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Senator Lamar Alexander visits Mtn. City

The Mountain City/Johnson County Welcome Center became a beehive of
local political activity Monday evening as Senator and former governor
Lamar Alexander and Congressman Phil Roe met with constituents and
local leaders in a casual meet and greet dinner. For Alexander the
event was the culmination of a day spent visiting various locations in
Upper East Tennessee including Hawkins, Washington, Unicoi, and
Johnson counties.
The Senator’s day began in Rogersville with a tour of TVA’s new John
Sevier combined cycle power plant, which uses natural gas to produce a
cleaner form of electricity. Next on the agenda was a lunch meeting
with local officials in Johnson City, followed by a tour of the Unicoi
County Courthouse in Erwin. Alexander finally reached Mountain City
around 3:00 where a large crowd of local citizens and many members of
the local government, including county mayor Larry Potter, City Mayor
Kevin Parsons, Circuit Court Clerk Carolyn Wilson Hawkins, and newly
appointed Republican Chairman Carl Howard, greeted him.
Alexander began with a speech addressing his history with Johnson
County, citing his famous walk across the state in 1978, which brought
him through the county during one of its harshest winters. About
Johnson County Alexander stated, “There’s just not a more beautiful
part of our state.” The walk helped him to win the governor’s race,
which he had been unsuccessful in four years earlier in 1974.
The topic of the speech then changed to the current issues being
handled in Washington. Following the disaster in Japan, Alexander
began by talking about the United States position on nuclear power.
According to Alexander there are 104 nuclear reactors in the United
States and there has never been a single death related to a nuclear
accident, including the incident at Three Mile Island. Currently 20%
of total electricity in the nation is nuclear, which makes up more
than 70% of the clean electricity produced.
Alexander went on to speak about the problems in Libya, citing that
the military needs to monitor the situation very closely. There was
also talk about the growth of private sector jobs and changes that
could be made to the healthcare situation that would make it easier
and cheaper for citizens to buy insurance rather than simply expanding
the problems that created the need for reform in the first place. The
senator repeatedly emphasized the need to work toward balancing the
national debt, which now shows the government borrowing 40 cents on
every dollar made.
During his speech a surprise visit was made by Congressman Phil Roe,
who was introduced by Alexander at the end of his speech. Roe picked
up where Alexander left off, citing issues in the current budget and
the possibility of debt plans that may achieve a balance over the next
decade. However, Roe did state that the road ahead would not be an
easy one, citing the fact that the national deficit alone is now 53
times the size of the total budget of the state of Tennessee.
Roe also announced that even though some federal programs would face
deep cuts in the budget he would continue to support the nations
veterans and their sacrifices. “I will never apologize for taking care
of our veterans.” Roe went on to say that he felt that the federal
government would have to prioritize the things that are important,
just like the average American does with their own budgets.
Following the conclusion of their speeches, both Senator Alexander and
Congressman Roe met with those attending, signing autographs and
answering various questions and concerns. The evening was a resounding
success, providing the citizens of the county and city an opportunity
to meet with their elected leaders. As participating members of a free
nation, it is welcoming to see that leadership even on a national
level is still interested in the welfare of local constituencies.
Whether the elected official represents a district, such as
Congressman Roe, or the entire state, such as Senator Alexander, the
responsibility placed on them by the people should be taken very
seriously. Thankfully, Johnson County has been blessed with
experienced, sincere leaders who have worked hard toward making the
region what it is today and continue to seek improvement.