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City Budget Adopted on First Reading

June 17, 2015
Dwayne Page
Smithville Mayor and Aldermen

It appears Smithville property taxes and water and sewer rates will remain the same for another year.

The Smithville Board of Mayor and Aldermen Tuesday afternoon met in a workshop and then a special session to adopt the new 2015-16 budget on first reading.

A workshop will be held next Tuesday to give the aldermen a chance to make changes before second and final reading passage at a special meeting yet to be scheduled.

The new budget totals $7-million 625-thousand 323 dollars. Under the new spending plan, the property tax rate will remain the same at .6490 cents per $100 of assessed value.

Water and sewer rates are to remain the same. City water customers will continue to pay $5.00 per thousand gallons of usage. Rates for customers outside the city limits are $7.50 per thousand gallons.City sewer customers will continue to pay $5.00 per thousand gallons plus the flat usage rate of $3.62.

The rate the city charges the DeKalb Utility District will remain at $2.67 per thousand gallons. City Administrator Hunter Hendrixson said initial plans were to increase that to $3.00 per thousand but because of a Chancery Court order setting the rate at $2.67 it cannot be changed at this time.

Hourly city employees are budgeted to get a 2% cost of living pay raise except for police officers who are due to get a raise under the eight step wage scale for all hourly employees in the department. Pay for the city administrator and police chief position will increase significantly in order to keep their salaries above the highest paid employee in the police department, the Captain, whose salary including overtime and bonus pay is budgeted at more than $60,000 this year.

Aldermen are concerned about the disparity in pay between some department supervisors. Alderman Shawn Jacobs pointed out that the Fire Chief and Airport Manager are paid well below other city department heads and suggested that they each should get a larger pay hike this year. Alderman Gayla Hendrix agreed and said she would speak with the city's financial advisor Janice Plemmons-Jackson concerning wage issues. Jackson helps prepare the city's budget each year.

Capital outlay projects include:

*Street paving- $200,000. That's about double what is normally budgeted. Hendrixson said plans are to mill and repave the downtown square area and to replace any old worn out water and sewer lines ($30,000) in the process.

*New sanitation truck and trash containers- $350,000

*New extrication "Jaws of Life" equipment ($25,000) and a new thermal imaging camera ($9,600) for the Fire Department.

Fire Chief Charlie Parker also requested a new rescue vehicle as well as funding for another paid firefighter and money to pay volunteers more for doing extra duties through an incentive program. The city has put those requests on hold for now but may revisit the purchase of a new rescue vehicle later in the budget year.

*Police Car-$28,000

*New Animal Shelter- $75,000.That money will only be spent if the county appropriates $75,000 to match the cost of the project

* Airport: Land acquisition and other improvements (Mostly funded by grants)

*Water service truck (water and sewer department)- $50,000

Total general fund revenues are projected to be $3,689,250, not enough to cover total estimated expenditures of $4,370,393. The city plans to appropriate $681,143 from the general fund surplus to balance the budget. The water and sewer fund is expected to show a surplus of $8,155 by year's end with total revenues at $2,628,600 and expenditures of $2,620,445

Six Seek to Become Next Director of Schools

June 16, 2015
Dwayne Page
Patrick Cripps
Gina Arnold
Anthony D. Pack
Michael James Steele
Greg Rockhold
Richard Ronald Rundhaug

Six persons have submitted applications and or resumes seeking the Director of Schools position in DeKalb County.

The Board of Education voted on May 14 to post a notice on the school system's website seeking applications for the position from May 15 through June 15. The deadline for filing applications was the close of business Monday.

Two of the six applicants are local and currently employed by the school system including DCHS Principal Patrick Cripps and Gina Arnold, who is the Supervisor of Special Education. The other four are Anthony D. Pack of Macon, Georgia; Michael James Steele of Spring Hill, Tennessee; Greg Rockhold of Hobbs, New Mexico; and Richard Ronald Rundhaug of Willcox, Arizona.

