When Randy Boyd stood in front of more than 75 black ministers in Memphis on Tuesday, the ever-dynamic “doer of deeds” told the pastors an exciting story. He talked about “First Things First” of Chattanooga because the Tennessee gubernatorial candidate is totally sold on what Julie Baumgardner and her team have proven keeps families together.
Boyd then met with some representatives of the huge company Electrolux, based in Memphis, and learned they are desperate for vocation school-skilled welders and will offer a $50,000 salary to get a good one. He then attended a barbeque to explain why he believes his proven mix of government and business accomplishments make him the best candidate in a star-studded field.
Then, at 4:30 a.m. yesterday, he tied on his running shoes and ran from the Memphis Doubletree Hotel, using a bridge over the Mississippi River, to dart into Arkansas and back. As I remind you that when you go from a Central Time Zone (Memphis) to an Eastern Time Zone (Chattanooga,) you lose an hour, how impressive do you think it was to me to share coffee and conversation with Randy Boyd in Chattanooga at 10 a.m.?
Seriously, in what is technically 5½ hours of time, Boyd ran over six miles from Memphis to Arkansas, took a shower and cleaned up, made his way to the Memphis airport, jetted across the state, and met me for coffee on Broad Street. That, my friends, is the kind of person who gets things done. And Boyd’s pragmatic approach to anything you can mention is why 70 city mayors, 55 county mayors (including Hamilton County’s Jim Coppinger), and 25 county sheriffs have already endorsed Boyd.
There is only one thing that scares me about Boyd in what I feel will be the most wonderful gubernatorial primary I can ever remember … and this is scary: I believe exactly as Randy Boyd believes on just about everything. Do you think this guy can read minds? So help me – I’m talking ‘carbon copy.’
For example: “The reason I told the Memphis pastors about ‘First Things First’ is because I want them to emulate Chattanooga’s fabulous program,” he said. “In the last 15 months I have spent 15 hours of every day going everywhere in the state and I firmly believe we need to go from trying to invent solutions when it’s much easier to discover what we can easily see already works.
“Memphis doesn’t need to invent the wheel when Chattanooga’s ‘First Things First’ is a proven winner. I am so excited that I may have the chance to make that happen,” said Boyd, “to recognize the good things in Chattanooga, for example, and share them with the rest of the state. If Hamilton County has a big problem, let’s find out how our other cities have addressed it.”
Then we started playing ping-pong of a conversation, one where I talked about things that bother me that don’t bother Boyd because he’s about solutions:
* -- POVERTY IN OUR SCHOOLS & CHILDREN WHO FALL BEHIND: “Before I was the Commissioner for Economic Development, Governor Bill Haslam made me an “education advisor.” I am well-aware of the inner school plight … I even sponsor a school in Knoxville. When that school day ends for about 330 kids at 3 o’clock, we have a program that goes until 7:30 where we read, play sports, work on areas where certain kids need help. There are over 100 kids who take part every day.
“Not only do we supply after-school care that a single parent can usually not afford, we give these children a hot meal and invite their parents to eat for free with their child. Does it work! In Knox County we have 14 schools that are now in the program and it is financed with funding from private companies that adopt the schools and get immense joy in what they see happen. In the 13 months I worked fulltime in education for the state, that’s what really lit my fire to help others.”
Boyd said a “quality” pre-K need must be met “and we’ve got to open adult centers where older people can get a high school diploma – not a GED – and get hired. In Memphis there is the Excel Center where the average age of a student is 29. The student body is about 350 and over 100 graduate every year.”
ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT – “In the two years I was the Commissioner, Tennessee increased the state’s work force with 50,000 new jobs and an additional $11 billion in new business development. I started the “Drive to 55” when I was in education and right now we have about 39 percent of our work force that has an associates degree, trades certificate or some sort of additional training after high school. Our goal is to get to 55 percent by 2025. If we can do that, we can get every one of them a job.”
MENTAL ILLNESS – “There is an exit survey we gave to seniors around the state that asked some pretty specific questions – we learned 30 percent of our graduates were depressed, that 16 percent had contemplated suicide and that eight percent had actually tried to take their life. Our jails are flooded with mental illness. This is a huge part of my plan as governor because we haven’t done what must be done. We closed a facility several years ago and I will reopen it immediately to take care of mostly females.”
FIVE QUICK FACTS ABOUT RANDY BOYD
1. When Randy Boyd decided to run in Tennessee, that’s what he did. He jogged 537.3 miles from one end of the state to the other, usually with many from the area running with him. “One mayor I ran with had a pace of about 12 minutes per mile but when the Belmont cross country team joined me on another day, we ran just over a 7-minute mile and it about killed me.”
2. When Randy Boyd was 31, with his wife Jenny working as a court reporter and a 2-year-old at home, he sunk their entire life savings of $26,000 into founding a new company, Radio Systems Corporation. Today, that business has grown to produce over 4,600 pet products under brand names such as Invisible Fence, PetSafe, and SportDOG, with more than 700 employees and annual revenues of $400 million
3. According to tax records Randy Boyd and wife Jenny earned over $30 million in the last two years.
4. Over the last three years Randy Boyd has been a fulltime employee for the state of Tennessee and, when he retired to run for governor, it was lost on no one in the governor’s circle that Boyd had steadfastly refused to be paid as much as a dime for his sensational accomplishments on behalf of the citizens of Tennessee.
5. One reason Randy Boyd is pro-life is because his wife Jenny was adopted by a wonderful family when she was two weeks old. “I pledge that I will make Tennessee the most adoption-friendly state in our country.”
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“In the two years I have worked with Randy, he is one of the most brilliant people I’ve ever known. When you find out he is ‘real’, that he’s honest, that he cares so deeply for people … that’s when he becomes a true friend you deeply appreciate. He’s one of the greatest men I’ve ever known.” – Bill Kilbride, who retired from the Chattanooga Area Chamber of Commerce after making it the No. 1 Chamber in the United States.