Sewanee: ADA Compliance, University Avenue Redesign, Snow

by Leslie Lytle, Messenger Staff Writer

At the Jan. 22 Zoom meeting, the Sewanee Community Council learned about plans for increasing ADA compliant parking and the University Avenue redesign being pursued. The council also received an overview of how the campus deals with severe snow and ice conditions and University plans for future preparedness.

Asked to speak on ADA accessible parking, especially for access to All Saint’s Chapel, ADA Director Matt Brown said restoring some ADA accessible parking on University Avenue was under consideration. Brown explained renovation of the Wellness Complex resulted in five of six parking spaces on University Avenue being moved to the rear of the building. “We realized we had an issue when an employee broke her foot and couldn’t get to the building,” Brown said.

Elaborating, Acting Provost Scott Wilson said he had been in conversation with a civil engineer about reconfiguring the bike lanes and adding three or four ADA compliant parking spaces between the Wellness Complex and the Chapel to facilitate accessibility to those locations as well as to McClurg Dining Hall. The University Avenue “redesign” would need to be approved first by the Franklin County Road Commission then the Franklin County Commission. Wilson hoped for progress by the fall.

Brown encouraged community members to report barriers to ADA accessibility using the University website form on the ADA page (ADA Report A Barrier). He stressed configuring ADA parking needed to take into consideration both the distance to the destination and number of spots.

Robert Benton, Assistant Vice President for Facilities Management, provided an overview of snow removal practices and the impact of the recent severe storm. “The state typically takes care of the highway from the interstate to the hospital, and then they try to help us on University Avenue,” Benton said. “The counties try to help us the best they can, but the counties were overwhelmed due to the extreme nature of the storm. Midway through the week Grundy County said, ‘we can’t help anymore.’ We learned a lot.” Equipment purchased in 1992 was nearing the end of its useful life, according to Benton, and purchasing deicing equipment was being considered.

A resident suggested reaching out to community partners and asking the sand plant to supply sand to improve traction. Benton explained sand would clog the sewer drains creating a future problem. Wilson said the University Emergency Management Team planned to meet to strategize “how to better position ourselves for the next storm.”

Reporting on the Traffic Safety Committee formed several months ago, council member Michael Payne stressed the importance of establishing criteria to evaluate traffic flow, citing the impact on bikes, pedestrians, and cars; the volume and speed of traffic; and whether or not there were sidewalks. The committee had discussed the benefits of “speed humps” which cost less than sidewalks and slowed traffic flow without negatively impacting the speed of emergency vehicles. Franklin County Road Commissioner Johnny Hughes had questioned if speed humps would impede snow removal. Payne suggested Sewanee might consider a “test case” with speed humps on a few streets and having a professional analyze Sewanee’s traffic safety. Superintendent of Leases and Community Relations Sallie Green said a small amount of funding might be available from the Community Service budget.

The council appointed Payne to serve on the Agenda Committee, replacing John Solomon whose term ended. The committee reviews potential agenda items submitted for the council’s consideration to determine if the topic is one the council should address or if the subject should be referred to another entity.

The annual community trash pick-up is scheduled for Saturday, April 27, with the starting time tentatively 9 a.m. at the Mountain Goat Trailhead.

The council meets next March 25.

Racial Healing in a World of Multiple Realities

by Leslie Lytle, Messenger Staff Writer

“Joy and despair can exist simultaneously,” said Clint Smith taking a question about his formula for racial healing. In a virtual conversation, Smith responded to questions from students engaged in Truth, Racial Healing, and Transformation work at Mount Holyoke, Spelman, Sewanee, the Joseph and Evelyn Lowery Institute for Justice and Human Rights, and the Andrew Young Center for Global Leadership of Atlanta. Smith’s remarks traveled from plantation weddings, to YouTube, to renaming Confederate monuments, to giving the unpopular answer to uncomfortable questions.

