​SUD Record Voter Turnout: Evans Elected Commissioner

by Leslie Lytle, Messenger Staff Writer

In a neck-to-neck race with record voter turnout, the vote count at the Jan. 23 Sewanee Utility District (SUD) Commissioners’ meeting favored Paul Evans by a two-vote margin, electing Evans to a four-year term as SUD commissioner. Forty-four SUD customers cast ballots in the commissioner election, the highest voter turnout on record. In past commissioner elections, the highest voter turnout recorded was 28 votes. Evans will be sworn in at the next meeting on Feb. 27.
Turning to regular business, SUD Manager Ben Beavers presented a proposal from the engineering firm Robert G. Campbell and Associates for surveying, probing, design and related work in conjunction with replacing the deteriorating cast iron water lines on Florida and South Carolina avenues.
Beavers said the price quoted by the engineering firm, $20,000, was less than 8 percent of the estimated construction cost, the customary engineering rate. He cautioned the engineering probe on Florida Avenue might show more rock than expected. He identified three possible strategies for replacing the line depending on what the engineers’ assessment revealed: bursting the pipe and sliding a new pipe into the channel created, digging up the line and replacing it, or moving the line. Regardless of the technique, the line will be replaced to the far side of the customer meter and a new meter installed at SUD’s expense.
“We should have a pretty good idea what replacing the line will cost by the time we get to the bid process,” Beavers said. SUD hopes to combine the Florida and South Carolina projects, yielding an 8 to 15 percent savings, but Beavers will ask contractors to bid the jobs both separately and together.
The board approved the engineering proposal.
Commissioner Ronnie Hoosier raised a question regarding a SUD customer whose house burned. The customer moved to another home with well water, wanted to connect to SUD service, and asked if he could move the meter from the property at his former home site.
“The short answer is no,” Beavers said. When he first became manager, the board allowed a customer changing homes to move the meter “against my advice,” Beavers explained. “Once the meter is installed it becomes part of the property. That’s the generally accepted practice.”
No policy governs customer requests to move meters. Board President Charlie Smith said he tended to agree with Beavers, but a policy was needed.
“Choosing to move to a different house is different from being forced to move due to a fire,” Hoosier stressed, arguing for a policy that took into account natural disasters.
“People buying the property would expect a meter to be there because there’s a meter box,” observed Commissioner Art Hanson.
“I think we should discuss it more rather than just say ‘no,’” said Commissioner Randall Henley.
Beavers recommended that if the board approved the request, the customer should pay the tap fee cost of installing a meter, but waive the new service fees related to impact on the system since “the impact was already there.”
Beavers will research when the meter was installed and what fees were paid. Beavers will also consult with Tennessee Association of Utility Districts’ attorney Don Scholes to determine if any laws govern the practice of moving meters.
Pointing to the recent cold weather and frequent burst water lines, Beavers provided an overview of customers’ experience with SUD leak insurance through Dec. 31. From August when the policy went into effect, customers made 13 claims. The insurance company paid seven claims and denied two (a toilet running issue and a water heater leak); four claim are pending. No customers reported issues with the insurance company, Beavers said, and no customers opted out of carrying the policy. The insurance cost $1.30 per month with the average claim paid $240. SUD has incurred no cost for lost water. In the past, SUD absorbed half the cost of customer leaks.

