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Rep. Ryan Williams a Face of TN’s Political Future

Newly elected House GOP caucus chief in prime position to champion Upper Cumberland issues, potential

Congratulations, Cookeville. Your state representative in Nashville is arguably the most popular member of the 74-member House Republican supermajority.

He’s also now among the most powerful.

Just days after winning a landslide re-election bid on Nov. 8, incumbent state Rep. Ryan Williams won appointment to serve as chairman of the House GOP caucus for the next two years in the Tennessee General Assembly.

Williams earned selection to the position by beating Rep. Kevin Brooks of Cleveland in the intra-party caucus elections that Republicans held in Nashville on Nov. 17.

Williams won 47 votes to Brooks’ 23.

The job of majority-party caucus chairman in either the House or the Senate is among the most politically influential roles in the Legislature.

“In the last three weeks, I’ve met more with the governor one-on-one than I did in the previous four years,” Williams said in a phone interview on Dec. 1. “That’s just the difference it makes.”

Williams said his new assignment will likely benefit not just Putnam County, where his district is located, but the entire region. Having “a voice for the Upper Cumberland” involved in setting the state’s policy agenda will ensure that issues important to citizens of the plateau and Highland Rim won’t get overlooked, he said.

State Sen. Paul Bailey, a Republican from Sparta, said he’s very pleased a regional lawmaker has assumed such a high-ranking role. “It’s wonderful news for the Upper Cumberland,” he said.

Williams’ ascension to caucus chairman bodes particularly well for farmers and forestland owners and others who live and work outside urban population hubs, said Bailey. His Senate district includes Putnam, White, Cumberland, Jackson, Overton and Bledsoe Counties.

“Ryan is someone who can definitely speak up for the rural communities of Tennessee, and especially the Upper Cumberland,” said Bailey. “He knows our values and he appreciates the challenges that we face. He will be able to take that message to Nashville.”

During the caucus elections, GOP lawmakers also tapped members for other leadership posts, including a new majority leader and a nominee to serve as speaker of the House, which will again be Beth Harwell of Nashville.

Williams won more caucus votes than any other Republican seeking a House leadership slot.

He replaces Rep. Glen Casada of Franklin, who served as caucus chairman for eight of the last ten years. Casada this year sought and won the title of majority leader, beating out Rep. Mike Carter of Ooltewah, 42-29. That position was previously held by Gerald McCormick of Chattanooga, who didn’t seek it again this year.

Speaker Harwell turned away a challenge from Jimmy Matlock of Lenoir City, 40-30, thus ensuring her third term presiding over the House of Representatives.

In an interview with Center Hill Sun after the caucus votes, Casada described Williams as “the face of up-and-coming leadership in the Tennessee House of Representatives.”

“I am really excited about Ryan’s tenure in the leadership,” said Casada. “He will bring in fresh ideas, fresh legs and hard work to the job.”

Likewise, Speaker Harwell praised Williams as a capable legislator whom she expects will excel in his new capacity.

“Representative Williams will be an asset on the House Republican leadership team, and I look forward to continuing to work with him,” Harwell said in an emailed statement. “The next two years we will do all we can to ensure that Tennessee is the best place in the country to live, work, raise a family, and own and operate a business. Ryan has done a great job representing Putnam County and will continue to be a strong advocate for the entire Upper Cumberland region.”

Williams, who is married and has two children, also works as a salesman for J&S Construction Company in Cookeville. He was first elected to the Legislature in 2010. He’s also a past member of the Cookeville City Council and the city’s Planning Commission.