Sanderson enjoying first days as area’s state representative
Posted: Friday, January 21, 2011 9:01 pm
By GLENDA CAUDLE
Special Features Editor
“It was wonderful, indescribable. I was just so glad to be part of it,” said Rep. Bill Sanderson of Kenton, the newly-sworn-in representative for Tennessee House District 77. The district includes Obion, Lake and portions of Dyer counties.
Sanderson was speaking not of his own Jan. 11 welcome to the ranks of Volunteer State legislators, however, but of Saturday’s inauguration and the attendant celebration for Gov. Bill Haslam, former mayor of Knoxville.
Sanderson is a Kenton businessman who decided to enter the political arena in 2008 when former Rep. Phillip Pinion announced he would not seek re-election. A Republican, Sanderson lost his first bid for the long-time Democratic seat to Union City attorney Judy Barker. In a repeat showdown in 2010, Sanderson emerged the victor and he has been celebrating not only his own success, but that of his party, which now controls both houses and the governor’s mansion.
Haslam, the new governor, also comes from a business background. His father began the company known as Pilot Corp., and Haslam has served as president and director of the company which has a nation-wide reach of truck stops and convenience stores. He was also CEO of the e-commerce and catalog divisions of Saks Fifth Ave. He turned his attention to the political arena when he decided to make a run for the top job in Knoxville, coming to office in 2003. Four years later, voters there returned him to the political job with 87 percent of the vote.
Haslam emerged the victor from last year’s Republican primary effort and went on to crush his Democrat opponent — Mike McWherter, Jackson businessman and son of former Tennessee Gov. Ned Ray McWherter — in the 2010 election cycle.
Joined by his wife, Crissy, and their three children, Haslam kicked off the weekend festivities, according to Sanderson, with a reception on Friday afternoon in downtown Nashville. The state’s Constitutional officers, as well as members of the new governor’s cabinet, were invited to attend. Following the reception, the Haslams hosted a charity concert at Nashville’s municipal auditorium. Performers included Bo Bice of American Idol fame.
The actual Inaugural Day, Sanderson noted, began with a prayer service at the historic Ryman Auditorium. Haslam, a Presbyterian who frequently interrupted his campaign treks around the state to return to Knoxville for Sunday services and who once considered attending divinity school, invited his pastor and the Oak Ridge Boys to take part in the service.
“The Oaks did an amazing arrangement of ‘Amazing Grace,’” said Sanderson, who joined fellow congressmen at 10 a.m. at the Capitol to officially open a session. The group then recessed and gathered on the front steps of the majestic building for the ceremony.
“It was an absolutely beautiful day — not a cloud in the sky and no wind. We shed our overcoats, the temperature was so perfect. The band played all the Tennessee favorites — ‘The Tennessee Waltz’ and ‘Rocky Top’ and others — while the congressmen, former congressmen and former governors gathered on the steps. There were several thousand people who had come out to be part of things, too. Then, all of a sudden, there was complete silence and then we heard chimes ring out across downtown Nashville. After that, the cannons around the Capitol began firing and the sound just echoed off all the skyscrapers downtown. As that sound died away, we were aware of a low hum and then there were aircraft skimming over the tops of the buildings and flying over the inauguration grounds. When the band played ‘The Tennessee Waltz,’ it literally brought tears to my eyes. I told a friend, at that moment it felt as though we were right at the center of the universe and I was somehow in the middle of it all,” Sanderson recalled.
“The Oak Ridge Boys did an a cappella arrangement of ‘The Star-spangled Banner’ and then the service began at noon. Following the swearing-in, there was an inaugural parade with lots of area bands, including the UT Pride of the Southland Band. And, of course, the afternoon was filled with receptions. That night at 6, we went to the Opryland Hotel and there were several dinners throughout the building, hosted by the first couple, and then the official inauguration band played there about 8. There were several thousand people there, including some folks from back home in northwest Tennessee. We gathered around and enjoyed the evening and even had some photos made with the first couple.
“On Sunday, the Haslams hosted a tour of the governor’s mansion for people from West and East Tennessee. The whole thing was just wonderful. I’m not a career politician, so this may be the only opportunity I have to be part of something like this, since a governor’s term often lasts for eight years. So many people said it was the most beautiful inauguration they had ever attended and part of that was because the weather was so perfect. Something else that added to the atmosphere of the whole thing was that I got to share it with some folks from home. That is such a part of my desire — to help everyone from the 77th District feel a part of the legislative process. I want everyone who would like to, to come to Nashville and be part of this. As a businessman, I know the importance of promotion, and I plan to promote this opportunity.”
Sanderson said now that the festivities are over, the governor and legislature will be getting to work on some challenging issues.
“Our offices will be assigned this week and I’ve got to get an apartment,” he said with a laugh.
Sanderson said no bills have been voted on yet, but an important one is on its way to the floor.
“Rep. Glen Casada (Republican from College Grove) is presenting one to amend the state’s constitution to formally declare Tennessee to be a no-income-tax state. If it passes, in the future, we would have to actually amend the constitution to introduce a state income tax. It’s an important marketing tool for business and is the first bill I’ve signed,” Sanderson said. “People are circulating several bills at this point, but this is the only one I’ve signed. I think it’s a great bill.”
Mrs. Caudle may be contacted by e-mail at glendacaudle @ucmessenger.com.
Published in The Messenger 1.21.11