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Southern Middle TN Today News with Tom Price 6-11-24


Southern Middle Tennessee Today

News Copy for June 11, 2024

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

We start with local news…

City Budget Calls for 5% Wage Increase (CDH)

Columbia elected officials are now in the home stretch of adopting the city's annual budget, which totals about $75.8 million for the 2024-25 fiscal year, while also including a 5% raise citywide for employees.

Columbia City Council will vote on the proposed budget during its June 13 regular meeting, which will also include items which set the city's tax rate, as well as employee compensation plans.

The city's tax rate for all taxable property stand to remain at $0.8251 per 100 square feet.

During Thursday's meeting, council members discussed a few potential amendments to the budget, which if approved would see additional funding to certain civil organizations.

"We had a request from the South Central Resource Agency for an additional $1,000 to their annual appropriation for a grant match with the [U.S. Department of Agriculture] to help with their Meals on Wheels program," city manager Tony Massey said.

Maury County Animal Services is also seeking to expand its animal shelter, which would also include additional funding.

"We understand that they need additional space, and they are looking to their partners to provide some assistance," Mayor Chaz Molder said. "I think, considering the growth and the continued need, and the numbers that show Columbia is utilizing that shelter more than our fair share. And considering there has not been an increase in over a decade, I would support at least some show of good faith."

The city currently allots $50,000 quarterly to the animal shelter, or $200,000 annually. Molder suggested council increase that amount by %10 percent, or an additional $20,000 per year.

Massey added that Mt. Pleasant has already pledged an additional $7,000 per year as well.

"That sounds like a pretty good faith effort on Mt. Pleasant's part, and in my opinion that would also be a good faith effort on our part to show a 10% increase," Molder said.

The proposed amendments and allotment increases will be voted on prior to the council's budget vote, which will take place during its regular meeting at City Hall starting at 5:30 p.m. Thursday, June 13.

Columbia Central Names Principal (Press Release)

Maury County Public Schools Superintendent Lisa Ventura is excited to announce that Shanda Sparrow-Lang has been named the new principal of Columbia Central High School.

Shanda Sparrow-Lang has distinguished herself as a professional of the greatest dedication, ability, and integrity. Her exemplary leadership has earned her the title of 2023-2024 Maury County Schools Principal of the Year, recognizing the positive influence she has on many young lives. She was previously named the 2018-2019 Principal of the Year, further demonstrating her outstanding leadership and dedication to education.

Shanda holds an associate degree from Walters State Community College, a Bachelor of Science degree from Tennessee State University, and a Master of Education degree in Special Education, along with an educational specialist degree in administrative leadership from Middle Tennessee State University.

Shanda has served as an educator for twenty-three years, including ten years as the principal of Spring Hill Middle School. In her tenure at Spring Hill Middle, the school accomplished the highest rating in areas of academic growth & achievement. This year the school was designated an “A” by the state of TN.

Shanda shared, “I'm excited about this new opportunity and very thankful that Ms. Ventura and her staff have instilled their faith and confidence in me to support and lead one of the BEST high schools in America! It has been an honor to serve the students, parents, staff, faculty, and the community of Spring Hill Middle School for 10 years. I look forward to beginning a new journey with the CHS family. As the Lion family, we will continue to provide students with a learning environment that is safe, engaging, and forward-thinking while utilizing the active support of our teachers, parents, and community. RESTORE THE ROAR! Regardless of WHERE you teach, if HOW you teach doesn't connect to WHO you teach, then WHAT you teach is USELESS."

“Shanda Sparrow-Lang is an inspiration to the faculty, staff, and students of Maury County Public Schools. She illustrates the role of dedicated principal; she is wholly committed to the highest ideals of public service and quality education for all,” said Superintendent Lisa Ventura. “We are confident that her selection as the principal of Columbia Central High School will bring continued excellence and inspiration to the students and staff.”

Maury County Public Schools commends Shanda Sparrow-Lang for her exceptional service to the children of Tennessee, salutes her professional expertise and personal excellence, and wishes her all the best in her new role at Columbia Central High School.

Mt. Pleasant Improvements Begin (Press Release)

The Mount Pleasant community gathered with city officials, local business leaders, and residents for the groundbreaking ceremony of the highly anticipated Downtown Improvement Project that started on June 3rd on Main Street.

This significant initiative, set to be completed by May 2025, aims to revitalize the downtown area and enhance the quality of life for all residents and visitors. The Downtown Improvement Project will introduce a range of enhancements, including:

New Street Lights: Historical, energy-efficient street lighting will improve visibility and safety, creating a welcoming atmosphere for evening activities and enhancing the overall aesthetic of the downtown area.

Infrastructure Upgrades: Critical infrastructure improvements will ensure long-term sustainability and reliability, addressing current needs and future growth.

