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Press Release: Representative John Rose Appointed to Task Force on Jobs and Economy

by John Rose, U.S. Representative – Tennessee’s Sixth Congressional District

U.S. Representative John Rose (R-TN) has been appointed to serve on Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy’s (R-CA) Task Force on Jobs and the Economy. The task force will lead a pro-growth agenda to boost our economy and ensure that all hardworking Americans experience economic prosperity.

“I am on this Task Force with a focus on rolling back federal regulations that put unnecessary burdens on Tennesseans,” said Representative Rose. “As Republicans, we must be vigilant in the fight to propel America forward by developing ready solutions. That’s what this Task Force is about: being prepared to take action.”

Led by Representative Patrick McHenry (R-NC), this task force is a coalition of Republican Members of Congress committed to developing clear steps toward rebuilding what many consider to be the greatest economy of all time before the pandemic hit by taking steps to roll back burdensome regulations while prioritizing American workers and encouraging economic freedom in the marketplace.

A full list of Republican Task Forces and membership lists can be accessed here

U.S. Representative John Rose is currently serving his second term representing Tennessee’s Sixth Congressional District and resides in Cookeville with his wife, Chelsea, and their two sons, Guy and Sam. The Sixth District includes Cannon, Clay, Coffee, Cumberland, DeKalb, Fentress, Jackson, Macon, Overton, Pickett, Putnam, Robertson, Smith, Sumner, Trousdale, White, and Wilson counties as well as portions of Cheatham and Van Buren counties. Representative Rose is an eighth-generation farmer, small business owner, and attorney, and currently serves on the Financial Services Committee.

July 2021 Meeting of the Smith County Commission

The Smith County Commission held its July meeting on the evening of Monday, July 12th, 2021. You may see a copy of the agenda here.

You can watch the full meeting below.

Thanks to Powell & Meadows Insurance Agency for sponsoring the live broadcast of this meeting.

Subscribe to Smith County Insider’s YouTube channel to stay up-to-date on meeting coverage, business spotlights, video features, and more!

The Smith County Board of Commissioners meets on the second Monday of every month except December.

Typically, commission meetings are held in the General Sessions Courtroom of the Smith County Jail and Courts Facility, located at 322 Justice Drive in Carthage. During the July 2020 Meeting of the Smith County Commission, commissioners voted to hold all meetings at the Smith County Ag Center until the COVID-19 pandemic is over.

All meetings are open to the public and are streamed live at https://www.facebook.com/smithcountyinsider/.

July 2021 Meeting of the Gordonsville City Council

The Gordonsville City Council held its monthly meeting on Monday July 12th, 2021.

You can watch the full council meeting below.

Subscribe to Smith County Insider’s YouTube channel to stay up-to-date on meeting coverage, business spotlights, video features, and more!

The Gordonsville City Council meets at 6:15 p.m. on the second Monday of each month at Gordonsville City Hall, located at 63 Main Street in Gordonsville.

All meetings are open to the public and streamed live at https://www.facebook.com/smithcountyinsider/.

Republicans Call for Primary in County Elections

Residents of Smith County are used to elected county officials being non-partisan and not allowing partisan politics to affect the organization and decision making or the local government; however, that is set to change beginning next election cycle with the introduction of a Republican primary for all county elected seats except the school board.

Yvonne Gibbs, Administrator of the Smith County Election Commission, has released a statement indicating that the Smith County Republican Party has called for a primary election to be held May 3, 2022, before the usual general election for county offices in August. You may read the complete statement here.

In Smith County, county elections have been non-partisan, and all candidates were considered independent. With a primary request, every candidate will either have to decide to run as an independent or select to run for a party nomination through the primary. If a candidate wins the primary, the party name will be listed alongside the candidate name for the general election. If a candidates runs for a party primary and loses, the candidate will not be listed on the ballot for the general election.

