Spivey gets Haslam's endorsement

Wednesday, September 22, 2010
Don Allen of Church Street, left, confers with Billy Spivey, center, of Phillips Street, the GOP candidate for state House, and Knoxville Mayor Bill Haslam, the Republican candidate for governor.

PULASKI -- Knoxville Mayor Bill Haslam, the GOP candidate for governor, endorsed former Marshall County Commission Chairman Billy Spivey to succeed state Rep. Eddie Bass as the two Republicans campaigned here on Monday.

"There's a new team being formed," Spivey said from the gazebo on the Giles County Courthouse lawn at about noon when his audience of approximately 85 people was finishing a catered lunch, "and you are witnessing the beginning of that new team."

Haslam said, "I'm thrilled to be running with him."

Unemployment was the major topic of concern in conversations on Pulaski's public square.

"I'm excited to start, but I need your help," Spivey said. "Too many of my friends don't have a job today."

Giles County Commissioner Tommy Pollard agreed in separate comments, explaining that if people are employed, they'll have money to spend. Without jobs, they can't pay taxes. While his remarks came with an implication that Giles County, like Marshall County, is facing a revenue problem, Pollard was clearly interested in people.

"People have to have jobs," he said.

Spivey introduced Haslam as the "big gun" speaker from the gazebo.

"We'll have a director-level person in the Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development to help small towns," Haslam said Monday.

Tuesday, ECD spokesman Mark Drury said, "We have a series of eight regional rural economic development specialists." Jamie Stitt is that specialist for Marshall and Giles County. The Lewisburg resident was recently named to take over the Three Star program and she's the immediate past executive director of the Joint Economic and Community Development Board in Marshall County.

"The further you get from metropolitan areas," Haslam said, explaining why he would focus on rural employment, "the harder it is to find jobs."

Haslam's father bought a closed gas station, reopened it and repeated the process, overcoming challenges and two decades later he had 700 employees, the Knoxville mayor said. He and his brother focused on truck stops and the experience led to his claim to the audience Monday.

"I understand why companies choose one place over another," Haslam said.

Without repeating the cliché of location, location, location, Haslam turned to the state budget of $29 billion. Half is federal money and next year there will be $1 billion less because stimulus money will have been spent.

He plans to "shrink the size of government," the gubernatorial candidate said, pointing to his leadership in Knoxville.

Spivey approached the unemployment problem and stimulus funding as a capitalist, suggesting that instead of spending the money on salaries for people hired by local businesses and government offices, he would have made the $3 million being spent in Marshall County as a source of small business loans to stimulate growth of commerce and industry that employ people.

The money might have been available as zero or very low interest loans, Spivey said in conversation after Haslam left and the crowd dwindled.

"Make the money work," Spivey said, dismissing tactics that "throw money at the problem."

He and Haslam are like-mined on that, Spivey said.

"I asked him to be here today," Spivey said. "Bill Haslam, the likely next governor of Tennessee, needs a legislature that's like-minded."

While Monday's audience on Pulaski's public square was mostly comprised of Giles County residents, there were several Lewisburg faces including Jim Moon, a former Marshall County planning commissioner who ran for the seat Spivey seeks, and Don Allen of Church Street who was one of about half a dozen people who knocked on doors in Pulaski last week for Spivey.

"We are the 'Red Brigade,'" Allen said. "I named us. We came to Giles County and knocked on doors; a little over 200 this past Saturday."