By JENNIFER HORTONThe Wilson Post
Jobs, jobs and jobs are the main concern of Tennesseans throughout the state, Mike McWherter said when he is elected Governor later this year that will be his top focus, also.
McWherter, of Jackson, stopped the office of The Wilson Post on Thursday to discuss what he believes are the main issues facing the state and what citizens are saying.
He said he has been in 55 counties so far and plans to have visited all 95 counties by the end of March. McWherter said is visiting all the counties to hear from citizens and officials so he can better understand the issues and needs and wants facing Tennesseans.
“This is a very important area and county to me,” he said of Wilson County. McWherter met with Wilson County Mayor Robert Dedman and Lebanon Mayor Philip Craighead on Thursday and also met with the Economic Development Division of the Lebanon/Wilson County Chamber of Commerce.
His campaign is going well – he is running for the Democratic nomination for Governor – and noted he has “a lot of family friends in every county” of the state and is working on building an organization around that foundation.
Throughout his travels so far, McWherter said from his talks with citizens and officials that “the main issue, without question, is jobs.”
Many people in this state, where the unemployment is still in the 10 percent range, are looking for jobs and have been unable to find them.
“My whole focus will be job creation.”
He said he believes that Gov. Phil Bredesen has done a good job recruiting new business to the state, but he wants the state to also realize the potential of recruiting companies that supply other industries in Tennessee and beyond.
McWherter said he also wants to continue to recruit clean energy companies to the state and noted “Tennessee is one of the top three in recruiting clean energy jobs. I’m really proud of that.” The other states are Oregon and Colorado.
In discussing incentives in place at the state level used to recruit business to locate here, McWherter said “I’d like to see more incentives for small business. Small business is the backbone of the economy in Tennessee.”
Small businesses should be encouraged the same as larger businesses to open shop in Tennessee. “They help the whole state and create employment and revenue.”
McWherter said he supported Bredesen’s and the state legislature’s efforts to apply for the federal Race to the Top funds, part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009.
To apply, the state legislature had to approve changes to the education program in Tennessee that include focusing on teacher quality and better use of the state’s data system to track progress among students and educators.
“With the changes,” he said, Tennessee will be very competitive for funding.” Tennessee is competing with a number of other states for the federal dollars.
McWherter noted that Tennessee was already ahead in the process as the legislature last year approved Bredesen’s plan to raise high school graduation standards.
This week the legislature has been working on Bredesen’s plan concerning higher education and changes to focus on improving community colleges.
“I totally agree with him on this,” McWherter said.
Among the changes being discussed are getting more students to attend a two-year community college on the front end, which costs less per credit hour, that a four-year college or university.
In addition, sometimes when a student transfers either from a community college or a Tennessee Board of Regents university to one of the schools in the University of Tennessee system, their credits are not always been accepted meaning they might have to take the same or similar class again at the new college.
Bredesen is working to make the transfer between colleges and university more seamless and to allow students to transfer their credits.
“I agree with that as well,” McWherter said.
As Governor, McWherter would have to deal with a budget that has been cut and departments that have been strained since the economic recession began more than a year ago.
But the candidate sounded optimistic, noting that he serves on a bank board in West Tennessee and spoke recently to someone who is on the Federal Reserve Board who said the fourth quarter, the end of 2009, should be the bottom of the recession.
“I’m hopeful I will have not a lot of extra revenue, but extra revenue,” he said.
McWherter is the son of former Gov. Ned McWherter who served in the state’s highest elected office from 1987 to 1995.
The elder McWherter, who is now 79, is looking forward to being involved in his son’s campaign.
“He will be very engaged in this campaign,” the son said, adding his father is already planning campaign trips to East and Middle Tennessee. “He has a goal of wanting to go back and visit every county in the state one more time.”
McWherter was to travel to counties in the Upper Cumberland area today and then visit Southeast Tennessee on Saturday.
To learn more about McWherter, visit online at www.mikemcwherter.com.
Editor Jennifer Horton may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.