Recognizing the work of a public servant

Posted 5/16/18

Twelve years is a long time to do anything, and when it’s doing something you love then saying “goodbye” can be tough.When it involves public service it can be even tougher.

We speak of …

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Recognizing the work of a public servant

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Twelve years is a long time to do anything, and when it’s doing something you love then saying “goodbye” can be tough.When it involves public service it can be even tougher.

We speak of state Rep. Kevin Brooks who is ending his time in the Tennessee House of Representatives. First elected in 2006 to succeed former District 24 legislator Dwayne Bunch — who moved on to the Senate — Brooks has made plenty of memories while serving under two governors, Phil Bredesen and Bill Haslam.

Most of the memories have been good ones. Obviously, he has seen setbacks that have taught him new lessons in patience and humility.

He spoke of the first one — occurring in his opening year in office — during a recent interview with the Cleveland Daily Banner.

 “The first bill was … my first failure,” Brooks reflected. “It was to name Veterans Memorial Parkway in Cleveland. I came up here to do that first thing. I called the Cleveland Daily Banner and they sent David Davis (former writer and managing editor) up here. We were going to have the bill pass, and embarrassingly it did not pass.”

He added, “I was devastated and embarrassed.”

The problem? In Nashville, it was a simple one: Money. The proposed bill came with a fiscal note. The road’s naming would require a $600 expense for two road signs.

Brooks remembers the lesson well. 

“If it costs one dime in the House, it has to go through the Finance Committee and it can be stopped,” he recalled.

That’s what happened. It went to the state House’s fiscal leaders, and it died.

That led to a story in the Cleveland newspaper, and from there it became a rallying cry. Hearing of the dilemma, a popular Cleveland banker and veterans advocate offered to pay the expense himself. George R. “Bobby” Taylor, a World War II veteran and co-founder of the Bank of Cleveland, and also a personal friend to Brooks, said he’d pick up the tab for the signs. 

Still, the initiative stalled when Brooks learned private funds could not be used for public works.

It didn’t end there. Seeking counsel from a fellow legislator, Brooks was directed to the chairman of the House Transportation Committee, who pledged to “make it happen.”

It happened, and the naming in Cleveland occurred.

Life is not easy in the halls of a state capitol where no legislator can work alone. He, or she, always … always … requires the votes, and the support, of others.

Certainly, Brooks’ 12 years in state lawmaking resulted in far more positive experiences than negative. 

“I hope over the 12 years I have been able to convey to the people of Cleveland how unbelievably humbled and honored I am that they allowed me to serve,” the legislator told our reporter. 

Given that Brooks has returned to Cleveland in order to seek the office of city mayor in the coming August election, it would be natural for readers to assume this to be an editorial of endorsement.

It is not. This newspaper does not endorse political candidates.

Brooks faces a formidable opponent in retired Cleveland High School educator Duane D. Schriver. Both are good men. Each is capable of running this community, and working closely with the city manager and city council to make decisions that are good for the future of our hometown.

We wish them both our best in the coming campaign.

Because Brooks is ending a long career in state government, he has enjoyed a higher profile than his opponent in recent weeks due to his farewell circuit that has taken him to many civic clubs and public forums. However, in days to come our newspaper will feature Schriver in a one-on-one interview in the interest of balanced coverage and campaign fairness.

It is ironic that Brooks and Schriver share something very much in common: As retirees in state government and education respectively, both have left a positive impact on those within their surround. This is why both are quality men and well deserving of the chance to lead City Hall.

But as Brooks leaves state government, it is proper that we recognize his many accomplishments in Nashville, and that we thank him for his dedicated service.

He has represented the people of Cleveland and Bradley County well, and he is deserving of the community accolades bestowed upon him.

Now, we look forward to the mayoral campaign featuring two good men, two big hearts that want the best for our city, and two visionaries who seek to become an integral part of Cleveland’s future.

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