The Board must now decide the next step to take in the selection process. According to the policy, the board must develop selection procedures which shall include, but not be limited to the following:

Resumes of persons interviewed by the Board shall be available in the central office for public inspection.

The interview process for each finalist shall include meetings with various staff and community groups and an interview with the entire board.

Candidates shall be interviewed by the Board in an open session. Only board members will be allowed to ask questions during the interview.

The Board will attempt to select a director by unanimous vote, but a majority of the membership of the Board shall be required for the appointment of a director of schools.

In the event of an emergency vacancy in the office of the director, the Board may expedite this process.

The following is a brief summary of each applicant's educational background and experience as an educator

*Patrick Cripps received a BS degree from Tennessee Tech University in the fall of 1995 with a major in Psychology and a minor in Sociology. In the fall of 1999, Cripps earned an MA in Educational Psychology and Counselor Education at Tennessee Tech. During the summer of 2004, Cripps received his Ed.S degree in Instructional Leadership at Tennessee Tech.

Cripps has served as Principal at DCHS since 2012. He began his education career in DeKalb County as a Safe Schools Counselor in 1997. Two years later, Cripps was named a School Counselor at DCHS. In 2005, Cripps moved up to becoming an Assistant Principal at DCHS, a position he held until being named Principal.

*Gina Arnold obtained her Bachelor of Science degree in Special Education at Tennessee Tech University in August, 1992. In May 2000 Arnold earned her Master of Arts degree from Tennessee Tech with a major in Curriculum and Instruction and a minor in Early Childhood Special Education PreK-2. Arnold then received her Education Specialist degree in Instructional Leadership in August 2005 at Tennessee Tech.

Arnold became a Special Education Teacher at Smithville Elementary School in 1992 and was transferred to Northside Elementary School in 2000 where she served as a Special Education CDC Teacher. In 2005, Arnold was promoted to Special Education Supervisor, a position she still holds.

* Anthony D. Pack received a Bachelor of Arts degree in 1990 from Mercer University in Macon, Georgia in Middle Grades Education with Concentrations in Language Arts, Math, and Science. Pack received his Master of Education in Administration and Supervision of Schools from Georgia Southern University in Statesboro, Georgia in 1996. He earned his Education Specialist degree in Curriculum and Instruction from Argosy University in Sarasota, Florida in 2005.

Pack currently serves as Superintendent of Schools for the Monroe County Board of Education in Forsyth, Georgia, a position he has held since 2008. Prior to that, Pack served two years as Superintendent of Schools for the Kent County Board of Education in Rock Hall, Maryland.

*Michael James Steele received his B.A. degree in Psychology at Columbia College in 1996. Two years later, Steele earned an M.S. degree in Psychology/Counseling at Troy University. In 2014, he obtained his Ed.D. in Education at Lipscomb University.

Since 2010 Steele has held the position of Executive Principal for Stratford STEM High School. He began his career in 2006 as a Guidance Counselor in Madison, Florida. A year later Steele was named Assistant Principal at Andrew Jackson High School in Jacksonville, Florida. In 2008, Steele became a Middle School Principal before taking the job he currently holds.

*Greg Rockhold received his Bachelor of Science degree with minors in Business Administration and Marketing from Eastern New Mexico University in Portales, New Mexico. He later earned his Masters of Education in General Education at Eastern New Mexico University. Rockhold then obtained a Ph.D with an emphasis in Educational Leadership at Trinity Southwest University in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

Rockhold currently serves as Assistant Principal and Athletic Director at Heizer Middle School in Hobbs, New Mexico, a position he has held for one year. He was founding Principal at Humes Preparatory Academy Elementary School at Memphis in 2013. Prior to that, Rockhold was Principal at a Middle School in Shiprock, New Mexico for one year in 2012.

*Richard Ronald Rundhaug earned his BA in Elementary Education at Hope International University in 1990. Seven years later, he obtained his M.Ed in School Administration at Northern Arizona University. In 1999, Rundhaug received an MBA in Business Administration at Webster University. He then earned his Ph.D in Leadership for K-12 at Capella University.

