By Collin Brooks
Randy Boyd has a busy week in front of him, but he started it out with a crowning moment.
Boyd, who has announced his intentions to fill the seat of Governor Bill Haslam who has reached term limit, is owner of Boyd Sports, LLC — the group which assumed management of the Johnson City Cardinals last year.
That meant that Boyd and his team were on hand in Jupiter, Fla. on Monday to receive their Appalachian League Championship rings.
That was just the beginning of a jam-packed week as Boyd plans on visiting all four corners of the state of Tennessee to announce his candidacy. He will be in Blountville on Thursday, March 16 at 9:00 a.m. at Northeast State Community College.
Boyd was appointed as the commissioner of the Department of Economic and Community Development by Haslam in 2014 and it was during that time that Boyd — who also owns the Tennessee Smokies and Radio Systems Corp. — realized the easiest way to cure his philanthropic itch.
“At some point I realized that my life was about giving back and so while this may sound corny but I’m a Boy Scout. And in Boy Scouts we live by the code of the outdoors, which is leave every trail better than you found it.
“I’ve been teaching that to boys for years and I tell them that it’s not just what it means literally. It’s also a metaphor for life. We want to make sure that every place we have been is better than we found it. I never had a desire to be governor, I just have the desire to make the world a better place.”
Boyd thought that was what he was doing by disseminating many of his philanthropic endeavors through the education spectrum. That is the first place that he was called upon by Haslam when he was asked to serve as a special adviser in higher education. During that time, Boyd helped Haslam craft the “Drive for 55” initiative that is trying to help 55 percent of Tennesseans become equipped with a college degree or certificate by the year 2025.
It was during that time and his time as commissioner that he realized the only way to make real change was inside the government.
“When he first asked me to work in the government I said no,” Boyd said recalling a conversation with Haslam. “I am a business person and there was no way I could put up with the bureaucracy and the slowness of government.”
And Boyd said that Haslam admitted some of those things were true, the governor said if you can get something done, it would be bigger and better than he could ever do as a philanthropist.
“And that one year, we got the Drive to 55 and the Tennessee Promise…and those programs are far more than I could ever dream of and more than I could ever do individually,” he said.
Education will be one of the big talking points as Boyd and his wife Jenny travel across the state over the next couple of days, but his biggest campaigning tool to listen. his campaigns for the Nov. 2018 election is to listen.
“The tour is symbolic of my desire to visit every single part of our state,” he said. “During the next 18 months I plan to travel to all 95 counties listening to people in every part of our state. And every part of our state is different. What people need in Johnson County is different than what people need in Lake County.
“I want to be able to visit each of these communities and listen to the challenges that they have and the problems that they have.”
Boyd currently lives in Knoxville but his family is originally from West Tennessee. He was the first one of his family to be born in East Tennessee, the former six generations were born in West Tennessee. During his announcement tour, which started Tuesday in Knoxville, he will stop in Fruitvale where he will have an announcement at his great-great uncle’s J.O. Boyd General Merchandise Store.
While the businessman-to-politican route was just successfully accomplished, it hasn’t been a common path to any of the government’s highest offices. But Boyd said many business principles can be applied to the legislative world, which include not needing to micromanage the people you’re in charge of.
“I think maybe it’s a path that will become more common. I don’t think you need to be a professional politician to make a difference and be successful in government,” Boyd said. “In fact, sometimes having someone come in with fresh eyes, they can be more disruptive and sometimes government needs to be disrupted.
“We are going to always challenge the status quo and we always believe that processes and regulations need to be reviewed, overhauled and simplified on a regular basis. That’s not something that government normally does. We are proposing 2,000 to 3,000 new bills a year and I don’t know that we need 2,000 or 3,000 new laws every year.”
He said that makes life more complicated and it gets in the way of people living their lives and businesses being able to grow. Three of his goals are to complete the Drive to 55, to be the top state in the southeast for high quality jobs and to have zero distressed counties by 2025.
“We have many parts of our state that are getting left behind, so we created the Rural Task Force and we realized that there are 17 of our counties that are listed by the federal government as being distressed meaning they are in the bottom 10 percent in the country in poverty, income and unemployment,” Boyd said. “Many of them are in East Tennessee like Johnson County, Cocke County and Hancock County. And we need to make sure that everyone has the same opportunity for success.
That ties with his theme for the campaign to make Tennessee the state of opportunity.
“Opportunity for a better education, opportunity for better jobs and opportunity for everyone,” he said. “We want to make sure people in our rural communities and inner-cities have success.”
Currently the Drive to 55 is at 39 percent, if it reaches the 55 percent, Boyd says an extra $9 billion will flow into Tennessee in extra income.
The gubernatorial race will be in November 2018.