IMG_4021_resizedWhat is your background in substance abuse prevention?

I have been in the alcohol industry since 1978 and have seen many problems as a result. Alcoholism is a big problem with many of the people in this industry as well as many of the regular customers. We never had any training and now I understand we had no clue what a potential danger alcohol could be. We thought a basket of bread, a cup of coffee and a good night’s sleep solved everything.

How did you first become involved with our coalition?

The Substance Abuse Prevention Action Team in Blount County purchased our program, the Minors: Reducing a Major Liability training toolkit. I met Stephanie Strutner, a former MDC employee, in a meeting and she contacted me about purchasing the program for MDC. I have been working with the MDC ever since.

You’ve led some pretty major projects as a coalition volunteer. What was your favorite?

I think it was the Underage Drinking Policy Panel. It gave me great insight on how to better communicate with the community and those in local government.

In addition to the time you give to MDC, you are deeply involved with other community organizations in the area. Why is giving back so important?

When I sit in a committee meeting with all of those professionals and people from the community, I am always blown away by the amazing ideas and new projects that come from people coming together for a common goal. Communities don’t understand how hard everyone works to make things better. I am also a problem solver. Many times problems come up in meetings and those problems immediately make me start generating ideas that allow my company to produce and offer a product or class that will help with that problem.

How did TopShelf first get started?

I began Pouncey Partners in 1998 and built it to the largest training company in East Tennessee. Over the years, I took train-the-trainer classes through a few TABC certified programs to see if I could get the right fit and just felt there were some gaps that I could fill. In 1994, Melinda Wolfe and I sat down to write an updated and more factual program and TopShelf Responsible Beverage Service for On Premise was born and Straight up, LLC was the company I formed to produce and do train-the-trainer classes.

What do you love most about your work at TopShelf?

Inventing solutions. My mind is constantly working on ways to help business, solutions for sellers and servers and how to keep businesses from being fined. I am always thinking of new projects, products, presentations and ideas to get excited about.

What are the biggest concerns for businesses when it comes to responsible alcohol service?

Fines and lawsuits. The unfortunate thing is no matter how hard they try to do everything right there is always going to be an incident and it’s how they handle that incident that makes the difference in the outcome.

Tell us a bit about TopShelf’s Minors: Reducing a Major Liability DVD toolkit.

I felt there was a need for a specific carding program. All of the TABC classes must cover carding, but this is much more detailed and can be used as an orientation program for new employees and a review at employee meetings. This is training in a box. It comes with an instructor manual, student workbooks, DVDs, exams, policy sheets, ID Coders, lighted magnifying glass, CODES of Carding© poster and ID Checking Guide.

How have businesses responded to this toolkit and your RBS classes?

TopShelf now has 4 programs, over 30 trainers statewide and has trained close to 100,000 students. It is not just our program that businesses like but our instructors. Most of our instructors have real life experience to add to the material. Our instructors really enjoy teaching the program and that really shines through in their presentation.

How can they get in touch with you to learn more about your services?

Anyone interested can contact the office by email at or by phone at 865-521-8085.

Any last thoughts?

I would like to thank everyone for their time and efforts at MDC and on the coalition. I am very excited about the new programs and projects coming out of Tim Irwin’s court and the people there that are so tirelessly willing to implement them. There is no better way to build a better society than by working to strengthen existing families and help kids before they get in too deep.