Rundhaug served as Superintendent of the Willcox Unified School District in Willcox, Arizona from 2008 to 2014. Prior to that, he held the position of Assistant Superintendent of the Coolidge Unified Schools District in Coolidge, Arizona.

The Board of Education will meet Thursday, June 18 at 6:30 p.m. in a work session at the Board of Education Building.

NHC Smithville Honors CNA’s of the Year

June 16, 2015
L to R: (Standing) Fonda Cantrell, Clint Hall (Administrator), Maria Amaya, Opal Parker, Amanda Savage, and Melinda Wilson (Director of Nursing). (Sitting) Dekota Watson, Susie White, and Lexie Barnwell. NOT PICTURED: Pam Sims)

Certified Nurse Aides (CNA) provide essential care in healthcare settings by assisting patients with activities of daily living. Eight area residents were recently recognized as CNA’s of the Year at NHC Smithville. Amanda Savage, Dekota Watson, Lexi Barnwell, Fonda Cantrell, Maria Amaya, Opal Parker, and Susie White of Smithville, and Pam Sims of Sparta, were honored at a banquet at Embassy Suites in Murfreesboro, TN to celebrate with other honored CNA’s from NHC HealthCare Centers throughout Middle Tennessee and Southern Kentucky. The keynote speaker this year was Mr. Ralph Vaughn, well known native of Smithville and President of the Tennessee Christian Chamber of Commerce. Mr. Vaughn shared a wonderful message of gratitude and service with all honorees.

The honorees were evaluated on knowledge and performance of their duties, among other key factors. Mrs. Pam Sims was further recognized as NHC Smithville’s nominee for CNA of the Year for all NHC centers in the Central Region. NHC Smithville Director of Nursing, Melinda Wilson, said, “Each of these CNA’s are hard-working, professional, compassionate, caring, honest, understanding, and highly skilled. They are a tremendous asset to NHC Smithville and we are truly fortunate to have them as valued partners.”

NHC Smithville offers inpatient and outpatient rehabilitative care and accepts Medicare, Medicaid, private insurance, workers compensation, managed care, and private funds. The inpatient healthcare center offers skilled nursing and rehabilitation services to adults of all ages on a short-term and long-term basis. NHC Smithville’s outpatient clinic offers physical, occupational, and speech therapy services to infants, children and adults of all ages. For more information about NHC Smithville, visit www.nhcsmithville.com or call (615) 597-4284.

(PHOTO ABOVE) L to R: (Standing) Fonda Cantrell, Clint Hall (Administrator), Maria Amaya, Opal Parker, Amanda Savage, and Melinda Wilson (Director of Nursing). (Sitting) Dekota Watson, Susie White, and Lexie Barnwell. NOT PICTURED: Pam Sims)

Third Annual "Giggin' for Grads" Tournament Set for Friday Night

June 16, 2015
Dwayne Page
Third Annual "Giggin' for Grads" Tournament Set for Friday Night

Animal Rights groups may be hopping mad about it but the third annual DeKalb County Young Farmers & Ranchers "Giggin' for Grads" frog gigging tournament is set for Friday, June 19

Proceeds benefit the agricultural scholarship fund. Registration will be held from 5:30 pm to 7pm, June 19th, in the DeKalb County Community Complex parking lot. Cash payouts will be awarded to the top 3 teams with door prizes drawn during weigh-in. Valid hunting license is required and TN state hunting laws do apply.

While groups such as "Friends of Animals" recognize that gigging frogs is legal, they claim it is a cruel killing of wild frogs. For the last two years, animal rights activists have come to Smithville to conduct peaceful protests of the frog gigging tournament. In a prepared news release in May, "Friends of Animals" said they were willing to offer $500 for the Young Farmer's agricultural scholarship if the students would cancel the tournament.