​Community Council Circulating Housing Survey; Funding Decisions Pending

by Leslie Lytle, Messenger Staff Writer

At the Jan. 22 Community Council meeting, representative Kate Reed asked council members to circulate a survey on behalf of the Housing Study Committee charged by the University to make recommendations on housing policy and practices, and to determine if current policy and practices met the needs of the community.
Development Economist Randall Gross created the survey. In June, the University retained Gross to assess market conditions in conjunction with advancing the Sewanee Village Plan. The Housing Study Committee, composed of faculty and staff, already circulated the survey in electronic form among faculty, staff and alumni.
Council representative Charles Whitmer suggested making an electronic version of the survey available to community members and announcing the survey on the community online bulletin board Sewanee Classifieds. For those community members not on the online bulletin board, please contact a council representative for a survey.
In addition to contacting Community Council representatives to access a paper version of the survey, the Lease Office has also agreed to help provide surveys. There are paper copies of the survey at the Lease Office and completed surveys can be returned to the Lease Office. Surveys should be returned by Feb. 4.
Community Funding Project Chair Pixie Dozier said the review committee had voted to recommend four grant proposals with decisions on three other proposals pending. The council sponsored program earmarks $10,000 annually to fund projects that enhance the community and improve the quality of life of residents. The council will award $20,000 in 2018 since no awards were made in 2017.
Funding the four projects already approved for recommendation will leave a balance of $9,800, Dozier said. The review committee has asked for additional proposals with an April 1 deadline and suggested the committee wait until then to make recommendations to the council.
Provost Nancy Berner pointed out awarding the full amount requested to the other three candidates would use up the entire $20,000 earmarked for 2018 disbursement.
Whitmer stressed some of the proposals were timely and recommended an earlier final-approval vote by the council.
The council will meet on Feb. 26 to vote on the committee’s confirmed recommendations.
Updating the Council on discussion with a group of community members who recommend formation of a Parks Commission, Berner said she and Vice Chancellor John McCardell “agree it would be a good thing.” The outstanding question according to Berner is who will the commission report to, the Community Council or the Sewanee Civic Association (SCA)?
“The issue is where the authority resides to receive the Parks Commission’s recommendations,” McCardell said.
Providing background, SCA Parks Committee chair Stephen Burnett said the Parks Commission idea arose out of discussions about how to address the Ball Park’s desperate need for renovation and rehabilitation. The SCA spearheaded restoration of Elliott Park and provides oversight for the Dog Park.
Burnett noted that no other group reported to the Community Council. The question of who was responsible for maintenance at other Sewanee parks also entered into the equation, Burnett pointed out.
On behalf of council representative Pam Byerly, who is overseeing the project, Berner announced the annual Community/Greek Life Clean-up Day planned for early March. PKE sorority will spearhead the student campaign. Facilities Management will supply black plastic garbage bags, Berner said, and the Franklin County Sheriff’s Department will pick up filled bags. Byerly hoped council representatives would help organize cleanup efforts in their districts.
“In the past, I did my road and got others in the neighborhood to help,” council member Louise Irwin said.
The council will receive details about the date of the cleanup by email.

​One Frame Shop Closes, Another Opens

by Kevin Cummings, Messenger Staff Writer

Mindy Melton is packing up when her son Wyatt comes through the shop door on the last day of business for Corners Custom Framing in Sewanee.
When asked why she started Corners in February 2009, Wyatt raises his hand. She was catering when she was pregnant with him and needed something less physically demanding, so she opened the shop.
“I don’t think my time could have been better spent in the past 9 years than being here, in this community,” Melton said. “I truly have appreciated everyone and getting to know all the different people.”
Melton learned the framing trade while working at her ex-husband’s frame shop in Florida in the 1990s. She tears up a few times talking about closing the store, but said it was too much to operate the shop and a bar she purchased last year, “The V” in Monteagle.
“It’s a little overwhelming, it’s emotional,” she said, “but I can’t imagine handing it over to anyone better.”
Sewanee resident Harriet Runkle recently purchased all of Melton’s assets inside the store and will open a new frame shop and art gallery in the same location, between Sewanee Dry Cleaners and Shenanigans.
Runkle, a longtime educator, artist and former gallery director, said “Frame Gallery Custom Frames and Art” will exhibit artwork, host art parties for kids and adults, and contribute in other ways to Sewanee’s rich creativity.
“I want it to be a business that supports the arts and supports children,” Runkle said, “and to be another fun thing to do in Sewanee.”
She said she feels that she is coming full circle with the business. In college at the University of Tennessee, when she was dating her husband John, now an architect and a priest, she told him she had dreams of owning her own gallery.
For Melton, she hopes to do more writing in her spare time, “confessional prose,” and also focus on The V, a venue she said allows hardworking musicians another place to play on the touring circuit. But as she centers her attention on other art forms, Melton said she will miss framing for the community.
“I enjoy people and their different tastes and likes and being able to work with them to come up with exactly what they’re looking for. I think that’s the best part,” she said. “It’s hard to be that eclectic in your own home but you get to enjoy all the different things this way—and really good art.”
Runkle said she is building on Melton’s foundation and love for framing.
“I’m continuing what Mindy started,” she said. “Even though I’m changing the name, I’m still in the same space, I’m continuing her good work. The whole process has been great between us.”
Frame Gallery Custom Frames and Art is now open and Runkle said any pending work during the transition will be completed. She also noted there are plans for some interior modifications to the shop.

