Live from Music Row Wednesday morning on The Tennessee Star Report with Michael Patrick Leahy – broadcast on Nashville’s Talk Radio 98.3 and 1510 WLAC weekdays from 5:00 a.m. to 8:00 a.m. – host Leahy welcomed Maury County Mayor Andy Ogles to the newsmakers line.
During the second hour, Ogles discussed his plea for Governor Lee and Mayor Cooper to open up Tennessee stressing how mom and pops are not going to be able to hold on to their businesses for much longer. He also added that Nashville was the heartbeat for many blue-collar counties surrounding the city and that their very livelihoods are at stake.
Leahy: We are joined on our newsmakers line now by our very good friend the mayor of Murray County Andy Ogles. Good morning Andy.
Ogles: Good morning. Just enjoying a fresh cup of coffee and looking forward to talking to you.
Leahy: What kind of coffee do you drink Andy?
Ogles: Dark roast. The stronger the better.
Leahy: My kind of coffee. I got a cup of coffee here and I’m waking up as I’m talking to the people on the phone here and drinking the coffee. So yesterday you had our lead story basically. Andy Ogles says it’s who saves time to open up Tennessee.
And you had a message for Mayor Cooper and Governor Lee. Time to open up. The governor held the press conference yesterday. Sounds like he listened partly to what you had to say. What’s your reaction to what he did yesterday in his announcement?
Ogles: Well, you know, obviously, I’m an advocate and have been advocating for a while now that is time to open this thing up. You know, if you think back to what the White House first asked America. It was 15 days to stop the spreads and flatten the curve. It stretched to 45 days.
But all of that was in the context of preparing our healthcare infrastructure. Nobody said we were going to eradicate this virus. And now we seem to be on this misguided, you know the mission that we’re going to eradicate COVID. Look it’s here. It’s not going away. And we’re destroying lives and families. We have kids struggling and schools. And you know in Maury County I have fought to keep our economy open.
We’ve continued to hold events. Our businesses are open. and our spread rate is the same as everyone else’s. Our case rates are the same as everyone else’s. But you know, I never did the mask mandate. But I do encourage personal responsibility. But to me, that’s fundamental. That’s what is in our Constitution. We have the right to choose.
Leahy: Yeah, we absolutely do Andy. And the mask mandate you asked the governor to stop allowing the county mayors, the other 89 county mayors who don’t have their own public health department. You ask them to stop giving them that authority. The governor apparently didn’t agree with you on that. Give us your thoughts on that.
Ogles: Well, you know for me and this is one of the areas where I take God’s or the governors, the governor and I are friends. He’s a good man. But under the Emergency Powers Act under it’s lettered and It’s got, you know a couple of numbers and then under that, there are some letters.
And under H, he cannot grant me an authority that I don’t already have. It has to be prior to and threat of an emergency. which means before and he gave us that authority to issue mask mandates during. And the reason why that’s important is you know, as a matter of the subdivision of the counties my authority is derived from the state legislature.
And what that does and the reason why the law is very specific that he grants a new authority before an emergency is it gives our legislature time to intervene and say hold on a minute cover governor. You don’t have that authority to do that. Now, there’s equal blame to point at our legislature that they haven’t stepped up and really kind of rein this in, but it’s an election year.
And unfortunately, politics plays in here. and so I’ve stood firm. Look if you want to wear a mask, wear a mask. I defend your right to do that, but also defend your right to make a choice. But the thing is if you look at all of the events we’ve had in Maury County and I always kind of you know qualify my statement with, I could end up with COVID tomorrow.
I don’t know. I don’t know what God’s plan is, but I’ve been to the fair every single night. I was at our 9/11 event where we had 3,500 to 4,000 people show up, you know. I’ve been to these events. But I shake someone’s hand and I immediately take a step back and we have that conversation socially distanced and when that conversation is over I reach into my right pocket and I use hand sanitizer.
I take those simple precautions that protect me and the person I’m speaking with, and you know, in the last two months, I have shaken hundreds and hundreds of hands. I’ve met a thousand or more people and I’ve not gotten COVID yet. And again, I could catch it tomorrow. Who knows.