Meanwhile for those who can't participate in the frog gigging tournament, a country fried dinner is planned for Saturday, June 20 in the parking lot of Tractor Supply starting at 11 a.m. and everyone is invited. For a $10 donation you will receive a country dinner including frog legs, sides, and drink. For more information please find them on Facebook at “DeKalb County Young Farmers & Ranchers” or call the Dekalb County Farm Bureau office at 615-597-7751.

State AG Backs Cookeville Boat Dock Court Decision

June 15, 2015
Dwayne Page
Tennessee Attorney General Henry H. Slatery, III

The Tennessee Attorney General is in agreement with Circuit Court Judge Amy Hollars that Cookeville Boat Dock must pay taxes owed to DeKalb County.

Henry H. Slatery, III, State Attorney General and a Counter-Defendant in the case has responded to a motion in Chancery Court asking for Judge Hollars to reconsider her recent ruling that Cookeville Boat Dock must pay more than $200,000 in property taxes, interest, and penalties.

In his response filed last week in DeKalb County Chancery Court, the Attorney General said Cookeville Boat Dock's motion to reconsider should be denied because it merely repeats the same arguments that were thoroughly considered and rejected by Judge Hollars in her Opinion and Order entered on April 7, 2015.

The boat dock has refused to pay the taxes since 1998 and Judge Hollers ruled in April that the dock’s challenge to the tax was invalid.

The boat dock’s attorney, Jon. E. Jones of Cookeville, now argues the county cannot collect taxes beyond 10 years; that the judge’s ruling on the “Supremacy Clause” of the U.S. Constitution was incorrect; and that the amount of interest the county wants to charge is above what is allowed by law.

In his response, Slatery states that "Cookeville Boat Dock does not allege that the taxes in dispute were imposed on property owned by the federal government. To the contrary, as this Court ruled, "Cookeville Boat Dock has been assessed for boat dock buildings and other structures that Cookeville Boat Dock actually owns". Even if this Court were to strike down Article II, Section 28, as violating the Supremacy Clause, this ruling would provide no relief to Cookeville Boat Dock. Under these circumstances, Cookeville Boat Dock lacks standing to challenge Article II, Section 28, based on its claim that the provision treats property owned by the federal government differently than state and local governmental property."

"In the April 7, 2015, Opinion and Order, this Court (Judge Hollars), correctly ruled that Article II, Section 28, "does not mandate a differing rule of taxation for commercial boat docks operated on state or county property", and, further, that the Supremacy Clause does not prevent a state or local government from imposing a tax on an individual or corporation that operates a business for private gain on federal property. These conclusions are amply supported by the authorities cited in the Court's opinion and, thus, Cookeville Boat Dock's motion should be denied, " Attorney General Slatery concluded.

The Tennessee Attorney General was made a party to the case to defend the constitutionality of Article II, section 28 of the Tennessee Constitution.

Liberty Library to Close

June 13, 2015
Dwayne Page
Kathy Hendrixson

Although services of the DeKalb County Library System as a whole have been expanding in recent years, one library location will be closing this month due to declining patronage.

"As of June 26 we will be closing the Liberty Library," said County Library Director Kathy Hendrixson in an interview with WJLE. "The nine member DeKalb County Library Board voted in May to close the library. It was a sad and difficult decision for the board to have to make but in order to use our staff and resources to the best advantage to the community and reach more people, we had to make this decision," she said.

The Liberty Library, located in a 700 square foot room in the old high school building, opened about ten years ago after having relocated from Dowelltown. But in recent years, fewer people have been taking advantage of it. "At that time (in the beginning) it was supported. More people were coming in and more children, but the demographics have changed in the area. There is just very little usage of the library down there now. It's been coming for about a year. We tried changing our hours. The board voted last year to take it down to two days a week. We did that last year and it opened it up so we could have more staff to do programs here (Smithville). This year in May we took it to one day a week because we were having so many programs and things going on at this library (Justin Potter) and needed the staff for that," said Hendrixson.

