Tornado Recovery News Dominates 2022



Recovery efforts related to the devastation caused by the Dec. 10, 2021 tornado that destroyed or damaged more than 180 residences and 25 businesses across Weakley County, particularly in and around the City of Dresden, dominated much of the news during 2022.

Storm Damage

Many of those impacted by the storm, not only lost their homes and businesses, but also irreplaceable personal belongings and keepsakes.

The storm also destroyed two churches in downtown Dresden, including Dresden Cumberland Presbyterian Church, on the corner of Nelson and S. Wilson Street, and Dresden First United Methodist Church, located at 105 S. Church Street. Additionally, New Salem Cumberland Presbyterian Church, located on Hwy 89 between Sharon and Dresden was also a total loss.

Local officials describe the tornado as the worst natural disaster in the city’s history.

Cleanup Efforts

A large number of volunteers began cleanup efforts immediately following the storm. Local citizens, as well as those from neighboring counties, donated their labor to help remove debris from the streets and yards of area residences and businesses. The sounds of chain saws and heavy equipment filled the air, as roads were cleared for traffic. It was a joint effort, with local citizens working alongside city employees. It was a case of neighbors helping neighbors make it through difficult times.

Rebuilding Underway

Dresden City Offices Relocated: In response to the widespread tornado damage, Dresden’s city hall, police department and fire department were relocated. In order to continue providing public services, Dresden City Hall moved its operations to the Harmon and Lucille McWherter Civic Center; the Dresden Police Department moved to the Weakley County Sheriff’s Department on Hwy 22; and Dresden Fire Department’s vehicles were stored inside the Weakley County Rescue Squad garage located at 8220 Highway 22.

Municipal Complex Planned: Instead of rebuilding all three structures separately, the Dresden City Board decided to construct a municipal complex housing the Dresden Fire Department, City Hall and Police Department under one roof. Plans call for constructing the structure on the same city block.

Enterprise Office Demolished; Plans Underway to Rebuild: Since 1883, The Enterprise newspaper has been a part of the Dresden business community, providing countywide news coverage, and even offering some headlines from throughout the state and nation. On Jan. 14, 2022, the office building on South Wilson Street in Dresden and home of The Enterprise since the late 1970s was officially demolished, with plans underway for rebuilding on that same strip of property. The office is temporarily relocated to 501 Main St. in Martin with shared office space inside of Winstead Property Rentals (the former home of Tom’s Peanuts).

Disaster Declaration Made For FEMA Assistance: On Jan. 14, Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee announced that President Biden had designated 12 Tennessee counties, including Weakley, to receive FEMA’s Individual Assistance program through a Major Disaster Declaration for the deadly tornado outbreak on Dec. 10-11, 2021.

Other News

Gleason Board Approves Slum Ordinance: During the Feb. 21 meeting of the Gleason Mayor and Board of Alderman, members gave final approval for a new slum ordinance and authorized its immediate enforcement.

Trio of Weakley County Teams Headed to ‘Boro: (Mar. 9, 2022) — Three Weakley County teams earned their entry visas to the girls’ Elite Eight Basketball Tournament: Dresden and Gleason in Class A, Westview in 2A. It’s not the first time Weakley County has had multiple teams in the event, but it may be the first time three local teams reached state in the same year.

Dresden Ag Program Receives State Recognition: (Mar. 7) — At the TAAE mid-winter conference in Murfreesboro, Dresden was named the Outstanding Middle and Secondary Agriculture program of the year.

This qualified DHS to compete against winners in this award category from other states at the NAAE Region V Summer Conference held at Orange Beach, Alabama on Jun. 19-22. The winner declared from this round in Jun. will be the NAAE Region V winner and will go to Las Vegas, Nevada this fall.

The Dresden program is led by Jason Kemp, Jonathan Holden and Jessica Browning.

Sharon SRO Fulcher Celebrated as WC Neighbors Person of the Year: (Mar. 9) — Sharon School Resource Officer Steve Fulcher was pictured on the cover of the Weakley County Neighbors magazine for being named Weakley County Neighbors Person of the Year.