Increased Walkability: Sidewalk expansions and pedestrian-friendly pathways will promote walking, reduce traffic congestion, and encourage a healthier lifestyle for residents and visitors.

Beautification Efforts: Landscaping, public art installations, and other beautification projects will add to the charm and appeal of downtown, making it a vibrant destination for shopping, dining, and entertainment.

Main Street Director, Haverly Pennington, expressed enthusiasm for the project, stating, "The Downtown Improvement Project marks a new chapter for Mount Pleasant. These upgrades will enhance the beauty and functionality of our Main Street area and boost economic development and community engagement. We are excited to see these improvements' positive impact on our city."

The groundbreaking ceremony featured remarks from Mayor Bill White, City Manager Kate Collier, and other key stakeholders, followed by a ceremonial ground turning to officially commence construction. Attendees had the opportunity to view project plans and ask questions.

The event marked the beginning of a brighter future for Mount Pleasant, and the community's strong turnout demonstrated widespread support for the project. For more information about the Downtown Improvement Project, please contact Haverly Pennington at

Leadership Maury (Press Release)

Maury Alliance is excited to announce that applications for the Leadership Maury Class of 2024-2025 are now open!

Leadership Maury offers a unique opportunity to connect with local decision-makers, gain insights into various sectors, and explore all the great things Maury County has to offer. Whether you live, work, or volunteer here, this program is your chance to contribute to the future of our community.

Apply now and be part of a network of passionate leaders dedicated to making a difference! Learn more at

Columbia Central to Get Turf (CDH)

The Columbia Central High School football field will soon be getting artificial turf, following a vote by the Maury County School Board.

The school board approved Tuesday a Memorandum of Understanding with the county Parks and Recreation Department to install turf and rent out the football field at Central High School.

The memorandum gives the board the funds necessary to install artificial turf at Lindsey Nelson Football Stadium, located near Columbia Central High School. It also places the responsibility on the board to pay for the replacement of the turf every 10 years. Per the agreement, all maintenance of the turf will be made under the parks department.

Under the agreement, the board will also have first priority rights to the stadium for events and games, though the stadium can be rented out to third parties by the parks department, as long as the board approves.

The measure was passed with two “nays” coming from Board Members Michael Fulbright and Justin Haucke.

Leading up to the vote, Fulbright voiced his concerns.

“We are once again being asked by the county to do something to benefit them on their behalf, and how did the discussion go tonight about the new school tonight,” Fulbright said.

“I think that this, just like Mr. Carter said the other night, we’re  being asked to do something again for the county, and we see the thanks that we get."

Board chair Will Sims voiced his support for the measure.

“We have a positive track record with the parks department taking care of that field, and it's one that we don’t have to take care of, because they do. And so, it is a give and take," Sims said.

The concern for member Haucke was along other lines. He was worried about the material of the field.

Recently, it’s been debated whether faux fields may contain “forever chemicals,” compounds that are incredibly resistant to breaking down naturally, Haucke explained.

Haucke said he’d much rather have real grass fields for that reason.

Ultimately, the board approved the memorandum and the installation of synthetic baseball, football, and softball fields near Central High School.

Haucke was the only “nay.”

Columbia State Making Basketball Changes (MSM)

After sending all three of her sophomores on to four-year programs, Gwen Burton is well on the way to restructuring the Columbia State women’s basketball roster.

The Lady Chargers’ staff is a different story.

Quan Dudley, who assisted Burton and men’s coach Winston Neal for the past five seasons, was recently named women’s coach at Pellissippi State Community College in Knoxville.

“He’ll do very well,” Burton said of the 34-year-old Dudley. “He gets to start a program anew, see how it feels to build something.”

Dudley was on hand for the Lady Chargers’ restart under Burton after the program went dormant for the 2018-19 school year, serving as a volunteer assistant with the men that season before joining both programs on a fulltime basis the following year.

Pellissippi will unveil women’s and men’s basketball as well as baseball and softball teams for the 2024-25 school year, after fielding men’s and women’s soccer, women’s volleyball, men’s golf, and cross country/half-marathon teams this past year.

“Being able to start something from the ground up is pretty good for me,” said Dudley, a 2008 Columbia Central graduate who played basketball at C-State before completing his collegiate education at Middle Tennessee State.

“I applied for this job back in November – and I forgot about it. They reached out to me in April. (Athletics director Brock Evans) reached out, said he wanted to talk. We had a conversation, I interviewed with them, and a couple of days later, I’ve got a job. Apparently I’d been on their radar for a while.”

Calling Knoxville a recruiting “hotbed”, Dudley anticipates taking the knowledge he’s gained from Burton and Neal and adding his own “twists” as he goes out on his own.

