Meet Randy Boyd

Native Knoxvillian, entrepreneur and business owner Randy Boyd believes that the best way to impact his community is through public service–and that’s just what he’s going to do. The 2018 gubernatorial hopeful is chasing the opportunity to serve as the 50th Governor of Tennessee as a way to give back to the state the Boyd family has called home since the 1800s.

“In many ways, I’ve been running all my life–running to be a better husband, a better father and now to be the Governor of Tennessee,” said Boyd. With the election over a year away, Boyd knows success will come down to one key ingredient: work ethic.

As the CEO of Radio Systems Inc. and former Commissioner of Economic and Community Development for Tennessee, Boyd has worked hard to get where he is today. His work ethic developed early in his South Knoxville childhood when his father, Tom Boyd, began bringing him to work every day. For a dollar an hour, he swept the floors until he was old enough to begin working the heavy machinery at his father’s electric fence company. He didn’t just learn a work ethic, however–he also learned resilience. Before his father focused on making electric fences for cattle and horses, he made something called a Fido Shock, a device to discourage dogs from knocking over metal trash cans by applying a gentle corrective shock. Unfortunately, only a year after Fido Shock was invented, so was the plastic garbage can, rendering the Fido Shock obsolete.

“But Dad showed me how to be resilient. To persist and never give up,” Boyd said. At 8 years old, he watched his father start over in electric fences for cattle and horses and build a successful company.

Working with his father wasn’t the only thing that profoundly influenced Randy’s life. Growing up, he would spend about half his time in Vestal, attending the Immanuel Baptist church with his grandparents.

It wouldn’t be until he was married that he’d switch to Erin Presbyterian, where he and his wife have attended for 34 years, always sitting in the same pew his wife’s father sat at. “Every Sunday morning, we feel his presence there.” Boyd said.

First College Grad

At age 16, Randy was ready to move on to the University of Tennessee, but his father was not supportive of pursuing a college education. He thought that Boyd could work in his factory and didn’t need a secondary degree. Determined to make the next step, Boyd struck a deal with hisfather that he would work for minimum wage at the factory to pay for classes at UT.

“Every weekend, I would run injection molding machines, two twelve-hour shifts.” Boyd recalls. “…It really showed me the value of work, and learned the value of education. If you want to make a difference in the world, it starts with education.”

While at college, he doubled down on coursework to graduate early and became the first college graduate in his family at the age of 19. As a newly-minted college grad, he decided to keep working for his father for four years before striking out on his own to start a company. Within a year, that company failed. Forced to confront his own failure but too full of pride to come back to working for his father, Boyd tried again. This time, he learned from his mistake.

A Job Begun

He began selling fencing parts out of an old Dodge Maxi van in June of 1991. He would go from Florida to Georgia to Alabama, staying in the best hotels he could find for under $18. One of his favorites was a $13 a night place in Georgia. “I still remember that hotel,” Boyd remembers, and then laughs, “You never wanted to touch the rug there.”

“…I didn’t have air conditioning in my van, and that’s because I was cheap.” Boyd said. “… but I didn’t have a radio because I wanted to make sure that I was listening to my customers.” In 1989, his customers started asking for the “Invisible Fence.” They told Boyd that they would buy “as many as [he] could get.” So Boyd called the company in order to supply his customers’ demands.

When Invisible Fence refused to sell products to him, Boyd did some digging and found out their patent was about to expire. Seizing his chance, Boyd decided to make his own and sell it as a do-it-yourself product versus the professionally installed sales model the Invisible Company used.

An engineer quoted him $30,000 to design what he would call a Radio Fence. Randy recalls that while that may sound like a lot of money to some, it was more than his total net worth of $26,000. He and Jenny bet everything on the design of this one product. By 1991, they began selling the product. Randy hoped to sell 100 units a month, but instead, in the first month, he sold 3,000 units and $1 million worth in the first year. The next year, sales grew to $5 million, then $9 million and then $15 million.

Though those numbers look good on paper, success didn’t come to him overnight. For the first few years, “I was sleeping three hours a night, and we didn’t know if we were going to make payroll each week. It was very, very difficult times,” said Boyd.

Working out of his van, and then a 40-ft tractor trailer, Boyd had very little to help support his wife, Jenny, and their two-year-old son. This was where his father’s lesson kicked in. To persist and never give up.

