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Ron Ramsey is a straight shooter who will be missed

Editorial Board • Mar 21, 2016 at 2:19 PM

For 24 years, Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey has made that long trip to Nashville and back countless times when the legislature was in session, and after more than a million miles, as he counts it, he has finally said uncle.

Lt. Gov. Ramsey has much of which to be proud. He cites his support of tax legislation allowing The Pinnacle shopping center to be developed, securing $8 million for the state to buy Doe Mountain for tourism use in Johnson County, and funding to build the Birthplace of Country Music Museum in Bristol, Va., Agriculture Center in Sullivan County, and East Tennessee State University football stadium in Johnson City.

As a businessman, Ramsey has been steadfastly pro-business. “If anything has been disappointing, it’s the fact that of all the development in the State of Tennessee, we haven’t gotten our fair share here in Northeast Tennessee,” he says.

He lists his support for Eastman Chemical Company’s $1.6 billion “Project Inspire,” which included a new corporate business center and commitment from Eastman to keep its global headquarters in Kingsport. And he points to his efforts on behalf of the state’s educational systems, including reforms in K-12 education and higher education.

Ramsey proudly takes credit for changing Tennessee from a blue to a red state for which he will never be forgiven by the left. The state Senate has 28 Republicans and five Democrats, while the state House has 73 Republicans and 26 Democrats. “I changed the political landscape in Tennessee. ... I literally did,” Ramsey claims. “It’s hard to sit here and brag about yourself, but it’s the honest to goodness truth that I have changed this state into a one-party state.”

Taking the measure of a man is no easy thing, except when it’s Ron Ramsey. One way to approach it is to picture the average successful politician who will have many things in common with his contemporaries, including compassion, integrity, confidence and flexibility. They are natural leaders who are focused, personable, erudite and eloquent. And Ron Ramsey possesses all of those traits to varying degree.

But what sets him apart is that Ramsey tells it like it is, as he sees it. When you ask him a question he does not run the answer through various mental filters before he delivers it. He doesn’t play word games; he does not mince words.

Ron Ramsey is a straight shooter. And that is a rare thing in the political world because being honest and forthright can sometimes make individuals vulnerable. It can reveal faults, and give others opportunity to criticize. And Sen. Ramsey has had his share of criticism, which rolls off his back as water off a duck because, as he describes it, he has always had his priorities in order — God first, then family, then business, and lastly, politics.

“Suddenly it seems like life is flying by,” he told fellow senators last week in announcing his retirement. “When I ran for office four years ago, I had a one-year-old grandson. ... Now I have four grandsons and my first granddaughter will be born today.”

And so Ramsey is ready to take priority number four, politics, off the table, and “commit a lot more time to priority number two — my family.”

That is as it should be, even if it is to Nashville’s, and this region’s, loss.

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