Weakley County Schools Director Randy Frazier Inducted into TSSAA Hall of Fame: (Apr. 2) — On Saturday in Murfreesboro, Weakley County Director of Schools Randy Frazier was inducted into the TSSAA Hall of Fame. Frazier led the Gleason Lady Bulldogs to three state championships while serving as a basketball coach for 20 years in Gleason.

Weakley Countian of the Year - Faron Collins: (Apr. 19) — During the Weakley County Chamber of Commerce Annual Awards Banquet at the Boling University Center Duncan Ballroom on campus on the University of Tennessee at Martin, Faron Collins was named Weakley Countian of the Year.

Iris Festival Citizen of the Year 2022: Sandra Taylor, Director of Be The Village, was named Iris Festival Citizen of the Year 2022.

Holt Earns State Dept. of Ag Role: (May 2) — With a strong background in and commitment to the agriculture industry, Andy Holt has been appointed Assistant Commissioner for the Business Development Division at the Tennessee Department of Agriculture and special advisor to the Commissioner.

Dresden FFA Claims Regional Title in State Hunger Challenge: (May 4) — Matt Simcox, manager of Hunters for the Hungry, a program of the Tennessee Wildlife Federation, recently traveled from his headquarters in Nashville to recognize the Dresden High School FFA as the Region 1 champion in the annual Hunger Challenge. The Dresden students, supervised by teacher Jonathan Holden, volunteered 1,100 hours; raised $500 in donations; and secured 13 deer for processing to claim the regional recognition.

County Commission Approves Internet Project Funds: (May 16) — The Weakley County Commission approved a resolution funding the installation of high-speed broadband internet service at various Weakley County locations as part of a grant agreement.

The goal of the countywide broadband high-speed internet project is to make sure that education, health care, economic development, and quality of life in rural areas, will no longer be negatively impacted by the lack of fiber infrastructure.

John Luthi Named Ozark Region Coach of the Year: (Jun. 15) — The Ozark Region selected John Luthi as its 2021-22 Coach of the Year. Luthi has guided the Skyhawk cowboys to eight top-10 CNFR team finishes since 2005, including the program’s first-ever national championship in 2014.

County Jail to Be Renovated: (Jun. 23) — The Weakley County Commission voted in favor of moving forward with a $5.2 million renovation project at the Weakley County Detention Center. In order to fund the replacement of the badly leaking roof and prevent damage to the interior of the building, as well as to replace old and failing HVAC units.

See next week's edition for Part II of this story, out Thursday, January 12.

Oglesby-Townes Appointed Director of Northwest Tennessee Economic Development Council: (Jul. 1) — The governing body of a local organization assisting community members with energy bills, affordable food and head start made history last week when it announced the first African-American female would be leading the program.

The Board of Directors of Northwest Tennessee Economic Development Council recently appointed Cheryl Oglesby-Townes as the Executive Director of Northwest Tennessee Economic Development Council located in Dresden.

Northwest TN Economic Development Council is the local Community Action Agency in Northwest Tennessee, serving the counties of Benton, Carroll, Crockett, Dyer, Gibson, Henry, Lake, Obion and Weakley counties.

August 4 Election Day Results: In contested races, Colin Johnson was elected District Attorney General for the 27th District; Courtney McMinn won the race for County Circuit Clerk; and WCSD Capt. Terry McDade was elected Weakley County Sheriff.

There was only one District in the Weakley County Commission that saw a contested race. In District 2, representing the Gleason area, Wade Cook and Marcus Hopper claimed the two commissioner seats.

Newly-elected 27th Judicial District Public Defender Bill Randolph will assume the position held by Joe Atnip, who announced his retirement.

Sharon Hires Police Chief: The search for a new police chief for the City of Sharon is over after board members approved the hiring of Mark Kimsey, who will assume the position on Aug. 15. He fills the hole after John Andrews moved out of the position a couple of months ago.

Public Defender Joe Atnip Retires after 32 Years: (Aug. 9) — Public Defender Joseph “Joe” Atnip, 67, of Greenfield, who decided not to seek another term of office, says he’s looking forward to retiring and enjoying the country life with his family. After being elected public defender representing the 27th Judicial District in 1990, Atnip served four consecutive eight-year terms. He has the distinction of being the first attorney elected district public defender for Weakley and Obion counties.

