top of page

Southern Middle TN Today News with Tom Price 7-8-24


Southern Middle Tennessee Today

News Copy for July 8, 2024

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

We start with local news…

Training Helped Prepare County for Tornado (MSM)

Just weeks before the May 8 tornado, Maury County participated in an All-Hazards Incident Management Team (A-HIMT) exercise in collaboration with the Tennessee Emergency Management Agency (TEMA), the City of Columbia and multiple statewide and local partners focusing on tornado response and recovery. This proactive initiative aimed to bolster the team and county’s preparedness and response capabilities ahead of the tornado season.

The exercise, conducted just weeks before the devastating tornadoes of May 8-9, 2024, provided Maury County leadership with critical insights and practical experience in managing severe weather incidents. Participants from numerous county and local departments, emergency services, and partner agencies engaged in a series of realistic scenarios designed to test and enhance their coordination, communication, incident management, and decision-making skills.

“Engaging in this comprehensive exercise was invaluable,” said Maury County Mayor Sheila Butt. “It allowed our team to identify strengths and areas for improvement in a controlled environment, ensuring we are better prepared to protect our community in the event of a real tornado.”

City of Columbia Mayor Chaz Molder also emphasized the importance of the exercise, stating, “The AHIMT exercise was an essential step in strengthening our city’s emergency response framework. It provided us with a clearer understanding of how to manage tornado-related emergencies and reinforced the necessity of coordinated efforts to protect our residents.”

During the exercise, participants navigated simulated emergency operations, including initial response efforts, damage assessment, resource allocation, debris management, volunteer coordination, public information dissemination, and inter-agency collaboration. This hands-on experience equipped Maury County officials with a deeper understanding of the protocols and procedures necessary to manage an effective disaster response.

“The timing of this exercise could not have been more critical,” remarked Maury County Emergency Management Director, Jeff Hardy. “The knowledge and experience gained directly influenced our real-world response efforts, enabling us to address the tornadoes that followed more efficiently and effectively.”

The collaboration with TEMA and the All-Hazards Incident Management Team program underscores Maury County’s commitment to enhancing its emergency management capabilities. The exercise is part of a broader strategy to integrate advanced training and preparedness measures to safeguard residents and infrastructure from natural disasters and emergencies.

“The Tennessee Emergency Management Agency is dedicated to supporting local jurisdictions as they prepare and bolster their readiness and crisis management capabilities,” stated TEMA Director Patrick C. Sheehan. “Maury County’s and the City of Columbia’s proactive approach and participation in the AHIMT exercise demonstrates leadership commitment and a steadfast resolve to community resilience.”

The Tennessee Emergency Management Agency recognizes the incredible value in the development of local and state partnerships, and the AHIMT exercise provides an opportunity to develop those relationships and capabilities. With local administrators, emergency management personnel, and state AHIMT members working together, the state can continue to strengthen our emergency readiness.

City Receives Municipal League Award (Press Release)

The Tennessee Municipal League annually honors cities across the State for excellence, improvement, outstanding programs, or departmental achievements. The City of Columbia, committed to environmentally resilient and green infrastructure, is proud to announce it has received the Tennessee Municipal League’s award for Excellence in Green Leadership. This prestigious award will be presented on Tuesday, July 23, 2024, at the 84th Annual Conference of the Tennessee Municipal League (TML) at the Knoxville Convention Center.

Mayor Chaz Molder stated, “I am so proud of this recognition, not only because it represents the commitment that city leaders have made to investing in infrastructure for today, but also because it recognizes our vision for the future. We know our city was well-positioned for this extraordinary moment in time, and we must ensure Columbia remains on that same trajectory for years to come. This recognition highlights our vision to create a cleaner, more efficient way of doing business and our sound fiscal management.”

The City hired PATH Company to manage the conversion of 6,000 streetlights to LED bulbs. Previously, Columbia Power and Water Systems (CPWS) owned the lights, and the city bore the costs of power consumption, maintenance, and installation. The LED conversion has reduced these costs, saving the State Street Aid Fund $450,000 annually. Maintenance responsibilities have now been transferred back to CPWS under the new agreement.

In addition, the City has made plans to upgrade its existing wastewater treatment plant, originally built in the 1970s. A new HVAC system has already been added to the administration building, providing energy and cost savings. Lighting at the plant has been upgraded to energy-efficient LED. Plans for a new facility, soon to be under construction, include multiple energy-saving advances in keeping with the City of Columbia’s green-oriented goals.

