President Donald Trump tweeted about the “Our President Cares” digital billboards on display during his visit to the Cookeville area of Putnam County last week in the wake of a deadly EF-4 tornado.
The story goes back to the day following the devastation to his community when Dave Roland, owner of Roland Digital Media based in Cookeville, had already been at work using his digital billboards to get out important public service messaging.
A key feature of digital billboards being the ability to change the messaging in short order and to rotate the messaging, Roland relayed important information to his community about everything from free food offered by Little Caesar’s and Waffle House, to church services and a number to call to locate loved ones.
A few days later, Trump announced that he would travel to the area to visit with victims and survey the damage.
Appreciative that the president would take the time to visit Cookeville, Roland then went to work adding printed and digital billboards to thank the president.
After arriving in Nashville, Trump flew to Cookeville via Marine One with Governor Bill Lee and First Lady Maria Lee, as The Tennessee Star reported.
Roland laid several printed billboards on the ground for Trump to see as he flew over. Roland didn’t know exactly where the president would be traveling, but placed one of the printed billboards on the ground at the high school. The school, of course, was closed that day. Having previously been an airfield and completely fenced in, Roland took a guess that it might be where Trump would land.
One of the printed billboards was also placed at the Next Step For Life Christian transitional housing program for women, which was completely destroyed by the tornado.
Founded by Roland and his wife Diane, the 12- to 18-month program helps those who are orphaned or otherwise lack support and are vulnerable to addiction, trafficking and other types of abuse, with a goal of independence as a productive member of society.
On the day of Trump’s visit, in addition to the printed billboards, Roland had 17 digital billboards around Cookeville displaying a picture of the president hugging the American flag along with the wording, “Our President Cares.”
Once Trump had surveyed the tornado damage in the area, he went to the Jefferson Church of Christ to meet with some of the victims.
Dave Roland was one of the people at the Church who got to meet and speak to Trump. As can be seen in this video, Trump obviously liked the billboards.
Later, Trump retweeted a tweet from Dan Scavino, Assistant to the president and Director of Social Media for the White House, which included a picture of one of Roland’s digital billboards.
Trump added, “Thank you to the Great State of Tennessee. We are with you all the way!”
Thank you to the Great State of Tennessee. We are with you all the way! https://t.co/vyu0Tbthv0
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) March 8, 2020
Roland, who attended the Senate and House transportation committee meetings Wednesday regarding revisions to Tennessee’s unconstitutional Billboard Regulation and Control Act of 1972, carried around a glossy folder containing numerous printed pictures of his public service digital billboards as well as the ones of Trump, which he enthusiastically shared with his fellow outdoor advertising industry members and The Star.
Roland, already a big fan of Trump, told The Star it was obvious that the president relates best with the everyday person and that his empathy for the survivors in Cookeville was palpable.
Roland also told The Star that he takes seriously the incumbency on people to use the gifts God has given them for good.
The charitable acts of Roland with his digital billboards – while likely more generous than others – are shared to some extent in the outdoor advertising industry.
According to Kerry Yoakum, Vice President of Government Affairs for the Outdoor Advertising Association of America in the January 2020 hearings on Tennessee’s Billboard Regulation and Control Act of 1972, the outdoor advertising industry donates over $500 million nationally in public service each year.