In 2019, Lowell Russell was elected to the Tennessee House of Representatives, succeeding Jimmy Matlock. He represents District 21 which includes parts of Loudon County and Monroe County. Russell is a Republican and the chair of the Civil Justice Subcommittee. From 1998 until 2012, he worked for the Tennessee Highway Patrol until miraculously surviving a near-fatal car crash. He was reelected to the Tennessee House this November.
Recently, he gave a speech for the Monroe County Chamber of Commerce where he highlighted some incredible statistics about our State, saying, “we’re the lowest debt state in the nation, the lowest tax state in the nation. We’ve got a balanced $52 billion budget.” He continued, “After I go around telling people how great the State is doing, I want to say I did that… but that’s not true. It’s the people who came before me.” He listed examples like Senator Swann, Speaker Sexton and Lt. Governor McNally. Representative Russell may be too humble to give himself credit, but we certainly think he’s helped make Tennessee a better place.
He also discussed the State Government’s many accomplishments in the past few years including setting aside $500 million for school safety, expanding broadband and telehealth, supporting volunteer fire departments, hiring 100 new State Troopers last year, providing new voting machines with a voter-verified audit trail, passing the Rural Brownfields Investment Act to clean up former industrial sites, and passing the Truth in Sentencing bill to make sure violent offenders serve full sentences—all while cutting taxes by over $300 million. He also discussed some upcoming legislation by which the Tennessee government seeks to improve education and transportation in the State.
Why did you decide to run?
Simply to make a difference. I have always enjoyed serving the public. I began a career in law enforcement in 1995 with the Monroe County Sheriff’s Office. In 1998, I went to work with the Tennessee Highway Patrol. After I was hit by a tractor trailer while sitting in my patrol car, I was unable to return to being a state trooper due the injuries that I sustained.
What are some things that Tennessee can improve on, and what have you actively done to improve these?
Every day when I get to the office, I ask myself 2 questions. First, how can I be better than I was yesterday? Second, how can Tennessee be better tomorrow than it is today? Luckily, Tennessee is in really good shape. We are one of only seven states in the entire nation with positive economic growth over 2021. Tennessee is #1 in advanced industry job growth, and we have the lowest state debt per capita in the country, all while maintaining a AAA bond rating and no personal income tax on wages, salaries, or retirement income. With that said, we need to expand broadband internet, we have a big problem with fentanyl that is killing many Tennesseans, the Basic Education Program (BEP) formula which funds schools needs some adjustments, and the Tennessee Department of Transportation (TDOT) needs to work on fixing our roads. These are just a few topics, and I am sure there are more that we will need to address as a legislature. We are working together in the legislature to increase funding for each of these projects.
What action or decision that you have made as a Representative are you most proud of?
I’m not sure if there is just one action or decision. I am proud of the opportunity to work with the people of the 21st District on the many issues that are important to them.
Which issues are most important to you?
My platform, when I ran for office in 2018, was public safety, the economy, and small government. I have learned that there are many issues beyond those that are important. Any time a constituent has an issue, I consider that as an important task that I need to work on. Specific issues that I am working to address with Governor Lee are broadband expansion, road improvements, and local governments receiving the $100M divided up across the state as we did last year in the budget.
What qualities make you a good candidate?
I previously mentioned my platform which is important as a candidate. I suppose that I am defined as “a hard worker,” which makes me an even better candidate. I try my best to attend any events that I am invited to in the district and be as accessible as possible. I have been very blessed with a good legislative assistant, T. J. Sutton. She is from the district, and I couldn’t do what I do without her and my campaign manager, Paul Grady
How have your Christian beliefs impacted your political positions?
I am a born again Christian and member of First Baptist Church in Madisonville. I guarantee that I’m not the best Christian, but I try to do the best I can. As far as my Christian beliefs impacting my political positions, I try to keep it simple and do unto others as I would want them to do unto me.
Have you ever changed a long-held opinion on an issue?
I represent a mostly conservative district, so being a lifelong Republican, my opinions and positions on most bills align with the district. I do my best to vote on the bills as the district recommends. I keep a spreadsheet of recommendations when constituents contact my office. Just before a vote I get the totals for and against a bill, then I vote how they add up. To keep it as fair as possible, I only add recommendations from the district.