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Representative Beth Harwell elected Speaker of the Tennessee House of Representatives

 

The Seal of the State of TennesseeNashville, TN – State Representative Beth Harwell (R-Nashville) was elected yesterday by her colleagues as the Speaker of the Tennessee House of Representatives for the 107th General Assembly. Harwell won the nomination of the House Republican Caucus in November, and today was formally nominated by Representative Steve McDaniel on the House floor. Representative Glen Casada provided the second for the nomination.

“I am humbled and honored that my colleagues have placed their confidence in me to lead the State House of Representatives in the 107th General Assembly. Although we face challenges as a state, I look forward to working with my colleagues in the House and Senate, and Governor-elect Haslam to move forward with a conservative agenda focusing on jobs, the state budget and education,” said Speaker Harwell.

Speaker Harwell is the 75th person elected to the Office of the Speaker of the House of the State of Tennessee, and the first woman to hold the honor.

First elected in 1988, Beth has been a strong advocate for tougher sexual abuse laws, victims’ rights, welfare reform, children’s issues, and most notably, education. She has sponsored and passed legislation clarifying and toughening the penalties against stalkers, requiring more time behind bars for rapists, strengthening Tennessee’s laws for rape of a child, and building crime prevention cooperation among the states.

Beth Harwell

Beth Harwell

Beth sponsored the “Families First” legislation that enacted Tennessee’s current welfare reform program and the “Children’s Act for Clean Indoor Air” to keep children safe from the harmful effects of second hand smoke.

During her twelve years of service, Beth has impacted Tennessee’s education system in numerous ways, always maintaining a legislative focus on innovative education policy. In 2009, her passion for education reform resulted in the passage of landmark charter school legislation, enabling thousands of Tennessee children statewide to benefit from attending a charter school. In addition, she pushed passage of legislation to direct additional funds for improvement of training for day care workers.

Beth Harwell represents State House District 56, which encompasses part of Davidson County. She resides in Nashville with her husband and three children.

Representative Beth Harwell

State Representative Beth Harwell is currently serving her twelfth term in the Tennessee House of Representatives from State House District 56, which includes a part of Davidson County.  Beth Harwell currently serves as the Speaker of the House, a position to which she was elected by her House colleagues. Directly prior to this, she served as House Commerce Committee Chairwoman and as House Republican Caucus Whip.

First elected in 1988, Beth has been a strong advocate for tougher sexual abuse laws, victims’ rights, welfare reform, children’s issues, and most notably, education. She has sponsored and passed legislation clarifying and toughening the penalties against stalkers, requiring more time behind bars for rapists, strengthening Tennessee’s laws for rape of a child, and building crime prevention cooperation among the states.

Beth sponsored the “Families First” legislation that enacted Tennessee’s current welfare reform program and the “Children’s Act for Clean Indoor Air” to keep children safe from the harmful effects of second hand smoke.

During her twelve years of service, Beth has impacted Tennessee’s education system in numerous ways, always maintaining a legislative focus on innovative education policy. In 2009, her passion for education reform resulted in the passage of landmark charter school legislation, enabling thousands of Tennessee children statewide to benefit from attending a charter school. In addition, she pushed passage of legislation to direct additional funds for improvement of training for day care workers.

A friend of small business, Beth was awarded the coveted Guardian of Small Business Award from the National Federation of Independent Businesses (NFIB).

In addition to her legislative career, Beth served as chair of the state Republican Party from 2001 to 2004. During that time she was instrumental in the Republicans taking control of the State Senate for the first time in 105 years. While serving as Chair she also contributed immensely to George W. Bush’s presidential campaign, and served as a Bush Pioneer.

Beth has also been an active member of her community as a member of the Tennessee State Museum Foundation, the David Lipscomb University Advisory Council, the Montgomery Bell Academy Board, the National Foundation for Women Legislators, the Mental Health Association of Middle Tennessee, the Nashville Children’s Theater Board of Trustees, and as an alumni of Leadership Nashville. She has previously served on the Board of Directors of Agape, the American Heart Association, the Exchange Club Family Center, the Centennial Medical Center Board of Directors, the Senior Citizens Board of Directors, and Middle Tennessee Mental Health Center.

