Local News Articles

Aldermen to Adopt New Ordinance Addressing Wages of City Employees

August 24, 2010
Dwayne Page
Taft Hendrixson

The Smithville Mayor and Aldermen, meeting in a Monday night workshop on the budget, discussed adopting a new ordinance addressing wages of city employees.

Mayor Taft Hendrixson says the city needs a new wage scale because the existing one is confusing and not equitable to employees. " The old wage chart, I can't make rhyme nor reason out of it, the way the computer was doing the wages and the raises every year. It's just not equitable how these raises are determined. There needs to be something done about it to make it equitable for everybody."

So the mayor has proposed a new "wage chart" which if approved would take effect this budget year, 2010-11. Mayor Hendrixson says under the proposal, pay rates would be based on those in the 2009-10 budget, but there would be a change affecting new employees and the way pay raises are determined. "This is for employees starting after July 1st, 2010. The other employees, their wage will be whatever it is plus either cost of living or step raises."

"I've simplified it. The first four years, you (employees) would get a fifty cents (per hour) a year step raise and you would get it on your anniversary. What's been happening in the past, for someone say starting in August, it would be 23 months before they would get their step raise and I don't think that's right. That needs to be on their anniversary. Then after the four years, there would be a cost of living raise if the board deems that they want to do that every year. I think that needs to be in the ordinance. I don't think it (cost of living raise) needs to be automatic. There's towns around us where employees haven't gotten a raise in three or four years. We're lucky we've given one every year but I believe it needs to be at the board's discretion. There are four salaried employees and I think the board needs to set their salary every year. That's my opinion."

Mayor Hendrixson says wages of city employees are comparable to the pay of other towns and many local industries. In some cases, he says it's even better, considering the benefits. "All of these wages are comparable to any of the factories here or better and are far better than what the county pays. They are comparable to anything around and better than most. And you can add seven thousand dollars a year to each one of these employees for health, life, and dental insurance, that nobody else gets to my knowledge. That's a seven thousand dollar a year perk. When you talk to somebody out of town about this they just can't believe we do this (offer benefits) and there may come a time when we can't, but I hope we can keep it up."

The proposed new ordinance may also require city employees that need certification to become certified within eighteen months of employment. Alderman Aaron Meeks spoke to this issue. "Any employee hired that requires certification, they should have eighteen months to obtain certification. If they don't obtain it within eighteen months they will either be terminated or transferred to another department if we have an opening where they can transfer."

Mayor Hendrixson added that for all new hires " the first sixty days, they need to be on probation, just like we have had it. At the end of sixty days, if they're not working out, they can be terminated at the board's discretion."

Alderman Meeks suggested that a new ordinance be adopted soon to address these issues. " I think we need to draft an ordinance that would replace three old ordinances (regarding wages) to reflect these changes that we've discussed and then I believe we will have a good starting point for our city employees pay scales."

Once the proposed ordinance is drafted by city attorney Vester Parsley, Jr. the mayor will schedule a special meeting to consider first reading passage. The new budget ordinance may also be scheduled for passage at the same meeting.

Public hearings and second and final reading passage of each ordinance would follow within two weeks of first reading.

Sheriff's Department Makes Two More Arrests in August 3rd Robbery of Liberty State Bank

August 23, 2010
Dwayne Page
Ricky Estes
Roxanna Landis
Carlos Lynn Godsey
Dustin David Yates
Danette Louise Paulic

The DeKalb County Sheriff's Department has arrested two more people, believed to have been accomplices with 38 year old Craig Hill in the robbery of Liberty State Bank on August 3rd.

45 year old Ricky Estes of Whorton Springs Road, Smithville and 26 year old Roxanna Landis of Andrew Street, Smithville were both arrested on Friday, August 20th and charged with aggravated robbery. Each is under a $100,000 bond and they are scheduled to appear in General Sessions Court on Monday, September 13th.

Sheriff Patrick Ray says Estes "aided in the robbery of Liberty State Bank by being involved in the planning of the robbery and driving the get away car. He also shared in the proceeds from the robbery."

Sheriff Ray adds that Landis "aided by being involved in the planning of the robbery, freely leaving in the get away vehicle, and sharing in the proceeds of the robbery.

Hill, who was accused of actually committing the robbery, made a brief court appearance last week but the case was continued until September 13th in DeKalb County General Sessions Court. Hill is under a $100,000 bond on the aggravated robbery charge but he is being held without bond on charges of violation of probation in other cases against him.

Hill, a resident of Holmes Creek Road, Smithville turned himself in at the DeKalb County Jail on Saturday, August 14th for violation of probation.

In a brief statement, Sheriff Ray said "On August the 3rd, through an investigation into the robbery, Hill was identified through (bank surveillance) video tapes and other investigative tools to be the person responsible for the robbery. Lawmen had been searching for Hill ever since. Hill, who had been living out of town since this incident, came to the DeKalb County Jail to turn himself in on a violation of probation warrant. While there, he was questioned by Sheriff's Department Detectives about the robbery and admitted his involvement in the robbery of Liberty State Bank.

The warrant alleges that "On or about the 3rd day of August 2010, Craig Anthony Hill did enter the Liberty State Bank in Liberty Tennessee presenting the teller with a note stating "Give me the money in 20's and 100's, I have a gun" thus putting the teller in fear of her life. The teller at that point took the cash from her drawer and gave it to Craig Hill as instructed. The amount of money taken during the robbery was in excess of $6,000."