Eventually, Radio Fence would give way to the Invisible Fence brand and Radio Systems Corporation. Today, the company makes over 4,600 products with 700 employees and sales over $400 million. “God has blessed both Jenny and I beyond our wildest dreams. I feel like if I spent my whole life trying to pay back what I’ve been blessed to have, I’ll still die in debt,” said Boyd

Giving Back

Overcome by a desire to give back, Boyd’s passion for education emerged as he recalled the trials of being the first college grad in his family. In 2007, he began exploring ways to impact the K-12 public school system in Knoxville, including potentially starting a charter school for at-risk students. He worked with Pond Gap Elementary School to develop a middle ground between public and charter schools–a community school. With the help of UT professor Bob Kronick, Dean of Education Bob Rider and countless other administrative partners, Pond Gap became Pond Gap Full Service Community School.

This concept expands the services of an existing school to offer evening programs for the whole family, from extra reading and math for students to GED classes for parents to dentistry services, along with a hot dinner for the entire family. Based on the success of this model, Knox County has now rolled out 8 other schools funded through the Great Schools Partnership.

People began to notice Boyd’s education expertise, including Governor Bill Haslam. In 2012 ,Randy served in the administration of Governor Bill Haslam as an unpaid advisor on education.

“I was very resistant because I thought that government was too slow and bureaucratic, and as a business person, I would never want to do anything like that, but he [Haslam] convinced me that if you want to make a difference, the place you can make the biggest impact is in public service,” said Boyd.

His work resulted in creating the Drive to 55 and the Tennessee Promise. Tennessee Promise empowers more first generation students to enroll in community colleges and technical schools than ever before, with no additional cost to the taxpayer.

After his successful tenure as a special advisor on higher education, Boyd was appointed to Governor Haslam’s cabinet as the Commissioner for Economic and Community Development, a post that fit perfectly with his skills as an entrepreneur and executive. As commissioner, his new “customers,” Tennessee citizens, showed him just how much work needed to be done for the state to thrive economically and educationally.

He saw that 19 of Tennessee’s counties were in distress, and 33 were at risk. That less than 50% of all Tennesseans got an education beyond high school. Yet his energy, coupled with revolutionary solutions, took him to all 95 counties of Tennessee in a quest to create job opportunities for rural and urban areas alike. Under his leadership, the private sector committed to creating 50,000 new jobs and investing $11 billion in the Tennessee economy.

Those that know him well know Boyd’s passion for public service isn’t just fueled by work ethic: it’s his boundless energy to push limits and never shy away from the challenge. The race for governor may be a year away, but Boyd is busy visiting and revisiting all 95 counties and recently announced his plan to run 537.3 miles across the state from Bristol to Memphis.

In the meantime, you may just see him running down Kingston Pike in pursuit of making Tennessee the State of Opportunity

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Behind East Tennessee Foundation: An Interview With President & CEO Mike McClamroch

When you hear “East Tennessee Foundation,” you might immediately think of the many charitable resources this foundation has contributed to East Tennessee over the past 30 years. From scholarships to wildfire relief funds, this organization has its hand in charity work all across our region, with over $250 million in cumulative grants awarded since 1986. Many, however, do not know the story behind East Tennessee Foundation’s President and CEO, Mr. Mike McClamroch.

Mr. McClamroch graduated from Webb School of Knoxville, Furman University and Cumberland School of Law. He was a lawyer with the firm of Egerton, McAfee, Armistead & Davis as well as an active volunteer in the community before taking the lead role at the East Tennessee Foundation in 2001. He and his team helped build the foundation from total assets worth $30 million to now over $300 million.

We had the privilege of speaking with Mr. McClamroch at his office in downtown Knoxville. Sincere gratitude and thankfulness radiated from Mr. McClamroch as he discussed his upbringing, his faith and family, his present-day accomplishments and what the future may hold.

We want you to tell our readers about who you are! Can you begin by telling us about your childhood?

“I am from Knoxville. My parents are from Knoxville, all the way back to my great-grandparents, so I am an East Tennessean born and bred. I grew up in the country in West Knoxville and had all kinds of animals growing up. I was the only kid at Sequoyah School who was a member of 4-H. I grew up with lots of space, and we did everything outside. You know, it was a great way to grow up. We had a garden, not because we had to have it to eat. We had a garden because it was great fun. And I still have a garden, I still work in the yard and I still work outside. That’s how I relax.”

Can we talk a little bit about your upbringing as far as your faith is concerned? Is it a big part of your life?

“It is a huge part of my life. It, in fact, is the driver for almost everything that I do. I learned a reliance early on where it feels absolutely natural for me, when confronted with a problem, to hand it over to God and ask for guidance and wisdom and strength and the wherewithal to get through it. And that serves me really well.”