Weekly Print Day For Enterprise Moves to Thursday: It wasn’t an easy decision, but the management and team of the Dresden Enterprise newspaper has opted to adjust its distribution day to Thursdays of every week. This change will take effect Aug. 18.

Brundige Named Mayor of the Year: (Aug. 17) — Martin Mayor Randy Brundige has been named the 2022 Mayor of the Year by the Tennessee Municipal League at its 82nd Annual Conference in Gatlinburg.

Dresden Receives Municipal League Award for Excellence in Fire Services: When fatal multi-state tornados struck Tennessee on Dec. 10, 2021, the city of Dresden was one of many communities left devastated by the storms, losing its city hall, police department, and fire department while still needing to provide services and aid in rescue efforts for citizens.

The Dresden Fire Department has continued to protect and serve their community, while dealing with their own loss. For their efforts, the Tennessee Municipal League presented Dresden with an award for Excellence in Fire Services.

Introducing Myself (Dresden Enterprise’s New Editor): In case you’re wondering who the heck I am, let me take a moment to introduce myself. My name is Ron Park, and as of Aug. 11, I became the new editor of the Dresden Enterprise. Former editor, Sabrina Bates, has taken a position as Magic Valley Publishing’s regional news editor, and our mutual boss, Daniel Richardson, offered me Sabrina’s spot – and, after some deliberation, I took him up on that offer.

Clerk & Master Regina VanCleave Lauded for Exemplary Leadership: (Aug. 24) — Weakley County Clerk & Master Regina VanCleave has recently received overwhelming commendation for her service as an exemplary President of the Tennessee Association of Property Tax Professionals (TAPTP) Conference.

Mayor Bynum Appointed to Chair Regional Advisory Council: Delta Regional Authority (DRA) recently announced Jake Bynum has been appointed as 2022-2023 Chairman of the Delta Leadership Network (DLN) Regional Advisory Council. Bynum, a 2017 graduate of DRA’s Delta Leadership Institute (DLI) Executive Academy, was appointed by DRA Federal Co-Chairman Dr. Corey Wiggins to lead DLI’s alumni network.

Dresden Resident Receives Blessing of a Home: When the tornado hit Dresden on Dec. 10, 2021, many people became unable to stay at their own properties, due to damage. Cathy Gallimore was one of those people. Her house was damaged beyond repair and without home insurance, leaving her with few options for rebuilding. That was where God’s Pit Crew stepped in. In just three weeks, these volunteers worked day and night building a new home for Cathy at the corner of Main and Cedar Street in Dresden.

Greenfield Guardsman Relinquishes Command During Military Ceremony: The Tennessee National Guard’s 194th Engineer Brigade performed a change of command ceremony at the National Guard Armory in Jackson on Aug. 7.

Col. Michael “Trent” Scates of Greenfield, outgoing commander of the 194th Engineer Brigade, relinquished command to Col. John “Corey” Kinton, who at that time was serving as the Director of Military Support for the Tennessee National Guard.

Col. Scates moved to Joint Force Headquarters in Nashville, where he serves as the Joint Director of Military

Support (JDOMS) for Domestic Operations.

Sheriff Mike Wilson Retires After 46 Years: (Sep. 7) — Retired Weakley County Sheriff Mike Wilson, who has the distinction of being Tennessee’s longest serving sheriff, was honored during a retirement reception held to congratulate him and wish him the best in the future.

After a 46-year career in law enforcement, Wilson, 68, said, “Where I’m at in life right now, I’m ready to go; but at the same time, I hate to go.”

Martin First in State for TVA Fast-Charging Partnership: The City of Martin has added another service to the region, after a ribbon-cutting of an electric-vehicle charging station in the city hall parking lot.

The two “fast” chargers are the first in the state installed through a partnership with Tennessee Valley Authority. Leading that partnership are the Weakley County Municipal Electric System, the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation and Seven Sisters Power Corp. for the pilot program.

County Officials Recognized by Legislative Body: Weakley County Clerk and Master Regina VanCleave and County Veteran Service Officer Ricky Cobb were recognized by County Mayor Jake Bynum and county commissioners during the Sept. 20 meeting of the Weakley County Legislative Body.

