By LISA WHALEY
As election day nears, Republican candidate Rebecca Keefauver Alexander may be tired, but she already knows her favorite moments of the campaign process.
It has been all those door-to-door visits, she said, because you never know who is going to greet you on the other side.
“The knocking on doors has been the best part,” Alexander said in a recent interview, taking a break from the campaign for a quick stop at Still Waters Coffeehouse in Gray. “It’s because I have been able to meet people in Washington County and I’m able to find out what is going on and what their needs are.”
“You can’t find out what people in Washington County need by sitting in a brick-and-mortar building. We have to get out to find out what our county is all about.”
This idea is, in essence, why Alexander is running for a seat in the Tennessee House of Representatives, 7th District, taking on incumbent Matthew Hill in a close contest to be decided Thursday, Aug. 6.
Alexander wants to be able to help lead Washington County into a new era.
“It’s time for Washington County to rebrand itself in Nashville,” she said. “It really does matter who we send to Nashville because it reflects who we are, who we believe in and what we stand for up here.”
Yet, it wasn’t a quick decision on her part when the opportunity to run presented itself.
“I had been praying for two years that God would show me how he wanted to use me,” Alexander recalled. “And I guess the old saying ‘You better be careful what you pray for’ is true because I did not expect it to be in politics.”
But politics was the door that seemed to be opening, so the soon-to-be candidate re-doubled her prayers.
What followed over the next several weeks, she said, was a series of calls from a variety of individuals, all intent on letting Alexander know how they thought God could use her.
“It really just brought me to my knees,” she said. “Sometimes we don’t see in ourselves what other people see in us. And sometimes people have to wake us up and say, ‘OK, this is what you need.’”
What Alexander believes she can bring to Nashville as a Washington County representative is a passion for the region, a deep interest in each and every resident and a basket of real-life experience from farmer’s daughter to corporate representative to professional storyteller.
Though new to politics, “I have real work experience,” Alexander said. “I know what hard work is like. I know what it’s like to hoe an acre of tobacco and have blisters on my hands. But also, I know what it’s like to be in a corporate room with everyone at the table speaking a different language and have to negotiate.”
She is a small-busines owner, with husband Howard Alexander, of Dillow-Taylor Funeral Home in Jonesborough, and she has learned to listen to and share the stories around her, bringing new appreciation to her beloved county.
When it comes to the future and a possible seat in Nashville, education remains a strong focus for Alexander.
She wants to see public schools fully funded with public money to meet the growing needs of area students.
“I think we rank way down the list in the United States per capita per kid for fully funding our schools,” she stressed.
“We invest a lot of money in corporations that come here, but we’re not guaranteed that they are going to stay here forever” Alexander continued. “Schools stay forever. We need to get some funding into our schools and make education a priority in this state.”
The benefits are financial as well as educational, she said.
Students with better skills, whether in technology, agriculture, academics and more are better prepared to become proud members of a strong local workforce. Companies will be drawn to the county’s skilled pool of workers, increasing job opportunities. And such increased opportunities may mean the students themselves will be more likely to stay and invest in their home region.
“I personally have two girls,” she said. “One is in D.C. and one is in Dallas. I would love for my girls to be home in this community. The smarter our kids are the better our future is for Washington County.”
Teachers are key to that success and Alexander is already thinking of ways to better reward them for the hard work they do. One thing she is looking into, she said, is the possibility of providing teachers with a tax credit, both to encourage the teachers and also to help the county retain the best of the best.
“That’s just something I want to explore,” Alexander said, “because I want our teachers to be paid more because they hold the future in their hands.”
Agriculture remains another passion.
“In the state of Tennessee, we have the logo that says ‘commerce and agriculture.’” Alexander said. “We can’t have commerce without agriculture. Our nation will starve if we don’t figure out a way to get small farms back up and running. And we take big government out of the picture.”
That means more local control for local products and as well as their distribution, she said.
Alexander is concerned about any and all of the struggles individual county residents face, whether job or health related. And she has a special soft spot in her heart for single moms with no childcare trying to make ends meet.
She doesn’t yet have all the answers, she said, but she is committed to researching every detail of every issue, returning again to the people who have the most at stake.
Mostly, she said, she wants to help Washington County shine.
“This particular position was never meant to be someone’s career,” said Alexander, who has promised a self-imposed term limit of eight years. “It’s public service. I think a public service person and not a career politician can really bring something totally different to the table.”