Meanwhile in other crime news, 30 year old Carlos Lynn Godsey of LaVergne Street, Alexandria
was charged Tuesday, August 17th with theft of property under $500 and theft of property over $1,000. His court date is September 16th and he is under a $35,000 bond

Sheriff Ray says, Godsey went to a location on Rosewood Lane, Smithville on Tuesday, August 10th and took a door to a Chevy S-10 pickup truck, a metal milk jug, and a set of metal car ramps, valued at about $200.

The next day, Wednesday, August 11th, Sheriff Ray says Godsey went to a location on the Alexandria to Dismal Road, Alexandria and stole a 20 horsepower boat motor, an air compressor, a truck and car transmission, and a 1976 International scout body, valued at $1,500.

27 year old Dustin David Yates of School Land Road, Van Cleave Missouri was charged Tuesday, August 17th with theft of property. His bond is $5,000 and he will be in court on September 2nd.

According to Sheriff Ray, Yates took a vehicle in Missouri and brought it to Tennessee. "We got a report that the vehicle was on Miller Lane, Smithville at a residence. A deputy went to Miller Lane, found the vehicle, and learned that he was the driver of the vehicle. Authorities in Missouri have placed a hold on Yates for the charges against him there.

35 year old Karen Lynn Welsh of Bobby Hayes Road, Dowelltown was charged on Thursday, August 19th with a first offense of driving under the influence. Sheriff Ray says deputies received a call from dispatch of a "Be on the Lookout" BOLO for a black Forerunner. "One of the deputies got behind the vehicle on Highway 56 south and observed it cross the center line four times. The officer then pulled it over. The driver, Welsh, had slurred speech and her pupils were pin pointed in size. She submitted to field sobriety tasks which she failed. Her bond is $1500 and she will appear in court on September 2nd.

52 year old Danette Louise Paulic of Oakley Road, Liberty was charged Thursday, August 19th with aggravated burglary, theft of property under $500, and possession of drug paraphernalia
Her bond is $16,000 and she will be in court on September 2nd. According to Sheriff Ray, deputies were called to a break-in on Sparta Highway and found Paulic there. "She had taken a leather jacket, a bottle of bleach, and a basket full of cleaning supplies. When they (officers) did an inventory of the vehicle before it was towed, they found two pipes used to smoke illegal drugs."

45 year old Claude Patrick Trimble of Tabernacle Road, Smithville was charged on August 20th with a second offense of driving on a revoked license and possession of drug paraphernalia. His bond is $3,000 and his court date is September 30th. Sheriff Ray says Trimble was operating a motor vehicle on Banks Pisgah Road and was stopped for almost hitting another vehicle head-on. When the deputy asked to see his drivers license, Trimble handed him a parole card and stated he did not have a license. A computer check of his license revealed that they were revoked for a DUI and other offenses on May 1st, 2003 in Warren County. The deputy also found between the driver side seat and console a used hypodermic needle.

31 year old Scotty Wayne Knowles was charged on Sunday, August 22nd with driving on a suspended license. His bond is $1,000 and his court date is September 30th.

Sheriff Ray says a deputy was on routine patrol on Jacobs Pillar Road when he observed a vehicle cross the center line several times. Upon stopping the vehicle, the deputy found the driver to be Knowles. The officer asked for a drivers license check through central dispatch and it showed Knowles' license to be suspended for failure to show a drivers license on March 17th in DeKalb County.

Tractor Trailer Rig Tears through Barbed Wire Fence into a Pasture on Allen's Ferry Road

August 23, 2010
Dwayne Page
Tractor Trailer Rig Tears through Fence and into Pasture on Allen's Ferry Road
Truck Driver Escapes Injury in Accident on Allen's Ferry Road

The driver of a tractor trailer rig escaped injury this morning after his truck went off Allen's Ferry Road and through a barbed wire fence before stopping in a pasture.

Central dispatch received the call at 7:14 a.m.

Trooper Dewaine Jennings of the Tennessee Highway Patrol says 59 year old Terry Lee Caldwell of Humbolt, operating a Volvo tractor trailer for Venture Express, was enroute to Federal Mogul hauling cardboard boxes.

According to Trooper Jennings, Caldwell was traveling north on state route 83 when "the vehicle failed to properly negotiate a curve to the left, ran off the road to the right, and over corrected going across the center line. The tractor trailer left the roadway to the left, entered a ditchline and came to rest in a pasture field after going through a barbed wire fence at 2535 Allen's Ferry Road."

As far as the damage, Trooper Jennings says the truck tore down part of the fence and some fence posts. "There was also damage to the truck. It busted his suspension and air tanks and there was some damage to the front end of tractor trailer."

Caldwell was cited for failure to maintain proper lane of travel and for a log book violation due to his duty status not being current. He was showing (logged) himself in the sleeper berth at the time of the accident.

DeKalb County to Get Litter Grant

August 22, 2010
Dwayne Page
Mike Foster

As part of the effort to Stop Litter in Tennessee, Governor Phil Bredesen and TDOT Commissioner Gerald Nicely have awarded $3-million 862-thousand 515 in litter grant funds to all 95 counties in Tennessee.

DeKalb County will receive a grant for $29,237 dollars.

"Each year volunteers pick up almost 25 million pounds of roadside litter in Tennessee alone," said Bredesen. "Litter is an eye-sore, it's costly to clean up and it can be harmful to our environment, but it's totally preventable. These funds will be used by counties across the state to organize their pick-up efforts and conduct educational campaigns to teach children and adults about the importance of keeping Tennessee beautiful."