​Elder Care Facility Struggles Under Regulations Burden

by Leslie Lytle, Messenger Staff Writer

Two years ago the Sheltering Arms elder care facility in Palmer, Tenn., learned they would be required to install a sprinkler system to comply with fire safety regulations. “We’ve only been inspected once,” said Janie Roberts whose family started offering care for the elderly in their home 17 years ago.
Sheltering Arms has applied for licensure as an assisted living facility, which differs from a residential home for the aged in providing medical services and a higher level of care. In addition to holding her healthcare administrator’s license, Roberts is a registered nurse. The Sheltering Arms staff also includes a licensed dietician, certified nursing assistants, visiting physician Dr. John Mckeown, and two visiting nurse practitioners.
The pending assisted living licensure would allow Sheltering Arms to house six residents. The facility currently offers care to four. “We could easily fill 30 beds, but we don’t want to get too big,” said Roberts who along with her husband Jamie owns and manages the facility. “We want to continue to give one-on-one care.”
Prior to applying for the pending licensure Sheltering Arms operated as a private home. The state offers a sprinkler system exemption for residential homes for the aged with 11 or fewer residents. But, Sheltering Arms decided to pursue an assisted living credential. “The state is trying to eliminate the residential homes for the aged altogether,” Roberts said.
She also cited concerns about the more stringent evacuation plan required in unsprinklered facilities. “It used to be you had to be able to get everyone out in 13 minutes or less, but now it’s three minutes. I don’t know that we could do that,” she acknowledged, even though all residents are housed on the first floor and rooms exit into a wide hallway.
Lack of a sprinkler system was the only shortcoming noted by the Health Department inspector. “We don’t have a problem with complying,” Roberts insisted, “but we don’t have the money.” Cost estimates range from $53,000 to $120,000.
Sheltering Arms has employed an architect who will draw up plans for a sprinkler installation and submit them to the state. According to Roberts, the architect found the facility readily amenable to the renovation.
In the hope of raising funds to assist the facility in paying for the costly renovation, Sheltering Arms has set up a GoFundMe page on Facebook and opened an account at Citizens Tri-County Bank, where supporters can make contributions.

​Grundy County Volunteer Stars Awards Recipients

Several years ago Volunteer Tennessee initiated the Governor’s Volunteer Stars Awards, a recognition program designed to recognize the outstanding service of those who volunteer in various ways throughout their local Tennessee communities. This year, two award recipients, one youth and one adult in each county will be recognized by Gov. Bill Haslam on March 11. This celebration will illustrate the importance of civic participation and service to improve overall community norms. Representing Grundy County are Kendale James and Thomas Rollins.

“Volunteers play a critical role in the success of Tennessee communities across the state,” said Grundy County Mayor Michael Brady. “Through nonprofit organizations, national service programs, faith-based organizations, and neighbor-helping-neighbor, outstanding volunteer service is part of our state heritage. In fact, the annual value of Tennessee volunteers is $3.4 billion. As the Volunteer State, we must continue to foster this sense of service and civic responsibility. In an effort to encourage more Grundy County citizens to help improve our community through volunteerism, Volunteer Tennessee has instituted this statewide volunteer recognition program, the Governor’s Volunteer Stars Awards,” said Brady.
“The Grundy County Mayor’s Office is happy to help organize and promote volunteerism in Grundy County, while recognizing the efforts of those who go above and beyond the call of duty every day by making a difference in the lives of others,” said Brady.
The 2017-18 Governor’s Volunteer Stars Award Honoree in the youth category is Kendale James. Kendale is a 15-year-old honor student at St. Andrew’s-Sewanee School. Kendale and her parents Dale and Lisa James and brother, Kayson, live in Tracy City. She is the granddaughter of Buddy and Teresa Wiggins, and Larry and Susan James. She is a member of the SAS varsity volleyball team, clock operator for both the middle school and high school basketball teams, and an asset to the musical and technical theatre programs. She also has aspirations of becoming a marine biologist and recently applied to the Teen Volunteer Program at the Tennessee Aquarium in Chattanooga.
Kendale is responsible for not only initiating, but also implementing, a county-wide program that benefits children. As part of the curriculum at St. Andrew’s-Sewanee School, all upper school students are required to obtain 15 hours of community service per year. Between her school and sports schedule, she was having a difficult time finding opportunities that did not interfere with her schedule.
She and her mom discussed programs that they had heard about in surrounding areas that collect new or very gently used small stuffed animals for police officers to carry in their patrol cars. The animals are then given to small children that have experienced, or are experiencing, a traumatic event.
Kendale loved the idea so she began doing some investigating. Concerned that Sheriff Shrum might not respond to an email from a young girl, she and her mom sat down and composed an email to the Sheriff asking if Grundy County had such a program. Kendale named her program “Buddy Bears.”
She explained, “These events could be a car accident, house fire, being removed from the home, or just being a witness to an event that scares them.” Sheriff Shrum quickly responded that Grundy County did not have such a program in place, but was happy to get on board.
Kendale began collecting boxes, making fliers and asking local businesses if they would be a drop-off location. She began to advertise via Facebook, and the response was overwhelming.
The partnership between the Grundy County Sheriff’s Office and Kendale has proven to be a successful one. “Buddy Bears” benefits the entire county and any visitors that meet with unexpected circumstances. In the first three months, more than 500 animals were collected. Due to limited storage space, Kendale asked for, and was granted, permission from Monteagle Police Chief, Virgil McNeese, to make donations to the Monteagle Police Department, which patrols in both Grundy and Marion Counties. Donations have slowed tremendously, so Kendale no longer makes rounds to collect bears, but gladly accepts donations when requested.
The 2017–18 Governor’s Volunteer Stars Award Honoree in the adult category is Thomas Rollins. Rollins and his wife live in Altamont. His service began more than 75 years ago when he entered into the military as a very young man during WWII. This Memorial Day found him placing American Flags on the graves of the 60 Veterans in his hometown cemetery as he has done for nearly two decades. He wears his Army uniform to participate in various patriotic events and to many schools. He speaks to the children about history and the value of education. He always reminds them that they are the future leaders of America.
When he served as Scout Master, he led may hikes through the forests of Grundy County and had numerous fishing trips. Thomas also served his community as fireman, alderman, and director on the Farm Bureau. He held an office in the local American Legion for 60 years and was on the first Grundy County Planning Committee. He is a member of the Grundy County Veteran’s Association. He has also served on two local cemetery committees with his presence, donations and physical labor.
“It is an honor to recognize Mr. Rollins and Ms. James as the Grundy County Honorees for the Governor’s Volunteer of the Year,” said Brady.
“Mr. Rollins is a true Patriot, through serving our country as a young soldier in WWII to being a true champion for our local veterans and their families at the young age of 91. Whether it’s serving on committees, plowing someone’s garden, or being the unofficial life guard at the local swimming hole, Mr. Rollins delights in serving others. His servant’s heart makes him a worthy honoree.
“Ms. James has exhibited, at a very early age, the wonderful traits of giving back to the community and a heart of wanting to make a difference. We are so thankful for all of our Volunteers,” said Brady.

