Hamilton Herald Masthead


Front Page - Friday, March 31, 2017

Leadership Chattanooga class gets closer look at state government

Leadership Chattanooga hit the road to Nashville this month to explore the inner workings of state government. This was a particularly historic time to be at the Capitol, as Senator Douglas Henry, who had passed away the previous week at the age of 90, was lying in state at the legislative library in the Capitol building.

Henry was the first person to be granted this rare honor since Gov. Austin Peay in 1927. Lawmakers, friends and other officials had pinned irises, the state flower of Tennessee, to their lapels. Henry’s former desk in the Senate, now used by Sen. Todd Gardenhire, was draped in black and had been adorned with irises.

Upon our arrival at the capitol, Leadership Chattanooga was welcomed by Speaker of the House Beth Harwell. After a tour of the Capitol, we joined our local Hamilton County area delegation for lunch. Sens. Bo Watson and Gardenhire and Reps. Mike Carter, Joanne Favors, Marc Gravitt, Patsy Hazelwood and Gerald McCormick were generous with their time.

A quality shared by each lawmaker was a desire to better the lives of the people living in their districts. Offering advice on leadership, some of the panel stressed the importance of reaching out and finding common ground with peers – even if those peers are across the aisle – to move important projects forward.

Commissioner of Education Candace McQueen closed out the day after lunch by talking with the group about the state and direction of education in Tennessee. Education has been a central focus of the 2017 class of Leadership Chattanooga, with many small groups taking on education-themed service projects. In December, the class devoted an entire day to focusing on education in Hamilton County and welcomed the opportunity to place that experience into a larger, state-wide context.

The next morning, Commissioner of Transportation John Schroer joined us for breakfast and to talk about the future of transportation planning in Tennessee – including his predictions for the tremendous impact autonomous vehicles might bring to the state in the not-too-distant future.

During a follow-up meeting with Watson, Gardenhire and McCormick at the Legislative Plaza, we were honored to be joined by Gov. Bill Haslam for comments and an impromptu question and answer session. That was an unexpected but welcome treat.

Our whirlwind trip concluded with a presentation from Kim McCormick, chief of staff to Flora Tydings, Chancellor of the Tennessee Board of Regents. The Board of Regents, and programs like Tennessee Promise and Tennessee Reconnect, play an important role in Haslam’s Drive to 55 program, which sets a goal of 55 percent of Tennesseans having some sort of post-high school degree or technical certificate by 2025.

The entire class of Leadership Chattanooga thanks everyone who took time from their busy schedules to meet with us in Nashville. The topic for our next meeting in April will be Justice and Law Enforcement.