There are just some things you can count on this time of year, and in the midst of uncertainty, it’s comforting to rely on them. Summer always brings with it heat, a lot of fun and, of course, our annual Gentleman’s Issue! While we certainly love curating man-related content for this issue, our favorite part is, without a doubt, selecting our Gentlemen of Distinction. Over the years, we’ve highlighted many men in Williamson County. Our Gentlemen of Distinction have ranged from CEO’s and entrepreneurs, all the way to bachelors and nonprofit heroes.
Discussing the “theme” for our honorees was different this year. After all, with so much going on in the world between a global pandemic and a resurge in the fight for racial equality, all the while still recovering from the March tornadoes...where did we even begin? And then it hit us... Yes, there is a lot going on in the world right now, but there are also a lot of people in our community actively taking part in healing it and finding solutions for a better tomorrow. Even more important, this year, every one of our gentlemen were nominated from within our community by people who had experienced their generosity first-hand.
So, for this year’s Gentlemen of Distinction, we are proud to present to you a group of men that have spent not only the last few months but, for the most part, their careers, enacting positive change. These men have served on boards of Williamson County organizations and nonprofits, spear-headed social justice initiatives and important discussions on racial equality, volunteered for post-tornado clean-up and restoration, kept businesses, employees and others safe in the midst of the pandemic and most importantly, they have made an undeniable difference in our community.
To all of you, but especially to our 2020 Gentlemen of Distinction, thank you for being a part of the good work being done; thank you for pushing for change... And, most importantly, thank you for making our community a better place.
John Bond: Twine Graphics & Screen Printing
John Bond comes from a family of entrepreneurs. Inspired by his father and grandfather, John has always had a heart for business and a determined spirit. “You have to work hard to get to where you want to go,” says John. “I have been fortunate and surrounded myself with driven people who always supported what I was doing. It’s not always easy but so rewarding when you can look around after almost ten years and say, ‘wow, we did it!’”
John and his business partner, Brandon Hagan, started Twine Graphics & Screen Printing shortly after graduating from Western Kentucky University. Combining his degree in graphic design and printmaking with his passion for screen printing, he knew that creating a branding design business was the perfect path for him. Along with being a business owner, John is also a husband, father and serves on several local board and advisory groups, including the Downtown Franklin Association, the United Williamson Initiative and The Heritage Foundation.
“One of the many things that makes Franklin and Williamson County so special is that community here matters,” says John. “We are greatly tied to this community and doing whatever we can to help those that have supported us is the least we can do.” Like most business owners, John has been tasked with restructuring his business throughout the pandemic. “We have had to rethink a lot of what daily operations look like due to COVID and being a small business,” John says. “We knew we needed to be creative and keep production going. We designed online fundraiser stores for local businesses and beyond, creating a platform
to sell t-shirts to raise money for their businesses.” Through every shirt sold, John and his business donated a portion back to other businesses. In total, they have written out close to $60,000 in donations all over the country. “Providing even just a little monetary help to businesses to advertise themselves and add cash flow is a win,” says John. “These are truly troubling times for small businesses. Everyone has to work together, support each other and use services and products from local vendors. If we do this, all ships will rise together!”
Jason Collins: Franklin Juice Bar, Frankline Café
Jason Collins is the owner of Franklin Juice Bar, Franklin Café, Dr. Hughes Nutrition Bars and R&R Safety Shields. But being a business owner is just the beginning of the impact Jason has had on the Williamson County community. Jason is a long-time donor and volunteer to several organizations, including Hard Bargain, Saddle Up!, Raise the Roofs, United Way, Franklin High School, New Hope Academy, the Animal Shelter Gala, Boys & Girls Club and the Franklin Homeless Shelter. He also chairs and helps with Franklin favorite events such as Yoga in the Park and Celebration of Nations. “Franklin is a community where the more you contribute, the more you get out of it - and there are many ways to contribute, volunteer time or donate,” says Jason.
As a business owner, Jason has faced several challenges from the ongoing pandemic, but he stuck to his “adapt and overcome” attitude. Jason was able to keep Franklin Juice Bar and Franklin Café open for to-go and delivery options, therefore keeping his staff on payroll. However, his biggest concern was and remains to be the safety of his customers and staff. That’s why along with offering immunity boosting items and developing a touchless transaction process, Jason also started making safety shields for businesses and created R&R Safety Shields. “I developed a safety shield for my store and had many requests for the same,” explains Jason. “With many businesses shut down, it’s difficult to determine when they plan to reopen, there are so many unknowns. This is a new opportunity to help others and create jobs.”
In the midst of maintaining and opening new businesses, Jason has also managed to contribute to the fight for equality. In fact, he co-wrote the “Fuller Story” song with local musician Michael Ricks to help raise funds for a new statue to be built on the downtown Franklin Square. He also continues to raise funds for The McLemore House African American Heritage Museum and the African American Heritage Society of Williamson County. Jason plans to continue to keep businesses and people safe and help raise awareness for racial equality.
