The first-term governor, a Republican who formerly served as Knoxville mayor prior to assuming the state leadership seat, has become a familiar face in Cleveland and Bradley County since his 2010 election. Haslam has made multiple visits to the area on behalf of state Rep. Eric Watson, R-Cleveland who represents the 22nd Legislative District, and state Rep. Kevin Brooks, R-Cleveland who represents the 24th Legislative District.
Both local legislators hold prominent positions on Tennessee House of Representatives committees. Watson chairs one half of the House Judiciary while Brooks holds the rank of Assistant House Majority Leader, a role that serves as a pivotal link between the House and the governor’s office.
According to an itinerary released by the governor’s office through Watson’s staff, who will host Haslam’s visit, the state leader will make grant announcements in Ducktown, Cleveland and Decatur.
The full schedule includes:
- Ducktown in Polk County, from 9:15 to 9:35 a.m.: On Main Street, Haslam will make an announcement on a Tennessee Department of Transportation Enhancement Grant.
- Cleveland in Bradley County, from 10:15 to 10:40 a.m.: At the Cleveland Community Center at 1334 Church St. S.E., Haslam will make an announcement on a TDOT and Tennessee Department of Environment & Conservation Enhancement Grant.
- Decatur in Meigs County, from 2:45 to 3:05 p.m.: At the Volunteer Energy Cooperative offices at 18359 Highway 58 North, Haslam will make an Appalachian Regional Commission grant announcement.
“I’m very grateful that the governor would take time to visit each one of my counties that I represent in the Tennessee House of Representatives,” Watson said. “The foundation of these counties will only grow stronger with the grant money provided, and will bring new opportunities and the creation of quality jobs to both Bradley and Polk counties.”
Watson’s district includes all of Meigs and Polk counties, and a portion of Bradley County not included in the 24th Legislative District.
Thursday’s visit will be the governor’s fifth visit to Cleveland, and his first to the cities of Ducktown and Decatur.
“We’re always happy to host Gov. Haslam to Cleveland and Bradley County, but it’s especially significant that he is visiting Ducktown and Decatur for the first time,” Watson said. “I know the residents of those towns, and all of Meigs and Polk counties, are happy to invite the governor into their communities.”
Brooks, who plans to attend Haslam’s visit to the Cleveland Community Center because it is located within his district, concurred with Watson about the governor’s visits to the local community.
"We are excited that Gov. Haslam is again returning to Cleveland,” Brooks said. “On this visit, the governor will be here for a local TDOT/TDEC grant announcement at the Cleveland Community Center."
He added, “Any time the governor of our state stops by for a visit, it is an honor. But when the governor and his Cabinet stop by with a grant for our community, we rejoice. In this time of economic recovery for all of our communities, this is truly a welcome announcement."
Brooks said he takes seriously any expenditure of funds that come from Tennessee taxpayers.
“During my service in Nashville, it is never far from my mind that the revenue and the monies that are working to budget and balance, is not our money,” Brooks stressed. “It is the taxpayers’ money. It comes from the homes and families and the local businesses in our community. So it is always wonderful when this money can be sent back home in our communities in the form of tax cuts, tax-free holidays and grant announcements."
Haslam’s staff confirmed the public and news media outlets are invited to attend any or all of the three site appearances in Polk, Bradley and Meigs counties.
Watson’s most recent appearance with the governor was Haslam’s historic signing of the School Security Act (House Bill 6). Haslam signed the legislative bill into law on May 13 during his last visit to Cleveland. The signing involved a pair of local education leaders including Johnny McDaniel, director of Bradley County Schools, and Todd Shoemaker, Bradley Central High School principal. Also on hand were state Sen. Frank Nicely, who sponsored the bill in the Senate, and state Rep. Josh Evans, who co-sponsored the bill with Watson in the House.
According to the NRA-ILA (Institute for Legislative Action) website, the School Security Act, which was supported by McDaniel and Shoemaker, the newly enacted law, “... provides more protection for children and staff during school hours.”
The website describes the legislation’s evolution.
“HB 6 was amended multiple times during this legislative session and was finally agreed upon by the Tennessee House and Senate to allow a person employed or assigned to a Local Education Agency to possess and carry a firearm on the grounds of that school if they are current or former law enforcement. This individual would also be required to have a handgun carry permit (HCP) and the written authorization of the director of schools.”
The law took effect July 1.
Although a Chattanooga leg of Haslam’s trip is not included on the 22nd Legislative District itinerary, the governor on Thursday will make an appearance on behalf of education to Chattanooga State Community College following his Cleveland visit and prior to the Decatur stop. The Chattanooga stop is a makeup visit that was cancelled last week due to inclement weather.
Watson said today he is uncertain about the scope of the TDEC and TDOT grants that Haslam will be announcing in Cleveland; however, the grant announced in Decatur will reportedly involve a utility expansion on behalf of Volunteer Energy Cooperative.