Tennessee Speaker of the House Beth Harwell delivered an upbeat message at Bedford County Republican Party's Reagan Day Dinner on Saturday, saying that Republicans should model themselves after Ronald Reagan, speaking not with anger or bitterness but with confidence.
The banquet was held at the Blue Ribbon Circle building on the Celebration grounds. Local party chairman Bill Neese served as master of ceremonies.
"This is an exciting time to be a Republican," said Harwell, in the wake of broad GOP victories in 2010. She said those victories were not an overnight change but represented years of effort to chip away at the Democrats' majority status.
She said the GOP must "govern with humility" and not abuse its majority status, saying that she has encouraged fellow Republicans not to treat Democrats the way Democrats treated Republicans when the tables were reversed.
"People want to see a few heroes in politics," said Harwell.
Harwell boasted that Tennessee is the lowest-debt state in the nation and stressed traditional GOP themes of smaller, business-friendly government.
"Government doesn't create jobs," said Harwell. "The private sector does."
She also said Republican governor Bill Haslam is "committed to education reform" and praised the recent bill extending the time which teachers must work before receiving tenure. She said three years of employment is too few, since effectiveness data for a teacher doesn't generally become available until the fourth year.
Harwell, of Nashville, is a a former associate professor at Belmont University. She was introduced by State Rep. Pat Marsh, who recalled Harwell campaigning with him when he first sought his House seat in 2009.
"Beth Harwell is a real friend of mine," said Marsh, who called Harwell "a real calming factor" in the legislature. He praised her for eliminating unneeded subcommittees and for starting legislative sessions and committee meetings on time.
"She is a tireless worker," said Marsh.
Harwell praised both Marsh and State Sen. Jim Tracy, whom she called "my go-to guy over in the State Senate." She noted that Marsh had recently been named legislator of the year by the South Central Tennessee Development District.