Local News Articles

Saint Thomas Health Appoints Andy Wachtel Regional CEO

October 15, 2016
Andy Wachtel

Andy Wachtel, FACHE, has been named Chief Executive Officer of Saint Thomas DeKalb, Highlands and Stones River hospitals. Saint Thomas Health is a member of Ascension, the largest non-profit health system in the U.S. and the world’s largest Catholic health system.

Wachtel begins his new role on October 10, 2016. He most recently served as CEO of Alliance Health located in Ponca City, Oklahoma, where he was responsible for 140-bed Alliance Health Ponca City hospital and 53-bed Alliance Health Blackwell hospital. These two hospitals blended their management teams in May 2014. Earlier he was Chief Operating Officer at Deaconess Hospital, Oklahoma City.

Wachtel received his master’s degree in Public Health from the University of Oklahoma Health Science Center in Oklahoma City and graduated from Southern Nazarene University in Bethany, Oklahoma, with a degree in Business Administration. He and his wife, Pam, have been married for 33 years and have two daughters, Jennifer and Mandy.

“Our regional hospitals and the communities they serve are vitally important to us,” said Karen Springer, President and CEO of Saint Thomas Health. “We are concerned with maintaining and expanding local access to healthcare for the people of Cannon, DeKalb and White Counties and continuing to improve and enhance the quality of that care. We took great care in selecting the new leader for these hospitals.”

“We’re pleased to have someone of Andy’s experience and skill joining the leadership team of Saint Thomas Health and Ascension,” said Gordon Ferguson, President of Saint Thomas Regional Hospitals/President & CEO of Saint Thomas Rutherford. “He is uniquely qualified to lead these three hospitals, and is looking forward to becoming active in the communities they serve.”

Large Number of First Time Voters Expected in November Election

October 14, 2016
Dennis Stanley

A large number of first-time voters are expected to cast their ballot in the November Tennessee General Election.

The DeKalb County Election Commission office reported recently that 850 new registrations have been logged since January 1, with 387 of those since the August election.

“One in eight active voters registered for the first time this year or had their registration reactivated after they had been purged for lack of participation for a number of years,” said DeKalb County’s Administrator of Elections, Dennis Stanley. “That is a large number for a county this size and is an obvious reflection in the interest in this year’s presidential race.”

The registration deadline has passed and a recent count showed DeKalb County with 10,195 active voters. “There’s over 1,000 more voters who are labeled ‘inactive’ who could still show up and vote,” Stanley said.

A breakdown of the ‘active’ registrations show there are over 500 more females registered to vote than males and the largest age group is those between the ages of 36-65 at 5,153 voters.

Meanwhile, early voting begins Wednesday and local officials are expecting a heavy turnout during both early voting and election day.

“We have received numerous calls from people asking when Early Voting begins, so we expect to be busy during that early period and that’s a good thing,” Stanley said. “Early voting is so convenient and voters should take advantage of that opportunity.”

Early voting will be held October 19 through November 3. Hours are: Mondays 1 p.m. to 5 p.m.; Tuesdays 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.; Wednesdays 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.; Thursdays 2 p.m. to 6 p.m.; Fridays 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.; and Saturdays 9 a.m. to Noon.

“The local election commission always tries to set various times to accommodate the different segments of the population,” Stanley said. “They try to make it as easy as possible for a voter to find time to cast their ballot.”

Election Day is November 8 and polls open in DeKalb County at 8 a.m. and will close at 7 p.m.

Free State Sponsored Medicare Help Can Save Older Tennesseans Hundreds of Dollars

October 14, 2016

Starting October 15 and continuing through December 7, 2016, Tennessee’s 1.3 million Medicare beneficiaries will have the opportunity to review their current Medicare plan, including drug coverage, and determine which plan is best for them. Needs and plans change from year to year, and the Medicare system can often be difficult to understand and navigate. But Open Enrollment is something no beneficiary should avoid or ignore.

Medicare beneficiaries in Tennessee do not have to navigate this complicated system alone. A state program provides more than 300 counselors to help guide Tennesseans through the Medicare Open Enrollment process. The State Health Insurance Assistance Program (or TN SHIP for short) is free to all of Tennessee’s Medicare beneficiaries. TN SHIP counselors can review a beneficiary’s current Medicare plan and determine the best fit for that individual. The TN SHIP program neither sells, nor endorses, specific plans; it provides free and objective counseling on Medicare plans and solutions. Last year the TN SHIP program saved Tennesseans an average of $2,245 on their annual prescription drug cost.

