Three students in Meigs County — two high schoolers and a middle schooler — were recently honored for their actions during last month’s school bus wreck in the county.
MJ Vaughn of Meigs County Middle School was on board the bus when the wreck happened and he said he didn’t think about what needed to be done.
“What happened is what was going through my mind,” Vaughn said. “I got up and saw all that was going on and I immediately jumped in to help ... It was just instinct.”
He stated that he doesn’t have much more to say about the incident other than “it was just terrible.”
“I know people say that it gets better, which it does, but it takes a while,” Vaughn expressed.
Meigs Middle Principal Ronnie Woods had a great deal of praise for Vaughn and his act.
“He is a very humble kid and he doesn’t seek the accolades, but they are all well deserved,” Woods said, referring to Vaughn’s actions from that day.
The two high school students who acted during the incident are TJ Hardin and Cheyenne Lawson.
The duo were also on the bus at the time of the wreck that killed two people and both said instincts took over for them as well.
“Whenever I realized what happened, my mind had instantly jumped to my brother and multiple cousins that were sitting up front and I instantly ran to them,” said Hardin. “I just made sure to get them off of the bus as soon as possible.”
Lawson agreed with Hardin’s sentiment of focusing on getting everyone off of the bus.
“In my head, I wasn’t really sure what was going on,” Lawson recalled. “All I knew was that we needed to get everybody off of the bus as quickly and as safely as possible.”
Lawson believes that it was her natural instincts that guided her and that the incident reinforced her desire to seek a career in the medical field.
The trio of students have received a lot of praise for their actions in helping the other students who were on the bus.
“At first, it was a little bit overwhelming (the praise) because, personally, I didn’t think what I did was as big as it was,” said Lawson, as Hardin agreed with her sentiment. “We were just doing something that the teachers have always told us to do and just take care of the younger ones and that is what we did.”
Assistant Director of Schools Carmen Choate said it spoke well of the students to act the way they did.
“They brought joy to my heart. They put themselves aside and truly showed their true character and put others first,” she expressed. “That brings joy to me because that shows me that our next generation has a spirit like that.”
The Athens City Council has been reorganized following the Nov. 3 election.
Two new members were sworn in and two existing members took on new roles during last Tuesday’s meeting.
Frances Witt-McMahan and Jordan Curtis took their respective oaths from City Attorney Chris Trew to officially assume the seats they won three weeks ago. They take the places of outgoing Mayor Chuck Burris, who opted not to run for another term, and Interim Council Member Lisa Dotson, who served the remainder of the unexpired term of John Coker. Coker stepped down earlier this year and Dotson was appointed by the Council as his short-term successor.
Trew began by stating, “It is my pleasure to perform this task.”
Trew then officially placed in the city’s record the certified results of the Nov. 3 election as verified by the McMinn County Election Commission. He then called both new Council members to step forward and be sworn in, with Witt-McMahan taking the oath first, followed by Curtis.
Witt-McMahan and Curtis then joined their fellow Council members on the dais for the remainder of the meeting, while Burris and Dotson excused themselves from the panel for a final time.
Next, as prescribed by the city charter, the Council voted to appoint its next mayor and vice mayor for a duration of two years.
The floor was first opened for Council member nominations to appoint a new mayor. Curtis nominated Bo Perkinson, who was the previous vice mayor and has served as mayor in the past. No other nominations were made.
Prior to voting on Perkinson’s nomination, Witt-McMahan asked if she could address the process by which these appointments are made.
“This is the least transparent process that I’ve ever been involved in in my years of public service,” she said. “And I want to go on record as saying that because I feel like the room for divisiveness is caused by the way we select our mayor. I’m going to support this nomination, but I also want us to be more transparent and to do things that our citizens can be proud of and that we can come together and work together on behalf of the city and not be so divided.
“There was no discussion about how we wanted to proceed and I think it’s really embarrassing for us to continue to do this,” she continued. “I don’t want to hear ‘this is the way it’s always been done.’ It’s time to change and do things that make people feel comfortable with us and proud that we’re serving in this community, and I didn’t want to go to sleep tonight without having said that.”
Trew noted that he had prior discussions with Witt-McMahan regarding the appointment process.
“I understand your concerns and I wish that there had been a way to further discuss this process and further discuss the choices,” said Trew. “Although, in this public forum, this is an opportunity to do that.”
Trew said he and Witt-McMahan had discussed the process put forth in the city charter. The existing appointment process may only by modified with the approval of a charter charge by the state legislature.