“Being under two really good coaches, learning from them and their experiences – I’m like a sponge,” he said. “They’ve been in it for a long time. They’re both my mentors.

“The high school coaches, the girls are excited, parents are excited that they’ve got another opportunity, another place they can send their kids to play ball and go to school.”

There’s also enthusiasm at Columbia State, as Burton is bringing 15 newcomers aboard after sending forward Treshondra Williams to Marshall, guard Nisea Burrell to Austin Peay and guard Kalyn Williams to Concord (W.Va.).

“We’re not just recruiting to fill a roster. We’re recruiting to actually compete and win,” Burton said. “We have kids from Tennessee that can compete and want to win.”

Among others, Burton expects former Lawrence County standout Jacie Scott and ex-Tullahoma standout Lily Melton to mesh well with returners Ansley Burleson, Laila Washington and Sanai Thomas – the latter two limited last year by injuries.

“We’re going to make a good run. We’re going to try to stay injury-free,” Burton said.

Reagan Day Dinner (Press Release)

The Maury County GOP Invites YOU to celebrate Reagan Day & the birthday of Donald J Trump at Puckett’s Restaurant’s Guitar & Cadillac Hall – Upstairs located at 15 Public Square, Columbia, on June 14th at 6pm.

Special Guest Speakers Include: Congressman Andy Ogles & Tim Burchett as well as Tomi Lahren, Conservative commentator, host of "Tomi Lahren is Fearless" on, and Fox News regular, who will share her views on many topics impacting the Conservative movement, current political events, and more. 

Also joining the event will be Todd Starnes, a Conservative columnist, author, speaker and radio host of the Todd Starnes Show, will address many of the challenges facing America and perhaps delve into some of the broader points made in his most recent book, “Twilight’s Last Gleaming: Can America Be Saved?” Signed books will be available.

Puckett’s cuisine will be served, and an exciting silent auction will be held featuring everything from condo stays to local crafts, collectables and much more.

A limited number of individual tickets are still available for $100, each. Find yours by visiting

Tornado Relief Continues (CDH)

Maury County's ongoing efforts to provide relief from the May tornado, which left many families displaced and hundreds of homes damaged, continues with something a little unique, fun and "magical."

Magic & Melodies for Maury is a grassroots effort spearheaded by a couple of local entertainers in an effort to give back to those affected, while also providing a fun night of music, magic and more.

The variety show event will take place Saturday, June 22 at Rory Feek's Homestead Hall, 4544 Highway 431. Tickets are $25 for VIP, $15 for general admission and $10 for children. Tickets are available for purchase at the door or online at

Emceeing the show will be event organizers and "escape artists extraordinaire" Sher'ril and Samantha Knox.

"Pretty much the day after the tornado happened, I started working on this, started making calls for performers," Sher'ril said. "This is my first time ever organizing a charity event, and so this has been a very big learning curve, but I am so grateful for everyone who has helped."

These modern-day Harry Houdinis said this event is particularly special to them, not only as a way to show off their talents to benefit their community, but because like so many others, they too were affected personally by the tornado.

"Our aunt and uncle, their house was damaged, and they have a daughter with Down's syndrome and who is non-verbal," Sher'ril said. "It broke the kitchen window and knocked glass everywhere."

Proceeds from the June 22 event will be donated to New Lasea Church of Christ, 1570 Lasea Road, which has been a set-up spot for donations since the May tornado occurred.

"They've been great," Sher'ril said. "I think just about everybody has some kind of personal investment in this, because we all know someone somehow that's been affected."

The Magic & Melodies lineup will also include Elevator to Space Barbershop Quartet, Fletcher (formerly known as Kentucky Linemen), songwriter Anica Meyerhoff, Us Two and Him bluegrass group and Columbia's own Classic Vinyl 931.

Former Maury County Commission Chair Don Morrow, who plays drums in Classic Vinyl 931, recalls the aftermath of the tornado. Though he wasn't personally affected by the damages, he certainly knows many who were.

Morrow stated that an event like this should be supported because, while it isn't hammering nails and shoveling debris, it is a way for people to use what they have to give back.

"We all want to donate our talents for this, which is a no-brainer for all of us, donating our talents for those in need," Morrow said. "All of us can't trim trees and cut wood, but we can do this."

While Magic & Melodies was the Knoxs' brainchild, it could not have been accomplished without donations and the efforts of many others, ranging from Feek donating his venue to the show's performers and many sponsorships.

"It's been really awesome making all of the connections, and everyone working together has just been great," Sher'ril said.

