Vonore’s Lowell Russell has spent his adult life serving his community, first as a law enforcement officer and more recently as the state representative for the 21st House District.
In November 2018, Russell was elected to serve the district that is made up of Loudon County and a large part of Monroe County.
“It is an honor to represent the 21st District,” Russell said. “I am forever grateful to the voters for allowing me this opportunity.”
He completed his first session in Nashville a few months ago and recently took time to answer a few questions from The Advocate & Democrat.
1. What was your first year like being a representative? Busy and I hit the ground running! I had a vision that I wanted to focus on public safety, the economy and small government. I passed four bills on the house floor to become law that were in the parameter of my vision. HB strengthened the sex offender registry by making it a Class E Felony for an offender that is already on the registry to commit a new sex-related offense, HB 174 transferred the fire investigators from the Commerce and Insurance Department to the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation to make the state more efficient. HB 695 exempts non-profit 501(c)4’s from sales tax when purchasing public safety and public works-related items, and I passed a law to make adoptions easier and more affordable by dividing the guardian ad litem fees equally among all parties, except the one being adopted. If one party is indigent, the state will pick up those costs.
2. What was the most gratifying part of this new responsibility?
That question is easy. Representing the best district in our state is the most gratifying part of being the 21st District state representative.
3. Did anything about being a representative surprise you?
There were a lot of surprises. The most unique surprise was the amount of food they go through in Nashville. Often someone would have a breakfast, then someone else would have a luncheon and of course there would be two or three receptions of the evenings. If they did not interfere with my responsibilities, I would go listen and learn as much as I could about the particular topics. I decided early on not to eat at them due to wanting to learn and meet as many people that I could and the fear of gaining way too many extra pounds.
4. What are some of the three or four best pieces of legislation you think the General Assembly passed this year and why?
I encouraged the district to call my office, at 615-741-3736, to be added to our weekly email list to keep up with legislation. We passed a lot of legislation that is going to keep Tennessee a great state. If I had to pick just four, and in no particular order, it would be HB 947 that gives $40 million to schools for school safety. HB 949, the “Give Act,” is a $25 million investment for high school students who are going into trade and technical programs. HB 498, the “Katie Beckett Waiver Bill,” will ensure children who have long-term disabilities or complex medical needs are allowed to receive healthcare services at home with additional support and HB 167 saves Tennessee taxpayers approximately $13.7 million on incarceration costs.
5. What is unfinished business in your mind or what would you like to see the General Assembly accomplish in the next year?
I am going to continue focusing on public safety, the economy and small government. We are fortunate to live in Tennessee with no income tax, low personal taxes and low unemployment. I would like to make sure we keep Tennessee in great fiscal shape and work to lower taxes for businesses.
6. On a fun note, if you had to guess or maybe you have a figure: How many events did you attend this past year in Loudon and Monroe County?
A lot ... I’m often asked what is the hardest part about being a state representative. That is being in two places at one time. I do my best to attend everything in both counties. If the holiday events are scheduled at the same date and time, I alternate each year between counties. I’m often asked what my typical day is like. My day starts early. I pull into the parking garage at 5:45 a.m., and I am at my desk working at 6 a.m. I use the time between 6 and 8 a.m. to stay ahead of the schedule. During the days I am usually on the House floor, in committee meetings, bill reviews or meeting with constituents. I usually wrap things up at the office around 7:30/8 p.m. and go to the hotel.