“I would not be here with ETF if I hadn’t had enough faith to take a real jump, a real counter-intuitive jump. You know, I went to a lot of people to seek advice. I went to my dad, and I said, “Dad, they’ve come to talk to me about this job. What do you think?” And he said, “Are you crazy? Your law practice is booming. You are doing so well. You’ve worked so hard. My advice is no way.” And for your gut, your heart, to tell you that your dad is just dead wrong, because he doesn’t know you as well as God knows you, or you know yourself, that was a hard thing for me to do. But I knew it was the right thing to do, and I called them back and I said, “Yes.”

Tell us about your son. We know he is very important to you.

“He is the most important thing to me. I am continually amazed by him. He is a wonder to behold. I could not be more proud of him, and not just in his accomplishments. He is a great athlete, and a great student, but he also is a deep thinker and really well spoken. Sometimes it is shocking to me and I have to remind myself that he is only fifteen. I love seeing him be a natural born leader. I love seeing him interact with his peers. He is one of those children who is equally at ease with his peers as he is with adults.”

“Recently, we cooked and served dinner at Knoxville Area Rescue Mission and Michael’s response to that was not, “Oh my gosh, that was such hard work.” We stood for hours and made 34 pork tenderloins. The hair on both my arms was singed from the oven. It was hard work. His response was, as we got in the car after dinner and were driving home, “If we made a grant out of our fund to KARM, what do you think they need the most?” That’s the stuff that makes you cry as a parent. I believe as parents we cannot impart that to our children—that is a God-given sensibility. I am just gratified that he has it. And he has a lot of it.”

What sort of goals did you have when you were younger?

“You know, my goals have morphed or matured over time. I was really idealistic at twenty-five. Back then, I really thought that I could reform public policy. But as I grew older and I got deeper into politics, I grew increasingly weary of politics for the sake of politics. Back then, I was the youngest-ever GOP chair and I may be the only GOP chair that counted the seconds until my term ran out. It was an eye-opening experience for me and a great way to pivot and shift gears. I recognized that I needed to figure out a better fit for me to make changes in our community.”

Tell us about the East Tennessee Foundation and what you do there.

“ETF was founded in 1986 and I joined shortly after 9/11 as the economic crisis of 2001 was underway. Our growth since then has been really significant, with the crash of 2008 sitting right in the middle of that. We were able to maintain our grantmaking through both crashes, and it provided survival dollars for a lot of organizations, especially arts organizations that would have gone out of business otherwise. Cumulatively, our grants in the region are over $250 million. That goes a long way and changes a lot of lives in East Tennessee. We are all proud of that.”

“Part of my job is to make sure that everyone here who is crunching numbers or reading grant applications, proofreading the newsletter or whatever it is, feels connected. To the ones whose lives we are changing. It is not uncommon for me to read the thank you letters, the gut-wrenching stories, in our staff meetings. I encourage everybody to go on the site visits, to serve on the scholarship committees, to do all of that work. It is what they have to do to stay focused and to remember that their job has meaning, no matter how difficult it is that day. It is easy for me, because I am at a 20,000-foot level, and at any point, I can go down and get involved in any part of it, but I think that it is important for our team. And it matters.”

What ETF accomplishments are you most proud of that have taken place in the last year?

“I am proud of so much, but I am most proud of the way our team works with each other to get it all accomplished. This is not false modesty, but anybody that knows the Foundation and sees the way that it works, day in and day out, knows it is not a reflection of me. It is a reflection of this team. I am a part of, always, a larger whole, and the way they respect each other, the way they communicate with each other, the way they are able to advance the mission of the Foundation and just, one after another, set records in all of these accomplishments…it’s a reflection on them. Overall, I think the thing I am most proud of is our work environment, because it is conducive to success. It makes success not just possible, but likely. And I am really proud of that.”

Looking ahead at the next couple of years, what is the ultimate goal?

“The ultimate goal is to stay in that position where we are managing, guiding and feeding that growth. We are going to be stretching in some areas in which we have never been able to stretch before, and we have done a great job on a meager budget on name recognition and brand recognition. We have done a great job on becoming the conversation starter for meaningful philanthropy in East Tennessee, so we have to continue all that. But we are going to be exploring really fascinating things like mission investing and other things that are going to be really attractive to potential donors, potential fund holders, and will multiply, I hope, exponentially, our impact in the region. When we get to invest, not just through grants but through investments in projects that are changing people’s lives, our impact and the benefit we provide is going to increase exponentially. I am really excited. We are now positioned to not only watch it happen, because there is nothing passive about any of this, but also to make it happen.”

