Governor candidate Karl Dean visits Dyer County
Tennessee governor candidate Karl Dean visited Dyer County on Wednesday. The former mayor of the City of Nashville, running for the governor’s position in the Democratic Party, spoke to State Gazette about his campaign and his vision for the state of Tennessee.
“Basically, I am convinced that the voters of Tennessee want a moderate, pragmatic, common-sense, sort of get-it-done governor – someone who’s going to focus on the issues that matter to the voters,” said Dean. “When I ran for mayor of Nashville, I ran a nonpartisan election, where I had to get Democrats, Republicans, and Independents to support me. Then, when you’re managing a city, you don’t do it by ideology or party lines, you do it [by] what’s going to make it a better place to live and what’s going to make it into a better place for the future. So, I think that’s what the people of Tennessee want. I think if you look at our past two governors, Bill Haslam and Phil Bredesen, both former mayors that came with the same mindset, I think people want a continuation of that.”
Dean, while on the campaign trail, has spoken on three principal issues: public education, creating jobs, and healthcare.
Dean noted that he is a supporter of public education.
“I think that Tennessee needs to be a state that produces more college graduates, but at the same time, I think we recognize that not all young people are going to go to college, and that we need to have the technical – vocational programs that will allow young people to get good jobs to raise a family.
“What I hear all over the state is that we need to be paying our teachers more, particularly in rural areas. They [rural areas] have a hard time holding on to teachers particularly in the areas of science and math.
“I think education funding is absolutely essential to try to do more.
As for the creation of jobs, Dean mentioned his tenure as the mayor of Nashville could assist in that certain aspect.
“Creating jobs was something we were very successful with doing in Nashville when I was mayor. We went through an incredible boom there. I think it’s important to have a strong private-sector economy producing job opportunities for people to get ahead and live the American dream. I’m very concerned about rural areas and small towns. I want to see us really put a lot of emphasis on putting the resources in to make sure that all parts of the state have access to the Internet, broadband – I think that’s essential to the economy. It’s also essential for young people to make sure they have a good shot in life. Things like rural broadband is like electricity, you’ve got to have it. If you don’t, it’s going to hurt you economically and educationally. I think it’s important to support agriculture. I think the agriculture programs that helps in buying farm equipment are things I support and like to see enhanced. In terms of economic development, I would want to focus our attention on areas that need help, and I think particularly rural West Tennessee does.
“Healthcare is the other issue. I think it was a huge mistake not to do the Medicaid expansion when we had the opportunity to do that. I certainly agree with Governor Haslam that it would’ve been the right thing to do. We’ve now lost, getting close to $4 billion in money that could’ve been used to offer access to healthcare to people with preexisting conditions, disabilities, people with low incomes, people who are aging. I am very concerned that we’ve had 10 hospitals close in the state, mostly in rural, small town areas. That’s an economic blow to those places.”
When Dean was asked how would he accomplish creating those 3 areas stronger throughout the state, he responded, “One of the things that I learned when I ran for mayor of Nashville, again, I had 3 goals – work on public education, public safety, and the economy. When I was doing budgets, my budgets reflected what my priorities were. My priorities, like the ones I have for the state, are just basic. You’ve got to do these things. For Tennessee to succeed, we’ve got to have an education system that puts us in a competitive position when it comes to recruiting companies and having the workforce that’s necessary for it. Putting our kids in a position for them to succeed. I think economic opportunity, expanding the tax base, I think one of the challenges in rural areas is to attract more citizens. You can only do that by having a strong economy. That’s key. Then healthcare, I think you’ve got to be an advocate for Tennessee getting Medicaid dollars. The federal government can look at it and say ‘You turned down Medicaid expansion’, but now we’re in a position where we’re getting less than other states, and it puts us in a very uncompetitive position. So, I would be a champion for finding anyway we can get more Medicaid dollars into the state.”
As mayor of the city of Nashville from 2007-2015, Dean led the city through the 2008 recession as well as the devastating floods in May 2010. He was asked what he learned from not only those experiences, but as serving as mayor in general, that could assist him in being the potential governor of the state.
“I think being the mayor of a city like Nashville, going through the recession, the flood, through the boom that continues to this day – I have had the executive experience. What we did is invest in the city.”
Speaking on investing in the city of Nashville, Dean referred to the Music City Center located in the downtown area, which broke ground in March 2010 and opened in May 2013, in an attempt to attract additional visitors to the area.
“I think the key is when you invest in yourself, and you think about the future, you’re laying the groundwork for great things to come,” he explained. “So while we’re in the recession, making tough decisions, we didn’t stop thinking about the future. We didn’t stop investing in the future. That paid off. So, when we’re coming out of the recession – and I’m biased – Nashville is opening the best convention center in America. So, we were there, ready to take on new business by doing economic development during the recession. When things started turning up, we were there to move forward and have new business come to our city. I think in government you have to be realistic about the present, but at the same time, you’ve got to be building toward a better future.”
When asked how Dean could aid West Tennessee in its needs, he responded, “It’s absolutely essential when we’re working on economic development, you want to look at the areas that need help the most. I think a governor can have a lot to say as to where things get emphasized. West Tennessee, particularly rural West Tennessee, needs help with its tax base, needs help with population, needs jobs, so that would be one of my top goals to make that happen. I think the way you approach it is you say ‘This is what I want to accomplish’. That would be one of my priorities.”
With numerous candidates in the running for the position as Tennessee’s governor, Dean was asked what sets him apart from those in the current race.
“I think all of the candidates that are running bring their own qualities to the race and their own unique experiences,” said Dean. “I think my unique experience, in terms of this race, is that I have served as mayor of a major city, which is an executive position, where I’ve had to manage a really big budget, and I’ve had the experience in running a government in tough times and really good times. I think that’s unique – that government experience. I also look at earlier parts of my career where I spent time as a public defender, and I certainly understand issues of poverty and the criminal justice system.”
For further information about Karl Dean or his campaign, visit www.karldean.com.