Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam appeared at a campaign event in Cleveland Friday to help launch former Tennessee State Rep. Kevin Brooks’ mayoral campaign by saying that Brooks should, and will be, the next mayor of Cleveland.
The campaign event was held at the Museum Center at Five Points and was attended by an enthusiastic crowd of supporters and several public officials, including outgoing Cleveland Mayor Tom Rowland, Bradley County Sheriff-Elect Steve Lawson, Cleveland Chief of Police Mark Gibson, and Cleveland State Community College President Dr. Bill Seymour.
Prior to taking the stage to address the crowd, Haslam strolled through the room to greet and shake hands with supporters.
The event served as the official announcement of Brooks’ intent to run for mayor, although an informal announcement had already taken place in January when Rowland and Brooks jointly announced their intent to not seek re-election to their respective positions as city mayor and state legislator.
Rowland’s announcement, made at the same time as his endorsement of Brooks, has raised eyebrows by some within the community, particularly Duane Schriver who is Brooks' opponent in the coming mayoral election in August. During his speech, Brooks intimated that he was aware of the controversy surrounding the January announcement.
“This will not be good old boy government, but city government,” Brooks said.
Brooks was elected to the Tennessee House of Representatives in 2006, representing District 24. Schriver, his opponent, is a former Cleveland educator.
After stepping onto the dais, Haslam stood beside the lectern and described how he and Brooks had worked together to lower taxes and state debt.
“They were hard decisions to make, and Kevin constantly made those decisions,” Haslam said.
He also touted Brooks’ determination in bringing a veterans home to the Cleveland and Bradley County community. The governor, whose second term ends in January, remarked that being mayor of a city is sometimes a better job in political life.
“You’re right in the middle of the people you represent,” Haslam said. “And Kevin knows he’s been called to service."
Haslam formerly served as mayor of Knoxville, serving two terms from 2003 to 2011. He was elected governor in 2010. Haslam gave no hint of his own future plans after his second term ends.
Warm applause greeted Brooks as he stood on the podium flanked by his family. He greeted the crowd and thanked his family members for their support. He said this was a new chapter in the history in Cleveland.
“This is the first time in 28 years we will choose a new mayor, and I’m asking you to support me,” Brooks said.
Acknowledging the school shooting that had occurred in Texas just a few hours earlier, Brooks told the gathering that he had worked to secure funds to ensure school safety measures such as a type foil used to render windows bulletproof.
“I voted for $30 million for school safety,” Brooks said. "This is money that is in Cleveland now.”
He noted, however, that it was not the time for rhetoric.
“This is not a sound-bite moment,” Brooks said.
Shifting the mood, Brooks returned to discussing love for his family and said that the 12 years away from them while serving in Nashville was now over.
“It’s time to come home,” Brooks said.
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