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Gardner announces campaign for public defender

Shelley Thompson Gardner, currently the Public Defender for the 15th Judicial District, has announced her campaign for this year’s election.

Gardner was born and raised in Wilson County, graduating from Lebanon High School in the top 10%. She then went on to graduate from Cumberland University with honors and earned her Doctorate of Jurisprudence from the Nashville School of Law.

Gardner has been at the 15th Judicial District Public Defenders Office for the past 18 years. In November of 2018, her former boss, Comer Donnell, retired and she was appointed by then-Governor Bill Haslam to fulfill his role as Public Defender. She also currently serves as the Secretary/Treasurer for the Public Defenders Conference for the State of Tennessee. 

The 15th Judicial District consists of five counties:  Jackson, Macon, Smith, Trousdale and Wilson. Her office covers criminal cases in all five counties in Juvenile, General Sessions and Circuit/Criminal Courts. In her 18 years as an Assistant Public Defender and now the Public Defender, she has handled well over 15,000 cases and has been in court in all five counties. She works on a daily basis with the Judges, District Attorney’s Office, Probation Officers, Law Enforcement and other attorneys.

 She helped with the installation of the Wilson County Teen Court Program and sat as a special judge for this program. She has worked with the 15th Judicial District Drug Court Program since 2002 and received the Judge J.O. Bond Memorial Achievement Award on behalf of the Drug Court Program in 2018. 

Gardner is a member of the 15th Judicial District BAR Association, TACDL (Tennessee Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers), NACDL (National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers), the Lebanon/Wilson County Chamber of Commerce and a member and past president of Wilson ONE. She sits on the Board of Directors for the Wilson County Fair, the Lebanon Breakfast Rotary, CASA (president-elect for 2021), Cumberland University Alumni, and the Board of Trustees for Lebanon First United Methodist Church.

She received recognition for being Woman of Wilson in 2015, the Community Champion Award from CASA in 2019 and Woman of Excellence from the Lebanon/Wilson County Chamber in 2019. She is a 2017 graduate of Leadership Wilson and is honored to get to speak to the group on Public Safety and Court Day.

She has been married to Joe Gardner for 18 years, and they have two sons, ages 11 and 14. They are members of the Lebanon First United Methodist Church.  They are a huge sports family but love football the most.  Her husband helps coach football at Walter J. Baird Middle School and he is also part of the Lebanon Blue Devil Radio broadcast for Lebanon High School football games.  Her in-laws, Glenn and Marilyn Gardner, owned Dick’s Foodmart in Wilson County for over 40 years.  Her grandfather, Sam Crowder Brewington, was a constable for Wilson County for many years.  She and her family love and have been involved in the community for generations. 

“Continuing to serve my community and the 15th District is what I want to do,” said Gardner. “I know I have the experience and values to continue my role as the Public Defender for the 15th District. A role that Governor Haslam had the confidence to place me in. I ask that you please get out and vote for Shelley Thompson Gardner and keep me as your Public Defender for the 15th Judicial District in this year’s election.”

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