Thanks Expressed By Many For The Successful Effort
BY AMY ROSE
Champions of the recent effort to save jobs at Greene Valley Developmental Center were heralded Friday afternoon in a celebration at Chuckey-Doak High School.
A crowd estimated at 250 people included elected officials, state and local Tennessee State Employees Association (TSEA) leaders, and GVDC employees and volunteers.
The event was hosted by the TSEA.
Participants shared thanks, congratulations and praise for a successful team effort to save 228 positions that were threatened by proposed state budget cuts.
"We need to thank God, because, working together, we all pulled off a miracle," said state Sen. Steve Southerland, R-1st, of Morristown.
Southerland and dtate Reps. David Hawk, R-1st, of Greeneville, and Eddie Yokley, D-11th, of Greene County, recalled working long hours in Nashville to fight on behalf of local efforts that included signed petitions and letter-writing campaigns.
"There was nothing easy about the effort we put forth to save the jobs," Hawk said, "but it was easier because of the work you do and the legacy Greene Valley Developmental Center has across the state of Tennessee."
Yokley added, "When you fight for the best, it's always easier to fight."
(Please see related story for comments about the quality of work at GVDC.)
BATTLE TO CONTINUE
Amidst the celebration, several speakers said they realize that the fight to save GVDC jobs likely will continue.
"We're going to have to fight this as long as this recession is going on," said Phil Morson, president of the Tennessee State Employees Association.
Morson called the country's severe recession a "supply-and-demand situation" because experts say it is being caused by low demand for the supply of goods and services.
"I haven't seen any lack of demand for services at Greene Valley Developmental Center or any of the other state-run offices and facilities," Morson said.
When Gov. Phil Bredesen presented his proposed 2010-11 budget early in the spring, it called for eliminating 228 positions at GVDC, of which 210 were filled and 18 were vacant.
Gov. Bredesen's second four-year term concludes this year, and he is not a candidate for reelection. The Tennessee Constitution prohibits an individual from serving more than two consecutive terms as governor.
'LAID GOOD GROUND'
Hawk also spoke about the likelihood of having to fight next year to save GVDC jobs.
But he added, "We've laid some good ground to fight that battle."
Hawk said he and his fellow legislators will work with the new state administration to make sure its leaders know that 250 of Tennessee's most fragile medically-and-mentally-challenged individuals are in "the best care in the country [at Greene Valley]."
Hawk, Southerland and Yokley were introduced by U.S. Rep. Phil Roe, R-1st, of Johnson City, who said he left Washington, D.C., on a flight last night in order to attend the celebration.
Roe's introduction of Hawk, Yokley and Southerland brought the crowd to their feet with cheers -- which brought big smiles to the legislators' faces.
"I think they worked as hard as any three legislators ever have, and just remember -- it wasn't Democrat or Republican. It was about the people here," Roe said.
"I think a lot of prayers were answered, quite frankly," he added.
This opening comment from Roe was followed by many "Amens" and then applause from the crowd.
It was the beginning of many rounds of applause and standing ovations for those who had worked hard to save the jobs.
Hawk recognized Lisa Moffett, TSEA field representative, who he said had "countless" discussions with the legislators about strategies for saving the jobs.
Southerland recalled the legislators' working many late nights with Moffett, including one work session that lasted until just before midnight.
Hawk presented an engraved plaque to Moffett, who spent about four months working with employees of GVDC in the effort.
The plaque thanked Moffett for her "never-ending devotion to the employees at Greene Valley Detention Center. Your determination to save the jobs of 210 employees and 18 unfilled positions is unmatched.
"We, the members of the Greene County Chapter of the TSEA and all of the employees at Greene Valley, are indebted to you, and we will not forget our Champion!"
Moffett, in turn, told the crowd, "You have the best legislators in the state."
Bernice Josza, president of the Greene County chapter of TSEA, gave each of the three legislators a "Friend of TSEA" award.
Morson said he had been staggered at the efforts made to save the jobs, especially the "thousands and thousands" of petition signatures that were collected.
"I've never seen anything like it, really," Morson said.
Yokley recalled the moment when the petitions were delivered in Nashville.
"I was so excited to see all the work that you had done," he said. "That was an integral part of that puzzle."
Yokley also recalled numerous e-mail messages that were sent in an effort to save the jobs.
The e-mails, he said, "gave us internal drive to help you."
Three GVDC employees who played instrumental roles in the petition drive were presented certificates of appreciation from Moffett.
They are: Inga Johnson, who proposed the idea in a TSEA chapter meeting; Rebecca Summey, who presented the idea to Moffett; and Michelle Morgan, who did computer work, Moffett said.
Josza noted the roles of both the Greene County Commission and the Greeneville Board of Mayor and Aldermen, which adopted separate resolutions asking Gov. Bredesen to reconsider the proposed job cuts.
Greene County Mayor Alan Broyles said the local effort has shown the entire state that "One should never underestimate the people of Greene County, Tennessee, and what they can do."
He added, "We have proven that working together makes great things happen."
Greeneville Mayor Laraine King said Josza called her on a regular basis, so she did some letter-writing, but the GVDC employees, King said, are the ones who made it happen.
"I've always thought that Greene County is the best place in the world to live, and has the best people, right here," Mayor King said.
She also recognized Steve Love, Greene Valley's chief officer of administrative services, and Dr. Henry (Bud) Meece, chief officer of Greene Valley, for staying on top of the situation.
Recognized with King were three Greeneville aldermen who attended: W.T. Daniels, Keith Paxton and Buddy Hawk, Rep. Hawk's father.
Also speaking was Randy Rumbley, chairman of the Greene County Partnership.
Rumbley noted the hard work to save the jobs and said, "We're very proud to have Greene Valley in our community."
Josza presented Rumbley and both mayors certificates of appreciation from TSEA.
Josza herself received a certificate of appreciation from Juanita Dobson, vice president of the Greene County TSEA chapter.
For the celebration, the school cafeteria was decorated in patriotic style with red, white and blue balloons and other decorations.
Two large cakes with the message "Congratulations GVDC" were served to guests.