FRANKLIN — Republican Bill Lee had his first press conference as governor elect Tuesday night, minutes after giving a gracious acceptance speech at The Factory at Franklin.
From this point forward, Lee is in transition mode as he prepares to take the reins from outgoing Gov. Bill Haslam, also a Republican.
To do that, Lee said he and his team members will build a strategy, execute it, and work with legislators. Lee said he’s open to having a Democrat serve on his team.
“I want a team that is the best that can be assembled,” Lee said.
Part of that strategy includes working on areas of economic development, particularly in rural communities, and working on criminal justice reforms Lee said will create safer neighborhoods.
Another important focus for the incoming governor — improving the state’s education system, particularly with a focus on vocational and technical education.
As for his election night win, Lee said running a positive campaign paid off.
“We have an environment in the political world that is more divisive than it ought to be. I want to be the person who brings people together and doesn’t divide, and I want to do that starting from day one,” Lee said.
“It’s something we committed to from the very beginning. I think it might bring a tone of governing that brings people together.”
Earlier in the evening, while giving his acceptance speech, Lee joked about the RV he traveled in while campaigning the past year and a half.
“We crisscrossed the state so many times we can’t count,” Lee said, adding the RV took him to all the state’s 95 counties.
“We didn’t do it because we like living in an RV. Have you seen the inside of it?”
At the press conference, The Tennessee Star asked Lee what will become of the RV, now that the campaign is over?
“Right now, we are going to park it in a barn at my farm and wait a few days and think about it,” Lee said.
“Actually, I think we’re just going to keep it.”
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Chris Butler got his master’s degree in communications from the University of Louisiana at Monroe and his bachelor’s degree in political science from Louisiana Tech University.
Chris worked as a newspaper reporter for seven years and later was an investigative reporter for Tennessee Watchdog from 2010 to 2017. From May 2018 to August 3, 2018 Chris was the Tennessee communications director for the TennValues PAC, which endorsed Bill Lee for governor. Chris has served as the investigative reporter for The Tennessee Star since August 6, 2018.