David Jacobs: Renova Health
Being someone with a passion for healthcare and making a difference, it should come as no surprise that David Jacobs is the co-founder and chief executive officer of Renova Health. “Our passion at Renova Health is to build one-on-one, trusted relationships with Medicare and chronically ill patients,” says David. “In turn, they give us the right to care for them.”
As someone in the healthcare industry, David has had first-hand experience fighting the pandemic. In fact, a majority of their clients fall into the at-risk category for COVID-19. Since this all started, David and the Renova health team have dedicated their time to helping their patients cope with loneliness and isolation, strengthen their underlying health, enable telemedicine to lessen exposure risk and detect and treat early any change in their health. “To have work you love that can have an impact to save lives, reduce suffering and anxiety, create jobs and just let vulnerable people know there is someone who cares and will be there for them... This is perhaps the greatest blessing of a lifetime,” David says. “I don’t think enough people realize how destabilizing it is for these folks to fear a crushing disease is at their doorstep and to feel the fabric of society is crashing around them. I can’t think of anything more important to be blessed do with my life. And the team at Renova shares this belief!”
Apart from his business, David has set his efforts on working with local officials to do more not just to slow the spread of the virus, but also to increase support and monitoring of those most at-risk. “My nature is to find ways to fix or improve things, but to have the ability to do that in the current environment and in a way so meaningful to the lives of so many, and I believe for this nation,” says David. “One of my guiding principles is, ‘if you know your own goals, you will be amazed at the opportunities you have to achieve them.’ I believe there is a ‘greater hand’ at work, and I just need to keep my eyes open for where it leads.”
Tony Kemp: +1 Effect
“Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves”-Philippians 2:3. If you were to ask Tony Kemp what inspires him to work harder, do better and be more, he would quote that verse for you. And if you were to look at his track record for helping others and getting involved, it would show just that. Tony grew up in Franklin. In fact, his earliest memories are of playing at the ball fields at Jim Warren Park. After graduating from Centennial High School, Kemp played baseball for Vanderbilt University from 2011-2013. In that time, his team won two SEC titles and was a part of the first team in school history to go to the College World Series. He was also named SEC Freshman of the Year in 2011 and SEC Player of the Year in 2013. Later that year, Tony was picked up in the MLB Draft by the Houston Astros.
Since then, he has not only continued to succeed in his baseball career, but he’s also used his platform to speak out and educate his following on current events. In May, Tony began hosting online auctions featuring autographed bobbleheads from Vanderbilt. He then matched those funds, raising more than $5,900. After the death of George Floyd, he used his social media to talk with people and answer questions about racial injustice and the Black Lives Matter Movement. “I’ve corresponded with more than 125 fans through direct messages on Twitter or Instagram,” says Tony. “The achievement in this is that the conversations are gaining awareness to people all over the world.” Inspired by recent events, Tony created the +1 Effect Campaign. His goal is to make a difference by having honest and sometimes difficult conversations about race with one person, and that person doing the same, in order to help change the world one person at a time. Partnering with a design company, Tony is selling t-shirts that benefit Campaign Zero, an organization whose goal is decreasing police violence. “This George Floyd murder feels different,” says Tony. “The protests that have been going on have been unique. Normally, when a black man is killed and protests are happening, it is predominately black people. In these rallies, I am seeing a split of 60% whites and 40% blacks and that means change is on the way. That is why I started +1 Effect.”
Steven McLellan: Garden Delights Fine Florist
It all started in a garage many years ago. In 1985, Steven McLellan moved to Nashville to study music at Belmont University. But in a twist of fate, he found his passion in an entirely different field: Florals. “Ultimately I found my true calling in the power of flowers,” says Steven. “It is a rare livelihood that is a part of every major life event. From a joyous birth to a tender celebration of a life well lived and everything in between.”
Steven officially opened Garden Delights Fine Florist in 1994 in the Berry Hill area of Nashville. In 2000, they relocated to North Franklin and have remained there for the past twenty years. Since businesses started to shut down during the pandemic in March, Steven along with Kris Bagbey have managed to keep their doors open by offering curbside and doorstep delivery. “It was quite humbling actually to see how the gift of flowers in this time of quarantine became an important way of communicating care and concern for loved ones,” Steven says. “Whether it was parents in a rehab facility or your own neighbors that you couldn’t hang with on the front porch. Some might say flowers aren’t essential, but in a time you can’t attend a funeral service or celebrate an event... Flowers are a potent reminder you are loved.”
As a Williamson County resident and business owner, Steven said he feels most inspired to work harder, be better and do more when the community gathers to do something that’s good. When he’s not working, he enjoys nature and walks, art galleries, exploring Leiper’s Fork and visiting his three children in Seattle.
Rondal Richardson: The Community Foundation of Middle Tennessee
For Rondal Richardson, a history of servitude runs in his family. A son to civil servants who lived all throughout Tennessee, Rondal says that Franklin is the one place that always felt like home. “In an era of granularity of service to others, the civility we had for our community was both lyrical in its history and hopeful for our future,” said Rondal. “I believe that those days of growing up here provided a backdrop of love and justice for me. Growing up in Williamson County and learning from what was happening here was the birthplace for my life of service to others.”
