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West Elementary finds their groove at Dancing With The Principals
Wednesday, October 7, 2015

The Wilson County principals hit the dance floor Thursday night, and for good reason.

The first Dancing with the Principals competition was held at Charlie Daniels Park and was put together by local business, Triple Threat Talent Studio. 

The event enlisted 11 principals and vice principals from six different Wilson County elementary schools to compete as a fundraiser for their schools.

The principals from Elzie Patton Elementary School, West Elementary School, Lakeview Elementary School, W.A. Wright Elementary School, and Gladeville Elementary School worked for several weeks in order to perfect their dance routines. 

The schools’ PTO programs sold wristbands for $3 to the public. The fans were then able to participate in a vote alongside the judges to determine the winner, and each school got to keep the proceeds from the wristbands.

West Elementary school principal Chris Plummer was the winner and took home a mini mirror ball trophy. West Elementary was also award the special grand prize, which was a donation to the school’s bullying prevention program.

Solar cookers, from Mt. Juliet to Africa
Wednesday, October 7, 2015

For a group of women living in a remote village of Zimbabwe, Africa, life will soon become a little easier.  Mt Juliet resident Paul Van Buren will travel to Africa this month, taking with him solar cookers that will allow the women, who are infected with HIV/Aids, to cook without firewood, adapt to a changing environment and learn to live more positively.

After taking several solar cookers to Zimbabwe that didn’t catch on or hold up, Van Buren, a member of the Mt Juliet Breakfast Rotary Club, spoke with fellow Rotarian Roger Haines from a San Diego club. Haines has developed a solar cooker appropriate for Africa. “It has a high heating point,” he says, “The price is reasonable and it can be recycled without pollution.” 

“Interestingly it’s not the sun’s heat that cooks,” Van Buren explained, “A solar cooker lets the UV light rays in and then converts them to longer infrared light rays that cannot escape. Infrared radiation has the right energy to make the water, fat and protein molecules in food vibrate vigorously and heat up. In combination with a black pot and a plastic sleeve that holds in the energy, one can boil water within an hour.

Van Buren will take several of the cookers to Zimbabwe, including 16 purchased by the Mt Juliet Breakfast Rotary Club. In addition, the club provided money for the purchase of 26 health care kits used by home based care volunteers in Zimbabwe to care for HIV/AIDS patients.

It’s not the first journey to Africa for the local humanitarian. Since1989 when he became involved in establishing a college of agriculture, he has made more than 35 trips to the country working on a variety of projects to make a better life for the African people.  But Van Buren who describes himself as “over the hill” says this will definitely be his last. 

You can learn more about the solar cooker at 

Citizen helps MJPD catch wanted suspect
Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Staff Reports

A Mt. Juliet resident and his dog held a theft suspect at gunpoint until police arrived to make the arrest Thursday evening.

James T. Handy, 36, of Lebanon allegedly stole a hat and sunglasses worth $37 from Walmart in Mt. Juliet. An officer chased Handy, who ran into woods near the Triple Crown subdivision and Pleasant Grove Road.

Police, who discovered Handy was wanted on other charges in Texas and three Tennessee counties, set up a perimeter and sent notifications through the Nixle alert system about the active search.

Handy was seen running into the neighborhood and went into the backyard of a resident who then held the suspect at gunpoint until officers arrived, according to the Mt. Juliet Police Department.

The resident who held Handy at gunpoint didn’t want to be identified, but said he was aware of the pursuit from social media. He checked the backyard area and his trained hunting dog let him know someone was in the woods.

When Handy entered the backyard, the resident kept him at bay with the dog until police arrived an estimated 20 seconds later.

“Once officers arrived, the helpful citizen was extremely compliant and dropped his handgun so he didn’t appear as a threat to officers,” Mt. Juliet Police Department Lt. Tyler Chandler said.

Chandler credited citizens for providing “extra eyes” from the alerts as the pursuit unfolded with calls being made to police dispatchers.

Handy is charged with theft, resisting arrest, and evading arrest.

He was also wanted in Texas for larceny and had separate outstanding charges in Wilson, Smith and Jackson counties, police said. He was booked into the Wilson County Jail Thursday evening.

65 years and counting of banking for CedarStone’s BDO, Willie McDonald
Tuesday, September 22, 2015

 Staff Reports

Middle Tennessee has experienced incredible economic growth over the past five years. Just imagine how much it’s grown over the past 65 years. 

