Just call me Tim

When this nervous 22 year old college graduate sat down with then Mayor Tim Burchett at Long’s Drug store in July of 2017, he could hardly control the stream of titles and pleasantries flowing from his mouth. “Hello Mayor… Yes sir… Okay Mr. Burchett.” It was then that I first heard him utter what is now his most famous line, one that I’ve heard him repeat countless times to everyone from Senators to sanitation workers, “Just call me Tim.”

“Tim” didn’t know much of anything about me when I sat down to interview to be his campaign manager, but I knew a lot about him. For the past three years, I’d worked part time in construction to make some money while in school at the University of Tennessee. It’s there that my first meaningful memory of Tim came about. My friend and coworker, Drew Duisen, knowing my love of politics, gave me a Burchett Bigfoot bumper sticker. Rather than potentially devaluing my collision damaged 2011 Mazda 3 sports car, I chose to put the sticker on my neon orange hard hat at work.

I did this because even before I had ever met him, I knew of his homespun style, and that he was one of the few politicians recognized and adored by the working people I encountered on job sites every day. Less than a year later I found myself in his employment, spending upwards of 50 to 60 hours a week with him. Early on I foolishly asked him how he had managed to develop this image as a “man of the people”, or “working man’s friend.” He responded plainly that it was not an image, it was just him. In the ensuing months my fellow coworkers and I discovered just how true those were.

There are hundreds of stories I could tell from the past 16 months that together form a mosaic of who Congressman Elect Tim Burchett is. I’ve chosen just a few to recount here that best paint the picture of the man we have called “Boss”, and now get to call Congressman.

The Chicken Dinners

When running for political office, one attends hundreds of festivals, banquets, fundraisers and receptions. We simply refer to them as chicken dinners. These are opportunities for most politicians to mingle with the crowd, shake hands with the big shots, and of course get a little time on the microphone. But Tim does something at these events that I’ve scarcely seen any other politician do. He talks to the wait staff. Tim knows most of the waiters and bus boys by name at this point, and they know him too. They can’t help him. They don’t have rich powerful friends, or big check books, but to him they might as well be the most important people in the room. I would venture to say he is even more comfortable with them than he is the big shots.

The Flat Tires

When you are on the road almost constantly, you come across a lot of people with car trouble, stranded on the roadside. No fewer than 10 times on this campaign did I watch as Tim, in full suit and tie, get down on the ground to help a single black mom, a broke college kid, or even campaign staffer Thomas McAfee change a tire or jumpstart a car. Again, none of these people asked for help, or had much to offer in return. It didn’t matter where we were going or what we were doing, Tim pulled over to help out. It is a modern iteration of the Good Samaritan. Bankers, preachers and billionaires may pass by, but Congressman Burchett always stops to help out.

Election Night

It is well documented that our opponents ran a rather vicious campaign against Tim in the Republican primary, as is becoming customary in our society. He endured vicious anonymous emails and robocalls, and widely broadcast attack ads. His character, his record, and his family came under fire. At our election night party, when our opponent called to concede, Tim could be heard saying, “we’re good, we’re good. You’re my friend. Give my best to your family.” When the call concluded the room was dead silent, until one onlooker shouted, “Tim Burchett you’re a saint.” The crowd erupted, and our team bellowed with pride in the character of the man we had worked so hard to elect.

For 16 months, I’ve worked day and night with Thomas McAfee, Michael Grider, Rachel Gibbs and the entire Burchett family. Together we formed our own little campaign family, forged by the fires of hardship and an onslaught of attacks. Kelly Burchett has been ready with a smile and a cup of coffee every early morning, and an encouraging word every night. This campaign has been the greatest venture I’ve ever had the pleasure of being a part of, and I would not trade a single person from our unorthodox hodge podge of a campaign team for anyone. That especially includes the man who was destined to be the voice of the second congressional district, Congressman Elect Burchett, better known as “Tim.”

3 thoughts on “Just call me Tim

  1. Great story Andrew. He is Tim, and he will tell you (if you ask) that he turned me from Democrat to Republican! He helped me when I was Vice President of a newly formed union at The University of Tennessee. He helped us to get a raise for all the lowly underpaid workers at UT even though Republicans normally don’t care much for unions. Not Tim, he was gracious to us, definitely more than most Republicans in Nashville, we were kind of green when it came to lobbying but Tim came to our meetings and talked with us. I truly believe we would have had a much harder time of it without Senator Burchett’s help. I promised him then that if he ever ran for anything in Knox County again that I would help him, and I did the first and second time he ran for Mayor! I helped him as best I could this election too. I just hope that I am able to help him again in a year and a half! Unfortunately I didn’t get to visit him in the Mayors office as shortly after he won I went into a wheelchair, but you can bet I’ll see his office in DC if I have to crawl! We love you Tim, and all of his little Cubs!

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