Local News Articles

Mackler says Politicians Should Stop Putting Politics Before People

July 28, 2017
Dwayne Page
DeKalb Democratic Party Chairman Jordan Wilkins welcomes U.S. Senate Candidate James Mackler (left) and Governor candidate Karl Dean (right) guest speakers during a potluck dinner Thursday night

Nashville attorney and former Army helicopter pilot James Mackler says he is running for the Democratic nomination to represent Tennessee in the U.S. Senate.

Mackler, who spoke at the DeKalb County Democratic Party potluck dinner Thursday evening at the high school, said he wants to challenge incumbent Republican Senator Bob Corker in next year’s general election.

Speaking with WJLE prior to his remarks, Mackler said he suspended his legal career in response to the 9-11 attacks and joined the Army in 2001. “I was practicing law on September 11, 2001 and as a result of the attacks on our country I shut down my law practice. I walked into an Army recruiting station and I volunteered. I went to flight school and learned to fly helicopters and deployed with the 101st Airborne Division as a Blackhawk helicopter pilot. After several years including a combat deployment, I transferred to the JAG Corp where I was a military prosecutor. In that capacity, I mostly prosecuted military sexual assault offenses. I eventually returned to private practice in the Tennessee Air National Guard where I continue to serve and in recent months I resigned from my law practice in order to run this campaign full time,” said Mackler.

Much like when he joined the military, Mackler said he again feels a call to service but of a different kind this time. “I felt a call back to service much like the way I felt after 911 in the sense that I feel something desperately needs to be done to change the direction of this country. Much like I had the courage to join the Army after 911, that experience taught me that when something is important to you and you feel passionate it is worth taking the risks involved trying to make a change,” he continued.

Mackler said the politicians in Washington must put aside their partisan differences and work toward solutions for the people they serve. “The most important thing that needs to be done is that we’ve got to learn, as we learned in the military, that mission accomplishment is our primary goal. Politicians have got to learn to work with one another despite their diverse backgrounds and differences to work for the American people. That is their mission. To improve opportunity for each and every American and that is what is not being done,” he said.

“Senator Corker said, for example, that the substance of the health care bill didn’t even matter that he would vote for whatever party leadership asked him to vote for and that is what he did. Blind obedience to a party crafting secret legislation behind closed doors is exactly what is wrong with the politics in Washington. Cutting Medicaid, reducing benefits, increasing premiums, those things would all be disastrous for rural counties. What we need to do on health care is have a sound discussion on what’s wrong with the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and certainly there are things that need to be fixed and then work together to craft those solutions to help every Tennessean”.

As for military spending, Mackler advocates a smarter approach. “ I feel the issue with military spending at this point isn’t the amount of spending, it’s the way we spend our money. I personally observed a lot of wasted money while I was in the military. Certainly we did not always have what we needed when we needed it but that was an allocation problem across the military and not necessarily an overall spending problem. I’ll say this. The idea of cuts to the state department in order to increase funding to the department of defense is a serious mistake. I and I believe most military officers understand the importance of diplomacy both to prevent conflicts and to shorten conflicts and I would not want to see diplomacy be cut in order to give more money to the military particularly when we can improve military effectiveness without necessarily increasing spending,” he said.

Mackler said his campaign is off to a good start and he is being received well across the state. “The campaign is going great. We have experienced support from all over the state both from Democrats, Independents, people who have never been in politics before, and many people who have voted Republican in the past. They are enthusiastic about having a candidate who really stands for accountability and integrity,” he concluded.

Back 2 School-Call 2 Prayer set for Sunday, August 6

July 28, 2017
Dwayne Page
Back 2 School-Call 2 Prayer set for Sunday, August 6

An annual prayer for our schools observance will be held Sunday, August 6 at DeKalb Middle School starting at 2 p.m.

Parents, church leaders, educators, and community leaders are invited to attend this special "BACK 2 SCHOOL -CALL 2 PRAYER" gathering. Information from the past year and projections related to the new school year will be presented.

Prayers will be offered by pastors and youth pastors for each school in DeKalb County and for school sponsored activities. A special prayer will also be offered for law enforcement agencies.

Instead of a closing prayer, those present will be asked to go to the geographical location of each school and pray. A prayer of blessing and protection will be offered for the students and faculty for the school year.

For more information please call Donnie Kelly 931-260-1763 .

