Dresden—Senator Roy Herron (D-Dresden) today announced plans not to run for office in 2012, but instead to lead the Ned McWherter Center for Rural Development in expanded efforts to help young people go to college and create jobs for Tennesseans.
The senator expressed both great gratitude to constituents and high hopes for students and workers. Herron stated:
“I am blessed to represent the most wonderful people on earth. The people who have let me work for them as their representative and senator are my teachers, friends, and many are like family. I’m excited about working with them and other Tennesseans to help more young people go to college and help our state grow and gain good-paying jobs.”
Herron said after he finishes his state senate responsibilities this year, he will work actively as the president of the McWherter Center, a non-profit, non-partisan, charitable organization. The McWherter Center provides scholarships and educational opportunities for Tennessee students.
The McWherter Center was founded in 2008 with the blessing of the former Governor who died last April. Herron explained, “Some of us blessed to learn so much from Governor McWherter wanted to continue his service, and he loved the idea of a Center that would help young people.”
“Governor McWherter repeatedly taught,” Herron recalled, “’Schools plus roads equals jobs.’ And while he called himself a college drop-out, he helped his two children earn five (5) university degrees, and he recognized that in the 21st century his formula must be updated to say, ‘Colleges plus information highways equal jobs.’”
Herron said, “Now the Center can use Governor McWherter’s wisdom and legacy to help enable our young people to continue their education beyond high school so they can become all that God’s grace and their gifts will let them become.”
Herron said re-districting made the decision to leave the legislature hard, because he knows and loves so many people in the new 24th senate district.
“The new senate district is four counties I’ve represented in the senate for 16 years (Obion, Weakley, Henry, and Benton), another county I represented in the House for 10 years (Carroll), and my late sister’s home county (Gibson) near our farm where I also know so many that I love so dearly.”
“But Governor McWherter said his second term was ‘for the kids’ and I want my next stretch of public service to follow his lead in making a difference for our young people.”
Senator Herron said the McWherter Center will be working with Tennesseans of both political parties as well as independents to expand college opportunities. He explained, “The rich can afford college, the very poor can get financial aid, but the middle class and working people are struggling as college costs soar. The ‘strong back jobs’ are gone overseas and the 21st century jobs are going to those who have a 21st century education. The McWherter Center can help students get 21st century educations and jobs.”
“At a time when some in the General Assembly want to make college scholarships harder to attain, I don’t see Nashville moving in the right direction. But I believe many Tennesseans will work together to help the young people who want to study hard and improve their lives.”
Herron won then-Speaker McWherter’s seat representing Weakley and Carroll counties in the Tennessee House of Representatives in 1986 when McWherter ran for Governor. In 1996, Herron ran for the state senate where he initially represented Dyer and continues to represent Lake, Obion, Weakley, Henry, Stewart, Benton, Henderson, Decatur, and Perry counties. In 2010, he was the Democratic nominee for Congress. He remains in the state senate.
In the General Assembly, Herron has held numerous leadership positions, including chairing the Select Committee on Children and Youth, the TennCare Oversight Committee, the Senate General Welfare, Health and Human Resources Committee, and the Senate Democratic Caucus.Herron has sponsored literally hundreds of bills that have become law and a state constitutional amendment. As an attorney who had served as a special prosecutor, Herron authored the Crime Victims Bill of Rights that for the first time in Tennessee history enshrined in the Tennessee Constitution a set of rights for victims of crime.
As a former minister and lawyer who graduated from and taught at Vanderbilt’s Divinity and Law Schools, Herron wrote the Student Religious Liberty Act to protect children’s rights to pray in public schools and the Bible in Schools Act which provides a constitutional way for children to learn about the Bible in public schools.
As the father of three sons, two of whose lives were saved in the womb and as newborns by exceptional healthcare professionals, Herron worked with Governor McWherter to expand access to healthcare for working families. He then fought to try to get the next administration to require better stewardship of taxpayer dollars by the managed care organizations.
