PHOTO: Gubernatorial candidate Randy Boyd was introduced by county Mayor Rogers Anderson, right, on Friday, June 29, for a meet and greet in front of the old Williamson County Courthouse in Franklin.//Brooke Wanser
By BROOKE WANSER
Standing underneath the pillars of the old Williamson County Courthouse on Friday morning, Republican gubernatorial candidate Randy Boyd spoke about his vision for Tennessee.
He was introduced to the small crowd by county Mayor Rogers Anderson, who met Boyd through his economic development and education work with Gov. Bill Haslam.
“He’s an extremely good listener,” Anderson said. “He doesn’t just let it go in one ear and out the other.”
Though he wore a red Randy Boyd sticker on his shirt, Anderson said his introduction was not an official endorsement of Boyd.
“I’m still keeping my options way open,” Anderson said. “Every candidate that asked me to come and introduce them, it’s Williamson County and I want them all here!” he said.
Boyd is known for creating Invisible Fence, the first electronic pet containment system, under his umbrella company Radio Systems Corporation, which produces a variety of pet products. He is the company’s executive chairman.
A seventh-generation Tennessean, Boyd is from East Tennessee. He started his company in Knoxville.
“As an entrepreneur, by definition, you have to be innovative, and you have to be disruptive, and in my experience, government needs some innovation and disruption,” he said.
Like fellow Republican candidate Bill Lee, Boyd has never before run for political office, though he does have experience in state government.
When compared with Lee, also a seventh-generation Tennessean, conservative, Christian business owner with many of the same policy stances, Boyd pointed out that he is an entrepreneur. “I started my own business from scratch,” he said, as well as having executive state experience.
In 2013, he took a one-year leave from his company to work as Gov. Bill Haslam’s special advisor on higher education, before Haslam appointed him as commissioner of Tennessee’s Department of Economic and Community Development.
He helped Haslam created the Drive to 55 and Tennessee Promise initiatives, cementing education as the primary governmental focus it is in the state today, and recruited 50,000 jobs and $11 billion in investments.
Just as he declined to take a salary for his time as economic and community development commissioner, Boyd said he would refuse the governor’s salary, if elected.
At the event, Boyd did not touch on his stance toward immigration, but did say he wanted to make it easier to adopt in Tennessee.
Boyd, whose wife, Jenny, was born in Germany and adopted into a Tennessee family, said the average cost to adopt here is $30,000, with a process lasting 18 months.
“We need to make it easier and less expensive,” he said, for the 8,500 children in the state foster care system to be adopted into a family.
Healthy living and healthcare
Boyd spoke at 9:15 a.m. on the town square, but he was up long before, running seven miles without music as part of his fitness routine.
“It’s my time to collect my thoughts,” he explained. Running, as opposed to other sports, he said, gives him heightened focus, and is when he composes his speeches and makes plans.
In addition to climbing the 14,400-foot Mt. Rainier, Boyd has competed in 36 marathons and 53 half-marathons, “but who’s counting,” he said wryly.
And Boyd ran 537 miles across the state last year to bring attention to the health of the state, considered to be one of the unhealthiest in the nation.
Boyd pinpointed the opioid epidemic as the key crisis in state healthcare, and said he wants to mobilize and declare a state of emergency.
To prevent further addiction, he wants to educate the public on the dangers of prescription opioids, and limit prescriptions, while funding recovery through mental health initiatives.
To expand healthcare for Tennesseans, Boyd said he wants to promote healthier lifestyles as well as getting federal block grants to create a more efficient marketplace.
Support for Trump
Though Boyd was a supporter of Mitt Romney in 2016 (Romney has often been critical of Trump), he says the president has his full support.
“He’s going to make decisions for what’s best for America,” Boyd said. “As governor, my job is to make decisions for what’s best for the state of Tennessee.”
Boyd referenced Trump’s controversial steel and aluminum tariffs, calling them bad for the state’s business owners “as they are right now.”
“My job as governor is to be the advocate for our workers and our farmers,” he said. “I would go to Washington, D.C. and make sure the president hears our voices and understands this is bad for us. At the end of the day, he’ll make a decision for what’s best for America, and I hope what’s best for American is also best for Tennessee, but that’s his decision.”
Technical school and education
“Thirty, forty years ago, we started telling every kid that if you don’t go to a four-year college and get a college degree, you’re a failure. That’s where all the jobs are,” Boyd said. “But unfortunately, that’s not true.”
Boyd said in poorer, more isolated areas, like Grundy County, transportation to the nearest technical schools is hard to come by.
“Here’s the plan: we’re going to work with our technical schools and our community colleges, and build satellite campuses at every high school,” he said.
Bringing broadband internet access to more remote regions, too, is a priority.
Vision for the future
On a trip to China when he served as economic development commissioner, Boyd said people he encountered knew about Tennessee only as the place where Jack Daniel whiskey is produced.
“Oh yeah, I’ve been hearing about Tennessee,” is what Boyd hopes to hear half a decade from now. “That’s that state of opportunity.”
“The best part about Tennessee is they’re not leaving people behind,” Boyd continued, describing what he termed a “rural renaissance,” with safe, economically thriving communities. “You go to other states and small towns are dying and decaying, but not in Tennessee,” he finished. “I’m not going to say they could all be like Franklin, but they could all be something more.”
Occupation: Entrepreneur; chairman, Radio Systems
Education: Bachelor’s degree in industrial management, University of Tennessee.
Community involvement: Owner of minor league and rookie baseball teams (Tennessee Smokies, Johnson City Cardinals, Greeneville Reds); Great Smoky Mountain Council of the Boy Scouts; National Parks Conservation Association; United Way of Greater Knoxville; member of Erin Presbyterian Church.
Family: Wife, Jenny; two sons, Harrison and Thomas; daughter-in-law Lindsey; granddaughter Wiley Mae; two dogs, Oskar and Jolene.
Visit his website at randyboyd.com.