Happy 40th, Farragut

Ribbon-cutting of new Town Community Center, West Knox Senior Center, makes for dual celebration among Town founders, dignitaries in packed gym

Hundreds of area residents, volunteers and elected officials — along with a handful of Town founders — attended a milestone event with a dual purpose.

Town of Farragut’s 40th Anniversary celebration coincided with the ribbon-cutting ceremony for the new Farragut Community Center/West Knox County Senior Center, with a joint program Thursday, Jan. 16, in the gym the dual-centers will share inside the former Faith Lutheran Church building along Jamestowne Boulevard.

“It is an especially important day for Town of Farragut because today is the 40th anniversary of our incorporation," Farragut Mayor Ron Williams told the standing-room crowd.

He then introduced three members of Farragut Community Group, the Town's founding body from 1979 and 1980: Marianne McGill, Betty Dick and Eric Johnson — all three former aldermen.

“Walking through this beautiful community center yesterday, I could not help but get choked up. I began to reflect and was overwhelmed with gratitude to our determined town founders and volunteers and Board members who dedicated themselves to setting up the Town, which lives by high principals," Farragut Vice Mayor Louise Povlin said. "It’s amazing to see how our Town has evolved and grown.

"I don’t know if it’s Kismet, serendipity, God’s blessing, just plain luck or dogged determination, hard work, sweat and tears — or perhaps a combination of all of the above," she added. "The Town of Farragut is 40 today.”

Then using the famous quote from Town of Farragut’s namesake, Admiral James David Glasgow Farragut, Poviln said, “Damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead,” to thunderous applause.

“Wow is all I can say — this is wonderful,” said McGill, whose late husband, former Mayor Ralph McGill (2009-2018), also was a founder. “This was a great dream of my husband for several years. He and (Town administrator) David Smoak worked very hard. When he was first elected, he said, ‘one of things I want to do is bring County and Town together in Farragut and help us work together. We can all do good things, but together we can do more; I want to thank Knox County for partnership; I see nothing but great things ahead.”

Dick, who continues to contribute to the Town in various capacities — currently as a member of the Town Municipal Planning Commission — was overcome with emotion when she spoke.

“I’m proud to be here,” she said. “I was one of the original founders. There were seven of us: two engineers, Ralph McGill and Eric Johnson; two chemists, George Dorsey and Ron Simandl; a highway patrolman, Gene McNalley; me, a nurse; and (the late) David Rodgers, our attorney.

Dick broke down twice, with Povlin leaving her seat to offer support. “It is a very emotional day for me. I’m sorry,” she said before continuing. “We represented homeowners associations around here, Village Green, Fox Den, Kingsgate. You could say the (Knox County) Metropolitan Planning Commission and (Knox) County Commission had a big part in the formation of this Town because they approved everything that came before them. We were interested in reasonable responsible development, and they were not interested in what we wanted, so they inspired us.

“The vote was held on Jan. 15 (1980) — about 1,300 people voted, she continued. “We were disappointed in the low turnout, but the vote was 3 to 1 in favor of incorporation. David Rodgers and George Dorsey drove to Nashville (the next day). We had our charter certified, and we became the Town of Farragut.

“I am proud to be part of the Town of Farragut, proud to have been a small part of that, and I am proud to be involved in the Town of Farragut.”

Dick went on to promote “Full Speed Ahead,” a book about Farragut’s founding written by former farragutpress reporter Heather Mays Beck. “There are interesting parts I have left out, but you can read about them in 'Full Speed Ahead,' available in the Farragut Museum,” she said.

Johnson spoke briefly, noting the building is the same age as the Town itself, constructed in 1980.

He also mentioned Mays’ book and thanked the farragutpress for its current series, Foundations, which chronicles the Town’s founding.

Former Aldermen Jeff Dobson and Bob Markli spoke, as did several others, including Smoak and local real estate broker Jim Nixon, whom Williams credited with putting the centers' deal together.

Williams also presented a copy of "Full Speed Ahead" to Knox County Mayor Glenn Jacobs when he approached the podium.

“In all seriousness, I was going to stop and get a copy of this book after this,” Jacobs said.

New Community Center

Jacobs prayed Knox County staff and officials with bringing about the new Senior Center, which was formerly located along Lovell Heights Road (Frank R. Strang Senior Center).

“What makes this center so special is that it now has twice as much programming space and three times the parking,” Jacobs said. “This represents a tremendous partnership with Knox County and the Town of Farragut. I have heard a lot about their history today — they have a lot to be proud of.

“This building represents what we can do, and I look forward to deepening that relationship and hope we can continue more projects like this one in the future," he added.

Williams praised Town staff for helping the Community Center become a reality

“Without them, none of this could have happened," he said, adding the partnership “allowed us to purchase and renovate this beautiful building for both of us to use. As you can tell, this is going to be a special place for all.”

Fittingly, the Rev. Dr. Robert “Bob” Stelter, pastor of Faith Lutheran Church, which had relocated to the former St. John Neumann Church facility several years ago, offered prayer to begin the program

Knox County Commissioner John Schoonmaker (5th District, which includes Farragut) also spoke, noting his No. 1 goal when he first took office five years ago was to secure a new Senior Center for West Knox County, and described how he and Buzz Buswell, director of Veteran & Senior Services for Knox County Government, scouted around for properties.

“When we first walked into this building, I thought, ‘This is it,’” said Schoonnaker, who went on to say the price was more than the county could afford at the time, until the partnership was created with the Town “and Jim Nixon got involved."

“We all have been dreaming of this for a long time,” Williams said. “I don’t think we thought we would ever have anything as beautiful as this facility.”

The joint partnership between the Town and Knox County became official in late 2018.