Marilyn Toppins: A Servant Leader Through and Through

Marilyn Toppins

“Actions speak louder than words.”

“You’ve got to put your money where your mouth is.”

Those were just some of the values instilled in Marilyn Toppins by her mother, and they’re words she lives by to this day.

Frankly, if you’ve not seen Toppins working in Union County, you’re not paying attention. She and husband Wayne are retired now, but that’s not stopping Toppins from putting in as many volunteer hours as she can for organizations like Union County Business and Professional Association, Preservation Union County, the Union County Museum, and the Union County Heritage Festival.

“As far back as I can remember, since I was 11 or 12 years old, I’ve always been involved in something,” she said. “You’ve got to be involved in something that’s bigger than you are. That’s what citizenship in American and making people’s lives better is all about.”

Toppins joked that maybe she shouldn’t remind people that she’s “not from around here.”

“It’s going to ruin everything, because people are just now starting to think that I’m from Union County,” she said. “In the last seven or eight years or so, people are asking me, ‘You’re from Union County, right?’ And to me that was probably the greatest compliment that I’ve ever gotten.”

But all joking aside, Toppins hails from Knoxville, although she and Wayne have lived in their Mountain View Estates home in Plainview since 1972. She grew up in Norwood, attended Central High School and UT, where she and Wayne met in the computer programming department.

Toppins graduated with a major in history and minors in speech, English and secondary education. They moved to the Condon community, which would later become the town of Plainview, on April Fool’s Day. They wanted to find an affordable house with a yard and a country setting. They still live in the house today, a house built by former Union County Sheriff Earl Loy, and they raised two sons there, Jonathan and Jerry, now grown.

Soon, Toppins had a job teaching a 2nd and 3rd grade split with 33 students at Luttrell Elementary School. She stayed at Luttrell for 12 years. In her career with Union County Public Schools, she’s also been a special education teacher at the high school, an adult education teacher, middle school teacher, professional development coordinator and principal at Maynardville Elementary School. She even served as Director of Schools for a time.

She was also active in, and at one point president of, the Union County Educators Association, the teachers’ union. She said one of the great achievements of the union during her involvement was the graduated pay scale for teachers.

“Teachers in Union County never had a graduated pay scale until a group of us at UCEA sat down and wrote one,” Toppins said. “That was a real difference in Union County, and to this day it’s still going on. It made a major improvement in teachers’ lives, and it gave them something to really work for, more incentive to stay in Union County. We were losing teachers drastically, and it really did help to stop the movement. At one time, the lifetime earnings for a teacher in Union County surpassed Knox County.”

She also said she witnessed a change in “spirit” in Union County schools in the early 1990s.

“The people teaching in Union County in the early 1990s, there was a spirit that children just believed that they could take their Union County education and do whatever they wanted to with it,” she said. “Kids who never thought they would do anything more than work on a tobacco farm, and they went on to college and they have good, solid, paying jobs, and they have done really well. In that time frame, you saw the tobacco farms go away and people finding other kinds of work.”

Toppins was also active in government in the town of Plainview for many years. She signed the 1992 petition for incorporation, and she served on the Board of Mayor and Aldermen for 10 years and as chair of the town’s planning commission.

In 1998, Plainview mayor Bill von Schipmann, known to neighbors and friends as “Von,” asked Toppins if she would run for alderman.

“It was the funniest thing,” she said. “I got in my car and drove to Knoxville, and I said, ‘Lord, if you really want me to run for this office, you’ve got to send me a sign.’ On my way back, I stopped at Midway IGA, and a person from Plainview asked me if I was going to run. Then I stopped at the Pit Stop and another person asked. I got in my car and I said, ‘Lord, that’s three in one day, so I guess I’m running.’”

Toppins said she and Wayne plan to stay in Plainview as long as they can.

“To me, it’s like heaven right here. Who can ask for a better place to live? (Plainview government is) so transparent, diverse and progressive. I could go on and on. It’s people who come up with ideas, and they really want to see those ideas be implemented, and they want to pay for them themselves. Government by itself is always so slow, but in Plainview it progresses. It really moves,” she said.

