The Tennessee House of Representatives on Friday formally selected a new speaker to replace Glen Casada, a Williamson County Republican who stepped down earlier this year in wake of a scandal.

Cameron Sexton, a Republican from Crossville, was elected to preside over the 99-member body for the remainder of its current session, which ends next year.

Sexton won the post on a 94-0 vote. Two Democrats, Gloria Johnson of Knoxville and Bo Mitchell of Nashville, abstained.

Sexton’s first speech after taking the oath of office to assume the House’s top lawmaker position focused on Tennesseans “answering the call.”

He made reference to Tennessee “volunteers” at the War of 1812, the Alamo, as well as those who pushed ratification of women’s suffrage and others who helped revive the city of Memphis after Yellow Fever epidemics decimated the population in the 19th century.

“Today we are here to answer our call — a call to work together to the betterment of Tennessee, and our people,” Sexton told the lawmakers gathered on the chamber floor for the one-day special session called specifically to replace Casada. “Our call is to leave our great state in better shape than when we first arrived.”

“When we look back on our service in this historic body, we all want to be remembered for the successes and accomplishments,” he continued. “If we are going to dwell, let’s dwell on the good, on our future, and the Tennesseans who have always answered the call before us.”

Sexton lauded the state’s job growth and low unemployment of late, and pledged to protect Tennessee’s status as “the most fiscally responsible state in the union.”

He also promised to work amicably with the GOP-dominated Senate and Republican Gov. Bill Lee’s executive branch.

He added, though, that maintaining legislative independence is an important aspect of the House’s business. “Preserving our individualism as a separate branch is what our founders requested us to do,” Sexton said.

Sexton also vowed that under his leadership, minority viewpoints won’t be suppressed. He observed that while members of the Legislature often disagree on the best methods for achieving public policy goals, they tend to share priorities.

“We all want great schools, great jobs, great infrastructure and great health care,” he said. “The challenge is, we will not always agree on the pathway to get there. But together we will get there.”

Sexton said he’ll “always encourage robust but respectful debate on the pathways to the shared goals of all Tennesseans.”

“My promise as speaker is simple: we won’t always agree on every issue, but I will always make sure that your voice is heard,” he added.

Tennessee Republicans currently outnumber Democrats 72-26 in the House. As in the Senate, the GOP enjoys a supermajority and with it overwhelming agenda-setting dominance.

Former House Speaker Casada resigned earlier this month as a result of a scandal involving salacious texts he’d exchanged with his chief of staff. Although still a member of the General Assembly, Casada was not present at the special session Friday.

State officials say they’ve addressed concerns and issues that may have played a role in a child’s drowning this spring, and they’re ready to reopen the scenic waterfall swimming hole along the Blackburn Fork River in Jackson County.

The Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation issued a press release Tuesday outlining changes to safety policies at Cummins Falls State Park, where earlier this year a 2-year-old boy was swept away to his death during a June 8 flash flood.

TDEC reports that a weather scanning station has been established and will enable rangers to “monitor watershed-specific radar during park operating hours.”

“Park staff will evacuate the gorge when radar indicates rain anywhere in the watershed, not just the park itself,” Bryson said. “This is the most conservative and appropriate protocol at this time.”

River monitoring gauges are also now in place upstream from the falls. They will measure water levels and send electronic communication alerts to park officials and regional rescue teams in the event that waters rapidly rise, according to TDEC’s Aug. 13 news release, which is posted below:

TDEC Implements Comprehensive Safety Improvement Strategy at Cummins Falls State Park

NASHVILLE – The Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation has implemented a comprehensive safety improvement strategy at Cummins Falls State Park and will reopen the falls and gorge on Aug. 14 if weather conditions permit.

The additions will include new policies for minors, additional signage, additional safety-related information on the Cummins Falls State Park webpage, a safety education video for public viewing at the park, real-time weather monitoring, water monitoring, refuge areas in case of an evacuation and increased personnel.

“We are glad to be in a position to reopen Cummins Falls with added enhanced safety tools and procedures that we are putting into place,” TDEC Deputy Commissioner Jim Bryson said. “This area is an extremely rugged area in a dynamic watershed that will never be completely risk free, and the best way to enhance safety is to take a comprehensive approach, and in this case that means new policies, educational tools and wet-weather protocols for our visitors.”