The Foundation is a grant-making institution comprised of over 425 charitable funds established by donors interested in impacting their communities. ETF can accept almost any asset of value. If you have questions about charitable giving, feel free to contact Mike or his staff at 865-524-1223 or visit their website for more information: www.easttennesseefoundation.org.

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Terry McNew: Mastercraft CEO

There are those who measure success by a job title or social status, and there are others who measure success by hard work and the ability to overcome hardships. No matter how you quantify the word, Terry McNew is, without a doubt, an incredible success story.

Terry was born in Florida but raised near Compton, a city in southern Los Angeles County that has struggled with unemployment and crime. His father served in World War II as a “Frogman,” or combat diver. Upon his release from the service, he worked in the space program but was laid off when Terry was 9 and remained unemployed until Terry was 12. He was eventually rehired into the manned space program, but this taught Terry to be self-sufficient at an early age.

Despite family hardships, Terry discovered a love for watercraft. He and his brother, who was almost 5 years older, rebuilt a Glastron Boat and sailed off into the Pacific Ocean to catch what they could. They discovered that with a slight redesign of the hull, they could get better performance from that boat…and thus began his thirst for a career in design and performance of watercraft.

At age 16, while still in high school, Terry decided to strike out on his own. Getting jobs wherever he could, he saved his money while living with his godfather in Stanton, California, sleeping on his own store-bought foldout sofa in the living room.

Terry then moved to Florida, where he worked for a company selling heavy construction equipment. He funded his own education and graduated with a BSBA degree in economics from the University of Central Florida, College of Business Administration. He then began his career with Sea Ray’s PD&E division in Merritt Island, Florida, a division of Brunswick.

The years that followed included an array of positions as he began his ascent toward CEO. Terry worked in several areas of manufacturing at Sea Ray boats, holding different key roles before taking the position of Vice President of manufacturing in 2001. In 2004, he was offered and accepted the position of President and Chief Executive Officer of Correct Craft Boats. In 2006, he was again invited to join Brunswick, where he held several executive positions at Sea Ray and Brunswick Boat Group. In August 2012, after 24 years in the boating industry, Terry was offered the position of President and Chief Executive Officer of MasterCraft.

During his tenure as CEO of MasterCraft, the company has grown from a production level of 1,200 boats a year, to just under 3,000. In 2015, Terry led a team that took the company public, and they are now listed on the NASDAQ exchange. He even got to ring the closing bell at the exchange on the day of the IPO offering.

Terry has several additional success stories of his own – his son, Philip, and daughter, Tara. Philip is a staff sergeant in the United States Air Force at Langley Air Force Base and is currently serving in Afghanistan. He has served 13 years so far. Philip is married to JoAnna, who is also a staff sergeant in the Air Force. They have two children—Aiden, who is 8 years old, and Jude, who is 6. Terry’s daughter, Tara, lives in Redding, California, with her husband, Jordan, who recently graduated from Moody Bible College. They have two children, Isiah, 6, and Lizzy, 3. Terry recently married his beautiful bride Allison in March and added three more children, Leah, Lauren and Beth, plus, two more grandchildren, Parker, 3, and Graham, 1.

In addition to his successful career, Terry contributes to a number of missions that provide various kinds of aid to families that need assistance. He has a caring heart and a strong faith in God and feels he has been blessed over the years with God’s guidance. His motivation comes from his desire to leave this Earth a better place than when he got here—and this sentiment, truly, makes him the greatest success story of all.

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Hats Off To Hatter

Adoption is an often overlooked but important step in taking care of the least of these. Whether adopted at birth or late in life, finding a steady home is incredibly vital step
to the well-being of the child’s mental and physical health. When the original home can be improved, and the child or teen can stay in their own area, their own school, that is considered the best case scenario. It’s this scenario that Michelle Hatter works hard to achieve: that the home can be returned to, or that can find an area home where the child will be safe and loved until they’re ready to make their mark in the world.

Michelle works for and is in charge of Camelot Care Center, Inc. As a private care industry, Camelot Care Center works with the Department of Children’s Services by taking care of the children who come into DCS custody in the state of Tennessee. Children and teens who go into DCS custody have been put there on a hopefully temporary hold the home is being evaluated for abuse, neglect, or is in some other way unfit for the child to stay in. Camelot Care Center helps find those safe homes for the children to wait in.

The branch owned by Michelle Hatter covers Knoxville and the thirteen surrounding counties, but the Camelot Care name stretches across all of Tennessee. They are known for their excellent customer service, support, training, and home studies. Doing all that she can to ensure the family is ready for the responsibility of raising a child, Michelle sees 1 in 4 children adopted by foster families. The other ~75% she hopes to restore to their former homes.

