Tullahoma took time to thank the many citizen volunteers who serve their community on their own time at the fourth annual Volunteer Banquet, held on Thursday, April 18.
Fifteen different areas of city government and scores of citizens who donate their free time in myriad ways to help the city run more efficiently were honored and thanked profusely by the city board members, Mayor Lane Curlee and others at the banquet at Lakewood Golf & Country Club.
Curlee kicked off the evening by explaining the important role of volunteers and how they help make the city a better place. The service of those volunteers, he said, is “integral to the smooth operation of city government.”
“You make a difference through your leadership,” he told the group.
April is also Volunteer Appreciation Month, according to Curlee, so he wanted to take the time to make sure each volunteer felt appreciated for the work that they do for the community.
One lesser-known volunteer position Curlee brought attention to was the position of “sign sweeper.” According to Curlee, one of his pet peeves involves citizens placing errant signs where they don’t belong.
In an effort to curb the number of wayward signs essentially littering the city, he asked if anyone would be willing to go around town and collect signs incorrectly and illegally placed.
The person most willing to take on the cause, he said, was Bob Payne, a videographer for The Link on Channel 6.
According to Curlee, Payne has been diligently removing odd signs for a number of years, for which Curlee thanked Payne profusely.
Curlee also thanked Tullahoma High School senior Abby Nelson, who currently serves as the youth mayor for the Mayor’s Youth Council, a civic-minded club at THS. Curlee highlighted Nelson’s willingness to get involved in projects around the city and bring her club members with her as well.
Curlee also took the reins in recognizing members of the Duck River Utility Commission (DRUC), the Tullahoma Sports Council and the Tullahoma Utilities Authority (TUA) in the stead of Alderman Jimmy Blanks, who could not attend.
For DRUC, board members Jim Waters and Duane Thorpe were on hand for the recognition. Scott Farler accepted the gratitude for the sports council, and the majority of the TUA board of directors was on hand as well. J.T. Northcutt, Andy Nelius and Chairman Steve Cope accepted the thanks of Curlee for the utility authority.
Following Curlee, each city alderman took to the podium to recognize volunteers and leaders of the boards and commissions they help represent.
Alderman Ray Knowis recognized members of the Tullahoma Airport Authority and the Tullahoma Municipal/Regional Planning Commission.
Knowis said the airport authority was probably the “most fun” board to be on, while the planning commission was the “most hard-working” board in his opinion. He recognized Jim Apple, Jennifer Benetti-Longhini, Jason Waller and Don Daniel for their work to keep the Tullahoma Municipal Airport a top-notch operation.
For the planning commission, Knowis lauded Planning and Codes Director Lee Lawson and commission member Rupa Blackwell for their tireless work planning commercial and residential development in the city.
Mayor Pro Tem Renee Keene, who serves as the liaison to Tullahoma City Schools, thanked School Board Chairman Pat Welsh for his continued service to the children of Tullahoma. She also thanked newly hired Director of Schools John Carver for his willingness to hit the ground running and immediately work to improve the education of Tullahoma children.
Keene also thanked Hope Sartain, the executive director for the Tullahoma Area Chamber of Commerce, for her work with numerous businesses in town.
Alderman Robin Dunn, who serves the Tullahoma Housing Authority and the Go Green! Tullahoma committee, thanked all those involved in both of those organizations, particularly as it relates to improving the lives of all in Tullahoma.
The housing authority, she said, is determined to give people the best homes it can while keeping rates affordable for the tenants. The people involved in Go Green! Tullahoma are also invested in improving the quality of life in town by keeping the area as litter-free as possible and promoting green initiatives like recycling and composting.
Alderman Jerry Mathis, who assists with the Tree Board, thanked Chairman Ralph Graham and member Liz Kennedy for their investment in the trees of Tullahoma, as well as educating him on the importance of proper tree maintenance.
Alderman Jackie Duncan recognized the efforts of the Tullahoma Area Economic Development Corporation for its dedication in recruiting business and industry to the area. TAEDC board members David Bond, Beverly Lee, Lynn Sebourn, Thom Robinson and Bryan Gagnier were on hand to be thanked for their time and efforts in the pursuit of Tullahoma businesses.
Rounding out the gratitude was Community Development Coordinator and Public Information Officer Winston Brooks, who assisted in organizing the banquet. Brooks serves the Tullahoma Arts Council, Historic Zoning Commission and the Tri-County Railroad Authority for the city, and thanked a number of people involved with each organization.
Arts Council Chair Kelly Orr, as well as members Debbie Sanders, Paige Lashlee, Coleen Saunders and Greg Gressel were on hand to accept the city’s gratitude for their work bringing fine arts programs to the people of the community and beyond.
Rebecca Thomas of the Historic Zoning Commission was lauded for her work, along with the Tullahoma Historical Preservation Society, for protecting historic areas of the community for generations to come.
And Lee Yoder was thanked by Brooks personally for being a mentor to Brooks and showing him the ropes of how to collaborate with the other members of the tri-county railroad authority to improve each of their respective counties.
After the boards and commissions were applauded for their work to improve the city, Curlee ended the program by thanking City Administrator Jennifer Moody for successfully filing the shoes of former City Administrator Jody Baltz and taking the city in a new direction.
Curlee also thanked his wife, Evelyn, for helping him draft numerous email responses to those who reach out to him.
If not for Evelyn, he joked, none of his emails would sound as good as they do.
Erin McCullough may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.