One man – and perhaps only one man -- can tell you. William “Willie” McDonald is celebrating his 65th consecutive year in the Middle Tennessee banking industry, the last 11 of those years as Business Development Officer for CedarStone Bank, the bank founded by his son, Bob.   

“It’s an honor to continue to work alongside my father,” Bob McDonald said. “Willie is a banking legend in this state. And the relationships he has cultivated and nurtured over the past 65 years have helped CedarStone grow into a bank that our customers know and trust.”   

Robert L. McDonald, Jr., Willie McDonald and Bob McDonald  

Willie McDonald launched his banking career in Nashville in 1950 with Third National Bank, which later became SunTrust. He worked for Third National and SunTrust for 53 years, then had a brief stint at Regions Bank before coming to CedarStone when the bank opened its doors in 2004. 

“I watched Third National grow in the 1950s so it’s been exciting with CedarStone to again be part of something at the very start and watch it grow,” McDonald said. 

Last year McDonald was selected by the Tennessee Bankers Association for its Leadership in Banking Excellence Award. The award, which recognizes exceptional bankers throughout the state’s history, includes a permanent display in the TBA headquarters building. McDonald has twice been named the Donelson-Hermitage Chamber of Commerce Business Man of the Year and in 2010, he received a proclamation from the Tennessee House of Representatives as the Honorary “Mayor of Donelson.” 

The accolades are nice but what keeps McDonald coming back to his office every morning is the opportunity to help people and foster relationships that are long lasting. 

“I always open a conversation by asking ‘Who’s your banker?’” McDonald said. “And I would say 80 percent of the people I ask tell me they don’t have a personal contact at their bank. 

“So developing relationships is the key. Oftentimes our customers need somebody to listen to them and give counsel or advice. We not only talk about finances but we talk about life. We can be a sounding board that they know and trust.” 

McDonald’s grandson, Robert L. McDonald, Jr., serves as CedarStone’s Relationship Manager in its Donelson office, giving the family three generations of Middle Tennessee bankers. 

“From my grandfather I learned the value of customer service and building long-lasting relationships,” Robert McDonald said. “It’s an honor to follow in his footsteps -- and my father’s footsteps -- and both of them inspire me to work harder every day.” 

Willie McDonald has not only helped hundreds of businesses with their financial needs but also mentored dozens of bankers over the years, including CedarStone Executive Vice President Hank Stuart, whose first job in banking was under McDonald at Third National. 

“I am grateful for all that he has taught me,” Stuart said. “He continues to outwork us all and like I have always said, ‘Willie works by walking around.’” 

Indeed, customers can still find McDonald walking around, whether it’s in the bank lobby, in customers’ offices or at community gatherings around the area. And McDonald is thrilled to take part in CedarStone’s latest venture, a new, state-of-the-art branch location in Donelson. 

“It’s still exciting to watch a new branch open its doors for its customers,” he said. “Banking has changed in a lot of ways in 65 years but, in some ways, it hasn’t. You have to keep up with technology or it’s going to go off and leave you. But that doesn’t mean you lose the personal relationship that so many of your customers are accustomed to. 

“I’m proud to be a banker. And I’m proud to call Middle Tennessee my home.” 


McDonald, who was born in Monterey, moved to Nashville in 1938. He and his wife, Helen, have been married 62 years and have two sons (Bob and Bill), five grandchildren and two great grandchildren. 

John Dewaal resigns as Wilson County stormwater director
Tuesday, September 22, 2015

John Dewaal was named Wilson County storm director in August of 2011. Last week, he stepped down from his post due to personal reasons, according to Wilson County Mayor Randall Hutto. 

The mayor said that the decision was not a complete surprise, and that both he and Dewaal are completely understanding of the situation. 

Hutto did not waste much time naming James Vaden as the new interim Stormwater director. Vaden has spent the last three years as the assistant for Dewaal. “The next time the board meets I will ask them if they want me to open up the position to the pubilc or if they would like me to promote from within and possibly keep Vaden on as director.” said Hutto.

Hutto continued, “We have already had several inquiries about the position so I do believe there’s a chance that we could have a pretty good pool of candidates.”

The next board of commissioners meeting for the county will be Friday, Oct. 2 at 9 p.m. in the road commission office. 

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