But that being said is I’m taking those precautions to protect myself and others. and if need be I have a mask. I have a board meeting that I go to every couple of weeks. And in that room, there’s a lot of individuals that are at high risk. It’s a small room. We are kind of crowded in there.
That’s a perfect example of why you wouldn’t why and when you would want to wear a mask. But you know again, we’ve got to get this thing back open. And that’s where I really point the finger at Nashville. You have all of these blue-collar counties that donut around Nashville plus Maury County and we are dependent on Nashville’s economy.
And Nashville is the heartbeat of Tennessee’s economy. It’s that driving engine. and as long as that is shuttered, Maury County, Williamson County, Wilson, Sumner Rutherford, etcetera all are going to continue to see job layoffs and business closures.
And look the big box stores, those corporate stores that are publicly traded. They are better able or positioned to withstand this. but those little mom and pops. I’m seeing it every day that people are struggling to pay their bills. And we have to. I implore the governor. I implore Mayor Cooper.
I know both of these men are both good men. Please open this up. I’m not saying that it won’t be messy. I’m not saying it’s not going to if this is going to be easy and there’s not going to be bumps along the way. But we have to get people back to work.
Because I’m seeing not just restaurant and retail employees losing their jobs. I’m seeing 50 and 55-year-old professionals losing their jobs. And if you get laid off at 50 or 55 and you’re professional there’s a good chance that job doesn’t come back and we’re in a period of eight to 11 percent unemployment. I’m worried that you’re not going to be able to find a job.
I’m worried you’re going to lose your home. You’re not going to be able to feed your family. We are facing a problem come to order one and quarter to that I hope I’m wrong. I really do. The best way to avoid that problem is to open our economy period. Let’s make Tennessee a destination for the rest of the country and encourage people to socially distance.
Leahy: One thing I like about the way you approach this Andy is you are fact-based. And what I notice and perhaps you could comment on this as it may apply in Maury County. I noticed when you see reports other cases are up and maybe the hospitalizations are steady and where those hospitalizations occur, cases occur tend to be in these nursing home facilities.
People over the age of 65. That’s the issue. That’s where the high risk exists. These events seem not to be really the promoters of COVID as much as people would claim. Nor are they spreading the high-risk COVID that turns into hospitalization death. What have you seen down there in Maury County?
Ogles: Well, for example, you know the Williamson and Wilson County fairs were canceled. That’s a decision they had to make for themselves. I’m not going to criticize or comment on that, but we decided that we were going to move forward and we worked with the operator of the fair. We spread the rides out.
Every single every kind of a ride was ridden. It was wiped down. And what I saw as I walked the Midway every night every single hour of the night while shaking hands taking selfies encouraging people thanking people for coming. And we saw people from all over Tennessee, even Kentucky and Alabama came to our fair.
But what was interesting is that you know, you would see groups of people walking around but it was family clusters. Or it was the two families that go out to eat anyway. The two families that go to church together. And so you say you saw these pods of people together that would ordinarily be together.
And I’m not going to say that there wasn’t COVID that didn’t occur because of some of these events. But what we’re saying is it was not a mass spread event. And that was the accusation. But I had some vile things said about me. That I was going to have blood on my hands and that blood would be running in the streets in Maury County.
But that didn’t happen. And like you said, we had a small spike a few weeks ago and kind of timed that with the incubation period of the fair. And what it turns out is that we had two employer clusters. One of them was a county department. And three of them were in the nursing home facilities. Totally unrelated to the fair.
Totally unrelated to know the 9/11 event. And even with the 9/11 event, you know, there’s a lot of people there but you saw people sitting in these little groups. And so again, these are the people that are going to church together. Or their kids go to school together.
And on Friday and Saturday night when the families get together and they break bread. That’s who they’re congregating within their homes. People have adjusted how we move amongst ourselves, and we’ve got to trust that process. And again, you know people say well all you care about is money. And that’s not the case at all.
Listen to the full second hour here:
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Tune in weekdays from 5:00 – 8:00 a.m. to the Tennessee Star Report with Michael Patrick Leahy on Talk Radio 98.3 FM WLAC 1510. Listen online at iHeart Radio.
Photo “Andy Ogles” by Andy Ogles. Background Photo “Tennessee Capitol” by Peggy Anderson. CC BY-SA 4.0.