TREND Winter 2017/2018 - Page 18

special section: bill lee Thank you for taking the time to share with our educators today. On behalf of our members, I would like to say we are grateful you are offering yourself for Governor. Please share with educators a little about who you are, and why you are running for Governor. As I started to consider running for Governor, I asked whether our state could be served by a business leader, with a heart for public service, and who comes from outside the political status quo. And after much prayer and reflection, I believe that’s exactly what our state needs at this time. I’m a Christian, a farmer, and a businessman. I’ve lived my whole life on the same farm, just west of Nashville, where we raise Hereford cattle for customers across Tennessee.  I’m also a licensed plumber, and have led a bus iness, Lee Company, which we have grown from a local enterprise to a regional company with 1,200 employees, and hundreds of skilled tradesmen. To get where we are today, we set a vision to create a workplace where our employees can thrive, finding innovative and original solutions to serve every customer, and to honor God by serving people with respect, integrity and compassion. We made quite a few changes in public education in Tennessee the last decade - some necessary, some debatable. What are we doing right? Aside from my business, I’ve developed a passion for non- profit work and service, becoming involved in many great organizations with missions ranging from international aid to a men’s prison ministry, among others. I also served on the Tennessee Higher Education Commission and the Governor’s Task Force on Sentencing Reform and Recidivism. I have a deep passion for education, which grew during my time as President of the YMCA of Middle Tennessee. I became involved in YCAP (a YMCA community action initiative for at-risk youth) which gave me the opportunity to become a mentor for a young man who truly changed my life as we navigated together the difficulties and dangers of growing up under hard circumstances in the inner city. One of the challenges he overcame was escaping a dangerous school environment, an experience that deeply influenced my passion for education, and demonstrated the huge impact a public education can have on a young person’s life. At Lee Company, I’ve learned that my role as a CEO is not to micromanage my employees, but to create the conditions for them to thrive. In the last few years, two critical pieces of legislation have helped move Tennessee forward towards creating an environment where our teachers can each achieve the respect and individual consideration they deserve. Updates to our state’s collective bargaining rules brought new and diverse voices to the table. In doing so, we acknowledged, as a state, that our teachers represent a range of unique and valuable viewpoints and that there are no one-size-fits-all solutions. Teachers deserve choices in who represents them, and I believe we took a step in the right direction by giving teachers this choice. More recently, our state has taken steps to ensure that we work to improve the culture around education. Personal safety, bullying, and working conditions are concerns that deserve primary consideration, and the passage of the Teacher’s Bill of Rights has helped launch a conversation that I believe is critical to helping our teachers thrive. If elected to serve as your governor, I would work hard to build on these efforts and others to ensure our educators are treated as individuals, with the respect, reward, and full support of our state.