As Bynum pointed out, VanCleave recently received a professional commendation for her service as an exemplary president of the Tennessee Association of Property Tax Professionals (TAPTP) at TAPTP’s 2022 conference in Rutherford County.

Bynum said that Cobb, who has served in his position since May of 2020, is one of the best Veteran Service Officers he has ever worked with, and he also cited Cobb’s 23-year service in the Tennessee Army National Guard, including a deployment in Iraq, as well as his extensive career in law enforcement, from which he retired as Sharon’s police chief earlier this year.

$12.3M Grant to Expand Broadband Coverage in Weakley County: For residents still without access to broadband internet service, funding has been made available and plans are being laid to remedy that situation.

State and local officials, West Kentucky & Tennessee Telecommunications Cooperative, Inc. CEO Trevor Bonnstetter, and several others, gathered at the corner of Greenfield Hwy 54 and Lower Sharon Road on Sep. 22 to announce WK&T has been awarded a $12.3 million grant from the Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development under its Tennessee Emergency Broadband Fund – American Rescue Plan, for the purpose of expanding fiber broadband internet service in Weakley County.

Local Guardsmen, Volunteers Assist in Hurricane Relief Efforts: Local citizen soldiers were among roughly 1,200 troops from the Tennessee National Guard that departed from multiple locations across Tennessee on Sept. 29 to support response and recovery efforts in Florida, following the landfall of Hurricane Ian.

Civilian volunteers also joined with emergency response agencies from across Tennessee and several other states in providing hurricane relief efforts in Florida in the aftermath of Hurricane Ian, which is described as the strongest storm to impact that state in over 100 years.

Doug Wheaton of the Latham-Dukedom F.D. is one of a number of Weakley County residents helping out with hurricane relief efforts in Florida in the aftermath of Hurricane Ian.

The Weakley County Baptist Association Disaster Relief Team is one of the local organizations sending volunteers and supplies to the Sunshine State.

Dresden Mayoral Candidates Answer Citizens’ Questions at Mayoral Forum: Candidates running for Dresden mayor participated in a mayoral forum on Oct. 8, at the Dresden Senior Citizens Center, moderated by Paul Tinkle. The candidates were incumbent Mayor Jeff Washburn, Brandi George, Mark Maddox, Lyndal Dilday, and Mike Vernon.

Green Light Given for Municipal Complex Plans: On Oct. 11, members of Dresden’s Board of Mayor and Aldermen approved the basic interior design and the footprint of a municipal complex to house a new city hall, police department and fire department, which were destroyed in the Dec. 10, 2021 tornado.

$646,312 in Funding Accepted for Sewer Rehab: The Gleason Board approved a resolution and transfer letter, as required by the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation, in order to receive $646,312.49 in State TDEC funds for sewer rehab.

$120,000 Grant Awarded for Propane School Buses: (Nov. 3) — Weakley County Schools students will soon be riding on four new propane school buses, thanks to grant funds awarded to the district through the US Environmental Protection Agency Clean School Bus Program.

Gleason’s Ag Building Named for Edgar Lee Floyd: During the Nov. 1 meeting of the Weakley County School Board, members voted to name Gleason School’s Ag classroom the Edgar Lee Floyd Agriculture Shop, in recognition of Mr. Floyd’s many years of dedicated service.

Weakley County Election Results; New Mayors Picked in Dresden, Sharon: The final tallies are in for the 2022 midterm elections, and there were some close and hotly contested races.

The City of Dresden witnessed significant turnover with a new mayor and two new aldermen being selected. Newcomer Mark Maddox was chosen as Dresden mayor. In the contest for three Dresden aldermen seats, incumbent Gwin Anderson retained his seat; and newcomers Curtis Doran and Dale Hutcherson claimed the other two alderman seats. The remaining three aldermen seats, which won’t be on the ballot until Nov. of 2024, remain filled by aldermen Willie Parker, Ralph Cobb and Kenneth Moore.

The City of Sharon has a new mayor and two new aldermen. Newcomer Donna Stricklin was elected mayor; and newcomers Joe D. Jones and Monroe Ary secured the two available Sharon alderman seats.

