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Commissioners squabble over BOE

Loudon County Commission discussed Monday what to do for a successor to Brian Brown, who resigned from Loudon County Board of Education.

Brown told BOE members Thursday that he planned to step down after Dec. 31 when he moves from the fifth district to the first district.

The move leaves commissioners responsible for finding a replacement within 120 days, which met with mixed response during the workshop.

Commissioners Van Shaver and Harold Duff, who both represent the fifth district, wanted to let voters decide who replaces Brown.

“This close to election, let the voters decide, and then whoever wins the primary we’ll appoint that person,” Shaver said. “But that way you let the voters take their pick instead of giving anybody a leg up on the election or anything like that. I think the voters deciding is the way to go.”

The May primary is a few days after the 120-day limit.

Shaver and Commissioner Matthew Tinker went back and forth on what to do.

Tinker favored making an appointment, emphasizing the district wouldn’t have adequate representation for a short timeframe.

“The district is assigned two people based on their population,” Tinker said. “Some districts have two, some districts have one. They have two and they don’t need to go months without having their full representation. There’s no point in that. It’s our duty to assign someone and that’s what we should do.”

When commissioners ask how many people were interested in the position, Shaver said “it’s irrelevant.”

Tinker hoped to hear from Loudon County Attorney Bob Bowman by the Dec. 6 regular meeting to see if the county could face fines should an appointment not happen within the allotted time.

Loudon County Mayor Rollen “Buddy” Bradshaw said he would speak with Brown to see if he could extend service on the BOE a little longer to ensure it’s within 120 days.

“(Tennessee Code Annotated) you’ve got 120 days to fill it and I don’t like to stretch the rules anyway,” Bradshaw said. “I like our clean audits, I like us being in good graces, and so if it’s a three- or four-day thing, maybe ask Brian instead of Dec. 31, maybe stretch it to Jan. 3 or 4, if he’s comfortable with it and he’s not already moved.”

Commissioner Kelly Littleton-Brewster said the county should honor Brown’s initial decision.

“I feel like if somebody’s made that decision and they broke down their thoughts and their feelings on this, I think that we should honor their request and go ahead,” Littleton-Brewster said. “I don’t like asking somebody else to change something so that we fit into a certain timeframe versus 120 days or 123 days.”

Storage considered

Commissioners also briefly discussed funding additional space at Loudon Public Library for records storage.

An addition could potentially go to the left of the library toward the back parking lot. Drawings could cost about $60,000 from architect firm MBI Companies Inc.

Commissioners will consider the measure Dec. 6.

“It’ll have a records storage area for our historical records that can be on display and then it will have storage areas for all of our records that we have to keep for however many years or months that they have to stay in there,” Tinker said. “That area will be very basic, concrete floors, concrete walls, just air conditioning for safety of the records. It will be caged off per section of the departments that we have in the county.”

Tinker said the location is ideal for record storage.

“We have someone there who could help us with the documents, who can talk to the public about what they have in there, what they’re looking at,” he said. “They’re trained on handling of sensitive documents and materials, so having somewhere that the public can use alleviates those records being kept in behind the county building and every time someone wants to look at a record they have to go and get somebody to stop working on what they’re doing and send them out there.”


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Community honors those who served
  • Updated

Residents gathered across Loudon County on Thursday for Veterans Day to pay tribute to men and women who have served their country.

Although conditions were windy and there was a chance of rain, several gathered in front of the Loudon County Courthouse. Members of American Legion Post 120 were present, along with local and state officials.

“Today we come together on this Veterans Day to express our profound gratitude to the sacrifices and the contributions you and your families made when duty calls,” state Rep. Lowell Russell, R-Vonore, said. “On this day, Nov. 11, we come together to honor and recognize America’s service members past and present.”

Russell said Veterans Day was an opportunity to celebrate all American veterans for their willingness to “serve and sacrifice for the cause of freedom.”

“Whether you wear the uniform today or wore it decades ago, the true strength of all our armed forces is the men and women who have worn and now wear the uniform of our nation’s military,” Russell said. “Your courage and skill made our nation a powerful symbol of strength and hope for the world. Every one of you deserves the gratitude of our entire nation for your willingness to lay down your lives.”