A Harvard graduate with a Ph.D. in Education, staff writer for The Atlantic, and author of the bestselling “How the Word Is Passed: A Reckoning With the History of Slavery Across America,” Smith acknowledged as a black child observing the difference in communities, he formed “racist ideas about [his] own community.” Books and art helped him understand history and the why of that difference. But Smith stressed, “focusing on education alone is myopic … education alone won’t singularly change the trajectory of a life.” Smith cited housing, parents’ employment, and income as among the many influences on a child. Equally important, today various “mediums for receiving info” existed alongside books. Smith pointed to TicTok, Instagram, and YouTube as tools for helping students “understand the world.”

Smith’s 50-episode YouTube series “Crash Course Black American History” mines the truth about black history from 1619 to the present. For Smith, one of the challenges in recounting history lay in “not sacrificing intellectual rigor at the expense of the legibility and accessibility” crucial to reaching those who lack “cultural capital.” Another challenge lay in not falling into “the trap of defining black people by indignity and trauma.”

“Lives don’t exist in demarcation, all good or all bad,” Smith insisted. “The world has multiple realities.” Having children has made Smith startingly aware of “the unfathomable circumstance” of children elsewhere. But, likewise, his children have made him realize, “In a world of so much beauty and ugliness, I don’t want to lose my sense of gratitude.” A theme in his work is “holding multiple things as true at once … to take seriously the indignities inflicted on blacks … but not define them by pain.”

Delana Turner, Sewanee American Studies major and politics minor, posed a question about a victim of the Bloody Sunday massacre who objected to renaming Edmund Pettus bridge, afraid what the bridge symbolized would be lost to memory. Smith saw the circumstance as “an opportunity to have a conversation about what the name means.” What was more important? The bridge’s symbolic significance in the struggle for racial equality or the fact that Pettus was a Grand Marshall of the Alabama Ku Klux Klan and former Confederate brigadier general. Smith personally found it unthinkable to celebrate a wedding on a plantation that was the “site of exploitation,” yet he knew blacks who regarded a planation wedding as “reclaiming the space” for their own.

Noting another challenge, Smith cited the importance of being “empirically precise” when making analogies between circumstances. He gave the example of comparing chattel slavery to the notoriously horrific Angola Prison where 70 percent of the inmates were black men. Failure to be precise resulted in failing to understand “the actual realities.” Being born into slavery was one reality and the school-to-prison pipeline another.

Emma Quirks from Holyoke asked how “nonblacks” could do the work of racial healing. Smith answered with a question: “What is the conversation when a black person is not in the room to say, ‘thank you’?” He pointed out, for women, it was easier to object to a sexist comment when there were other women present. “I ask myself am I living out my values when I won’t be rewarded,” Smith said. His answer: “not always. Being justice oriented is not a finish line, but an everyday practice … to move through the world with curiosity and humility.”

String Blazers Contribute Music in the Community and Throughout Middle Tennessee

The Sewanee based youth string ensemble, String Blazers, has had a very busy fall season. Under the direction of Tammy Hobbs, the group originally formed in 2017 has grown into a multifaceted program that includes players between the ages of 8 and 17. String Blazers performed alongside the younger group String Cheese for the St. Mark and St. Paul Christmas pageant and prior to that alongside the Sewanee Symphony Orchestra. In addition, a quartet of the highest level students has begun performing in local long term care facilities and churches.

Perhaps most impressively, the group recently sent five students to audition for the prestigious midstate orchestra. Those who participated included Toby Van de Ven who played the viola and was selected to perform with the 11-12 grade orchestra. Maddie Van de Ven played the cello and was selected to perform with the 9-10 orchestra. Kat Carpenter played the violin and was selected to perform with the 9-10 midstate orchestra and in April will attend the All State Orchestra. Colton Waller was initially selected as an alternate, but was then able to perform in concert in January. Gillian O’Connell was the youngest participant and while she was not selected this year to perform, found the process motivating to continue working toward the goal of winning a spot next year. The audition process was rigorous, requiring each student to learn and be ready to perform all 12 major scales in three octaves by memory, a selected piece of music, and sightreading. The students then performed their work in front of judges and were selected from many participants in the midstate area. The concerts took place following four rehearsals over the weekend of Jan. 11-13, 2024 in Murfreesboro.