​MJQ Redux: Celebrating Jazz at Sewanee

A landmark concert in the history of American music gets long overdue recognition in February. Back in April 1961, eight years before the Woodstock Festival and eight years after Duke Ellington’s last pop hit, the Modern Jazz Quartet (MJQ) was heard for the first time in the South, performing to a rapt audience at the University of the South. At this point the progressive MJQ was not yet the household name it would become later; it had landed in Sewanee entirely thanks to the efforts of the student Jazz Society. The University, lacking a real concert hall, offered up its gymnasium one Sunday afternoon for a superb concert in the round by the MJQ. That gym, named for a segregationist, hosted hundreds of listeners in one of the first integrated events to occur on campus—or anywhere in that region.

At 2 p.m. CST, Sunday, Feb. 11, the University of the South pays tribute to that landmark event by hosting another momentous concert, the Aaron Diehl Quartet in performance, reviving the songs played by the MJQ back in ’61. Aaron Diehl, celebrated for his virtuosity as both jazz and classical pianist, brings the outstanding vibraphonist Warren Wolf along with Paul Sikivie, bass, and Peter Van Nostrand, drums—altogether forming an ensemble exceptionally capable of handling the MJQ book.
In the preceding days, Feb. 9–10, the University also hosts a symposium dedicated to the music of the MJQ. The symposium assembles several leading names in jazz studies, including Gary Giddins, featured expert in Ken Burns’ “Jazz” and author of “Visions of Jazz and Bing Crosby: Swinging on a Star”; and George Schuller, drummer with the Lee Konitz Quartet and son of famed composer and jazz advocate Gunther Schuller.
Symposium participants will also hear from Phil Schaap, a fabled New York City jazz personality (curator, Jazz at Lincoln Center, faculty member of Juilliard Jazz Studies, and WKCR jazz host), and Dr. Christopher Coady, the author of “John Lewis and the Challenge of ‘Real’ Black Music” and lecturer at the Sydney (Australia) Conservatorium of Music. Coady will lecture on the significance of the MJQ’s experience in Europe and the impact of that on their lead songwriter in “Jazz Possibilities: John Lewis at Home and Abroad.” Schaap, regarded as the world’s premier jazz disk-jockey, will curate listening sessions of MJQ recordings in the acclaimed Ralston Listening Room on the campus of the University of the South. Aaron Diehl, who at an earlier stage of his career was selected by John Lewis’s widow, Mirjana, to archive the music of her husband, also contributes to the symposium with a performance-discussion on Lewis’s charts from a pianist’s perspective.
The MJQ, referred to as the premier concert ensemble in jazz and even “the world’s finest chamber group in any kind of music,” modeled a rare degree of egalitarian, even democratic, cooperation. In the words of John Lewis, the pianist and primary composer, they “tried to make it a reflection of this country, the ideal reflection that it should be a democracy, where the group takes advantage of the best abilities of each of the participants.” The vibraphonist Milt Jackson gave the group a brilliant soloist, and the drummer Connie Kay and bassist Percy Heath each added personal stylistic elements essential to the mature MJQ sound.
The foursome opened jazz to new audiences at the same time that it expanded the art’s frontiers. Some of their recordings apply jazz inspiration to classical forms and textures, heading in the direction sometimes labeled “third stream,” while others venture towards the cool or bop idioms within jazz. In the late ’60s The Beatles brought out two MJQ albums on the Apple label. Together the quartet recorded, performed, and toured longer than virtually all other chamber ensembles—for more than four decades, from the early 1950s to the mid-’90s. The MJQ members died between 1994 and 2005, but the quartet retains its hold on today’s listeners with recordings like “Django” and “Bags Groove”—and continues to attract attention from leading contemporary jazz musicians, notably Wynton Marsalis, Ron Carter, and Aaron Diehl.
A special attraction of the symposium will be a viewing of Music Inn, hosted by George Schuller, who co-produced the film. This documentary conveys the remarkable story of the School of Jazz in Lenox, Massachusetts, and the superb performers who for three legendary decades graced the stage of its “Music Barn,” including Louis Armstrong, Dave Brubeck, Dizzy Gillespie, and Pete Seeger. All these artists—among many others—also played on the Sewanee campus in the 1960s and ’70s, sponsored by the student Jazz Society. (Among the first of these was the celebrated 1961 MJQ concert.) These performances were especially notable for occurring in what was a still largely segregated South, and it was here that integration was first possible in the region. Not coincidentally, the Highlander Folk School—well known as a training site for non- violent protest where champions of the civil rights era assembled, including Martin Luther King Jr., Rosa Parks, and Septima Clark—was just a few miles up the road from Sewanee. Some of the same individuals were active in both the Sewanee Jazz Society and at Highlander.
For more information about specific dates, times, locations and registration and ticket charges, visit www.sewanee.edu/mjqinsewanee
Several divisions of the University of the South underwrite these events: the Vice-Chancellor’s Office, Lectures Committee, Performing Arts Series, Office of Minority Affairs, Office of Alumni and Parent Programs, Departments of Music and History, Program in American Studies, along with the Sewanee Project on Slavery, Race, and Reconciliation.

