Former Gov. Haslam discusses education, Tennessee & his decision to not run for US Senate


KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) – Former Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam may not be running for U.S. Senate, but he says there are still issues facing our country he spends time thinking about.

Haslam spoke with WATE 6 On Your Side to dive deeper into and what he thinks of the current governor and the direction in which our state is headed – and just why he’s not running for Senate.

“We are on the road to trillion dollar deficits. And no one seems to care or to be talking about it,” Haslam said Wednesday. “The problem we have is this, you know, Republicans run on lower taxes and Democrats run on more services and both sides win.”

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Haslam also saying he remains caught up on what’s happening in Nashville and the work of his successor, Gov. Bill Lee.

“We’re a big service company and Bill gets that and he understands that one of his jobs is to get the very best service we can for the lowest cost,” said Haslam. “I think he has adjusted well. I mean – Bill had never been in office before and it is a pretty big adjustment, but my sense is he has found his feet pretty quickly and he has made great strides.”

Chiming in on the criticism of Governor Lee after he signed a proclamation for Nathan Bedford Forrest Day on July 13, Haslam says this was a practice that was law before and during his term, too.

“It’s been a law that’s been in place a long time. Is it a bad law? Yes. Should it be changed? Yes. And I think it will be now,” he said.

Haslam planning to stay busy, advocating for things like public education.

“There are a lot of things I care deeply about particularly the areas of education that was a primary focus when I was governor. I think you will continue to see that on both state, local and national level. There is just a lot of things I care about. I just strongly feel that public education is our best hope to make up for some of the big differences we have in income levels and in different zip codes and a lot of the challenges we have around the country I bet on public education to be the best hope to do that.”

When asked is he planned on seeking a higher office, like the White House in 2024, Haslam spoke about “life strategy.”

“I see a lot of people putting their life around running for president and that is not a good life strategy,” he said. “I certainly am not giving it a lot of thought. I am not saying I would not do that, but it is something I am spending time on all that I am thinking about or planning about.”

For now, the former governor and former Knoxville mayor’s plans remain here in Knoxville.

In fact, he says that weighed into his decision not to run for Senate.

“I wanted to be back in Knoxville,” he said. “Like I said, I love this community. I intend to be very involved in a lot of ways.”

Adding, he had put a lot of things on hold in his 8 years as governor, and now, adjusting to a non-government service lifestyle has been going well these last six months.

“It hadn’t been a problem for the last six months but we had to put our lives back together from all the things we have set aside,” he mused. “But I think going forward, I think we’ll do two or three things and we will have an interest in still being involved with businesses around town in terms of helping to start some things or maybe some other involvement and there’s a lot of issues I have been involved with as governor primarily education. I really hope to stay involved in and there are nonprofit ministries and other types of opportunities that will be in our life going forward and throw in 8 grandchildren – life gets going fast.”

As life goes fast, Haslam learned right out the gate that everyday things come back to you that you hadn’t had to focus on while in office for years – like driving.

“We drove back to Knoxville soon as Governor Lee was sworn in. We went and the troopers dropped us off where our car was parked and we got in the car and headed east on I-40. You know, I told people driving comes back really quickly – parallel parking takes a little longer.”

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