BY LORCAN MCCORMICK
DRESDEN (January 4) – Last week, the City of Dresden, along with Weakley County Mayor Jake Bynum, combined forces to bring together local insurance companies and elected state officials for a town hall discussion designed to address the concerns of storm-ravaged Dresden in the Dresden Middle School gymnasium. Bynum began the event by making brief remarks, followed by an invocation by Keith Sumner before handing it over to Vickie Trice, Director of Consumer Insurance Division of the TN Commerce and Insurance Department. Director Trice started her remarks playfully, “so my first question is, who has heard of the Department of Commerce and Insurance?” Sundry details were provided to the public about investigators, as well as the Department of Commerce and Insurance’s role in approving the rates offered by insurance companies. The Enterprise will follow up with local insurance companies to discuss in-depth what actions homeowners and business owners impacted by the December 10, 2021, tornado should take in getting claims filed and approved.
Dresden Mayor Jeff Washburn next took the rostrum, starting off with giving remarks praising neighboring towns as well as the people of Dresden.
“There is the saying ‘what does not kill you, makes you stronger.’ I’m telling you, Dresden, Tennessee, would be the strongest city,” Washburn commented.
The mayor added a small update on cleanup efforts, “we’re getting it to where the streets are passable.” A unifying theme in both mayors’ remarks was the healing and hope offered by knowing there were no casualties in spite of the damage suffered in Weakley County.
Washburn implored citizens to send emails to their congressman (David Kustoff) and senators (Hagerty and Blackburn) to receive approval for FEMA funding; field representatives for the federal officials were present at the event.
Mayor Bynum made the final remarks to the crowd before handing off to the various stands that were setup to offer individualized information to citizens. “So as Mayor Washburn said, I want to start with the good news, as he said, the thing to celebrate is the numbers we have: no lives were lost in this incident.”
Mayor Bynum gave a story of an unnamed teenager who was thought to be paralyzed from the waist down from an injury suffered during the storm who is now moving his legs, which led to the loudest applause of the evening from the crowd. Bynum shifted into praising the organization and alacrity with which the community responded to the storm, leaning into the necessity and efforts being made by the Red Cross Emergency Center and how people may contact it. Of important note to the community, Bynum detailed the ongoing issues related to telephone service; an agent from Frontier relayed their hope is to have service returned to everyone by the end of January. The issue claimed is Frontier uses copper wires, which are not readily available at this current time. Bynum, who professed some ignorance to how many people were facing cellular challenges, implored community members to reach out to further aide officials in tackling these challenges. “Please continue to interact with us – there are a lot of challenges in this community that we have no way of knowing until we are made aware of these challenges.”
Mayor Bynum made a final call for unity in the face of adversity, “we will be upset with each other, we will have some real uncomfortable conversations, but we also know we will get to the end.” Mayor Bynum then handed it off to the floor, where people could freely seek out information for themselves. Weakley County Clerk Kim Hughey was present representing the Department of Motor Vehicles, informing the public that due to a Governor’s EO Title Distribution, driver’s licenses that were lost during the storm can be restored free of charge. The Northwest Tennessee Economic Development Council was present, giving out pamphlets detailing efforts to aide people in desperate need, as well as putting out their contact information. Their service center number is 731-521-9656.
Field Reps Matt Varino for Senator Bill Hagerty, Jake Rogers for Congressman David Kustoff, and James Matthew Wyatt for Senator Marsha Blackburn were present to speak with citizens. All field reps declined to make comments to the press.