County Mayor Mike Foster says litter grant funds are distributed annually by TDOT to all Tennessee counties for litter clean up and education. "It's a good grant and it's one we've been getting for a lot of years. A deputy takes a crew of inmates out to clean up areas of roads and if we have an illegal dump they clean that up. But primarily, they do routine patrols on roads where they pick up litter. About $4,000 of it is earmarked for litter prevention education in the school system and most of the garbage cans that you see at the fast food restaurants, we bought those out of that money. It's done to try to educate the public and encourage them not to litter on any highway. We also hope it helps show how important clean areas are, especially in high tourism counties like ours, and how good roads look when they're clean. We'll have some education programs in the schools. We have had contests encouraging students to write an essay on the importance of not littering. Sometimes we have poster contests but the idea is for them to get the message and take it home. Last year we bought a bunch of back packs, rulers, and other things that have anti-litter messages on them."

"TDOT awards approximately $3 million each year to help local communities in their efforts to stop litter in Tennessee," said Nicely. "These funds are obtained through the collection of a specialty tax on the malt beverage and soft drink industry through the Litter Grant Bill which was enacted by the General Assembly in 1981 and are put to use by local communities to prevent litter through education and clean-up activities."

The funds that each county receives are determined by county road miles and county population in order to ensure an equitable distribution statewide. Funds must be used for litter pick-up activities and litter prevention education. Education funding can be used in a variety of ways, such as sharing litter control awareness with schools, citizens and businesses.

Through the litter pick-up program, approximately 25.5 million pounds of roadside litter were picked up on approximately 292,000 miles of county roads, and approximately 45,000 miles of state routes. Of the trash collected by volunteers, approximately 7.4 million pounds is recycled.

Firefighters Contain Fire Damage at Home on Obie Adcock Road

August 22, 2010
Dwayne Page
Firefighters Enter Home on Obie Adcock Road

Members of the DeKalb County Volunteer Fire Department were called to the single wide trailer home of Ronald Young at 311 Obie Adcock Road Friday.

Central dispatch received the call at 1:04 p.m.

Assistant County Fire Chief Roy Merriman says Young and his wife were at home when the fire started but they were not injured. Firefighters found the blaze coming from the kitchen and utility room area of the home and quickly extinguished it, containing the fire damage there.

Merriman says the cause of the fire might have been electrical in nature.

Members of the Main Station, Belk, and Keltonburg departments of the DeKalb County Volunteer Fire Department responded along with DeKalb EMS and the Sheriff's Department.

Middle Tennessee Electric members Re-Elect Incumbents to Board

August 22, 2010
Middle Tennessee Electric Board Members Re-elected

Middle Tennessee Electric Membership Corporation members re-elected four incumbents to their board of directors seats during the cooperative’s Annual Meeting Saturday at Embassy Suites Murfreesboro - Hotel and Conference Center.

Incumbents Charles Bowman, Gloria O’Steen, Dan Smith and Mike Woods won re-election to their seats.

“I couldn’t have done it without the membership, and I will work hard to be the best I can be,” MTEMC Wilson County Director Dan Smith said. “We want to be fair and keep the system sound at the lowest possible cost.”

In Williamson County or District 1, O’Steen collected 525 votes. She ran unopposed. O’Steen holds one of three seats for MTEMC’s District 1.

For the Rutherford County or District 2 seat, Woods collected 528 votes and ran unopposed. There are a total of three MTEMC board seats representing Rutherford County.

For the Cannon County or District 3 seat, Bowman also ran unopposed and collected 507 votes.

In the Wilson County or District 4 seat, Smith defeated Ken Griffith of Liberty by a 596-441 margin. There are a total of four MTEMC board seats representing Wilson County.

“I appreciate all of my supporters,” Griffith said. “It was a very close race.”

The annual meeting, held at Embassy Suites Murfreesboro - Hotel and Conference Center, completed a week-long opportunity for the cooperative’s members to vote for their board representatives. On Aug. 16-20, members could vote at their local district office.

In an organizational meeting following the voting, the board re-elected Wilson County’s Gordon Bone as chairman, and then elected Will Jordan of Rutherford County as vice chairman and Mike Woods of Rutherford County as secretary-treasurer.

In addition, Charles Carter of Fairview won the grand prize — a used 2006 Chevy Colorado pick-up truck.

Approximately 1,200 people attended the meeting. As part of its bylaws, MTEMC has held a members’ meeting every year since the not-for-profit cooperative was organized in 1936 by a group of Middle Tennessee citizens.

(Re-elected by MTEMC members to the board are incumbents, from left, Charles Bowman (District 3 – Cannon County), Dan Smith (District 3 – Wilson County), Gloria O’Steen (District 1 – Williamson County), and Mike Woods (District 2 – Rutherford County).

Smithville Man Charged in Connection with Internet Sale of Fake Military Service Documents

August 20, 2010
Dwayne Page

A federal grand jury in Nashville returned a 29-count indictment yesterday charging 63 year old Robert E. Neener of Smithville with wire fraud, mail fraud, and using and selling falsely made seals of various federal agencies, including several branches of the United States military. The indictment was announced by U.S. Attorney Jerry E. Martin and alleges that in 2007 and 2008, Neener operated an Internet business called “Bob Neener Military Documents,” which offered to sell various military service certificates to the public. These documents were intended to reflect that the person named was a disabled veteran; had been honorably discharged; had received a presidential citation; or had been recognized for various other military service achievements.

“Federal criminal laws prohibit the use of mail and wire communication to mislead and defraud the public regarding products being offered for sale,” said U.S. Attorney Martin. “These laws also protect the reliability of documents that reflect achievements by those who have served in the military, by prohibiting the unauthorized use of military agency seals on fake documents which purport to have been issued by branches of the military. The U.S. Attorney’s Office will aggressively prosecute such violations of law, when such action is warranted by the evidence.”