​Walter Recounts Civil Rights Experiences

by Kevin Cummings, Messenger Staff Writer

Francis Walter, a Sewanee resident and Episcopal priest, was both witness and activist during the civil rights upheaval of the 1960s. He shared scenes from that tumultuous time on Jan. 14, the afternoon before Martin Luther King Jr. Day.
“I’m talking about another world and a lot of you never lived in it and don’t understand it,” he told a chapel peopled with community members and students on the St. Andrew’s-Sewanee School’s campus.
Walter, 85, was in the close company of Dr. King three times in his life, but never spoke to the man because he says he was intimidated by King’s celebrity. Walter also discussed the aftermath following the death of Episcopal activist Jonathan Daniels and described when he feared he himself would be shot by a man named “One-Eyed Jack.”
Part of the Selma Inter-religious Project, a coalition of religious denominations supporting black leaders during the Civil Rights Movement in the South, Walter was also a key organizer of the Freedom Quilting Bee in Alabama, a program to generate income for black families from the sale of handmade quilts.
Emmanuel Thombs, 18, an SAS senior who is African-American, said on Jan. 16 that Walter’s story gave him perspective and emphasized the importance to not watch history “but to be active in my world and insert myself into history.”
“My dad lived most of his childhood under segregation and he always proclaims how much different of a world today is,” Thombs said. “It’s hard for me to truly understand the world in the 1960s and the idea that ‘we’ve come a long way’ because I have never experienced the things those living in that time period did.”
A short discussion near the end of Walter’s talk between Thombs, Walter and fellow Episcopal priest Joe Porter, centered on how far the country has come in race relations and the distance left to go.
Racism is more subtle today, Walter noted. Porter said he does not believe strides have been made in the economy, education and healthcare.
“We’ve come far in political democracy but not in economic democracy,” Porter said. “That’s a big thing in this country, the total wealth as a percentage has not risen significantly at all for African-Americans from those days.”
Thombs asked Porter how to combat inequalities, and Porter said as a follower of Jesus and the teachings of Dr. King, having an open heart is the way to reconciliation.
Thombs said on Jan. 16, like many, he does not know the answers to balancing racial inequality.
“People often call me a pessimist for saying that I don’t truly believe there’s any way to fix inequality without erasing the foundations that this country put in place long ago,” he said. “I hope that my opinion will change as I grow older and learn more about the way the world works.”
King, Daniels and ‘One-Eyed Jack’
With his thick twisted cane resembling a deer leg flanking a clear glass of water atop a wooden stool beside the lectern, Walter spoke to the group in a soft Southern tone.
The first time Walter was in the presence of Dr. King was at a speech on New Year’s Day in the 1950s at the International Longshoreman’s Association Hall in Mobile, Ala. Walter and three others were the only white people in attendance and were given a position of honor on the podium directly behind King.
“Exactly the opposite if they (black people) tried to go to white churches —hatred, hate stares, call the police” he said. “I saw this gift of hospitality over and over again in black churches.”
He said “King’s voice went to my bones” during that speech. At two meetings of civil rights activists in the 1960s, Walter also shared a room with Dr. King and he attended King’s funeral in Atlanta, where afterwards area black churches shared “consoling food, served with dignity.”
Speaking both extemporaneously and reading from a forthcoming book about his experiences, Walter also talked about the death of Jonathan Daniels, an Episcopal seminarian and civil rights activist who was shot and killed on the steps of a grocery store in Hayneville, Ala., trying to protect a black teenager, Ruby Sales.
Daniels was supposed to meet with Walter the day before his death to discuss Walter assuming Daniels’ duties, but Daniels was jailed with a group of other activists, and the meeting never happened. He was killed shortly after being released from jail by a white man who objected to their presence at the store—where they had gone for a cold drink.
Some Episcopal bishops and other church leaders were not happy with what Walter, Daniels and other activists were doing. Two splashes of sunlight in the shape of windows decorated the wall behind Walter as he remembered calling area Episcopal churches to invite them to participate in a memorial for Daniels in Selma, knowing that they would be portrayed negatively in the press for their absence from the service and would be risking their jobs to attend.
“I enjoyed sticking it to them,” he said, but added that he struggled with guilt for 45 years for putting the church leaders in “a moral crisis.”
But standing against racial oppression is an imperative for a follower of Christ and with the help of his wife Faye, a clinical psychologist, Walter was able to work through his painful emotions about those phone calls, he said.
It was in the days after Daniels’ death that Walter thought his own life was in jeopardy at a small black church in Greensboro, Ala. Approaching the church, one of many holding memorial services for Daniels, he saw that the parsonage’s porch was adorned with bullet holes.
Inside the church a group of men, part of the Deacons for Justice, were armed with shotguns and plenty of enthusiasm.
“They were the happiest young black guys I’d ever seen in my life,” he said, “…not under the white man’s thumb anymore.”
After the service, as Walter went to the car to leave, a white man began to cuss him, so he returned to the church. Parishioners identified the man as “One-Eyed Jack,” the person who had shot up the parsonage. They provided an armed escort for Walter out of town.