The Camelot Care Center doesn’t just let the child loose with an inexperienced family, however. All families receive complimentary training according to a child’s level of trauma. These trauma levels come in stages- 1, 2, and 3. Three is the highest, and needs the most care and attention. After and during training the potential parents, they provide therapy and emotional support for the child or teenager due to the trauma of being taken away from their home. And, if the child or teen is returned home, they negotiate where the foster family can come visit for birthdays or other special occasions. A child’s average stay is about a year, and 24% are adopted within that time. Michelle’s biggest goal, however, is to return the child to their biological parents. After that, the foster family can maintain a mentoring relationship with the minor.

There is another option called a respite home for foster parents who do not wish to do so full-time. These stays are typically 1-10 days.

“The biggest thing we need right now are homes in the Monroe County.” Michelle Hatter says. “When children are removed, our idea is that we want kids to stay in community they know. The school they know.” Unfortunately, there are not enough homes in the Loudon and Monroe area to fulfill the needs of the children and teenagers in their program. While the ages of the children go anywhere from newborn to 18, the biggest age group needed to be adopted are the kids aged 5-12. The second largest need is teenagers. Michelle remarked that they’re easier to get along with because of their communication skills, but it’s harder to find someone willing to foster or adopt them. “It’s so sad to see them age out of the system.”

“My husband and I are in the process of adopting a dog.” Michelle said, “And it’s so sad to see them in their cages. They’re waiting for someone to love them. It reminded me of the kids. They’ve been removed from their homes because their parents were neglectful or abusive. They’re waiting for a home.”

Kids in the foster system often lose confidence in their own abilities. They blame themselves for the neglect and abuse they’ve suffered. They believe they’ll never amount to anything if even their parents didn’t love them. Michelle Hatter has a small trick to helping them realize that they aren’t broken just because their home has been. She keeps a list of famous people who’ve been adopted so they can see that the circumstances they find themselves in do not have to define who they are. Among the list is my favorite writer, Maya Angelou, and household names such as John Lennon, Faith Hill, Steve Jobs, and Eddie Murphy. This encourages the children to thrive despite the hardships they face.

Becoming a family is a rigorous process, of course. To protect the minors in their care, all families must undergo trauma training. While marriage is not
a requirement, a steady income as well as transportation is. You also must be 25 or older, and either be a renter or a homeowner in the state of Tennessee. If you are mentally or physically disabled, you need a note from a medical professional that you are fit to take care of children. I. e. Provide meals and transportation. All children are insured by a background check, screening, and TennCare, and monetary compensation is provided by the state in order to care for the children under your care. If you qualify for these conditions, please consider. There is a form online, “How to Become a Foster Parent,” it can be filled out for more information and to speak with a Camelot team member.

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Dr. Gayle Roulier: A Truly Extraordinary Woman

There are certain people in this world whom you admire, not because of any particular unearthly talent, but simply because of their selfless dedication to others. These people do not derive their happiness from any amount of recognition or compensation, but simply by living in the manner that suits them. For Dr. Gayle Roulier, that manner most accurately translates to a tireless dedication to her family, a natural sense of witty charisma, and a thriving career fighting one of the most deadly diseases in the world.

Gayle Roulier first knew what she wanted in a career while attending high school in Dearborn, Michigan. “I always loved math and science classes, and I always knew I would find a career that encompassed the two”. Though her baffling love affair with mathematics and science served as her guide in a general sense, Dr. Roulier never seriously considered the medical field until a summer job, where she worked at the medical office of Dr. Pedro Caing, a doctor of internal medicine. After her experience at the office, she decided that medical school was her calling. “Honestly, getting into medical school was the most difficult part” recalled Dr. Roulier “After that things just sort of fell into place”. Dr. Roulier received the honor of Magna Cum Laude at Albion College, and as such was swiftly accepted to Wayne State University Medical School in the heart of downtown Detroit. In 1991, she graduated from Wayne State and began a residency in Radiology at Oakwood Hospital in Dearborn, Michigan. After her Residency ended, Dr. Roulier decided to follow her career path south to Pittsburg, where she was granted a Fellowship in Woman’s Imaging. This is where she began her focus on Radiology, a calling that would last her the rest of her life and guide her future career.

