Franklin County residents and visiting elected officials from throughout the state enjoyed an evening with Gov. Bill Lee and First Lady Maria Lee on Sept. 5 at a Reagan Day Dinner fundraiser at Drafts and Watercrafts at the Twin Creeks Marina in Winchester.
A primary fundraiser for the Franklin County Republican Party, the sold-out Reagan Day Dinner event was enjoyed by those who purchased a $50 ticket.
Floating on the waters of Tims Ford Lake, the venue made for an impressive sight and showcased the natural beauty of Franklin County.
More than 250 attendees enjoyed a first-class catered meal and an evening of fellowship with Gov. Lee and a host of elected office-holders, including judges, chancellors, district attorney generals, state senators, county mayors, and county sheriffs.
Tennessee State Senators Janice Bowling, R-Tullahoma, and Mark Pody, R-Lebanon, were on hand to show their support as was the Tennessee GOP Chairman Scott Golden.
Congressman Scott DesJarlais and his family also attended the event as did State Rep. Iris Rudder, R-Winchester.
Numerous items donated by local and regional businesses and individuals were on display for a silent auction, including several gas grills, artwork prints, and a framed portrait of President Donald Trump.
Supporters then returned to their assigned tables as Franklin County GOP Chairman Bradley Sherman addressed the gathering and thanked the many officials and elected office-holders for attending the dinner.
Sherman also thanked Ed and Helen Hall for their efforts in arranging the silent auction and Diane Hensley for her work with the Franklin County GOP’s mailing lists and social media sites.
Sherman gave a special thank-you to Joanne Davis, Republican Party State Executive Committee and Credentials’ chair, for her work in organizing and planning the event.
Sherman also thanked Scotty Steele, owner and manager of Drafts and Watercrafts, for providing the evening’s venue.
Sherman then introduced Tennessee GOP State Executive Committeeman Dr. Jerry Anderson who led the gathering in singing the national anthem.
Sherman then invited Bowling to the podium to say grace and bless the evening’s meal following a moment of silence for the victims of Hurricane Dorian, who were included in Bowling’s prayer.
Republican senatorial candidate Dr. Manny Sethi remarked that he loved the food and that it was the best Reagan Day Dinner meal he had enjoyed to date.
Sethi, a Vanderbilt Hospital trauma surgeon, is in the running to replace Sen. Lamar Alexander, who is not seeking a fourth term in the Senate in 2020.
After everyone had eaten their fill of the venue’s food, Sherman gave a special thank-you to U.S. Rep. Scott DesJarlais, R-Tenn., for attending the night’s festivities before Rudder stepped up to speak.
Rudder thanked the governor and first lady for making the trip to Franklin County to visit with supporters and to speak at the Reagan Day Dinner.
Rudder shared a memory with the evening’s supporters about a time several months ago when she asked the governor if he would speak at this year’s Reagan Day Dinner, and how the governor quickly accepted her invitation.
“The governor said that he would come, and he’s here tonight, and it means a lot to me that he came to see our beautiful county and this beautiful venue,” Rudder said.
“I’m so proud that you’re here tonight,” said Rudder. “Welcome to Franklin County and Twin Creeks Marina and Resort.”
After the applause had subsided, Rudder then introduced Gov. Lee.
The governor began his speech by mentioning his first impression of Franklin County and its people when he visited the area during his campaign.
He said that every time he came to Franklin County, the people were friendly and welcoming.
Lee then took the opportunity to formally introduce his wife and shared with the gathering that the first lady travels with him almost everywhere he goes and the two have become a team.
“She’s God’s gift to me and I’m grateful,” Lee said.
He thanked Joanne Davis and Rudder for the welcome they provided him and told the gathering how he felt about working with Rudder in the Legislature.
“You need to know that you have people representing you in the capital that you ought to be really, really proud of, and Iris is one of them,” Lee said, then referring to Rudder directly. “We have a great relationship, and I’m proud to be working alongside you.”
Lee then thanked Pody for attending the evening’s event before sharing a story about his first meeting with Bowling at The Smokehouse on Monteagle Mountain, and how that meeting led to a great friendship.
The governor told the gathering that Bowling and her husband, Temple, had been a tremendous source of support to him, and she was an incredible public servant for the people in her district.
Lee recognized DesJarlais and thanked him for representing his constituents in Washington, D.C., before reaffirming his commitment to rural Tennessee.
Specifically, Lee spoke regarding his signing of Executive Order Number One, titled “An Order Requiring a Statement of Rural Impact and Recommendations for Better Serving Rural Tennesseans From all Executive Branch Departments.”
The governor explained how the executive order brings increased accountability to 23 departments and how what they do positively impacts rural Tennessee.
He then spoke about his life before becoming Tennessee’s 50th governor.
Lee told attendees about running a heating and air conditioning and a plumbing and electrical business for 25 years. Lee mentioned how he holds a master plumber’s license and is also a mechanical engineer who has worked with 1,500 skilled trades-personnel.