Representative Harwell has won numerous awards over her career, including the Harold Bradley Legislative Leadership Award, the American Cancer Society Legislative Leadership Award, Champion for Children Award, and the Junior League Legislator of the Year Award.

Harwell received her Bachelor of Arts degree from David Lipscomb University, an M.S. degree from George Peabody College, and a Ph.D. from Vanderbilt. She has been an Assistant Professor of Political Science at Belmont University. She and her husband, Sam, have three children – Allie, Sam, and Tucker.

Business and Community Service Accomplishments:

Agape – Board of Directors 1992-1998
Lutton Mental Health, Board of Directors 1988  – 1996
Child Abuse Prevention, Board of Directors 1989  – 1994
Economic Council on Women Nashville Women Careerist, 1983
American Heart Association, Tennessee Chapter, Board of Directors 1995
Centennial Medical Center, Board of Trustees 1995
David Lipscomb University, Business Advisory Council 1995
Economic Council on Women 1999
Knowles Senior Citizens Center – Board of Directors – 1995
Nashville Vanderbilt Club, Board of Directors 1996 – 1998
Women’s NETWORK Advisory Board 1998
Exchange Club
Leadership Nashville
Families First Advisory Council
National Order of Women Legislators, International Resolutions Committee Director
Women’s NETWORK Advisory Board

Career in Higher Education:

Volunteer State Community College, Faculty
Trevecca College, Faculty
Belmont College, Faculty
David Lipscomb, Faculty
State Board of Regents, Faculty Member
University of Tennessee Center for Government Training, Faculty
HCA, Private Seminar Consultant

Remarks by Madame Speaker Beth Harwell, January 11th, 2011

My colleagues of the House, thank you for the honor you have bestowed upon me today. For me to be a part of the lineage of service and leadership to this great state is truly humbling.

In this chamber today there are 22 legislators who were sworn in for the first time. To those I say, this marks the beginning for a tremendous new chapter in your life. I still distinctly remember the first time I walked through those doors as a member of this body. It is a privilege very few Tennesseans will experience – Never, never take it lightly.

You and others here went through tough elections. But the elections are behind us. We must now tackle the more difficult task of governing.

America was built upon ideals and principals, and I will mention two today. The first is a strong belief that a government is best that is closest to the people. We believe in states rights and responsibilities. The second principal is that power comes from God and is bestowed upon the people, who then loan it back to us, as their elected representatives for a period of time. The beauty of our system is that the power is with the people. In this chamber, we are not Kings and Queens – we are servants.

This is the People’s House. Tennesseans expect us to represent them well and serve them honorably.

And so we are grateful to the voters of this state and our political activists, many who are here today, that have made this day possible. The people of Tennessee sent us a very clear message on Election Day. They are frustrated with the out-of-control spending in Washington and they do not want to see it here. They expect us to exercise fiscal restraint and make necessary cuts to balance the budget without raising taxes. We will do just that.

They are also tired of politics as usual. The bickering and stalemate that exist in Congress is not acceptable. I will always be true to the principles of the party that nominated me. I understand legislative debate. But over the years I have observed this body set aside partisanship and regional differences to do the right thing for Tennessee. Because this body is made up of statesmen and the taxpayers of this state expect and deserve nothing less.

As I have said before we should always ask ourselves a set of questions before we vote on a bill:

  • Does it increase the size of government?
  • Does it make it easier to start and operate a business in Tennessee?
  • Does it keep us moving forward in reforming our educational system to meet the needs of the 21st century?

The answers to these questions determine if Tennessee remains a great place to work
and live.

Today also marks the beginning of a tremendous new chapter in our great state. As your speaker I pledge to work well with our new governor and to work well with each member of this body. I know we will have disagreements but I will always treat each member with respect and fairness. You have given me an awesome responsibility. I will work everyday to be worthy of your trust.

There will be many tough choices and there is a lot of hard work ahead of us. But as Teddy Roosevelt said, “Far and away the best prize that life has to offer is the chance to work hard at work worth doing.”

My colleagues, we have work worth doing and together, if we work hard, we will be successful.


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