I grew up in this district in Pleasant Hill, a small community on the Cumberland Plateau. I am a graduate of Middle Tennessee State University with a BS in Business Education. After completing post graduate courses at UT Chattanooga, I sat for the CPA exam and passed all four parts in one siting.
I’m married to my childhood sweetheart Jim Sherrell who is also from Sparta. We have two adult children, Jimmy and Marci, who both reside in TN with our four adorable grand kids. My dad also grew up on the Plateau, and like his dad, was a rural letter carrier delivering the mail to families all over the mountain. My mom was a schoolteacher and a bookmobile librarian. Like most families here in Middle TN, they worked hard, served our country in World War II, and saved enough money to build a house, send me and my brother to college and fund a secure retirement.
Most of the men in our community worked in the coal mines either as miners or driving coal trucks. Mr. Martin, one of my classmate’s father, drove a coal truck. Mr. Martin got sick and couldn’t drive his truck to haul the coal out of the mines. Back then, if you couldn’t drive your truck, you didn’t get paid – there was no paid sick leave. And if you were sick too long, you might even lose your job. Mr. Martin had a wife and four kids to support, just like a lot of families in our community. I remember my dad and four other friends took a day off each week and drove Mr. Martin’s truck for him until he got back on his feet. He kept his job and continued to support his family.
As a young mom, with a family of my own, I also remember Ronald Reagan asking us, “Are you better off now than you were four years ago?” At that time, for my husband and I, the answer was a yes. Jim’s medical practice was growing and I was an auditor with an international accounting firm specializing in not-for-profit healthcare and educational institutions. Our incomes were increasing; and we felt our opportunities were limitless. But for many of my children’s friends and their families, they weren’t better off. Many of their parents were working two or three jobs just trying to make ends meet. They didn’t have the same options we had. They were struggling to pay for extras like school field trips and necessities like health care. It wasn’t because they weren’t working hard… it wasn’t because they weren’t trying… and, it wasn’t because they were lazy and didn’t want to do better. It was because the game was rigged and not everyone had a fair shot.
That’s when I remembered Mr. Martin and my dad. Back then, if you worked hard, took responsibility for your family, and played by the rules, you could support your family, educate your children and secure your piece of the American Dream. But now, I look around our District and I see people working just as hard to support their families and to make ends meet. Our Tennessee families are working harder than ever and have less to show for it. More and more of us are wondering what has happened to the American Dream. I know how hard folks in our district work. I know there are so many out there who, just like my dad, care about each other and about their community. When somebody needs to drive the truck, they would step up in a minute.
Now it’s time for me to take my turn to drive the truck, to help make our communities stronger and better places in which to live and raise our families. Instead of just talking about the problems and proposing no solutions, or voting against every solution proposed by the other side, I want to work with people in our district to find solutions that help all of us and make us stronger.