Franklin Special School Board Chair Robert Blair named Charles M. Sargent Legacy Award recipient, Heritage Foundation’s Ed Silva awarded Anne T. Rutherford Award

 It was a packed house at the Franklin Theatre on Wednesday, Feb. 7, to honor the recipients in the 17th annual Franklin Tomorrow Exemplary Community Volunteer Awards.

Franklin Special School District Board Chair Robert Blair was given the Charles M. Sargent Legacy Award, which recognizes an individual who has made significant impact in the areas of business, quality of life, and leadership. It is named for the late 61st District Tennessee Rep. Charles Sargent, who received the award before his death in 2018.

In presenting the award, Franklin Tomorrow said, “Rep. Charles Sargent was not only a listener but a doer, not just for those who supported him, but always with the best interest of the community at heart. Robert is the chair of the Franklin Special School District Board of Education, but also an advocate for dozens of nonprofits and individuals in our community.

“A lifelong resident of Franklin, he leads by example in his service to the community … and while Robert cannot be with us tonight due to a family commitment, we did present his award earlier this week representing the flame of enthusiasm he brings to each initiative,” emcee Tom Lawrence said.

Congratulations to Franklin Special School District Chair Robert Blair for being one of the top award winners at the Feb. 7, 2024, Franklin Tomorrow Exemplary Community Volunteer Awards, receiving the Charles M. Sargent Jr. Legacy Award. Since Robert couldn’t be with us at the event due to a family commitment, CEO Mindy Tate presented this beautiful handmade award by Pat Matranga of Matranga Designs to him at the FT office earlier that week.

Blair was named the 2023-2024 School Board Member of the Year by the Tennessee School Board Association and in 2022, was the recipient of the Caroline Cross Leadership Award presented Leadership Franklin Alumni Association. Currently in his 20th year on the FSSD Board, Robert also currently serves on the Leadership Franklin Board, The TMA Board and the Gentry Educational Foundation, although his past Board service includes dozens of organizations and multiple years of service.

Receiving the Anne T. Rutherford Award was Ed Silva, who was nominated by The Heritage Foundation in the Volunteer Spirit Category, but elevated to receive the Anne T. Rutherford Lifetime Achievement Award.

Ed Silva, recipient of the Anne T. Rutherford Exemplary Community Volunteer Award for Lifetime Achievement

Silva, a founder and partner in Hartzog Silva Law Firm, is a member of the Heritage Foundation of Williamson County Board of Directors, marking a return from his service in the 1980s when he was Chairman of the Franklin Gateway Corridors and Connector Streets Economic Development Project Committee, which is commonly referred to as Streetscape in downtown Franklin.

“He brought together a coalition of property owners, business owners, the City of Franklin and the Heritage Foundation and the Downtown Franklin Association to tackle the huge job of renovating Main Street. Main Street was closed for a period of time as the road was dug up, new utilities installed, and then new sidewalks. Streetscape is the seminal event that causes downtown Franklin to be the amazing place we know today,” Franklin Tomorrow said in presenting the award, quoting from a nominated from Heritage Foundation Board Chair David Garrett.

Silva also served as President of the Carnton Plantation Board of Directors, and led the development of the Fleming Center which took this facility to a new level. Ed and his wife Susu recently also gave the funds for a room at the new Davis House facility.

In the nomination, Garrett wrote, in 2023, between Board Meetings, Heritage Foundation events, Silva spent a minimum of 50 hours directly serving the Heritage Foundation and its membership. He also has been a major donor to the Franklin Grove project, and the new road through the property will be named Ed Silva Way, “once again, a nod to his work on Streetscape.”

Silva received a handmade award featuring a column of red elm topped by a hand-turned sphere, made by artist Pat Matranga of Mt. Juliet. Blair was given a handmade award by Matranga representing a flame, which reflects the enthusiasm he brings to each project or nonprofit he supports.

Numerous other awards were given on Wednesday night and are listed below.

Corporate Volunteerism Award:

Nik Conklin with the Tennessee Titans organization, nominated by the Entrepreneurship & Innovation Center of Williamson County Schools for the “My Cause, My Kicks” initiative

Mars Petcare, nominated by the Franklin Special School District by donating over 400 pairs of athletic shoes to students in three FSSD schools

Emerging Leader Award:

Hunter Jones, nominated by David Garrett for his work with the Heritage Foundation of Williamson County’s Next Gen ;

Blake Lambert, nominated for his work on various boards, including Youth Leadership Franklin, FrankTown Open Hearts and Joy Mission Board, among others;

Jena Potter, nominated for her work with the Downtown Franklin Rotary Club, Stronger the My Father, and other organizations while serving as director of marketing and communications for Williamson Inc.;

Rebekah Zeitlin, nominated by WAVES for her role as Board chair, but also for her work with Congregation Micah and the Middle Tennessee Young Leaders Council

Neighbor To Neighbor Award:

Pawsabilities and Molly Darr, nominated jointly by Waves Inc. and Williamson County Animal Center

Volunteer Spirit Awards:

Ted Dreier, nominated for his 25-plus years of dedication to Children’s Kindness Network

Pam Lewis, for her work with Battle of Franklin Trust, The African American Heritage Society, Hard Bargain Association and other community organizations

Jason Wahler, nominated by the Williamson Prevention Coalition for the creation of the You Are Not Alone campaign

Youth Initiative Award:

Zoe Althoff, nominated by Freedom Reigns Ranch

Levi Cullum, nominated for his work with Williamson County 4-H

Community Impact Award:

Cassie Chapman, for her work with Cul2vate and the community garden at Church of the City

Christy Pauley, nominated for her dedication to The NOOK

Pat Ralls, nominated by Tracy Levine of Healing House

Ruby Smith, nominated for her dedication to FrankTown Open Hearts

Franklin Tomorrow Board Chair Teresa Ashworth Harris presented four awards which were the Community Leadership Award to Kalinda Fisher for her work as the founder of The Great Reset; the Community Engagement Award to Mike Ingram, for his dedication to the Arts Council of Williamson County and the first Friday Downtown Art Scene; and a Community Servant Award to MaryBeth Richards for her dedication as a volunteer to helping to reopen the Five Points Post Office. Franklin Tomorrow ex-officio Board member Brandy Blanton received the Board Impact Award.

Franklin Tomorrow’s Exemplary Community Volunteers Awards are made possible through a host of partners, including Williamson Memorial Funeral Home & Cremation Services, Atmos Energy Corp.  Buerger, Moseley, & Carson PLC, Rotary Club of Franklin at Breakfast, The TMA Group, state Sen. Jack Johnson, Franklin Mayor Dr. Ken Moore, County Commission Chair Brian Beathard, and Williamson Health. Thanks are also due to a group of elected officials from Williamson County, including County Mayor Rogers Anderson, County Clerk Jeff Whidby, Register of Deeds Sherry Anderson, Circuit Court Clerk Debbie Barrett, Property Assessor Brad Coleman, Juvenile Court Clerk Margaret Mahew, and County Trustee Karen Paris. Individual support for the awards came for Lynne & Tony McAlister, Judy Hayes, and Nancy Conway.

About Franklin Tomorrow

Franklin Tomorrow is an independent, nonprofit community visioning and engagement organization founded in 2000 by a group of business and community leaders. Our mission is to engage the community, foster collaboration, and advocate for a shared vision for the future of Franklin. Learn more at