The ceremony included patriotic tunes from Loudon High School’s band, a wreath presentation by the LHS Junior Reserve Officers Training Corps, guest speaker Philadelphia Elementary School Principal Marvin Feezell and a few words from PES eighth-grader Avery Hagen, who detailed her time growing up while her mother served in the military.

“Think about how many people have served or are serving right now, that many people care,” Hagen said. “That many people have sacrificed their lives for us, so thank you veterans for caring and thank you for your sacrifice. To the citizens of Loudon, do not take for granted the opportunities that have been given to us by the generations of those who served to protect our freedom and put their lives on hold to raise us and give us all we need. It is our responsibility to work hard and make the best of ourselves now because one day you’ll be the ones others depend on.”

Unlike years past, Thursday’s guest speaker didn’t have military ties. Feezell wanted to thank veterans for helping make his family possible.

Of Feezell’s three children, two were adopted from Asia and Africa. He highlighted each child and talked about their aspirations.

“I love all our veterans, but I wanted to say a special thanks to our Vietnam veterans,” Feezell said. “My daughter, she was born in Can Tho City just south of Saigon in a place where many of you served to protect, away from your family, halfway across the world, in the most difficult of times. I don’t know her birth family’s history, but I know she’s mine today and I can’t help but think your service in that area is part of why she’s able to be here. So that’s my family. Five proud, hard-working American citizens from all corners of the globe. ... I want to thank you veterans because five American citizens who live just across that river from three different continents, my children ... one was born into Uncle Sam’s family, and because of what you did, two more were adopted in thanks to your sacrifice.”

Honored in Tellico Village

Tellico Village held a commemoration at the Yacht Club. The event, organized by Tellico Village VFW Post 12135, included the recognition of a fallen soldier, a keynote speaker and an award presentation.

The program featured a quote from President Theodore Roosevelt. VFW Post Commander Shawn Tallant, who led proceedings, said the quote perfectly encapsulates what the day means.

“The quote that was in the program is ‘You have never lived till you’ve almost died. For those who fight for it, life has a flavor the protected will never know.’ And that’s what Veterans Day is for all the people who for 200-250 years have stepped up when their nation needed them,” Tallant said. “It’s the day not just the country honors the veterans, it’s the veterans themselves, it’s their day to stand back and say, ‘Yes, we stepped up when the country needed it.’ But at the same time, it’s the day to talk about those who are currently serving.”

Tallant is a retired Navy captain who served from 1978-2005. He said events honoring veterans show younger generations that the idea of serving means something.

A veteran of the Vietnam War, guest speaker retired Gen. Doug Brown became a special forces commander and participated in Operation Desert Storm. He spoke of how the perception of the military has changed since he first enlisted in 1967.

Brown’s speech was followed by the presentation of the legion of merit to 1st Sgt. Kevin Meyer. A Tellico Village resident, Meyer had never officially been presented his award, a wrong the VFW post sought to right.

A flag was presented to Stacy Watson Couch, the Gold Star mother of Lance Cpl. Frankie Watson. A Marine, Watson died Sept. 24, 2011, while serving overseas.

“We presented it to the state representative who was in attendance, (state Rep) Russell Lowell, and he turned around and handed it to her,” Tallant said. “The message there was that the people of the Tellico Village community will always keep the memory of her son, Lance Cpl. Frankie Watson, alive in our memory.”

Schools pay tribute

Whether in person or virtual, schools throughout the county provided unique ways to honor those who served.

At Highland Park Elementary School, educators took a precautionary stance and held the ceremony virtually again this year.

Although last year’s was more subtle and in the library, HPES Principal Kathy Winsor said this time was in the gymnasium and included a mixture of live and recorded performances. Classes in kindergarten through fourth grade were given the opportunity to decide how they wished to contribute to this year’s ceremony.

Some students walked up in front of a tablet, which was used to livestream on the school Facebook page, to read poetry or say what they appreciated about veterans. Others sang patriotic tunes or recited the Pledge of Allegiance.

“We have a lot of folks who come in so we just weren’t sure what it was going to look like with COVID,” Winsor said. “And we don’t have a big space to put people, we just have the gym. That’s the biggest reason. We’re hoping to get back to live next year because we have a lot of folks who like to come and join us. We recorded part of it and we did live part of it just so we’d have a mix of it and it’d be a little easier with transitions.”