While the library will be closing, people in the Liberty area may make use of library services at either the Smithville or Alexandria location. "When one window closes, it presents another window of opportunity. The cool thing about this is that their library card can be used at any of our county libraries and they (people of Liberty) have been utilizing it. They have already been coming in here from Liberty and Alexandria has had people coming down there. That's a plus," Hendrixson continued.

"We're not abandoning the people in Liberty. We love those people and want to reach out to all our communities hopefully in a more effective way. I spoke to two senior citizens in Liberty recently and explained the READS Program to them and they were excited about this. That program offers our patrons over 60,000 free downloadable eBooks and audio books to their computers, Kindles, Nooks and smart phones. While these seniors may not get out as much and weren't using the library as much down there, this service lets them stay at home and read their books. All they need is a library card. There are children's books, fiction, etc. They can go in there and check those out and choose the times, seven, fourteen, or twenty one days and when the time is up, they (e and audio books) just disappear. There are no fines. And those books they check out counts toward our circulation at the library so it's like they came in here and checked out a book only it's from home and it’s free. We get a count each month from the state on how many READS books are downloaded through the library system in this county and last month there were almost one thousand downloads. We are fifth highest (downloads) among the fourteen counties in our region. I have also enrolled in an Advantage Program so that the patrons of our libraries can go in and have access to some of the best sellers and it's only available to them. It's a wonderful resource, "she said.

"Sometimes you have to have a library without walls. You have to take the library to the people and that's what we want to do. We want to do more partnering and more outreach with our communities. We're already partnering with Motlow State Community College, using their room (county complex) for computer classes. We're partnering with the arts community. They're coming in and doing art projects and things for the children. When we partnered with the Farmer's Market last year we brought the artists in for the arts and foods demonstrations and they had more people come to the Farmers Market that year than they had seen in a long time," she said.

"We did sixteen programs in May. It was the busiest time I can remember and that's all the way from discussion groups to partnering with the Farmers Market, computer classes, Older Americans Day where we partner with the senior center, art classes, kindergarten field trips,and now the Summer Reading program is going on. We've partnered with the Study Club for art exhibits and had six youth and ten adult programs with 641 people attending. That's just phenomenal to me. More outreach. That's what we want to do in the future," she said.

As times change, Hendrixson said the library system has to adapt. "For libraries to stay viable we have to change with technology. We have 30 plus computers for two libraries. When I started 15 years ago there were two computers. We are now automated where we can check books in and out without doing the little stamps. We couldn't go back to that system now. We do too big a volume during the day with people using the computers. We might have 50 people or more using the computers a day. Last year the population shifted and we were able to arrange our hours to open two late nights at Justin Potter. We're open six days a week here (Smithville) but we don't close until seven o'clock on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Alexandria is open four days a week on Mondays until six o'clock and Wednesdays and Fridays until five o'clock. They're open on Saturdays from ten until two".

And while they may be stretched thin, Hendrixson said the library staff gets the job done and she is proud of them. "Our staff has stepped up to the plate. We've changed their schedule and moved them around but they have given 100%. I really appreciate my staff and volunteers. We only have three full time staff and that includes me and three part time to run three libraries".

As the Liberty Library prepares to close, Hendrixson said she wants to express her appreciation to the town's leaders for allowing the library system to have a location there. Library books and materials in Liberty will soon be moved to another location. "We don't have any storage here at this library (Smithville) but we will move the materials and hopefully put them in a room and use it as outreach and hopefully eventually we can re-establish a bookmobile," she said.

Harold Luna Injured in Rollover Crash

June 13, 2015
Dwayne Page
Harold Luna Injured in Rollover Crash
Harold Luna Airlifted by Life Force

76 year old Harold Luna was injured in a rollover accident Friday afternoon on Keltonburg Road (Highway 288) near the community center.

According to Trooper Bobby Johnson of the Tennessee Highway Patrol, Luna was traveling east in a 1996 GMC Sierra 1500 pickup truck when he crossed the center line and ran off the left side of the highway. The truck tore through a fence and overturned coming to rest upside down in a field.

