MT. JULIET -- The theme of County Mayor Randall Hutto’s State of the County address Wednesday was that Wilson County is a great place to live and do business.
What makes that true are three things – education, public safety and livability – Hutto said, speaking at the July luncheon meeting of the Mt. Juliet-West Wilson County Chamber of Commerce.
But Hutto started out by saying the Mt. Juliet Chamber naming him Wilsonian of the Year 2013 was a true honor.
He said he feels good about the honor because, even though he doesn’t live in Mt. Juliet, it makes him feel the community accepts him. (Hutto was raised in Watertown and now lives in Lebanon.)
Hutto also talked about the school system “getting all A’s on its report card.” With a 95 percent graduation rate and ACT scores in the top 25 percent of the state, the schools are doing well, Hutto said. Plans are being implemented to “put a computer in the hands of all of our students by 2017,” he added.
The schools are buying computers for use in all grades, Hutto said. “This has two advantages,” he said. “Learning can be 24/7, and we can free-up computer labs for use as classrooms.”
Hutto said Cumberland University is an important asset for county students, and Wilson County Vo-Tech School will be opening in the spring at the old Lebanon High School.
“This will allow people who don’t want to attend college to learn trades,” he added.
Turning to the topic of public safety, Hutto said Wilson County is one of very few counties in the state that cross-trains all of its fire and ambulance workers. “That allows us to have 24/7 emergency personnel available all across the county,” he said.
The county mayor also commended Mt. Juliet for its part in protecting the safety of its citizens. “You have doubled the fire and ambulance protection in Mt. Juliet this year,” he said. Then he congratulated the city on its new police station.
Hutto also restated his support for whatever choices the city may make about ambulance service. “We’ll work and do whatever we need to do,” he said. “We currently have 24-hour service in all areas, and our goal is to add a third ambulance to Mt. Juliet and Lebanon.”
He also pointed out that the county has opened a new fire station on Highway 231 North and is planning a new station in Norene to better serve those sections of the county.
The other safety issue he spoke about was School Resource Officers. “We now have SROs in every school in the county,” he said. “After tragedies like Columbine and Sandy Hook,we need to be there. We can’t be sure we could stop that kind of disaster, but we are there.”
Hutto then turned to livability. “Quality of lifeis what fills our lives with joy,” he said. “How we spend our time away from school and work makes a community special.”
He pointed to the Wilson County Fair and many other events that make the county a destination. “The Wilson County Fair was ranked as the No. 1 fair in the United States by USA Today,” he said.
Hutto also listed such events and attractions as the Mt. Juliet Pow Wow, 2nd Saturday Bluegrass at Fiddlers Grove, Ava’s Splash Pad, the Whip-Crackin’ Rodeo, the Capitol Theatre, Stardust Drive-In and the many parks and greenways in the county.
He then went on to talk about the county’s finances. Wilson County sales tax revenues have grown every year for the past four years, the county mayor reported, with each month posting higher revenues than the same month in the previous year.
Hutto accompanied his address with a PowerPoint slide show that showed Mt. Juliet’s tax revenues growing by 16.6 percent between 2011 and 2012, while Lebanon totals grew by 7.04 percent and Watertown’s increased by 4.89 percent. Other charts in the slide show showed continuous growth in countywide sales tax revenues through June 2014.
According to the Nashville Area Market Summary, out of the fastest-growing subdivisions in an eight-county region, Wilson County has two of the top three – and both of them are in Mt. Juliet, Hutto reported. Number one is Lake Providence and number three is Providence.
Hutto’s PowerPoint also listed potential new businesses that are being recruited by the county. They include Sam’s Club, IHOP, Lexon Insurance Co., Trader Joe’s, Sprouts Farmers Market, Macy’s, Nordstrom, White Castle, Tossed, Duke Distribution Center (leased to Nutro), Bloomingdale’s, NHK Music in Beckwith, and Bob Evans Restaurant.
Hutto added that some of those new businesses, such as the new Starbucks distribution center, Ceva Logistics and Gander Mtn., are already here. Overall, the county has added 1,700 new jobs at new and existing businesses since 2011, he said.
The kind of cooperative effort that local officials and city mayors make with him in Wilson County is the reason this progress has been made and will continue to be made, he promised.
“I’m your mayor,” he concluded. “We’ll fight for Wilson County and Mt. Juliet, for the whole county.”
Correspondent Connie Esh may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.