As the teens come to an end and we enter the roaring ’20s, a question is dividing families and ending friendships. Is this year the beginning of a new decade or the last year of an old one?
I’ll let you figure that out for yourself. Let’s look back at some of the biggest stories in Monroe County over the last decade. I’m going to try and put these in chronological order, but even though I was there for pretty much all of them, the years are really starting to blend together.
The decade started off with a stunner when 20-year incumbent Democrat County Mayor Allan Watson was defeated by Republican Tim Yates, a candidate most people had never heard of, at least in the political sense. In retrospect it perhaps wasn’t that much of a surprise as Tennessee followed other southern states’ lead after the election of Obama as president and rejected the Democratic Party in an astounding way.
Tornadoes began to hit the area as the new teens were getting their footing. Tellico got hit particularly hard and there was a lot of damage, enough at one point for TEMA to come to the county.
The still unsolved killing of Jim Miller, a major player in the local Republican Party, shook the county as the 2010 election neared. A trial was held and a local woman was convicted of accessory to the killing, but not of the killing itself. The case is now considered a cold case and the district attorney’s office continues to say it is always working on it.
After surviving the anti-Democrat wave in the 2010 election, Democrat Sheriff Bill Bivens was defeated by Republican challenger Randy White in 2014. But this was just the beginning of trouble for White who was soon removed from the sheriff’s office after a judge ruled he was ineligible to run, not having met all requirements. Tommy Jones II was installed as sheriff by the county commission and has since won two elections to remain sheriff.
The troubles continued for White when it was announced the TBI was investigating accusations votes had been bought for his campaign in 2014. Two people eventually pled guilty to vote buying, including a former sheriff’s deputy, but there was never any proof that White knew about the vote buying.
Hiwassee College began a slow deterioration that ended with the school closing its doors after being in business since 1849.
The school had tried various fundraisers over the years, and even announced the building of a new library at one point, but ultimately couldn’t overcome a dwindling student population and mounting debt.
In another political surprise, Yates was challenged in his own primary in 2018 and lost to Mitch Ingram, who went on to cement Republican power in the county when he handily defeated his Democrat challenger.
But it wasn’t a complete Republican sweep as Democrat Martha “Marty” Cook continued to easily hold onto her position as Monroe County Circuit Court Clerk.
Perhaps the biggest story was the ongoing considering of, then building of, the new justice center that sits on New Highway 68 on the edge of Madisonville. The state had told the county it needed a new jail more than a decade earlier, but it took until 2016 for the project to fully get going, then two years for it to be built.
Some wanted only a new jail to be built, and for that jail to remain in the downtown area, but a complete justice center cost only a few million more and, since the courthouse became dangerously overcrowded on days when hearings were held, the decision was made on the $30 million structure.
As for myself, the biggest story of the decade was a nearly 30-year career coming to an end. There were other big things happened in my world during those 10 years, but nobody cares about them. What were your big stories?
What will be the big stories in the 2020s in Monroe County and will there be anybody to report on them by the time 2030 rolls around? Who knows? Predicting the future is a fool’s game.
I may or may not be around by then as my next 10 years are usually the years that age you a stunning amount.
But if I am, I’ll look you up and we can reminiscence.