As the director of the String Blazers, Tammy Hobbs is very excited to have such a great showing from the Sewanee area string ensemble. If you see Tammy or these young musicians please congratulate them on their efforts.

Events Update from the University

January 18, 2024
Dear Members of the University Community,We write to update you on the status of work, instruction, and campus events that are scheduled to occur on Jan. 19-21. In light of the winter weather advisory issued by the National Weather Service at 6 p.m. today, we have made the following determinations:
  • On Jan. 19, all instruction will be conducted online in the College and School of Theology.
  • Workers in the areas of essential operations identified in earlier communications are asked to report to campus for work. Please consult with your supervisor for instructions.
  • Exempt staff should work remotely, and non-exempt staff who do not work in essential areas of operation should not report to work. They will be compensated in accordance with their scheduled hours.
  • Special events scheduled for Jan. 19-21, including Opening Convocation and the 100 Years of Basketball celebration, will continue as planned until further notice. We will assess the road conditions several hours prior to events to alert people of the final status of those events.
Please take care and stay safe.

Scott Wilson
Acting Provost

Town Hall Meetings for Strategic Planning

I want to update you on the strategic planning process, which will provide a number of opportunities for our various constituents to participate in the coming months.

The University is organizing its strategic plan around the following three pillars:

  • Mind: A Renewed Curriculum for the 21st Century
  • Heart: Preparing Students for Citizenship, Leadership and Lives of Meaning and Significance
  • Place: The Domain as Laboratory, Recreation Site, Sanctuary and Home.

As part of the information gathering process, the strategic planning committee is inviting all members of the Sewanee community to participate in open town hall meetings. The open town hall sessions will be held at the following dates and times:

  • Jan. 25, 4:30 p.m. in Convocation Hall
  • Feb. 13, 7:00 p.m. in Convocation Hall
  • Feb. 21 at 10:00 a.m. in Convocation Hall

These meetings are an important opportunity for you to participate in planning the direction of the University’s development, and I encourage your engagement with this process. The University has contracted Dr. Dawn Wiese, former vice president for student affairs at Washington and Lee, as a consultant to facilitate these conversations. Dawn is both knowledgeable about Sewanee and liberal arts colleges, and she has assisted a variety of organizations with strategic planning processes.

Beersheba Springs Market Reopens

by Beth Riner, Messenger Staff Writer

When community members rallied to save the iconic Beersheba Springs Market from permanent closure last year, little did local newlyweds Audra and Billy Ray Miller know they’d be asked to run it.

Located right alongside State Route 56, the mom-and-pop general store had been a much-loved fixture in the Beersheba Springs community for decades. Rebuilt in 1953 after the original store burned in 1947, the market had several owners before Bud Whitman took over in 1976. Whitman ran it for 47 years before deciding to retire last January — only no one was interested in buying the business.

That’s when John Adams and his father, Howell Adams, a longtime Grundy County benefactor, decided to step in and spearhead the fight to save the market.

“This was Howell’s dream,” Audra said. “He wanted this market saved. He’s about leaving a footprint for the next generation.”

Billy Ray added, “He’s one of the best human beings I’ve ever met. He’s thinking forward at 92.”

Howell’s son, John, put together a group of investors not only to buy the market but also to fund much-needed renovations while keeping its country-store character intact. The plan all along was to find a local couple interested in running the place.

“We literally had just returned from our honeymoon in Vegas when we got a phone call from Howell,” Audra said. A mutual friend had suggested that she and Billy Ray might be good candidates for the job.

“Howell came and had dinner with us at our home and asked us,” Audra recalled. “We were like … ooh, that’s life changing. Billy Ray was retired. I had just retired from 38 years as a hairstylist in McMinnville. It was the perfect timing. We were just a good fit.”

Although they both grew up in the area, the couple didn’t actually meet until 2016. Audra’s son, who was helping Billy Ray clear property to build a house, kept telling his mother that he thought she’d like his employer and his organic gardening techniques. Audra finally agreed to meet Billy Ray.

“He gave me a tour, and the rest is history,” Audra said. She was fresh out of a divorce, and he’d been a confirmed bachelor for nearly 10 years.