The request comes from the Smith County Republican Party after leadership from the state party deemed the local party inactive and selected new leadership earlier this year. When reached for comment, Irene D Reichenbach, chair of the Smith County Republican Party, gave the following statement, “The Smith County Republican Party of Tennessee will be holding a Primary for the upcoming 2022 Elections. Why? The answer is simple, to give people a choice. Smith County Republican Party is excited to offer the opportunity for the voters to participate in the upcoming primary which will provide a clear difference between the candidates, their platform, and to the process, while expanding voting to a more representative group of voters. The primary is for the Republicans to have a partisan choice for who the Republican Party wants as their candidate. We are moving forward in a positive way to ensure that every Republican has a vote, and a voice.”

Carol Brown Andrew, Interim Chair of the Smith County Democratic Party, released the following when asked for comment about the local party’s plans for a primary, “The Smith County Democratic Party will discuss the possibility of a primary at our July meeting. Our focus is to ensure fair elections while giving voters clear choice.”

By state statute, the local county arm of a statewide political party may request a primary for county offices. The county is then statutorily obligated to hold the primary. [Editor’s Note: the Republican and Democratic parties are the only recognized statewide political parties, so other political parties are unable to request a primary.] This will be an additional election for Smith County, so the county will be looking at an additional estimated cost of around $35,000-$40,000 to facilitate this process.

Read the complete statement from Yvonne Gibbs, Administrator of the Smith County Election Commission at this link.

Special Called Meeting of the Carthage City Council – July 8, 2021

The Carthage City Council held a Special Called meeting on Thursday, July 8, 2021, at 6:00 pm.

Several items were discussed. Watch the full meeting below.

Thanks to Smith County Animal Clinic and Carthage Family Chiropractic for sponsoring Smith County Insider’s live broadcast of this meeting.

Subscribe to Smith County Insider’s YouTube channel to stay up-to-date on meeting coverage, business spotlights, video features, and more!

The Carthage City Council meets at 6:00 p.m. on the first Thursday of each month at Carthage City Hall, located at 314 Spring Street in Carthage, Tennessee – 37030.

All meetings are open to the public and streamed live at https://www.facebook.com/smithcountyinsider/.

Pandemic Unemployment Benefits End as Businesses Suffer Labor Shortages

In May, Governor Bill Lee announced the end of all federally funded pandemic unemployment compensation programs in Tennessee, effective July 3. This includes a $300 additional weekly payment supplement to Tennessee’s state unemployment. Tennessee is one of twenty-five to end participation in the federal program.

Federal pandemic unemployment programs set to end include the following:

  • Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation (FPUC), which provides for an additional $300 weekly payment to recipients of unemployment compensation
  • Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA), which provides benefits for those who would not usually qualify, such as the self-employed, gig workers and part-time workers
  • Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC), which provides for an extension of benefits once regular benefits have been exhausted
  • Mixed Earner Unemployment Compensation (MEUC), which provides an additional $100 benefit to certain people with mixed earnings

Smith County’s unemployment rate was in the top ten counties in Tennessee at 3.8% for May. The county has the lowest unemployment in the Upper Cumberland and beats the region average of 4.5%.

Even with the lowest unemployment in the region, local employers have plenty of job openings and are struggling to fill open positions. According to a survey of Tennessee businesses conducted by the National Federation of Independent Business, ninety-four percent of Tennessee business owners who are hiring said they are having trouble getting people to apply for open positions. 63% of those having difficulty finding work said federal unemployment benefits are a primary reason why.

Local businesses have restructured their staffing, reduced operating hours, and temporarily closed due to their employment levels. Many employers are offering sign-on bonuses to entice prospective employees to apply.

Currently, there are over 134 unique listings for positions in Smith County listed in jobs4tn.gov. Many of these listings are for jobs where multiple employees are needed. A search of available jobs on Indeed shows approximately 1,935 jobs postings for positions within 25 miles of Carthage.

