Jai Templeton, a sixth generation farmer, former state Commissioner of Agriculture and past McNairy County mayor is running for state Senate to represent District 26.
Senate District 26 comprises Chester, Decatur, Fayette, Hardeman, Hardin, Haywood, McNairy and Henderson counties. Templeton has lived in the district his entire life.
“My great, great, great grandparents are buried here in Hardin County, and I’ve got family in Hardin and McNairy. I come from a long line of farmers, and farming is the primary way I make my living, although I also currently serve as Community Development manager at Centennial Bank in Adamsville,” Templeton said.
He added that he farms corn, cotton, soy beans and beef cattle, in both McNairy and Hardin counties.
Outgoing state Sen. Dolores Gresham announced she is not running for reelection, and Templeton is running against Page Walley for the Republican Party nomination for the seat, with the general election on November 3.
Although appointed by Gov. Bill Haslam to the posts of Deputy Commissioner in 2011 and then Commissioner of Agriculture in 2016, serving until 2016 and 2019 respectively in those offices, Templeton has a lot of experience running for elections.
He was elected to the Republican Party State Executive Committee for District 26 and has represented Hardin and the other seven counties in it for nine years. He was elected to and served on the McNairy County commission from 1998 to 2006, and then elected as McNairy County mayor in 2006 and 2010.
Recalling the various public offices he’s served in, Templeton is proud of his time on the state executive committee, as county mayor and on the county commission, but he really becomes animated when he speaks of his time serving the Department of Agriculture.
“You know, raw agricultural production represents about $80 billion in Tennessee, and accounts for about 12-13% of Tennessee’s economic production. I’m happy I was able to play a role in supporting agriculture, growing economic development and promoting food, farm and forestry businesses,” Templeton said.
He declines to take credit for the expansion in the number of farms and increased production during his tenure, but instead credits it to working with a “great group of people” in the department as well as having a “friendly” governor who understood the importance of agriculture, small business, and less government regulation.
“Government’s role should not be to tell business what to do, but we can be a cheerleader. Government really needs to get out of the way and let business do what it does, and if there’s a regulatory hurdle in the way, government should fix it,” Templeton said.
He said two of the main focuses in the Department of Agriculture during his tenure, which he feels were successful but need to be continued, were increasing opportunities in forestry products and livestock processing in Tennessee.
Another program he feels is providing economic opportunities for farmers as well as technology innovators is the AgLaunch program, which aims to bring inventors and end users together to eliminate the middleman and bring wealth development to rural Tennessee.
“Often the farmer gets left out of the development process; innovators build and test products, say, at a university or testing ground. The thinking behind AgLaunch is why not bring the inventor and end user directly together, maybe give the farmer some equity in the projects they help test and develop, and make a better product for everybody in the end.”
He added, “Anything we can do similar to that is positive for economic development. Don’t get me wrong, we want the large employers and industry, but it’s the entrepreneurs and small businesses that are the backbone.”
Speaking of his time as McNairy County mayor and a county commissioner, Templeton said he’s proud of what was accomplished during that time, but again declines to take credit.
“I worked with good people and I had a good commission as mayor. I wish I could take credit, but they saw we were in a recession, and working together we paid down our debt and we did it without raising taxes – that was because we had a good conservative commission,” Templeton said.
He said he wants to be elected to the Senate to continue working to improve economic development, education, infrastructure, health care and instill conservative values.
“We have to protect places like Hardin County, because there is a great hospital here that so many depend on. We have to do our part to protect this vital medical facility, and I would like to develop some emergency care facilities in counties that don’t have hospitals, to stabilize people until they can get to a hospital,” Templeton said.
He’s also a big fan of the educational opportunities in the area, saying, “TCAT here in Crump; that is a great facility. We need to continue to invest in TCAT and grow it, because the students who come out of there are exactly who prospective employers are looking for.”
Templeton said he knows there are major and minor road projects that need to be completed, which he says he will continue to push for, as well as pushing for maintenance and safety on the Tennessee River. “I recognize how vital the river is to the local and regional economy – the Tennessee River is a major transportation system, so we need to keep pressure on the Corps of Engineers and other agencies to keep it running well. And, we have got to take care of the safety issues on several roadways, such as Highway 57.”
Templeton says as a conservative, he stands for the 2nd Amendment and strongly supports the right to own firearms, is pro-life and will always work to protect the unborn, and supports President Donald Trump.
He says despite the setbacks of the coronavirus, Trump’s policies have been good for America and sent the economy soaring.
“These are the things, among a few others, that people can expect to see me involved in and working on as senator,” Templeton said. “I appreciate the friendships I’ve developed and support I’ve received from Hardin County – and I’ve got a lot of family and many friends in Hardin County I’ve drawn much of that support from, which I’m thankful for. I humbly ask everyone now for their continued support and for their vote. In return I will work hard and do my best to support and represent Hardin County and this district in the state Senate.”