The indictment further alleges that Neener engaged in a fraudulent scheme by falsely claiming that the documents were authentic; that they were exact reproductions of original documents; and that he had contracts with the U.S. Navy, the U.S. Army, and other agencies which authorized him to make and sell the documents. The indictment also charged Neener with violating federal law by making and placing images of the official seals used by various branches of the military and other federal agencies on the documents he sold.

If convicted, Neener faces up to 20 years’ imprisonment for each of the 14 counts of wire fraud and mail fraud, and up to five years for each of the 15 counts charging the false use of a federal agency seal.

The case was jointly investigated by the VA Office of Inspector General; the Postal Inspection Service; the Naval Criminal Investigation Service; the Secret Service; the FBI; and the Tennessee Highway Patrol CID. The government is represented by Assistant U.S. Attorney Hilliard Hester.

The public is reminded that an indictment is merely an accusation and is not evidence of guilt. All defendants are presumed innocent and have the right to a trial, at which the government would have to bear the burden of proof beyond a reasonable doubt.

Two Men Charged with Theft of Wheels and Tires Taken from Dry Creek Salvage

August 20, 2010
Dwayne Page
William Shane England
Grady Murphy
Samantha Brook Mathis

Two men, implicated in a recent theft of wheels and tires from Dry Creek Salvage, have each been charged in the case.

41 year old William Shane England of South Mountain Street was picked up by Smithville Police on Wednesday, August 11th and charged with theft. One week later, the Sheriff's Department served a warrant on 32 year old Grady L. Murphy of Bell Street for theft.

In the latest weekly update on city crime news, Smithville Police say that on Monday, August 9th David Bullard reported to Lieutenant Steven Leffew that someone had stolen some wheels, tires and a CD player from Dry Creek Salvage sometime over the weekend. On Wednesday, August 11th Detective Matt Holmes received information that the wheels and tires on the truck England was driving were stolen from Dry Creek Salvage. The vehicle was later spotted by Detective Holmes and K-9 Officer Brad Tatrow on South College Street and it was pulled over. The officers immediately noticed that England had already changed the wheels and tires that were on the vehicle. When asked about the wheels, England admitted to taking them to Blue Springs and hiding them in a shed. The wheels and tires were recovered and identified by the owner. England claimed that he bought the wheels and tires from Murphy knowing that they were stolen. Bond for Mr. England is $1,000 and his court date is August 26th. Bond for Murphy is $5,000 and he will be in court on September 2nd.

In other city crime news, 24 year old Juan Pablo Serrano of Herman Road was arrested on Saturday, August 14th for driving on a suspended license and violation of the open container law. Officer James Cornelius spotted Serrano operating a motor vehicle and stopped him for running a stop sign. A computer check revealed Serrano's license to be suspended for failure to satisfy a past citation. Bond for Serrano is $1,000 and his court date is September 22nd

43 year old Roger T Rapp III of Students Home Road was arrested on Monday, August 16th for driving on a suspended license. Corporal Travis Bryant stopped a vehicle for expired tags at Food Lion and found the driver to be Mr. Rapp. A check of his license showed them to be suspended for frequent traffic violations. His bond is $2,000 and his court date is August 25th.

27 year old Samantha Brook Mathis of West Broad Street was arrested on Sunday, August 15th for shoplifting. Officer Matt Farmer was called to Family Dollar to check out a complaint concerning a shoplifter and upon arrival he spoke to the manager who stated the woman next to the register(Mathis) had items inside her purse. Officer Farmer approached Mathis and asked her if she had taken anything. She answered " no". The manager said that she saw Mathis put items in her purse. Mathis replied that she had put a sippy cup in her purse. Upon checking the purse, Officer Farmer found the cup along with more items the manager said belonged to the store. Mathis was placed under arrest for shoplifting and asked to empty her pockets. Found were four key chains that belonged to the store. Bond for Mathis is $1,500 and her court date is August 26th.

35 year old Jeffery Allen Fults of Liberty was arrested on Tuesday, August 17th for domestic assault and public intoxication. Officer Bradley Tatrow responded to the parking area near Covenant Baptist Church on South Mountain Street to a fight between a man and two females. Upon arrival Officer Tatrow saw a man walking away from the church. Fults was escorted back to the church and upon speaking with all parties involved, Officer Tatrow determined that Fults had been in the back seat of a vehicle and reached to the front, slapping his niece in the face leaving redness and swelling on the right side of her face. Upon speaking with Fults, Officer Tatrow noticed a strong odor of an alcoholic beverage on his person and observed that he had slurred speech and was unsteady on his feet. Bond for Fults is $4,500 and his court date is September 30th.

42 year old Gregory Allen Matheney of Sparta was arrested on Thursday, August 19th for driving on a revoked license. Sergeant Randy King stopped a vehicle for having a tail light out. As Sergeant King approached the vehicle, Matheney admitted that his license had been revoked for a DUI. Bond for Matheney is $1,500 and his court date is August 26th.

53 year old Terry W. Kent of Alexandria was arrested on Wednesday, August 18th for DUI. Officer David Phillips saw Kent operating a vehicle and stopped him for not maintaining his lane of travel. Officer Phillips smelled a strong odor of an alcoholic beverage on his person and observed him to be unsteady on his feet and he had slurred speech. He performed poorly on field sobriety tasks. Bond for Kent is $3,000 and his court date is September 30th.

Meanwhile, anyone having any information on the following offense is asked to please contact the Smithville Police Department at 597-8210 or the Tip Line at 464-6046.

