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Key to the City and Officer of the Year Awards Presented at City Commission Meeting

A meeting of Franklin’s Mayor and City Commission took place on January 9th at City Hall at noon. It was called to order by Mayor Larry Dixon and opened with a prayer brought by Commissioner Wendell Stewart.

The first item of business was a presentation of the Key to the City, given to Bonnie Swayze. Swayze and her family have owned and operated Alliance Rubber Company for many years. The mayor pointed out that the company was in operation when jobs were scarce, providing work for many people. He added that he and Swayze worked together to begin Franklin-Simpson’s Renaissance, Inc. in the early 1990s. “Bonnie has gotten behind a lot of things in our community,” said Dixon, “and the city is reaping the benefits today.” Swayze was the first chair of Renaissance, Inc., and also worked to create the Gallery on the Square.

Swayze said the award meant a lot to her. “Our family has been in Franklin since 1892—one hundred and thirty years,” she said. “We started with the Chamber, Renaissance, and then Gallery on the Square. Franklin is a great town, in large part due to the work of people who do not ask for anything in return. And the reason a lot of us do that is our great love for Franklin.”

The meeting continued with an Officer of the Year presentation by Franklin’s Chief of Police, Roger Solomon. “We began the Officer of the Year Award in 2009. In the selection process, a supervisor makes a nomination along with justifying criteria. This year, based on the information submitted, we selected Craig Hanson to be the 2022 Officer of the year.”

Solomon read the department’s statement about Hanson, which lauded him for being punctual, the first to pick up a shift, and trusted by officers when supervisors are absent. Solomon noted that Hanson had taken over the Field Training Program with positive results and that his attitude, good relations with the community, and reliability were factors in his selection.

Jacky Hunt, Director of the South-Central Kentucky Drug Task Force, led a discussion on possible action regarding the federal High-Intensity Drug Traffic Area (HIDTA) Subaward Agreement—additional money that HIDTA agreed to inject into the Franklin Community to support the Drug Task Force. Hunt had requested a second award from HIDTA, increasing federal funds, and needed approval from the Commission to accept the funds.

He updated the Commission regarding the national problem with fentanyl, which, he said, “has taken over everything.” He said, “They often hide this drug inside other drugs, which makes it even more lethal. I’ve never seen as many overdose deaths as I have with this drug.”

Hunt said the task force had been instrumental in a recent seizure of eighty pounds of methamphetamine in Moore County. “It was our K-9 dog that hit on that,” said Hunt. “It was destined for Bowling Green, but because of the surveillance, they were able to stop it before it landed.”

The motion to receive the Subaward was passed unanimously.

The Commission then agreed to hold department tours on Monday, January 23, before the City Commissioners meeting.

Mayor Dixon then announced Board Appointments and Reappointments, including Mayor Pro Tem, Jamie Powell; Boys and Girls Clubs, Dale McCreary; Electric Plant Board, Jamie Powell; F-S Ambulance Board, Jennifer Delk; F-S Industrial Board, Wendell Stewart; the F-S Industrial Board (non-voting), Larry Dixon; F-S Parks Board, Herbert Williams along with Defra Holt, Quentin Lineberry and Sam Crocker; the F-S Renaissance, Dale McCreary; Housing Authority of Franklin, Larry Dixon and Gerald Ogles; and the F-S Code Enforcement Board, Roy Tyler.

The board assignments were approved unanimously.

The Commission agreed with a recommendation by Trent Coffee, the Wastewater Treatment Plant Superintendent, to continue the Wastewater Flow Modeling, which prioritizes the greatest flow in and out of the sewer lines, identifying the areas in most need. According to Coffee, the money for the modeling is already in the budget and the Commission unanimously agreed to the ordinance.

In a roll-call vote, the commission agreed unanimously to approve the funding for School Resource Officers (SRO) for each school in the Franklin-Simpson School System.

A second summary reading was approved by a roll call vote for an ordinance to annex twenty-six acres located on the west side of Blackjack Road per the Comprehensive Plan of Annexation.

The Commission then received and approved a motion to move into an executive session, in which discussions were to be held on three matters: proposed or pending litigation; hearings that might lead to the appointment, discipline, or dismissal of an individual employee or member; and business discussions between a public agency and the representative of a business entity concerning a specific proposal, where public discussions would jeopardize the siting, retention, expansion or upgrading of the business.

The annual Martin Luther King Jr. commemorative walk took place Monday in Franklin. The March went from First United Methodist Church to Greater Taylor Chapel.

Remembering MLK’s legacy

Martin-Villalobos ‘Found Her People’ at the Gallery

When Elizabeth Martin-Villalobos was 10-years-old, she decided to be in the museum industry. Martin-Villalobos, who was named Executive Director of Simpson County Guild of Artists and Craftsmen and the Gallery on the Square in Franklin, Ky. in March of 2022.

