If you missed seeing some of your Blount County friends around town last weekend, you might have caught a glimpse of them on television or in blog and photos pouring from the inauguration of Tennessee’s new governor, Bill Haslam.
A large contingent of Blount County folks spent all or part of the weekend in Nashville, attending the inauguration, the First Couple’s Dinner and Dance, the party and visiting the residence. There was also a reception hosted by State Sen. Doug Overbey, State Rep. Bob Ramsey, State Rep. Art Swann and Sevier County State Rep. Richard Montgomery.
The supporters represented a cross section of Blount County - from realtors, teachers and financial planners to grocery store managers, city officials and business owners. In addition to expressing praise and hope for the new governor, many also expressed pride and praise for Gov. Haslam’s his new special assistant, Mark Cate, the former vice president of Maryville College.
For some, the governor’s focus on education was a drawing point. Bill Hammon, assistant city manager for the City of Alcoa, said the governor will stress the importance of setting higher education standards. “Education is going to be a high priority. In Alcoa, our city commission is pleased education is going to be a significant item in his agenda,” he said.
Jim Proffitt of Knoxville also appreciated Haslam’s commitment to education. “To generate jobs, we have to support education,” he said. “I wish him the very, very best.”
Jobs were also in the forefront of many of the guests’ minds. Bryan Daniels, CEO and president of the Blount Partnership, said Gov. Haslam brings a knowledge of small business to the table. “Through his efforts and leadership, our economic development programs will excel and help grow and sustain small businesses,” he said.
District 8 State Rep. Art Swann said, “In a time when we’re challenged so much by a lack of jobs, it is very important to understand how businesses operate.”
Former District 8 State Rep. Joe McCord, who is the new chief clerk of the state House, said Haslam’s business and government backgrounds will be an asset. “I think what he brings to the table is a familiarity with the issues,” he said.
Maryville City Vice Mayor Andy White said Haslam will be able to use the knowledge he gained in business and as a mayor. “He understands difficult situations small towns and large cities go through and will use that wisdom as he moves the state forward,” he said.
Blount County Mayor Ed Mitchell praised Haslam’s background and said his business philosophy would help keep the budget efficient. “Any time you have a business background, you are going to bring additional things to the table in government.
District 20 State Rep. Bob Ramsey said Haslam will be a good governor even though he will be leading a government that in the near term will be taking away rather than giving to citizens. “I think he’s the man for the job,” he said.
Others saw attending the inauguration as the icing on the cake for their work as volunteers during in the campaign. Hoy Grimm, managing partner with LeConte Wealth Management, said this is the first state-wide campaign in which he has been involved. What made the inauguration even more important to him was that his son and daughter, Addison and Erin, helped during the campaign. “They canvassed our neighborhood. We canvassed with Bill,” he said. “It’s rewarding we have a man we think is capable and deserving of the position.”
Myra Hair said the governor ran a strong, well organized campaign. “It was great to be to be one of those who worked to help elect a great governor for the state of Tennessee,” she said.
Several commented on the inauguration and on the prayer breakfast held the morning of the inauguration.
Brenda Sellers, chair of the United Way of Blount County, said she enjoyed the inauguration. “I loved it,” she said. “What a great opportunity for Tennessee.”
Joy Bishop said the inauguration was a great weekend. “I especially enjoyed the prayer breakfast with the emphasis on civility,” she said.
Kay Overbey said she appreciated the prayer service held that morning before Haslam was inaugurated. “I was so impressed when his minister spoke of him. It was a special service,” she said. “He is going to do so many great things for the State of Tennessee.”
Many praised Haslam for his personality, attitude and work ethic.
State Sen. Doug Overbey said he didn’t think as much about the importance of having a governor who happened to be from East Tennessee as he did the fact it was the man Haslam who was elected. “Governor Haslam is affable, congenial, and I think he will be a governor for all the state,” he said.
Rep. Art Swann said Haslam has very good people skills and business skills. “I think he’s going to be an excellent governor,” Swann said. “He has such a mandate, and people have such high expectations. I think he will meet those expectations as he always has.”
Kahryn White said she was extremely proud to see Haslam take office. “We are truly lucky as a state to have someone of his caliber in the governor’s office,” she said.
Will Carver praised Haslam as someone who would be unaffected by the office. “Bill will not forget his roots,” he said.
Lynn Warner said she is impressed with the new governor. “He’s so personable and sharp,” she said.
Ed Harmon praised the new governor as a genuinely nice person. “He’s a nice, nice man. The Haslam family has been very, very supportive of Blount County and Maryville College and that is one of the reasons I support him,” he said.
Lynn Cox said Haslam’s strength as governor is he is someone people can relate to. “He’s someone you can sit down with over a cup of coffee and start talking about anything with him. He seems very accepting. He seems very accessible,” Cox said. “He puts you at ease. I think he will be the best governor we’ve ever had.”
Mike and Angie Kirby were on hand for the event and remembered getting involved in the campaign when friends Andy White and Mark Cate introduced them to Haslam so he could do a walk-through the Kirby’s neighborhood knocking on doors. “Since then I was hooked. It’s an honor to know him,” Mike Kirby said.
Angie Kirby said she felt she witnessed history when she saw the inauguration. “To see him being sworn in as governor and to know he has been in my house and walked around my neighborhood with my son, I was extremely proud.”
Christy Newman said this was the first inauguration she has attended. “We thought it was important to be here to support the Cates,” she said.
Whitney Cox said she was happy for Mark Cate. “I felt proud to be there for Mark and Cathy,” she said. “What a great honor. We have friends who will be part of the state’s history.”
Kevin Painter led the Blount County effort to elect Haslam and said he was also proud of Cate for his work during the campaign and for what he will do in helping the governor carry out his agenda. Painter said he was glad Mark Cate was going to be working with the governor. “We need the right people making tough decisions for our state,” he said.
Will Carver said it is an honor to have Mark Cate in his new position. “He is someone who has worked hard, sacrificed and now has been rewarded with a very well deserved position,” he said.
Mary Beth West said the inauguration was an inspirational experience. “It meant a lot to see our Maryville friends, Mark and Cathy Cate, have so many months of hard work on the campaign come to fruition,” she said. “I also thought both Gov. Haslam’s and Gov. Bredesen’s speeches gave all Tennesseans a reason to feel pride in our state’s leadership, both past and future.”