Native American Artifacts Show Saturday at County Complex

July 28, 2017
Dwayne Page
Native American Artifacts Show Saturday at County Complex

A Native American artifacts show will be held Saturday, July 29 at the county complex auditorium from 8 a.m. until 2 p.m. and you can enjoy something to eat while you're there with proceeds to benefit the DeKalb Animal Coalition. Breakfast and lunch foods will be available for sale. Admission to the event is free.

The artifacts show will feature displays ranging from arrow heads to pottery and some items will be available for sale or trade. “I think this is the sixth year we’ve done it. We have promises of 70 tables of artifacts. The exhibitors rent the tables to set up and we pay for the use of the building and the expenses we have for it. What money is left we donate to the animal coalition. They will be there also (animal coalition) in the kitchen selling sandwiches to raise money for the coalition to go toward the new shelter,” said Mike Foster.

“We have people coming from as far away as Ohio, Missouri, Texas, and all over the southeast but a lot of the artifacts will be from DeKalb County and middle Tennessee. Some of the displays are absolutely unbelievable. Its mainly going to be native American artifacts but we’ll have other things. There’s a guy from around Nashville who will be here who is bringing some South American artifacts that he will display and we’ll have a little bit of Revolutionary War era items. One guy will have some guns and things from that historical era. He will also have some products like beads and other things that the early settlers traded with the native Americans. There will also be some pottery pieces there. You don’t get to see too many pieces of pottery from this area. There was a lot in Texas and Arkansas but not so much in this area that survived through the years,” said Foster.

“It's really enjoyable for people who like history or artifacts and it's free so come on out Saturday because you'll see some really good collections,” Foster concluded.

Fire Marshal Confirms Lightning Strike Cause of Condo Fire; Blaze Discovered in Separate Building Wednesday

July 28, 2017
Dwayne Page
Fire Marshal Confirms Lightning Strike Cause of Condo Fire; Blaze Discovered in Separate Building Wednesday

The DeKalb County Volunteer Fire Department returned to Highland Cove Condos Wednesday afternoon where an open flame from a ruptured natural gas line was discovered between the floors of another building there.

The maintenance manager called for the fire department after walking into a room on the third floor of the “G” building and finding it extremely hot in there.

The “G” building is some 50 feet from the “H” building where a fire destroyed two condos early Monday morning.

County Fire Chief Donny Green said the State Fire Marshal has concluded that both buildings were struck by lightning Sunday night which triggered the fires.

“We got a call from the maintenance manager at Highland Cove Condos Wednesday afternoon around 1:30 p.m. He entered unit 6 on the third floor of the G building and noticed the room temperature was extremely hot. He couldn’t even touch the tile on the kitchen floor because it was so hot. He contacted me and we got fire units enroute,” said Chief Green.

“When we got there we discovered that lightning had run in on the natural gas line conduit and ruptured the line. The concrete floor was exposed to an open flame between the second and third floor which is what made the third floor hot. As we investigated on the second floor we found a spot in the ceiling of the G4 unit that had cracked which is the point where the gas line enters the building. We were able to mitigate it with help from the gas company and the Tennessee Fire Marshal’s Office. We opened that up, got the gas cut off, and the fire went out without any major damage. There was slight damage to some drywall and to where we had torn a hole in the ceiling to get to the pipeline,” Chief Green continued.

According to Chief Green the fire had been burning unseen since the lightning strike Sunday night and would have eventually spread. “The drywall had started to fail on the back side and had it continued to burn it would have eventually ignited and spread to other parts of the building.

Members of the Main Station, Cookeville Highway, and Liberty stations responded along with the tanker truck, DeKalb EMS, the Sheriff’s Department, and an agent of Tennessee Fire Marshal’s Office.

Gubernatorial candidate Dean talks health care, education and economic development

July 28, 2017
Dwayne Page
DeKalb Democratic Party Chairman Jordan Wilkins welcomes U.S. Senate Candidate James Mackler (left) and Governor candidate Karl Dean (right) guest speakers during a potluck dinner Thursday night

Former Nashville Mayor Karl Dean would like to be the next Governor of Tennessee.

Dean spoke at a DeKalb County Democratic Party potluck dinner Thursday night at the high school.

During an interview with WJLE prior to his speech, Dean said he has three areas he is focusing on in his campaign: public education, health care and economic development.

“Its my sense that the voters of Tennessee want somebody who is pragmatic, has common sense, and has executive experience. Someone who is going to talk about the issues that really matter to the voters which I think are public education, economic opportunity, and healthcare. I think those are the things that matter. I believe Tennessee is really a unique state. I think it has a great future and if we keep our eyes on the things that are important and that we can really affect we can move the state forward,” he said.