The Commission on Aging and Disability encourages all Tennessee Medicare beneficiaries to review their Medicare plan annually for the following reasons:

 Formulary changes – Your plan may be making changes to how and if your medications are covered.
 Premium changes – There may be changes in the amount you pay for your plan premium.
 New plans – Each year, new plans are introduced that may offer benefits that better fit your situation.
 Savings – Switching to another plan may save you money.
 Coverage Gap Information – Comparing plans will help you identify when or if you will end up in the Part D coverage gap period.

If a beneficiary has questions or needs help reviewing their plan, that person should call TN SHIP at 1-877-801-0044.

DeKalb County Awarded $500,000 CDBG Grant

October 14, 2016
Dwayne Page
DeKalb County Awarded $500,000 CDBG Grant

DeKalb County has been awarded a $500,000 Community Development Block grant from the Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development.

The purpose of the grant is to help fund extension of water lines to a portion of the county in need. The county applied for the grant on behalf of
the DeKalb Utility District which will actually be providing the service. The DUD will also be allocating a $120,000 grant match to help fund the

The formal grant presentation was made Wednesday, October 12 at the State Capitol to DUD Board member Jimmy Womack and DUD Manager Jon Foutch by Governor Bill Haslam, State Representatives Terri Lynn Weaver and Mark Pody, and Ted Townsend, Chief Operating Officer for the Department of Economic and Community Development. Amanda Mainord of Grassroots Planning & Consulting, the grant administrator for the project, and Buddy Koonce of Goodwin, Mills, Cawood, the DUD's utility engineer were also on hand for the presentation.

The project is to serve 40 or more households including at least 140 residents on Tramel Branch, Oakley Road, Carter Lane, Old Givens Hollow, and the Alexandria to Dismal Road. "This grant will be used for people in these areas who have to haul water or who have bad wells. It will provide much needed water services and a better way of life for them," Foutch told WJLE.

Although funding is now available, Foutch cautions residents in the area to be patient in that the actual work won't begin until probably the middle
part of 2017.

Foutch said he would like to thank all those who helped make this grant possible including the Tennessee Department of Economic and Community
Development; Governor Bill Haslam; State Representaives Terri Lynn Weaver and Mark Pody; the DeKalb Utility District Board of Commissioners; Buddy Koonce, the DUD's utility engineer; County Mayor Tim Stribling; the DeKalb County Commission, and Amanda Mainord of Grassroots Planning and Consulting, the grant writer.

PICTURED ABOVE: Ted Townsend, Chief Operating Officer for the Department of Economic and Community Development; Buddy Koonce of Goodwin, Mills, Cawood, the DUD's utility engineer; State Representative Terri Lynn Weaver; Amanda Mainord of Grassroots Planning & Consulting; DUD Board member Jimmy Womack; DUD manager Jon Foutch; State Representative Mark Pody; and Governor Bill Haslam.

DeKalb County High School Graduation Rate Exceeds State Average Under More Rigorous Criteria

October 13, 2016
Dwayne Page

The high school graduation rate in DeKalb County increased by almost two percentage points to 97.58% for the 2015-16 year and it exceeded the state graduation rate by nine percentage points

The Tennessee Department of Education this week released the state and district graduation rates, some of which hit new highs under more rigorous criteria.

Education Commissioner Candice McQueen said the state graduation rate of 88.5 percent is the highest on record since the state changed to a more rigorous calculation of graduation rates in 2011.

The latest statewide graduation rate was up nearly a full percentage point since last year and overall has increased three percentage points since the state implemented the more rigorous calculations.

This year, nearly 60 percent of districts saw their graduation rates increase or stay the same when compared to last year’s rates.

“Our high school staff works extremely hard to keep our students on a successful path toward high school graduation. At the Central Office level, April Odom, works very hard also to keep us updated on student success. We want to thank our community, parents, teachers, and students for the hard work put forth to make this awesome graduation rate. It truly shows, working together, we can make such a positive difference,” said Lisa Cripps, Supervisor of Instruction for grades 7-12 in the DeKalb County School System.