A citizen stated that she noticed one of her double rocking chairs missing off her front porch on Hickory Lane. She said that she had last seen it on Sunday, August 15th at approximately 9:15 p.m. Central dispatch received a call on Monday, August 16th at approximately 12:42 a.m. of a suspicious vehicle in the Hickory Lane area that had pulled into a driveway and parked for a few minutes before leaving. The witness stated that it appeared to be a dark colored car and when it left the area it looked as if the trunk lid was up.

Any information received that will help the Smithville Police solve any criminal offense will be greatly appreciated. All information is confidential.

WJLE Mourns the Passing of Dr. W.E. "Doc" Vanatta

August 19, 2010
Dwayne Page
Dr. W.E. "Doc" Vanatta
Dr. W.E. Vanatta Receiving TAB Award in May 2008

He was not one of the familiar voices you heard on WJLE everyday. He never hosted a dee jay show, never served as a play by play announcer for any local sporting events, and never recorded a commercial, but he was a pioneer in local broadcasting.

Today, we at WJLE mourn the loss of Dr. W.E "Doc" Vanatta, the 91 year old founder, former owner and President of WJLE, who passed away Thursday morning at his residence.

The funeral will be Saturday at 2:00 p.m. at the Smithville Cumberland Presbyterian Church. Larry Green will officiate and burial will be at DeKalb Memorial Gardens. Visitation will be Friday from noon until 8:00 p.m. and Saturday from 9:30 a.m. until 11:00 a.m. at Love-Cantrell Funeral home and from noon until 2:00 p.m. at the church.

Dr. Vanatta was a Chiropractor and a member of the Smithville Cumberland Presbyterian Church. Dr. Vanatta was ordained as an Elder in 1950 and he had been an assistant Sunday School Superintendent since 1947 and a Sunday School teacher at the Cumberland Presbyterian Church. He was one of the first members appointed to serve as director on the Smithville Electric System board when the utility was established in 1969 and he remained an active member and Vice Chairman until his death. He was also a talented musician.

Dr. Vanatta was preceded in death by his parents, Jasper and Amanda Elizabeth Estes Vanatta and his first wife, Louise Corley Vanatta. He is survived by his wife, Nell Vanatta of McMinnville. Two daughters and sons-in-law, Jeanne and Donnie Foutch of Old Hickory and Mary and Oscar Boyd of Smithville. Two step-sons, James Timothy and wife Ruth White of Atlanta, Georgia and Gerald Harvey and wife Charlene White of Georgia. Step-daughter, Marilyn and husband Tom Angelo of California. Two granddaughters, Renee and husband Eric Renner of Alabama and Robin and husband Jeremy Mahlow of Knoxville. Five great grandchildren, Camden and Mark Renner of Alabama, Eleanor, John and Oliver Mahlow of Knoxville. Special caregivers, Sherry Brannon, Linda Stahl, Ashley Beth Hobbs, Tammy King, Martha Fults, Rhonda Peet, and Mina Lyons.

Love-Cantrell Funeral Home is in charge of the arrangements. The family requests that donations be made to the Lighthouse Christian Camp and Gideon Bibles in lieu of flowers.

Dr. Vanatta was one of the original owners of WJLE, which was established in 1964, and he remained an owner until 2007 when he sold his interest to fellow partner and co-owner Leon Stribling.

In a 2001 interview with the Smithville Review, Dr. Vanatta explained how he helped bring DeKalb County's one and only radio station to Smithville. "I looked around in the early 1960s and saw we didn't have a radio station in Smithville and I thought, why not? I didn't know much about it, but I had some friends knowledgeable in radio and I assembled those together and we went on the air in April 1964".

In addition to Dr. Vanatta, the other original owners were Franklin H. (Chick) Brown, Aaron and Hal Durham, Dr. C.H. Cope, and Herman Spivey. After the original owners wanted to pursue other avenues, Dr. Vanatta rounded up several prominent local business and civic leaders to buy the station, including W.H. Smith, Jack Smith, McAllen Foutch, Dr. N.R. Atnip, John Bill Evins, and James Herndon. Many of them served on the WJLE board of directors until 1987 when Dr. Vanatta and Stribling bought all of the company's shares.

Dwayne Page, Station Manager, said Dr. Vanatta loved WJLE and it will always be part of his legacy. "Dr. Vanatta loved this station as if it were one of his own children and he took great pride in it's service to the community that he also loved. He enjoyed creating part time jobs for people, a lot of them high school aged students who got their first taste of broadcasting here. The names of them all are too numerous to mention. Some furthered their education in communication and went on to work in radio and television in larger markets. Some chose other fields after their time here. Others, as Doc would often say jokingly, went to "oblivion".

"I will never forget the first day I met Dr. Vanatta in November, 1979. Ralph Vaughn, who was manager at the time hired me but wanted me to meet Dr. Vanatta. After shaking hands with him and exchanging pleasantries, Dr Vanatta looked at me and asked, "Can you Read"?

Doc had a sense of humor and would often jokingly admonish us to always adhere to his credo to "stay on the air", stay in the black (financially), report the news and not make or become the news, and never get scooped by the weekly newspapers."

"Dr. Vanatta did not seek praise for himself but I was very glad to see him honored during the Tennessee Association of Broadcasters 60th Anniversary Gala in Nashville in May, 2008. He received the association's Lifetime Membership Award."