So far, the event's sponsors include:

Copycats Printing

Patrick Sandow

Providential Broadcasting 1460 WXRQ

Homestead Hall

Dixon's Fine Jewelry

Catfish Campus

William C. Barnes Attorney at Law

Nathan's Electrical and HVAC

Middle TN Homesavers, LLC

Oakes & Nichols Funeral Home

Individual and business sponsorships are still being accepted by calling (931) 774-6951 or emailing

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

Betty Fern Metscher Senter, 83, former longtime resident of New Cut Road in Columbia, died Saturday at her granddaughter’s residence in Austin KY, where she had made her home recently. A graveside service for Mrs. Senter will be conducted Wednesday at 11:00 a.m. at Philadelphia Cemetery on Fred White Road. The family will visit with friends Wednesday following the service at the cemetery

…And now, news from around the state…

Civil Rights Activist James Lawson Dies (Tennessean)

James Lawson, the man who inspired a generation of nonviolent activists in the earliest days of the Civil Rights movement and helped organize the movement to desegregate lunch counters in Nashville, died on Sunday. He was 95.

Minister, professor, activist and descendant of enslaved family members, Lawson lived peacefully in the middle of so much turmoil.

The Rev. Christian Washington of the Holman United Methodist Church in Los Angeles, where Lawson pastored from 1977 to 1999 and later served as pastor emeritus, confirmed his death on Monday. 

In January, the city dedicated a one-mile stretch of Adams Boulevard in front of the church in his honor. 

“Up until a few months ago he was still doing nonviolent protest seminars, well into his 90s,” Washington said.

Imprisoned as a conscientious objector during the Korean War in the early 1950s, Lawson was also kicked out of Vanderbilt University and arrested for organizing student demonstrations. During his incarceration, he said he learned about the nonviolent protests led by Mohandas Ghandi in India.

Lawson was an American civil rights icon who worked alongside luminaries like the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Diane Nash, John Lewis and C.T. Vivian to promote nonviolent activism in the early 1960s. He was working on the sanitation strike in Memphis in 1968 and called King to participate.

Lawson was then one of the leaders of the silent march to honor King in Memphis after he was assassinated.

"The world has lost an irreplaceably powerful leader in the fight for social justice," Metro Nashville Council member Joy Styles said. "We owe Rev. Lawson a debt of gratitude for how he led change for the world that we live in."

Lawson told The Tennessean in 2013 he felt Jesus’ call to do something.

“The politics of Jesus and the politics of God are that people should be fed, that people have access to life, that people should be treated equally and justly,” Lawson said. “Especially the marginalized. The poor, the illiterate, the jailed, the hungry, the naked — those are all terms Jesus uses. The alien, the stranger, the foreigner, you’re supposed to treat them as you do yourself.”

He looked to the gospel account of Mark, the story of Jesus healing a demon-possessed man. When the city’s residents saw the man was better, they were terrified.

“When all kinds of people in the United States become human, the people who have been mistreating them as less than human then are fearful,” Lawson said. “That’s the issue of racism in the United States, sexism in the United States, violence in the United States."

He was the son of a minister and raised among 10 brothers and sisters in Massillon, Ohio.

When he was younger, Lawson would punch people who called him racist names. But then he told his mother, Philane Lawson, what he had done.

“What good did that do, Jimmy?” she asked.

That simple question helped set her son on a new path. “I made decisions that changed my life forever and basically directed me toward nonviolence,” Lawson said.

Nashville historian David Ewing said Lawson not only changed Nashville history but history nationwide.

“Lawson taught students like John Lewis and Diane Nash nonviolent responses. The reason the Nashville lunch counter sit-ins were so successful was because they were peaceful,” Ewing said.

“Lawson was the coach of the lunch counter sit-ins. He mentored the students, came up with strategy and later cheered everyone on like John Lewis and Diane Nash.”

Ewing said Lawson came to study at Vanderbilt University’s divinity school at the urging of King. Lawson was the divinity school’s first Black student accepted, until he got expelled for helping with lunch counter protests.

Vanderbilt University began to make that right in 2006 when then-university president Gordon Gee brought Lawson back as a divinity school professor, Ewing said. About three years ago, the university also purchased Lawson’s writings and photographs. 

In Nashville most recently, Lawson's name was given to a Bellevue high school in 2023. The $124 million facility has 1,600 students and 150 staff and faculty.

Final Story of the Day (Maury County Source)

Cyndi Lauper has announced the Girls Just Wanna Have Fun Farewell Tour. Produced by Live Nation, the 23-city headlining tour – Lauper’s first major run in a decade. Special guests for the tour will be announced at a later time.

The tour will stop at Bridgestone Arena on Friday, November 1st. Lauper shared on social media,”It’s official! The Girls Just Wanna Have Fun Farewell Tour is coming. Get ready to sing along to all your favorites and make some amazing memories.”

Tickets on sale at


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