“I was inspired by a classmate who wanted to be an archaeologist,” says Martin-Villalobos. She says it’s a vivid memory. “I didn’t know what that was, but even as a small child, since I was five years old, I’ve loved historic sites. Holding old things in my hands. When my friend told me what archaeology was, I thought that sounded just grand.”

Martin-Villalobos grew up in Portland, Tenn. and never abandoned her childhood determination. She majored in archaeology at Western Kentucky University, veering toward the registration and inventory area of the field. “I was fascinated by the job of describing found artifacts,” Martin-Villalobos said. “I graduated with a major in archaeology, a minor in folk studies, and a concentration in applied archaeology.”

Martin-Villalobos did two stints in Europe, the first one through a college program. “For a year, I was in Belgium,” said Martin-Villalobos. “Belgium is centrally located, so I was able to go everywhere. It was a magical year.”

After graduating in 2005, she orchestrated her second stay in Europe by taking a job as a nanny in the Netherlands. “During my time there, I developed a great love of Dutch art. I went to the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam, I saw the work of Rembrandt and Vermeer, and I adored it,” she said.

Coming back to the U.S. in 2006, Martin-Villalobos landed a job as a curator’s assistant at Belle Meade Plantation, where she stayed for two years. “I worked with a lot of young individuals and saw that if I wanted to move up, I needed to move on. I took a position with the Museum of Science and History in Corpus Christi, Texas. It was an amazing city-owned museum that had been in operation for close to 60 years. I worked there for six years as a registrar. It was my sweet spot. The founder of the museum was even Dutch — Albert Heine, who came to Corpus Christi from the Netherlands to escape the Nazis.”

Although the museum was successful, it wasn’t making much money, and the city decided to sell it to a private owner. Marin-Villalobos left the museum and took a position with the city. “There were some financial issues for me with the sale of the museum,” said Martin-Villalobos, “so I made a lateral move to another department in the city.”

Marti-Villalobos met her husband during this period, and in 2014 they married. About a year later, they had a daughter, now eight years old. Her husband, a native of Corpus Christi, was applying for engineering jobs all over the country. “Lo and behold,” said Martin-Villalobos, “he landed a job with Kirby Building Systems in Portland. So back we came.”

The move to Portland had the sniff of the miraculous. The couple found a house in Portland that was in foreclosure. “It cost $32,000,” Martin-Villalobos laughed. “And we had to fight to get it. You can believe, we weren’t the only ones who wanted it! Some developers wanted it, too. But my parents contacted a relative who’s in real estate, and this cousin pointed out a clause in the foreclosure that said the house could only be purchased by people who were going to live in it. And so, we were able to clinch the deal.” She added, “We’ve put a lot of work into it, but it’s been fun.”

Needing to work but wanting to stay home with her toddler, Martin-Villalobos got a job with the Portland Prescription Shop. “I had a friend who worked there, and Mike Stinnett, the pharmacist, agreed to take me on and give me really, really flexible hours. He’s become like family to me.”

Still, Martin-Villalobos knew she wanted to get back into her chosen field. “A position came open at the Franklin-Simpson Historical Society,” she said. “It ticked all my boxes. The position focused on genealogy, which I love. Genealogy is a lot like archaeology, except you’re excavating people’s family histories instead of their belongings.”

She interviewed for the librarian position at the Historical Society, was offered the position and started there in 2020, right after the Covid pandemic had shut everything down. “They closed the building from April through August. I started in late September, right after it reopened. I was working with a computer program called Past Perfect, which is the greatest name ever for a computer program designed for history museums.”

At this point, Martin-Villalobos felt like she had found her home. “When I came here, I felt like I had found my ‘people,’ and I’m still close with everybody there. And, I met my best friend for life.”

During her two-year hiatus at the Historical Society, Martin-Villalobos also served as the President of the Highland Rim Historical Society in Portland. “That put me in a leadership position, really for the first time in my life,” she said. “I was also instrumental in turning Portland’s Moye-Green House into the Portland Museum after it was restored. They had done the physical renovation, but we needed to explore whether a museum would work in Portland. We opened it for a single month at the end of 2020, just to try it out. Then we opened it for good in 2021.”

“2020 through 2022 was a growth period for me,” said Martin-Villalobos. She found herself inspired by watching James Henry Snider, director of the Franklin-Simpson Historical Society. “Watching what James Henry does, keeps the Historical Society thriving, plus my work with the Portland Museum — these influences were changing me.”

In the spring of 2022, the position of Executive Director of the Gallery on the Square posted an opening. “I decided I wanted to do more than registration. I wanted to do more than work in the background. I wanted to be the central person making doors stay open. It was time to leave my comfort zone, and I decided to apply.”

When she interviewed with the selection panel from the Board of the Guild of Artists and Craftsmen, she felt an immediate kinship, and apparently, they felt it, too. They offered her the position, and she took it.

“It’s more than a little unusual for a city the size of Franklin to have an established art gallery,” Martin-Villalobos said. “And this one has been here for 30 years. Some incredible people were instrumental in creating the culture and arts of Franklin, along with this Gallery on the Square. I’m so grateful to them.”