The DeKalb County graduation rate for 2014-15 was at 95.8%

“Our schools and districts should be proud of the work they have done to support students on their journeys to and beyond high school graduation,” McQueen said. “High school graduation is a critical step in allowing students to embark on their chosen paths in life. However, as more Tennessee students are earning their diplomas, we must ensure that they are all leaving with the knowledge and skills to be successful in college and the workforce.”

Over the past few years, Tennessee has been raising expectations for both students and educators, and the state has seen significant gains as a result. These outcomes, including increases in graduation rates, are a testament to the work being done in schools across the state. The most notable gains and overall achievements are:

•12 districts improved their graduation rates by five percentage points or more. The districts with the most significant gains were Alvin C. York (18.1 percent), Tullahoma City (11.6 percent), Trenton Special School District (11.1 percent), and Grundy County (10 percent).

•95 districts—over 70 percent of the districts in the state—have graduation rates at or above 90 percent, up from 81 districts last year. Fentress County, Alcoa City, South Carroll Special School District, Milan Special School District, Meigs County, and Crockett County all had graduation rates at or above 99 percent.

•76 districts—roughly 60 percent of districts in the state—had graduation rates at or above 90 percent for both 2014-15 and 2015-16.

More information, such as graduation rates for individual subgroups, will be available on the State Report Card, which will be released later this fall.

Important Change to Acreage Reporting Date for Hay and Pasture—November 15

October 13, 2016
Donny Green

DeKalb/Cannon County USDA Farm Service Agency (FSA) County Executive Director Donny Green wants to inform hay and pasture producers of a new important crop acreage reporting deadline. For crop year 2017, acreage reports for perennial forage (hay and pasture) must be filed by November 15, 2016. Acreage reports filed after the established deadline could require the producer to pay a late-filed fee.

In past years, crop acreage reports for hay and pasture had to be filed by July 15. However, the new Acreage/Crop Reporting Streamlining Initiatiave (ACRSI) has established a common USDA framework for acreage reporting dates to be used for all agencies.

In order to participate in most of the Farm Service Agency’s programs, complete and timely crop acreage reports must be filed for program approval and payment eligibility. “We realize that this change to the acreage reporting date for hay and pasture comes with very short notice. We only have about a month to get all of our hay and pasture producers certified and we are going to do our best to make sure everyone is aware of this change and the importance of getting hay and pasture crops certified before November 15, 2016”, says Green.

For questions regarding crop acreage reporting dates, please contact the DeKalb/Cannon County FSA office at 615-597-8225, extension 2.

Jacob Young Named Manager of Fall Creek Falls State Park

October 13, 2016
Dwayne Page
Jacob Young

After serving as manager of Edgar Evins State Park for the last year and a half, Jacob Young has left to become manager of Fall Creek Falls State Park.

Young took over there last week. He and his family will be living at the ranger residence in the park.

In a phone interview with WJLE Thursday, Young said he had not planned to leave Edgar Evins State Park, but the position at Fall Creek Falls was offered to him when it became available and he felt it was an opportunity he could not pass up. “I wasn’t looking to leave. I absolutely love Edgar Evins State Park and I love the area. The staff became like family very quickly. I had just gotten back into Smithville and had gotten involved in a lot of things. We were also about to build a house so we weren’t planning on leaving but this opportunity came up quickly about a month ago. My wife and I talked about it and prayed about it. We felt like it was a good thing for my career, the kids, and the family. It was just a hard thing to turn down so we made the decision to leave,” said Young.

As a Park 3 Manager, Young will have more responsibilities at Fall Creek Falls and he will be supervisor to more than 100 employees as opposed to 20 employees at Edgar Evins State Park. Young also plans to make a variety of park improvements, just as he did here. “Coming to Fall Creek Falls, it’s a similar situation to what I found at Edgar Evins. There is a huge backlog of maintenance and millions of dollars worth of things that need to be done, whether it be cabins, restaurant, Inn, Ranger residences, signage in the park, etc. We have a lot of beautiful buildings here and the grounds look great but some of it is just in need of repair. One of the big projects on my radar is trying to get the signage updated. We have three or four capital projects including replacing our park office, our check-in station, and we may be rebuilding the Inn and restaurant in years to come. Lots of buildings need to be painted and we’re working on that right now. We’ve already got contractors coming. This is a busy park and state parks over the last couple of years have exploded in tourist activity. This park was more than $500,000 over on projected revenue last year,” he said.