Dean said his first priority as governor would be improving education. “For me I think the most important thing for Tennessee moving forward is to continue to work hard on improving education. We have made a lot of progress. There are things that maybe we need to review such as testing. We need to make sure we’re paying our teachers adequately. I think we’ve got to have teacher pay in a position where we’re able to compete with surrounding states and other parts of the country. Education to me is sort of the game changer. That is what excites me the most. But I also want to work hard to help small towns and rural areas in the state to prosper. There are lots of cities like Nashville, Chattanooga, and Knoxville that are doing well but we’ve got to make sure that prosperity goes everywhere. That would be a major focus of mine too,” he continued.

Asked what his biggest accomplishments were as mayor of Nashville, Dean said business recruitment and managing the city through the great recession and the 2010 flood “We did a lot of recruitment of business and we built some things, convention center, ball park, and amphitheater, but probably the most difficult thing I had to do was to manage the city through the great recession and to work through the challenges that came with the flood of 2010. Those were hard things but the city was remarkably unified, we got through it, and Nashville took off,” he said.

As governor, Dean said he would work to be a unifier. “I think one of the things that is important to do is restore the balance and get politics back to a point where its not all knocking heads and argument. To have the balance where what people are working on in government is how to move forward, how to improve the lives of the people and that is what I want to do. If the state government focuses and does the right thing in terms of education, jobs, and healthcare we can get something done and that is going to make the whole state better,” he said.

Dean has already visited 51 of the state’s 95 counties and is pleased with his campaign. “We have had a lot of success in our fundraising. We have been greeted very positively. I feel good. We’re right on target where we expected to be,” Dean said.

Author to Autograph “The Book of Whispers” at Justin Potter Library

July 27, 2017
The Book of Whispers: A Father and Son’s Battle with Bipolar Disorder.
Jake McClain Driver
Jake McClain Driver and his father Mickey Driver

Jake McClain Driver was a teenager when he was diagnosed with bipolar disorder. He struggled with the mental illness for years before taking his life at the age of 26. Now, his father, Mickey Driver, a Smithville native, is giving a chilling, first-person account of Jake’s story in a new book titled The Book of Whispers: A Father and Son’s Battle with Bipolar Disorder.

Mickey will autograph copies of the book at Justin Potter Library in Smithville on August 17 from 4:00 PM to 6:00 PM. Copies of the book will be available for a $10.00 donation, cash or check, to Haven of Hope Counseling in Smithville.

Far more than a memoir of a grieving father who lost his son to mental illness, the book provides an up-close look at the problems of caregivers as they cope with hospitals, doctors, educators and law enforcement in their quest to find help for loved ones suffering from an insidious, and often fatal, disease.

The book chronicles Jake’s long battle with bipolar disorder, but it also tells the story of Mickey as he valiantly tries to save his talented, intelligent son who is on a collision course with disaster. The book includes a series of poems written by Jake, which he called The Book of Whispers. Through his poetry, Jake shares his own personal experience as he battles the demons and pain of bipolar disorder.

“I told this story to my good friend Beverly Freeman who wrote the book,” Mickey says. “It was difficult to talk about the heartbreaking events and crisis my son suffered with bipolar disorder. “It is my fervent hope that the book will make a difference to others who are fighting to survive the ravages of mental illness—their own or that of a loved one.”

Mickey was a member of the public affairs team at Chevron for 35 years and at the time of Jake’s death was a key company spokesperson. In the book, he shares his struggle to cope with the pressures of work while dealing with the daily challenges of being a caregiver for his mentally ill son. He also describes his long journey to recovery as the parent of a child who has committed suicide.

The book concludes with his advice to others who are on a similar journey and a message of love and hope. The Book of Whispers: A Father and Son’s Battle with Bipolar Disorder is available in print and Kindle versions on Amazon and in print on Barnes and Noble websites. All profits from the sale of the book benefit mental health organizations. In DeKalb County, proceeds will be given to Haven of Hope Counseling. More information is available at www.thebookofwhispers.com, or www.Facebook.com/thebookofwhispers.

Smithville Resident Arrested for Tax Evasion,Theft, and Perjury

July 27, 2017
Brandon Alan Tramel

The Special Investigations Section of the Tennessee Department of Revenue conducted the investigation that led to the indictment and arrest of Brandon Alan Tramel for tax evasion, theft, and aggravated perjury. Revenue special agents arrested Tramel, 30, at his home. Bond was set at $25,000.