Three new policies are being added regarding access to the gorge and falls:

  • Each child 12 and under must be accompanied by an adult.
  • Each child 12 and under must have a life jacket.
  • Each child 12 and under must wear the life jacket when swimming.

TDEC also encourages children ages five and under to not enter the falls and gorge areas.

Signage at the trailhead and in the gorge area in English and Spanish will warn of the dangers of flash flooding and provide instructions in the event of a flood. The Cummins Falls State Park webpage will include an informative pop-up that will alert prospective visitors to the potential dangers and strenuous nature of the falls and the hike into the falls. A temporary visitor center has been erected over the trail leading to the falls. It is equipped with two 70-inch monitors playing a safety video on loop as visitors prepare to enter the trail.

A weather monitoring station at the park now serves as the central hub for weather monitoring efforts. Located adjacent to the trailhead, park staff will monitor watershed-specific radar during park operating hours.

“Park staff will evacuate the gorge when radar indicates rain anywhere in the watershed, not just the park itself,” Bryson said. “This is the most conservative and appropriate protocol at this time.”

In coordination with Tennessee Tech University, three river monitoring gauges have been installed on tributaries upstream from the falls to measure water levels. These gauges will send texts and email alerts to all Cummins Falls park staff when water levels rise significantly. The alerts will also be sent to two local 911 emergency response centers.

The monitoring gauges have been installed and TDEC has been reviewing the data to better understand the dynamics of the watershed. The system will become predictive over time, but more data is needed.

“At this time, we are not comfortable with the monitoring data itself being the first mechanism to warn visitors of an influx of water into the gorge,” Bryson said. “We will use the data we are collecting as a secondary layer of safety until the system becomes more predictive.”

If the park is evacuated, three refuge areas located above all known flood levels have been cleared of brush and clearly marked. These areas provide easy access to high ground where visitors can seek refuge until they are evacuated or the water recedes.

The park is adding at least two seasonal employees to assist with managing crowds at the park and assist with weather monitoring, visitor education and visitor safety.

“I am pleased with the comprehensive approach and due diligence TDEC has put in to make the park safer for our citizens,” State Rep. Ryan Williams, R-Cookeville, said. “Cummins Falls is a world-class recreational destination, but safety will continue to be top priority.”

“We asked TDEC to step up its game in terms of safety at Cummins Falls, and they have delivered,” State Sen. Paul Bailey, R-Sparta, said. “I encourage anyone in my district who visits Cummins Falls to please review all safety information provided and take guidance from park rangers very seriously.”

“TDEC has taken several additional measures to enhance safety at Cummins Falls,” State Rep. John Mark Windle, D-Livingston, said. “Cummins Falls is a beautiful place, but people should continue to put safety first when they visit.”

162 reasons to swing through TN’s ‘Golf Capital’

Beware: Bogeyman-haunted traps lurk fore-biddingly about the greens in Cumberland County. But really that just makes for even more good reasons link up with friends or family and set a course toward the “Golf Capital of Tennessee” as the summer days chip away into fall.

Cumberland County didn’t earn that distinctive nickname for nothing. The nine challenging courses — that’s a total of 162 holes — will test your metal (and wood) against some of the finest, not-so-faraway fairways the Volunteer State has to offer.

Magnificent panoramic views are par for the course in Cumberland County. The spectacular 14th hole at Druid Hills, where on a clear day you can see 40 miles, is but one extraordinary example.

Nestled alluringly amidst the Cumberland Plateau’s lovely scramble of hills, cliffs, crags, forests, valleys and water hazards, Crossville lies about 110 miles east of Nashville. The county seat of Cumberland County, it is just 70 miles west of Knoxville, and less than an hour’s drive from Cookeville.

“Being named the ‘Golf Capital of Tennessee’ was not a case of local officials looking for a catchy moniker,” the Crossville Chamber of Commerce website assures visitors. More than half a million rounds of golf are played in Cumberland County each year, and the number keeps driving higher all the time.

Jeff Houston, director of golf at Fairfield Glade, estimates that somewhere between 175,000 to 190,000 rounds are teed up yearly at the popular retirement-and-resort hamlet 20 miles northeast of Crossville.

Cumberland County lays claim to its title due to the number of courses and their indisputable beauty — combined with the “amount of play during the season,” said Houston. There are five courses at Fairfield Glade alone, and two more in the county, plus another two within Crossville’s city limits, he said.