The Tennessee Virtual American Job Center, www.TNVirtualAJC.com, allows Tennesseans to research different programs that can help remove barriers to employment so they can more easily reenter Tennessee’s workforce.

County Passes 2021-2022 Budget; Reduces Property Tax 25 Cents

The Smith County Commission met for its final regular meeting on Monday, June 28, 2021, at the Smith County Justice Center. The main discussion item was the budget for the fiscal year running from July 2020 through June 2022 and the corresponding property tax rate. The commission unanimously approved the budget and a property tax rate of $2.48, a 25 cent reduction from the previous $2.73.

The commission had previously raised the property tax rate in 2019 by 59 cents due to the county’s financial situation at the time. At that time, the county had a three-year plan to correct its financial problem; however, the county reached its goal in just two years. The county will have an estimated fund balance of just under $5 million at the end of the fiscal year, June 30, 2021. This amount is a far cry from the ending fund balance of 384,266 at the end of the 2019 fiscal year. Also, the county has eliminated all short-term debt, including the need for tax anticipation notes. It has set aside a portion of the budget for capital projects to avoid the need to incur short-term debt in the future.

Another notable item for the budget was the pay rate for county employees. A salary study was conducted by Thompson & Associates to determine the market rate of pay compared to similar counties. All county employees will now be paid a minimum of 87% of the market rate, with a plan to get all employees to 100% of the market rate by 2034. The commission also approved a 2% cost of living increase of pay for next year and a resolution to provide an annual 3% cost of living increase each year after that if the county’s general fund balance increases at least 4% during the fiscal year. This will allow county employees to receive a raise each year as long as the county’s financials remain favorable, which encourages budgetary responsibility among the county employees. A one-time bonus of $2,500 for each county employee and elected official was also approved. This one-time bonus will be funded from the county’s allocation from the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021, which limits what the funds may be used for.

The county has budgeted for approximately $400,000 in capital projects with the current tax rate, including purchasing seven new patrol vehicles for the sheriff’s department. In previous years, it was common for the county to incur short-term debt for these types of purchases. These budgetary practices will allow the county to operate without incurring short-term debt.

You may view the budget here and can watch the full meeting below:

Thanks to Powell & Meadows Insurance Agency for sponsoring the live broadcast of this meeting.

Subscribe to Smith County Insider’s YouTube channel to stay up-to-date on meeting coverage, business spotlights, video features, and more!

The Smith County Board of Commissioners meets on the second Monday of every month in January through November except for the June meeting that is held on the final Monday of the month.

All meetings are open to the public and are streamed live at https://www.facebook.com/smithcountyinsider/.

June 2021 Meeting of the Gordonsville City Council

The Gordonsville City Council held its monthly meeting on Monday June 14th, 2021.

You can watch the full council meeting below.

Subscribe to Smith County Insider’s YouTube channel to stay up-to-date on meeting coverage, business spotlights, video features, and more!

The Gordonsville City Council meets at 6:15 p.m. on the second Monday of each month at Gordonsville City Hall, located at 63 Main Street in Gordonsville.

All meetings are open to the public and streamed live at https://www.facebook.com/smithcountyinsider/.

June 2021 Meeting of the Smith County Board of Education

The Smith County Board of Education met at 5:00 p.m. on June 15th, 2021.

You can watch the full meeting below.

Thanks to Judy Smith and Lacey Crockett of Blackwell Realty for sponsoring the live broadcast of this meeting.

Subscribe to Smith County Insider’s YouTube channel to stay up-to-date on meeting coverage, business spotlights, video features, and more!

The Smith County School Board meets on the third Tuesday of each month at 5:00 p.m. at the Smith County Board of Education, located at 126 Smith County Middle School Lane in Carthage, Tennessee.

All meetings are open to the public and streamed live at https://www.facebook.com/smithcountyinsider/.