“We had our own little Hallmark movie going on,” Billy Ray said, smiling.

Audra, who attended Altamont Elementary, was part of the first eighth-grade graduating class at North before moving on to Grundy County High School. Billy Ray went to Beersheba Springs Elementary and graduated from Warren County High School in McMinnville.

Four years older than her husband, Audra, 56, said it was unlikely they would have gotten together even if they had gone to the same high school all those years ago.

“I would have been a senior in high school, and he would have been a freshman,” she laughed. “I probably would not have talked to him back then.”

Both the Millers took high school vocational classes that profoundly impacted their careers. Audra took cosmetology classes during her sophomore, junior, and senior years, so by the time she graduated, she had logged 1,500 hours, passed her cosmetology test, and went straight to work.

Billy Ray’s time in Junior ROTC paved the way for a 20-year career in the Army — he’d eventually serve as the radio man for the Secret Service guarding President George W. Bush and First Lady, Laura, as well as Vice President Dick Cheney. After retiring from the military, he worked seven years as a veteran’s service officer based at the Grundy County seat in Altamont.

The couple put a lot of thought into whether or not to accept the offer to run the market — their marriage was a top priority. Audra thought they should do it — with one stipulation.

“Let’s promise each other if it ever gets not fun or to the point it’s affecting our marriage, let’s walk away,” she told her new husband. It was a deal Billy Ray had no problem accepting.

The investors, led by the Adams, took possession of the market in April.

“The day that Bud handed over the key to John, we all came up here, opened the doors, and started making plans,” Audra said.

It’s been an adventure — a labor of love with a learning curve.

“We’re hairdressers and Army folk,” Billy Ray laughed. “We’re not shopkeepers.”

Their list to get the place up and running was long — clearing out the building, cleaning, knocking out walls, renovating, creating a kitchen — and it was tricky because they didn’t want to lose the market’s character and hometown feel.

“This was worth saving,” Billy Ray said. “Everybody in this town and people not even from this town — let’s call them the out-of-towners or the summer people — all have memories of being a child in this store. The common denominator is this store.”

Audra and Billy Ray have their memories too.

“See the ballpark that’s right back here was the hangout,” Audra said. “This market being so close — it was the stop-in.”

“It was the center of the universe in the summer,” Billy Ray said, adding that as a child he was allowed to walk from the ballpark to the store along the path that connected the two. He was not allowed to walk along the road. The path is overgrown now, but the Millers plan to bring it back.

Clearing out, cleaning up, and renovating took two solid months.

“It was non-stop,” Audra said.

Another local couple, Ann and Travis Green, played a key part in the renovation. John Adams not only contributed to the design of a new electrical system, but also came up with the point-of-sale plan.

“Before we got this place, it was a cash-only operation,” Billy Ray said. “This will change the dynamic — before the out-of-towners visiting the park couldn’t use their credit cards here.”

Audra wanted to create a café-style eating area. John found booths at a little café near Skymont Boy Scout Camp; they now line the front windows, which were almost completely obscured with shelving and hundreds of trophies awarded for sponsoring ball games throughout the years.

Customers can enjoy the view as they sample some of the house made goodness Audra now prepares in the renovated kitchen. The market offers sandwiches, subs, and pizza all day every day, but Audra often prepares specials like a meat-and-three or homemade potato soup or coconut cake. Breakfast biscuits with sausage, bologna, or tenderloin are available every day.

One very popular attraction is the old-fashioned ice cream bar with its hand-dipped ice cream, hot fudge cake, and banana splits guaranteed to satisfy a sweet tooth.

The market itself contains an eclectic mix of fresh produce, groceries, camping and fishing supplies, hardware, and gifts ranging from T-shirts to animal pelts.

“We’ve been saying if we don’t have it, you don’t need it,” Audra laughed. They strive to carry those supplies that locals may need.

Billy Ray also continues to pump gas for folks whenever he can.

They plan to repaint the market after renovations are complete and want to paint a mural on the back and even add a stage so they can host local pickers and other musicians.

“Eventually, we want to have golf carts and e-bikes for rent,” Audra added. “There’s so much opportunity here.” As the weather warms in the spring, they hope to begin moving forward with these plans.