Winsor hoped Thursday reminded students the importance of those who came before them.

“We always want our children to be aware of Veterans Day and what that means, so we felt like letting each grade level be involved in their own way it gives teachers a chance to talk about at each grade level on children’s own terms,” she said. “I don’t want them to ever forget because a lot of kids it’s their grandparents or their older folks that they’re familiar with in the military, so we want to make sure that they’re aware of the sacrifices that people paid so that we do have our freedoms today.”

Vonnie Myers, one of those attending at HPES, served in the U.S. Navy from 1957-59.

“I’ve just always been so patriotic,” Myers said. “I love our country and I think we owe so much to them people, the men that preceded us and fought in World War I and II and Korea and Vietnam and Desert Shield and Desert Storm. Through the Ruritan (Club) I work a lot of in the flag service, been doing it 57 years, and I just love that flag. I like to see it because I know what it stands for. It’s remember those people that gave so we’d have the right to be where we’re at today.”

Lenoir City High School hosted American Legion Post 70’s celebrations in the auditorium, which opened with remarks from John Houser, civilian commander.

{p class=”p1”}Houser, a retired Navy commander, served four tours in the Middle East, one in Africa and one in Europe beginning in 1984.

{p class=”p1”}“It means a lot,” Houser said. “When we’re serving in the military, we’re overseas. We’re separated from families and friends. Something like this brings everyone together and you get to hear about the Air Force, the Army, the Marines, the Navy. We get to hear the stories. It reminds us why we went over in the first place.”

{p class=”p1”}Houser made way for the school choral, which sang the songs for all five branches of the military, with veterans from each invited to stand when hearing their tune.

{p class=”p1”}After the choral left the stage, American Legion member Jerry Scott explained how an empty chair at a small table paid tribute to those missing in action or who were prisoners of war.

{p class=”p1”}Col. Rafael Pubillones, the main speaker, retired in 2003 after 27 years of active duty in the U.S. Air Force. He spoke of the importance of the day, the suicide epidemic among veterans and ended on a call to action for young adults to get involved.

{p class=”p1”}“It was really important to us because we were able to have our teachers come down, and also kids really see some military veterans talk about that and tell them what it means,” Brandee Hoglund, LCHS principal, said.


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Run LoCo almost here
  • Updated

Loudon County Education Foundation’s third annual Run LoCo fundraiser hopes to get back on track one year after cancellation because of COVID-19.

A marathon and half-marathon are scheduled for 8 a.m. Dec. 4 at The Venue at Lenoir City and end in front of the Loudon County Courthouse. A 5K will start and finish in front of the downtown Loudon fountain.

“Ending in downtown Loudon kind of gives us more of a celebratory atmosphere in itself,” Michele Lewis, LCEF executive director, said. “The way the Sterl (the Perl) is set up we’ll be able to do the awards ceremony from the stage and you’ll still be able to see the runners coming across. I’m working with the local restaurants to see what all we’ll have open down there to whether or not I’ll need to bring in food trucks, but that in itself is a festive ending. Anything that we plan in addition is going to take dollars and we work hard to spend as little as we can so that we can donate to the schools.”

Race Director Christina Adkins said 161 runners had signed up as of Monday. Numbers don’t include those who participated in a children’s Run a Little LoCo in August during RiverFest in Loudon.

Adkins hopes to surpass 2019’s total of 257 runners and potentially reach 300.

Of those signed up, 16 states are represented, including Alaska.

“Super excited to bring our fall marathon back,” Adkins said in an email correspondence. “All spring marathons were moved to the fall, so we’ve had some tough competition with the big marathons (i.e. Boston, New York, Chicago, Knoxville, etc.), but we’re seeing similar numbers from 2019 as people wait to sign up closer to the event date. ... We’ve added a new logo, new medal design shaped like Loudon County, different shirt styles for each race event, pacers from Beast Racing to help people reach their time goals and added a Run LoCo Challenge.”

Winners of the challenge, which consists of beating the full marathon race-time records of 2:59:03 for males and 3:43:18 for females, will receive a free brunch, dinner and overnight stay at La Quinta Inn in Loudon.