But, it is perhaps her volunteer work for which Toppins is best known. She’s currently board chair of the Union County Business and Professional Association and president of the Union County Heritage Festival, an event that draws thousands of visitors to Wilson Park each year. She’s served on the board of Leadership Union County and still helps out. She also volunteers with the Union County Museum and Preservation Union County, and helps Union County 4-H as a judge for their public speaking contests.
“I love to do those things,” she said, and she speculates that her volunteerism is part of what’s behind her acceptance as a bona fide Union Countian.

“It was many years before I could put a label on what I felt I needed to do, and that was servant leadership,” she said. “As people got to know me, some of my ideas may have seemed radical at first, but we just found more common ground. If we’re going to do something, it’s going to take work, and I’m willing to work, and that’s the way I’ve always done it. I’m committed, and I’ll see it through.”

Just as Toppins plans to stay at home in Plainview as long as she can, she’s also going to keep on volunteering in retirement as long as she can. She’s even picking up some new projects, like writing for

She invites anyone who wants to get involved in local volunteer opportunities to write her an email at

Who knows? Maybe you’ll get bitten by the servant leadership bug, too.



Operation Christmas Child Event Set for Sept. 18

Operation Christmas Child Event Set for Sept. 18

Operation Christmas Child by Samaritan's Purse, that yearly effort to pack shoeboxes full of necessities for children in some of the world's most threatening situations, is a blessing for the recipients and donors alike.

Just ask Amie Winstead, Area Coordinator for the Operation Christmas Child Cumberland Pathway Team. She's been packing shoeboxes for nine years, and she says the effort "allows us to be foreign missionaries without leaving our hometowns."

Barbecue Event Upcoming for FFA Homecoming Candidate

Future Farmers of America homecoming queen candidate Savannah Jones

Savannah Jones is running for Union County High School's homecoming queen, representing the Horace Maynard Chapter of Future Farmers of America. But she's not in the competition for the glory or the crown. She's in it because she believes in the FFA and the benefits it gives students. The money she raises as a homecoming candidate will go right back into the FFA program.

Norris Lake Five County Cleanup

Norris Lake Cleanup at Oak Grove

The Norris Lake Project Team is looking for volunteers to help with the Fall Five County Norris Lake Cleanups on September 22nd, 29th and October 6th. “Since 2011, volunteers from the counties surrounding Norris Lake have picked up over 200 tons of trash,” said Stephanie Wells, Director of the Anderson County Tourism Council.

4-H Chickens Auctioned

Golden Comet Winners l to r - Chesney, Richardson, Eubanks, Holt, Sexton, Malone, Smith, Farmer

It is common knowledge that 4-H is a club for kids to learn valuable skills and get their hands dirty. This summer, fifteen Union County 4-Hers were busy carrying water, cleaning cages, and gathering eggs as they indulged in the 2018 Poultry Project. They each received twenty chicks in early March and raised the birds from one day old to young laying hens at twenty six weeks old.

When God Speaks

Terry Kirby

In my years as a journalist, I have had the privilege of meeting many authors. Only a few of those acknowledged God as their inspiration and as the One who impressed them to seek a specific writing goal. Dr. Terry L. Kirby is one of those few.

Kirby is an expository preacher, has been a senior pastor for almost twenty-five years and holds a doctorate in Expository Preaching from Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. He says the Lord gave him the idea for a different type of Bible.

In the World, Not of the World?

Archie Wilson

(As part of a series entitled “Out of the Skillet and Into the Fire”)

John 17:16
“They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world.”

Last time we concluded our 2-part article, JESUS FRIEND OF SINNERS, by pointing out that we should get out of our comfort zones and let our light shine. Someone’s life could be dependent upon you letting your light shine! If Jesus was a “friend of publicans and sinners,” shouldn’t we also do the same?