One exciting development is that Savage Gulf State Park will be opening a new park entrance a mere 150 feet from the market — it’s expected to bring increased traffic to the store as sightseers and hikers flock to the area.

“Business has been good,” Audra said, noting that during the peak season the place was packed. “We have three groups — the locals, the summer people who have houses here and come and stay, and then the tourists.”

They were worried what business would be like after the summer people and tourists left, but the locals have been absolutely supportive.

“We’re providing for them, and they are supporting us beautifully,” she said. “People come in and say thank you for what y’all are doing. Thank you for saving this place.”

In the winter, the market is open six days a week, Monday through Saturday, from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. During peak season, April 1 to Nov. 1, hours are 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Saturday and noon to 5 p.m. Sundays.

Hospitality Shop Board Members Interview Current Scholarship Holders

Members of the Sewanee Hospitality Shop Auxiliary Board met on Jan. 7, at the Blue Chair with two of its current scholarship holders, Stevie King of Grundy County and Montana Coffelt from Franklin County, to explore the impact of their first semesters in college. King is interested in physical therapy and Coffelt in nursing.

The application process for the 2024 Hospitality Shop Auxiliary scholarship begins this month. Forms are available in the high school guidance offices and are due back to the counselors by the end of February. Each scholarship is $1,000 per year for students pursuing a career in healthcare and will follow the recipients through their programs for four years as long as they maintain at least a B average in college.

Both scholars urged students in high school to take advantage of dual enrollment at local colleges – Franklin County will pay for online college courses – and to take honors and AP classes whenever possible. Both efforts will prepare students for the increased difficulty of college classes. They suggested visiting college campuses to get a clear picture of where they would be going for their programs. Both students would like paid internships in healthcare during the summers to give a practical foundation to their course work. The Auxiliary Board is proud of the hard work of these scholars and looks forward to the selection of new scholars this spring.

Fundraising and Advancement: the DEI Dilemma

by Leslie Lytle, Messenger Staff Writer

“People have been doing this work for years and didn’t call it DEI [Diversity, Equality, and Inclusion],” said Dr. Sybil Hampton speaking on the topic “Undoing Racism in Fundraising and Advancement” in Guerry Auditorium on Jan. 11. The convening of Jessie Ball duPont Fund higher education recipients brought together funding awardees from institutions across the nation to tackle the challenge of “Catalyzing Change: Frameworks for Repairing Histories of Racial Inequity.”

As a high school student, Hampton followed on the heels of the Little Rock Nine, enrolling as a sophomore in the second class to integrate Central High School following the 1954 Brown v. Board of Education decision. For three years not one student spoke to her. Hampton endured isolation and being spat on to return to Little Rock, Ark., 30 years later to serve as the president of Little Rock’s largest private philanthropic institution, the Winthrop Rockefeller Foundation. For her work in higher education and philanthropy, she was inducted into the Arkansas Black Hall of Fame and several times named one of Arkansas Top 100 Women. Hampton’s personal journey and career experiences read like a playbook for those engaged in the difficult task of finding funders, whether they be students, community project leaders, or members of a university fundraising and advancement team.

“There is a limited amount of money,” Hampton stressed. “Fit is everything.” She insisted on the importance of doing research to find the “fit where the magic happens” and on personal interaction with potential funders who may offer guidance rather than money. “[As a funder] the more I know about you, and the better you make me feel, the easier it is to talk,” Hampton pointed out.

She offered a unique brand of encouragement, coupling hope and perseverance — “Because people don’t value your work doesn’t mean you can give up.” Citing personal experience where she was always in a role where she was either “the only woman or only brown person,” Hampton said, “I knew what they said about me wasn’t true, and I produced what they needed. That didn’t mean I didn’t have my own agenda, but it was embedded in the institution.”

“You need to get clear how you want to talk about your work so people don’t feel like they’re investing in the ‘other,”’ Hampton said, “to find words to describe what you’re doing that’s not DEI.”

