Gary’s investment helps pave the road to farragutpress

As a Farragut High School student in the late 1970s and early 1980s, and then as a young man marrying

Lisa Byerley, Jeff Gary was invested in the Farragut community.

He remained invested in many ways, especially through years of leadership in Farragut youth athletics.

Between all of this, Gary also was invested in a groundbreaking media event in Town history: the point-man, as editor, in getting the first edition of what is now farragutpress out to roughly 8,000 residents and business owners.

The culmination of that effort, the publication of what was then called Farragut Press Enterprise at its original location in Farragut Towne Square, came exactly 30 years ago, Sept. 13, 1988.

Despite a “last-minute crunch,” Gary recently recalled, “It was heartwarming to see how everybody came together as a team to get that first issue out the door.”

“We believed the Town of Farragut, which was fairly new, was going to be a great community, and we wanted it to have its own newspaper of record,” said Doug Horne, original and current owner of Republic Newspapers, Inc., parent company of farragutpress.

Though “we lost money providing the service to the community the first few years,” Horne added, “we finally started making a profit because we became very consequential to the community.

“We are very pleased and blessed with the community’s acceptance of our newspaper.”

Highlights of first issue

The first issue’s page 1 lead story, “Rebels, Yanks hit Campbell Station” about a Civil War re-enactment in Town, apparently was taken quite seriously, recalled Gary, a 1981 FHS graduate who is director of Creative Services at Oak Ridge National Laboratory.

“I remember I saw a guy that I went to high school with. And I waved and said, ‘hello,’ and I called his name. But he kind of frowned at me,” Gary said. “And he said, ‘I’m not the name you called,’ and he called the name of the soldier he was re-enacting. And I nodded and I understood.

“As I started to walk away, he called back to me and he said, ‘hey you there,’ and I turned around, and he once again called the name of the soldier he was portraying,” Gary added. “He said, ‘I’m that person now, but after a while I’ll be that other person that you called again soon,’ and he grinned and he winked at me.”

Among other highlights in that first issue was FHS’s Class of 1938 being featured on page 5A, with their 1938 graduation photos, previewing their 50th anniversary reunion.

Peace with Knoxville,

bond with FHS

Gary recalled his story about Town of Farragut and City of Knoxville reaching an annexation agreement — “Agreement with Knoxville culminates multi-year effort” on page 3A.

“Then Knoxville Mayor (Victor) Ashe had an outreach event with area journalists, and I remember he was very interested in sitting down and talking with us,” Gary said.

Press Enterprise wasted no time connecting with Farragut High School, beginning a

column, “High School Hearsay,” as student columnists Marsha Bewley, Wendie Flynn, Christy Howell and Laura Stewart introduced themselves as “fabulous, fun females from


“We started an outreach program, almost from day one, to work with the newspaper at the high school,” said Gary, a former FHS newspaper editor. “We had, I think, a student journalist from the (FHS) paper who wrote that column.

“I think that we provided some degree of writing coaching for the (high school) staff, to provide a community investment in the future journalists that would be coming up through the ranks of the high school paper,” he added.

“My daughter (Holly Gary), who also is a Farragut grad (Class of 2010), was editor of the school paper her senior year.”

Beating Bearden, new course

Speaking of important yearly tasks at FHS, the top story on page 6B read, “Admirals gun down Bearden in home opener,” beating the Bulldogs in varsity football 41-12.

“You can’t beat that, can

you?” said Gary with a laugh, adding his son, Paul Gary (FHS Class of 2013), “portrayed ‘Admiral Dave,’ the mascot, his junior and senior years.”

Given Gary’s heavy involvement in Farragut youth sports leagues for years, “That was always very important to me personally,” he said. “And that was always such a big part of what we did in filling up the sports section was to feature the accomplishments of those young athletes.”

Coinciding with this newspaper’s start in 1988 was the birth of Willow Creek Golf Club.

“Seems like early on, we sent our sports writer over there (Tom Lanham) … he went over and played a round at the new facility, and then he wrote sort of an almost first-person account of what the new course was like,” Gary said. “It was a good way for us to celebrate a local business.

“A new golf course opening up that same year was a big deal.”

The original circulation was listed at “approximately 7,500 homes” in that first edition — which has more than doubled 30 years later — “with an additional 500 newspapers mailed to local businesses.”

“Census” taken

Gary proved to be a trouper when asked to conduct his own neighborhood “census.”

“Nick Drewry, who of course was the publisher at the time, asked me if I would drive through the neighborhoods in the service area and count houses,” Gary said about the eventual president of Republic Newspapers, Inc. — parent company of this newspaper — who retired in 2011.

“Of course, this was in the pre-Internet day, so it was hard to get statistics on just how many homes we would be serving,” he added. “I would take a couple of hours each day in the weeks leading up to that first edition — one day I would drive through Village Green, another day I would drive through Concord Hills and so forth.

“I would guess we came up with those numbers based on what I saw during those drive-throughs. And maybe we just rounded up a little bit to get (7,500).”

Forming relationships

In planning its regular coverage schedule prior to Sept. 13, 1988, “We were thinking about what would be some of the core pillars that we would want to cover,” Gary said. “Obviously Town government was one,” adding cooperation with Town officials then, led by Mayor Bob Leonard and Town administrator Jack Hamlett, “was wonderful.

“One of the first things I did after Mr. Horne offered me the position, I started calling on the various folks of the Town, both the paid staff and also attending the meetings of the Board of Mayor and Aldermen and the (Farragut Municipal) Planning Commission,” he added. “To introduce myself and to let them know that we were really going to place a high priority on providing good, quality coverage.

“I think they really appreciated that. … They were always very generous to offer their time and their expertise to make sure that the coverage we got was really first-rate.”

Remembering the late Mayor Leonard in action, “I always thought that he did an especially nice job of moderating the Board of Mayor and Aldermen meetings,” Gary said. “He let every person have their say, no matter whether the person was being praiseworthy or critical, he was always very respectful.”

“I thought that spoke well for him and the Town.”

30 years later

As for positive community changes over 30 years, Gary said, “The Town holiday tree lighting (Light the Park) or Farragut Food & Wine Festival, they add some richness and depth to the community maybe we didn’t have then.”

Though only with the newspaper “about a year,” Gary said, “Living in the community I’ve always followed the paper and I’ve always been rooting for it to do well.

“Every week when I get the paper delivered to my house, it’s a real treat to know that I was part of helping it start,” he added.

“And to see how great it’s grown (more than 15,000 circulation) and how wonderful it’s doing 30 years later.”