Be careful what you post online.
That’s one of the things Warren County High School junior Emma Mullican learned yesterday during Bologna Day in Nashville.
“I thought things you posted on Snapchat were only there for 10 seconds, but the TBI director said they’re actually there forever,” said Mullican referring to a speech from TBI director Mark Gwyn, a McMinnville native. “He also talked about being careful when you’re talking to people online and he mentioned the 12-year-old girl who was abducted and killed by a guy who wanted to be a rocket scientist. You have to watch out for everybody.”
Bologna Day serves as a day where local residents can mingle with their state representatives on Capitol Hill. State Reps. Kevin Dunlap and Judd Matheny were both accessible, along with Gwyn and Warren County natives Gen. Max Haston, the top-ranking official in the Tennessee National Guard, and Ray Robinson, a top official with the Tennessee Highway Patrol.
“It’s impressive Warren County has produced three people who have become such big leaders in our state,” said Phillip Prater, one of the many residents who made the trip to Nashville.
WCHS teacher Chad McGee says the event is a great opportunity to chat with elected officials, but said he doesn’t have that problem.
“You have extra access when you’re a teacher at the high school,” said McGee. “You have Mayor Jimmy Haley and Kevin Dunlap all on the same hall.”
Warren County Commissioner Tommy Savage made it a point to mention a bridge project he hopes will come to fruition while he was talking to Rep. Dunlap.
“The bridge on Hennessee Bridge Road is currently only 18 feet wide,” said Savage. “This would take it to 36 feet wide. It’s a project I’d like to get done.”
Members of Leadership McMinnville and Youth Leadership were on hand to get a taste of state government. WCHS junior Arrie Hyder asked Gwyn if he is required to carry a gun, to which Gwyn replied he is.
Gen. Haston said he continues to work on a new National Guard Armory for Warren County, but that project seems to be bogged down by the usual pace of government.
“They’re cutting the national defense budget every day and not doing a lot of new projects right now,” said Gen. Haston. “A new armory is estimated to be a $7.5 million project. It will probably be up to $8 million by the time it gets done. Armories are usually done on a 75-25 split with the federal government paying 75 percent.”
Local resident Dennis Kronlage said he was leaving Bologna Day a little disappointed.
“I came here to talk to Janice Bowling, but I was told she wasn’t going to be here,” said Kronlage referring to the state senator. “I wanted to ask her about expanding Medicare, which is a no-brainer to me. The hospitals are behind it. It will save lives. Those are federal dollars that are just going somewhere else.”
Sen. Bowling was on the committee that voted last year to defeat a Gov. Bill Haslam-backed proposal to expand Medicare in Tennessee. The measure never gained serious consideration this legislative session.
Rep. Matheny said he was pleased to see 24 members of Youth Leadership in attendance because it’s important for students to see the workings of government.
“I’m a graduate of the Coffee County leadership class and what you learn in that leadership class is not just your day on Capitol Hill in Nashville, but how important it is to do business in your community because, for better or for worse, government is deeply intertwined with businesses now so businesses need to know how to interact with their government.”
Rep. Matheny said he is commonly asked by people about Tennessee’s financial health, which he says is rock solid.
“Overall, folks want to know about the fiscal condition of the state,” said Matheny. “Many folks are worried because they hear the fiscal condition of the federal government, which always seems to be in some traffic jam, but our state functions very smoothly. We have strong budget surpluses. We’re able to put serious money in K-12 education this year and serious money into higher education and transportation, as well as roll back our tax burdens and put money in our rainy day fund and we’re projected to have another budget surplus next year. The state is very, very healthy and we have the lowest per capita debt level of any state in the nation.”