksonville (Fla.) and Southeast Missouri State.

“Age is just a number,” Moore said. “Whenever you look at her résumé, the detail, the extensiveness, understanding all of the things a program takes, not just the Xs and Os but the administrative side as well, … But most importantly it was also her ability to grow athletes, the developmental piece, and someone that plans to be around for a while.

“What’s really been a blessing is she and I have already formed a relationship. Being able to really talk to each other, even outside of the interview, she is hands-down ready to take over this program in its current state and continue to grow it, and I’m excited to be able to watch her do that. Those girls definitely deserve Johne.”

Moore spent three seasons at Columbia Central, leading the 2022-23 team to a District 12-4A tournament championship and a berth in the Region 6-4A tourney semifinals. Last year, the Lady Lions were in the Associated Press statewide Class 4A Top 10 rankings for multiple weeks and finished 23-9, marking the program’s first 20-win campaign in 10 years.

“I’m definitely super excited to get to Columbia,” Stewart said. “I’ve been playing basketball all my life, and Columbia seemed like a perfect place I could come and really have an impact. I saw how last year they had a lot of success and I feel like i can maintain that and really make an impact and mentor the girls, make sure they’re staying on the right track.

“It’s bigger than basketball. It’s deeper than that for me. I want to make an impact on and off the court.”

A 2018 graduate of Memphis Central, Stewart played in consecutive Class AAA state tournaments her sophomore and junior seasons, with the Lady Warriors finishing as state runner-up in 2017.

“When it comes to knowing the game and having a passion for it, I’m that girl. So I didn’t have any hesitation when it came to accepting this job,” she said. “I knew I wanted it. I know I can make an impact and I know we can have really good success.”

Moore and the Central administration were encouraged by the interest shown in the position as they went through the hiring process last month.

“I’m actually very grateful for the amount of applicants we had,” Moore said. “It speaks volumes about our program, knowing we had great applicants for it.

“We had a couple of days’ worth of interviews and had quite a few applicants that were phenomenal. We wanted to make sure we gave everyone an opportunity because it was definitely about finding the right person with the right experience and making sure they were the right person for the program and for the girls and for the future of the program. By the time we were done, it was unanimous that she was who we wanted to lead our program.”

Stewart follows a recent trend of coaching hires at Columbia Central as football’s Tra’Darius Goff, boys basketball’s Brandon Levier and baseball’s Devin Symlar – named to their positions within the past year – are all first-time head coaches.

“They’ve done a phenomenal job,” Moore said. “I trust our administration to be able to judge based off résumés and the experience that is on the résumé that doesn’t necessarily resonate in the amount of years, but the amount of experience as a player and what they’ve put into a program they’ve been a part of, but also their ability to connect with kids and build relationship. She definitely has that aspect that fits in perfectly to what’s needed for our girls program.

“She’s a phenomenal woman who is going to be phenomenal for our young women. I’m not worried about a dropoff. If anything, she’s only going to continue to build off the successes, and I cannot wait for her to do even better than what we’ve already done.”

Maury County Public Schools girls high school basketball coaching vacancies remain at Mt. Pleasant, where Westin Ford resigned after one season to return to Zion Christian, and at Santa Fe, which had announced Corey Bishop as the successor to John Wild after his one season before Bishop subsequently opted out of the position.

and now a look at your hometown memorials brought to you by Oakes and Nichols Funeral Home…

Walter Henry “Hank” Keller III, 46, of Columbia, Tennessee passed away at his home on May 5, 2024. The family will visit with friends on Saturday, June 1, 2024 from 11 until 1 at Oakes & Nichols Funeral Home in Columbia, with a graveside service immediately following at St. John’s Ashwood.