Hampton’s formula: “People invest in things they feel they have ownership of.” She gave several examples. A project that wanted to tell the story of Japanese Americans in Arkansas during WWII engaged high school computer and technology students and received funding from a local business. A project hoping to aid the more than 5,000 Arkansas children with parents in prison seized on the idea of producing a documentary of women in prison shackled to their beds when giving birth; notably, most of the women featured in the film were not people of color. A university with a high percentage of economically disadvantaged students garnered alumni financial support when an article in the alumni magazine focused on the six-week summer orientation program for these students.

“You need to show the outside what’s going on, to be able to tell the story,” Hampton said, “to make them part of what people own in an institution … [to show them] the mirror.” Seventy-nine-year-old Hampton attributed her success to not “giving up” and being able “to forgive.”

Messenger Delivery Delayed

Due to the weather and road conditions, delivery of the printed newspapers will be delayed this week.

Update from University, Inclement Weather Message

January 14, 2024
Dear Members of the University Community,We want to follow up on our earlier message related to inclement weather that may affect our operations, Jan. 15-17. The forecasted timeline for potential snow has been moved up with snow likely to begin falling this evening and continuing into tomorrow. Cold temperatures are expected to continue through Wednesday.The University’s Emergency Management Executive Team (EMET) met this afternoon (Jan. 14) to discuss the weather situation and advisability of in-person work. The EMET determined that only the University’s essential services will continue to operate on Jan. 15. Those services include the Sewanee Police Department, the Sewanee Volunteer Fire Department, Sewanee Dining, and portions of Facilities Management. Employees who do not work in one of these areas are encouraged to communicate with their supervisors about their capacity to work remotely tomorrow. Staff in the identified areas of essential operation will receive further communication related to use of their floating holiday or compensation for their work.In addition to the essential areas of operation mentioned above, Health Services and CAPS will remain available for telehealth appointments (but FitWell will not be open), and the 24/7 section of duPont Library will be available for use by students and employees.The Martin Luther King Jr. Day events that were scheduled for tomorrow have been postponed. The offices responsible for planning those events are in the process of rescheduling them, which are tentatively set to occur on Feb. 3. You may expect to hear a future announcement about the rescheduling of those events.Tomorrow, the EMET will assess whether classes and work on Tuesday, Jan. 16, will be remote or in-person. A communication about the mode of instruction in the College and School of Theology will be made by 3 p.m., and a decision on reporting for in-person work for employees will be made by early Tuesday morning, in accordance with staff handbook guidance.Please be sure to check email,, and LiveSafe for weather updates and the status of University facilities and services. Thank you for your attention and assistance with this matter as we start the new semester.
Scott Wilson
Acting Provost

2024 Voting Dates and Voter Registration Information

Tuesday, March 5, 2024 Presidential Preference Primary and County Primary; Voter Registration Deadline: Monday, Feb. 5, 2024.

Thursday, Aug. 1, 2024 State/Federal Primary and County General Election; Voter Registration Deadline: Tuesday, July 2, 2024.

Tuesday, Nov. 5, 2024 State/Federal General Election; Voter Registration Deadline: Monday, Oct. 7, 2024.

For more information, go to Franklin County <>;, phone (931) 967-1893. In Grundy County <>;, phone (931) 692-3551. In Marion County <>, phone (423) 942-2108.

Contact information for election offices, samples ballots and more can also be found at <;.

Tennesseans voting should remember to bring valid state or federal photo identification with them to the polls. For information about what types of ID are acceptable, visit <> or call (877) 850-4959.

Voters can also download the GoVoteTN app. Voters can find early voting and Election Day polling locations, view sample ballots, see names of elected officials and districts, as well as access online election results through the application. Go to <>.

Carlos to Present ‘Bending History’

Ed Carlos will present an exhibit, “Bending History” at the Tibbott Gallery in University School of Nashville, located at 2000 Edgehill Ave., Nashville. The exhibit will be present Monday, Jan. 15, until Thursday, Feb. 29. An opening reception will be from 4–6 p.m., Thursday, Jan. 18. Parking is available at the 19th Avenue parking lot.