Members of the Keltonburg station and extrication and rescue team of the DeKalb County Volunteer Fire Department arrived on the scene and helped remove Luna from the truck.

He was treated by DeKalb EMS and then taken to the back yard of the Keltonburg Community Center where a helicopter ambulance airlifted him to Erlanger Hospital in Chattanooga.

Budget Committee Denies County Clerk Request for Additional Employee

June 13, 2015
Dwayne Page
County Clerk James L. (Jimmy) Poss

The DeKalb County Budget Committee has been hearing from public officials and department supervisors in recent weeks on funding requests for the 2015-16 fiscal year.

The committee has already recommended some budgets be adopted by the full county commission later this summer.

One request that the budget committee has denied for this year came from County Clerk James L. (Jimmy) Poss who was seeking a fourth full time employee for his office.

In a recent budget committee meeting, Poss gave reasons for why he believes an additional employee is needed in his office. "After much consideration and researching our daily and monthly work flow going back to the beginning of 2013 to current, I definitely feel we have the need for another full time person".

"When this office began printing new titles in December 2012 work flow all together increased. Our office currently processes an average of 87 titles and renewals per day. This does not include boat registrations, beer permit applications, completing business and marriage license, notaries, bookkeeping, assisting customers with the kiosk machine, etc."

"In comparison, last year we completed 1,000 more transactions than Smith County. They are approximately 500 more in population and have five full time employees and one part time. They (Smith County) don't lose anybody through the week and don't work on Saturday. I'm not saying we have to operate their way. I'm just using this as an example of the amount of work we do," said Poss

"I originally considered seeking a part time employee, but with time we have experienced increasing work flow and scheduling difficulties concerning the employees vacation time, sick time, comp time, and different things that are due them as well as their lunch hours. In order to maintain two employees in the office it requires a minimum of three people Monday through Friday every week just to assure each employee has their lunch break."

"Current employee absences exceed 700 hours annually. The employees who work on Saturday are allotted time off during the same week in order to keep their 37 1/2 hours status quo with the other employees who do not work on Saturdays. This time alone accounts for the loss of one full time employee one day every week. Factor in employee sick time, vacation time, and take into consideration any bereavement or family leave if needed, the office will lose enough hours a year that certainly covers at least a part time position," said Poss.

County Clerk Poss also stated that according to previous public statements made by the former administrator the need was anticipated even prior to his (Poss) taking office and he (former administrator) addressed the concern with the county legislative body during a monthly meeting on August 27, 2012 and again the following day in an interview with WJLE.

The projected costs of adding another position to the office is $23,024 plus benefits according to the county's existing wage scale.

Qualifying Deadline for Alexandria Election Next Thursday

June 11, 2015
Dwayne Page

Anyone wishing to qualify for the Alexandria Municipal Election has until noon next Thursday, June 18 to get in the race.

In this year's election on September 3, three aldermen are to be elected, each to serve a four year term. Meanwhile, a mayor and two other aldermen are to be elected to fill vacancies or the remaining two years of unexpired terms.

According to the election commission Bennett Armstrong and Tony Tarpley have picked up petitions to run for mayor. Armstrong has already returned his petition to become a candidate. Armstrong is currently an alderman appointee. Tarpley was appointed mayor in 2013 after Jim York was elected mayor and resigned three days after taking office. Tarpley has served the first two years of York's unexpired term as mayor. Both Tarpley and Armstrong plan to seek the last two years of the term.

Kelly Pyburn, David Cripps, and John F. Suggs have each been issued petitions to seek a four year alderman term. Both Suggs and Cripps have returned them to become candidates. Cripps and Suggs are incumbent aldermen, appointees serving out unexpired or vacant terms.

Matthew Boss and Danny Parkerson each have obtained petitions to run for a two year alderman term.

The sitting members are Mayor Tony Tarpley and Aldermen Pat Jackson, David Cripps, John Suggs, and Bennett Armstrong. All are serving as appointees except for Jackson, who was elected in 2013 and still has two years remaining in his term.

