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Economic Development Board changes course in hiring CEO

In a special-called meeting held April 22, the Clarksville-Montgomery County Economic Development Council’s board of directors reversed course, rescinding its April 19 choice for CEO.

Instead, the board approved the hiring of the candidate’s competitor.

The board refers to the two candidates interviewed as Candidate A and Candidate B.

The candidate hired will replace Jeff Truitt, who resigned in January 2020.

During the first EDC meeting last week, a 5-4 vote authorized negotiations to begin with Candidate A.

Board members in favor included Wallace Crow, Khandra Smalley, Kyle Luther, Mark Kelly and Matt Cunningham.

Voting against Candidate A were Ginna Holleman, Keith Bennett, Montgomery County Mayor Jim Durrett and Paul Turner.

Chairperson Suzanne Langford did not vote.

Crow said he appreciated Candidate A’s vast experience in economic development.

Smalley felt Candidate A had done the proper research on the community and its entities, while Candidate B had ties to the area, which could be favorable.

“However, a fresh set of eyes may be very beneficial,” Smalley said.

Durrett said both candidates were outstanding, but he felt Candidate A was weaker with regard to residency and the need to commute for three years due to a child currently in high school.

“In the question about strengths and weaknesses, he talked about being a micromanager,” Durrett said. “That scares me.”

Durrett said he appreciated Candidate B’s relationships with city council and the county commission.

“Candidate B would hit the ground running relating to the people he is familiar with and the contacts that he has,” Durrett said.

On April 22, Langford said four members requested the meeting be called to rescind the April 19 decision.

Luther questioned the implication of the called meeting and questioned whether the chairperson should vote. She opted out of voting April 19.

“Ultimately, all we’re doing is a do-over,” Luther said. “It may be legal, but in my opinion, it’s not right. This decision is going to come with a black cloud of shadiness, and dare I say, borderline unethical.”

Luther said he could not support rescinding of the vote with a clear conscience.

“I expect the decision to be met with heavy scrutiny,” Luther said. “It has diminished the integrity of this organization.”

Clarksville Mayor Joe Pitts said the meeting was a legal one and felt Langford had the right to choose whether she votes at meetings.

“We should just be discussing the motion,” Pitts said. “The motion is to rescind the actions of the board on April 19.”

The motion to rescind the previous vote passed 8-4.

Crow made a motion to table the decision until the next scheduled meeting in June.

The motion failed due to lack of a second.

Pitts made the motion to authorize negotiations to begin with Candidate B.

The motion passed 8-5.

The yes votes came from Holleman, Turner, Bennett, Pitts, Durrett, Wallace Redd, James Lewis and Langford.

The no votes were from Luther, Kelly, Crow, Smalley and Cunningham.

Affion Public, an executive search company, will begin negotiations with Candidate B.

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Sheriff appoints first woman as POST-certified lieutenant

When Montgomery County Sheriff John Fuson called then Sgt. Sheila Ratliff into his office in September, she had no idea he would offer her a promotion to lieutenant.

While a woman had previously held the title of a lieutenant for administrative purposes, Ratliff became the first woman POST Commission-certified lieutenant fully trained at a police academy.

Ratliff was promoted to lieutenant of the courts and process division. In October, she became the department’s first woman lieutenant in a supervisory role.

She is the first woman to hold a law enforcement position and the first woman lieutenant to move up the ranks to get the leadership position.

Fuson’s offer to Ratliff had one caveat that could have kept her from seeking the job.

Fuson told the 55-year-old wife, mother of three and grandmother, she would have to go through the police academy first, which would involve keeping up with a class of young cadets and a strenuous, physical-fitness training program.

Ratliff said the task was challenging, but it was well worth the effort.

“I’m not going to lie. It was scary,” Ratliff said. “I worried if I was too old and if I could get hurt. It was definitely a challenge but a challenge I accepted, but [it] was difficult.”

Fuson said he was confident in her abilities.

“It was a great accomplishment and morale boost for her, not that that was the point, but I had no doubt she would get through it,” he said.

After completing the nine-week program, Ratliff graduated March 29 with the 119th class at Walters State Community College Police Academy.

Sheriff: Ratliff was the right choice

Fuson said he appointed Ratliff lieutenant, because she was in the right position at the right time and had the right experience.

“That’s regardless of gender or race, anything,” Fuson said. “While it’s an appointment, some people may say it’s subjective, but you can look back through the appointments I’ve done, and you can see the rationale in them.”