​Divine Re-Designs Repurposes Trash into Treasure

by Leslie Lytle, Messenger Staff Writer

Derrek and Andrea Plattenburg never intended to open a “repurposing store.”
“Divine Re-Designs is sort of a happy accident,” Andrea said.
The couple started out “flipping houses,” buying run down homes, restoring and reselling them. But their remodeling increasingly took a creative turn, taking an old vanity from a bathroom and using it as a kitchen island for instance.
“We hate to waste anything,” Andrea insisted. They started making furniture from “the leftovers” and their repertoire quickly expanded into “reimagining” whatever crossed their path. Doors became hall trees and corner cabinets; bottles became lamps; barrel hoops became overhead light fixtures while the barrels became sinks; headboards became the backs of loveseats; windows became tables; ladders became towel racks and shelves.
Sometimes customers fail to recognize the original item. One woman mistook a wooden ironing board for a sled, in its new life repurposed as a table.
“Everything is one of a kind,” Andrea stressed. “We use what we have on hand.”
Located in old downtown Decherd at 100 East Main St., across from the historic Powell’s Hardware building, Divine Re-Designs occupies what was the pool hall for many generations of Decherd folks. A backroom serves as a workshop where the Plattenburgs craft their wares. The showroom floor is decorated with the hand and foot prints of their two daughters, ages eight and 12, while the ceiling is tin salvaged from an old barn in Jump Off.
Andrea was born and raised in Sewanee and refers to herself as a “Sewaneean,” although the couple has lived in Winchester for the past seven years. After 26 years as a maintenance superintendant at Nissan, Derrek resigned for a new career restoring old houses, following in the footsteps of his father who was likewise a skilled carpenter.
The Plattenburg’s point to Divine Re-Designs as a cornerstone in the “bring back old downtown Decherd” initiative. Andrea serves on the downtown Decherd committee composed of business owners appointed by the mayor. The committee pursues grant opportunities. Decherd recently made a $15,000 matching contribution for flowerpots, benches, and like amenities to make historic downtown more “aesthetically pleasing.”
Area residents frequently bring doors and other mementos from their childhood homes wanting the Plattenburgs to create something they can cherish as a legacy and pass down to future generations.
The Plattenburgs are open to bartering if folks see something they like. People invite them to visit their old barn or shed to scavenger for “trash into treasure” possibilities. “Sometimes we put things on the floor ‘as is’ if it’s a particularly cool item,” Andrea said.
Divine Re-Designs also features consignments from a few area artisans whose creations are appropriate to the theme: pressed glass bottles re-imagined as serving trays, handmade wooden fishing lures, and a local blacksmith’s crafts. The commission charged artisans is low. “We want to support local artisans, and their wares diversify our offerings,” Andrea explained.
“We felt led to do this,” she said commenting on the name Divine Re-Designs and how the career change to restoring old houses led to a business opportunity neither one of them ever imagined—“We’re border line hoarders. The difference is things get to move on.”
Divine Re-Designs opened its doors in December 2016. “We have a heavy traffic flow, a lot of regular customers,” Andrea noted speaking to the store’s success. In addition to individuals, several area businesses decorate with Divine Re-Designs creations. Branchwater Distillery in downtown Winchester features a Divine Re-Designs’ hall tree fashioned from an old door, railroad nails, and whiskey barrel lid. The minnow basket light fixtures at Lakeside Veterinary Clinic in Estill Springs are Divine Re-Designs creations.
“People are tired of mass produced items. They want something unique with character. But Divine Re-Designs isn’t just for rich people,” Andrea was quick to point out. “We’re committed to keeping prices affordable.”
Divine Re-Designs is open Thursday and Friday from 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Saturday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. or, according to Andrea, “until people stop coming.”

