Lanny Dunn, right, with Tennessee Tech President Dr. Philip Oldham, left, and Cookeville Chamber CEO George Halford.

A UCBJ Special

Ovation trophies 7_2_2014

BEST INDIVIDUAL CITIZEN/EXCELLENCE IN BUSINESS LEADERSHIP: Honoring business leaders, managers and elected/appointed officials who have helped pave the way and are promoting a strong business and economic environment in the Upper Cumberland


Lanny Dunn, right, with Tennessee Tech President Dr. Philip Oldham, left, and Cookeville Chamber CEO George Halford.
Lanny Dunn, right, with Tennessee Tech President Dr. Philip Oldham, left, and Cookeville Chamber CEO George Halford.


Ask about Lanny Dunn’s recent donation of Cookeville Golf Club to Tennessee Tech, and he’ll take you back. Way back. To the day, in fact, when he first purchased the property in 2000 – in a fire sale – to keep it in its current condition, to save the plush, green links.

This time around, same idea. Dunn announced his plans in February. He had other interested buyers, for sure, but passing the club on to the university was the best way to ensure its future as a course for even longer term, he said.

“With other buyers, it was almost assured that it wouldn’t remain a golf club. It would turn into some kind of housing project or development, and that wasn’t what I wanted to happen,” Dunn said. “I think it stands the best chance to remain a golf course for a real long time (with Tech).”

It was 2000 when Dunn and a partner bought Cookeville Golf Club, an 18-hole course on 126 acres off 10th Street on the east side of town. But after 15 years, he saw fit to move on. He approached Tech with the offer; the deal became official in April. Property records value the land at $2 million. An appraisal came in higher than that.

“We were fortunate enough to make a little bit of money over the years,” Dunn said. “Running a golf course is just like any other business, you have peaks and valleys, and certainly the golf industry has changed a lot in the last 15 years. I didn’t think, as an owner, I could do it as much justice as somebody like Tech can do.”

For its part, Tennessee Tech will use the facility as the home course for its men’s and women’s golf programs. It will also be a resource for its Food, Nutrition & Dietetics program and School of Agriculture, including nursery, landscape and turfgrass management, and more.

“Tech’s a great school,” Dunn said. “They’ll be one of a few Division I-AA schools that have their own golf course now, which should help in their recruiting of athletes, faculty, students, everything else. It should be a big plus for them. It’s a good fit for everybody. I hope it stays a golf course for a long time,” he added. “I’ve got a lot of memories out there. A lot of people in this community have a lot of memories at that golf course, and there’s still a lot more stories to be told.”


Heart of the City Playground
Heart of the City playground.


The numbers are overwhelming. More than $500,000 donated. Some 2,800 volunteers. And two years’ time. But Heart of the City, the newly constructed, all-inclusive, 12,500 square foot playground located within Dogwood Park, seems well worth the effort.

A core committee of 10-12, headed by moms and co-coordinators Kelly Swallows and Ashley Swann, helped lead the push, and countless committees, sponsors, contractors and donors – way too many to mention – pitched in along the way.

From fundraisers like the Gangster Gala, which raised more than $50,000 in one night, to its highly popular “All In For 10” grassroots campaign, which garnered another $38,000 in $10 increments, the movement seemingly took over social media. All those works converged in dramatic, rain-soaked fashion for a community-build week in September/October.

The result? The area’s first 100-percent accessible play space, and for those involved, perhaps one of the biggest shows of city-wide pride.

“When the rain started during Build Week, there was a call for help on the radio, and within 10 minutes, we had ponchos delivered by the carful,” Swallows said. “There were no more ponchos to be had in Cookeville. We needed more wheelbarrows and shovels because of the mud, and people just started bringing shovels, wheelbarrows and trunk fulls of food and baked goods. It was a nightmare with all that rain, but if you look back, it was such a wonderful experience.

“I couldn’t believe people kept showing up. But they did, thank goodness,” she added. “We were very, very grateful.”

Now that construction is complete – the playground opened in December and has since been handed over to the City of Cookeville – the committee is on hold. But there is a plan to use excess funds, roughly $65,000, for a bathroom facility. There’s no timeline on when that project could get started.

“It’s just amazing,” Swallows said. “Of course, if I ever see someone out there with special needs, that just makes me smile. But I also love seeing other children, who, where were they before at 4 o’clock on a Tuesday afternoon? Were they outside playing or were they inside watching TV or just lounging around? That’s what makes me happiest.”


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Eddie Parker and his family have run the Parker Charcoal plant for more than 20 years – all the while, said one UCBJ reader, meeting the demands of a changing environmental climate by way of Eddie’s leadership.

Parker, moreover, has worked to perfect his kiln design to produce what it calls the best hardwood charcoal on the market. This produces a charcoal with less waste, better lighting characteristics and a longer burn time – the perfect companion for your grill, smoker or gourmet.


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