An evening of smiles and handshakes… Governor Bill Lee keynote speaker for Lincoln Day Dinner

Published 6:00 am Saturday, June 1, 2019



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Even though the initially scheduled date for the Carter County Republican Party’s Lincoln Day Dinner had to be rescheduled, the small delay did little to dampen the spirits of those who held tickets to meet, and if lucky enough, get a photo with Tennessee Governor Bill Lee and Tennessee’s First Lady Maria Lee.

Gov. Lee was the keynote speaker for the party’s annual dinner held in Sutton Hall on the campus of Milligan College to bring the party together in unification and fellowship as well as a time for the governor to share about his first 100 days in office.

Gov. Lee was joined at the event by elected Republican leaders from the local, state and federal level.

It also fulfilled a promise Lee made to the local party that if elected he would come back and speak at the event.

“We are really proud to be back in this county again,” Gov. Lee said during his early remarks. “The county has been good to us and it’s an honor now for me to be here as governor.

“The Lord gave me great favor. He put me in this spot and I recognize that and I take it very seriously.

“As such, I count it a deep honor to serve you and this county and the people in Northeast Tennessee and all across this state,” continued Gov. Lee. “It is a true honor for me to do it and I wake up everyday thinking how is it that we do what we do to make life better for the people of Tennessee.”

During his speech, the governor reflected on how he had carried a lot of things on the inside before running for office to help the citizens of Tennessee and how thankful he is that now he is able to have a hand to help all people of Tennessee.

“I have had things in my heart for years, campaigned on it — good jobs, good schools, safe neighborhoods,” Gov. Lee stated. “I have worked in prison ministry for many years that gave me a real heart for criminal justice reform.

“I worked in the inner city with disadvantaged children and got involved in education reform.

“I carried these things around in my heart for a long time. Now, I get to be actually involved in doing work that impacts those things that I think that are so important.”

The governor has had a soft spot for the people of Carter County and the surrounding area as he made several stops during his campaign in the area where he was warmly received.

That was part of his reasoning for coming back to update those who helped to get him elected locally.

“I feel like it’s a responsibility for me to come back to the people that got me elected and give a report of what we are doing — trying to accomplish what you guys sent me down there to do,” Gov. Lee said.

One of the highlights of his first 100 days in office came with the passing of his budget presented to the legislature that passed unanimously.

“As a businessman, I think that running a state physically, conservatively, and physically responsibly is one of the most important things that I can do as governor,” Gov. Lee stated.

“Tennessee was chosen by U.S. News and World Report as the number one state in the country for physical stability. We should be proud of that and that’s not my work, that’s the work of many that have come before me but I decided as governor that I wanted to build upon that.

“We delivered to the legislature what I felt was a very conservative, responsible budget which was unanimously passed by the legislature,” continued Gov. Lee. “I was really proud of that in that it did a couple of things.

“We cut about $40 million out of the previous budget, reducing spending $40 million dollars.

“We also made three separate tax cuts.

“I am a guy who believes that if you cut taxes, you are going to stimulate economic activity — it’s a conservative principle that works and Tennessee is an example of that because we are one of the lowest tax states in the country and one of the most physically, responsibly-managed states in the country.”

The governor went on to say. “So, we made three different tax cuts in business taxes and we invested the largest, single contribution into what the state calls the rainy day fund which is a savings account basically that prepares our state for the days when the economy is not so good.

“We are in a pretty strong place economically in this state but we know it won’t be like that forever because there will come a down time and we will be glad that we have invested significantly in that rainy day fund.

“The rainy day fund in Tennessee for the first time is over a billion dollars — it stands at $1.1 billion dollars and I am very proud of the budget for Tennessee.”

Secondly, the governor took time to talk about how Tennessee has become a target for many companies to locate their businesses in the state equating into more jobs for Tennesseans.

“Since January we have announced 5,000 new jobs in this state and multiple new companies that have located in different regions all across the state,” Gov. Lee told the audience.

“I talked to a community leader here in this community today about how is it that we can create an environment in Northeast Tennessee that is more attractive for industries to move here.

“It’s something that we need to do,” continued Gov. Lee. “We need to increase that economic activity here but it’s happening in Tennessee because Tennessee is a business-friendly state.

“We have the right environment for business and they are coming here. Good jobs change people’s lives and it’s something that we have been focused on.”

Secondly, Gov. Lee focused on the strides made in education to help ensure that every child no matter what part of the state they lived in or what situations life had presented would not keep them from getting the best education possible.

“I am deeply committed to the transformation of our education system,” said Gov. Lee. “We fully funded what is called the Basic Education Program, the BEP program, because public schools have to be strengthened, they have to be funded, and teachers have to be supported.

“We provided over $70 million dollars for teacher’s pay raises because public schools are so important to the future of Tennessee and here’s what I believe — Tennessee can have some of the best public schools in the nation. We just have to be creative and innovative about how we do that.

“We strengthened the charter school network making it easier to open charter schools in our urban centers and made it easier to close bad charter schools that aren’t operating the way they ought to be,” Gov. Lee went on to add.

“Every kid no matter what zip code they live in or what their economic status is in Tennessee ought to have access to a higher quality education.”

The governor felt that Tennessee has so many upswings that other states will be looking at what is taking shape right here in Tennessee and want to model themselves after the Volunteer state.

“We can lead the nation in educational improvement. We can lead the nation in economic development. We can lead the nation in how we take distressed counties in rural Tennessee which was my first executive order signed to improve the economic stability in our 15 rural distress counties,” Gov. Lee said emphatically.

“We can show other states how to do that with the right kind of leadership. CEO magazine called us the third best business friendly state in the country.

“The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, which is one of the largest educational funding foundations in the world, picked five states in the country to invest money in, not to come in and invest money in what they wanted done, but to invest money into what we are doing in Tennessee,” continued Gov. Lee.

“I met with Bill Gates last week and he committed to letting Tennessee be one of those states. That is very exciting to me because we can make sure our kids have the best education in the country and our kids are really some of the best in the country in what they do.”

After touting some of the early achievements, Gov. Lee shared with the attendees of a new office that is coming to take care of the things in the community that shouldn’t be handled by government but by the faith-based communities that exist within the local community.

“I am also so proud that we are about to open up the Governors Office of Faith Based and Community Initiatives,” said Gov. Lee. “I don’t think that government is the answer to the biggest challenges we have.

“I think the people are. We established the program which will be a liaison between the government of Tennessee and the faith-based community that are out there doing the work that government cannot and should not do.”

Gov. Lee felt like the blueprint has been laid out and is excited to see what can be accomplished over the next years as Tennesseans come together to meet all challenges head on and through divine guidance that the governor and first lady lean on daily.

“I am so excited about the prospect of what we are going to get accomplished in the next few years,” Gov. Lee said. “I am thankful again to the Lord for giving me this opportunity to be here. “I do ask that you will pray for me and Maria as we carry this out. It’s a great privilege but the prayers of the righteous accomplish much and we would appreciate that.

“That is a part of what will allow us to have wisdom and discernment about where to go forward as a state.”

The governor concluded his speech by letting those in attendance know that Tennessee can change other states by the example of leadership they provide in addressing the important issues of their own state.

“I think this state has the opportunity to lead the nation — I said it on the campaign trail and now I know it’s true. We can change rural Tennessee in ways other states haven’t,” Gov. Lee stated.

“We can address health care in ways other states haven’t. We can have some of the best public schools in the nation. We can have economic development and run a physically, conservative state. We can do those things. We can be the envy of all the other states.”