​SUD Commissioner Election: Meet the Candidates

by Leslie Lytle, Messenger Staff Writer

Two area residents are vying for a soon-to-be-vacated seat on the board of commissioners of the Sewanee Utility District of Franklin and Marion counties. Doug Cameron and Paul Evans are seeking election to the commissioner seat currently held by Karen Singer. Singer is term-limited and cannot seek re-election. Voting continues through Jan. 23 at the SUD office, 150 Sherwood Rd., during regular business hours. All SUD customers are eligible to vote. Brief bios on the candidates follow.
Doug Cameron
Doug Cameron previously served two four-year terms on the Sewanee Utility District board, five of the eight years as president. His last term ended in January 2012. During his tenure, SUD weathered the devastating 2007 drought and built a new water plant.
“I’m fascinated with the SUD constructed wetlands project,” Cameron said, “and with trying to deal with growth, especially drought planning.”
Highlighting challenges faced by SUD, Cameron cited the need for updating and addressing leaks in SUD’s wastewater collection system. He also pointed to unaccounted for water loss as an area that needed additional attention.
“The new, more efficient meters SUD installed a few years ago got rid of some of the problems,” Cameron observed, but advocated further remedial efforts.
Raised in Sewanee, Cameron attended college at Harvard University.
“My dad said we had to leave for college,” Cameron joked.
Although he majored in clinical psychology and social anthropology, he took electives in the physical sciences whenever he got a chance and logged more than 100 hours in biology and chemistry.
After traveling a few years as campground guides, Cameron and his wife Ann returned to Sewanee.
“I’ve been a teacher or run outdoor programs ever since,” he said.
Cameron has been a SUD customer since 1970. He currently lives on Can Tex Drive in the Jump Off community. He is also a member of the Sewanee Volunteer Fire Department.

Paul Evans

Paul Evans’ accounting background led to a career managing a socially responsible investment fund where water technology played a key role. The Adirondack Fund’s mission was to generate economic activity in economically depressed areas while preserving the nature of the place.
“I spent 20 years looking at water technology,” Evans said, “primarily technology that cleaned water and technology used in wastewater treatment.”
A SUD customer for the past five-and-a-half years, Evans lives just four doors down from Sewanee Elementary.
“The potential development proposed by the University’s Sewanee Village Plan has heightened my concern about the cost-effective delivery of safe and clean drinking water,” Evans stressed. “As a business person with experience serving on boards, I think I can make a knowledgeable and responsible contribution to help SUD address the growth challenges it faces.”
Raised in Pittsburg, Pa., Evans frequently visited his mother’s family in McMinnville as a child. He returned to the Plateau several years ago to care for his mother, and met and married Sewanee native Katherine Alvarez.

Evans earned a degree in accounting from Empire State College in New York. An eight-year stint as a documentary film producer for Vermont Public Television taught him about lighting and led to his current career. Evans and his business partner formed the company Adaptive Landscape Lighting, pairing the concepts of energy efficiency, utility and beauty.