These china marker drawings, each 8 feet by 4 feet, paradoxically intermingle and intercept each other while given unique emotional stance. As mythological portraits from different sanctions of spiritual endeavor, each emblazes light and enters the perception of history, influenced by the encounters of light as in the Old Testament a la Ezekiel. The individual images chosen inhabit the moving, non-static grasp of incarnations and reincarnations, amplifying their resonances. The images of the persona involved are imagined, altered as historically considered, therein revitalized. Each is a congruence that changes history and bends possible expectations of reality.

Words, akin to images, resonate, assume, their presences being essential, metaphorical. They are black holes of gravity, each image an avatar of reality, thereby daring a viewer to plunge into the meanings they embody. They provide vitality and are willing to face being enfaced enough to collapse in their energy. Hence each is a promising significance. The materials alter the imagery as they age, more so than in the past.

SUD Commissioner Candidates

by Leslie Lytle, Messenger Staff Writer

The three candidates who seek election to the Sewanee Utility District Board of Commissioners have shared information with the Messenger about themselves and why they want to serve on the board. Read on to learn more about Randall Henley, Tracy McBee, and Charlie Smith. Voting is underway at the SUD office during regular business hours and will continue through Jan. 23.

“I’d like to finish things I started,” Randall Henley said when asked why he sought election to the SUD board of commissioners. Henley previously served two terms and stepped down when term limited. A rules change enabled him to seek reelection. Born and raised in Sewanee, Henley volunteered for the Sewanee Volunteer Fire Department for more than 40 years. His Sewanee based business, Henley’s Electric and Plumbing, has given him first-hand knowledge about installing, maintaining, and servicing water and sewer works. During his previous tenure as a SUD commissioner, Henley successfully lobbied for locating a booster pump in the Midway community to increase the low water pressure. As a commissioner, Henley would strive to keep water rates down and to lower tap fees. He sees water availability and deterioration of aging pipelines as the biggest challenges facing SUD. Henley would like to see SUD apply for grants to replace pipelines and equipment and to do as much work as possible “in house” to keep customer costs down and competitive with neighboring utilities.

Tracy McBee sees supply and infrastructure demands from the expansion of housing in Sewanee and questions arising from supplying water to the proposed Jump Off sand plant as SUD’s biggest challenges. “SUD’s primary concern should be how these changes will affect our community as well as individual families,” McBee insisted. McBee has lived in Sewanee for more than 45 years and has family members from Sherwood to Jump Off. In her position as a graphic designer at the University, she interacts regularly with faculty, staff, students, and community members, just as she did during her 25 years of service for the Sewanee Volunteer Fire Department as a firefighter, financial officer, and administrative assistant. For more than 20 years, McBee has volunteered as a primary organizer for David Green’s Operation Noel. No stranger to making financial decisions and collaborating on multi-voice projects, McBee hopes to bring the critical thinking and decision-making skills honed in her employment and volunteering to service as a SUD commissioner committed to the task of “being a voice for the people.”

Current SUD commissioner Charlie Smith has served two terms, all eight years as president. During Smith’s tenure SUD took measures to protect employee retirement; weathered COVID revenue loss and unplanned expense from the highway project; paid for extensive waterline improvements without borrowing money; and installed a new headworks screen to safeguard employees from hazardous sewage waste. Looking to the future, Smith cited the challenge posed by the retirement of long-time employees with critical knowledge of SUD’s operations. He also stressed University and residential development would tax SUD’s wastewater treatment capacity, calling for careful “planning and budgeting.” A longtime Sewanee resident, Smith graduated from the University in 1974. After employment as a state and University forester and manager at the Monteagle Assembly, Smith started CW Smith Construction, in business now 37 years. His volunteer service for the Sewanee Volunteer Fire Department spanned 41 years. Encouraging residents to vote in the commissioner election, Smith said, “This is one of very few local offices where your vote has a direct impact on your wallet. I hope you take the time to cast your ballot.”

Franklin County Schools: Lower Graduation Credit Exception

by Leslie Lytle, Messenger Staff Writer

At the Jan. 8 meeting, the Franklin County School Board approved a Graduation Requirements policy change reducing the required credits from 28 to 22 as a special exception on a case-by-case basis for students transferring into the district. The state minimum requirement is 22 credits.

