MIXING AND MINGLING – State Rep. Mark Maddox kicked off his campaign Tuesday at the Hampton Inn in Martin. His is pictured with Evelyn Blythe.
Rep. Mark Maddox, the 76th district representative to the Tennessee State House of Representatives, met with about 50 Weakley County supporters Tuesday night at the Martin Hampton Inn in what was billed as a fundraising reception put on by the Friends of Mark Maddox.
Among the area’s elected officials there to help Maddox kick off his campaign for the House seat were Weakley County Mayor Houston Patrick, Weakley County Commissioners John Salmon and Earl Wright, Dresden Aldermen Gwen Anderson and Jake Bynum, Weakley County School Board member Sarah Ann Pentecost and District Attorney General Tommy Thomas.
Maddox has held the office of House representative to Weakley and Carroll counties for 14 years and is running again on Nov. 2 against Republican Andy Holt of Dresden.
He is one of the ranking leaders in the Democratic Party in the House, the minority whip.
On a national level, he was recently elected vice-president of the National Council of State Legislators.
In an interview, Maddox said he considers the past legislature’s greatest achievement to be the two bills passed in January that paved the way for Tennessee being one of two states, along with Delaware, to receive funding from the U.S. Department of Education’s Race to the Top program.
Both the Tennessee First to the Top and the Compete College Tennessee Act will be holding higher education more accountable for student achievement, not just enrollment, according to the state website, Tennessee First to the Top.
The legislature got the commitment of teacher unions and other key players to buy into a reform package that will mean at least half of teachers’ annual evaluation will be based on their students’ achievement.
This and other commitments to reform will earn Tennessee $501 million in federal funds.
“It’s a sea change in how we look at higher education in this state,” says Maddox who sits on the Education Committee in the State Legislature including a subcommittee dealing with teacher evaluation.
“They keep putting me on the committees dealing with education,” says Maddox who claims he is the only one serving in the House now who has a job in education. Maddox, who lives in Dresden, works for the Weakley County School Board as technology coordinator.
There will be some problems ahead meeting the commitments of the education bills, Maddox anticipates, especially with some urban centers of the state.
“We will have to hold their feet to the fire,” says Maddox. The bills call for some struggling schools to be classified as “renewal” schools and undergo tough corrective action to turn them around.
Also looming ahead are budgetary problems that “will just have to be addressed.”
“We were able to balance a budget in a tough year,” says Maddox, but that meant that not everyone got the salaries they needed. “We are going be losing talent to other states and that has got to be addressed.”
He says that some budgets this year, including higher education, were able to be “backfilled” with stimulus money but at some point these needs too will have to be met.
Still the biggest issue in the area is jobs, says Maddox.
“We have long been an agrarian community,” says Maddox, “and we will continue to be so but we also have to look forward to areas like information technology.”
Maddox points to his service as co-chair of the Tennessee Broad Band Task Force that looked into gaining more broadband access for rural counties.
Campaign brochures distributed at the event also give Maddox credit for creating a state department for those with developmental disabilities.
“More jobs, good schools and safe street: that’s my mission,” promises Maddox in the literature.
On other issues coming before the state legislature this year, Rep. Maddox voted consistently for gun rights, according to Project Vote Smart.
Among those was a vote to override the Governor’s veto of a bill that would allow guns in bars.
Maddox defends the vote for the bill which passed saying that legislators “made it as good as we could,” adding provisos that guns could not be carried by those consuming alcohol.
“The Second Amendment is what it is,” adds Maddox.