'There are a lot of things I want to get done'

Hank Hayes • Jan 20, 2019 at 1:00 PM

New Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee isn’t interested in a perception that not a lot will get done in his first year because he has never governed.

“There are a lot of things I want to get done,” Lee, a Republican, said in a phone interview. “We have some really big things we want to get done, and I’ll be working with lawmakers, the legislature and the private sector to create partnerships that I think are the most powerful way to get things done.”

After being elected in November, Lee opened up the transition from outgoing Gov. Bill Haslam by using his website. He got 1,500 resumes and 2,500 ideas to put together a Cabinet and leadership team. One Cabinet member is Kingsport’s Dr. Jeff McCord, who is the next commissioner of the Department of Labor and Workforce Development.

“The caliber of folks who are willing to serve is very encouraging,” Lee said. “They come from all geographic regions of the state. They bring unique, oftentimes an outside perspective of things we need to get done.”

About his expectations for the job, the former Williamson County businessman said he is humbled to have the opportunity to serve every single Tennessean. He had a goal of announcing every commissioner by his Saturday inauguration.

“I want to get my hands around the (state) budget and understand it,” Lee stressed. “Our team has done a really good job of that working with the current administration to be up to speed there. We will be merging that budget with our priorities and creating a legislative package for the coming weeks.”

When asked if he would sign the latest medical cannabis bill if it passes the legislature, Lee said he has not read the legislation. “I’ve said that I have real concerns about medical cannabis,” Lee noted.

When asked about his vision for Interstate 81 amid Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam’s plan to upgrade I-81 in Southwest Virginia with toll revenues, Lee pledged to get his new Transportation Commissioner Clay Bright of Davidson County up to speed on every road in the state.

“Infrastructure is really important,” Lee said. “I-81 is an important roadway. Tolls are not something that I have looked at or explored, and it’s not something I think Tennesseans have an appetite for. But infrastructure is something we have an appetite for.”

Lee also explained the difference between his candidacy and how he will govern.

“Bill Lee the candidate was trying to tell people just who I am and introduce myself to the voters and tell them what my value system was, and what was important to me and that I had a vision for Tennessee that would align with the people of Tennessee,” he said. “That was the goal of the candidate. Now as governor, I want to fulfill my commitment to the voters who have put me in office. I wholeheartedly believe I’m here to serve Tennesseans who elected me based on the things I believed and perceived were important to them. As governor, my job is to execute, to fulfill and carry out my promise to do everything I can to make life better for six and a half million people.”

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