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Honoring Women’s History Month with Renee Shaw

March is Women’s History Month and The Portland Sun is highlighting the life of Renee Shaw, who grew up locally and attended Portland schools. Shaw is Kentucky Educational Television’s (KET) public affairs managing producer and host.

Shaw is considered the lead talent on public affairs at KET. She has been on-air with the station since 1997. She attained this position through working hard as a reporter doing infrequent on-air roles, but it is her proficiency in her craft that gave her the opportunity to occupy prime space on the network’s airwaves.

“I always say that when prayer meets immense preparation, progress is pre-destined,” Shaw said. “There is no escaping hard work, grit and long hours. It matters not the number of college degrees, if you’re too lazy to keep doing your homework. Journalism demands that one knows a little about a lot of things.”

She attributes her “overnight success” to 20 years of hard work with KET to get there. She has covered everything from sports betting, to education standards, to racial trauma and public pension reform. She started as an entry level reporter/field producer and quickly rose to producer ranks and over time she rose to producer/writer host.

Shaw currently hosts “Kentucky Tonight” on Monday evenings and, “Connections with Renee Shaw” on Sunday at noon. On these programs she has the opportunity to talk with notable Kentuckians and national figures on a wide range of topics.

During the Kentucky General Assembly, Shaw hosts “Legislative Update,” a weeknight program during regular sessions that recap Kentucky House and Senate actions. She has hosted election night and special event coverage for KET. She is producer and host of the “Congressional Update” reoccurring series, and she produces and hosts KET forums where serious issues are tackled.

Shaw said she sees herself as a public servant or informant of important matters through many different perspectives and experiences. According to Shaw, her goal is to be “at the table” where the hard conversations are had and perhaps where middle ground is achieved.

She has a six-member public affairs team, who are support staff. According to Shaw, KET has been blessed to recruit public affairs staff who have worked for the PBS NewsHour and who have contributed to the Washington Post and other national outlets.

Shaw has had the opportunity to interview many famous people. Her first interview was with Stedman Graham, close friend of Oprah Winfrey. When the Muhammad Ali Center opened in Louisville, she interviewed the boxer’s wife, while Ali looked on due to health issues.

She also interviewed a wide range of people connected with Ali. She has interviewed athletes like Dominique Wilkins, as well as Cupcake entrepreneur Gigi Butler and authors like Michelle Alexander.

According to Shaw, her favorite interviews are the everyday, unsung heroes, who start charitable organizations and foundations and who give them their soul to help people rise.

“I believe it is important to pay it forward and give back to the community,” Shaw said. “I am a member and programming chair of a prestigious international civic service organization that works with kids of promise to boost their educational attainment and cultural experiences, and address the root causes of societal ills.”

Shaw credits the Parkers Chapel Community and the black church as being a foundation for her professional success.

“It was the training ground for personal conduct, the stage for performative arts in music and oratorical recitations, and, of course, the grounding force in cementing the meaning of faith, salvation and discipleship,” Shaw said. “Historically, the black church has been the meeting place for social activism and its people the backbone of the civil rights movement. The black church isn’t a place, but a cultural and collective mindset of activism in motion centered on God’s principles of peace and justice.”

Shaw describes her kindergarten teacher, Diane Larson, with nurturing her early in her life.

Shaw said, “My kindergarten teacher nurtured a shy little girl to promise at the earliest stages of my educational experience. Growing up in a class with few other kids of color has influenced my work to this day.

“And, as it likely still happens now, my first day of kindergarten was sullied by a kid who called me a “n_____.” It wouldn’t be the last time. But, the first time I heard it, it created an anxiety for the school environment and desire to hide myself, literally, from a world that didn’t want me in it.

“Mrs. Larson was patient and kind and helped me find a friend. I will never forget that about her. But my greatest teachers were my parents, the most influential people in my life who taught me grit, work ethic, that my black was beautiful and that one day my success would be the greatest testament to who God made me to be.

“And, along the way, kids like the ones who taunted me in grade school, would be used as my footstool to higher ground, in fact they were.”

She also credited long-time educator Alice Smith who lived in Parker’s Chapel with investing time and guidance to her throughout her youth.

“She was a member of the Parkers Chapel Church, and was a magnificent force in helping to encourage, motivate and connect youth to life-enriching experiences,” Shaw said. “I maintain that my best life teachers invested their time, love, and treasure, and are constantly teaching their daughter by the power of their example.”

Shaw will not share her personal goals because she describes them as personal and when she reaches them, she will let everyone know.

She is driven by faith, family and purpose. She views her success not by the size of her bank account but by the difference she makes and the legacy she leaves in the work she was created to do. It is her hope that she inspires little girls to come along and do it better than she does.