Cpt. Marty Plunk Passes Away Over The Weekend; Local First Responders Say Goodbye to One of Their Own: The Weakley County Sheriff ’s Department reported the loss of one of their own — long-time team member Marty Plunk.

Plunk started his Sheriff ’s Department career on Nov. 11, 1999.

He died Nov. 12, Germantown, at the age of 52. Heart complications led to a lengthy hospital stay and eventually impacted other organs.

Downtown Improvement Grant: The City of Dresden was recently notified that it has been awarded a $100,000 Downtown Improvement Grant for improvements to building facades and outdoor public spaces. This is the maximum amount awarded to any one city in this year’s downtown improvement grant program.

Westview Students, Teachers Spotlighted on Today Show: (Dec. 8) — Westview High School is receiving national attention after a heartfelt video of students honoring their teachers was featured on NBC’s The TODAY Show.

The video highlights Westview High School teachers, as senior class students present them with Chargers jerseys as a gift for the positive impact made on their lives. Originally uploaded to TikTok via a Westview High School pep club account that is not affiliated with the school, the video currently has nearly eight million views and around 12,000 shares

Dresden Residents Reflect One Year After the Dec. 10 Tornado; Volunteers Heed the Call, Help Preserve Local History: On the fateful evening of Dec. 10, 2021, a massive storm system spawned 30 tornadoes in six states, leaving 89 people dead and damaging numerous homes and businesses. The event was later declared the deadliest system to hit the nation during the month of Dec. in U.S. history.

Two long-track tornadoes impacted parts of West Kentucky and Northwest Tennessee, with one of those causing damage to 25 Dresden businesses and more than 180 homes in Weakley County.

Nearly one-year later, residents and business owners in Dresden have managed to pick up the pieces, with some businesses already rebuilt and others still under construction.

The Dresden Enterprise, located at 113 S. Wilson Street in downtown Dresden took a direct hit to its storefront, which caused the roof to collapse and left the back of the business open to the elements. The newspaper office was a complete loss as a result of the tornado.

Members of the Weakley County Historical and Genealogical Society volunteered their time to the preservation of historical records in Weakley County.

The process to repair more than 60-plus bound archives of The Enterprise newspaper dating back to the late 1930s took 50-100 man-hours.

Martin Firefighter Honored for Saving Life: The City of Martin recognized the bravery and heroism of one of its own during the Dec. 12 city council meeting.

Firefighter and EMT Kris Adams was honored for the role he played in saving a man’s life following a traffic accident in Obion County.

As Martin Fire Chief Jamie Summers detailed, Adams was driving between Trenton and Union City on his way back from participating in paramedic training on Oct. 20 when he observed the vehicle in front of him run off the roadway and flip over on its side.

Seeing that the vehicle was starting to catch fire, Adams responded by pulling over, running over to the crashed vehicle, climbing on top of it, wrenching the door open, and pulling the driver to safety before the vehicle was engulfed in flames.

Avian Influenza Detected in Weakley County: (Dec. 22) — The Tennessee Department of Agriculture (TDA) launched a service to inform the public, after a new case of Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza (HPAI) was detected in Weakley County. The TDA is launching a service to keep bird owners informed of health threats to their flocks.

Cases of Respiratory Viruses on the Rise in Tennessee: Flu cases across Tennessee continue to rise in numbers. The Centers for Disease Control reported the percentage of patients visiting sentinel clinics in Tennessee with respiratory and flu-like illnesses was 11.9 percent last week. The CDC baseline is 3.1 percent.

Tennessee joined Kentucky, Ohio, Washington, District of Columbia, New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, New Mexico, Colorado and Nebraska with the highest number of cases of flu-type illnesses in the United States.

Gleason City Board Passes On-Premises Beer Consumption: On Dec. 19, the Gleason City Board approved an ordinance allowing on-premises beer consumption on a second and final reading, following a public hearing.

SNOW DAYS 2022 — As far as weather is concerned, the year ended the same way it began, with icy and snowy conditions accompanied by bone chilling temperatures. Nearly seven inches of snow blanketed Weakley County during the first week of January, causing government offices to close, along with countywide school closures. The latter part of December brought with it 2-3 inches of snow and sub-zero temperatures that resulted in frostbite warnings being issued.