Repeal of Public Consumption Exception for Special Events in Carthage Passes First Reading

The proposed ordinance to change the Carthage Municipal Code to make it unlawful for the sale, consumption, or possession of an open container of alcohol on public property in the Town of Carthage was discussed during the council’s regularly scheduled meeting on June 10, 2021. The ordinance would remove the exception for special events approved by the Town of Carthage to sell/serve alcohol and be consumed by event patrons on public property. You may view the full ordinance here.

The residents of Carthage passed two referendums in November 2016, allowing both liquor by the drink and packaged liquor to be sold within the municipal limits.

Outside of the meeting, a group of individuals gathered in front of the Chamber of Commerce to support the ordinance holding signs and using a megaphone to express their views. Their voices were heard from inside the building at times while the meeting was ongoing.

Multiple individuals spoke on the topic during the meeting, including numerous people supporting or opposing the amendment’s passage during the Citizen’s Concern portion. Multiple residents stated their belief that the River City Ball would be adversely affected by the ordinance’s passage.

Councilman Jesse Peters made a motion to approve the ordinance when the item was reached on the agenda. Councilwoman Barbara Kannapel seconded the motion.

After some discussion, Councilman Sam Petty motioned to amend the ordinance to “grandfather the River City Ball under the old ordinance…to allow the event to continue under existing rules.” Councilman Cole Ebel seconded the amendment. The amendment failed by a 2-4 vote, with Councilmembers Cole Ebel and Sam Petty voting in favor. Council members Jesse Peters, Barbara Kannapel, Bill Reece, and Steve Babcock voted against the amendment.

After further discussion, the motion was brought to a vote. The ordinance passed its first reading by a vote of 4-2. Council members Jesse Peters, Barbara Kannapel, Bill Reece, and Steve Babcock voted to approve the motion. Council members Cole Ebel and Sam Petty voted against the motion.

All ordinances require two readings before being enacted, so it will be brought forward for a required second reading during the council’s next meeting.

Also of note, the River City Ball requested to have their special event permit request withdrawn after the passing of the first reading of this ordinance. The River City Ball is also required to abide by the State of Tennessee’s Liquor by the Drink Special Occasion permit process.

You may watch the full meeting below:

Thanks to Smith County Animal Clinic, Carthage Family Chiropractic, and The Kirby Team of Blackwell Realty for sponsoring Smith County Insider’s live broadcast of this meeting.

Subscribe to Smith County Insider’s YouTube channel to stay up-to-date on meeting coverage, business spotlights, video features, and more!

The Carthage City Council meets at 6:00 p.m. on the first Thursday of each month at Carthage City Hall, located at 314 Spring Street in Carthage, Tennessee – 37030.

All meetings are open to the public and streamed live at https://www.facebook.com/smithcountyinsider/.

Questions remain about Mayor’s actions after Carthage Special Called Meeting

The Carthage City Council met for a special called meeting at city hall on June 7, 2021, for “First reading, discussion, and vote on an ordinance regarding sale or consumption of alcoholic beverages on public property.”

Prior to the start of the meeting, the council met to conduct a budget workshop for next year’s budget. All six members of the city council and Mayor Smith were present. During the start of the meeting, Councilman Ebel motioned to let citizens speak about the ordinance; however, Mayor Smith did not recognize this motion. There was some back and forth between Mayor Smith and Councilman. Councilman Ebel motioned to suspend the rules to allow citizens to speak with a second by Councilman Petty. Mayor Smith stated that they needed to “double-check” about allowing citizens to speak since it was a special called meeting “with a different set of rules.” The city council has formally adopted Robert’s Rules of Order for parliamentary procedure. Councilman Ebel again challenged the mayor and asked her to provide documentation for her rulings. The mayor announced a “quick adjournment” and left the room for approximately seven minutes before returning. The council made no motion or vote on an adjournment or recess for this break.

After Mayor Smith returned, she stated that she had “to hear a motion to approve this ordinance.” Councilman Peters made a motion to approve with a second by Councilman Kannapel. Councilman Ebel challenged Mayor Smith. The mayor at one point referred to the present individuals as “your[Councilman Ebel’s] friends.”

