Freshman State Representative Jody Barrett of Dickson County Describes New Role as Legislator
Live from Music Row, Monday morning on The Tennessee Star Report with Michael Patrick Leahy – broadcast on Nashville’s Talk Radio 98.3 and 1510 WLAC weekdays from 5:00 a.m. to 8:00 a.m. – host Leahy welcomed Tennessee State Representative (R-TN-69) Jody Barrett in studio to describe what it is like in the Tennessee General Assembly as a freshman legislator.
Leahy: We welcome to our microphones a good friend, state Representative Jody Barrett from Tennessee’s 69th Congressional District, a newly elected member of the Tennessee House of Representatives. Good morning, Jody.
Barrett: Good morning. How are you?
Leahy: Good, good. I think you were telling me how much you enjoyed waking up at 4:00 am in the morning at your house in the Dickson area just to drive in. And drove in just for this program. We appreciate that.
Barrett: My regular office staff back in Dickson will laugh knowing that I’m not a morning person.
Leahy: Are you not a morning person?
Barrett: Usually not. I can work well into the night, but getting up early is a little bit tough.
Leahy: The patterns of when you get up, when you go to work, people get into certain patterns. And it’s difficult if you are a night person, it’s very difficult getting up in the wee hours, isn’t it? The unnatural time even before farmers would go out to milk their cows. You have to get it before that to come on the show.
Barrett: This body is an old 73 Ford. Sometimes you got to pump the gas a little bit to get her to crank.
Leahy: A 73 Ford is much better than a 55 Edsel. (Laughter) So listen, you were in here before with your good friend John Rich, who was very supportive of your campaign to become and you’re the state representative from the 69th district that covers what? Dickson County?
Barrett: Dickson, Hickman, and Lewis County.
Leahy: And you’re an attorney?
Leahy: And tell me, what it’s been like being a freshman member of the Tennessee House of Representatives?
Barrett: It’s like a lot of things that you get into for the first time that they don’t give you a handbook that tells you what all to expect and what you need to do. They just kind of throw you into the deep end of the water and say, hey, figure it out.
Leahy: No training?
Barrett: No training. Very little training, actually. What a lot of folks won’t know is that on the first day, November 8th, you have an election. In my case, it was a birthday and an election party at the same time. And so you wake up on November 9th and you start getting phone calls and emails from folks that…
Leahy: Why aren’t you doing this, why aren’t you doing that?
Leahy: I got a problem over here. Why are you sitting on your you know what and not fixing my problems?
Barrett: That’s right.
Leahy: Do you enjoy those calls?
Barrett: Oh, yeah, it’s part of the job.
Leahy: It’s part of the job.
Barrett: And you talk about John getting me into this. I’ll have a talking to with him later.
Leahy: John, really?
Barrett: But emails right off the bat, folks that need help. And look, a lot of them are not emails that are from inside of my district. So things that you don’t necessarily have experience with.
Leahy: If somebody from Chattanooga says, Representative Barrett, I got this problem, and you say you also have another state representative who represents you.
Barrett: Depending upon the issue that they’re dealing with. If it’s a local issue or something along those lines, I’ll try to point them in the right direction.
I’ve gotten a lot of emails and calls about things that are federal and things that their congressman or their senators should be helping them with. So just try to help point people in the right direction and get them where they need to go.
Leahy: And somebody who’s got a federal problem, where do they go? They know you. And you say well talk to the feds.
Barrett: That’s right.
Leahy: What’s been surprising about this for you?
Barrett: I get that question a lot, and a lot of it there’s not been a lot of surprises because I was a legislative intern when I was in college. So I spent a session up here.
Leahy: So you saw the sausages get made.
Barrett: Exactly. I’ve seen it go down. Certainly from an outside looking in perspective, it’s different, certainly, as an intern as it is as a representative, but seeing the inner workings, seeing how the lobbyists work, seeing how the leadership does their thing. Nothing’s really been surprising up to this point.
Leahy: Seeing how the lobbyists work. Are there a lot of lobbyists up there? (Chuckles)
Barrett: Yes. I kind of got into the weeds a little bit on lobbyists during the campaign with my predecessor, who is now a member of the lobbyist group.
Leahy: Did he send you a thank you note?
Barrett: I haven’t heard much from him.
Leahy: (Laughs) I’m teasing.
Barrett: No, I haven’t heard much from him. And, look, he’s playing by the rules. He’s supposed to lay low for a year, and he’ll get back into it this summer. But lobbyists play an important role as a lawyer. I understand that people need advocates. They can’t spend 24 hours a day up on the Hill for themselves.
Leahy: You could, except you would not be able to make a living at it.
Barrett: Exactly. Right.
Leahy: It’s a full-time gig.
Barrett: It is.
Leahy: To pay attention to what’s going on up there.
Barrett: It is.
Listen to today’s show highlights, including this interview:
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Tune in weekdays from 5:00 – 8:00 a.m. to The Tennessee Star Report with Michael Patrick Leahy on Talk Radio 98.3 FM WLAC 1510. Listen online at iHeart Radio.
Photo “Jody Barrett” by Jody Barrett Tennessee State Representative. Background Photo “Dickson County Courthouse” by Brian Stansberry. CC BY 3.0.