District 2 and Commissioner Chris Jackson

We are blessed in Lawrence County to have great opportunities for recreation, and the new swimming pool at Loretto’s city park – Burke Park – is a prime example.

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IMG_1983District 2 Commissioner Chris Jackson says the pool, set to open just days from now, will enhance the quality of life in and around his hometown. It features heated water, a splash pad, and separation between deep and shallow areas. Lanes for laps are marked off in the deeper water, and each side includes a basketball goal for more water-based fun. Grants from the state of Tennessee helped fund this state-of-the-art, “green” facility.

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Longtime major league pitcher David Weathers

A master plan for Loretto’s park system calls for more improvements, and other relatively recent projects have already made a difference. The David Weathers Foundation funded a new playground and partnered with the Loretto Lions Club to develop a basketball court there.

 

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Weathers is a native of the Liberty Grove community (also in District 2) who chose to return with his family to south Lawrence County following his retirement from major league baseball. Jackson called Weathers “a model citizen” and is glad to say that Grammy-winning singer/songwriter John Paul White also grew up in District 2, next door to his parents.

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Loretto native John Paul White

Jackson has been a member of the Loretto Lions Club ten years, and now serves as vice-president. He’s justifiably proud of the club’s contributions to the community: the Lions apartment complex has 32 units for low-income and disabled residents. The club bought Loretto High School band’s first uniforms and repeated the gesture six years ago. Lions donated land for Loretto’s new sports complex, located behind South Lawrence Elementary, and helped establish the city park and its original swimming pool.

The state of Alabama recently announced plans to complete the four-laning of Highway 43 to the Tennessee state line, meeting the highway widening project that is finished through Lawrence County. Jackson believes the new Alabama connection will bring more commerce to Loretto. Economic development – creating good jobs for a younger generation – is a top priority for him.

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Diverse Fabrications is just one industry providing jobs in Loretto.

“It’s one of the reasons I ran for office in the first place, so that people can stay in Lawrence County. A good portion of people my age have moved away.” Loretto Mayor Jesse Turner is another who has not, and he has helped forge progressive policies for an area steeped in tradition.

Both sides of Jackson’s family have been in the Loretto area for generations. He grew up near Bluewater Creek, and his parents still live beside it. District 2 is full of scenic places: from Beartown Road at its western border; Shackelford and Highway 43 at the northernmost point; and Second Creek Road along its most eastern side, to the state line.

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A view of Bluewater Creek

“Just take any side road,” he said. “I’d really recommend a drive down Lexington Highway (State Route 227) in the fall. Take it from Loretto to the Alabama line.”

 

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A country road is waiting for you in Lawrence County’s District 2.

Jackson lives about 500 feet outside the city limits of Loretto with Kailea, his wife of three years, who is an accountant at TPR Federal-Mogul Tennessee, Inc. They share their home with four dogs and one cat: pets have always been important in his life, and he hopes very much to see something done to benefit them on a county-wide basis.

 

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Kailea and Chris Jackson

A top priority is new high schools for both Summertown and Loretto, and implementation of a middle school system throughout the county. “My goal is for kids to have the same opportunities no matter where they live in the county,” he said.

Jackson was encouraged by several constituents to run for the Commission seat vacated with the retirement of Spanky Green, who spent 32 years in office. He won, and in 2006 was the youngest County Commissioner in the state at 19.

The current County Commission includes “lots of new faces,” a younger and more progressive group overall. Jackson is still among the youngest, but speaks with the experience of ten years on the board. “I’ve learned you can’t always get what you want. You have to work with people and compromise and find common ground.”

Jackson was hired by the Sheriff’s Department seven years ago while he was still a college student at UNA. He graduated with a B.S. in Political Science and a minor in Criminal Justice, and his job evolved from payroll duties to include other financial tasks, in-house IT (Information Technology) and public relations.12898272_1170666072944995_2751163804243106112_o

“I’m proud to work there,” he said. “Our department has moved in a good direction. We have SROs (Student Resource Officers) in every school, and body cameras for all our officers. There are communities much larger than ours that don’t have those things.”

As a county employee, Jackson abstains from votes on the commission that affect that group, issues like pay raises and insurance coverage. “I always try to separate being a county employee from being a county commissioner,” he said. “But I think it helps me as a commissioner to have more insight into the issues that county employees face day to day.”

Jackson has already spent a considerable amount of time in office, but his enthusiasm for it hasn’t waned. “Serving the people of Lawrence County has been a true honor and I hope to be able to continue to serve in the years ahead to build on progress of the past few years and to move our county forward for all citizens.”District 2

Meet District 1 Commissioner Wayne Yocom

Wayne Yocom, center, presents Loretto High School band director Darrell Boston a plaque honoring his recognition as one of "50 Directors Who Make a Difference" by School Band and Orchestra magazine.
Wayne Yocom, center, presents Loretto High School band director Darrell Boston a plaque honoring his recognition as one of “50 Directors Who Make a Difference” by School Band and Orchestra magazine. Commissioners honored him at their March 22 meeting. Pictured with Yocom, from far left, are County Commissioner Chris Jackson, Boston, and County Commissioners Shane Eaton and Bert Spearman. From the Lawrence County Advocate

Yocom was employed with the City of Loretto at 21 and “did whatever they needed me to do” for ten years. He spent the next 30 years working for the State Department of Transportation at Lawrenceburg, advancing to District Maintenance Superintendent before he retired almost three years ago.

