The Historic Cannon County Chamber Of Commerce was formed in 1997. The Chamber was created after several Cannon County Business leaders met several times, and decided that the organization was needed.
Jim Gibbs, then publisher of Cannon County Magazine was among the original charter members.
The year 1997 was a year of awaking. I had been in Cannon County several years and started a news magazine called Cannon County Magazine. I had rented an office on North Cannon St. from Attorney Marshal Duggin facing the courthouse. I lived on Short Mountain just down the road from Billy Youngblood who at the time was one of the 4th District County Commissioners.
Originally, the Magazine was monthly and strictly a publication which promoted tourism and commerce in Cannon County. The stories were fun and very welcoming. A web site accompanied the Magazine and was the first to be representative of Cannon County. CannonCounty.net was listed on the web pages of Tennessee Congressman Bart Gordon as the online source for info about the county.
Billy Youngblood was aware that I had a professional law enforcement background and now had a very popular media source. As a neighbor he approached me with a suggestion: He wanted me to investigate and write a story about the operation of the Cannon County Jail. Bob Stoetzel was sheriff at the time and we were approaching an election and the office of sheriff would be up for grabs.
Stoetzel had been sheriff for a little more than three years, he originally campaigned on a promise to live within the budget provided to him by the county commission, and then following the footsteps of Rutherford county’s sheriff, Truman Jones, Soetzel sued Cannon County for funds in excess of what the county commission had offered. He won the law suit, but polarized the community.
Stoetzel had also launched a program of working inmates. Of questionable legality, inmates built structures for the Bible Camp on Short Mountain. On the surface, that appeared to be acceptable. The problem was that the property was owned by the Adams Family and the inmates were improving their real estate holdings.
He also ripped out an exercise area of the jail which was almost new, opened in 1993. He replaced it with bunk beds and began to contract with the Tennessee Department of Corrections to house extra state prisoners. The reality was, he was being paid less by the State of Tennessee than what the national average listed as the cost of keeping them.
On the more dramatic level, a female deputy, Sergeant Dana Miller came under investigation for having a lesbian relationship with a Cannon County High School girl. While she was eventually terminated from the Cannon County Sheriff’s Department, she was never prosecuted. The whole affair was covered up but was exposed in the pages the Cannon County Magazine.
Additionally, editor Jim Gibbs discovered that Sheriff Stoetzel was pulling a scam on the County Commission. Stoetzel was applying for and obtaining COP Grants to hire new deputies. The grants could be signed by the County Executive but required the approval of the County Commission. Frank Wayne LeFevers was the County Executive and Stoetzel would bring him the COP Grant applications and Frank Wayne would sign them believing it was paper work for the county to receive funds for COP Grants which had already be approved.
When the story broke in the Cannon County Magazine, Frank Wayne was embarrassed and the County Commissioners were outraged. They called a special called commission meeting to discuss the grants and Sheriff Stoetzel refused to show up and face the commissioners.
A few months later, Charley Brandon Jr. would defeat Stoetzel in the Democrat Primary Election and Democrat Dale Bush would defeat Frank Wayne LeFevers.
In the meanwhile, as the Cannon County Magazine began to develop a reputation as an investigative media source a mysterious envelope containing court documents was anonymously placed in the mail box of the office. The four pages revealed that Jackie Darrell Young who was a Woodbury police officer had been arrested for conspiracy and selling marijuana.
Editor Jim Gibbs immediately crossed the Square to the police station above City Hall on N. Tatum Street and confronted Chief Bill Avera as to why a guy who had been arrested and taken a plea in Federal Court for selling a scheduled narcotics was able to be in law enforcement.
Avera called in Young who claimed that the documents had been expunged, and he didn’t have to disclose them -
Next: Law and Disorder, The Young Family Drug Cartel and the “Back Roads Bandit”
Law and Disorder in Cannon County Tennessee