On July 24, the DeKalb County Grand Jury indicted Tramel on seven felony counts of tax evasion, seven felony counts of aggravated perjury, and one felony count of theft over $2,500 but less than $10,000. The indictment alleges Tramel evaded tax due to the Tennessee Department of Revenue by fraudulently registering two vehicles and five boats with the DeKalb County Clerk’s office.

"The Department of Revenue promotes voluntary taxpayer compliance by educating taxpayers, aggressively pursuing criminal sanctions and demanding accountability when taxpayers engage in fraudulent activity," said Revenue Commissioner David Gerregano. "This indictment underscores the Department's ongoing efforts to enforce Tennessee's tax laws."

If convicted, Tramel could be sentenced to a maximum of two years in the state penitentiary and fined up to $3,000 for each count of tax evasion. Tramel could be sentenced to a maximum of four years in the state penitentiary and fined up to $5,000 for each count of aggravated perjury and theft.

The Department is pursuing this criminal case in cooperation with District Attorney Bryant C. Dunaway’s office. Citizens who suspect violations of Tennessee's revenue laws should call the toll-free tax fraud hot line at (800) FRAUDTX (372-8389).

The Department of Revenue is responsible for the administration of state tax laws and motor vehicle title and registration laws, as well as the collection of taxes and fees associated with those laws. The Department collects about 87 percent of total state revenue. During the 2016 fiscal year, it collected $13.5 billion in state taxes and fees, and more than $2.6 billion in taxes and fees for local governments. To learn more about the Department, visit www.tn.gov/revenue.

Five Graduate from Recovery Court

July 26, 2017
Dwayne Page
Recovery Court graduates Jeremy Woodard, Michael Blanchfield, Christy Berry, Caleb Rigsby, and Jonathan Armour
Coordinator Norene Puckett, Judge Bratten Cook, II,  Graduates Jeremy Woodard, Christy Berry, Michael Blanchfield, and Caleb Rigsby, Adult Case Manager Rhonda Harpole, Assistant DA Stephanie Johnson, Graduate Jonathan Armour, Juvenile Case Manager Kristy Longmire,  Primary Treatment Providers John and Kay Quintero of Haven of Hope, Joel Colton of CPS Probation, and Sheriff Patrick Ray

Five adults along with their families, friends and mentors, gathered Wednesday evening to celebrate their graduation from the DeKalb County Recovery Court program.

The observance was held at the county complex. The graduates Jonathan Armour, Christy Berry, Michael Blanchfield, Caleb Rigsby, and Jeremy Woodard received plaques noting their completion of the recovery court program through which participants commit to becoming clean and sober. In receiving their plaques, each graduate spoke of how the program has made a difference in their lives. They also shared their stories through a video presentation created by Matthew Wenger

The recovery court program provides an alternative to incarceration for eligible non-violent offenders, who are deemed substance dependent.

“We're extremely proud of our graduates. Instead of the county spending some $18,000 or $20,000 a year on each of them while incarcerated, in recovery court I think the figure is like $3,000 or $4,000 a year per person. It's a win-win for everyone,” said General Sessions and Juvenile Court Judge Bratten Cook, II

In his remarks, Judge Cook admonished the graduates to pick their friends well. "If you’ll just do one thing then I can almost guarantee you your life is going to be successful and that is do not associate with any low life's. Don’t associate with any hoodlums. Don’t associate with any drug addicts. Pick your friends well. You are who you associate with. Do not put yourself in the position you were in when you began your drug court journey. You can’t do that anymore. We all have a purpose in life. God has endowed each of us with certain gifts. The journey through life is trying to find what that purpose is that we all have and to pursue it to help make the world a better place and to help our fellow man," he said.

"The adult program lasts a minimum of twelve months. The participant must have some kind of criminal charge (to participate in recovery court). No violent offenders can be in the program. They can come (into the program) through a variety of ways as far as a violation of probation or any kind of drug charge, theft charges, and things like that. Typically they are all facing a minimum of a year to serve so this program is an alternative to incarceration. A lot of the program teaches responsibility and the tools to stay sober. That's really the benefit to the participants. Of course the benefit to the community is that it saves taxpayer dollars while making the community and its citizens safer,” said Norene Puckett, Program Coordinator.

The recovery court graduation program featured guest speaker Gayla Hendrix, local attorney and a Smithville Alderman, who shared her experiences about a family member who suffered from addiction but overcame it through the recovery court program.

