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Making a mark in 2016

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Don Bandy
Mary McAuley
Chip Moore
Kendra Jackson

Making a mark in 2016

As the end of a year is often a time to reflect on a personal level, so too should we ask collectively how we all stacked up in 2016, and what can we do better in 2017.

Main Street Media of Tennessee, publishers of the Gallatin News, Hendersonville Standard and Portland Sun, took a look back and highlighted some of the year's top newsmakers - ones who made their communities - and Sumner County as a whole - a better place to live in 2016. Perhaps they'll inspire us all to be our best in 2017.

Gallatin Police Chief Don Bandy Sumner Countian of the Year

For a brief moment earlier this year, the city of Gallatin stepped into the national spotlight when in April one of its police officers fatally shot 40-year-old Laronda Sweatt as she lunged toward him with an ax.

That the spotlight didn't linger longer at a time when violence has erupted across the country after similar incidents, can be credited in large part to the actions of police chief Don Bandy. It is for this reason and many others that we have selected Don Bandy as Sumner Countian of the Year.

A 1985 graduate of Gallatin High School, Bandy first started his law enforcement career with the Sumner County Sheriff's Office in 1992. A Gallatin police officer since 2001, he was named chief of the department in 2011 following a national search.

Since that time, the lifelong Gallatin resident has worked hard to forge relationships between police and community groups while projecting an image of a caring, transparent department.

"They serve as much as protect in this community," said Gallatin Mayor Paige Brown. "Our entire police department is caring. That makes the difference between a good force and a great force and that culture starts with its leadership."

Bandy took a key step toward transparency when in 2015 he asked for the funding needed to equip officers with body cameras.

Following the fatal incident in April, he first offered to show what body and dash-cameras captured to Sweatt's family as well as key leaders of the African-American community. He then released it to the public.

"I thought it was a no-brainer," he said recently. "It's about being transparent. It's about being open. We're human and people need to see that."

Brown has known Bandy since the two attended Gallatin High School together.

"Everything he does is about making the community better," she said. "He set out to intentionally make relationships better with various sectors in the community - to have good dialogue and collaboration so that we're poised to navigate difficult circumstances.

"He knows that relationships are key."

A board member of the Tennessee Association of Chiefs of Police, Bandy's relationships and impact extend well beyond the borders of Gallatin.

"Criminals don't have jurisdictions," said Hendersonville Police Chief Mickey Miller. Miller adds that his Gallatin counterpart often fosters a sense of cooperation among his department and officers with other law enforcement agencies.

"He would do anything for us and it goes the other way," said Miller.

The two chiefs share the same philosophy when it comes to community policing.

"He realizes you can't do this job without the community," Miller added. "Law enforcement can't be an island, we have to have the community's help."

An only child whose parents divorced when he was five years old, Bandy says he only wants to give back to a community that has given him so much.

"This is more personal for me," he said. "The bottom line is I don't want to disappoint this community. This community is who I am."

-TENA LEE, tlee@mainstreetmediatn.com

Other newsmakers in 2016

'Chip' Moore turns around public works

Few departments at any city hall receive residents' wrath like its public works department. And rightly so. When issues like drainage and paving go unchecked, they not only threaten our safety, but can wreak havoc on our wallets as well.

When Chip Moore was handed the reigns of Hendersonville's public works department two-and-a-half years ago, he had more than the usual infrastructure issues to contend with.

Moore had spent more than a decade as the city's design engineer when he was named public works director in October of 2014. His promotion came after the firing of former Public Works Director Jerry Horton, and during a time in which nearly a dozen seasoned staff members had left the department.

Moore immediately went to work rebuilding a department left in disarray. He has not only improved morale within the department, but has also implemented innovative ways to save the city money.

"He has brought that department from virtually on the brink of catastrophe to being one of the hardest working in the city," said Public Works Committee Chairman Mark Skidmore.

Within the last year, Moore has designed and built a new salt barn for the city, saving more than $100,000 compared to previous bids; received grants for brush removal and new LED lighting for City Hall; initiated a citywide mulching program in which landscaping companies pay the city for premium mulch. He is currently implementing a computerized pavement management system for the city's roadways, overseeing a citywide traffic signalization plan and overhauling how the city handles drainage projects.

The Sumner County Council of Governments has also recognized Moore's efforts - recently naming him the 2016 Municipal Public Servant of the Year.

-TENA LEE, tlee@mainstreetmediatn.com

Mary's Magical Place closer to reality

Mary McAuley's brief physical life may have ended in September of 2015, but her indomitable spirit continued to inspire dozens of community, business and school groups in 2016.

Confined to a wheelchair and unable to speak, McAuley suffered from Cerebral Palsy, Epilepsy and Scoliosis. Still, the 14-year-old Hendersonville girl is remembered best for her broad, contagious smile.

To honor that memory, Mary's friends, neighbors and family announced plans earlier this year to build Mary's Magical Place, an all-inclusive playground for children of all abilities and disabilities.

The city of Hendersonville officially designated land in Veterans Park for the $500,000 grass roots project in November.

From pre-school to high school fundraisers, to the inaugural Hendersonville Half-Marathon by the Hendersonville Rotary Club and the Junior Service League's Mr. Sumner County Pageant, the project has brought dozens of community and business groups together for one common goal: to make life a little better for the families of special needs children and adults.

Once completed, organizers hope the playground will draw families from across Middle Tennessee.

"If the community backs this project, this could be one of the best all-inclusive, handicap accessible playgrounds in the country," said Alderman Peg Petrelli.

With fundraising efforts in full swing and expected to continue through much of 2017, Mary's brief life will likely inspire and impact others for years to come.

For more information about Mary's Magical Place go to marysmagicalplace.org.

-TENA LEE, tlee@mainstreetmediatn.com

Kendra Jackson beats cancer

The girls' basketball coach at Station Camp High School returned to the sidelines this year after battling a rare form of cancer.

First diagnosed in 2012, Jackson underwent a stem cell transplant in 2015 thanks to the generosity and love of her sister Christina. Unlike her playing and coaching career, Jackson's chances of defeating the deadly disease weren't exactly in her favor.

However, now the chances of winning a game against her team are slim.

With the squad returning to her style of pressing and running, she has put her stamp back on the team and they have only lost two games this year. Just last week, they won the Smoky Mountain Classic in Gatlinburg.

-JOSH NELSON, jnelson@mainstreetmediatn.com

Gallatin Square becomes an attraction

The square in Gallatin has seen a revitalization this year like it has not seen in a long time, often drawing visitors from across the county who might otherwise go to Nashville.

For years, businesses such as Govan's and Amber Leaf have had to adjust to survive. However, with the openings of Swaney Swift's, Crescent City Poboy's, Velvet Antler, Town Square Creamery, and Southern Gypsies, the square is a bustling place of activity nearly every day and night of the week.

In fact, the square has become an attraction, with businesses now thriving just off the center of downtown: Prince Street Pizza, Starr Ranch, Tennessee Honey, Chubb's, and Pristine Pup, just to name a few.

-JOSH NELSON, jnelson@mainstreetmediatn.com

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