City Manager Tony Massey remarked, “We are very honored to be recognized by TML for Excellence in Green Leadership. Converting Columbia’s streetlights and implementing energy-saving measures has been a key strategic goal of the Columbia City Council. Our citizens now enjoy the benefits of this conversion, and we thank TML for this recognition.”

Assistant City Manager Thad Jablonski added, “The City of Columbia is serious about its commitment to the environment. This follows from the City Council’s leadership and support of projects that value conservation and sustainability. The City’s Management Team and City departments will continue to ensure that City projects impact the environment positively and in accordance with the City Council’s vision.”

The City’s latest strategic plan also includes the installation of new EV charging stations. City leaders are collaborating with CPWS and TVA to place these charging locations downtown, further demonstrating Columbia's commitment to a sustainable and environmentally friendly future.

First Fridays Revamped (CDH)

What started as a grassroots effort to attract more foot traffic downtown, First Fridays has become one of Columbia's most-attended monthly events, and it keeps getting bigger.

First Fridays has become a staple for visitors, vendors, musicians and businesses, bringing large crowds of visitors both local and out of town. The event now stretches beyond the square to feature other gathering areas such as food truck parks and Maury Alliance's Strolling on 6th block party along West 6th Street.

In June, the event celebrated its seventh anniversary, and in doing so brought new changes to better enhance the First Friday experience, while also upgrading safety measures for pedestrians and creating new ways to raise funds for downtown and tourism-related projects.

"First Fridays became so big, so well attended and popular that it surpassed the threshold in being required to have a mass gathering permit by the city," Columbia Tourism and Marketing Director Kellye Murphy said. "It was time to manage the event beyond the fact is has been an organic event for seven years."

The new changes include temporarily shutting down a portion of the square and West 7th Street to traffic, allowing more space for walking, while also minimizing the risk of an accident.

"There were some safety issues, pedestrian and vehicular. There have been some close calls, and so this is for the safety and wellbeing of everyone who attends this event," Murphy said "Closing the streets makes it a much more family-friendly event when you feel more comfortable to walk within an enclosed area and not have to worry about things like being run over by a car or not having enough room on the sidewalk."

Closing down the streets also allows for new First Friday features, such as a Cruise-In featuring classic cars, as well as a curated vendor market.

"[June] did so well, and I think it surprised everyone. We had more vendors apply than we had booth space available, and the same thing for July," Murphy said. "We are making sure we have a good cross-section of people that are participating as vendors."

While the changes are aimed to create a safer, more inclusive experience, some of the benefits also come with a price for some, including a new $25 vendor fee required for anyone wishing to showcase their works.

Murphy said any money generated from the vendor fees will not go directly to the city. Instead, it will feed back into the Columbia Main Street Corporation to better enhance future events and projects.

In response to the new fees, a petition was created with concerns that the new fees might not only prevent certain vendors from being eligible but could lead to other restrictive regulations down the road.

The petition has since garnered 140 votes, not gaining much traction, and was to raise awareness of the changes, Clayton Smith, Columbia resident who created the petition, said.

"For me, it's all about what will come next. Anytime there is that kind of involvement and oversight, it just makes me nervous," Smith said. "It's definitely about awareness, but I also want to figure out if there is more broad appeal, because at the end of the day homegrown involved community, to me, is super important."

"The city is not taking any of the money that comes in from First Fridays," Murphy said. "That is all being utilized by Columbia Main Street Corporation for beautification of downtown and future projects for downtown."

And while First Fridays' growth will likely continue, keeping the spirit of how it began remains a top priority.

"Columbia Main Street still wants it to feel very organic, and still feel very much like a community event," Murphy said.

MRMC Cancer Center Accredited(MauryCountySource)

Maury Regional Cancer Center has achieved accreditation under the American College of Surgeons (ACS) Commission on Cancer (CoC) Accreditation Program.

The ACS CoC is a consortium of professional organizations dedicated to improving survival and quality of life for patients with cancer by setting and raising standards.

“Taking care of our community’s health and wellness with quality and compassionate care is our goal,” said CEO Martin Chaney, MD. “Maury Regional Cancer Center collaborates willingly with ACS CoC to guarantee our community receives outstanding cancer care from prevention, detection or comprehensive treatment.”

Commission on Cancer accreditation is granted to institutions committed to providing high-quality cancer care by demonstrating compliance with the CoC standards. Each cancer program must undergo a rigorous evaluation and review of its performance and compliance with the CoC standards. To maintain accreditation, cancer programs must undergo a site visit every three years. The CoC accreditation standards supply the structure for providing all patients with a full range of diagnostic, treatment and supportive services either on-site or by referral, including community-based resources.

