Lenda Sherrell visits Mountain Goat Market in Monteagle.
Pictured are (l to r): Eric Duncan, Abby King, Lenda Sherrell, and Madison Keel.
For what may be the first time in history, a local resident is the Democratic nominee for the Tennessee 4th Congressional District. Lenda Sherrell (D), of Monteagle, is seeking the seat currently held by Scott DesJarlais (R).
Analysts forecasted an uphill battle for Sherrell in the traditionally Republican district that stretches from Rutherford County to Bradley County. However, Sherrell dug in, ran the numbers, and discovered that voters in the 16 county district base their choice on the candidate more than the political party, and 54 percent of the voters are women. In the August 7 primary, she proved any doubters wrong, coming in with big numbers across the district. In Grundy County alone, she topped DesJarlais by 595 votes.
“This district does not belong to one party. It does not belong to an elected official. It belongs to the people,” Sherrell stated when she sat down with the Herald earlier this month. “The people are interested in electing someone who is listening to them. Our district deserves someone of good moral character, someone who takes an oath and upholds it, someone you can trust and respect.”
Sherrell says she has no secrets when it comes to getting votes. She identifies with the people of her district. “I grew up in this area. My dad grew up on the Plateau. He was a rural letter carrier and delivered mail to people all over the mountain. My mom was a schoolteacher. Like people across the mountain, and across Middle Tennessee, they worked hard, saved money to build a home, send me to college, and have a secure retirement,” she says.
“Families today with similar jobs cannot do this. They come to the end of the month and there is not enough money to buy groceries and pay bills and still save for a child’s college education and retirement. These are families who are working hard.”
Sherrell says she supports a raise in the federal minimum wage to $10.10. “I think this would be a huge help to single parents, especially single moms. A single mother, working full-time, makes around $15,000 right now. That puts her below the poverty level. A raise in the minimum wage would lift her from barely surviving to surviving.”
Jobs and unemployment are factors across the 4th District, especially in Grundy County. Sherrell says that while Rutherford and Bradley, the buffering counties, are doing well in bring in industry, other counties are having to work harder. On a listening tour that covered the entire district, she heard from community members who are willing to step up and do whatever it takes to bring jobs to their counties. “People have a real spirit of stepping up. They want to step up and help each other. As for jobs, we need to bring robust job and skills training to areas like Grundy County. Improving these areas will attract employers. There are federal programs and grants that offer incentives to businesses to move into areas, but the skilled work force must be in place for a company to consider an area.”
Sherrell’s father served during World War II and veteran’s issues are close to her heart. She calls the current situation facing vets “inexcusable” and is deeply committed to our service men and women. “My opponent voted against a bill that would have provided $20 million to help veterans with health issues, particularly PTSD and suicide prevention. We have a duty to provide all of our veterans the benefits they have earned because they served our country.
“The Veteran’s Administration is underfunded,” says Sherrell. “It has not been properly budgeted in the past for the problems service men and women are facing today – the problems vets have when they come home. These problems include mental health issues, physical issues, and rehabilitation.”
Admitting that the Affordable Healthcare Act has problems it must overcome, Sherrell says it is now the law of the land, with over 20 million people enrolled. This number includes 10 million new enrollees who did not previously have health insurance. “Having good health care is a right every American deserves. One of the great things about the Affordable Healthcare Act is that it covers pre-existing conditions. It also covers children up to age 26, giving students just out of school a few more options when taking a first job.”
Sherrell, a graduate of MTSU, is a retired CPA. She has worked as an auditor and controller with multimillion-dollar budgets. She says that working with these large amounts was sacred trust. “This is how I will represent the district. The partisanship you see today in Congress is frustrating. As a CPA, part of my job was to work with people and companies to find solutions. To do this successfully you must start with a goal – agree on a goal – and then discuss different solutions on how to reach that goal.
“Today’s Congress starts from a point of disagreement. They begin not with a goal, but with ‘my way is the only way.’ When you start from a point of disagreement you will never agree on what you are trying to solve.”
The Grundy County Democratic Party has played a big part in getting the word out about Sherrell’s campaign. “Gayle Vanhooser, Sue Parrott, and Roger Layne have been there for me every time I need something. Whether it is putting up yard signs or helping me prepare for the Democratic National Convention, I can count on them.”
Sherrell and her husband Jim, a retired physician, currently live in Monteagle. They have two grown children and four grandchildren.