BY NELSON MORAIS
Kim McMillan says she has "the experience, desire, but most of all, the heart because I believe in Tennesseans" to become the first woman governor of Tennessee.
McMillan, 47, gave an energetic address on Thursday to 42 people at the General Morgan Inn for a dinner meeting of the Greene County Democratic Women.
"Women are good at prioritizing what's important and then figuring out how to get things done." she said.
McMillan received a standing ovation following her speech.
'JOBS, JOBS, JOBS'
During a question-and-answer period, McMillan said three things she thinks are important are "jobs, jobs, jobs.
"People now aren't just looking for a better job, they're looking for any job," she said.
She then said two other priorities of hers would be improving education and health care in the state.
McMillan, a former Tennessee House of Representatives majority leader, praised pre-K programs for children and said, "Let's look at things to improve it (education)."
With regard to health care, McMillan, the mother of two teenage children, said, "You can't go to work if you're worried about how you're going to take your child to see a doctor" because the care is too expensive.
"They all work together," said McMillan of the three issues.
"We must look at alternative ways to put people to work," said McMillan, citing new "green" jobs as being a promising industry for the state.
McMillan said "a billion-dollar plant" in her hometown of Clarksville, 50 miles northwest of Nashville, broke ground on Thursday.
The plant, Hemlock Semiconductor Corporation (HSC) will take silica and make polysilicone rocks for use in solar panels and other products.
She said attracting "green" and "clean" companies like HSC to Tennessee "is thinking outside the box," which she favors.
McMillan, an attorney, was elected to the state legislature six times, and went on to serve as a senior adviser to Gov. Phil Bredesen.
She is a political science teacher and executive director for business and community relations at Austin Peay State University.
She formed an exploratory committee to consider a run for the governor's office in April, and said she has since traveled across the state to listen to Tennesseans and discover what issues they thought were most important.
"I have spent my entire life in public service," she said.
McMillan announced her candidacy three weeks ago.
She has been married for over 20 years to her husband, Larry, who is a judge, and she has two children: Katie, a 17-year-old high school junior; and Ryan, a 16-year-old sophomore at the same school.
Recalling her 12 years in the state legislature, McMillan said, "I got the opportunity to connect to people, to go and really work hard for laws that hopefully helped education, health care and keeping our streets safe."
ADOPTED AS A CHILD
McMillan said she was born in Alabama and adopted at a young age by two schoolteachers in Tennessee. She went to high school in Knoxville, and graduated from the University of Tennessee's law school in 1987.
She said she first ran for public office in 1994, going door-to-door with her one-year-old son and two-year-old daughter in tow.
McMillan on Thursday actively sought volunteers to help her in what she projects will be a grueling, 20-month campaign leading up to the 2010 election for governor.
"I'm hear asking for your help. It's going to be a long, hard row," she said.
A HARD WORKER, SHE SAYS
She said of her present and future opponents in the race, "They can outspend me, but I promise you they can't outwork me."
McMillan said she supported Bredesen in his decision to accept federal stimulus money for Tennessee, and past successful efforts to raise the minimum wage.
In response to a question about nuclear energy plants, she said, "I think the ones we have here (in Tennessee) are safe."
She added that, "I don't see any need for new nuclear plants" being built in the state, citing the Tennessee Valley Authority as having said it does not have a need for new nuclear plants.