She is the daughter of Emma Jane and Ferrell Shaw. She is a 1990 graduate of Portland High School and earned a Bachelor of Arts in Government/Political Science and Broadcast Journalism and a Master of Arts in Corporate/Organizational Communication from Western Kentucky University.

She worked for several years as a news assistant at WKYU-FM and an associate producer at WKYU-TV with the university. While there, she produced human interest pieces for public television and produced several documentaries and interview segments that earned honors from the Kentucky Associated Press and the Society of Professional Journalist.

The Portland Sun is proud to highlight Renee Shaw during March Women’s History Month.

Storms cut path through rural Portland community
  • Updated

Portland officials, along with first responders and volunteers were up early Friday morning, trying to help residents affected by Thursday night’s storm, which left a path of debris in the Hwy. 259 — Cook Road area.

Officials believe the storm event was not a tornado, but a result of straight-line winds, according to Ken Weidner, director of the Sumner County Management Agency.

“At four minutes after 5 p.m. we responded up there with a lot of resources and right now it looks like it’s going to be straight-line winds,” Weidner said Friday morning. “We transported two people – one that was storm-related and there were several others that were not transported.

“Basically, we did a primary and secondary search for victims and cleared the area around 11 p.m.”

While there has been no catastrophic damage reported, Mayor Mike Callis said numerous structures in the area were hit.

“Whether it was a tornado or straight-line winds, it doesn’t matter to the people – all they know is that they have damage,” Callis said Friday. “It’s a rural farming area and there’s a lot of houses with siding facing the south that got hit when the hail beat the siding off and there is a lot of damage to barns.

“There’s metal debris wrapped up in some of the trees and trees that are down. We’ve got a lot of damage. We started early this morning, setting up a staging area at Antioch Baptist Church, trying to organize some things out there. The church also suffered damage.”

According to Callis, he and others were in the process of moving items into the new City Hall building around 5 p.m. Thursday when he received a call from Alderman Jody McDowell, who is also a Sumner County Sheriff’s deputy, saying a possible tornado had touched down and they needed help.

Callis said at first, it was believed there was a gas leak, but it was later discovered a propane tank had been hit.

Multiple agencies both in and outside of the city responded to help including Sumner County Emergency Management Agency, Sumner County Emergency Medical Services, Tennessee Highway Patrol, Sumner County Sheriff’s Office and numerous city and volunteer fire departments.

Area restaurants were quick to supply food and drinks to residents and first responders, including Domino’s Pizza, McDonalds, Burger King, 5 Chefs and Southern Occasion’s Event Center.

Portland Building Supply has brought tarps to help cover resident’s roofs and Callis said volunteers are just trying to work to beat the next round of storms that are expected on Saturday.

Residents who would like to volunteer with the clean-up efforts can go to Antioch Baptist Church at 135 Cook Road. Bring gloves and any equipment you may have to help remove debris.

County leaders buy themselves $900 iPads with Covid-relief funds

At least three Sumner County Commissioners say they won’t be accepting iPads the county bought for them recently with federal COVID-19 relief money.

Commissioners were notified by email Feb. 8 that the iPads were purchased for each commissioner as “part of the Covid-19 grant and telecommute initiative.”

Commissioners also received a use agreement stating, “In the interests of furthering remote work, and paperless initiatives Sumner County Government will make available for use by elected officials one (1) Apple iPad Pro Tablet (iPad) for use while conducting any and all official county work. The iPad is intended for county government purposes and official county work only.”

County leaders were notified by the state Comptroller’s Office in August that the county would receive $2.8 million in federal CARES Act funds.

“Expenditures should be limited to those incurred due to COVID-19,” read the letter in part from then-Comptroller Justin Wilson.

Commissioners voted during the Sept. 21 meeting to appropriate the $2.8 million. The description that accompanied the legislation stated they would be used for “1. Mobile command center. 2. Two motor vehicle renewal self-service kiosks 3. Floor scrubber 4. External drop box for county administration building, IT equipment for county offices, and EMS headsets for communication.”

It also listed $1.6 million as “other charges.”

During a 20-minute discussion of what the money would be used for, technology was mentioned but iPads or any type of computers for elected officials were not.

County invoices show that 32 Apple 12.9-inch iPad Pro Wi-Fi 4th generation tablets were ordered Oct. 28 at a cost of $994.01 each. Also bought were 32 Apple Smart keyboard and folio cases for $206.43 each. The total of the iPads, keyboards and cases was $38,414.08.

