Susan Mills has a suggestion for those who think Republicans can’t win elections. Use Tennessee and especially Blount County as an example for winning campaigns for Republican candidates, the new Blount County GOP chair said.
On March 26, 120 members of the executive committee of the Blount County Republicans Party reorganized and voted in new leadership for the organization, which included Mills as the group’s first female chair.
Outgoing chair Dave Bennett said the meeting at the Blount County Public Library lasted 45 minutes. Executive committee members elected Mills as new chair, Ted Boyatt as male vice chair; Ruth Davis as female vice chair; Kenny Rudd as treasurer; and Tammy Harrington as secretary.
Mills said she was honored to be the first female ever elected chair of the Blount County Republican Party and that she would work hard to make Blount County proud. “This is my little piece of history,” she said. “I’ll be able to tell my grandchildren I was the first female chair of the Blount County Republican Party.”
Mills grew up in Eastern North Carolina in a town called Deep Run. She and her husband, Daryl Mills, came to Blount County when his job at Oak Ridge brought him to the area more than 10 years ago. They have a son, Patrick, who is 20.
“I was pleased when several people encouraged me to run for chair, and I’ve been pleased at the amount of support I’ve received. People have been very encouraging, and I appreciate it very much,” she said.
With Democrats in control on a federal level and the local Democratic party being more active in recent years, Mills said Republicans need to grow the GOP by reaching out to people. “There are a lot of conservatives moving to the area, and we have to give people a reason to support us, and let them know we’re inclusive and open to all Republicans,” she said. “We’re the party of inclusion. We’re open to all.”
Bennett said Republicans in Blount County can’t just assume their candidates will always win just because it is a traditionally Republican-leaning county. “We can not just sit back and say, ‘Blount County has always been Republican. Republicans will always be elected.’ It’s our job to make sure we have qualified candidates that share our values and principles running for local, state and federal office,” Bennett said. “When we do that, those candidates are going to be hard to defeat by someone who doesn’t share those values.”
Mills said the challenge facing the party is practicing the platform of smaller government, lower taxes, being pro-life and pro-family and supporting school choice.
“We need to get our message out on local, state and national level,” she said. “We’re going to give people a reason to support the party by offering the best candidates.”
Mills said Blount County and Tennessee are in very good shape in terms of how Republicans have fared recently. “The rest of the nation is looking at Tennessee to see what we did right,” she said. “The Republicans did very well here in Blount County and in Tennessee.”
Bennett was term-limited after serving two consecutive two-year terms as chair of the Blount County Republican Party. “It’s been a great time to be a Republican in Tennessee and in Blount County,” he said.
The former chair said he is excited about the party’s new leadership, especially Mills. “She’s got sound conservative principles at her core, and she is a very strong woman and will be a terrific leader. This is the first woman to be elected chair in the Blount County Republican party ever. And Susan is not from Blount County,” he said. “I think it shows that at the heart of the membership of our party is one of inclusion. We want people to come into the party, whether they’re from here all their life or have been here three days. All that is required is you share our conservative values and the values of the Republican Party.”
Bennett said the public should see that the Blount County Republican Party can’t be called a “good ole boy” club.
“To have Susan, who is someone who didn’t grow up here elected chair is proof positive the Blount County Republican Party is not the good ole boy club,” he said. “It’s the party of inclusion and the party of the people of Blount County.”