Recovery court team members who oversee the program locally in addition to Judge Cook and Recovery Court Coordinator Puckett are Sheriff Patrick Ray, Assistant District Attorney General Stephanie Johnson, John and Kay Quintero from Haven of Hope, primary treatment providers; Assistant Public Defender Scott Grissom, Probation Officer Jay Colton, Juvenile Case Manager Kristy Longmire, and Adult Case Manager Rhonda Harpole.

Test Drive a Ford to Raise Money for DCHS Football

July 26, 2017
Dwayne Page
Coach Steve Trapp, Jimmy White of Florence & White Ford, and DCHS Quarterback Club President Darrell Gill

Florence & White Ford and the Ford Motor Company are again offering DCHS Football the opportunity to raise thousands of dollars with their annual test drive program on Friday, August 4. Tiger football fans can earn money for the DCHS football program by simply test-driving a new Ford at the school.

Fans are invited to come out as early as 1:00 p.m. to enjoy a meal and to test drive a new Ford vehicle by the Florence & White dealership in Smithville. For every valid test drive, Ford will donate $20 to the football program. The more fans who come out and test drive a new Ford vehicle, the more money will be made for DCHS football. Last year’s event raised $6,020.

The Tigers will play a scrimmage game that night on the road at Friendship Christian.

“Barbeque meals will be available for sale but we’ll give a free barbeque meal to anyone who participates in the test drive event. The football team and coaches will be there until they leave to go to the scrimmage game at Friendship Christian,” said Tony Cross, member of the Quarterback Club.

The Tigers will compete in a pre-season Jamboree at Upperman against Clay County on August 11.

The season kicks off with two straight road games for the Tigers starting with Warren County on August 18th followed by Upperman on August 25. The first home game is against Stone Memorial on September 1. All games start at 7:00 p.m. WJLE will have LIVE coverage each week.

The DCHS 2017 Football Schedule is as follows:

August 18: Warren County- McMinnville 7 p.m.
August 25: Upperman- Baxter 7 p.m.
September 1: Stone Memorial*-Smithville 7 p.m.
September 8: Watertown-Watertown 7 p.m.
September 15: Grundy County-Smithville 7 p.m.
September 22: Cannon County-Smithvillle (HOMECOMING) 7 p.m.
September 29: Livingston Academy*-Livingston 7 p.m.
October 6: Smith County-Smithville 7 p.m.
October 13: Macon County*-Smithville 7 p.m.
October 20-BYE WEEK
October 27: Cumberland County* Crossville 7 p.m.

2017 JV Schedule:
August 21: White County-Smithville 6 p.m.
August 28: Upperman- Smithville 6 p.m.
September 11: Watertown-Smithville 6 p.m.
September 25: Cannon County-Woodbury 6 p.m.
October 9: Smith County-Carthage 6 p.m.

DeKalb County in Path of Total Solar Eclipse

July 26, 2017
Dwayne Page
DeKalb County in Path of Total Solar Eclipse

It’s coming and DeKalb County residents will be among the fortunate who can view the eclipse of the sun in its totality.

On August 21, all of North America will see an eclipse of the sun, but only those within a certain path can see it in its totality.

The totality path, where the moon will completely cover the sun and the sun’s atmosphere (the corona) will stretch from Salem, Oregon to Charleston, South Carolina. DeKalb and a portion of Middle Tennessee is inside that path.

Those outside this path will still see a partial solar eclipse where the moon covers part of the sun’s disk.

For this eclipse, the first in the contiguous U.S. since 1979, the longest period when the moon completely blocks the sun from any given location along the path will be about two minutes and 40 seconds.

In Smithville, the partial phase will start about noon with a total eclipse around 1:29 p.m. The duration of totality is expected to be 2 minutes 32 seconds. Times are similar for Alexandria, Liberty and Dowelltown. The longest duration in this area is estimated to be another 8 seconds at Gordonsville.


Many communities and businesses throughout the country are planning special “viewing events” but a safety alert comes with the viewing of the eclipse.

Looking directly at the Sun is unsafe except during the brief total phase of a solar eclipse (“totality”), when the Moon entirely blocks the Sun’s bright face.


NASA has recommended people who plan to view the solar eclipse to check the safety authenticity of viewing glasses to ensure they meet safety standards.

Eclipse viewing glasses and handheld solar viewers should meet all the criteria such as certification information with a designated ISO 12312-2 international standard and have the manufacturer’s name and address printed on the product.


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