Young is also proud of the improvements made at Edgar Evins State Park while he was there and expects more to follow. “When I arrived there were some things that needed to be done. I really wasn’t there for a long time. We reclaimed some of the areas where we had not been mowing for a while. We repainted a lot of buildings and the tower. We fixed the boat docks and got furnishings for the cabins and the work is still continuing. A lot of money will be coming to continue that into the campground and the shelter area,” said Young.

Park Ranger Mark Taylor currently serves as interim manager at Edgar Evins State Park. “They could open it (position) to lateral transfer meaning another park manager may transfer in or they may interview. If they interview there are candidates at the park who would be really good picks so one of those guys in house may step up in the Park Manager 2 position,” said Young.

A new manager is expected to be named by mid November or the first of December.

Woman Charged in Theft of Items from Houseboat Gets Probation

October 12, 2016
Dwayne Page
Sherry May Evans

A woman charged in connection with the recent theft of guns, coins, jewelry and other items stolen from a houseboat at Pates Ford Marina was in DeKalb County Criminal Court Friday, October 7.

Judge Gary McKenzie presided.

37 year old Sherry May Evans entered a plea by criminal information to theft over $500 and received a two year suspended sentence on judicial diversion probation. She must make restitution of $985 to the victim. The case against a co-defendant, 46 year old Ricky Lane Evans apparently remains pending in court.

Sheriff Patrick Ray said that on Saturday, September 17 both Ricky and Sherry Evans allegedly took items from a houseboat at Pates Ford Marina including several silver coins, a Kel-Tec 9 millimeter rifle, a Smith & Wesson 380 handgun, a Winchester 410 shotgun, clothing, jewelry, a spotlight, candles and other items. The owner of the houseboat discovered the theft and reported it. The case was investigated by a detective and deputies of the Sheriff’s Department and as a result some of the stolen weapons and other items have been recovered. Sheriff Ray said that some of the silver coins and jewelry were recovered in a purse belonging to Sherry Evans.

54 year old Jackie Mark Mullican entered a plea by criminal information to possession of a weapon by a felon. He received a two year sentence on probation. The term is to run consecutive to a sentence against him in General Sessions Court. Sheriff Ray said that on Monday, September 12 while conducting a probation search on Mullican, a Sheriff’s Department Detective found in his right pants pocket a silver Jennings 380 caliber handgun with an altered serial number. A computer check revealed that the gun had been stolen and entered into the National Crime Information Center (NCIC) by the Smithville Police Department. A criminal history was also conducted which showed that Mullican is a DeKalb County convicted felon charged in a 2008 schedule II drug offense.

46 year old Johnny D. Murphy entered a plea by criminal information to aggravated assault and two counts of theft over $500. He received a four year TDOC sentence in the assault case and one year in each of the other two offenses to run concurrently for a total of four years however the term has been suspended to probation. He is to make restitution to the victims in the case totaling $5,192. In the assault case, the charge against Murphy stated that on April 27, 2016, he caused bodily injury to a woman by strangulation. In one of the theft cases, Murphy is alleged to have stolen water services valued at $767 of the Smithville Water Department on May 23, 2016. In the other theft case, Murphy is alleged to have stolen a 1990 WW two-horse trailer valued at $1,200 on May 29, 2016.

33 year old Joseph Edge entered a plea by criminal information to aggravated burglary and aggravated assault and received a three year sentence in each case suspended to supervised probation. The terms are to run consecutive for a total of six years. He is under a restraining order to keep away from the victim and he must complete domestic violence counseling. Edge was given jail credit of 62 days. Edge is alleged to have entered the residence of his victim on August 4 without her consent with the intent to commit aggravated assault and then caused injury to her by strangulation.

29 year old Kristy Grandstaff entered a plea by criminal information to vandalism under $500 and received a sentence of 11 months and 29 days all suspended to good behavior probation. She must make restitution of $400. Grandstaff is alleged to have caused damaged to the window and window frame of the Smithville Housing Authority on August 13 valued at under $500.