Two years later, she found a wonderful opportunity in Knoxville TN at Vista Radiology (which was then known as Fort Sanders Radiology). There, she thrived as a young radiologist, and soon was granted a partnership, which she accepted in 1998. Little did she know, Knoxville would be the place where she would most call home, and a place where she would see her career thrive in a way she never imagined. Dr. Roulier went on to specialize in the detection of breast cancer, and has become one of Knoxville’s leading authorities in this field. She currently works at the Thomson Breast Care Center in downtown Knoxville, helping women diagnose and treat breast cancer on a daily basis. When asked about her career choice to go into radiology, and more specifically breast cancer, Dr. Roulier smiled. “My career has been extremely rewarding… its very satisfying to know that you’ve played a major role in saving another person’s life. My job is constantly giving back to me.”

Though Dr. Roulier’s passion for medicine had directed her to apply to medical school, some of her family were not as excited about her career aspirations. Having come from a very traditional Italian family (which to this day still boasts the most delicious pasta sauce recipe on planet earth), Dr. Roulier’s grandparents were unnerved at the thought of their granddaughter becoming a doctor. “They were just worried that I wouldn’t have time to settle down and have a family with all the work from medical school” Dr. Roulier laughed. Oh how wrong they were….

Dr. Roulier has not only had a very busy and successful professional career, she has, by all accounts, exceeded in her personal life too. After marrying her husband David in 1991, Dr. Roulier had her first son, a striping young lad named Philip. Two years later, her second son Joseph was born. Two years later, her third. This process repeated itself a few more times, and today Dr. Roulier boasts 5 boys ages ranging from 14 to 24. Even though she finds herself brutally outnumbered by the males in the house, she is extremely proud and happy with the family she has raised.

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A Perfect Way To End A Career

Jim Henry, the Governor’s current Deputy and Chief of Staff, is passionate about the Tennessee Community. After three attempts to retire from his involvement in local politics, he has agreed to serve as Deputy to the Governor and Chief of Staff, and is ready to make a bigger impact to benefit the generations to come. Henry accepted the position earlier this year, stating it would be “a perfect way to end his career.”

Henry grew up in Madisonville, Tennessee, moving to Kingston at the age of 13. He attended Hiwassee College, studied at the University of Tennessee, then served overseas during the Vietnam War. Once he returned to the States, he followed his father’s involvement in politics and soon became an active city councilman in Kingston. At 28 years old, Henry successfully ran for Mayor of Kingston, remaining in office until 1978.

He was then elected to the Tennessee House of Representatives in 1980, a position that he would hold for the next 12 years. After being elected to the legislature, he was elected Republican Leader in 1980 and Chairman of the Party in 1984, serving in both positions for 2 years from 1984-1986.

During his time as a Tennessee State Representative, Henry and his wife, Pat, raised three children. They soon discovered that their son, John, faced a life of intellectual disability. “Having a child with mental disabilities changes how you see the world.” Henry said. “Pat and I were brought closer to others who faced the same obstacles, and we were brought closer to our faith.” Henry began organizing programs and activities at the Michael Dunn Center, where his wife was the chairmen of the board. The activities mainly centered on building a supportive network to give families with children like John the help that they needed.

The startling lack of support for children who have intellectual disabilities inspired Jim Henry to begin his own company, Omni Visions. As CEO, Henry directed Omni Visions to focus on helping children with intellectual disabilities, providing a network of stability that reduces the risk of abuse within the foster care system.

After working with Omni Visions for 17 years, Henry prepared to retire. He had just completed an intense round of chemotherapy to treat cancer when Governor Haslam invited him to attend a meeting. In that meeting, Henry discovered that the Tennessee Legislature was prepared to act on a petition that he had begun years ago.

The petition was focused on creating a separate legislative branch of Intellectual
& Developmental Disabilities. The Legislature finally agreed to create the Department of Intellectual & Developmental Disabilities (DIDD), and Governor Haslam asked Henry to be the first commissioner. Henry would serve as commissioner for two years before retiring from full-time involvement. Henry told his wife Pat that this would be “the perfect way to end a career.”

With his experience in the legislature, along with his understanding of intellectual disabilities, Henry successfully established DIDD. After serving as commissioner for two years, Henry prepared to step down and retire. But as the DIDD was succeeding, the Tennessee Department of Children’s Services (DCS) was struggling.

Due to a lack of funding, leadership, and priority, the DCS had an abnormally high death rate among children in the Foster Care system. Governor Haslam asked Henry to serve as DCS Commissioner for another two years. “It was such an honor to be asked, I couldn’t turn it down.” Henry said. “I figured I’d work a little bit longer. Once I took a look at it, I realized it’s a great opportunity to make a difference.” Henry had found another perfect way to “end his career.”