Many golf-enthusiasts from Middle Tennessee and beyond make yearly pilgrimages to Cumberland County. Goodlettsville’s Lisa Moore has been making an annual trek with three of her golfing girlfriends since 1995.

“We like going to Crossville because it’s close and convenient, and it’s just beautiful up there,” she said. “You kind of get the feeling you’re going home or to a favorite place where you can relax and unwind, and the people who work at the courses you see year after year and are kind of like old friends. They’re very nice and very accommodating.”

Below is a list of area golf destinations and a little background about what makes each course special. For more details about golf in Crossville, call 1-877-GOLF-TN1 or go online to: golfcapitaltenn.com.

Hole 13’s green at Dorchester fits neatly into a majestic hardwood-pine forest.

Dorchester Golf Club at Fairfield Glade
576 Westchester Drive, Crossville
Phone: (931) 484-3709
Website: https://fairfieldglade.net/fairfield-amenities/ (click on golf)

  • Head Pro: Jack Sixkiller, 22 years
  • Year Opened: 1977
  • Yardage from White Tees: 5,817
  • Unique/ Outstanding Feature: “By today’s standards the course is not long, but the bentgrass greens, narrow tree-lined fairways, strategically placed bunkers and water on six of the 18 golf holes makes Dorchester Golf Club a challenge for even the skilled golfer.” – Jeff Houston, Fairfield Glade golf director for 28 years.

Signature Hole: A par three that plays 30 yards downhill as it drops from tee to pin, lucky Hole 13‘s green is cut out of forest to give a dramatic effect. A creek that borders the rear of the green complex adds further intrigue.

Druid Hills Golf Club at Fairfield Glade
435 Lakeview Drive, Crossville
Phone: (931) 484-3711
Website: https://fairfieldglade.net/fairfield-amenities/ (click on golf)

  • Head Pro: Rag Jones, 17 years
  • Year Opened: 1970
  • Yardage White Tees: 5,827 yards
  • Unique/ Outstanding Feature: Located on the highest point in Fairfield Glade, Druid Hills provides several 360-degree scenic views of the surrounding mountains.

Signature Hole: A spectacular east-facing vista (where on a clear day you can see 40 miles) added to a beckoning green guarded by a natural rock waterfall makes Hole 14 an unforgettable par 5.

Heatherhurst Golf Club: The Brae Course at Fairfield Glade
Phone: 421 Stonehenge Drive, Crossville
(931) 484-3799
Website: https://fairfieldglade.net/fairfield-amenities/ (click on golf)

Lake Dartmoor’s smooth waters can be rough on wayward approach shots at The Brae’s 10th hole.

  • Head Pro: Jeremy Jones, 14 years
  • Year Opened: Heatherhurst opened in stages. The Brae Course debuted the Mountain Nine in 1988 and the Creek Nine in 1991. The opening date of the Brae Course and Crag Course as a 36-hole facility was May 27, 2000.
  • Yardage from White Tees: 5,980
  • Unique/ Outstanding Feature: On the front nine, Heatherhurst Brae features a double dogleg par 5 said to be one of the toughest in Tennessee, and the back nine offers three par 3s, three par 4s and three par 5s with undulating fairways and encroaching bunkers.

Signature Hole: Heatherhurst Brae’s Hole 10 is a long par 5 that plays downhill all the way to the green, and Lake Dartmoor will scuttle errant approach shots to the right and rear.

Don’t let the The Crag’s 14th hole beauty distract you because a precision shot is required on the drive.

Heatherhurst Golf Club: The Crag Course at Fairfield Glade
421 Stonehenge Drive, Crossville
(931) 484-3799
Website: fhttps://fairfieldglade.net/fairfield-amenities/ (click on golf)

  • Head Pro: Jeremy Jones, 14 years
  • Year Opened: Heatherhurst opened in stages. The Crag Course debuted the Pine Nine in 1989 and the New Nine in 2000.
  • Yardage from White Tees: 5,564
  • Unique/ Outstanding Feature: Heatherhurst Crag is player-friendly with tee locations ranging from the most forward tee at 3,600 to the blue tees at 6,200. Bentgrass tees and greens, wide fairways make it great for short hitters and strategically placed bunkers add to the fun.

Signature Hole: If the view doesn’t get you the Hole 17 tee shot will: a short par 4 that offers a dramatic first shot that plays downhill onto a narrow fairway. With Dogwood Branch bordering the left of the fairway and a huge bank and out of bounds guarding the right, a precise drive is required.

