The two prestigious awards were being presented at about the same time and only a 30-minute drive apart.
State Rep. Eric Watson, R-Cleveland, who represents the 22nd Legislative District, was a guest speaker at the annual DAs’ conference attended this year by some 600 members from across the state. Watson updated the large group on new laws passed by the 107th Session of the Tennessee General Assembly.
Watson, who chairs the House Judiciary Committee, also focused his remarks on coming priorities for the state body. The Bradley County legislator appeared alongside James W. Kirby, TNDAGC executive director, and Guy R. Jones, deputy executive director.
Following his presentation, the law enforcement veteran — who recently left the Bradley County Sheriff’s Department to help run the family business during his father’s recovery from injuries received in a tractor accident — was presented the conference’s top “Legislator of the Year” award for his commitment to public safety and his leadership on law enforcement priorities.
In presenting the award to the Bradley County native, Kirby told the packed audience, “The Tennessee District Attorney Conference, as a whole, recognizes Eric Watson’s great character and dedication to public safety.”
In return, Watson told conference attendees he is “humbled” by the honor.
“I humbly accept this award,” Watson told the crowd. “Our District Attorneys General do a great job and I am proud to serve alongside them to make our state a safer and better place to raise our families. Their agenda is right for Tennessee and I am glad to be their advocate in the General Assembly.”
Held in the Sheraton Nashville Downtown, the Tennessee District Attorney Conference will continue through Friday.
Late Wednesday, Watson talked with the Cleveland Daily Bannner about the state award and pointed to its significance as a sign of support and partnership by DAs across Tennessee regarding the past lawmaking efforts by legislators.
“I have been honored to join with District Attorneys across Tennessee to fight crime in our great state,” the Bradley County lawmaker stressed. “Receiving the ‘Legislator of the Year’ award is a great honor. As chairman of the House Judiciary, I have worked hard to shepherd important legislation through the General Assembly each session.”
Watson admitted the work of the legislators is challenging, especially the most recent session when state representatives and senators tackled a diverse set of issues — among them, several key issues in law enforcement.
“We faced some tough political battles in this [most recent] session,” Watson said. “To have the District Attorneys Conference commend my efforts is very humbling. Our accomplishments were a team effort that was supported by a majority of our Judiciary Committee members and by the vast majority of the entire Legislature.”
Watson is pleased with the Legislature’s most recent decisions, but he is not content with the status quo. He stressed state lawmakers cannot stand on their laurels regarding past successes because “ ... much work remains to be done.”
“Although Tennessee is a safe place to live, we still face great challenges in equipping law enforcement and the District Attorneys with the proper tools to make sure the bad guys and gals go to jail or prison, and stay there,” Watson said.