Blount County Commission Chair Bob Ramsey is running for higher office.
Ramsey, a Republican, submitted a petition this morning to run for the 20th District seat being vacated by State Rep. Doug Overbey, who is running against incumbent State Sen. Raymond Finney.
As of April 2, seven people had picked up petitions to run for the seat: Tonawanda Monroe-Ball, Jimmy Melton, Stephen Gray, Blount County Commissioner Steve Hargis, Peter J. Stevens, Joseph Lamar Breazeale and Ramsey. Monroe-Ball, Hargis, Melton and Ramsey have submitted their petitions. April 7 at noon is the deadline for filing.
“I went ahead an filed it this morning. I’ll be getting into the race,” Ramsey said.
Ramsey said he has represented the fifth district of the county in Maryville for 18 years and said he has always tried to maintain constant, uninterrupted leadership for citizens. The commission chair said he saw an interruption in the continuity of leadership when Overbey chose not to run for re-election. “I feel like I have some ability and some responsibility to see that leadership for our citizens is not interrupted,” he said.
While Ramsey said it wasn’t his long-term goal to run for the State House, any public servant considers what they would do in different positions. “I feel like the service to the fifth district is a high calling, and so I certainly have not served these 18 years thinking I would do something else in public service,” he said.
Ramsey said when the opportunity to provide further leadership in the 20th District arose, he felt that was a responsibility that should be addressed. “I really want to give service wherever I feel like I can be of help and certainly in the 20th District, I feel this opportunity has arisen,” he said.
The longtime family dentist said his family is supporting his decision to run for state office.
“We realize it will be service in Nashville and campaigning itself will be a sacrifice, but they are totally behind me,” he said. “It will make it difficult for my dental practice, but I will not ever close my dental practice. It may be a little slower to get an appointment, but we will never close.”
Ramsey said state law permits an individual to hold positions in the state house and on county commission, but he said if elected, he would resign his post as commissioner. “Serving in Nashville would certainly make it difficult to fairly represent the fifth district on commission,” he said. “Yes, if I am chosen and am able to fill the seat, I will certainly resign from commission.”
The commission chair said that traditionally when this has happened, commissioners allowed the fellow commissioner in the district to make a recommendation on who would fill the seat, and they approved it. Ramsey said he could remember only a couple times when commissioners didn’t follow this practice in filling unexpired terms.
“The commissioners are of such character that they would certainly make sure the recommended appointee would be appropriate for the seat,” he said. “That’s the only way I would think it wouldn’t be done would be if the other commissioners thought the appointee wasn’t appropriate.”
The fifth district is also represented by Dr. Bob Proffitt, a Democrat.
Campaigning for state office is expensive, and Ramsey said he would appeal to supporters to contribute. “It will be a costly campaign in time and finances, and we’ll take whatever measures are appropriate and necessary to adequately inform the public of my candidacy,” he said.
Ramsey said his priorities would be the same as on the commission. “I’ve always made an effort to reflect the moral and ethical principles of Blount County, fairly support learning institutions, providing for protection of physical wellbeing and economic wellbeing of citizens and the environment and the efficient use of revenues,” he said. “I’ve always advocated excellence in law enforcement for protection. I expect responsible fiscal operations of state government. I insist on that.”
When asked his emotions in taking the step of running for higher office, Ramsey was candid. “I’ve been very frightened, no question about that -- cautious and a little bit intimidated by the size of the task, but I’ve measured up well in the past and know I have the ability and skills to be a public servant on any level,” he said. “I look forward to this level of state representation.”