Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Momentum In West Tennessee Is Growing

I spent the day in Memphis with district events and left early evening for Gibson County to meet, greet and talk with about 120 Democrats, Republicans, elected officials, business people, teachers and just good West Tennesseans. Gibson County Democratic Party Chair Betty Poteet organized a great event along with Trenton Mayor, and my friend, Tommy Litton, Circuit Court Judge Clayburn Peebles, Democratic Executive Committeeman Don Farmer and Shirlene Mercer. Well attended and full of energy, the event gave me a chance to talk about this election's impact on our future. With many young people in the audience, I touched on the need to find new energy sources, help every young person live out the American dream, restore some fiscal sanity to our federal budget process and reduce the presence of special interests in politics. I want to thank everyone for coming, including Glynda Albea, Elli Mae Anderson, Shere Anderson, Rhonda Bonds, Bobbie Brown, Joyce Brown, Cynthia CafePearson, Pastor and Mrs. Norman and Ann Carver, Connie Cathey, Dewayne Clark, Darnice Cox, Jack Cunningham, Reverend Narshell and Mary Easley, Jr., Dan Farmer, Ruby Ganaway, Willie Gentry, Joycie Glenn, Marland Hawks, Arland Hoat, Lee Johnson, Brenda Jones, Jerry Lynch, Robert Marley, Ada Powell, Helena Shivers, Jeff Shivers, Martha Skinner, Hollis Skinner, Carmack and Juanita Smith, Wanda Swinneg, Dusty Vickers, George Wade, Brenda Ward, William Whitley, Paulette Williams, James Wilson, Alice Wood, Jean Yarbrough, Phyllis Ewell-Doaks, Shirley Penn, Betty Williamson, Jalisa Thompson, Nancy Reid, Raymond and Carrie Johnson, Miles Fitzgerald, Lillie Xohouse, Sarah Lury, Mildred Cartwright, Linnie Agnew, Pastor Norman Carner and Pastor James Elam.

We left there to spend the night in Dyersburg for a full day on Thursday in Lake, Weakley and Henry Counties.

The morning started early with coffee on the Courthouse steps in Lake County, Tennessee's smallest county by population. Party chairwoman Regina Moore organized about 100 people to meet me on the steps of the Courthouse for me to meet, talk with and listen to before heading over to the Northwest Correctional Complex, the county's largest employer, for a tour. The Courthouse crowd was full of enthusiasm. I learned a great deal about the need to have job placement counselors in prison to help inmates land jobs after release. As it was explained to me, you reduce the likelihood of a return trip if a former inmate has something to do. I plan to introduce legislation to try and affect this problem. I want to thank all the good public servants there Thursday morning. I especially want to thank Lake County Mayor Macie Roberson for introducing me at the Courthouse and for touring the prison with me. And, Chairwoman Moore and her family were great. I thank them again. And, I want to thank everyone for allowing me to put my bumper stickers on their cars. And, thanks goes to David Gooch, Steven Maupin and Martha Connell for the education on natural gas and the cost associated with building a new energy infrastructure for West Tennessee.

We left the Courthouse to tour the Correctional Complex with Deputy Warden Tommy Mills. I want to thank him and his team, especially his assistant Ms. Shell. I also want to thank Corporal Ellison, Corporal Broglin, Carolyn Smith, Ramona Holloway, Sharon Gooch, Carla Hopper, Jim Horner, Vivian Windsor, Todd Broglin, Doris Coleman, Jennifer Walley, Carolyn Sherrell, Shelly Walley, Charlotte Bently, Sharon Gooch, Karen Kimbrell, Ann McGuire, John Tarver and Will Ramsey.

