Sometimes a person is at a loss for words, even a gubernatorial candidate.
Knoxville Mayor and Republican candidate for governor Bill Haslam was visiting with more than 100 supporters during a cookout at the Greenbelt Pavilion on June 11 and shared a campaign trail story that left him speechless.
Haslam told the story about an elderly woman who told him her husband, who also supported Haslam, had passed away.
“When I told the woman I was sorry for her loss, she told me, ‘That’s OK. He early voted.’ As a politician, you always have something stored away in the back of your mind for any given situation, but I had nothing for that. So everyone, don’t take a chance. Early vote,” he said, as everyone laughed.
Haslam and his wife, Crissy, were in Blount County for a cookout and then a door-to-door tour through Springbrook.
Haslam wasted little time in getting to the issues he sees as paramount for the next administration. He said the next governor is going to inherit a $1.5 billion shortfall in the budget. “Remember the federal stimulus money? The state used $1 billion of it to balance the budget, and it runs out Dec. 10,” he said. “The next governor is walking into a vastly different situation. We need someone who can deal with difficult times.”
Haslam said he was elected mayor of Knoxville with the mandate to run it like a business, and he did so. “We’ve cut the debt by 25 percent, we have the lowest property tax rate in 50 years,” he said.
Haslam referred to his corporate experience as president of his family’s company, Pilot Travel Centers. “I was president of a company that started small and grew to more than 14,000 employees across the country,” he said.
The mayor said Tennessee has to improve its education system because the state’s students are running 42nd out of 50 states in terms of performance. “This year 28,000 kids will drop out of school. We want to keep our kids from dropping out,” he said. “We need a governor who will take steps and start reform. We need to stand strong.”
Haslam said he is amazed by the response he is getting across the state. “In a week we may do 15 of these cook-outs, and you’re really just grateful people show up and listen and want to help,” he said. “We really have to keep talking about the issues of jobs, education and fixing the budget. People want this race to be about real issues.”
Will Carver of Maryville said that as the father of two children, he’s concerned about the future of the state. “Putting that future in Bill Haslam’s hands is the right thing in this election,” Carver said.
Kevin Painter of Maryville said that with all the issues facing the state, this election is important. “Mayor Haslam is the right man for the job. He has the executive experience and the right plan to create jobs, better our education system and lead us into the future,” Painter said.
Sheriff James Berrong spoke out in favor of Haslam. “I think he’s the best person for the job,” he said. “I support Bill Haslam for the next governor of the state of Tennessee.”
James West of Maryville praised the mayor. “I think he’s all right, a good businessman and a good leader,” he said.
Fred Metz, Maryville city councilman, said he supports Haslam and has known him 10 years, going back to when both their sons played on the same baseball team. “Sitting in the bleachers with someone, you get to know them and see how they interact with their families and how they treat people,” he said.
Dave Bennett, CEO of Cherokee Millwright and former Blount County Republican Party chair, said the Haslam campaign asked his company to cook for the event, and they obliged. “I’m on the Blount County committee to elect Bill. I’ve known Bill Haslam for years. I’ve worked closely with him and seen his mayoral skills. The main thing is, Bill Haslam cares about what happens to the state of Tennessee,” he said. “You’ve got to have it in your belly, that attitude of being a public servant.”