Stonehenge’s 14th hole is encircled with score-imperiling splendor.

Stonehenge Golf Course at Fairfield Glade
222 Fairfield Boulevard, Crossville
Phone: (931) 484-3731
Website: https://fairfieldglade.net/fairfield-amenities/ (click on golf)

  • Head Pro: Corey Wade, 10 years
  • Year Opened: 1985
  • Yardage from White Tees: 6,202
  • Unique/ Outstanding Feature: Stonehenge is proud to feature bentgrass tees, fairways and greens. Natural rock outcroppings come into play on several holes, with a 15-foot layered stone retaining wall running along the left and rear of the downhill par 3 14th hole.

Signature Hole: A dramatic drop from the tee to the green makes Hole 14 a must-see par 3. Lake Dartmoor awaits in the back for a breath-taking view.

Lake Tansi Golf Course
2476 Dunbar Road, Crossville
931-788-3301
Website: www.laketansigolf.com

  • Head Pro: Gavin Darbyshire, 1 year

    Lake Tansi’s 18th hole is a strong finisher.

  • Year Opened: 1958
  • Yardage from White Tees: 6,205
  • Unique/ Outstanding Feature: Exceptionally pleasant course for a variety of golfers. It provides a very good challenge for better players from the back tees (6,701 yards) and is still very enjoyable and manageable for mid to high handicap golfers from more forward tees.

Signature Hole: The best is saved for last at Lake Tansi. Hole 18 is a par 5 playing slightly uphill and measuring 592 yards from the back tee. The generous fairway bends from right to left along a hillside as it wraps around Lake Hiawatha. The elevated green, which also slopes toward the lake, presents a challenging finishing target.

Bear Trace at Cumberland Mountain
407 Wild Plum Lane, Crossville
Phone: (931) 707-1640
Website: tnstateparks.com/golf/course/bear-trace-at-cumberland-mountain

  • Head Pro: Kelvin Burgin, 6 years
  • Year Opened: 1998
  • Yardage from White Tees: 5,916
  • Unique/ Outstanding Feature: “The golf course has no homes on it. It’s just you and nature,” says Burgin.

Signature Hole: 7.

Cumberland Cove in Monterey
Owner Sam Hicks
16941 Highway 70 N., Monterey
931-839-3313
Website: facebook.com/cumberlandcove/

River Run Golf Club
1701 Tennessee Ave., Crossville
931-456-4060
Website: facebook.com/RiverRunGolfClub/

Features of the River Run course include its signature Par 3 island green, and it has the longest and shortest holes in Cumberland County.

Press Release from the State of Tennessee, August 2, 2019:

Link: https://www.tn.gov/twra/news/2019/8/2/twra-leasing-fields-for-2019-dove-season.html

NASHVILLE — The Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency is seeking fields to lease for the upcoming 2019 dove season. The first segment of dove season opens at noon on Sunday, Sept. 1.

Mourning doves are a popular game bird and one of the most widely distributed and abundant birds in North America. More mourning doves are harvested than all other migratory bird species combined in 39 of the continental states. In Tennessee, an estimated 19,000 hunters harvested approximately 334,000 mourning doves last year.

Landowners can earn up to $3,600 for providing a dove field for public hunting. These fields must be available for a minimum of three priority hunt dates in September.

TWRA began its leased dove field program in the late 1980s and the program has been very successful in providing quality hunting opportunities for hunters. In addition to leased fields, many public dove fields are provided on wildlife management areas in each TWRA region. The TWRA website will have specific information about WMAs and leased dove fields in each region beginning Aug. 15.

The standard fall leased field is a harvested grain field to which TWRA leases the hunting rights for three priority dates. The hunting access rate paid to landowners for fall leased fields may be up to $75 per acre for a maximum of 40 acres. Fields that are top sown with wheat are eligible for an additional $15 per acre. Interested landowners must sign up their fields in August.

Anyone interested in leasing a dove field to TWRA should contact their TWRA regional office. The TWRA has four regional offices across the state that interested landowners can contact: Region I (West Tennessee) 731-423-5725 or toll free 800-372-3928; Region II (Middle Tennessee) 615-781-6622 or toll free 800-624-7406; Region III (Upper Cumberland) 931-484-9571 or toll free 833-402-4698; Region IV (East Tennessee) 423-587-7037 or 800-332-0900.