CALLED TO SERVE
Politics is in my blood. “Give me liberty or give me death!” was my ancestor Patrick Henry. My dad had his life threatened in the 1970s for preaching the truth that God hates racism in Mississippi. I have been fascinated by policy and good governance for much of my life and was a proud volunteer for President George W. Bush. Yet the last time I ran for office was a successful Senate reelection campaign for student government in 1999.
Why now am I running for office? I feel called to serve.
I have had a calling to serve in the nonprofit arena for the last 10 years. It is not a path I ever expected when I was growing up. My parents started a children's home for children from difficult home situations called Wears Valley Ranch (wvr.org), and I was certain that although I had tremendous respect for the excellent work they did, I was going to follow a different path. I finished high school early and started taking classes at the University of Tennessee when I was 15 years old. I developed a deep love for our region's natural beauty playing in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, and spent much of my youth camping, knot tying and practicing riflery on my way to earning my Eagle Scout award.
During my time at the University of Tennessee, I had the opportunity to participate in law school courses as an undergraduate student in Strasburg, France. That work and educational experience led me to law school at the age of 19. I had the honor to work for Jay Sekulow in various capacities throughout law school and, after graduating from Washington and Lee, I worked for the American Center for Law and Justice in Washington, D.C. and then in Nashville, Tennessee. It was a privilege to work on Supreme Court cases and see what a difference the ACLJ made in preserving religious freedom and standing against those who seek to purge Christians from the public square.
In Nashville, I met my brilliant wife, Danielle, and when I was offered a job at a nanotechnology company, she left her job at Vanderbilt where she worked as a registered nurse and we moved to Atlanta, as a young married couple. I learned a good deal about business and corporate law and was fascinated by and drawn back to East Tennessee through the office my company opened at ORNL. I also became aware of the critical role governmental investment plays in the energy sector as our company explored partnerships at the National Renewable Energy Lab.
Our first child was born in 2009 and I began considering several other jobs as an attorney, some that would bring us closer to family in Tennessee. Unexpectedly, a friend called and told me about a position in a ministry taking best practices in orphan care overseas. Hearing about the need, I wrestled with a calling to serve in that role. As my wife and I prayed about the opportunity I was surprised to feel certain that job was what God had next for me.
We moved back to Knoxville, and over the next few years, I became deeply involved as a volunteer with work in the inner city. That involvement led to my position as Executive Director at Thrive (thrivelonsdale.com), a year-round after school and mentoring program that seeks to provide children in spiritual, emotional, academic and physical poverty with changed lives through relationships with adults who are blessed with abundance in those areas. We have been blessed to grow tremendously in every way, from a nonprofit with a $200,000 budget serving 40 students 350 hours a year with 4 workers to a nonprofit with a $1,200,000 budget serving 180 students over 700 hours a year with 16 full time and 46 part-time workers.
We have lived in the 5th district for 10 years, from Village Green, to Statesview to Tan Rara. We have a deep love for this area and my 5 kids take full advantage of our beautiful parks and playgrounds, time on the lake and the many excellent options for sports leagues, art, and dance classes.
I have been an attorney for over 15 years and have enjoyed using my abilities as a lawyer to speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves. I have been honored as an "Attorney for Justice" by the Tennessee Supreme Court for the last several years in recognition of my pro bono legal work. My role as an attorney and a nonprofit leader provides me with a unique viewpoint, justice partnered with compassion. I love reading, attending UT games, and going out on Ft Loudon, but with 5 young kids, I spend most weekends watching youth sports, going to kids’ birthday parties and stepping on legos.
I became interested in serving on County Commission as I learned about the important work Commissioners do when I was advocating for a new school in Lonsdale. I also realized many of my passions for the future growth of Knox County would connect with this role. Knoxville is the prettiest place to change the world and we can build on our amazing strengths as a safe community with great schools, low cost of living, low taxes and a government that is here to serve rather than rule.
It has also been a pleasure to become friends with our brilliant Mayor Glenn Jacobs. Hearing him speak about Austrian economists at the Federalist Society warmed my conservative heart and I feel excited about the opportunity of working with him. It would be an honor to serve in a community that I love and I am deeply invested in keeping this district a thriving area for families and businesses alike.