The Reception For Joe Hill

21 04 2008

A reception was held yesterday for Joe Hill. (And here is where it gets confusing. Not author Joe Hill whom I wrote about yesterday but Joe Hill, political guy who was chief of staff for Congressman John Tanner,  also not to be confused with Joe Hill, the laborer who has folks songs written about him.)

Glad I could straighten that up for you.

I‘ll let Ken Whitehouse tell you a bit more about him as he is more eloquent than I am.

While most people in the state have – understandably – never heard of Joe Hill, every Democrat who has had statewide dreams has had him on speed dial since speed dial was invented. For 35 years, he has worked for the 8th Congressional District, first for the late Congressman Ed Jones and now Tanner. If you wanted to know who sneezed in Hornbeak, you called Joe Hill.

Hill is pretty much a legend around here with people who are involved in politics. His reception yesterday was packed and was like seeing the line at the Miley Cyrus movie a few weeks ago. The line went out the door and around the block at the Hampton Inn in Union City.

I’ll be honest, I didn’t stay long and I didn’t wait in line to see Mr. Hill. There were so many people there who wanted to give him their best regards as he moves on that I didn’t want to waste his time.  And it was a bit of northwest Tennessee political who’s who while I wandered about. Jimmy Naifeh, Mark Maddox, Roy Herron and his family and Mike McWherter were there as was, of course, Tanner.

Or at least, that’s who I saw before I left. But yesterday it was more about just average folks stopping by. That’s what struck me about yesterday.

Now, with that said, let me tell you that everyone in west Tennessee has at least six degrees of separation with Hill. He was the go-to guy when you needed something done. Yeah, he was THAT GUY. He was the one, when you needed information on government that you called as Whitehouse wrote above. Hill has an ability to make complicated issues in government easy to understand. That was what a lot of yesterday’s reception was all about because politicians know how government works. Average Joes like me don’t always know because sometimes I think politicians make it more complicated than it has to be.

Here’s the thing, every politician needs a Joe Hill.

Because he was connected with constituents around the area and he would take your phone call in a minute and he was one of those guys that just got things done. He would explain things and didn’t treat me, at least, with disdain when I would call him. He’d take that extra few minutes to break issues down. That’s important. What northwest Tennessee lost when he retired is huge on a grand scale in the vein of when Gov. Ned McWherter left office.

Because, you see, Hill was available. I hear a lot about people not being connected to their elected official which I have no doubt is true.

But we had Hill.

If yesterday was any testament about what he gave to folks, Hill was treated as a rock star. I stood over to the side watching a reception line that moved as slow as molasses where hundreds of individuals wanted just a few moments with him to share how he had helped them throughout the years.

You don’t see that in politics very often.

I’m pretty cynical about government as a whole, but seeing Hill stand there receiving guests honoring him because they had been impacted personally by his actions was kinda, dare I say, pretty inspiring.

I was once told by a boss I had that it is better to be a kingmaker than a king. And we all know that actions speak louder than any one word can. I thought of that yesterday as I watched that line move so slowly with people lined up outside into the parking lot and around the building in the warm spring sun. And they waited a long time. Even Naifeh waited patiently for his turn, which sort of shocked me. It was good seeing folks say thanks. Squirrel Queen, Tanner’s Communication Director Randy Ford and I watched as Hill stood there patiently greeting each person individually.

I honestly don’t think our government listens to us. But Hill did. And for some silly reason this morning, that does give me some hope that there are other Joe Hills out there who will listen.

I know, I’m being a bit sentimental which is out of character. Hush. I’ll be cynical a bit later and gnashing teeth.

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2 responses

21 04 2008
Charlie Dyer

Great piece Whitehouse. You nailed it! Hope all is well, keep showing light on the dark box called politics. I for one am glad to be out it, I got in because of Joe Hill.

21 04 2008
The Go-To Guy Gets His Due : Post Politics: Political News and Views in Tennessee

[…] Newscoma pens a very reflective post on a reception she attended held in honor of Congressman John Tanner’s Chief Of Staff, Joe Hill: If yesterday was any testament about what he gave to folks, Hill was treated as a rock star. I stood over to the side watching a reception line that moved as slow as molasses where hundreds of individuals wanted just a few moments with him to share how he had helped them throughout the years. […]

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