"The award is presented to distinguished broadcasters who have committed to a lifetime of learning, observing, and growing with the industry"

"Although he had sold the station three years ago and had been in failing health in recent months, we still kept in touch and he would sometimes stop by to visit us at WJLE. During our visits, he would often reminisce about good times we had all shared together over the years and reflect on his efforts to always keep the station up to date with the changing technology. After being in the business so long, he missed it when he left."

Born on September 20th, 1918 to William Jasper and Bessie Amanda Estes Vanatta, Willius Eugene Vanatta or "Doc", as he was affectionately known, never knew his father who was originally from Alexandria.

His father had contracted the flu while in the army and passed away. Dr. Vanatta was 10 days old when he attended his father's funeral.

Vanatta grew up in Smithville and graduated from DeKalb County High School in 1937. Thinking he wanted to be an engineer, he attended Tennessee Technological College in Cookeville. But he later changed his mind and decided to become a Chiropractor, so he went to Illinois where he graduated in 1942 from the National College of Chiropractic in Chicago. He practiced with Dr. C.H. (Clyde) Cope in McMinnville for about six months after graduation, then went into the Navy during World War II.

Vanatta, in his Smithville Review interview, recalled his time in the service, " I stayed on an aircraft carrier for 27 months in the Pacific. This aircraft carrier was involved in 10 major engagements and two typhoons. The typhoons were worse than the naval engagements because the typhoons lasted 36 hours and torpedo attacks or kamikaze didn't last but a few minutes. We survived two typhoons, the Phillipines in 1944 and Okinawa in 1945. That was a harrowing experience. That was one time I thought I'd never see DeKalb County again."

After serving in the Navy for four years, he returned to practice with Dr. Cope in 1946 and continued to practice until his retirement in 2000. From 1946 until 1992, Dr. Vanatta's office was in the Walling Arcade in McMinnville. In 1990, Dr. Jeffrey McKinley joined him in practice. In 1992, they relocated the practice to 604 North Chancery Street in McMinnville. Although his office was in McMinnville, Dr. Vanatta would occasionally treat a patient at his home in Smithville.

Dr. McKinley said Dr. Vanatta had been a mentor to him even before he began his practice." He gave me the opportunity to begin my career and has continued to support me. I often time joke with patients that ask about him that Dr. Vanatta stops by the office from time to time just to make sure I am doing it right."

"Dr. Vanatta was always learning and asking questions. Whether it was about chiropractic, computers, or the internet, he was always learning. I was amazed at the anatomy and physiology facts that he could remember."

"On a more personal note, there are two things that he would always do with my girls when they were young and come to visit him at the office. He would keep gum in his desk that came in a long roll, and would let them unroll a piece."

"What he would do that would keep both him and my girls entertained was to place a piece of tape on the back of their hand and leave a length of the tape hanging. My daughter would reach and grab the tape, and pull it off of her hand. But then it was stuck to her finger, so she would pull it off her finger with the other hand. Now it was stuck to another finger. This would go on and on with my daughter giggling and Dr. Vanatta giggling right along with them. This would keep both of them entertained until the "sticky" wore off."

Dr. Vanatta inspired and influenced many people in his 91 years. Perhaps none so much as Ralph Vaughn, former WJLE Station Manager, who worked with him during the 1960's, 70's and through 1985.

Vaughn recently reflected on his time here at WJLE and his association with Dr. Vanatta. "There were many people who greatly influenced me during my 21-year career in radio broadcasting. But, Dr. W.E. Vanatta, whom most of us called "Doc", was the most influential. I really got acquainted with Doc during the almost 15-years that I managed WJLE; from 1971 until mid-1985. He was my boss, but more importantly, he became a friend and a confidant.

Doc was a steady-hand in guiding me during those years; along with direction from the entire WJLE Board of Directors. He was the president. It was Doc that I could really talk to; man to man, heart to heart. He would always listen to my point of view, never condescending or raising his voice. In his always-soft spoken manner, he would express his point of view, never making me feel rejected even when his opinion differed from mine.

During those 15-years while working almost hand-in-hand, Doc and I discussed practically everything from business, politics, personal issues, religion, to the humor found in daily living. He even gave me chiropractic adjustments at his home.

I remember the day, almost like it was yesterday, that I told Doc I would be leaving WJLE to pursue an opportunity with a radio station in Murfreesboro. Tears welled up in his eyes as he responded with, "What would it take to get you to stay? We've given you almost everything at WJLE, except the deed to the property. I would sell you some of my stock if you want it, even finance it for you, because I know that you have always wanted to own a part of WJLE."

In closing, I can honestly say I have never met a man that I believe was more representative of a Christian than Doc. I believe that he personally knew and followed closely in the steps of our Lord Jesus. His integrity, his character, his conversations, and his manner in dealing with others were always on the "high road".

"Doc, in my opinion, was a man among men; someone to model as a mentor, and someone I could count on if needed. I thank God and Dr. W.E. Vanatta for all the sweet memories."

Dennis Stanley, another former WJLE employee and now Administrator of Elections, also remembers Dr. Vanatta fondly. "'Doc was a first class citizen. He was very loyal to the people who worked for him and was always fair and honest. He genuinely cared for people. The time I spent at WJLE in the mid to late 1970s was some of the most enjoyable times in my life. His community and civic contributions may not have always been highly visible, but many of us know firsthand just how much the town will miss him and his service."

Tom Duggin began working at WJLE while still in high school. Today, as editor of the DeKalb County Times, Duggin gives credit to Dr. Vanatta for giving him his start in this business. "Dr. W.E. Vanatta has been a pillar of this community for many years; one that may not always be recognized for what he has done, but one who has done a tremendous amount of work not only for the community itself, but for the citizens who live here. His vision, along with those who worked with him to found WJLE Radio in 1964, brought this community a resource that we have all come to depend on as part of our daily lives.

