Former state Sen. Jim Tracy dispelled rumors about why he would give up a leadership position in the Tennessee General Assembly for a political appointment to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
“It's a once in a lifetime opportunity,” Tracy said from his new office Wednesday afternoon. “As the state director for the USDA Rural Development, I'll have the opportunity to help more people in rural areas with improving infrastructure and expanding broadband.”
He said his new job “goes back to my roots,” which stretch back to Shelbyville and a degree in agriscience from MTSU.
The new job does not have anything to do with an inappropriate tweet from his official Twitter account, he said.
On Oct. 25, a tweet from “DailySexVideos” appeared on Tracy's Twitter account.
Tracy said he didn't even know about the tweet until a couple days later when his 26-year-old son Connor Tracy told him about it.
“I said 'holy mackerel' and took care of it,” Tracy said.
He had a staffer who managed his social media accounts. He staffer has since “moved on,” Tracy said.
“I don't really know how to use Twitter. Somebody must've hacked into it,” he said.
He really doesn't know how something that graphic could have ended up on his account, Tracy explained, but it didn't have anything to do with him deciding to change jobs earlier this week.
“I get to continue my public service in a different way,” he said about why he took the political appointment for the Trump administration.
The job appealed to him because it focuses on two issues he cares deeply about: housing and infrastructure development.
“Last year in housing, the USDA loaned out $1 billion in Tennessee,” Tracy said, adding it also does grants for improvements to water, sewer and internet access in rural areas.
Tracy co-sponsored legislation in the state Senate last year that would expand broadband access into rural areas.
“We've got kids going to McDonald's to do their homework, he said.
USDA Rural Development provides loans and grants to help expand economic opportunities and create jobs in rural areas.
This assistance supports infrastructure improvements; business development; homeownership; community services such as schools, public safety and health care; and high-speed internet access in rural areas.
Just earlier this week the USDA announced it was awarding a grant to Tennessee and eight other states to expand broadband access.
“Broadband infrastructure is vital to our economy and quality of life in rural America. Yet, today nearly 40 percent of rural residents and businesses lack access to the same quality service available in urban centers,” Assistant to the Secretary for Rural Development Anne Hazlett said on Nov. 6.
The grants, financed through USDA’sTelecommunications Program, will provide new or improved broadband access for more than 71,000 residents and businesses in 74 counties in rural parts of Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, South Dakota, Tennessee, Utah, Virginia and Wisconsin.
Tracy was first elected to the Tennessee State Senate in 2004. During his tenure, he served as assistant floor leader of the Senate Republican Caucus, the chairman of the Senate Transportation Committee, and a member of the Senate Education Committee and the Senate State and Local Government Committee. In January, he was named to Senate leadership as Speaker Pro Tempore.
But he gave it all up Monday to take the appointment to Rural Development.
He said he knows political appointments can be tenuous, but he intends to do the best job he can while he's in office.
Republicans are starting to line up to replace him with Joe Carr and Shane Reeves announcing their intentions to run in the GOP primary for the special elections. No Democrats have announced yet.
Contact Michelle Willard at michelle(at)murfreesborovoice.com. Follow her on Twitter @MichWillard.