“We’re losing a few graduates because of the 28-credit requirement,” said Human Resources Supervisor Linda Foster who proposed the change. “It’s an extreme commitment for students who come in as juniors or seniors.”

“Students transfer into the district [as a junior or senior] from different states or different districts with different credit requirements,” Director of Schools Cary Holman explained. “There’s no way they can get 28 credits in their time remaining in high school.”

Board member Sarah Marhevsky concurred, pointing to the high school where she formerly taught where students took six courses a year for six credits per year, making the 28-credit standard unachievable for a student transferring from there.

“We don’t want to punish students [for transferring],” said board Vice Chair Lance Williams.

“This is to keep them from dropping out,” said board member Sandy Shultz.

Foster stressed the “intent” was not to allow students with 22 credits to graduate early, but rather to meet the “needs” of transfer students. Williams insisted the “case-by-case” criterion strictly adhere to need-based circumstances.

In other business, the board voted to terminate the Bus 15 contract and to reassign the contract to Jesse Sells who has been running the route since Dec. 14. Transportation Director Jeffery Sons cited a November 23 “accident and subsequent issues” as the reason for the contract termination.

Updating the board on state legislature business, Marhevsky said in meetings with Representative Iris Rudder and Senator Janice Bowling the congresspersons advised against calling Governor Lee’s proposed Freedom Scholarships “vouchers.” The Tennessee legislature returned to session January 9. “There’s probably backing for the Freedom Scholarship Act to go through,” Marhevsky said. At the December meeting the board passed a resolution opposing the scholarship plan [See Messenger, December 15, 2023]. Marhevsky urged concerned community members to contact their legislators.

Foster announced the district still had an opening for an art teacher at Broadview and North Lake Elementary, as well as openings for three custodians, a special education assistant and a Title 1 assistant.

The board meets next on Thursday, Feb. 15, instead of on the regular meeting date.

TRHT National Day of Racial Healing: a Virtual Conversation with Clint Smith

In partnership with Truth, Racial Healing, and Transformation Centers at Mt. Holyoke College and Spelman College, and with community partners, the Joseph and Evelyn Lowery Institute for Justice and Human Rights and the Andre Young Center for Global Leadership of Atlanta, the Sewanee Truth, Racial Healing, and Transformation Center is pleased to announce a virtual collaboration, A Conversation with Clint Smith, from 6–7 p.m., Tuesday, Jan. 16, National Day of Racial Healing.

Smith is the No. 1 New York Times bestselling author of “How the Word Is Passed: A Reckoning With the History of Slavery Across America,” winner of the National Book Critics Circle Award for Nonfiction, the Hillman Prize for Book Journalism, the Stowe Prize, the Dayton Literary Peace Prize, and selected by the New York Times as one of the 10 Best Books of 2021. He is also the author of two books of poetry, the New York Times bestselling collection “Above Ground and Counting Descent,” which won the 2017 Literary Award for Best Poetry Book from the Black Caucus of the American Library Association and was a finalist for an NAACP Image Award. He is a staff writer at The Atlantic.

Clint has received fellowships from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, New America, the Emerson Collective, the Art For Justice Fund, Cave Canem, and the National Science Foundation. His essays, poems, and scholarly writing have been published in The New Yorker, The New York Times Magazine, The New Republic, Poetry Magazine, The Paris Review, the Harvard Educational Review, and elsewhere. He is a former National Poetry Slam champion and a recipient of the Jerome J. Shestack Prize from the American Poetry Review.

Previously, Clint taught high school English in Prince George’s County, Maryland, where he was named the Christine D. Sarbanes Teacher of the Year by the Maryland Humanities Council. He is the host of the YouTube series Crash Course Black American History.

Clint received his B.A. in English from Davidson College and his Ph.D. in Education from Harvard University. Born and raised in New Orleans, he lives in Maryland with his wife and two children.

To attend virtually, please register at <;. You may also join us in Naylor Auditorium, 6–7 p.m. CST, for an in-person “Viewing Party” with light refreshments.

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