Trew said Witt-McMahan had communicated to him her desire to hold a broader discussion of these appointments in a Council study session in advance of an official vote.
“If that’s what you would like to see happen, then maybe you could ask that that be put on the next study session (agenda) for the next election, and I do think it would take a charter change, but that is something that can be discussed,” he said.
The Council then proceeded to vote on Perkinson’s nomination for mayor, which passed, 4-1, with only Council Member Dick Pelley casting a dissenting vote. Perkinson then assumed control of the remainder of the meeting.
“Thank you for selecting me as mayor,” said Perkinson. “I will pledge my effort as a public servant, as each of you are, to do what is best for our citizens of Athens.”
Perkinson then called for nominations to appoint his successor as vice mayor. Witt-McMahan nominated Council Member Mark Lockmiller and, though not required by the city charter to do so, Curtis seconded the nomination. No other nominations were made.
“I am very proud to serve with Mark,” said Witt-McMahan. “I think that Mark has shown fairness in everything that he’s done. I’ve watched him over the last two years and I think he has shown he has great leadership, and I’m really happy to make this nomination.”
“Mark Lockmiller is a person of incredibly high character,” added Curtis. “He is going to serve us honorably as vice mayor of the City of Athens. I’m really proud of the leadership team that we’ve assembled to lead this Council for the next two years.”
Lockmiller thanked both of his new colleagues for their remarks in support of his nomination. The Council then unanimously approved his appointment.
Donations are now being received for this year’s Friendly Fellow Club holiday food basket drive.
Local residents have the opportunity to help their neighbors by giving to the charitable organization to help provide food for those in the community this holiday season.
A community tradition for 80 years, the Friendly Fellow Club annually provides holiday food baskets at Christmastime to families in need around the area.
Donations that come in to the club help cover the cost of providing food baskets that make local residents’ Christmas a little more merry.
The Friendly Fellow Club is a 501(c)(3) organization and all contributions are tax deductible.
Monetary donations will be accepted at The Daily Post-Athenian’s office at 206 W. Washington Ave., in Athens, or by mail to The DPA, Attn: Friendly Fellows, P.O. Box 340, Athens, TN 37371-0340.
There is also a GoFundMe page that accepts donations as well. That page can be found at https://www.gofundme.com/f/friendly-fellow-club-winter-food-basket-drive
Donations to the Friendly Fellow Club will be listed in The DPA as they come in throughout the holiday season.
One donation came in earlier this year, $600 from the employees of Dycho.
For more information on the Friendly Fellow Club, contact The Daily Post-Athenian at 745-5664.
The Meigs County Boys and Girls Club has completed a new basketball court for the youth of the community.
Board Chairman Todd Farrell hopes the new court will get the children of Meigs County more interested in outdoor sports.
“Meigs County is a really big sports area, so sports mean the world to our kids, especially at the high school level,” said Farrell. “So we certainly feel that the basketball court certainly lends them well as they grow up in our local community.”
The Meigs Boys and Girls Club has only been in place for a few years, but they are already accessing grants.
“Fortunately, because we are part of the Ocoee region, we have access to grant money that can be used at any of the 14 different organizations and we are excited to be leading the way a little bit for the Ocoee region because we are the recipient of a couple of grants,” Farrell noted. “The first grant provided the basketball court and the second grant will be for a BMX bike track. There is a great amount of activity that should attract a lot of the youths into the program.”
He hopes some of the youths who join the club will continue to support the club after they become adults.
The new basketball court is located on the south side of the Boys and Girls Club facility, which occupies “the old dollar store” on Highway 58 in Decatur.
The cost of the court was around $25,000, however Farrell stated the new court valued at over $45,000.
“The great news for us is that we had some people who stepped up,” he stated. “We have a good relationship with Kurt Lambert and Lambcon Concrete and he donated $6,000 of concrete to us, the Versa Court company, which is what we have on top of the court, discounted their product to us at 50%, and we had two major donors, one was the Allstate Foundation that gave us $20,000 and United Way gave us $5,000 at the very beginning to get this project started.”
The court can be used to play other sports as well, such as volleyball.
Farrell hopes the Meigs County community will look forward to the club’s future projects.
“We have the BMX bike track and that should be up and running by next spring,” Farrell said. “We have also applied for a very significant playground grant with Blue Cross Blue Shield, though we are not sure if we will receive that or not just yet, but we do have a lot going on at the Meigs County Boys and Girls Club and we certainly invite the public to come out and take a look.”