Crisp Molasses Cookies

Crisp Molasses Cookies

I like molasses. I remember when I was first married and living on the farm, Dad would sprinkle molasses on the milk cows' grain. They loved it. I was curious. The molasses was clean, so I tasted it. It had a better flavor than that you bought in the store back then or nowadays, for that matter. There was no reason not to use it, so I did. We ate a lot of gingerbread and molasses cookies until the molasses ran out. Of course, I didn't tell anybody where the molasses came from. Why bother? Nowadays, don't be concerned. I use Muddy Pond Sorghum when I can find it.

Cool, Man!

Ronnie Mincey

Mincey’s Musings
Year One, Week Thirty-Six

Many people follow the “five second rule”. It goes something like this—if something is dropped on the floor and remains less than five seconds, it is fine to retrieve for consumption by the human body. This holds especially true when referring to the last chip in the bag.

Jesus Picture

Jesus Picture

It’s not something I am too proud of, but I did it. Or rather I didn’t do it. You see, I got out of church for a while. After I started back, I realized I didn’t have any pictures of Jesus in the house. So, guess what I did next? Yep. I went Jesus picture shopping.

I looked at all kinds of Jesus pictures and none of them felt right. Finally, I found one that I really, really liked. That is until I looked at the price tag. You know, it just didn’t seem right to go in debt for it. I didn’t think Jesus would like that.

Identifying Pesky Poop

Bat Poop

I really enjoyed my career as a forester, partly because of the variety. It was rare that I did the same thing two days in a row. I could be walking in the woods collecting field data in the morning and be on a wildfire that afternoon. If you like routine, forestry is not for you. One unique task I did on occasion was identifying animal poop, especially when people would find droppings in their house and badly wanted to know what uninvited visitor left it.



Luttrell neighborhood watch

Thursday, September 20, 2018 - 19:00
Luttrell neighbourhood watch

Luttrell neighbourhood watch meeting every 3rd Tuesday at 7:00pm It takes place in the community building behind the library with speakers each month this can be a great tool for our community to assist one another in brotherly love by watching out for each other. If you need more information contact Jim Bailey at 865-809-4472

Thank you so much
Union County Sheriff's Office
130 veteran’s street suite B Maynardville Tennessee 37807
Phone 865-992-5212
Fax 865-992-2349

Free Eye Exams and Glasses!

Saturday, September 29, 2018 - 08:00

(South Claiborne County, Washburn, Powder Springs, and Corryton also welcome)
Sponsored by the Union County Lions Club
8:00 a.m. – 1:00 p.m.
150 Main Street, Maynardville, TN 37807 (Union County High School)
Call Kathy Chesney at (865) 566-3289
Glasses will be distributed 2-3 weeks after this event.
Sponsored by the Union County Lions Club,
In conjunction with the Smokey Mountains Lions Charities.

Hogskin Festival

Saturday, September 29, 2018 - 11:00
Spinning wheel

On Saturday, September 29th, Narrow Ridge Earth Literacy Center will hold its 19th annual Hogskin History Day Celebration from 11:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. This event is family friendly and provides a fun way to celebrate the rich culture and history of our Hogskin Valley community in Grainger County. Event attractions include local musicians, artists, artisans, and historians; children’s activities; exhibits of alternative technology; tours of Narrow Ridge’s eco-friendly facilities and Natural Burial Preserve; a silent auction; good food; and a variety of local vendor and display booths.


Melvin Corum

Melvin Corum – age 78 of Maynardville, passed away peacefully at his home with his loving wife of 60 years by his side on Saturday, September 15, 2018. He was a member of Fellowship Christian Church in Luttrell. He especially loved the yearly fall festival and The Life of Christ drive thru exhibit. Melvin was a dirt track race car driver and won many championship races during his career. His latest hobby was restoring vintage cars and trucks.

Glen C. Carmon, Sr.

Glen C. Carmon, Sr.-age 72 of Maynardville passed away Monday morning, September 17, 2018 at Willow Ridge Center. Glen was a member of Fairview Baptist Church and a U. S. Army Veteran. Preceded in death by parents, Thurman and Hester Carmon; brother, Ed Carmon; sister, Ina Carmon.

