Columbia, Tennessee GOP Mayoral Candidate Debbie Matthews Talks About Her Campaign

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 Columbia, Tennessee mayoral candidate Debbie Matthews in-studio to discuss her candidacy, her opponent, and continuing the vision for a prosperous Columbia.

Leahy: Now, in-studio, we are joined by Debbie Matthews, who’s a candidate for mayor of Columbia, Tennessee. Debbie, welcome.

Matthews: The grand city of Columbia, our little jewel box down there. So, the people of Maury County and of Columbia want to send their best to you this morning. And you got to come down. I know we’re neighbors.

Leahy: We are neighbors.

Matthews: We are close.

Leahy: I live down in the Thompson’s Station area. And so it’s not too far to get down to Columbia. I enjoy going down to the square. It’s a nice square, isn’t it, down there?

Matthews: Listen, we’ve got craftsman restaurants in Columbia. There’s a place called Mama Mila’s, if you haven’t eaten there, a place called Barino’s. You know what, I was on the city council for nine years in the city of Columbia. At the time, in 2008, we went into a housing crisis at that time and our downtown square was completely dead.

Leahy: I remember it was. And it has been revived and revitalized.

Matthews: So during 2008, we had a 25 percent unemployment. We had a dead downtown and the housing market, we didn’t have building permits maybe for two to three years. And we had a conservative council at the time and we said, okay, we’re going to maneuver through this.

We’re not going to raise taxes, we’re not going to lay off any employees. We’re going to figure out how to do this, but also at the same time do great investments for Columbia. So we did the Ridley Field complex.

We did the historic downtown to make it a historic and economic engine for us. We did an arts district, we did Riverfront Park. We moved the police station back downtown. We did great things in my nine years. And, I mean, when I left, it was rocking.

Leahy: Now, you are running for mayor of Columbia. There is an incumbent.

Matthews: There is.

Leahy: What’s his name, Chaz Molder?

Matthews: Chaz Molder. Craig Fitzhugh, remember, he ran for governor on the Democratic side? This is his son-in-law. Very nice kid. He’s young.

Leahy: Nice kid. He served what, four years?

Matthews: He has.

Leahy: Does he know anything? Well, the very first thing, I mean, if he’s a political Democrat hack, right? My words.

Matthews: Well, the first thing he did was he asked us to have a sales tax to save a school. So we ended up with a higher sales tax. They still tore down the school. And in a place of inflation right now, that sales tax is really hurting people.

Leahy: The mayoral election will be November 8th. It’s supposedly nonpartisan.

Matthews: So, let me tell you what Columbia is doing, and Maury County. This is the most conservative county in the state, and we have conservative church at our Maury County Republican meetings once a month.

I mean, you need to come. Two hundred people busting at the rafters. It’s inspiration to go out and lead your daily lives and find conservative values.

Leahy: What you’re saying is, you’re talking about why it’s “nonpartisan.”

Matthews: Yes. So we, first of all, said, no, we’re not doing the nonpartisan thing anymore. And we pressed to make sure that our county commissions could run partisan. Then our county mayor, who we now have the beautiful Sheila Butt as our captain.

Leahy: Former state representative. She’s been in our program anytime. By the way, Sheila Butt and Judd Matheny, the new mayor of Coffee County, and Joe Carr, the new mayor of Rutherford County, are going to be in here once a month for a mayors roundtable.

Matthews: That’s awesome.

Leahy: That will be a lot of fun.

Matthews: Well, I’d like to join that when I’m elected mayor.

Leahy: Well, you could be mayor of the city of Columbia.

Matthews: One thing that we take great pride in is the Maury County Republican Party looked at our legislators and we said, look, we want partisan school boards, and we want partisan municipal elections.

Leahy: So that somebody can’t pretend to be a conservative.

Matthews: There’s somebody with some oversight going, okay, we’re watching your butt on how you vote. And if you don’t vote the way you’re going to the next go-around, you won’t get the R next to your name.

So anyway, we got our partisan school boards. We tried to get municipal elections, but we didn’t get those changed yet. So it’s technically nonpartisan. But I did get the endorsement of the Republican Party.

Leahy: Of course. You’re a realtor for many years.

Matthews: I am a realtor.

Leahy: You’ve been a former city council person. Chairperson of the Maury County Republican Party. You have experience and knowledge.

Matthews: I have business experience and knowledge.

Leahy: Chaz Molder …

Matthews: The son-in-law of Craig Fitzhugh.

Leahy: Craig Fitzhugh. Nice young man who just probably doesn’t know very much about the world.

Matthews: He and Andy got elected at the same time and it became like the tale of two mayors. Andy kept us open, and Chaz kept calling the governor, going “shut us down, shut us down. Mask us up, mask us up.”

Leahy: What does he do for a living?

Matthews: He’s an attorney so he can sit home and say, here, pay me.

Leahy: An attorney.

For more information on Debbie Matthews, visit her on the web at

Listen to today’s show highlights, including this interview:

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Tune in weekdays from 5:00 – 8:00 a.m. to The Tennessee Star Reporwith Michael Patrick Leahy on Talk Radio 98.3 FM WLAC 1510. Listen online at iHeart Radio.
Photo “Debbie Matthews” by Debbie Matthews. Background Photo “Columbia, Tennessee” by Matt Locke. CC BY-SA 4.0.







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