By Dave Ongie, News Editor
In the wake of the decision by Glen Casada to resign his position as speaker of the Tennessee House of Representatives, Matthew Hill has announced that he will seek the speakership.
Hill, who has served as the deputy speaker of the House this session, made the announcement during the annual Johnson City Chamber of Commerce Legislative Meeting in Johnson City last Wednesday morning.
“We’re going to have a vacancy,” Hill said. “That vacancy needs to be filled by someone who has demonstrated experience, knowledge of the (legislative) process and strong conservative principles. I believe I’ve done all those things.”
State representative Micah Van Huss was on hand at the meeting along with representatives for Congressman Phil Roe, Senator Lamar Alexander and Senator Marsha Blackburn. Van Huss said he was already actively campaigning for his colleague to fill the role as speaker.
“I’m excited about it,” Van Huss said. “I think he has a very, very good chance. I made a lot of phone calls for him yesterday. Obviously it’s very good for Washington County and Northeast Tennessee, so I’m going to work very hard for him.”
Casada announced his intentions to resign after the House Republican Caucus passed a “no confidence” resolution with a 45-24 vote on Monday. Pressure has been mounting on Casada to resign in the wake of a scandal surrounding text messages exchanged between Casada and his former chief of staff.
Van Huss said he reserved judgment on Casada until he saw the evidence first-hand. Now he said selecting someone like Hill should be a high priority for members of the House.
“I’m very comfortable with Matthew should he become speaker,” Van Huss said. “We need that. We need a moral person in that position.”
Both Hill and Van Huss expressed their regrets that Casada’s resignation has taken attention away from what both men considered to be a highly productive legislative session in Nashville. That session ended with the passage of the Regional Retail Development District Act, which is expected to attract plenty of development to Exit 17 off of Interstate 26.
During Hill’s remarks on Wednesday morning, he said conversations were already taking place that could lead to a business locating inside the new development district. Hill said that business would likely bring approximately 200 jobs averaging around $21 per hour to Washington County.
While Hill declined to name the business interested in locating inside the district, he hopes the official announcement will come soon and expects development inside the district to be in full swing within the next three to five years. The first step is an overhaul of the Exit 17 interchange, and Hill said it was impossible to overstate how important that construction project will be to the future of the Boones Creek area.
“We wouldn’t have been able to pass that bill without the interchange getting fixed,” Hill said. “Everybody will end up focusing on what businesses come in, but at the end of the day, if we couldn’t have gotten that interchange fixed, none of this other stuff would have happened.”