​School Board Continues Cell Phone Policy Discussion

by Leslie Lytle, Messenger Staff Writer

At the Jan. 8 meeting, Franklin County School Board members raised additional questions about student cell phone use prior to taking up a request to amend the cell phone policy. At the December meeting, representatives from the Student Advisory Council asked the board to approve a six-week trial allowing use of cell phones in the hallways before school and during class change, as well as during breakfast and lunch in the cafeteria, and in class at teacher discretion. The current cell phone policy forbids all student use of cell phones on school premises during the school day.
The students stressed cell phones were an educational tool and cited the more lenient policies of neighboring school districts. As a result of Franklin County’s policy, during the spring semester of 2017, 50 percent of the students in the Alternative School were there for cell phone related violations.
Director of Schools Stanley Bean estimated currently three or four students were assigned to the Alternative School due to cell related incidents.
“The number fluctuates,” Bean said.
Board Chair Cleijo Walker asked for information on the total number of cell phone violators assigned to the Alternative School in the fall 2017 semester.
School board representative Chris Guess asked Bean to consult with school attorney Chuck Cagle about the legality of confiscating cell phones of student violators, one of the punitive practices under the current policy. Guess also requested information on the number of incidents where school resource officers’ intervention was related to cell phone use.
The board deferred further discussion until the workshop scheduled for February before the regular board meeting on Monday, Feb. 12. The board is also expected to address questions related to the proposed consolidated middle school.
In other business, the board approved several budget amendments. The majority of changes designated how to allocate federal grant money received for drug use prevention and intervention. The Opioid Grant allocation increased by $113,000.


​MLK Community Celebration

The 33rd annual Martin Luther King Day Community Celebration will take place on Monday, Jan. 15, at 5:30 p.m. in Upper Cravens Hall at 435 Kentucky Ave. The program will celebrate the life and works of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. The community is invited to come out and take part in the annual potluck dinner.

Vice Chancellor John McCardell will give the opening remarks. Students will host the program and share poetry and dance. The School of Theology Choir, under the direction of Kenneth Miller, will perform musical selections. The Sewanee Praise Choir, under the Direction of Music Professor Prakash Wright, will perform selections from their songbook. Attendees will have the opportunity to join in song.
The evening is always a great community celebration. Attendees will enjoy good company, inspiring music and nourishing food.
The Sewanee Black Student Union, the Cumberland Center for Justice and Peace, the School of Theology, the Office of Multi-Cultural Affairs, and the Office of Student Life are the co-sponsors. The event is free, open, and the community is invited.

​David Crabtree to Give Address at Winter Convocation

The University of the South’s Winter Convocation will be held at 4 p.m., Friday, Jan. 19, in All Saints’ Chapel. Honorary degrees will be presented and approximately 110 new members will be inducted into the Order of the Gown. Nancy Berner will be installed as the eighth provost of the University. The Rev. David Crabtree, an award-winning broadcast journalist as well as an ordained deacon, will give the Convocation address and will receive an honorary doctor of civil law degree.

Crabtree will give a talk titled “Where is God in the Newsroom?” at 4 p.m., Thursday, Jan. 18, in Convocation Hall. The public is invited to the talk.
During the Convocation, an honorary doctor of fine arts degree also will be conferred upon costume designer Toni-Leslie James, associate professor at Virginia Commonwealth University.
Convocation will be streamed live for those who are unable to attend at .
Crabtree is a news anchor and reporter for WRAL-TV in North Carolina and an ordained deacon in the Episcopal Church. He graduated from Middle Tennessee State University, attended Vanderbilt Divinity School, and is completing a masters of theology at Duke Divinity School. Crabtree’s awards include 15 Emmys and the North Carolina Association of Broadcasters 2014 Anchor of the Year. He has been awarded the Alfred I. duPont-Columbia University Award for his work focusing on migrant workers’ living conditions, and the Gabriel Award from the Catholic Press Association for reporting that uplifts and nourishes the human spirit. Crabtree was ordained in 2004 as permanent deacon in the Diocese of North Carolina, with a focus on end of life care and a particular emphasis on hospice care and North Carolina’s death row.
James is a costume designer for stage, television and film, and an associate professor and head of design in the theatre department of Virginia Commonwealth University. She has designed for Broadway, regional theatre, opera, dance, film, and television. Her Broadway credits include costume designs for “Finian’s Rainbow,” “Chita Rivera: The Dancer’s Life,” “Footloose,” “The Tempest,” and “Jelly’s Last Jam.” James has 38 costume design nominations or awards, among them the 2009 Obie Award for Sustained Costume Design Excellence and the 2011 National Black Theatre Festival Outstanding Costume Designer of the Year Award. Her work has been displayed in nine major museum and college exhibitions, and the American Museum of Natural History showed a 2006 retrospective of her career.
Dr. Nancy J. Berner was named the eighth provost of the University in July 2017. She received B.S. and M.S. degrees from the University of Idaho before earning a Ph.D. in biological sciences from Stanford University. She taught in Sewanee’s biology department for 20 years before becoming associate provost in 2012. Berner has also served the University as department chair and as interim associate dean of the College, was elected to two three-year terms on the Board of Trustees, and holds the William Henderson Professorship in biology. As provost, Berner is the chief operating officer of the University, overseeing academic and administrative operations including human resources; information technology and the library; environmental stewardship and sustainability; sponsored research; and risk management.

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