According to County IT Director Dennis Cary, the iPads were ordered for each of the 24 county commissioners as well as for eight elected officials: County Mayor Anthony Holt, Assessor of Property John Isbell, County Clerk Bill Kemp, Sheriff Sonny Weatherford, Circuit Court Clerk Kathryn Strong, Roads Superintendent Judy Hardin, Register of Deeds Cindy Briley and Trustee Cindy Williams.

Cary said that so far three commissioners, Mansfield, Moe Taylor and Merrol Hyde had declined the iPads.

During a Feb. 22 County Commission meeting, Mansfield and Taylor both said commissioners weren’t made aware of the purchase and that it wasn’t something they voted for.

“So who’s making [these] decisions?” asked Moe Taylor. “That’s not open and transparent government.”

Budget Committee Chairman Chris Taylor defended the purchases and said they were approved by the state.

“We couldn’t have done it if it wasn’t under their guidelines,” he said. Chris Taylor said the reason the purchase could be applied to COVID-19 relief funds is if the county commission ever needs to meet remotely again, the iPads will allow them to do so.

“We need to make sure we can provide government for citizens if this building shuts down,” he said. “It was an opportunity for us to make sure every commissioner had it. And that way we don’t have to worry about if something happens, we can still meet.”

The idea of purchasing iPads for commissioners was first brought up in a budget committee meeting in April of 2011 by then-County Commissioner Jim Vaughn.

Moe Taylor, who represents District 1 in Westmoreland, said he remembered Vaughn catching heat from citizens at the time who said the expenditure was frivolous.

“I have constituents who don’t have access to public water,” he said. “I’m not taking an iPad.”

District 6 Commissioner Deanne Dewitt said the idea of purchasing iPads was brought up during budget discussions in the last fiscal year as a way to cut back on the amount of paper used to print agendas.

“So the timing of the Covid money became a compelling additional use for why these iPads would be useful at a time when we’re meeting virtually,” she said.

Mansfield said after the meeting commissioners only met virtually three times that he recalled and that the money could have been better spent.

“That was federal money that was supposed to be restricted for what the county lost due to Covid,” he said. “It was just a perk for the commissioners at the taxpayers’ expense.”

In a phone conversation on Tuesday, Sumner County Mayor Anthony Holt said it was up to commissioners on how the money was spent but that he agrees with the decision to spend it on technology that included iPads.

“The iPads were just one way the money was used,” he said. “They had to use the money in a way that hopefully kept people safe and that was by remote means.”

He said the county commissioners have been wanting to cut down on printing costs of the 100-plus-page agendas for quite some time.

“I do think since this was free of local tax dollars, and it will save us in printing costs,” he said.

Commissioners receive agendas by email and they are posted on the county’s website, but Holt said this allows commissioners more mobility when accessing the documents.

Holt also said that even though he was offered one, he didn’t accept a county iPad because he already had one.

While Mansfield suggested giving his iPad to a charitable organization, Holt said that wasn’t possible.

He said the unwanted iPads will go to other county employees who can use them.

“I’m sure they won’t go to waste,” he said.

Mary Hance brings Ms. Cheap to Main Street Media

Mary Hance, better known to Middle Tennesseans as Ms. Cheap, has joined Main Street Media of Tennessee to write a weekly column for its 13 newspapers. Hance retired in January after a 45-year career with The Tennessean and the Nashville Banner. For 27 of those years, she shared her dollar-stretching savvy to the delight of readers. In her new column, Hance will highlight Ms. Cheap’s weekly pick, as well as share her money-saving strategies.

“I’m so excited our readers will now get a weekly dose of the iconic Ms. Cheap,” said Dave Gould, owner of Main Street Media of Tennessee. “Mary is a one-of-a-kind local institution, and we’re thrilled she’s joining our team of local journalists.”

Hance says this new partnership is a bona fide bargain. “I am so happy to be joining Main Street Nashville and its sister newspapers with my Ms. Cheap columns. I love writing about free and affordable things to do, good local sales, fun day trips, good, inexpensive local restaurants and other ways for us to do more with less.”

Hance’s passion for penny-pinching evolved into impactful charitable work. Over the past 12 years, her annual Ms. Cheap Penny Drive for Second Harvest Food Bank of Middle Tennessee has raised more than $1.3 million.

“I also love highlighting ways for us to stretch our dollars to help others in the community,” Hance said. I’m hoping to continue to connect local people with areas of need in Middle Tennessee by supporting nonprofits like Second Harvest Food Bank and Room in the Inn. I’m also planning to launch a T-shirt drive for the homeless later this spring as my first initiative with my new Main Street partners. So, stay tuned, and as always, ‘Stay cheap!’ ”

Hance says her readers have always shared great cheap tips, and she’s counting on them to continue sharing their wisdom. She can be reached at mscheap@mainstreetmediatn.com.