Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee considers being governor an honor he tries to live up to every day.
Lee was the keynote speaker at the Hawkins County Reagan Day Dinner held Thursday at the American Legion Banquet Hall in Rogersville.
“It’s been a journey for us (Maria and the governor) to do this together,” Lee said. “We campaigned together, we continue to travel together and we know more than ever now what an honor it is to serve you together. When we serve people, we impact their lives for good and they’re inspired to serve other people. That creates government of the people that changes society.
“The more we came here, the more that people were loving on us,” Lee said. “We have a lot of friends around here. We’re honored to be in the spot we’re in to serve you. it’s an honor to work beside these men at the State Capital. They are genuine public servants, citizen legislators. Men who have sacrificed their lives and their time, it is a sacrifice for them to spend their time in Nashville.
Lee talked about his first nine months in office.
“We’ve only just begun,” Lee said. “I’m so encouraged about where we’re headed. We are one of the lowest taxed states in the country. We have one of the lowest per capita tax rates in the country. We’re a state with virtually no debt and a savings account, or rainy day fund, that in our first budget our administration made the largest single contribution in state history into our rainy day fund to put it up to $1.1 billion. When times are not great, we will have stored up the necessary requirement to endure the hard times.”
Lee said the state’s fiscally conservative policies have put it in a strong position moving forward to be able to get some things done.
“We need to support our teachers and principals, we need to attract the best and brightest to Tennessee,” he said. “When people are working, their lives change for good.”
“The Lord gave me great favor putting me here, I know that,” Lee said. “(Being governor) is an honor for us in that you carry things around in your heart all of your life and to be able to make substantive changes that will impact people’s lives for good around those things you’ve carried in your heart all of your life, that’s a tremendous honor to be in that place.”
Lee knows the value of rural life.
“It’s very important to me. I had the privilege to sign executive order No. 1 which was a statement of impact on rural Tennessee,” he said. “That required all 23 departments of state government to submit to me a statement of impact on how they affected rural counties in Tennessee, especially the 15 counties that are distressed.”
Those departments were required to submit another statement of impact six months later on how the departments would positively impact those rural communities.
“What happens in rural Tennessee matters to all Tennessee,” Lee said.
Lee recalled that 30 years ago, vocational, agricultural, and technical education were cut back in many places.
“We need a return to vocational, agricultural and technical education,” Lee said.
Lee signed the Governor’s Investment in Vocational and Technical Education Act, earmarking $25 million to establish vocational, agricultural and technical education programs in high schools.
Lee also spoke about his Christian faith.
“I’ve said a thousand times that my relationship with Christ is the most important thing in my life and that’s not going to change,” Lee said. “I also believe that government is not the answer to some of the greatest challenges in our society. The people are, including the church, the nonprofit community, and community organizations.”
He recalled that his office opened the Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives.
“It’s a new office started in the governor’s office that acts as a liaison between the government and the faith community, nonprofit community, church community, and community organizations,” Lee said. “Those people out doing the real work that the government cannot and should not do that government knows about and we can encourage it. We can strengthen it and connect people together that are doing powerful work in our communities. What a blessing it’s been.”
Lee said that he wakes up every day and asks God to give him wisdom and discernment “like never before.”
“We will need His favor like never before and His wisdom like never before,” Lee said. “I trust as we together lead forward with the values and principles that we share as this group of conservatives that believe in the direction of Tennessee, I believe that (God) will lead us in the right way.”
Representatives from Washington, Sullivan, Hawkins, Grainger and Hamblen counties were present. State representatives Jeremy Faison of Newport, Timothy Hill of Johnson County and Rick Eldridge of Morristown were all at the dinner.
Retired Congressman Bill Jenkins, of Rogersville, recognized the various county commissioners, elected and appointed officials before Lee’s speech.
“We’re thankful for you who do what you do,” Jenkins said. “This county is blessed to have all of you working hard and advancing this county.”
State Rep. Gary Hicks spoke before introducing Lee.
“What a crowd this is,” Hicks said. “I’m telling you, it’s a good kickoff to next year. If you didn’t have a good reason to vote Republican after what happened two weeks ago, my goodness, I don’t know what else could motivate you. It’s an honor to serve you in Nashville. There are so many good things going on in Nashville.”