Lucy Williams interviewing then Gov. Bill Haslam.

“A friend you can depend on.” That is the motto of The Elk Valley Times, and for the past three decades, Lucy Carter Williams has been that friend, the face of the community newspaper.

Good news and bad – everything from fires, floods and tornadoes to state championships, new industries and community awards – Lucy has been there to cover the events as the eyes and ears of her hometown. She has mourned the losses and celebrated the victories with her readers, the folks who have come to know the paper as the trusted source of community news.

That same trust extends to local officials Lucy has covered throughout the years, earning their respect by being fair in her coverage and keeping confidential sources upon whom she has relied.

“I have had the pleasure of working with Lucy for the better part of 14 years as sheriff,” said Lincoln County Sheriff Murray Blackwelder. “It has been a lot less stressful knowing I had an ally that I could trust with the most confidential of situations. She always knew when it was time to print something and when it was time not to. Even at the risk of losing a story to the media, Lucy could always be trusted. That is the relationship we had.

“Lucy also never hesitated to call me out when she thought I was out of bounds,” the sheriff added. “I really have appreciated those times and will truly miss her, but I am very glad that she is able to reach this point and wish her nothing but the best in this new stage of her life.”

“First of all, the Board of Mayor and Alderman (BMA) want to wish Lucy best wishes as she retires from The Elk Valley Times,” said Fayetteville Mayor Michael Whisenant. “She has been a great asset and contributor to our community in so many ways. As a journalist, I value and appreciate how she covered the BMA, the County Commission and other local boards and committees. She was always very fair to cover both sides of a story and to reach out to elected officials to help educate the citizens of Fayetteville and Lincoln about important issues. She will be missed, but the BMA hopes that her future endeavors are bright and filled with joy.”

Despite the long hours, the “all-nighters” and the many holidays and weekends spent away from family, Lucy has always managed to still take time to stop what she’s doing and listen to her readers — when they had a tip, when they were unhappy with a story or even when they just dropped by the office to recall, “I went to school up here on this hill.”

A firm believer in giving back to the community, Lucy has spent countless hours volunteering to serve with numerous organizations and non-profits over the years. She has served on boards for a number of community organizations and has worked tirelessly promoting the efforts of the Lincoln County Humane Society and Animal Shelter, Junior’s House, the Arts Center, Carriage House Players, Main Street, our public library and dozens of others too numerous to name.

The cause nearest to her heart though is the annual Lincoln County Toy Drive, coordinated by The Elk Valley Times, Fayetteville Rotary Club and the Fayetteville Fire Department. For over 32 years now, she has dedicated thousands of hours to planning, promoting, collecting money, shopping and hauling toys for the effort which benefits anywhere from 550 to 700 local children.

Lincoln County Mayor Bill Newman has worked with Lucy as she covers county government, as well as through the Fayetteville Rotary Club, of which they are both members. He says Lucy is the unquestioned leader in making sure the annual toy drive is organized and successful each year.

“My relationship with Lucy as it relates to her profession is one of trust,” Newman said. “If there has ever been anything that was not ready for public release, all I had to tell Lucy is ‘Here are the facts, and I will let you know when you can make it public’, and I could rest knowing that she was a person of her word.

“Lucy can be tough when she needs to be, but my favorite characteristic of hers is that soft place in her heart for children. The Rotary Elk Valley Times Firemen Toy Drive is a success because of our community’s involvement, but THE leader that has, through love, kept a lot of children in Lincoln County having a Christmas is Lucy Carter Williams.

“Lucy is so special, and I will miss her there at the newspaper, but I am excited to see what her next stage of life brings.”

The relationship between The Elk Valley Times and the Fayetteville Rotary Club in organizing the toy drive each year led Lucy to join the club in 1995, becoming only the third female Rotarian in the Fayetteville club.

“It has been my privilege to work with Lucy in several capacities for many years,” said Carol Foster, long-time community leader and one of Lucy’s fellow Rotarians. “While working with Fayetteville Main Street, Tennessee Valley Better Business Bureau and Junior’s House, I saw firsthand how dedicated Lucy was. When attending district work meetings, other managers would make comments about how their local newspaper editor did not work well with them. This was not our case. Lucy was always willing to show up for our events or come talk with us when an article was necessary. Not only did she support us with her newspaper knowledge, but she always had a smile.

“I have also had the honor to work with Lucy in community organizations, one of which is the Fayetteville Rotary Club,” she added. “Lucy’s love for Rotary has been clearly shown in all she has accomplished since becoming the third female to be inducted into the Fayetteville Rotary Club in 1995. She has served as president for two terms, served as a board director for several years, chairman of the Toy Drive and chairman of several other committees. Presently, she is chairman of the membership committee, plus other responsibilities. Lucy is extremely dedicated to Rotary and always willing to help preside or lead wherever she can. Lucy is a true Rotarian, living the Rotary’s Four Way Test daily.

“Seeing Lucy’s enthusiasm in all areas of her life has always uplifted and encouraged everyone she meets to be a better person and to do more,” Foster said. “With all my connections with Lucy, my biggest honor is to be able to call her my friend.”

Lucy is also a supporter of the Fayetteville-Lincoln County Chamber of Commerce & Tourism Bureau, advocating for small businesses and sharing with others the important mission of the local Chamber. Lucy was elected to the board of directors in 2008 and served as president in 2012. Since then, she has worked on several committees in support of the Chamber’s efforts.

“We so appreciate Lucy’s dedication to the Chamber and the community over the years,” said Carolyn Denton, the Chamber’s executive director. “She was always willing to cover events, activities and festivals and, of course, help with the many fundraisers we had while she served on the board of directors.

“Thank you, Lucy, for being a friend to the Chamber and now a volunteer in your retirement!”

In a business that can see a lot of employee turnover, Lucy has been blessed to have the same core staff in place for many years at the newspaper. That dedication and loyalty from her staff is due to Lucy’s leadership and her genuine concern for her co-workers.

One of her first hires back in 1988 was Sandy Williams, who served as a staff writer and news editor for over 30 years.

“I have been blessed to have Lucy as a mentor and dear friend all these years,” Sandy said. “She helped me fall in love with newspapering, and we share some great memories of stories we’ve covered over the past 30-plus years. Her work ethic is second to none, and I have seen, firsthand, the many hours she has dedicated to the paper.

“I speak on behalf of her staff in saying Lucy is the best boss anyone could ask for in any business,” Sandy added. “She has always fostered a work environment of mutual respect among staff and professionalism and dedication in serving our readers and customers. We are like family at the EVT and will miss Lucy greatly; however, we all look forward to her having time now for things she’s put on the backburner, such as her art, and we’re thankful to see her finally take a day off from work.”