"On a personal note, I owe a vast amount of credit and thanks to Dr. Vanatta for helping me become the person I am today, both personally and professionally. His willingness to take a chance on a 16-year-old high school kid several years ago led me into a field of work that I have had the opportunity to enjoy for a number of years now. He was more than a friend, but like family to all who have known and worked for him. He will be deeply missed."

Dale Carroll, a current employee of WJLE, remembers Dr. Vanatta as a caring and generous man. "Doc Vanatta was a friend to a lot of people including myself. He gave me a job when I needed one. He was a very kind and caring person. I recall a time when I was in the hospital in Smithville and he came twice to visit me and offered anything he could to help me. It was the encouragement he gave me that mattered the most and I'm thankful to him for that."

"I recall the many emails he sent me. Many of them were funny little jokes
but most of them were of a political nature."

"Many times when he would come by the station for a visit, he'd come back to the control room where I was and lean against the console and tell me how much he appreciated me and sometimes hand me a $20 bill. He'd say this is just a little extra for you, for doing a good job."

"I miss you Doc. And the good thing is, I'll see you again someday", said Carroll

Kathy Crouch, traffic director for WJLE, remembers how Dr. Vanatta welcomed her to the staff in November, 1991. "When I was hired by Dr. Vanatta he said that WJLE employees were a team. I remember him saying, you don't work for me, you work with me, and he always made you feel that way. Doc came by the station almost every day. Sometimes he only stayed for 30 minutes or so and other times, he sat and talked for an hour or two. I got to know him very well. He was a kind man, intelligent, and also very funny. He was one of a kind and he will never be replaced. Doc, for all the advice you gave me, all the times you cheered me up when I was sad, and for being not an employer but a friend, I love you and I will miss you."

Dana Cantrell, the last employee at WJLE hired by Dr. Vanatta , says he values the short time he worked for him. " I was looking for a job and got a call from Ricky Arnold, a WJLE employee at the time, letting me know that they were looking for someone. I applied and spoke with Dwayne and Dr. Vanatta, and as it turns out I was the last person hired before Dr. Vanatta left the station, as owner. Although my time knowing Dr. Vanatta was short, I will always be grateful to him for his valuable advice and encouragement. He was kind and courteous and cared about all the employees who worked for him."

Dora Estes, another WJLE employee and a relative of Dr. Vanatta, also shared a few memories. "Until November 1991 when I started working for WJLE on a part-time basis, Doc was Gene to me as he was the oldest grandchild of William and Dora Estes and I was the youngest. During the years prior to that, Doc was the cousin that taught the Wednesday night Bible study I attended, the elder who served communion along with my father, and the neighbor that my father loved to visit. After I began working at WJLE, he became Doc to me as he was to all of the other employees. He was a good and fair boss and was open to all of the latest technology. He and I went to McMinnville to buy the first computer and software for the station. After this purchase, he bought the first of many personal computers as he loved the Internet and the knowledge that he would have access to it. "

"After I started working at WJLE, I realized just how much Doc was like my father. I told him that again recently when I visited with him and said that this was the highest honor I could pay him. "

Dr. Vanatta was a man of faith, a deeply religious man. For many years, he was an active member of the Smithville Cumberland Presbyterian Church. E.H. Denman, Jr., a former minister there, said Doc was always very supportive of him and the church. ‘When I first came (in 1973) he let me know that anything I wanted to do, he was confident that he could stand behind me and help do it and he did all the way through my years here. I found out that he was the most influential man in the church but that he wanted to do what was good for the church. He always agreed with me on what I felt was good and I usually always agreed with him. When it came to raising money for buying property and building a building that we built and a lot of things like that, he would always say,"make me chairman of the finance committee because I'm going to give a considerable amount of money and I'll tell a couple of other men in the church that are able to give and this will enhance their giving so let me be chairman of the finance committee". He said "I want to work with you every way I can" and he was very cooperative with me. And in the session meetings, I felt like he was very willing to cooperate with everybody else too. He was just good natured and a good man who was very faithful to the church, very faithful to his friends, just a good solid man you could count on who wanted to do the right thing and the thing that was best for the church and best for the community."

In addition to his involvement with the radio station, Dr. Vanatta served his community in other ways. Both he and John Robert Nixon were among the very first men appointed to serve as directors on the Smithville Electric System board when the utility was established in 1969 and over the past 41 years both men have remained on the board with Mr. Nixon serving as chairman for the entire 41 years and Dr. Vanatta as Vice Chairman for 40 years. They were recently honored by SES for their service to the city and the utility.

In reflecting on his service to Smithville Electric, Nixon said Dr. Vanatta always had the best interest of the utility at heart. "We have worked very closely together and I have always found Dr. Vanatta to be one of the finest, honest, caring persons that I have ever come into contact with. He was an excellent board member and for the right purpose which was good service, at the lowest price. He was always for the right thing. He did not care for accolades for himself or for anybody except the people of Smithville. He was very concerned about people that was less fortunate than some of the rest of us. I think he was a complete man, an honest person. A person who had integrity. If he couldn't help you, he certainly would not harm you in any way. I don't know of anybody in all of these years that I have been associated with Dr. Vanatta that has ever said a bad word about him. He was always very positive. He was honest as the day is long and would do anything for anybody that he could."

