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Gov. Lee Convenes Cabinet for Distressed County Summit

Posted on Thursday, August 22, 2019 at 3:23 pm

Governor’s Rural Opportunity Summit highlights next steps in rural agenda

Last week, Tennessee Governor Bill Lee convened his cabinet for a meeting with local officials from Tennessee’s 15 distressed counties during the Governor’s Rural Opportunity Summit in Perry County. Representatives from Grundy County attended the summit.
The meeting capped a state government-wide audit mandated under Executive Order 1 which examines how departments are serving rural areas, specifically distressed counties. Executive Order 1 also required departments to provide suggestions for improvements moving forward.
“I’ve challenged my cabinet to think critically about how we are helping our rural areas,” said Lee. “With 15 distressed counties in the bottom 10 percent of the nation in terms of poverty, average income and unemployment, we have serious work to do and I believe we are up to the challenge.”
Grundy County Mayor Michael Brady says the summit allowed attendees from the county to work with Governor and enter discussions on moving Grundy County forward.
“I feel very positive about the recent rural summit,” stated Brady. “We had the opportunity to meet with the governor and his cabinet and relay one on one how to partner and move Grundy forward.
“We discussed a host of issues ranging from infrastructure, education, jobs, and healthcare to economic develop, tourism, and other issues.”
The Grundy County team attending the summit included Director of Schools Glenda Dykes, Marshall Graves, Sam Baggett, and Mike Partin.
“I feel we were well prepared,” explained Brady. We represented Grundy County well. I am very excited about the future of our beloved Grundy County and expect great things to come.”
Partin says the easy part is coming up with ideas for improvement.
“It’s easy to come up with ideas to move our rural counties to the next level. The hard part is put-ting those ideas into action,” explained Partin. “I was impressed with Governor Lee and his team’s willingness to work toward progress. With the State’s help, I see a bright future for Grundy County as we work together to capitalize our strengths.”
Twenty-three state government departments submitted significant analysis that showed rural areas will benefit from the improved coordination of services and overall alignment of departments in serving rural Tennessee. Additionally, departments provided innovation recommendations for potential programs and solutions to be considered by the Lee Administration.
Grundy County Director of Schools Glenda Dykes feels the summit was an excellent opportunity for Lee to hear from leaders of the county.
“The Governor’s Rural Opportunity Summit for distressed counties was a real eye opener for Governor Lee and his cabinet members,” said Dykes. “The meeting was positive, and I believe many great things will come from all the collaboration and conversation of stakeholders of the 16 distressed counties.
“Grundy County seeks support from Governor Lee to drive a set of priorities to complete key projects to overcome educational and developmental obstacles endemic with rural geographically isolated poverty.”
Addressing summit attendees, Lee said, “A lot of academics and national media types think rural America is destined to fail. I believe they’re wrong. And Tennessee is going to prove to the rest of the nation that our rural communities’ best days are ahead. And that starts right here.”
Areas for improvement
Through Executive Or-der 1, departments suggested better coordination in areas including but not limited to:
Recruitment and Retention for Qualified Professionals in Rural Areas
Areas for improved coordination:
• Ag-tech business recruitment
• Recruiting quality principals, teachers and mental health support liaisons
• Recruiting physicians and healthcare providers
Education and Workforce Programs in Rural Areas
Areas for improved coordination:
• Ag industry certifications
• Employment fairs and vocational rehabilitation programming
• Unemployment insurance, statewide apprenticeships, WorkReady community initiatives
• Focused employment assistance
• Job Access Reverse Commute Program for transportation challenges
Community Development Planning and Infrastructure in Rural Areas
Areas of improved coordination:
• Water and wastewater infrastructure
• Real estate owned programs and community development block grants
• Upgrading rural school facilities
• Improving the public alert system
• County transportation planning and rural access improvements
Substance Abuse Prevention and Recovery in Rural Areas
Areas for improved coordination:
• Drug workshops
• Expanded prevention efforts
• Prioritizing peer recovery specialists
Lee recognized that there was no easy solution to fix the problems faced by rural communities.
“This is not going to be easy,” stated Lee. “I want all of us to understand that,” said Lee. “I wish there was some magic policy solution or budget appropriation that could fix all the problems we face, but there is not one.
“This is an effort that is going to take focus and hard work from all of us for the next several years.”

Pictured at the Governor’s Rural Opportunity Summit are (l to r): Director of Schools Glenda Dykes, Marshall Graves, Grundy County Mayor Michael Brady, Governor Bill Lee, Sam Baggett, and SVEC CEO Mike Partin. “Our team represented Grundy County with vigor and passion,” stated Mayor Brady. “I am very appreciative and proud of them.”