Lewis emphasized plans are to hold this year’s run.

“We are set up to handle all of our activities outdoors, so in that respect people have the ability to socially distance and can wear their mask and that sort of thing,” Lewis said. “We are committed to moving forward this year. ... I hate missing the third year and I do feel like it kind of set us back a little bit so I think we lost a little momentum. Also, too, the Knoxville marathon hitting in October has impacted us a little bit, but I feel like we still have a loyal support and good following. We have a good reputation for our race and that has certainly stood by us.

“This should have been our fourth year and we should have been a little further along, but it’s our third year and we’re still kind of dealing with the effects of COVID so it’s been a little bit of a struggle just getting all the pieces into place because it’s a huge undertaking,” she added.

Lewis said she’s “very optimistic” about this year but has tempered expectations.

“Whereas in the past I would have liked to have increased what we’ve done in the previous event by say at least 25%, at this point I would be very happy to see us repeat what we did in ‘19 and consider that a success,” Lewis said. “We had about 300 runners, we raised quite a bit of money in sponsorship and we netted $21,000 for that race. I would love to see us match that and that would be a great success. ... You just really don’t realize the effects of what’s going on in the economy and in people’s personal lives until you start putting these things together and then you see areas where you did not anticipate.

“The supply chain even has affected the things that we put in the swag bags,” she added. “So everything, it has just been really different this year.”

The race, which serves as a Boston Qualifier, was first charted by Loudon County Chamber of Commerce President Rodney Grugin, who is an avid runner.

“The race draws from all over the country,” Grugin said. “I think there are 13 states represented right now — California and Alaska, Wisconsin — so they’re not just coming from Loudon County. This is a big impact for the county as far as bringing in visitors that would not normally come here. ... Runners like to go places and see different things. Believe it or not, runners will design their vacation around a race, and I have done the same thing. ... This can be a destination place for runners to come and they will build their vacation around this destination.”

Lewis said sponsors and volunteers are still welcome.

For more information, visit www.runloco.net.


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EDA plans impact study

Loudon County Economic Development Agency is working on a study officials hope could help plan for the community’s future.

Utilizing a $50,000 ThreeStar grant from the Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development, EDA plans to hire a firm for a data-driven, county-wide economic impact study to address growth.

Loudon was one of 54 counties in Tennessee to get the grant.

“This study is a data-driven approach to assess several community factors and provide recommendations for sustainable growth,” Jack Qualls, EDA executive director, said in an email correspondence. “Workforce, for example, is regional and cannot be looked solely from the county level because employees are willing to commute for higher paying wages.

“... Growth is not always wanted or accepted with open arms; however, the truth of the matter is growth will happen,” he added. “This study will provide an unbiased, data-driven resource for the leaders in our community that choose to review it and use the data with a positive outlook. The goal of this study is to assist in policy- and decision-making that impacts the future of the community.”

The scope of the study includes demographics, economic stability, housing, education, community livability, manufacturing sectors and land use and zoning.

A vendor will be awarded on or before Dec. 1.

Qualls expects the study to take at least five or six months.

“I know that there are several other counties around the state that are experiencing growth,” David Meers, county commissioner, said. “Having some kind of plan and looking at it and utilizing it, hopefully that will give us a guiding point for what we need in the future.”

Meers, who has been a proponent of the study, said a firm looked at school growth several years ago, but he couldn’t remember one that addressed the county as a whole.

“I think at that time it was based on what the schools needed and now we have something that we can put our teeth in and do some planning on that will help us five, 10, 15 years down the road, hopefully,” he said.

Gary Whitfield, county commissioner, said he believes the study could be beneficial, acknowledging there isn’t much information available right now.

“I guess the thought process is that it’s a grant that’s available for us and I think that we should take advantage of it,” Whitfield said. “Also it gives us some really good information that we can make some educated guesses and have some real data in front of us that shows what folks that do this for a living can put in front of county commission.”

Henry Cullen, county commissioner, agreed.

“The problem is nobody knows what the outcome is going to be or what it’s going to encompass,” Cullen said. “I think it could help out, but we won’t know a lot until it’s finished. But could it help the county? Probably will, but I don’t know for sure how it will impact the county.”


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