"When we started Smithville Electric System all we got was a debt and a manager. We didn't get any frills of any type. Money was tight. We had to borrow an extra quarter of a million dollars before we ever got this thing going back then. They had an old typewriter in the office that was terrible. They needed to buy a typewriter. It was only going to cost three hundred to four hundred dollars. I remember Dr. Vanatta saying to the office staff, if you need a typewriter, then you need to get a typewriter, but we've only got a limited amount of money so you had better prioritize whatever that is because we can't buy two or three things, we'll just have to buy one thing at a time. That's where we started. We just didn't have enough money hardly to get along. In fact, the city let us have an old wore out police car for the manager to drive around over town. I give Dr. Vanatta a lot of credit for the success of Smithville Electric. He was my good friend and I'll certainly miss him."

Dr. Vanatta loved music and was a talented musician. Donnie Kelly, former minister at the Smithville Church of God remembers Doc's musical abilities with the saxophone.

"When you think about "Doc" as most referred to him, you think about a devoted Christian, a student of God's word, a family man, a successful business man, a good neighbor and friend. When you think about Doc you think about a caring doctor who would go out of his way to care for his patients. Certainly Doc is to be remembered in each of these ways. However, I was privileged to know him in a way that many did not. I knew him as a skilled and talented musician."

"I will never forget the day when Doc met me at the Smithville Church of God to rehearse for a performance at a special fellowship gathering at The Presbyterian Church. He had asked me if I would accompany him on the keyboard. He came into the church carrying a case that had seen a few years. When he took the saxophone out of the case it was obvious that the instrument was not new. I did notice how carefully he held it and even took a cloth out of the case to wipe it down. A special appreciation was visible as he held the instrument. After tuning up, Doc blew a few notes and I immediately began to appreciate how well he could play. He told me that he had not played in a while but it didn't take long before melodious sounds of music filled the church. After that day Doc and I played many times together: church fellowships, revivals, senior activities and sometimes just when we could find the time to jam."

"I was able to learn and appreciate some very outstanding attributes about Doc during those times. He loved music. Maybe that was the reason for his ownership of WJLE. He always gave his best. He always wanted to rehearse until he felt we were prepared to perform. Doc never did anything in a haphazard way. If we ever did mess up (how could we with all the practice) he would just laugh. He was never selfish. He would always insist that I would play a verse or two even when it was his show. Doc was like that. He loved doing things he felt would bring pleasure and enjoyment to other people. With all the great memories I have, I guess the most memorable is after we would play one of those beautiful Christian songs: "He Touched Me", "Amazing Grace", or "Just a Closer Walk with Thee", Doc would just hold that old saxophone and you knew that the music had come from his heart in worship. His music had just expressed his love for his Lord."

"My life was touched and inspired by this great man and his many talents. Doc was my musical friend."

DeKalb School System Gets Two New Buses

August 18, 2010
Dwayne Page
DeKalb School Transportation Manager Peggy Pursell
School Transportation Foreman Orlando Guzman pictured with New School Bus
School Transportation Foreman Orlando Guzman  with New School Bus

The DeKalb County School System has two new buses in the fleet.

Peggy Pursell, Transportation Manager, says one them is a 54 passenger bus which will serve as a special education/regular ed bus on routes in the Holmes Creek/Cookeville Highway areas while the other is a 90 passenger, which will replace a 78 passenger bus on a route in the Blue Springs/Bethel area.

The new buses, which were ordered earlier this year, have just arrived. According to Pursell,the special ed bus (#42) has already passed inspection and is now ready for the road while bus #24 is to be inspected and should be in service by later this week. "I'm glad we've got them. We ordered them in March. We've been waiting for them and we're just real fortunate to have them. Bus #11-42 is our special ed bus and we certainly were needing that bus because the one we're taking off the road has been on for several years. The air conditioner had gone out on that bus so we really needed this new bus. It's (#11-42) is the biggest special ed bus we've got now. It's a 54 passenger and it came equipped with temporary seats that we can set out with the tracks for the wheelchairs. So we can take seats out, put seats in as we need to. Right now we have one wheel chair on that bus so we took two seats out to accommodate that one wheel chair. We had to get that sized bus (54 passenger) because this bus is doing double duty as a special ed bus and a regular ed bus. Karen Adkins will be driving that bus (#11-42) and Freda Johnson is the aid assistant. All our special ed buses have aid assistants on them to care for the children."

Pursell says the new 90 passenger bus is larger than the one it is replacing, but since these buses are good for up to fifteen years, it can accommodate more students should there be more growth in population. "Bus #11-24 is a 90 passenger and it will run the route in the Blue Springs/Bethel area. Melissa Hicks will be driving that bus. We had a 78 passenger bus on that route but we replaced it with this 90 passenger bus because our county is growing and we want to be ready for it. This is also a fifteen year bus. In fact all these new buses we're ordering have to last fifteen years so we want to be ready for our routes to grow when more people move into our county."

Before they are put into service, Pursell says all buses are checked out at the school bus garage and then they must undergo a state inspection. "All buses have to be inspected before we put them on the road. Our shop foreman, Mr. Orlando (Guzman) inspects them first and then we get the tags, registration and everything on them. I then call Mr. Ronnie McBride who is our state inspector. He comes and makes sure everything is right on the buses and puts the state sticker on them that says these buses are ready to roll. Then we can put them on the road."

Pursell adds that more new buses will be ordered next year. "In January we will be getting specs together to order new buses. We order every year in order not to have a situation where we have to order a whole lot of buses in one year, because if you do you've got a bad situation."

The two buses being taken out of daily service can still be used as substitute buses until they turn fifteen years old. Then they have to be retired from service.

The school system has a total of forty five buses in the fleet including substitute buses to run about thirty routes in the county. Five of the buses are classified as special education buses.


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