“A cancer diagnosis can be a difficult journey for patients and loved ones. Gaining national accreditation is about giving our patients peace of mind that Maury Regional Health is offering state-of-the-art cancer care,” said Administrative Director of Oncology Dana Salters, MBA. “I want to personally commend the multidisciplinary team of physicians and professional caregivers for their commitment to oncology care at Maury Regional Health by obtaining re-accreditation from the Commission on Cancer.”

The Maury Regional Cancer Center at the Columbia Mall is a comprehensive treatment center that includes the clinical specialists, treatment technologies and support services needed by cancer patients and their family members.

As a CoC-accredited institution, Maury Regional Cancer Center also becomes an ACS Surgical Quality Partner. Being a Surgical Quality Partner signifies an institution’s dedication to consistently improving procedures and approaches, while maintaining a critical eye on processes at every step. The Surgical Quality Partner designation lets patients know MRMC is dedicated to quality and relentless self-improvement and has been verified or accredited by the ACS. Patients can trust that the care they receive at Surgical Quality Partner hospitals adheres to the most rigorous standards in surgical quality.

“American College of Sugeons Quality programs are grounded in more than a century of experience and participation is an important measure of a hospital’s surgical quality. As an ACS Surgical Quality Partner, Maury Regional Medical Center has shown a commitment to providing the best possible patient care, evaluating that care in a rigorous fashion and dedicating themselves to continuous self-improvement,” said ACS Executive Director & Chief Executive Officer Dr. Patricia L. Turner, MD, MBA, FACS.

Learn more about the CoC Accreditation Program by visiting

Third Coach in Three Years at CA (MSM)

After spending her first year on staff as an assistant, Catherine Huey has been elevated to the helm of the Columbia Academy softball program – becoming the Lady Bulldogs’ third head coach in three seasons.

Huey succeeds Danny Ford, who took over following the 2023 resignation of Seth Anderson after six seasons.

“When we hired her last year, we talked to her and this was something she wanted to do,” CA athletics director Pernell Knox said regarding Huey – the wife of former Bulldogs baseball standout and current assistant Alex Huey. “We wanted to give her a chance to work under someone and kinda get her feet wet, see how things go.”

Ford informed the Columbia Academy administration at the conclusion of the season that he’d be stepping down, after previously serving as an assistant under Anderson, his son-in-law.

Columbia Academy advanced to four consecutive state championship games with Anderson – now approaching his third season as the school’s football coach – atop the program, winning the 2019 Class A title and the ‘21 and ‘22 Division II-A crowns following the pandemic before finishing as DiI-A state runner-up in ‘23. 

This spring, CA was eliminated from postseason play in the Division II-A Middle Region tournament and finished 17-10.

Huey, a 2019 graduate of Hazel Green (Ala.), completed her playing career at Freed-Hardeman in 2023 before accompanying her husband back to his alma mater.

“Definitely the good thing about it is that she’s not too far removed from school that she can’t relate to these high school kids, and at the same time she’s played at a high level and she’s mature enough to see things from a coaching standpoint. 

“So I think it’s the best of both worlds when we get her. And she was no ‘scrub’; she could play the game. Your credibility, your résumé always helps.”

Huey agreed that her experience on the field and in the dugout will factor into her new role.

“I’m very competitive. I feel like that competitive drive that I had when I was playing is something that I still have held onto in coaching,” she said. “I love to win, but more than that, I think playing ball, you learn how to be mentally tough, you learn how to be physically tough, you learn how to battle through adversity. 

“I think learning that as a player, and I know where the girls have been, helps me meet them where they’re at as a coach. I’ve been where they are, I’ve been in their shoes. Just coming out of that is helpful.”

Huey realizes she’s been fast-tracked into a head coaching role – but doesn’t question her path.

“I would not have ever expected it, but I’ve prayed about it for so long, just for God to put me where I’m supposed to be, putting it in His hands and trusting his timing in all of this,” she said. “I don’t believe I’d be here right now if He hadn’t put me here.

“I’m confident I’m going to grow and learn from the people around me.

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 by July 19th and be part of a network of passionate leaders dedicated to making a difference! Learn more at

Now, news from around the state…

Vanderbilt LifeFlight Turns 40 (Tennessean)

Trauma surgeon Dr. John Morris stepped into Vanderbilt University Medical Center to build its first trauma center from the ground-up 40 years ago, and he was filled with excitement for the newness ahead. 

On the 40th anniversary of Vanderbilt LifeFlight, Morris reflects on how the program revolutionized health care statewide.

