Cepicky says he’s running for re-election
By James Bennett firstname.lastname@example.org
Posted Jul 20, 2019 at 12:01 AM
Updated Jul 20, 2019 at 4:25 PM
State Rep. Scott Cepicky, R-Columbia, told The Daily Herald last week that he plans to run for re-election in 2020 and will have a fundraiser next month at the Westbury House in Columbia.
The Aug. 5 campaign kickoff will feature GOP heavyweights such as Gov. Bill Lee and the new speaker of the Tennessee House.
“I love my job and am happy I decided to run,” Cepicky said. “I have not regretted it for a minute.”
The Columbia mortgage banker and rancher, 52, won the Republican nomination to replace retiring state Rep. Sheila Butt in August and went on to defeat Democrat AJ Holmes in November. The freshman legislator hit the ground running as he moved into Butt’s old office, but he quickly discovered as he built relationships and connections in Nashville, he needed to raise money for his re-election.
“I felt it was important to get acclimated as quickly as possible,” Cepicky said of the chaotic pace. “The people I represent in Maury County expect me to be ready to go and legislate and represent them. They expect me to build relationships, including with Gov. Lee. When Maury County needs something, and I have to call Gov. Lee, he responds and picks up the phone.”
Lee has called a special session of the General Assembly on Aug. 23 to ratify a speaker to replace Glen Casada, R-Franklin, who announced his resignation after a no-confidence vote from fellow Republicans. The GOP caucus will meet Wednesday and decide from a list of six potential replacements. That candidate will win over the Democrats’ choice because Republicans hold a super majority in the House.
“When the issues happened with Speaker Casada, it almost destroyed everything we had done [in the 2019 session],” Cepicky said. “We haven’t been able to come back and talk to our constituents about the good things we have done. They all want to know who the new speaker is going to be.”
Cepicky said cutting taxes and the heartbeat abortion bill were two of the legislature’s top accomplishments. He also lauded passage of the Barry Brady Act, which gives firefighters better health insurance coverage if they contract one of four cancers while on the job, and the Katie Beckett waiver, which assists families of children with medically complex needs, regardless of their income, through TennCare.
“Most of the votes that I have taken up there have held true to Rep. Butt’s and my motto of faith, family and freedom,” Cepicky said. “That includes protecting religious liberty in Tennessee. Nurturing and growing the family unit. Trying not to create an overly burdensome government so you, and the other citizens of Tennessee, can have the freedom and autonomy to live their lives.”
Cepicky said he has decided which speaker candidate he will support, but the First Bank mortgage expert is not ready to announce it publicly.
“Over the last couple of months, I’ve had to figure out who will be the best speaker for Tennessee and the best person for Maury County,” said Cepicky, who had to resign his job at Regions Bank in Columbia when he won the seat. “I have to be broad enough to look at Tennessee but selfish enough to look at Maury County. We have a lot of needs here, including infrastructure, educational and economic develop needs. I want to get the candidate who fulfills both needs.”
Casada made the right decision to step aside after the GOP caucus’ no-confidence vote, Cepicky said.
“I want to give kudos to the caucus for taking a stand. Enough is enough,” Cepicky said. “We are on hold right now. We’re waiting to see who the new speaker will be, what his platform will be.”
The special session also might deal with state Rep. David Byrd, R-Waynesboro, who is under fire for sexual abuse accusations from the 1980s when he was a teacher and coach at Wayne County High School. Cepicky and Byrd serve on the House Education Committee.
“He has been nothing but professional up there, kind and sharing information with me,” Cepicky said. “We only see each other once or twice a week. I don’t know what will happen with our special session. I don’t know if we will have a bill filed to take action on Rep. Byrd or not.”
Cepicky has been focused on local issues, such as education and infrastructure, since getting elected. His proposal to build a new agriculture center in Maury County has generated the most attention. He has been criticized by some political opponents for supporting vouchers for families in Shelby and Davidson counties, part of Gov. Lee’s charter schools initiative. He hopes for a new red light being installed at Port Royal Road and Saturn Parkway will alleviate some traffic headaches.
“I walked outside my office two weeks ago and saw 12 construction cranes in the sky over Nashville,” Cepicky said. “I’ve been told an average of 85 people are moving to Nashville every day. That growth is coming to Maury County, if not as fast. But we have to be mindful of it.”
Maury County Schools will open two new Battle Creek schools in Spring Hill on Aug. 1. The school board wants to construct new buildings for McDowell Elementary and Spring Hill High School. The influx of new residents shows no sign of abating in the near future, meaning Spring Hill likely will need a Battle Creek High School in the next five years.
“In 2015, we educated 11,600 children in Maury County. We are at 12,004 four years later,” Cepicky said. “That is putting a burden on the taxpayers and the County Commission. I believe it is the job of the state representative to be the liaison for Maury County’s municipalities and county government to look for grants and opportunities to bring more funding to our county for the growth we’re experiencing.
“We have to keep building those relationships so that when we need something, we have the 50 votes in the House of Representatives to get that through. That is something I intend to do.”
Cepicky has a good working relationship with Gov. Lee, who is listening to Cepicky’s idea for the agriculture center. The new facility would be a front runner to host the Tennessee State Fair and become a showcase for the ag industry in the state.
“Most people see me walking around in a suit and tie,” Cepicky said. “Most people who know me know I prefer blue jeans, boots, T-shirt and baseball cap. I have been in agriculture for 25 years. I love working around the animals and cattle. I love the whole agricultural aspect of life. I love the work ethic it creates in our young children and discipline and dedication.”
Before talking with stakeholders about an ag center, Cepicky said he asked himself what was missing in southern Middle Tennessee? It was agriculture.
“What could we do to identify agriculture as the king it is?” Cepicky wondered. “In Maury County, we are fourth in the state in hay production, fifth in cattle production. What would accentuate the agricultural background and the educational opportunities it generates for our children?
Honestly, having a governor who owns his own cattle ranch, I hope we can get him on board in seeing the value of the agricultural center as part of what he’s trying to do for rural communities in Tennessee. I hope he’ll put it into his budget and get it built.”
Gov. Lee made charter schools and prison reform two of his main issues. He asked for Cepicky’s support on charter schools, though Cepicky proposed amendments to legislation to keep control over charter schools in the hands of local school boards. The legislature passed bills to allow charter schools in Shelby and Davidson County to receive public money for private schools.
“When you look at educational opportunist for children in Davidson and Shelby counties, many of the students do not have a good opportunity to succeed,” Cepicky said. “We had to give them a chance to seek out a better opportunity if they want to succeed. I saw a statistic that said if we can change Davidson and Shelby’s ACT scores by one point, we can go from No. 37 to possibly No. 29 in educational rankings. It’s a three-year pilot program that was passed for Shelby and Davidson counties only. If it does not work, we will try something else.”
Despite living an hour from the State Capitol, Cepicky drives back and forth every day from Nashville. He did not rent an apartment or house for the legislative session, which lasted from January until May. He is married to his wife, Teresa, and they have two sons, Gabriel and Daniel.
“I change the oil in my truck every 5,000 miles. I changed it three times during the session,” Cepicky said. “I have to take care of my farm and the cattle we have. I also want to come back here and see my family every night.
“Some nights, I was only able to make it back in time to say, ‘I love you,’ and tuck them into bed. Being a representative is a commitment that’s year around. It’s the most time-consuming part-time job you’ll ever have in your life.”
The former professional baseball player and college football punter says politics is like sports.
“When you lose that fire, it’s time to go,” Cepicky said. “As long as I have the fire in my belly, I hope the voters will keep sending me back.”