As Henry began his work with DCS, the department continued to receive bad press from the local media. Henry invited the news to join him and his staff on a Priority One call. A Priority One call includes an environment where a child or several children live in a home of toxic stress. The environment may include abuse, neglect, a broken family, or a family where one or both parents abuse alcohol, drugs, or are completely absent.

The Priority One call took them to inner city Nashville. “It was an emotional experience for me” Henry remembers, “If it wasn’t for us, these kids wouldn’t have a chance.” After the call, the media began to understand the challenges that DCS faced.

Three years later, Henry had succeeded in completely transforming the way that the public saw child services and care. “We went from one of the worst programs in the country to being the best.” Henry said. He continued his efforts on preventing the factors that cause generational toxic stress, working proactively instead of reactively to remedy years of abuse and neglect.

“The science is finally catching up with it.” Henry said, “the toxic stress for children is permanently damaging. If you live in a house where you’re scared that someone will come and abuse you, mistreat you…that has a lasting impact. That’s why you see poverty and these different characteristics continually repeating themselves.” This type of stress prevents victims from developing mentally, from doing well in school and having a successful future. Solutions do not lie in better education or funding, but in repairing the family unit and providing children with a safe, secure place to grow up.

Henry will continue to find solutions for families who live in poverty and homes where children experience toxic stress. With his years of community service and political experience, Henry knows that lasting and effective change begins with the youngest generation: “It is about creating sustainability, something that the next generation can take and make better.” Henry states. “It’s about educating our youth and giving them the opportunity to do great things. We do not intend to lose the next generation. We have to show people that loving families are the right thing to invest in.”

Jim Henry will continue his political career as Deputy to the Governor and Chief of Staff, pursuing the same level of excellence that has characterized his entire life. After Henry helped DCS succeed, the Governor asked him to postpone his retirement for a third time. Henry agreed, stating with some humor that he really did expect this to be his final position before retirement. Being appointed as Deputy to the Governor and Chief of Staff really would be “a perfect way to end a career.”

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Tsali Notch Vineyards: The Largest Muscadine Vineyard In The State Might Also Be The Most Beautiful

As September approaches, there is a buzz of activity at Tsali Notch Vineyard in East Tennessee. When the muscadine grapes are ripe, it is time to begin the harvest. The vineyard, named after the Cherokee leader, is home to 35 acres of muscadine grapes, and sits on over 200 acres of beautiful farmland. Tsali Notch is the largest muscadine vineyard in Tennessee, and welcomes beginners, wine makers, families and friends to join in the “U-Pick” harvest.

The Tsali Notch property also hosts events such as weddings, receptions, reunions and other gatherings. The farmland sits in a beautiful valley overlooking the Great Smoky Mountains and the Cherokee National Forest. There is a restored Party Barn for larger functions, and The Jackson Lounge for a more intimate setting; a recently refurbished 19th century farmhouse that faces the surrounding hills and 6,700 grapevines in the valley.

A Log-built Tasting Room is the perfect place to sample the 6 varieties of muscadine wine that the vineyard produces, as well as sparkling wine, juice, and fresh jams. It is open for public and private tours Wednesday through Sunday from Noon to 5pm, and offers several Tsali Notch products for purchase. Tsali Notch juice, which is high in antioxidants, is also available at several local Pharmacies near the vineyard.

The location of Tsali Notch is ideal for muscadine grapes: the nearly constant breeze sweeps the morning fog out of the valley, which gives the grapevines a maximum amount of sunlight. Muscadines are rich in flavor and antioxidants, and typically grow well in a warm, dry climate. The vines are planted from North to South to make the most of the East Tennessee sun, and receive little to no chemicals or preservatives. This ensures that Tsali Notch can offer a fresh, natural crop with a full, rich flavored product.

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Chris Higgins: Capturing The Unexplored

For remote location photographer Chris Higgins, capturing the perfect shot isn’t just his job, it’s a way of life. Higgins was born and raised in Knoxville and currently works part time at Blue Ridge Mountain Sports. The rest of his time is spent planning, traveling and documenting mountain and cave explorations across the globe.

This summer, Higgins took a trip to Mexico with the idea to climb the tallest mountain and photograph the deepest cave. Higgins, with friends Matt Bumbalough and Mike Green, flew out to Mexico City to attempt a feat that has never been tried by the same team on the same trip. The team would begin climbing Iztaccihuatl Mountain, which is 17,159 feet tall, to get acclimated to the altitude. Iztaccihuatl, or ‘White Woman’ overlooks Mexico City and the nearby active volcano, Popocatepétl.