Survivors: son, Carroll Carmon of Maynardville; daughter, Jennifer Buckner and husband, Tony of Luttrell; three grandchildren, Kali Buckner, Caleb Carmon and Christian Carmon; sisters, Mary Campbell, Marie Johnson and Betty Williams, all of Maynardville. Several nieces and nephews.

George David "Dave" Murphy

George “Dave” David Murphy, Sr., age 63, of Powell went to be with the Lord on September 16, 2018. He was a member of Central View Baptist Church. He enjoyed farming, raising pigs, and working. He adored his grandchildren. He loved helping people, as he would give you his last of anything. He was a selfless man of God. Preceded in death by parents Hobert and Christine Murphy; and brother Phillip Murphy. Survived by his wife of 45 years Kathy Murphy; children David Murphy, Jr.

Ermon T. Bullen, Jr.

Ermon T. Bullen, Jr.-May 2, 1932-Sept 14, 2018 of Corryton, known by everyone as Junior Bullen originally from Washburn, born to the late Ermon T. Bullen, Sr and Hila Johnson Bullen. Preceded in death by the love of his life of 58 years, Mildred Marsee Bullen. Junior was an Army Veteran and retired maintenance man from Claiborne County Hospital. He also loved traveling with Mamaw, watching grandkids and great grandkids at sporting events, plays and such and faithfully attended church where he was a member at Union Missionary Baptist Church.

Carl Edward Fielden

Carl Edward Fielden, age 84 of Halls Crossroads, peacefully entered into his eternal rest in the presence of his Lord Jesus Christ on September 15, 2018. Saved by God's merciful grace as a young man, Carl was a faithful member of Emory Valley Baptist Church. He served his country in the United States Air Force, honorably. He retired from Fairmont Supply located in Nashville, Tennessee. Preceded in death by parents Hobert and Amy Fielden, son Greg Fielden, all of Heiskell, sister Ann Tudor of Manchester, sister Geneieve Humphrey and brother Rev. Glen Fielden, all of Knoxville.

Raymond Eugene Clark

Raymond Eugene Clark age 71, of Knoxville went to be with with his Heavenly Father on Thursday, September 13, 2018 at his home surrounded by family. He was a member of Texas Valley Baptist Church. Raymond lived most of his life in the Halls Community and was an avid sports fan of all Halls community and school sports teams. He was often thought of as the Honorary “Mayor” and Cheerleader of the Halls Community. Preceded in death by parents; Jack Raymond and Allene Wooten Clark. Survivors; sisters, Rosalee Clark Highland and Diane Clark Woods. Brother; Phillip David Clark.

James Warren "J.W." Hughes

James Warren "J.W." Hughes, age 82, of Halls Crossroads went to his heavenly home, Thursday morning, surrounded by his family. He was a member of Fairview Freewill Baptist Church. He served in the U.S. Army and retired from Jefferson Smurfit Corp. J.W. loved the outdoors; hunting, fishing and camping.

He is preceded in death by parents, C.M and Mary Hughes; and brother-in-law, Leon Spangler.

Mitchell Elvis Kitts

Mitchell Elvis Kitts-age 62 of Luttrell passed away suddenly Saturday, September 8, 2018 while away in Florida for work.

Mitchell was a Journeyman painter who took pride in his craft. He was employed by Larry Mitchell Painting Company. Over the years he coached his son’s youth baseball teams in the Knoxville Area. He was an avid fisherman and loved spending time with his boys on the lake.

Myrtle Anne Covington

Myrtle Anne Covington-age 59 of Sevierville passed away Sunday, September 9, 2018 at Physicians Regional Medical Center with her husband by her side. Those who knew Ann will remember her kindness and sense of humor. She was a member of Walnut Hill Baptist Church.

Velma Lozena Dyer Davis

Velma Lozena Dyer Davis, age 87, born at home on April 9, 1931 in Luttrell, TN and passed away on September 8, 2018 after losing her battle with Alzheimer’s disease. She retired from Standard Knitting Mill. Velma was a member of Greenway Baptist Church for over 60 years and a member of the Golden Circle Sunday School Class. She loved her garden, especially picking and canning her green beans. Her life was spent caring for other people, especially her family who she loved with all her heart.

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