Senate Education Committee Chairman Dolores Gresham (R-Somerville) announced that she will not be a candidate for re-election in 2020. Gresham made the announcement in an email to constituents in Chester, Decatur, Fayette, Hardeman, Hardin, Haywood, McNairy and Henderson Counties in the 26th senatorial district.
“It has been the honor of my life, surpassed only by my service in the U.S. Marine Corps, to serve the people of Tennessee, especially children,” said Sen. Gresham. “I am very thankful for the support, friendship, and kindness of my constituents who have entrusted me to represent them for the past 18 years.” Gresham served six years in the House of Representatives before being elected in 2008 to three consecutive terms in the Tennessee Senate. She was appointed chairman of the Senate Education Committee as a freshman senator, presiding over the committee during a time of tremendous student progress at the K-12 level. Her tenure as chairman also saw unprecedented growth in access to post-secondary education at Tennessee’s colleges and universities.
“There will be no weaning process,” Gresham said after announcing her retirement. “I will continue to fulfill my promise to constituents to serve them to the fullest as their senator until my successor is elected in November.”
Gresham is carrying several key bills this year. This includes legislation proposed by Governor Bill Lee to ban abortions after a heartbeat is detected and a comprehensive bill to increase literacy in the early grades. During her tenure, Gresham sponsored major school choice legislation establishing Individual Education Accounts (IEA) to provide pathways to customized education for students with special needs, and Education Savings Accounts (ESA) to give low-income children an opportunity to receive a quality education. She also initiated a series of bills in 2018 to address sexual misconduct by teachers to ensure children are safe in the classroom.
“This is not a retreat,” the former Lt. Colonel said as she pledged to continue to work to improve education in Tennessee. “In the words of General Chesty Puller, “I’m attacking in a different direction.” Puller, who was a distinguished U.S. Marine Corps officer, was the most decorated Marine in U.S. history.
Gresham has served as Chairman of the Education Committee for the State Council of State Government’s Southern Legislative Conference. She also served as Vice Chairman of the Education Commission of the States.
In other leadership roles, Gresham has been a champion of Tennessee farmers and advancing agriculture in Tennessee. She and her husband, Will, live on their cattle farm in Fayette County.
Lt. Governor Randy McNally said, “Dolores Gresham has devoted her life to serving others. She served all Americans with great distinction in the United States Marine Corps and every Tennessee citizen as a member of the Tennessee House and Senate. Her determined passion for education led her to oversee one of the most improved periods in education in Tennessee history as chairman. She has been a strong conservative voice and a fierce advocate for her constituents. Her departure will certainly leave a void. I am grateful for her friendship and plan to continue soliciting her wise counsel. She will be greatly missed as a member of the Senate.”
Senate Republican Leader Jack Johnson (R-Franklin) said, “Both in service to our county and our state, Senator Gresham exemplifies the Semper Fi motto of the U.S. Marines as ‘always faithful.’ She has been a tremendous advocate for students and her contributions to excellence in education will be felt for many years to come. We will miss her terribly, but wish her well as she starts this next chapter.”
Senate Republican Caucus Chairman Ken Yager (R-Kingston) said, “Sen. Gresham and I were elected to the Senate at the same time and I am very grateful for her sterling service in the legislature, especially as Chairman of the Education Committee. Few people have positively influenced education more than Chairman Gresham, always putting students first. I wish her and Will the best life has to offer.”