Governor Bill Lee Convenes Cabinet For Distressed County Summit

Tuesday, August 13, 2019

Governor Bill Lee on Tuesday convened his cabinet for a meeting with local officials from Tennessee’s 15 distressed counties during the Governor’s Rural Opportunity Summit in Perry County.

The meeting caps a state government-wide audit mandated under Executive Order 1 which examines how departments are serving rural areas, specifically distressed counties. Executive Order 1 also required departments to provide suggestions for improvements moving forward.

“I’ve challenged my cabinet to think critically about how we are helping our rural areas,” said Governor Lee. “With 15 distressed counties in the bottom 10 percent of the nation in terms of poverty, average income and unemployment, we have serious work to do and I believe we are up to the challenge.”

23 state government departments submitted significant analysis that showed rural areas will benefit from the improved coordination of services and overall alignment of departments in serving rural Tennessee. Additionally, departments provided innovation recommendations for potential programs and solutions to be considered by the Lee Administration.

“Our goal is to prioritize rural areas like never before by getting a clear picture of the data through Executive Order 1 and building close relationships with community leaders through the Governor’s Rural Opportunity Summit,” said Senior Advisor to the Governor Brandon Gibson. “Rural areas are deeply affected by even the slightest shift in policies and our first priority is to better align how state departments are coordinating and serving rural Tennesseans.”

Through Executive Order 1, departments suggested better coordination in areas including but not limited to:

Recruitment and Retention for Qualified Professionals in Rural Areas

Areas for improved coordination: 

  • Ag-tech business recruitment
  • Recruiting quality principals, teachers and mental health support liaisons
  • Recruiting physicians and healthcare providers

Education and Workforce Programs in Rural Areas

Areas for improved coordination: 

  • Ag industry certifications
  • Employment fairs and vocational rehabilitation programming
  • Unemployment insurance, statewide apprenticeships, WorkReady community initiatives
  • Focused employment assistance
  • Job Access Reverse Commute Program for transportation challenges

Community Development Planning and Infrastructure in Rural Areas

Areas of improved coordination:

  • Water and wastewater infrastructure
  • Real estate owned programs and community development block grants
  • Upgrading rural school facilities
  • Improving the public alert system
  • County transportation planning and rural access improvements

Substance Abuse Prevention and Recovery in Rural Areas

Areas for improved coordination:

  • Drug workshops
  • Expanded prevention efforts
  • Prioritizing peer recovery specialists

The Governor’s Rural Opportunity Summit is being held on Aug. 13 and 14 in Linden, Tn. with the governor, members of the cabinet and local officials from distressed counties including Lake, Lauderdale, Hardeman, McNairy, Perry, Wayne, Jackson, Clay, Grundy, Bledsoe, Fentress, Morgan, Scott, Hancock and Cocke.


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