As the discussion continued about whether to allow citizens to speak, one privileged motion for suspension of the rules and two main motions were on the table simultaneously. [Editor’s Note: Robert’s Rules of Order does not allow for multiple main motions to be on the table at the same time, nor may a privileged motion to suspend the rules be debated or amended]. A suspension of the rules to allow citizens to speak was passed verbally with no nay votes from the council.

During the citizen’s speaking portion, a resident stated his belief in Mayor Smith’s broken campaign promises, the benefits and safety/security measures of the River City Ball, and that the city’s citizens should vote on the ordinance. [Editor’s Note: It is unclear if a referendum would be allowed under state law for this ordinance, as municipal referendums are permitted under limited situations. The University of Tennessee’s Municipal Technical Advisory Service (MTAS) has a resource on what municipal referendums are allowed.]

Another resident raised questions over the handling of the council in regard to the ordinance. A third citizen asked if a public hearing would be required if a second reading was needed for this ordinance. Mayor Smith answered that a public hearing was not necessary for the nature of this ordinance.

Mayor Smith continued to engage and discuss with various present individuals about the ordinance. During this discussion, a resident questioned why the River City Ball’s request for a special event permit for next year’s event in 2022 was tabled by the mayor from the May meeting until the June meeting when a special meeting was given for this ordinance to potentially allow it to pass very quickly. The town’s charter states that a special meeting may be called by the mayor “when in his[the mayor’s] judgment the good of the town requires it.”

Mayor Smith stated “I am calling that we table this until Thursday night” while facing questions from the council and individuals present. She then attempted to adjourn the meeting without a motion or vote. When questioned about improperly adjourning the meeting, she stated, “Yes, I can. Look at Robert’s Rules.” When challenged by Councilman Ebel, she banged the gavel and ruled him out of order, as had been done multiple times during the meeting. Councilman Petty stated, “I’m going to take that gavel away if you don’t quit that.” Councilman Babcock then made a Call to Order that was seconded by Councilman Petty. This motion passed unanimously. A motion to adjourn by Councilman Babcock and seconded by Councilman Petty passed unanimously.

[Editor’s Note: The mayor’s attempt to adjourn the meeting without a motion or vote appears to be inappropriate based upon Robert’s Rules of Order. According to Robert’s Rules of Order, a meeting may be adjourned without a motion and vote under limited circumstances. These include reaching an adopted time for adjournment, when the end of an agenda has been reached, or when there is a physical danger to the body. The chair may adjourn a meeting if there is no further business; however, the mayor did not attempt to adjourn the meeting in this manner. The mayor’s power to adjourn the meeting in the tried fashion does not appear to comply with Robert’s Rules of Order as the chair of the body, the mayor, in this case, does not have authority to adjourn at their discretion for any reason.]

The next meeting of the Carthage City Council will take place on Thursday, June 10, at 6:00 PM at the Smith County Chamber of Commerce.

You may watch the full special called meeting below:

Thanks to Smith County Animal Clinic for sponsoring Smith County Insider’s live broadcast of this meeting.

Subscribe to Smith County Insider’s YouTube channel to stay up-to-date on meeting coverage, business spotlights, video features, and more!

The Carthage City Council normally meets at 6:00 p.m. on the first Thursday of each month at Carthage City Hall, located at 314 Spring Street in Carthage, Tennessee – 37030.

All meetings are open to the public and streamed live at https://www.facebook.com/smithcountyinsider/.

Press Release: Representative John Rose Local Office Hours for June

by John Rose, U.S. Representative – Tennessee’s Sixth Congressional District

U.S. Representative John Rose (TN-6) has released the dates and times of local office hours for the month of June. Local office hours allow constituents to connect directly with caseworkers and receive assistance with federal agencies.