As a country lawyer, Herron took the case of a natural gas company employee worried about unsafe and illegal practices endangering hundreds of West Tennesseans, then wrote Tennessee’s Whistleblower Law that protects citizens who refuse to break the law or report crimes to law enforcement.
An avid hunter and sportsman, Herron often quipped that with a district including more rivers and lakes than any other, he represented “more ducks and geese, more bass and bream” than any other legislator. He authored and worked on numerous acts to protect Second Amendment rights and expand outdoor opportunities. Herron grew up fishing and duck hunting on Kentucky and Reelfoot Lakes with his father and raised his own sons doing the same. Working with Congressman John Tanner, Governor Phil Bredesen, and Representative Phillip Pinion, Herron helped obtain the new spillway at Reelfoot Lake.
A fiscal conservative known for his pickup truck with almost half-a-million miles, Herron has spent the taxpayers’ dollars like his own. He helped balance Tennessee’s budget every single year in office, while keeping Tennessee one of the lowest-taxed states in the country.Herron warned that many in Nashville today seem intent on bolstering private for-profit educational companies at the expense of taxpayers and to the harm of public schools. Herron said he will miss continuing to fight for public schools as a senator, but plans to continue his efforts for public school students through his work with the McWherter Center.
As the son of a smoker who died of heart disease and the brother of a smoker who died of lung cancer, Herron sponsored the legislation that first banned smoking in state government buildings, then the legislation that banned smoking in most public places. That legislation has taken Tennessee from a third more citizens smoking five years ago to where we are today, saving taxpayers and insurance premium payers millions in reduced healthcare costs and which will ultimately save thousands of lives.
A runner who has completed more than thirty marathons and three 140.6 mile Ironman Triathlons, Herron sponsored the legislation creating the Coordinated School Health Program that works across Tennessee to reduce childhood obesity and improve children’s health.As a businessman committed to economic growth, Herron helped create infrastructure improvements that have meant jobs and will mean more jobs in the future. Herron has played a significant role in the four-laning of Highways 22, 45E, 45W, 79, 412, and I-69, as well as new roads like 218 and numerous life-saving improvements such as the safety barriers between opposing lanes of interstate traffic.
He fought for and helped secure funding for the Cate’s Landing Port and Industrial Park in Lake County, the West Tennessee Jobs Megasite in Haywood County, improvements to area airports, and the expansion of efforts by the Department of Economic Community Development to draw companies to Tennessee.
As the parent of three sons, Herron worked to improve Tennessee’s schools, helping pass Governor McWherter’s and Governor Bredesen’s education initiatives, including the Better Education Program, pre-kindergarten for low-income children, and fairer funding for rural school systems.
“I’ve seen great teachers do great work and the differences they’ve made in our sons’ lives,” Herron said. All three of Herron’s sons attended Weakley County public schools in Dresden. “I want all children to be blessed with great, loving teachers like our sons were blessed to have.”As a graduate of and former teacher at the University of Tennessee at Martin and Vanderbilt University, Herron has advocated not only for public schools, but also for post-secondary education in the vocational and career centers and community colleges and universities.Herron has been known in the Senate for his willingness to work. In more than a quarter century, he has 100% attendance except for the day his youngest son was being born. He missed the House session that day, but only that day, and he has yet to miss a Senate session.Herron also has been known for his Listening Meetings. It is believed that he has conducted more public Listening Meetings than any other member of the General Assembly, a number he acknowledges is “somewhere well north of a thousand.”
In addition to the legislation that Herron has helped pass, he also is known as having modified bills that needed correcting and having helped stop bills he thought should not pass. When asked for examples of some of the bad legislation he has helped stop, Herron declined, saying, “I don’t want to give anybody any ideas about trying some of those bad ideas again. We’re doing too much harm to the people already.”
Herron will serve out his term which ends with the new general election in November. The current session of the General Assembly is expected to adjourn by May.