Gov. Lee’s First Executive Order Directs Departments to Lay Out Plans to Better Serve Rural Counties

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Bill Lee on Wednesday announced his first executive order as Tennessee’s 50th governor, aimed at improving the state government’s “impact” on rural areas.

He tweeted, “I’ve said that rural TN is one of my top priorities. Today I’m pleased to announce Executive Order No. 1, which begins to address improving the outlook in those areas by calling on our departments to assess their impact on the rural parts of our state.”

Lee’s executive order directs all 22 executive departments to “issue a statement of rural impact and provide recommendations for better serving rural Tennessee,” the governor’s office said in a press release.

“My administration will place a high emphasis on the development and success of our rural areas,” Lee said in the press release. “Our first executive order sends a clear message that rural areas will be prioritized across all departments as we work to improve coordination in our efforts.”

Lee’s action is meant to prioritize existing plans to help 15 counties that are deemed to be in economic distress, all of which are rural, he said. The departments’ statements are due no later than May 31 and must tell how they serve rural residents and lay out recommendations for improving that service by June 30,

“Our state has reached historic levels of prosperity and I want to ensure that the 15 distressed counties in our state benefit from a concentrated mission,” said Lee. “Each department has communicated full support as we move forward with putting this plan into motion.”

Each year, the Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC) prepares an index of county economic status for every county in the United States.

The 15 distressed counties in Tennessee include: Lake, Lauderdale, Hardeman, McNairy, Perry, Jackson, Clay, Grundy, Van Buren, Bledsoe, Fentress, Morgan, Scott, Hancock and Cocke. Factors include per capita market income and the poverty rate.

An interactive map showing ARC’s status of each of Tennessee’s 95 counties is here. The webpage says the goal is to have no distressed counties by 2025.

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Jason M. Reynolds has more than 20 years’ experience as a journalist at outlets of all sizes.

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One Thought to “Gov. Lee’s First Executive Order Directs Departments to Lay Out Plans to Better Serve Rural Counties”

  1. Kevin

    Before everybody gets their “panties all bunched up”, maybe we should wait and see the response back from those Departments, AND see what “solutions” get proposed. This Executive Order does nothing but ask for the bureaucratic arm of the State government to do a self audit. This is exactly what an astute, successful business leader does when he takes the reins of a new business!

    Imagine the impact on those rural counties IF we rescinded all the ridiculous “licenses/fees” that Tennessee levies on small businesses in those 15 destressed counties! It’s been a goal of many people for years to eliminate them in general. In fact, there are many County specific restrictions/applications of laws in existence already. Why not run a pilot program in those rural counties first! I bet that there are many ideas like this that fit perfectly with “limited government”, not expanding giving away “free stuff”, and helping our rural neighbors.

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