Stephen Todd Sharp, 37, on Friday, May 3, 2024. Funeral services will be conducted Monday, May 20, 2024 at 2:00 PM at Oakes & Nichols Funeral Home with Drew Love officiating. Burial will follow at Jones Cemetery in Columbia. The family will visit with friends Monday from 11:00 AM until time for service at the funeral home

Okerleen Mabry Thompson, 94, resident of Columbia and beloved mother, grandmother and great-grandmother, died Wednesday, May 15, 2024 at her residence. Funeral services will be conducted Wednesday, May 22, 2024 at 2:00 PM at Oakes & Nichols Funeral Home with David Morris officiating. Burial will follow at John Lay Cemetery in Ethridge. The family will visit with friends Wednesday from 12:00 noon until time of the services at the funeral home.

and now news from around the state…

Several people removed from TN sex offender registry now face uncertain futures after appeals court ruling (WTVF-2)

A three-judge appellate court panel ruled this week that just because some people faced new restrictions for convictions before Tennessee's sex offender registry existed, it doesn’t mean the registry is unconstitutional.

The Sixth Circuit ruling sent shockwaves throughout Nashville with attorneys scrambling to better understand how this will impact their clients.

Back in 2023, district courts agreed with several John Does who filed a lawsuit claiming Tennessee’s sex offender registry as it stands, violated their constitutional rights.

They argued they shouldn’t have to follow restrictions from an ever-changing registry that was completely revamped in 2004 — long after their convictions from more than a decade earlier.

A U.S. Court of Appeals panel voted this week to uphold Tennessee's sex offender registry, even if some restrictions may appear unconstitutional for a select few.

Although the panel found similarities with Michigan’s sex offender registry that was eventually struck down, appellate judges ruled that district courts should review each case against the restrictions they’ve challenged before ruling on whether someone’s constitutional rights were violated.

Independent presidential candidate Robert Kennedy, Jr. makes brief, late stop in Nashville (Tennessee Lookout)

Citing a family emergency in Florida, third party presidential candidate Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. arrived four hours late for a Nashville campaign fundraising event on Wednesday.

Kennedy’s “A Night of Comedy” featured comedians including former Saturday Night Live cast members Rob Schneider and Jim Breuer and Russell Brand.

Nicole Shanahan, a veteran of the tech industry and Kennedy’s running mate, took the stage just before 11 p.m., followed by Kennedy, who spoke to the crowd — which had thinned significantly since the 7 p.m. start time — for less than 15 minutes. Kennedy did not address any themes of his campaign.

Kennedy, who is on the presidential ballot in six states, has not qualified for Tennessee’s ballot. The deadline to qualify for the November election is August 15.

For photos of the event, visit

GFWC donates to March of Dimes from fundraiser (Release)

Recently, the GFWC (General Federation of Women’s Clubs) Spring Station Woman’s Club held their inaugural Fairytale Tea fundraiser in the event barn located on the grounds of Enchanted Springs at Gordon Farms, in Spring Hill. 88 attendees enjoyed a full 3-course tea in truly magical surroundings.

The club recently donated $605 to the March of Dimes from a portion of the proceeds of the Tea. The March of Dimes is an affiliate organization of the GFWC. Clubs throughout the Federation provide funds and in-kind items to support their mission. March of Dimes leads the fight for the health of all moms and babies. Together with supporters, they are protecting the health of families by funding research, providing resources and programs, and advocating for policies to help parents throughout their pregnancies.

“We had such a successful and fun afternoon, we are already talking about doing this event again in the future,” said Tina Majors, President of the GFWC Spring Station Woman’s Club. “Please visit our website: Fairytale Tea Fundraiser | GFWC Spring Station Woman's Club ( and Facebook page GFWC Spring Station Woman's Club | Facebook for many more pictures of the Fairytale Tea and information about our nonprofit community service organization.”

The GFWC Spring Station Woman’s Club meets on the first Monday evening of each month, in the lower level of the Winchester Community Facility on Maury Hill Street in Spring Hill. Membership is open to women of all ages and interests who want to make new friends and have fun while volunteering on a variety of community service projects.


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