Beyond 2013’s Top 10
by By RICK NORTON Associate Editor
Jan 08, 2014 | 1265 views | 0 0 comments | 12 12 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Lee Construction
Banner photo, HOWARD PIERCE
LEE UNIVERSITY contributed several news developments last year that earned plenty of votes in the Top 10 Newsmakers of 2013 balloting by Cleveland Daily Banner news staff. Among the Lee accomplishments that earned strong “Honorable Mentions” in the voting were the school’s ongoing construction that will connect its campus to downtown Cleveland, the athletic department’s transition from NAIA to NCAA Division II and the launch of a four-year nursing program.
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Headlines that threw the spotlight on Wacker Polysilicon North America, the new Cleveland Regional Jetport, the ongoing push for a state veterans home in Bradley County, murder trials, construction, guns in schools and the closure of a 40-year-old domed high school arena may have dominated the list for Top 10 Newsmakers of 2013, but they weren’t the only rodeo in town.

Over the course of a year, plenty of other news heralded the progress — and the setbacks — of Cleveland and Bradley County.

By vote of the Cleveland Daily Banner news team which included staff writers and editors, the local newsies — as they do each year in December — selected what they considered to be the Top 10 news stories of the year. Some were individual, single-headline stories while others represented an ongoing series of news developments over the course of 2013, from Jan. 1 through late December.

For the record, the local news team whose members wrote the stories, made the following selections as summarized on the Banner’s front page over the past 1 1/2 weeks:

n No. 1: Wacker Polysilicon North America and the company’s announcements that it had increased its plant investment from $1.75 billion to $2 billion, as well as the corporation’s decision to delay the facility’s north Bradley County opening until late 2015.

n No. 2: Cleveland Regional Jetport’s opening and the accompanying closure of Hardwick Field, the old airport that had served Cleveland pilots for more than 60 years.

n No. 3: Cleveland/Bradley County State Veterans Home whose news developments included an unexpected twist late in the year when local officials learned the existing 28-acre site for the facility had been rejected by the State of Tennessee Real Estate Asset Management division. Local and state leaders are now working together to satisfy a list of four concerns about the property cited by STREAM. More to come in 2014.

n No. 4: The conviction of Natasha Moses Bates in the reported heat-related deaths of her two small sons.

n No. 5: Cleveland’s rise to a ranking of 25th in the Milken Institute’s “Best-Performing Small Cities” list for America. The city’s position in 2012 was 119th.

n No. 6: Interstate 75 Exit 20 bridge construction, and the launch of a complete makeover of the heavily congested interchange. More to come in 2014.

n No. 7: District Attorney General Steve Bebb and his ongoing battle to complete his term in office in spite of allegations of wrongdoing. This includes a finding by Tennessee Attorney General Robert Cooper that none of the charges are prosecutable, but that some do constitute poor decision-making. It also includes subsequent investigations by both houses of the Tennessee General Assembly. Bebb’s future will be further discussed by state legislators during the coming session of the 108th General Assembly. More to come in 2014.

n No. 8: The Cleveland Board of Education’s decision to shut down the aging Raider Dome due to visible cracks in the foundation that threaten the integrity of the 40-year-old facility. More to come in 2014.

n No. 9: Weapons in schools and legislation by state Rep. Eric Watson, R-Cleveland, that supports the carrying of guns by trained personnel in public schools.

n No. 10: The retirement of Cleveland Chief of Police Wes Snyder and his public apology to the Cleveland City Council for an apparent relationship with the executive director of a local nonprofit organization.

But those were just the Top 10, as voted by the writers who wrote about them. Most Cleveland Daily Banner readers would contend, “But there were so many others!” They would be correct.

In truth, the 2013 list of newsmakers included a plethora of honorable mentions.

Here’s how the voting worked. Each news writer submitted a list of individual nominees from their respective news beats. The compiled list, which originally included about 120 newsmakers, underwent a first round of preliminary voting. This pared down the list to 15, and a second vote was held. That’s how the Top 10 list was finalized.

But what about some of those honorable mentions? Readers likely will remember their headlines and subsequent impact on the Cleveland and Bradley County community.

Several that received plenty of staff votes, but not quite enough to make the Top 10, included (in no particular order):

n The retirement of Dr. Carl Hite who served as Cleveland State Community College president for 17 years, and the selection of Dr. William Seymour from Jackson State Community College as his successor;

n The retirement of Tom Wheeler following a long 43-year career with Cleveland Utilities, the last 24 of which came as general manager and then president and CEO; and the subsequent selection of longtime CU chief financial officer Ken Webb as his replacement;

n The case of the mysterious disappearance of Marsha Brantley and the eventual murder charge against her husband;

n The celebrated move by Lee University into NCAA Division II after years of affiliation with the National Association of Independent Athletics (NAIA), and the school’s inclusion into the much-respected Gulf South Conference;

n The death of Bob Sain, a co-founder of Habitat for Humanity of Cleveland, an affiliate of the international organization that was chartered locally in 1990;

n The ongoing move by Whirlpool Cleveland Division into its new $200 million manufacturing facility and factory distribution center on Benton Pike;

n Complaints and lawsuits originating from disgruntled family members over existing conditions at Sunset and Hilcrest cemeteries;

n Plans to launch a four-year nursing program at Lee University, and the school’s working partnership with Cleveland State Community College;

n The layoff of 150 workers due to the closing of a newsprint line by Resolute Forest Products;

n The future of animal control in Cleveland and Bradley County, and the ongoing discussions between the Cleveland City Council, Bradley County Commission and animal rights organizations;

n Extensive renovations at Bradley Square Mall and the opening of the facility’s new ultra-modern, 12-screen theater;

n The investigation and subsequent arrest of a former Bradley County finance clerk by the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation; and

n The ongoing development of the Cleveland/Bradley County Greenway which includes extensions and the addition of new amenities to the community’s four-mile linear park.

Want more? There were others.

Try these: Dustin’s Law; the construction of three new Bradley County firehalls; allegations of racial slurs by Cleveland City Councilman Charlie McKenzie; Meeri Shin winning state and regional youth of the year awards; the new Common Core Standards and ongoing debate from local governing bodies and education leaders; the completion of the lengthy and complicated widening of Dalton Pike; the extension of a PILOT agreement with the MARS North America plant to support a plant expansion; Lee University’s continuing growth, with the demolition of old buildings and the construction of new ones that will connect the expanding campus to downtown Cleveland; the announced filing for bankruptcy by Hardwick Clothes and the historic company’s strategy to remain a viable clothing manufacturer; Gov. Bill Haslam’s visit to Cleveland to announce two state grants for the Greenway and for the Cleveland Department of Recreation; overwhelming support of the community-minded Project Round-up by customers of Cleveland Utilities; and the opening of the new Hiwassee Heritage Center in Charleston.

More?

There were plenty. Newspaper and library archives can document those.

But don’t forget this one: the weather. It was everywhere. Cleveland and Bradley County celebrated the benefits of another warm winter and a cool summer. The community also survived some torrentially heavy rainfalls and a couple of drought-filled months in late summer.

It was a typical year for Bradley County and “The City With Spirit,” one filled with an array of surprises — both good and bad.

Forecasts for 2014?

More of the same.