His wife Pat has been a longtime mail carrier and recently transferred from the St. Joseph post office to Iron City’s. They have lived in their Rigling Road home outside Loretto for 30 years, and will celebrate their 41st anniversary in September. His best-ever answer to the question of how to have a successful marriage?  “A good wife.”

Wayne has also been dedicated to his district for many years. In 2018 he will finish his sixth term, totaling 24 years.  From his first term, he enjoyed learning about local government and the areas fellow Commissioners represent. “I love being involved in the community,” he says. “As part of the Commission, I feel that I can help the whole county.”

Yocom joins a group of other shade tree musicians at the Summertown Bluegrass Reunion.
Yocom joins a group of other shade tree musicians at the Summertown Bluegrass Reunion.

Another passion is music. He got a guitar for Christmas as a nine-year-old, and built skills from the chords his dad taught him. He still loves the guitar but discovered his favorite instrument at 35: the fiddle.

By chance, he and a friend attending the Summertown Bluegrass Reunion decided to leave the event by a path different from the one they’d arrived on. It took him past John Love, a musician playing “the prettiest fiddle music I’ve ever heard.”

He was hooked, and now lends his own fiddle music to the shade tree concerts at Summertown and other places musicians gather. He is one of several who meet almost every Sunday afternoon in the Appleton community and Saturday nights at Sue’s Pickin’ Parlor in Ethridge. All are informal, and the latter also features a potluck meal.

Wayne is also a songwriter, but pens and performs them only for himself and his friends. Music is pure pleasure, something that’s never demanding but always challenging. “I will never master the fiddle,” he says with a smile.

County Commission District 1, Part II

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Dachshunds take the field in annual races at Oktoberfest in Loretto.

District 1 is the home of traditions that are part of the fabric of the county.

Oktoberfest is a week full of activities organized by volunteers that celebrates the area’s German heritage. Loretto’s Sacred Heart Catholic Church hosts a day-long Fourth of July picnic that is over 100 years old.

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Patriotic faces shine at the Loretto Sacred Heart Fourth of July picnic, an event over 100 years old.

Loretto also pays homage to veterans with a Memorial Day parade and program and a new Veterans’ Park downtown. St. Joseph’s Christmas parade draws participants and spectators from Lawrence County and North Alabama.

Monuments that are part of Loretto's Veterans Park recognize every American battle from the French & Indian War to Iraqi Freedom.
Monuments that are part of Loretto’s Veterans Park recognize every American battle from the French & Indian War to Iraqi Freedom.

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Memorial bricks at Loretto Veterans Park offer a way for residents to honor the veterans in their lives. For information about buying one, call Harley Simbeck at 853-4064.

There are signs of progress everywhere. The four-laning of Highway 43 to the state line is still a relatively new improvement that brings the promise of more industry and commerce.

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A sign at Loretto’s new sports complex honors south Lawrence native David Weathers, who grew up playing baseball here then spent a long, successful career as a major league pitcher. Weathers and his wife Kelli (Davis) returned to live and raise their family in Lawrence County.

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A new Loretto sports complex with baseball and softball fields recently hosted the state’s Dixie Youth baseball tournament and organizers left saying they want to come back.

A new heated swimming pool and splash pad are days away from opening. Loretto was recently awarded state grants totaling $470,000 to improve its downtown area and sidewalk system. You can learn more about them in this article from the Times Daily:

http://www.timesdaily.com/news/local/loretto-receives-more-than-in-grants-for-downtown-improvements/article_ad5b17f2-d9b5-510e-8764-9614bc409827.html

What’s in a County Commission District? Here’s 1

We are blessed in Lawrence County with natural beauty and small-town appeal, and both are part of County Commission District 1.

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Loretto was founded by German Catholic settlers who established Sacred Heart Catholic churches in Lawrenceburg and Loretto (pictured). Sacred Heart Church and School continue to be vital parts of the Loretto community.

The district includes the incorporated cities of Loretto and St. Joseph along with areas east and west of them, respectively. A network of streams covers the district: Branches with “first names” including Clax, Yeager, Stillhouse, Caney, Big, and Ricketts. Little Bluewater Creek is part of St. Joseph’s eastern boundary, and it flows into Bluewater Creek, which is known for being clear, pure and scenic.

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Church leaders went on from Loretto to establish the St. Joseph Catholic Church, which is the only consecrated church in the state of Tennessee.

 

County Commissioner Wayne Yocom considers that creek and the opportunity to swim, play and fish in it a great blessing to the people in his district. He and his parents grew up in the area. His grandfather’s farm was bordered by Bluewater, and one of the bridges over it was once called “Yocom’s Ford.”
commissioner wayne yocomWayne also counts family and friends as blessings. Some date back to his years at St. Joseph Elementary. His four children attended South Lawrence, and graduated Loretto High School as he did in 1974.

At left: County Commissioner Wayne Yocom, who represents  District 1. Learn more about him and the district in upcoming posts.

District 1