Wednesday, June 2, 2021

  • TIME: 9:00-10:00 am
  • WHAT: White County Local Office Hours
  • LOCATION: White County Courthouse, 1 E. Bockman Way, Sparta, TN 38583
  • WHO: Representative Rose will be represented by District Director Rebecca Foster during this visit.
  • TIME: 2:00-3:00 pm
  • WHAT: Cumberland County Local Office Hours
  • LOCATION: Cumberland County Courthouse, 2 N. Main Street, Crossville, TN 38555
  • WHO: Representative Rose will be represented by District Director Rebecca Foster during this visit.

Thursday, June 3, 2021

  • TIME: 10:00-11:00 am
  • WHAT: Trousdale County Local Office Hours
  • LOCATION: County Administration Building, 328 Broadway, Hartsville, TN 37074
  • WHO: Representative Rose will be represented by Deputy District Director Ray Render during this visit
  • TIME: 1:00-2:00 pm
  • WHAT: Macon County Local Office Hours
  • LOCATION: Lafayette City Hall, 200 E. Locust Street, Lafayette, TN 37083
  • WHO: Representative Rose will be represented by Deputy District Director Ray Render during this visit.

Wednesday, June 9, 2021

  • TIME: 9:00-10:00 am
  • WHAT: Wilson County Local Office Hours
  • LOCATION: Wilson County Courthouse, 134 S. College Street Ste 200, Lebanon, TN 37087
  • WHO: Representative Rose will be represented by Deputy District Director Ray Render during this visit.
  • TIME: 1:00-2:00 pm
  • WHAT: Cannon County Local Office Hours
  • LOCATION: Cannon County Senior Center, 609 Lehman Street, Woodbury, TN 37190
  • WHO: Representative Rose will be represented by Field Representative Lou Nave during this visit.
  • TIME: 2:00-3:00 pm
  • WHAT: Robertson County Local Office Hours
  • LOCATION: Springfield City Hall, 405 N. Main Street, Springfield, TN 37172
  • WHO: Representative Rose will be represented by Deputy District Director Ray Render during this visit.

Thursday, June 10, 2021

  • TIME: 1:00-2:00 pm
  • WHAT: Cumberland County Fairfield Glade Local Office Hours
  • LOCATION: Village Green Mall, 126 Stonehenge Drive, Crossville, TN 38558
  • WHO: Representative Rose will be represented by District Director Rebecca Foster during this visit.

Friday, June 11, 2021

  • TIME: 10:00-11:00 am
  • WHAT: Clay County Local Office Hours
  • LOCATION: Clay County Administrative Building, 145 Cordell Hull Dr., Celina, TN 38551
  • WHO: Representative Rose will be represented by District Director Rebecca Foster during this visit.
  • TIME: 12:00-1:00 pm
  • WHAT: Jackson County Local Office Hours
  • LOCATION: Jackson County Library, 205 W. Hull Avenue, Gainesboro, TN 38562
  • WHO: Representative Rose will be represented by District Director Rebecca Foster during this visit.
  • TIME: 2:00-3:00 pm
  • WHAT: Smith County Local Office Hours
  • LOCATION: Smith County Administrative Building, 122 Turner High Circle, Carthage, TN 37030
  • WHO: Representative Rose will be represented by District Director Rebecca Foster during this visit.
  • Tuesday, June 15, 2021
  • TIME: 9:00-10:00 am
  • WHAT: DeKalb County Local Office Hours
  • LOCATION: DeKalb County Board of Education, 110 S. Public Square, Smithville, TN 37166
  • WHO: Representative Rose will be represented by Field Representative Lou Nave during this visit.