Jeremy Claiborne entered a plea to driving under the influence and received a sentence of 11 months and 29 days suspended to supervised probation except for 48 hours to serve and he was fined $360. He must undergo an alcohol and drug assessment.

County Clerk Office to be Closed Saturday, October 15

October 12, 2016
Dwayne Page
James L. "Jimmy" Poss

The DeKalb County Clerk’s Office will be closed Saturday, October 15 due to computer maintenance by the Tennessee Department of Revenue.

In an email message to county clerks across the state, the state department recently reported that “ computer maintenance is required the weekend of October 15th for Department of Revenue systems. This process requires Legacy (3270) to go offline. Legacy (3270) will be unavailable Saturday, October 15th through Sunday, October 16th. This will affect operations for offices that are open on Saturdays. We apologize for any inconvenience this may cause for your county".

"When The Department Of Revenue shuts this system down it incapacitates the ability to process motor vehicle transactions. Due to this shutdown we will be closed Sat. Oct. 15, 2016,” said County Clerk James L. “Jimmy” Poss.

Local Families to Adopt Children From Ukraine

October 11, 2016
Dwayne Page
Todd and Missy Pack to Adopt 14 year old Misha from Ukraine
Todd and Missy Pack to Adopt 12 year old Mykola from Ukraine

After a bout with ovarian cancer several years ago, Missy Pack learned that she and her husband Todd would be unable to have biological children
of their own. But an encounter with a group of children from the Ukraine at their church in August got them thinking about parenthood through
adoption and it has changed their lives.

Through “Bridges of Faith”, an Alabama faith-based program, orphans from the Ukraine are brought to America for a period of cultural enrichment,
and it was during that August visit to their church, the Smithville First Assembly of God, where the Pack’s met ten kids from the Ukraine, including
two in particular who stole their hearts.

“That’s where we met the two children we are now planning to adopt. We knew right then they were for us” Todd told WJLE.

“These orphaned children came here for a visit and to be brought before the body of Christ to help get them adopted and while we knew the kids
would be here we had no clue at that time that we would be planning to adopt any of them. But when we saw them at the church and got to hug them I just knew instantly that God had called me to be two of these children’s momma. I am unable to have kids so for me to experience that fulfillment of becoming a momma, I knew that was God working and when He tells you to do it, you do it no matter where the children are from. You adopt these children and you give them a family,” said Missy to WJLE

After the children’s visit, Todd and Missy chose to adopt two boys, 14 year old Misha and 12 year old Mykola. But the process is lengthy and
expensive. “It takes time and money,” said Todd.

“We had to talk to a facilitator in Ukraine. We had to obtain passports and sign power of attorney over to him so that he could start the adoption
process there. We also have to do a lot of paper work here, go through background checks with the government, send our paper work over to the
Ukraine, and then it goes through the court system there. We will eventually have to go before a judge there to complete the adoption,”
added Todd.

“It’s going to cost about $36,000. We have $3,000 raised so far. Right now we’re raising funds for our end of the paperwork here. Before we go to
Ukraine we will need about $15,000 for our first trip. A lot of it is the traveling expense,” said Missy.

To help offset the costs, several fundraisers are planned including a benefit Chili Cook-Off and Silent Auction to be held on Saturday, October
22 at the county complex from 5:00 p.m. until 9:00 p.m. The chili dinner and cook-off competition begins at 6:00 p.m. until 8:00 p.m. and proceeds
raised will go to the Pack’s and another family planning to adopt, Will and Kim Frazier. The community is urged to show support for these families
by attending and participating in all the fundraisers.

The Pack's are looking forward to bringing Mykola and Misha home and they too are anxious to come live with their new family. “They love America. We get to see them sometimes on facebook chat with our friend in the orphanage with them. That last Saturday (during their visit), Mykola even
called me momma although momma means different for them. It means someone they trust and confide in,” She concluded.

Founded by the Reverend Tom Benz, Bridges of Faith International reaches out to orphans in Ukraine. Three to four times each year, Bridges of Faith brings Ukrainian orphans to BridgeStone, a 140 acre retreat center in Central Alabama, to taste Alabama culture, faith, and life. All volunteer
driven, hundreds of people from across America and Ukraine work together to demonstrate love for these kids. Though not an adoption agency,
families meet the children and often invite these kids into their forever families.

To follow the Pack's fundraising page visit


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