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A breakfast with legislators… Tennessee Governor Bill Lee special guest of Chamber Legislative Breakfast

BY IVAN SANDERS
STAR STAFF
ivan.sanders@elizabethton.com
Attendees for the 2021 Elizabethton and Carter County Chamber of Commerce Legislative Breakfast held at the Tennessee College of Applied Technology campus couldn’t wait to hear from their state legislators and especially Tennessee Governor Bill Lee of the happenings in Nashville as most began arriving well before the doors were scheduled to open at 8:30 am.

Local governing bodies including mayors from at least five counties along with university presidents, businessmen, and many other constituents were interested to hear from Gov. Lee in regards to a few key areas happening within the state.

Prior to the governor’s arrival, attendees also got to catch up with local and state legislators to see what they were currently working on.

Senator Rusty Crowe, Michael Hensley – Field Representative for Senator Marsha Blackburn, Congresswoman Diana Harshbarger via a video message, House Representative John Holsclaw, House Representative Scotty Campbell, Elizabethton Mayor Pro Tem Bill Carter, and Carter County Mayor Patty Woodby all addressed the audience before the governor’s arrival.

But it was Gov. Lee that held the most attention.

One of the things that drew a lot of excitement was the announcement of plans to celebrate the 225th year of statehood in Tennessee which will actually kick off in the state’s oldest town – Jonesborough on June 1st.

“Jonesborough is a historic town, a beautiful town,” said Gov. Lee. “Our state is 225 years old this year and we are celebrating that by traveling to every county in the state.

“Marie and I will be going all over the state and the theme of our travels will be ‘Untold Tennessee’ to hear about and meet the untold stories of the people that make this the greatest state in the country.”

Gov. Lee also announced that Country music megastars – The Oak Ridge Boys will be in Jonesborough to help kick off the state’s celebration.

Many also wanted to hear the governor’s take on stopping the federal government’s additional unemployment money, a decision that he made earlier in the week resulting in Tennessee going back to pre-pandemic unemployment payouts.

“We have 250,000 jobs that are unfilled and our businesses are struggling to find workers. Meanwhile, we have 160,000 people in our state on unemployment and our economy is back to pre-pandemic levels and we need to get our businesses back to normal and move forward.

“In order to do that, we need to create pathways for people to go from unemployment to the vast amount of employment that is available in our state. Work brings dignity, work is good for families, work is good for Tennesseans, and we shouldn’t continue to pay people not to do that.”

Gov. Lee spoke of money set aside to help rural areas with broadband – an issue that came to light when students in rural areas had to depend on the internet to do classroom work at home during the pandemic along with workers who were forced to work from home as well.

“It is important that we have technology in rural communities,” Gov. Lee said. “I have said for years that what happens in rural Tennessee matters to every Tennessean.

“It’s great to have prosperous economic activity in Nashville or some of our big cities but what is really important is that the rural economies move forward at the same time.

That’s why we have invested heavily in agriculture education and vocational education but this year we have put a $100M in broadband expansion,” Gov. Lee continued.

“People need to be able to access healthcare, remote education, and to be able to work from home and the only way we can do that is to have technology in every county and to every far-reaching area of Tennessee and we are going to get that done.”

The governor added that the year has been so unique with so many rapid-fire decision making that he was thankful he had run a business for 25 years prior to becoming governor because in business one becomes to making decisions in that manner.

Gov. Lee was asked before departing for Oak Ridge if he planned to run for Governor again in the next election.

“I would love to be the Governor of Tennessee for six more years if the people of Tennessee will allow me,” Gov. Lee told the audience in what might have been his first time of expressing an interest to run for re-election.

Finally, before departing, Gov. Lee shared with those in attendance that he believes everything is heading in the right direction in Tennessee even though that may not be the case elsewhere.

“I am hopeful as I can be about where we are heading. It’s not like this everywhere and I have learned that in the last year.”