Wednesday, June 23, 2021

  • TIME: 9:00-10:00 am
  • WHAT: Overton County Local Office Hours
  • LOCATION: Overton County Administrative Building, 306 W. Main Street, Livingston, TN 38570
  • WHO: Representative Rose will be represented by District Director Rebecca Foster during this visit.
  • TIME: 11:00-12:00 pm
  • WHAT: Pickett County Local Office Hours
  • LOCATION: Pickett County Library, 79 Pickett Square, Byrdstown, TN 38549
  • WHO: Representative Rose will be represented by District Director Rebecca Foster during this visit.
  • TIME: 2:00-3:00 pm
  • WHAT: Fentress County Local Office Hours
  • LOCATION: Fentress County Courthouse, 101 S. Main Street, Jamestown, TN 38556
  • WHO: Representative Rose will be represented by District Director Rebecca Foster during this visit.

Press Release: Representative John Rose On How Crucial Broadband Access Is In Tennessee.

by John Rose, U.S. Representative – Tennessee’s Sixth Congressional District

Plateau Pediatrics in Crossville combines an information-filled website, digital tools such as electronic medical records, and traditional face-to-face visits to provide quality patient care. Donna Summerford, owner of Aunt Dee’s Soaps & Lotions, successfully used the internet to first establish an outlet and then to expand the business she built in her rural DeKalb County home. The renovated and recently renamed Macon Community Hospital in Lafayette uses high-speed internet to offer telehealth, allowing patients access to a greater range of physicians and services. 

None of this would be possible without access to high-speed broadband internet. However, the harsh reality is that over half a million Tennesseans only have access to one internet service provider and 274,000 people still lack reliable internet access. Expanding digital access for folks who live in the Middle Tennessee counties I represent and for all Tennesseans is critical for economic growth, job creation, and improving our overall quality of life.

Reliable high-speed internet connectivity provides a means for us to communicate with our friends and families and to stream entertainment services. It connects businesses with customers from around the world, allows farmers to use the newest technologies to modernize their operation and equipment, provides unlimited educational resources to teachers and students, and with access to broadband, rural communities can utilize telehealth services to access quality care without having to make a long trip to see a physician in person.

I believe it is critical that we as a nation work to provide access to broadband for all Americans, and there has never been a more important time to act. Modernizing our nation’s infrastructure will have a positive impact for all Americans, and it will make us safer to foreign cybersecurity threats, improve our resiliency, and make our nation more financially independent. Additionally, it will lead to job growth, increase our nation’s overall productivity, safeguard our competitive position on the world stage, and ensure future economic success. 

I joined the House Rural Broadband Caucus this Congress to expand on my work to create solutions that close the digital divide. We recently sent a bipartisan letter to President Biden requesting that he prioritize broadband expansion for rural Americans as part of the next infrastructure package. I will give credit where credit is due – President Biden’s American Jobs Plan does include funding for rural broadband expansion. However, the funding for broadband is less than 5% of the $2.3 trillion proposal and calls for expanding broadband through government-owned initiatives instead of public-private partnerships that are proven to work. The American Jobs plan would use a big-government plan to give communities who already have high-speed internet services superfast connections, diverting resources from rural communities who are truly unserved. My concern is that by overbuilding already existing networks and relying on government-owned systems, President Biden’s proposal will make the digital divide larger than ever before. 

Moving forward, I believe we should focus on building networks that are sustainable over time for faster speeds, eliminate burdensome regulations, streamline the federal permitting processes, and utilize public-private partnership models. It is also time to modernize and reform the outdated Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC) Universal Service Fund (USF). Not only are USF monies now going more towards social programs, the current funding mechanism for the USF is unsustainable due to an increasing number of Americans giving up their land lines in favor of mobile only or digital only services. Reevaluating the funding mechanism used to supply universal service as well as the programs it supports would allow the FCC to provide a cost-effective way to expand physical access to high-speed broadband across the country. 

Additionally, we must improve mapping so that we can accurately determine unserved areas.  This includes ensuring strong coordination among federal agencies to prevent federal programs providing resources in the same areas and targeting the areas that need it most. 

I am determined to bring more Tennesseans online. As Congress continues to debate the next infrastructure package, I will make sure that rural broadband for the Sixth Congressional District of Tennessee remains at the center of the conversation. 