The responsibilities at the courthouse require a certain amount of enforcement experience to train deputies how to respond when they encounter someone with a gun, drugs or involved in a domestic situation, he said.

The court security and the civil process were both experiences Ratliff brought to the table, according to Fuson.

“She’s had both of those hats on for a long time,” Fuson said. “She really knew how both of those worked. She has the respect of those who work in tAhose areas. To me, there was no question of who needed to have the position.”

Moving up through the ranks

During her senior year in 1984, Ratliff dropped out of Northwest High School after her mother suffered a stroke and needed her daughter’s daily care.

Years later, Ratliff studied and received her GED and spent much of her early career working in a local factory.

She married her husband, Michael Ratliff, in 1988.

“I came across an ad in the newspaper that said the sheriff’s department needed three court officers,” Ratliff said. “I began as a court deputy with the Montgomery County Sheriff’s Office in 1998.”

She was transferred to the civil process department in 2011 and became a sergeant in 2013.

As a lieutenant, Ratliff advanced from supervising seven people to supervising 54.

Nearly 23 years later, Ratliff said she loves her job and the people with whom she works.

“I get in there with them and work,” Ratliff said. “I really try to listen to their concerns and try to make things better. I tell them I’m always open to suggestions for improvements.”

Ratliff said she makes an effort to assist deputies about three days a week at the courthouse, especially if they’re short-handed.

“This has all been such a huge accomplishment for me,” Ratliff said. “I’m so grateful I have been provided the opportunity to do this and to further my career. I wouldn’t trade it. I would do it again.”

The Chocolate Affair event honors cocoa-themed confections in Clarksville

The Chocolate Affair, A Celebration of Cocoa event was back this year, giving the chocolate lovers of Clarksville a walk-through experience of decadence and delight.

With everything from chocolate-infused coffees to scrumptious handmade cookies, brownies, cakes and treats, the theme of the afternoon was a simple one – chocolate, lots and lots of chocolate.

This year’s event looked a bit different than previous affairs, with vendors set up to receive patrons in a to-go capacity. The slight limitations, however, did not dampen the warm vibes and cordial enthusiasm of the event, as patrons sampled exquisite chocolate creations from each booth.

Starting at the Culture Wine Bar with a raspberry and chocolate infused libation, attendees were off to the races on their journey into Clarksville’s chocolate food scene.

Cakes by Jacqueline had a fantastic selection of three-tier layer cakes to sample. With choices like the tantalizing white chocolate cake imbued with pineapple, traditional red velvet, German chocolate or the chocolate turtle cake, there was lots of variety here. The chocolate turtle cake was a favorite among patrons. Moist and light chocolate cake, filled with chunks of fudge throughout, then layered with a homemade caramel icing, the flavor was off the charts. Contact Cakes by Jacqueline at 931-206-5706 for pricing and ordering information.

Wrap ‘n’ Snacks featured its selection of delicious waffles, with either chocolate or red velvet as the choices. Topped with hand-whipped cream, the red velvet waffle was fluffy and delicious, with an almost cake-like quality to it. The whipped cream added a nice hit of flavor without taking over. It was the perfect choice on a lovely spring afternoon filled with so many exceptional confections. Contact Wrap ‘n’ Snacks at wrapnsnacks@gmail.com or check it out at wrapnsnacks.wordpress.com.

LilaLue Sweets had amazing bourbon-infused fudge brownies, topped off with a velvety chocolate ganache. The bourbon was used in the recipe and gave these brownies a deep, rich flavor that was a moist, gooey delight of chocolate wonder. Find Lilalue Sweets on Instagram or Facebook.

Then there was Ms. Pete’s Catering and Cafe that had layered parfaits, cups to go loaded with meatloaf and mashed potatoes and samples of orzo salad. Each sample was just enough to taste their amazing food and have patrons wanting to back for more. Find Ms. Pete’s at mspetescandc.com for more catering and event information.

One of the final stops on my luxuriant trip down chocolate lover’s lane was at Chealsey’s Cookie Jar, with beautifully decorated sugar cookies in a myriad of flavors like the cookies and cream or the red velvet. Shop the creations at chealseyscookiejar.com.

And on the last stop of the affair was the wondrous Two Birds Coffee Co. With a chocolate smooth coffee that was emboldened with notes of cinnamon and a hit of cayenne pepper, the coffee was an illustrious final flourish to an afternoon well spent. Follow Two Birds Coffee Co. @2birdscoffeeco on Facebook or Instagram.