Sierra Hull Honored with Blue Blaze Award for 2015

June 11, 2015
Shan Burklow
Sierra Hull Honored with Blue Blaze Award for 2015

There aren’t many twenty-three year old musicians that can say they’ve had a career that’s already spanned more than a decade, and there aren’t many at any age that can compare resumes with Sierra Hull.

Hull has been named the 2015 Blue Blaze Award recipient by the Smithville Fiddlers’ Jamboree and Crafts Festival. She will be presented this award on the same stage that her love of competitive bluegrass music began. Her journey began on the stage of the Smithville Fiddlers Jamboree at the young age of 9 years old. By age 11, Alison Krauss had called with an invitation to the Opry stage; by 12, Rounder Records was expressing interest (she signed a record deal with Rounder at 13, with her first album released at 16.) She’s also played the White House, Carnegie Hall (twice), the Kennedy Center, traveled around the world sharing her music, and released three albums. Then there’s the fact that Berklee gave her the school’s most prestigious award, the Presidential Scholarship, a first for a bluegrass musician; her choice to accept it, to delay her dream of hitting the road full-time after high school in favor of expanding her musical worldview, was hardly a light one.

“When the Jamboree board and committees were talking about potential recipients for this year’s Blue Blaze Award, we were looking for a candidate whose roots of success grew from their participation at the Smithville Fiddlers Jamboree. Sierra Hull, with all of her great success and accolades, was the uncontested fit for this honor,” said Shan Burklow – Jamboree Marketing Committee, “We are honored that Sierra’s humble beginnings started right here on the Jamboree stage and have enjoyed watching her career explode at such a young age. She is a remarkable talent and extraordinary person. The core mission of the award is to acknowledge a musician that has kept the embers of bluegrass music glowing for future generations to come. We believe that Sierra embodies the heart of this mission.”

“At 9 years old, I stepped on to the stage at the Smithville Fiddler’s Jamboree for the first time to play “Jerusalem Ridge”, said Hull, “It was my first contest, and I had only been playing about a year at the time. I didn’t place in the contest, but felt really inspired by all the other kids and musicians I met that day. I immediately looked forward to going back the next year. My dad certainly reminded me that I’d have to work hard if I wanted to place next time. The next year, I went back and won 1st on guitar, which was really exciting, but only 2nd on mandolin. I’ve always thought of myself as a mandolin player first, so I really wanted to win the mandolin contest at least once. It was such a good thing for me as a young kid to enter a contest and lose! It really gave me a boost to work hard for another year. I went back the next year and won both mandolin and guitar! I was so excited. It was also great local exposure with the contest being broadcasted on WCTE. After winning - later that year, Gibson gave me my first mandolin endorsement - mostly because Danny Roberts had seen me play at the Jamboree. I couldn’t believe it! I am so honored to be chosen for the Blue Blaze Award this year. I will always have a soft spot in my heart for Smithville as a place where some of my fondest memories as a young musician were made.”

Boundaries---age, genre or otherwise---don’t hamper an artist like Sierra. She’s already earned considerable respect in the bluegrass world, the IBMA’s voting members having nominated her for no fewer than eight awards. We’re thinking that there’s a good chance that she’ll be the first woman to win the mandolin category. But as a player, singer, and a songwriter, she also has remarkable range. Matt Glaser, head of Berklee’s American Roots Music Program, put it this way, “She has no limitations as a musician.”

Hull has a fan base that includes country icons and legends alike. Country Music Legend Dolly Parton was quoted as saying, “I can’t say enough about Sierra Hull….Sierra is truly a beautiful and talented gift to this world, so special and unique.” Alison Krauss weighed in with her feelings on the young artist, “Sierra is a remarkably talented, beautiful human being. Success could not have come to a more worthy person. I adore her.”
…and we couldn’t agree more. Congratulations to Sierra Hull, the Smithville Fiddlers’ Jamboree Blue Blaze Award recipient for 2015. For more information on her career, accolades, and upcoming tour dates, go to www.sierrahull.com


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