Smith County Mayor Jeff Mason’s May 2021 County Commission Report

I want to start by saying congratulations to Smith County Trustee Lee Ann Williams for receiving the Legacy Award at the County Trustees Conference in Gatlinburg last week. We thank Lee Ann for the job she does for Smith County.

I also want to mention a milestone that was reached at the end of April, Jacky Carver Sr. retired as fire chief, and Ricky Gibbs assumed that role on May 1st. We will be honoring Chief Carver for his service to Smith County in the very near future.

American Recovery Act Funds– We attended a conference in Lebanon with Comptroller Jason Mumpower organized by Senator Mark Pody. We received further guidance on how American Recovery Act Funds can be spent. The first half of the money will be deposited soon. We have worked with the trustee’s office and local banks to make sure we meet the requirements for the account that will hold the funds.

Governor’s Money– We moved the rest of the money tonight to purchase server and IT upgrades at the jail and court facility. We will be looking to replace the camera system at the jail and court facility with other previous Covid relief money. Also, a purchase of software to revamp our purchase order system. We believe this will create less paper and reduce labor costs for the purchase order procedure.

The legislature did approve another round of funding for next fiscal year budget. Smith County is set to receive $342,240 dollars in unrestricted funds.

Baker Industrial Property– No updates as of now.

Salary Study– Steve Thompson and Associates will present their findings and recommendations to the Budget and Finance Committee on Tuesday May 17th at 5PM.

Census Data- The data has been pushed back to September or October. This is going to make the process and timeline for redistricting very short in completing the process before election 2022 deadlines.

Covid 19– We continue to see a downward trend in cases. Vaccinations are now being done only at Health Department. The Health Department pulled out of AG center last month.

County Commission Actions– The County Commission voted and approved several budget amendments. Budget amendments is our normal way of moving money inside budget lines. I am excited that two of those will included actions on debt. We moved money in the 151 Fund, which is our Debt Service Fund. The move will be to pay off early, all short-term notes. When I came into office debt balance was $12,590,000, and with the approval tonight, it will be 9,900,000 to start fiscal year 21-22. We have reduced our debt load by 2.5 million in three years. We also lowered our years and interest by refunding in December. Next years budget will only need 16 cents in property tax to fully fund our debt service. This is a reduction of ten cents. The plan would be to move 5 cents over to capital projects and fund it at 10 cents or right at $400,000 per year. This should take care of all capitol project needs every year and if managed correctly put money back for large purchases such as replacing the fire engine fleet in approximately 10 years.

They also approved the same type of transaction in the 207 solid waste funds. The 207 fund is our solid waste fund. The landfill and convenience sites are fully funded on tipping fees charged to customers dumping in the Smith County land fill and no taxpayer dollars go into this fund. This eliminates all short-term debt in solid waste. When I came into office the debt total at the land fill was 6,842,000 and will be 3,685,000 for fiscal year 21-22. We have cut this debt in half as well. We were able to complete our new cell and not borrow any other money.

I plan to post more updates in the coming weeks to keep you informed of budget proceedings. We are wrapping up presentations and the committee will begin deliberations soon. It is still my belief that the property tax rate should be reduced by 25 cents. It has not been an easy fix and has been a painful process, but Smith County’s financial standing is strong.

Thank you once again for allowing me to serve as County Mayor of the greatest place in the world. May God bless you and may God bless Smith County!

Stephanie Hollis McCaleb Elected to Fill Vacant County Commissioner Seat

On Monday night, May 10th, at the Smith County Commission meeting, a new member of the commission was elected to fill the vacant seat for District 3 (New Middleton). The seat was formerly held by Josh Brown who recently resigned. Mrs. Stephanie Hollis McCaleb was elected by the commission to fill the vacancy. She was the only individual to put her name in.

Her and her husband Marty live in the Bradford Hill community.