If you’ve eaten or shopped in Chattanooga over the past twelve years, we’ve probably crossed paths. You might even recognize me. Since I was a 16-year-old student at Notre Dame High School, working part-time at a local coffee shop, I’ve gravitated to public-facing jobs. I attended the University of Tennessee in Knoxville and earned my degree in hospitality and tourism before graduating to the business side of things with a large, local, privately-owned company; I now lead the customer service and support team at Whole Foods Market, where I’ve been for two years. No matter the title or role, my instinct has always been to get out of the office and spend my time among the people I serve. That will be my instinct as a member of Congress too. If the people I represent never see me and can’t talk to me, because I only show up in public for a hard-hat photo op, and I only communicate through tele-town halls, I’m not doing the job the way it was meant to be done.
We are facing overwhelming challenges as a district and a country. And we can’t tackle any of them until we change our political system from what it’s become to the representative democracy it was intended to be. A system where running for office requires a multimillion-dollar “war chest,” where money drives policy, where people have to navigate an obstacle course just to vote, where politics is a career and congressmen are constantly fundraising, is a self-contained ecosystem that only works for the politicians and special interests with deep pockets. It does not work for ordinary citizens. My goal is to work with other honest leaders to create a system that works for all of us.