Public defender


My name is Shelley Thompson Gardner and I was born and raised in Wilson County.  

I graduated from Lebanon High School in the top 10 percent, I graduated from Cumberland University with honors and earned my doctorate of jurisprudence from the Nashville School of Law.  I have been at the 15th Judicial District Public Defenders Office for the past 18 years. In November of 2018, my former boss, Comer Donnell, retired, and I was appointed by Gov. Bill Haslam to fulfill his role as Public Defender.  

The 15th Judicial District consists of five counties: Jackson, Macon, Smith, Trousdale and Wilson. My office covers criminal cases in all five counties in Juvenile, General Sessions and Circuit/Criminal Courts.  In my 18 years as an Assistant Public Defender, and now the Public Defender, I have handled well over 15,000 cases and have been in court in all five counties.  

I work on a daily basis with the District Attorney’s Office, the judges throughout our District, probation officers, law enforcement and other attorneys.  I work with the 15th Judicial District Drug Court Program and received the Judge J.O. Bond Memorial Achievement Award on behalf of the Drug Court Program. I also helped with installation of the Wilson County Teen Court and set as special judge for some of the teen cases.  

As an attorney, I want to make sure my office and I are representing our clients to the utmost and best of our ability. As an elected official in charge of a state-run office for five counties, I also understand the importance of time, being efficient and using my resources wisely.  

I am a member of the 15th Judicial District BAR Association, TACDL (Tennessee Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers), NACDL (National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers), the Lebanon/Wilson County Chamber of Commerce and a member and past president of Wilson ONE. I sit on the board of directors for the Wilson County Fair, the Lebanon Breakfast Rotary, CASA (president-elect for 2021) and the Board of Trustees for Lebanon First United Methodist Church. 

I received recognition for being Woman of Wilson in 2015, the Community Champion Award from CASA in 2019 and Woman of Excellence from the Lebanon/Wilson County Chamber in 2019. I am a 2017 graduate of Leadership Wilson and am honored to remain a speaker to this organization on Public Safety and Court Day.   

I have been married to Joe Gardner for 18 years. We have two sons, ages 11 and 14. We are members of the Lebanon First United Methodist Church. We are a huge sports family, but love football the most. My husband helps coach football at Walter J. Baird Middle School and is also a part of the Lebanon Blue Devil Radio Broadcast for Lebanon High School football games.  

My in-laws, Glenn and Marilyn Gardner, owned Dick’s Foodmart in Wilson County for over 40 years.  My grandfather, Sam Crowder Brewington, was a constable for Wilson County for many years. My family and I love and have been involved in our community for generations.  

Continuing to serve my community and the 15th District is what I want to do. I know I have the experience and values to continue my role as the Public Defender for the 15th District.  A role that Gov. Haslam had the confidence to place in me.  

I ask that you please get out and vote for Shelley Thompson Gardner as Public Defender for the 15th Judicial District in this year’s election.  

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