By BRIAN GRAVES
Randy Boyd literally hit the ground running when he made the decision to seek the office of Tennessee governor.The entrepreneurial businessman and former state commissioner for economic development …
Randy Boyd literally hit the ground running when he made the decision to seek the office of Tennessee governor.
The entrepreneurial businessman and former state commissioner for economic development recently ended a run across the state as he took the chance to meet with regular Tennesseans to gauge their concerns for the state's future.
"I don't think the campaign could be going any better," Boyd said in an interview with the Cleveland Daily Banner. "We have 50 county mayors out of 95 who have endorsed me. Those endorsements include County Mayor D. Gary Davis and Cleveland Mayor Tom Rowland."
There is another Bradley County official endorsing Boyd, and that would be his uncle, Commissioner Howard Thompson.
"It feels really good in Bradley County," Boyd said. "Being the only candidate from East Tennessee, we expect to get a lot of support here."
Boyd said his business and entrepreneurial experiences set him apart from the others competing for the GOP nomination.
"I made a payroll. I started a company and grown it to 720 employees. I know how to create jobs from the private sector," he said. "I think it's important the next governor be a business person who knows how to run an organization and has made a payroll."
He said being an entrepreneur is important because they have to be "innovative and disruptive."
"I think government needs some innovation and disruption," Boyd said.
He also noted his time as the state's economic development commissioner.
"I helped recruit 50,000 new jobs for our state," Boyd said.
He said the most important thing about having those jobs is having the workforce trained to fill those positions.
"I helped the governor create the 'Drive to 55' and the Tennessee Promise which allows every single kid in the state to go to technical college or community college free of charge," Boyd said.
Boyd said serving in Gov. Bill Haslam's cabinet was his inspiration to seek the office himself.
"Three of the last four years working in the cabinet, I was able to create three different missions with the governor," he said. "One was 'Drive to 55,' another was making Tennessee number one in the Southeast for high quality jobs, and the third was to make sure there were no distressed counties. The main reason I am running for governor is to complete those missions."
"I know how the departments of the all work and I have good relationships with the members of the state legislature," Boyd said. "I believe I could hit the ground running."
Boyd said the biggest challenge in today's Tennessee is investing in a more skilled workforce.
"We need that workforce so that when we bring jobs in we can bring higher-paying jobs," he said. "It's not just about any job, it's about higher-paying jobs. To get those jobs, we need higher skills."
He noted those advanced skills are taught at the state's technical schools and can be earned for free in less than a year.
"My plan is to invest heavily in career technical education at the high school level," Boyd said. "We are going to put robotics and welding and all of that type of equipment back into the high schools so that kids can actually graduate from high school with a high school diploma and a certificate from a job-ready school at the same time."
Boyd said the money is in the state coffers now to achieve that goal.
"We spend about $250 million a year on education," he said. "My plan would be to make sure a high percentage of that is going for more technical schools. Today, that percentage is less than 5 percent. By just shifting the priority in that pool of money, we can make that happen."
One of the things Boyd proposes is to build technical campuses either within existing secondary schools or as additional facilities on their campuses.
He emphasized this program "will not involve unfunded mandates."
Boyd said the state's students, while much headway has occurred, are still not reading at the levels they should.
"They say in the first four years you learn to read, then you read to learn," he said. "If you are not prepared in the third-grade to read, then you will be at a severe disadvantage. It's critical we have a bigger emphasis for kids to be reading at grade level by the end of third grade."
He said there have been significant improvements on teachers' salaries, "but there is a long way left to go."
"My hope and plan is to continue the work Gov. Haslam has done and try to increase them each year," he said. "There was the biggest increase in teacher pay last year without a tax increase. If we continue to reduce the cost in government, we can continue to generate extra funds to do that."
Boyd also wants to see more funding for the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation's Crime Lab, that would equip the lab to do testing in a quicker fashion.
"That would save counties a tremendous amount of money," he said.
He said he would also be supportive of higher state supplements for law enforcement officers.
"We give the smallest one in the Southeast," Boyd said. "We may not be the richest state, but we certainly could do better than being the worst state in the South when it comes to supporting law enforcement."
He would also like to see a greater use of mental health institutions for certain inmates which he says would "take a tremendous burden off of the jails."
"That should save law enforcement and the jails a significant amount of money," Boyd said.
Boyd said the one thing he learned about the state during his run that he had not been fully aware of before was its diversity.
"I had been to all 95 counties as commissioner, but I was there to talk to mayors and businesses and I would be in for a short period of time an leave," he said.
"By running slowly running across the state, I could spend 14 hours in nearly every county I passed through. I really got to know the people and their issues at a really intimate level," Boyd said. "My biggest take-away is just how diverse our state is."
"You hear about the three grand divisions — and I don't like that term, I'd rather be known as 'the grand alliance and maybe we'll change that one day, but the communities are different throughout the state," he said.
"Cocke County is incredibly different from Bradley County which is incredibly different than Polk County which is very different from Knox County," Boyd said. "Every single community has its own assets, its own story, its own vision and its own dream."
"I think as governor, what I will need to do is help each community create their own mission and their own strategy and help them achieve it," Boyd said.
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