The good Lord has blessed me in that regard and I vowed early on not to let Him or my constituents down, and never to betray the trust that has been placed in me. My eight-plus years of service in the Tennessee Legislature have been an adventure, a learning experience and a deeply satisfying vocation. But one thing I have come to realize over the years is this: Elected office involves things that are good, things that are bad and things that are political.
The “good” in the job is the satisfaction of knowing I have represented the will of the people in the Tennessee House of Representatives. Working closely with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle, I have been able to help reduce taxes, create jobs, make it harder for criminals to operate in our state, and hopefully, return a sense of trust and confidence in government; at least, here in our little corner of the nation.
The “good” in the job is when folks stop me on the street, at church, in the grocery store or at rallies to offer me their encouragement and support. Whenever I start to feel discouraged or wonder if my efforts really make a difference, all I have to do to regain perspective is get out among the people. The will of the people and their involvement at the polls is how our nation was founded and it is how our nation will continue to flourish.
The “bad” in the job is far out-weighed by the good. But the “bad” in public service can include the long hours, the meager pay (at least on a state representative level) and the bickering between parties. It can be a struggle working for conservative principles while not disenfranchising citizens with different beliefs and/or party affiliations. Every person in this state, or county, are precious in the eyes of our Lord and in the promise of our Constitution.
I am a Christian. Most everyone knows that. But that doesn’t mean I only represent Christians. I am a Republican, but that doesn’t mean I only represent Republicans. My beliefs, my viewpoints are my own. That is true of everyone in Bradley County and everyone across the nation. I believe that elected officials have a moral obligation to respect all beliefs as well as political viewpoints, as long as those viewpoints are genuine and not harmful to public safety. I wouldn’t want everyone to be the same or think the same, and I don’t think anyone reading this would either. Different points of view, honest debate and good ideas are what built this country. That’s what will sustain it!
The “bad” in the job is dealing with the rancor and resentments that divide us as parties, as people and as a nation. An effective public servant will work just as hard for his or her enemies as they will for their friends. An effective public servant will not drive a wedge between differing groups, but will focus on bringing people together for the good of their country and community.
The “political” in the job can also be an extension of the “bad.”
It is not possible for anyone in elected office to altogether avoid politics in some form or fashion. You know, when a person or group calls on the phone and asks for a favor, or special attention, to hire a relative, or else they won’t vote for you anymore? That happens all the time. That is “political.” Elected officials cannot avoid it, so they better control it!
The “political” in the job can also include the simple distraction of re-election campaigns, fundraising obligations and trying to please those with whom we do not agree. That is part and parcel of elected office. I do my best to present my ideas with integrity and common sense, hoping to make a connection with the voters. But, while I try to avoid “political” rhetoric and discourage it in my supporters, I believe everyone has the right to voice their opinion. And with that I have never tried to stifle it. Free speech is the cornerstone of liberty.
But the “political” in the job can also be destructive. I have seen that side firsthand and even been a victim of it. Destructive politics rejects honest debate and doesn’t trust the voter to make informed decisions. Destructive politics come into play when one or both candidates engage in deceit, dishonesty and underhanded tricks in order to win office. Where genuine public servants burn the midnight oil, pondering decisions that will make citizens safer and improve the quality of life in their county, destructive politicians burn the midnight oil in secret meetings, conspiring and plotting ways to destroy the reputations of those with whom they disagree.
The “political” in the job is also a good way to measure the integrity of a candidate. If a candidate or elected official spends as much time complaining about criticism and attacking their “detractors” as they do working for the people, that person is most likely a destructive politician. We see it in Washington every day. We see it in the White House. Unfortunately, we also see it here in Bradley County.
As an elected official, I have always embraced the “good” that comes with public service. I have even embraced the “bad,” while trying to soften it. But the “political” is a minefield and I do not engage in it any more than what comes with the job.
I grew up in Bradley County. My family is from here. I was raised old school, believing in God, country and that a man’s word is his bond. That’s the way I have lived my life. In the end, we take nothing with us, but we leave plenty behind, whether it’s good, bad or political.
108th General Assembly
prepares for second half
Anybody who follows a calendar knows that we are edging closer and closer to the start of the second half of the 108th General Assembly. This will be coming in mid-January.
Frankly, I am as excited as ever about our new session, and that’s for two reasons. One, with every new session comes new opportunity to continue Tennessee’s forward movement by doing what we believe is best for the citizens of this fine state. Second, my excitement is building because of the successes of the first half in early 2013.
Our state has much momentum in many arenas going forward. Just a few include tax cuts that will help our fellow Tennesseans, education, law and safety and workforce development, among many others.
In next week’s column, I’ll take a brief look at some of our accomplishments from the first half of the 108th General Assembly. These are the kinds of achievements that make me believe the second half will be just as effective in giving Washington, D.C., a reason to look at Tennessee, and to use us as a model on how to respond to the needs of Americans — whether they live in Tennessee or any of our other 49 proud states.
In Nashville, as representatives and senators we couldn’t do our jobs without the input of the people who sent us there. I hope you’ll continue to reach out to me, as you have done these past several years, in helping our state lawmakers to do what is best for Tennesseans and what is most needed for Tennessee.