Trauma care was relatively rudimentary in 1984. There were no designated trauma centers at the time, and the state wouldn’t establish its organized trauma system for another four years. 

Morris quickly realized Vanderbilt needed to reach beyond the ever-growing bounds of Nashville and into rural Tennessee. 

“It didn't take a rocket scientist to know that the key to having a successful trauma center in Nashville was to be able to bring patients from the rural area into the urban area,” Morris said. “The key with trauma care is to concentrate a large number of patients in the hands of a small number of physicians.”

So that’s what Vanderbilt did. 

Morris became the first director of the health system’s LifeFlight program, which has spent the last 40 years deploying trained medical professionals to care for patients in emergency situations while transporting them to the nearest hospitals. 

“I remember the first day of training, the entire day was spent learning how to get in and out of the aircraft,” Morris said. “That was how juvenile we were in the very early days. Since then, we have progressed. We have one of the best, if not the best, safety record in the country.”

A Cambridge University Press article identified a total of 87 accidents and 239 fatalities associated with air-medical flights from 2000 through 2020, according to data from the National Transportation Safety Board. None of those were affiliated with Vanderbilt.

While medical helicopter crashes are statistically rare across the U.S., they are common enough for the National Transportation Safety Board to urge medical helicopter companies to improve safety rates as recently as 2020. 

In four decades, Vanderbilt LifeFlight has transported 80,118 patients in 76,942 flights without any major safety incidents. 

Now, the program reaches across most of the state and even into southern Kentucky with its nine helicopters, 28 advanced life support ambulances and four large critical-care ambulances. 

Morris said the last 40 years have seen constantly improved avionics and increasing sophistication in the way doctors and nurses are trained to operate in medical aircrafts. 

“Basically, the flight nurses are providing a mobile intensive care unit in a space the size of a jacuzzi,” Morris said. “It's really remarkable when you see the types of things that they're capable of pulling off.”

These in-air treatments include transports while using balloon pumps for a patient’s heart, blood transfusions and a number of complicated cardiac-resuscitation techniques. 

“I was incredibly fortunate to be a part of that incredible team as both a clinician and a leader during a significant time in the program’s beginning and growth,” former director Jeanne Yeatman said.

She grew the aircraft fleet from one to four vehicles and started the process to fund a $1.1 million dollar helipad at the children’s hospital. 

Dr. Ashley Panas spent the last 12 years as a flight physician with LifeFlight, and she said no flight is ever the same as the last. From children to the elderly, car accidents to strokes, Panas typically spends no more than an hour with each patient in transit. 

“It’s doing that really hard math problem of: 'What can we do on the way, and what can wait until the hospital?'” she said. “There are some patients for whom time is really of the essence, and so no matter what we do, we need to always be moving forward, moving them towards definitive care.” 

Vanderbilt was Middle Tennessee’s first level-one trauma center, and it is now one of two in the area since TriStar Skyline earned the designation in 2023. In recent years, Vanderbilt has also expanded its LifeFlight program, adding bases in Wilson, Montgomery and Coffee counties. 

Flying into those bases and other rural hospitals across the state has given Panas firsthand experience with the struggles smaller hospitals can face, like lack of resources and employees. No matter where they land, though, she said she is always glad she gets to be the first doctor there to help the patient.

“Truthfully, every time I'm in the air on the helicopter,” Panas said. “I really do have that sense that this is where I'm supposed to be.”

Final Story of the Day (Maury County Source)

Cheekwood Estate & Gardens names international sculptor Ann Carrington as the 2024 INTERVENTIONS artist, with an exhibition running now until October 27, 2024. Now in its third year, INTERVENTIONS launched in 2021 as an arts initiative to activate the historic period rooms, and to seek inspiration from the Cheek family. The series invites renowned artists from around the globe to imagine and implement a connection between their contemporary work and the historic pieces within the Cheekwood Mansion.

“Visitors will be delighted by Ann Carrington’s vision and expertise, she is an incredibly talented artist,” says Sarah Sperling, Cheekwood Vice President of Museum Affairs.

Based in Margate, England, Carrington studied at The Royal College of Art and is well-known for working with discarded and found objects to create ornate sculptures and works of art. Her eccentric and elegant pieces breathe new life into otherwise mundane items like knives, spoons, buttons, cans and coins by unraveling their associations and assigning new meaning as sculpture. Carrington’s work has recently been exhibited in Paris and Munich.

The INTERVENTIONS program at Cheekwood is made possible by the Sandra Schatten

Foundation. To learn more about current and upcoming exhibitions, ticketing, and otherinformation, visit


bottom of page