When they were fully acclimated, Chris Higgins and his friends set their sights on the tallest mountain in Mexico: Pico de Orizaba. Standing at 18,491 feet tall, it is the third largest mountain in North America. Higgins and his friends spent a total of 2 weeks hiking the mountains in Mexico, a trip that he has already scheduled for next year.

After conquering the mountain, Higgins and Green began the next part of their adventure: documenting the Sistema-Huautla cave, which is the deepest cave in Mexico at 5,069 feet deep and over 40 miles long. But first, they needed to get there. Hailing a cab to the small village of Tlachichuca proved to be more difficult than Higgins and Green had imagined, not because of distance, but because of they could not correctly pronounce the name of the town.

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David Farragut: First Admiral of the United States Navy

David Farragut was born near the Holston River, about two miles off of what is now Campbell Station Road. His birth father, a Spanish merchant who had aided the American Colonies in the Revolutionary War, gave him up for adoption after his mother passed away from a case of yellow fever. His adopted father, a friend of his birth father and naval officer by the name of David Porter, would be his guardian for the rest of his young life and implant in young Farragut the seed of duty and greatness that would soon spring into fruition. Because of this and out of sheer admiration and respect, young Farragut would change his first given name of James to David in honor of his adopted father.

David Farragut’s young naval career began most prominently in the Caribbean, where he spent many years on warships fighting off pirates and raiders who attempted to rob vessels of their wealth. He also served in the Mexican-American War as a commander of the USS Saratoga. His skills in tactical naval combat were only paralleled by his rapid promotion within the Navy, and ultimately, he found himself a captain. He moved from his home in East Tennessee to Virginia, where he was stationed before the event that would define his significance in the time to follow: the beginning of the Civil War.

Though he lived in Virginia and was born and raised in Tennessee, David Farragut openly opposed the idea of a Confederate State. When President Lincoln called troops after the fall of Fort Sumter, Farragut very openly and publicly declared that the President had every right to do so. He also stated that the majority of Virginians and Tennesseans alike were not in agreement with their Confederate governments, and that the majority of these citizens were actually being forced against their will into confrontation with the North. Though he had gained a prominent reputation within the Navy, Farragut’s claims were met with contempt by his fellow Southerners in the government. He was asked to leave Virginia, which he did with much haste, fearing a violent consequence was in store for him and his wife if they refused. After his move, he immediately requested a position in the Union’s Navy. Primarily, he was granted a title on the naval council, as the Union naval officers were understandably wary of this Southern officer’s interest in the cause. Farragut never complained or offered resistance; he did his duty well. Within a few short months, the Union’s battle strategists had decided that based on his credentials, David Farragut would be best-suited for their most important naval endeavor in the war: the bombardment and capture of the city of New Orleans.

New Orleans: the teeming city playing host to the mouth of the mighty Mississippi as she spills out into the Gulf of Mexico. One of the main ports for the Confederacy, by far one of the richest cities in the South and the gateway to the Mississippi, which was crucial to the Confederacy’s movement of supplies. This was Admiral Farragut’s goal, what he was destined to do. He would take the city of New Orleans for President Lincoln and the North. He was awarded the title of Flag Officer and amassed a fleet off the coast of Florida, which he then sailed down just outside of the port of New Orleans. Through heroic bravery and expert tactical ability, Farragut was able to take the port of New Orleans and the surrounding areas, giving the Union land troops a gateway into the city and blocking Confederate supplies from the Southwest. It was in this series of battles that he would declare his famous words. When told to use caution in maneuvering the river ahead due to the numerous torpedos the Confederacy had planted for the incoming Union fleet, he dismissed the warning, declaring quite boldly and famously, “Damn the torpedos! Full speed ahead!” This victory would be a definitive battle in the Civil War and would be the greatest accomplishment of his life.

David Farragut continued his dedication to the Navy after the war. After his heroic capture of New Orleans, he was promoted to Rear Admiral, the highest honor in the American Navy at the time. In December of 1864, he was the very first U.S. officer in history to be granted the title of Admiral of the American Navy, leader and commander of all U.S. naval forces. This title he held until his death in 1870.

Admiral Farragut was not simply a man: he was an inspirational leader, bold and fierce. He had that Southern Tennessee pride found in many Tennessee Volunteers, but he also had the strength and fortitude to discover and fight for what was right. Rarely does the common man or woman dwell on the past, remembering those men and women who have shaped the world around us. So today, for all of us who dwell in Farragut, let us remember the great man for whom our town is named: David Farragut, the first Admiral of the United States Navy.

“Damn the Torpedos! Full Speed Ahead!”
– Admiral Farragut

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