Rondal has served as a donor and volunteer to The Community Foundation of Middle Tennessee for almost a decade, but he joined the team full time as an entertainment and donor relations liaison two years ago. “At The Community Foundation, we have been on the front lines serving the entire Middle Tennessee community in all three areas of tornado relief, COVID-19 and the fight for equality,” said Rondal. “We have helped to raise over $11 million dollars from donors all over the country for the Middle Tennessee Emergency Response Fund, all of which will directly benefit our neighbors across the region who lost everything in the devastating March tornadoes. In June, The Community Foundation launched its Give Back Give Black initiative with support for nonprofits which are fighting inequality, lack of inclusion and disproportionate representation in our region and beyond. As a result of these efforts, I know that we will come through this period stronger and braver and more resilient than ever.” Rondal’s goal in life has always been one of “moving the world towards love and away from fear,” and being a part of CFMT, he’s certainly made waves to achieving it. “This complex time in our humanity has certainly shined a light on all that we must do collectively to ensure a brighter future for those who are to come,” said Rondal. “Watching our friends and neighbors roll up their sleeves to help those who need a loving hand or two has been nothing short of inspiring for me. In one hundred years, they will talk about the leaders in our community who had the hard conversations, showed up in new ways and tried harder than at any point in our history.”
Kevin G. Townsel, J.D.: City of Franklin
For the past two years, Kevin G. Townsel has worked as the director of human resources for the City of Franklin. As such, he has certainly had no shortage of opportunities to be involved in the ongoing pandemic, tornado relief and fight for racial justice. “Each of the events of 2020 hold great significance to me,” explains Kevin. “The tornado affected many of my friend’s homes and businesses. We in Franklin were spared from the high winds and many of us felt the need to help our neighbors from the near north. All of the numerous reminders of racial inequality and insensitivity in our society came to a head when George Floyd was killed. I actually do not know how anyone could remain on the sidelines after we all were able to witness that travesty of justice. I do hope that all of our efforts to spotlight those and other travesties of justice will result in a better tomorrow.”
After the tornado, Kevin served with both his family and the Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity Alumni Chapter to clean up debris and donate cases of water and clothing. As a City of Franklin employee, Kevin has served on the leadership team charged with responding to the challenges presented by the pandemic. Their main goal continues to be keeping businesses and people safe and healthy. He also had to address these same concerns as a member of the Franklin Special School District School Board. On both a professional and personal level, Kevin remains committed to playing an active role in the fight for racial equality. “My role as the director of human resources has afforded me with several opportunities to discuss the City of Franklin’s position that we stand against racial injustice,” says Kevin. “Apart from that role, I am a father of concerned teenagers. I have taken my teens to a couple protests regarding racial injustice. While I am personally disturbed by the numerous expressions of racial injustice, it is most critical that I help channel my teens outrage and energy towards effective public protests. We were part of the protest at First Baptist Church on Natchez. Many speakers had purposeful action items that would work towards meaningful changes.” Given his passion for these projects, Kevin continues to be happy to serve in his leadership positions and inact positive change. He is most proud in his part in making sure that the City didn’t have to furlough any employees and that those classified as non-essential have been safely and successfully been able to work from home.
Stuart Tutler: Parks Realty
If you were to ask Stuart Tutler, deciding to move to Franklin was one of the best decisions he ever made. And if you were to ask the Franklin community, they would say the feeling is mutual. In his twenty-five years of living in Williamson County, Stuart has certainly left his mark on the community. Several may know him as a current Parks Realtor or the past Head of School for New Hope Academy, but he has also served on several nonprofit boards including New Hope Academy, Williamson County CASA, Leadership Franklin, Franklin’s Table, Franklin’s Change, The Heritage Foundation of Williamson County and ThriftSmart.
Given the events our state and nation have faced over the last several months, Stuart has directed his volunteer efforts to tornado relief and the fight for racial equality. “Although I live in Williamson county, the victims of the tornado are my neighbors,” says Stuart. “I feel it is our duty to help our neighbors in a time of crisis. I know that they would not hesitate to do the same for me. Regarding the fight for equality, as an African American man, unfortunately I have been fighting my entire life. I am so glad to see so many get involved in this call for justice. This nation can only be great if all of its citizens are treated with equality. It starts in the home, and that home can change a neighborhood, and that neighborhood can change a city, and that city can change a state, and that state can change a nation, and who knows, maybe that nation can change a world. The greatest obstacles are people not willing to address or discuss the issues. People assume the issues do not exist because it has not affected or impacted their lives or their family’s lives. It is difficult to address inequalities if there is the belief that inequality does not exist.” Stuart has participated in several events intended to bring awareness to racial injustice in our country, including The Great Rest, The Public and Seek First to Understand: A Panel on Race. “The thing that inspires me most to work harder, be better and do more is my love for Jesus Christ, and the love He has for me,” explains Stuart. “It is through His love, that I am able to genuinely love others.”