We left the prison for a big announcement by Congressman John Tanner and the Northwest Tennessee Port Authority. The announcement was the groundbreaking of a port in Lake County that will produce more than 3,000 jobs for this very poor county. John did a great job on this project and deserves a great deal of credit. I was glad to be there for him. In addition, it was good seeing State Senator Roy Herron, State Representative Craig Fitzhugh, both are good friends. We left there for a tour of the campus and a speech at the University of Tennessee at Martin. Special thanks goes to Mr. Orr, the Student Body President, Vice Chancellor David Belote, Lt. Darrell Simmons, Dr. Henry Parker, Matt Maxey, Kristen Keys, Twylia White, Anthony Beal, James Staggs Jr., Brandon Baker, Heidi Pickens, Raneisha Arnett, Azurey Smith, Melissa Kimble, Jametria Aldridge, James Baker, Anthony Prewitt, Christopher Starbuck, Jonathan Corter, Tucker Leigh, Teresa Woody, Erlene Moore, Amber Threlkeld, Michael Jones, Marqueta Abraham, Diana McLaurin and Frank Peterson.

From Martin we visited a remarkable company called MTD, a manufacturer of big lawn mowers, log splitters and walk behind chipper vacs, among other things. This company continues to manufacture here in America. With more than 1,000 employees, MTD is a major vendor for Wal-Mart, Lowe's and Home Depot. As a matter of fact, they won vendor of the year for Lowe's recently. Their local management team employs the "lean manufacturing" concept, which allows them to cut costs, employ Tennesseans and make a profit. I was impressed and encouraged by their model because if they can do it, there's hope other U.S. companies can do it too. Special thanks go to Steve Baker and Keith Cursey. It was so interesting touring MTD on this particular day because one of our newest Ford for Tennessee team members, Ian Prunty, was with us this day for his first day on the job. Ian's grandfather served as President of the Board of MTD, a company founded in Cleveland, Ohio in 1932.

We left there for a 230p meeting with Crawford Gallimore and Wayne McCreight at Hamilton-Ryker Staffing Services where we talked about health care, jobs and Fox News. I thank them for their kindness and candor. I really enjoyed meeting their team, including Kelly McCreight, Dannyelle Rendon, Sharis, Diggs-Chandler and Mimi DuBois.

We left Martin, Tennessee for meetings in Dresden with my friend Mayor Danny Forrester. He and his wife are the best, for the record. He and Judge Moore and Circuit Court Clerk Pam Belew toured me around the Courthouse. From there, we went to Sheriff Wilson's office for a tour of the 911 center, the prison and the court. Sheriff Wilson is a good man I thank him also for his kindness. And last, to Judge Moore for buying me a pair of overalls. I also bought another pair of boots on this trip from the E.T. Reavis & Son store on the square.

From Dresden, we drove the 30 minutes to Martin again for a Democratic Party event where Chairman Freeman started the program early so I could also make it to Henry County after the event for a speech there. John Tanner introduced me and gave me some pointers on my stump after I spoke. He and Senator Herron both have been great advisors throughout the campaign, and I appreciate it.

We arrived in Henry County, which is where Paris, Tennessee is. My dear friend and protector Ms. Iris Gardner, who I love so much, had arranged for me to come. I want to thank Judge Hansel McCadams for his great introduction. I also want to thank State Representative Butch Borchert, County Mayor Brent Greer, Henry County Democratic Party Chairman Bennie Akers and Register of Deeds Alice Webb.

And finally, I want to thank Commissioner Randy Camp for his longtime friendship. There's not a better politico in West Tennessee than Randy, and the Governor doesn't have a better surrogate or advisor than Randy. I'm glad he is my friend. We ended in Paris about 10p after taking pictures and bumperstickering cars. We arrived in Memphis about 1230a.

Friday was a district day. I normally don't write about my days in Memphis but the morning was so good I felt compelled to share. I met over with my friend Don Smith and the leadership at Brinkley Heights Academy to talk early childhood education. They have a very interesting and promising program in place that I want to learn more about and help. The Academy is located in a tough neighborhood in North Memphis off Jackson Avenue. Church based, the Academy is aiming to partner with some other groups and institutions and help more kids. And, I'm going to help.

I left there for an early lunch with Ms. Gigi Cummings and Principal Rita Porter of Sea Isle Elementary, where they do a great job. We met at Houston's and had a great conversation about kids, education, church and how to win a U.S. Senate race. I thank them for their commitment to our kids.

Our campaign is gaining more and more momentum. And, I feel good.


Harold Ford