For 38 years he was a Tennessee "legislative lion." But, faced with the daunting prospect of re-election complicated by the new state-wide redistricting map, Covington's Jimmy Naifeh, knew at age 72, it was time to turn out the lights because the party was about to be over.
"They took the entire Tipton County and made it just one district for the 81st legislative district. You know we've got a lot of people who moved from Shelby County out here. I think that Speaker Naifeh felt being a Democrat's not popular now," says Tipton County Commissioner Quincy Barlow.
But, as much as Tommy Hill, who served as both a municipal judge and a Brighton alderman, would love to succeed his long-time friend Naifeh, the Independent candidate is in a crowded three person race. He faces formidable opposition from Munford Middle School teacher, Democrat Conneye Albright, and wife and mother of four, Republican Debbie Moody. All of them have fresh faces and fresh ideas eager to plot a different course for their county in Nashville.
"I just want to bring that common sense of a mom, a wife, just a regular person and bring that to the table and say, "C'mon, guys." If we have to make a budget and live by it so should our government," says Moody.
Albright says, "I want to bring the knowledge that I have of schools and education and administrators and that part of the equation up to Nashville."
Hill explains, "Our slogan is we're for all the people of Tipton County and we are. We don't care what color or creed. We don't care what party you represent. We get to Nashville, we're planning on representing everybody that's here in a fair and honest way."
All three candidates boast of running grass-roots, door to door campaigns. It's part of the reason 30 percent of the electorate in Tipton County has already taken advantage of early voting. Some political observers say with the county slanted more Republican, the advantage in a close race might lie with Moody. She's a self-described Reagan Republican who believes political bi-partisanship has become far too one-sided as far as the other side of the aisle.
"What we feel like is sometimes when we say let's compromise, it's not that it's a true compromise. It's that you have to give in," she says.
While Albright wants to be a watchdog for educational interests, she'd come to Nashville with an open mind.
"Anytime you're a freshman, you're learning every day. You're learning something new. I love to jump in and learn something new," says Albright.
Hill says, "We've been door to door almost every day. Going to people's houses and trying to deliver our message that we're for you. Just like we're for everybody else. We feel like it's working."
Rest assured, Speaker Naifeh, the next generation in Tipton County is ready to go to work on your beloved "Hill."
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