Martin-Villalobos has many plans for the Gallery. She envisions pursuing art as a means of therapy. She is also bringing once-popular programs back into a regular rotation.

“For instance, one of our afternoon programs has places for 18 children each week,” she said. “The only requirement is to RSVP and make it here by 3:30 p.m. on Wednesday. You don’t have to have any supplies or money, and we even provide a snack.”

The Gallery also has two home-school programs each month, works with a 4-H program, and has an artist who contracts space for a class. “I would love to see more Guild members teaching their area of art, like felting and glasswork classes,” said Martin-Villalobos. “And we have a trading area for people who need art materials. It’s an in-and-out drop off what you don’t need and pick up anything you want. It’s all free for the taking.”

The new executive director, of course, loves to discuss the Gallery’s exhibits. “Right now we are taking down our end-of-the-year exhibition, which is an annual showcase of the Simson County Guild of Artists and Craftsmen. It’s been up since the middle of November.”

Martin-Villalobos points to one painting. “This artist — Mel Davenport — expresses my philosophy about art in the note he placed beneath his painting, ‘On the Ropes.’ It says, ‘My painting is symbolic of the struggle many brave people have, due to illness, misfortune, adversity and other hardships…simply finding the courage to get up each day and continue fighting for their lives.’ ”

The next Gallery exhibition is right around the corner, and features guild artist Nicky Doody. “She experiments with light,” said Martin-Villalobos. “And she does it in the most astonishing variety of ways.”

Nicky Doody’s art installation, “Redeeming Light,” will be celebrated with a reception on Thursday, Jan. 19, from 6:30-8:30 p.m. Admission is free. “We’ll be offering hors d’ oeuvres and a cake made by Nicky Doody herself,” added Martin-Villalobos. “I can’t wait to see that.”

The Gallery on the Square is open to the public Tuesday through Friday from 10 a.m. until 4 p.m. and Saturday from 10 a.m. until 2 p.m. Admission is free. The experience is priceless.

Domestic dispute ends in stabbing in leg

A husband and wife were both arrested on a charge of assault, second degree — domestic violence after what Franklin Police said was a domestic dispute that ended in a stabbing in a room at Holiday Inn Express on Neha Drive on Jan. 12.

The arrest citations said Richard Thomas Green, 55, of Kingston, Tennessee and Jamie Green, 38, of Franklin, Tennessee were both found on the scene with injuries and taken to the Medical Center at Franklin for treatment.

The citations said Richard Green had an apparent stab wound in his left leg and Jamie Green had bruising and bleeding from her head and face.

The citations said both were cleared from their injuries and lodged in the Simpson County Jail.

Police were called to the scene at 11:20 p.m. Detective Travis Frank made the arrests at the hospital just after one o’clock the following morning.

Emergency management director talks about hazard preparedness

Being prepared for hazards is the focus of Simpson County Director of Emergency Management Robert Palmer’s monthly preparedness message for January.

During the message Palmer talked about ways of receiving information, planning, preparing a kit for disasters and emergencies and volunteering for community response organizations.

“The first thing is to be informed. Do not rely on only one source of information,” Palmer said. “Our Alert Sense mass notification system and social media seem to be our best avenue for getting information about preparedness, upcoming events and weather messages to our community.

If you are not signed up to receive local alerts, please log in to and sign up under the register for alerts tab.

Please pass this information to your family, friends and neighbors. In the event of a disaster or emergency this will be our main channel of communication to the community.

Smart phone apps, NOAA weather radios, regular broadcast television and local broadcast radio are a few other ways to be informed.

Find out what works best for you, and then use it.”

Palmer went on to talk about planning for a disaster or emergency.

“Planning for a disaster or emergency is as individual as each one of us,” he said. “Contact numbers for local and distant relatives, a meeting place away from your residence, financial, medical and insurance information are some items that are often over looked, but are very important during and after disasters. Know what you will do in an emergency situation.”

Palmer then talked about preparing a disaster preparedness kit.

“Commercial kits can be purchased, but developing your own kit can ensure that you have what you need,” he said. “These kits should start with non perishable food, water, medications, blankets, flashlights with new batteries, phone chargers, and cash.

Other items needed by your family should be placed in the kit. Give it some thought as you develop it.”

And, Palmer urges individuals to get involved in volunteer community response organizations.

“Your local fire department, community response team, Red Cross, and others are in need of volunteers to keep them a viable part of the community’s safety,” he said. “Many of these organizations provide live saving training such as CPR, AED and first aid that can save lives during a disaster.”

And Palmer said, “Your office of emergency management is available to assist in personal and business disaster preparedness. Whatever your preparedness development needs are, just call my office at 270-586-1800 or send an email to and we can get started.”

The entire January message, other monthly preparedness messages and other safety information is available on the Simpson County Office of Emergency Management Facebook page or the website.

Palmer’s next monthly preparedness message is scheduled for February 6.