"It's time to take the conservative values that made this district great to Washington and apply them with some East Tennessee Common Sense! The most important thing Washington can do is to protect us from our enemies, but then get out of our way when we are trying hard to improve our lives."
From his earliest days growing up on a farm in the First District, Richard Roberts was taught that leading a good life required a firm foundation found only in a strong faith, a good education, and dedication to one's family, friends and neighbors. Through his family, his church and his neighbors, Richard learned the lessons that would bring him from the farm all the way to where he is today.
After graduating from Greeneville High School, Richard went to the University of Tennessee, eventually earning a law degree. Shortly thereafter, he went to work with Sen. Howard Baker in Washington. Richard considers Senator Baker to be his mentor in his commitment to public service, and he often speaks admiringly of Senator Baker's patriotism and statesmanship.
Richard found his experience in Washington to be invaluable, because he was able to represent individuals and businesses in their dealings with government while working alongside Senator Baker. "I won't need a road map to show me how to get started in Congress," Richard says of his Washington experience. In a letter to Richard, Senator Baker wrote, in part, "The First District is a historically Republican district, and deserves representation of your quality." (Used by permission.)
Richard agrees with Ronald Reagan's observation that, "Any government big enough to give us everything we want is big enough to take away everything we've got," and he adds, "We sort of invented that way of thinking here in East Tennessee and I would like to go to Washington and remind those people that we need to get back to that kind of conservative, limited government. I call it using East Tennessee Common Sense' about basic things - things like securing our nation's borders, protecting our children from on-line predators, not taking someone's house and giving it to a developer to build a strip mall, about protecting the unborn, and making sure that an individual has the right to own a gun."
Richard's background has been in the business world, and he is quick to point out that he is no politician. "One of the biggest problems in our country today is all the professional career politicians looking for their next paycheck from the taxpayers. I have not been on a government payroll. People around here taught me a long time ago that folks need to take care of themselves and their neighbors without always looking to the government for a handout."
Richard came by his common sense and conservative values naturally. He grew up in the Timber Ridge Presbyterian Church where his mother, Louise, was director of Christian education. His father, Harry, was a high school teacher and stressed the importance of a good education. Both Richard's grandfathers were farmers who made sure that Richard understood what hard work was all about and how he had a responsibility to help one's neighbors. Richard grew up working on the family farm with his cousins, his father and his six uncles, and he learned to respect the value of hard work, of teamwork, of perseverance and keeping his word.
Although Richard's experience working with Senator Baker in Washington was invaluable to him, he was eager to come back home to the First District when the opportunity arose. In 1994 he put his law degree on the shelf and entered the business world in East Tennessee, serving as senior vice-president of Landair, a trucking and airfreight company. "In the trucking business, the rubber really meets the road," says Richard. "To be successful in a very competitive business like ours, you have to make every penny count and you have to eliminate waste."
After helping build Landair into one of the most successful businesses of its type, Richard turned his attention to helping others. With Scott Niswonger, Richard helped to create the Niswonger Foundation, an organization dedicated to improving the educational opportunities for the young people of East Tennessee. In recent years, the total commitment to educational advancement has exceeded $50 million in scholarships and direct aid to children and communities in the First District. From pre-kindergarten programs, to providing math and science labs and music programs to rural schools, and full college scholarships to deserving students, Richard and the foundation have an ulterior motive - to strengthen the First District through education and by encouraging those they help to return and do the same for others.
"My wife, Imogene, and I do not have children," says Richard. "But there are 33 First District students who I like to think of as our kids,' who are going to college on full-ride scholarships made possible by the Foundation. I am so proud of these young people. I am proud of the difference the Foundation has made in their lives, and I am proud of the difference they will make in their home communities."
"Richard and the Foundation didn't wait around for the government or someone else to do something about the needs of our children," says Minnie Miller, Director of Johnson County schools. "They listened to needs of the people most involved in the schools - the students, the parents and the teachers - and then they put their own money - not the taxpayers' money - where it was needed the most. How many politicians can say that? Not many."
"I have had a successful career as a problem-solver," Richard says. "To do that, you have to listen and understand what the problem is. This is a great country, but somewhere along the line the career politicians in Washington stopped listening to the people. It's time to take the conservative values that made this district great back to Washington and apply them with some East Tennessee Common Sense!"