Alexander's federal band coming here

Friday, June 26, 2009

U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander, one of Tennessee's former governors, a man who's served as the federal education secretary and, among other achievements, a Republican who ran for his party's nomination to run for President, is to be in Lewisburg next week.

Two announcements from Marshall County Mayor Joe Boyd Liggett's office have said this state's senior senator will speak in the second floor conference room of the County Courthouse Annex. It's where county commissioners, other officials, employees and concerned citizens have been talking about health care coverage and rising insurance costs.

Alexander's press assistant, Lesley Landrum, reports the senator will lead a "community roundtable to discuss important topics to Marshall Countians." So, local voters can expect to hear a report from their lawmaker and then have an opportunity to ask questions. Some questions might include those from five people responding to this newspaper's question of the week as reported below.

Thursday at 1:45 p.m. is the time and day for Sen. Alexander's arrival here.

Senators and congressmen aren't the only leaders who conduct constituent meetings, and they used to include members of what was Tennessee's Public Service Commission. Its functions continue in another regulatory panel, but this week you might be amused by what a PSC commissioner faced during a meeting with a service club while on the campaign trail. The group may have been a Lions Club, but where was even forgotten by the commissioner when he told the story.

The commissioner had a gruelingly long schedule including chicken and peas suppers at clubhouses, community center events, chamber coffees and town hall meetings that are the meat and potatoes of consultations with voters and providing personal service.

Since there was a promise of some obfuscation and more than a decade since the commissioner held public office, the man's not being named, but he had a practical solution to the time constraints and many places to go.

He and an aide were driving across the state and the next stop was quite rural, so he asked the driver if he'd speak for him since there was a high probability that nobody there knew what the commissioner looked like, nor would they probably know much about what the panel regulated. The driver had heard the presentations many times, so he agreed to help his boss. They were both wearing the campaign costume of blue blazers, kaki slacks and button down Oxford shirts with red and blue striped neckties.

So, after dinner the driver let the boss slip to the back of the room to take a nap, as the same speech was repeated to folks in a rural community, almost verbatim from previous presentations by the commissioner.

As the boss snored quietly in the back, a farmer stood up and asked about the rates being charged for a utility. The type really doesn't matter. It might have been electric power, natural gas, or telephone service, but as members of the Marshall County Board of Utilities have discovered, utility rates can be particularly complicated. That year, the rates mentioned by the farmer, who was attending in bib overalls and probably a yellow and blue vest for his club, were especially complicated and the farmer's question revealed a greater understanding than that of the commissioner's driver posing as his boss.

Without skipping a beat, the driver replied that he understood the farmer's question, but that the answer was really quite simple, and to prove it, he would awaken that fellow napping in the back so that his chauffer could explain it.

Lamar Alexander probably won't be napping here next Thursday afternoon.