By BROOKE WANSER
A retired Army colonel and defense contractor, District 65 Rep. Sam Whitson never intended to get into politics.
“I thought I was going to be a full-time grandfather,” he said.
But after his freshman term representing south Williamson County residents in the General Assembly, Whitson has learned a few things.
“I really do believe that people want to do what’s best for the state and our citizens,” he said about his fellow legislators. “I’ve discovered a purpose and camaraderie I haven’t felt since retiring from the Army 16 years ago.”
Even before disgraced lawmaker Jeremy Durham was expelled from the seat, Whitson had pulled his petition to run.
“For someone born and raised in Tennessee, it’s just an amazing opportunity,” he said.
Now, Whitson is running for his second term, hoping to continue working on the same issues he initially sought the seat for. He runs unopposed in the primary, and Toby Shaffer runs in the Democratic primary.
He points to his active record on the Hill as proof of his dedication to the community: He sponsored 16 bills that passed in the 110th General Assembly.
“I don’t know of many freshman who have passed as much legislation as I have,” Whitson said.
Road and transportation infrastructure
While in session, Whitson supported the IMPROVE Act and $215 million of new highway projects in Williamson County.
Though he is proud of large projects, gaining $800,000 from TDOT to improve a dangerous intersection of Highway 100 and Cumberland Drive in Fairview was also a highlight.
He plans to continue advocating for Williamson County road projects, calling infrastructure the county’s “most pressing need.”
Education and economy
Whitson has been active in calling for more equal funding for Williamson County Schools, which receives less than other school districts under the BEP funding.
While fighting for Williamson to receive every dollar deserved for students and teachers, Whitson said it’s important not to take away from other school district’s funding.
He said the state needs to recognize Williamson County’s widespread contributions in funding schools.
“We’re the economic engine for the state,” he said.
Whitson hopes to help bridge the gap by hosting a Williamson County Day on the Hill in the future, similar to days other county representatives in the legislature host.
He had a part in funding one school program in particular; the heralded Fairview High School mechatronics course now allows students to graduate high school with an associate’s degree from Columbia State Community College.
Forty students each year for the next two years will be able to participate in the program, thanks to the $276,000 Gov. Bill Haslam set aside.
Public safety and supporting first responders
Whitson was a sponsor of the Tennessee Public Safety Behavior Act, which provides care to firefighters and EMS workers dealing with mental health issues.
He also sponsored a body camera bill which excludes footage shot inside a mental health care facility and of minors inside schools from open records requests.
Whitson pointed to his work in creating a spot for an additional circuit court judge in the 21st District, which covers Hickman, Lewis, Perry and Williamson counties.
Occupation: Retired Army colonel and regional manager for defense contractor
Education: Bachelor’s degree, Middle Tennessee State University; Master of Public Administration, University of Oklahoma; U.S. Army Command and General Staff College; U.S. Army War College.
Community involvement: Former chairman of Franklin’s Battlefield Preservation Commission, Chairman of the Cannons on the Square Committee, Chairman of the Carter House State Historical Site, Franklin First United Methodist Church member, Williamson County Republican Party member, American Legion Post 215, Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 4893, Elks Lodge No. 72, Disabled American Veterans, Military Officers Association of America, Williamson, Inc., Franklin Noon Rotary, etc.
Family: Wife, Pam; two sons, five grandchildren
Visit his website here.
Early voting begins Friday, July 13, 2018.