The governor said that the most impactful thing he’s done in the legislative session — with the help of legislators present at the event — was pass the Governor’s Investment in Vocational Education Act.
“I’ve known for 20 years that we haven’t put enough emphasis on vocational, technical and agricultural education, but now, high schools are going to look different in Tennessee in a few years,” Lee said. “I’ve had the great privilege of investing a significant amount of money towards developing CTE programs, expanding vocational, technical, and agricultural programs all across Tennessee.”
The governor went on to say that four out of 10 children in Tennessee don’t go to college and that the state ought to give them an opportunity to be successful.
He also mentioned the Futures Workforce Initiative, a program that creates STEM education programs all over the state.
Lee mentioned speaking with a group of Franklin County teachers who were present at the event and that education reform was in important issue for him.
“Public schools are the foundation of the future for the state of Tennessee if we want our state to lead the country — and I do — then, understanding that, we have to invest in teachers, principals and public school programs,” he said.
Lee then spoke on a number of issues that he said were important to him.
He spoke about prison reentry reform designed to reduce the recidivism rate for prisoners who were reentering society.
Lee spoke about the importance of teaching children why America is the most exceptional nation in the world, and about teaching them why protecting and preserving freedom and liberty is critical — and why they should be told that they are fortunate to be Americans.
“Government’s role is not to solve the problems and challenges we have in our country but to protect rights and liberties and freedoms of the people that live here so we the people can solve the problems that we have in our nation,” Lee said. “If our kids don’t know that, and if we don’t teach them these things through civics, then we will lose that generation, which means we will lose America.
“There’s a battle going on in this nation from the very top down — from the highest levels of government down — and we passed ‘Civics Seals’ legislation that rewards schools who teach our kids civics and character education and the difference between right and wrong and honesty and integrity.
“The legislation rewards schools who teach our kids why America is the greatest country in the world to live in.”
Lee also referred to the “tremendous community of faith” in Tennessee, and how the faith community is doing a tremendous amount of charity work in their respective areas,
For this reason, the governor announced that this month will see the creation of the Governor’s Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives, which is designed to connect like-minded charities and nonprofit organizations together to help even more Tennesseans in need.
“It’s a tremendous honor for us to do this,” Lee said.
He then told the gathering that the first lady’s work matches up with the Governor’s Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives.
“Maria’s initiative is called ‘Tennessee Serves,’ and she will be traveling all across the state to remind people why we are called the Volunteer State and why we can impact their communities much greater than the government ever can, and it’s a tremendous honor for us to be able to do,” Gov. Lee said. “It’s an incredible honor that we have to serve you and I want you to know that, and I wake up every day thinking how it is that I’m going to use my life and use my influence and use the platform and use my relationships to impact every Tennessean.”
Lee then spoke about having the honor of shaking the hands of several hundred returning veterans who had been away from home for over a year and welcoming them home as they reunited with their families and loved ones.
The governor then talked about his appreciation for members of law enforcement and other first responders and public safety professionals who risk their lives every day while protecting and serving their communities.
“There’s nothing that has made me appreciate the role of law enforcement like attending the funerals of a Metro police officer and a Tennessee Highway Patrol trooper who were both killed in the line of duty,” Lee said. “These men and women truly do put their lives at risk for us on the job every single day, and I appreciate them and those of you who are members of law enforcement.”
Lee then informed the gathering that Tennessee has virtually no debt and ranks within the top three or four of the states with the per-capita lowest tax rates.
He then said that his budget saw the largest single investment in the rainy day fund in the state’s history.
“We are really fortunate to be Tennesseans,” Lee said. “U.S. News and World Report names Tennessee as the No. 1 best fiscally-managed state in America.”
Lee closed his speech by thanking everyone attending the Reagan Day Dinner for having him and Maria attend, and he passed on that gratitude to Franklin County residents who have warmly greeted them each time they visited the Farmers Market on Dinah Shore Boulevard or at other special events.
Lee then spoke about the many difficult decisions he is forced to make as governor and how it’s impossible to please everyone with each decision made or action taken, but he shared that he seeks his wisdom from the Lord through prayer every single day.
The governor said that he often seeks wisdom on a little balcony at the governor’s residence in the state capital when he can.
Before Lee departed, however, there was one more item on the evening’s agenda.
Ray Jackson, owner of Jackson Nursery, addressed Lee and, on behalf of the Franklin County Republican Party, presented him with a special gift — not just one but three rising sun redbud trees to plant at the governor’s residence in Nashville.
Ray and Cindy Jackson developed the unique variety of the eastern redbud tree at their Belvidere-based nursery.
The governor said he was thrilled, revealed that the rising sun redbud was his favorite kind of tree and thanked Jackson and Jackson Nursery workers Josh and Jeremiah Jackson.