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HomeGrown: Senator Bob Corker

11:10 PM, May 7, 2013   |    comments
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From the world's top leaders to the Senate floor, Tennessee Senator Bob Corker has made a name for himself in Washington after just one term.

"I've got a new position as ranking, Republican member of the Foreign Relations Committee," says Senator Bob Corker.

It's a political career he never dreamed of growing up in Chattanooga. He loved sports.

"I played football and baseball in high school and played for a couple of years up at University of Tennessee."

Corker was also passionate about working.

"I started working when I was 13."

Then, downtown Chattanooga was very different.

"When I was 15, 16, 17 business people during those days would bring 2 shirts to work because there was so much smog."

Corker went to the University of Tennessee in 1970. In addition to his studies, he worked construction labor and took a job with a Chattanooga company after graduation.

"I was the guy on job sites in a trailer, drinking day old coffee who actually supervised the building of shopping centers."

And at 25, he decided to go off on his own.

"I had saved $8000 and went in business and started a very small company."

According to Corker, he got many breaks along the way. Eventually in 1981, he built his first shopping center.

"We did retail projects throughout the company in 18 states. It was just an energy filled, grow at 80 percent-a-year company."

Corker never once thought about the public arena. And, he found new purpose in the church bulletin.

"They needed somebody who knew something about construction to help organize this effort and lead it."

It was a mission to Haiti. And for Corker, it was life changing.

"Being around people in such need, seeing their response to us being there, had a huge effect on me."

It fueled a passion to help others back home.

"I began working on Saturdays down in the inner city."

Overwhelmed by the need, Corker created the Chattanooga Neighborhood Enterprise.

"I did it as a civic endeavor and created a non profit. Overtime, It ended up affecting about 10,000 families here."

Corker was slowly moving into the public eye... eventually becoming Tennessee's Commissioner of Finance.

"And, that's a huge, great job for a business person. You can have so much impact."

However, after a couple of years in Nashville, he returned to Chattanooga.

"About that time, people began talking to me about running for mayor."

And, in 2000, Corker was elected Chattanooga's 71st Mayor.

"I just loved everything about it!"

He and his administration accomplished a lot.

"We built this waterfront in 35 months from scratch with no drawings and no money. We did so much. And, we built Enterprise South where Volkswagen now resides."

But toward the end of his term, Corker got a call from then Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, who was retiring.

"One of the things people have forgotten, I ran for the Senate back in 1994."

He lost to Frist in the Republican primary. But they went on to become great friends. And, he convinced Corker to run for his Senate seat.

That 2006 Senate Race got national attention. Corker defeated Harold Ford, Jr. with 51% of the vote and went to Washington.

"We had unfortunately a financial crisis in the country. My business background allowed me to be involved in a way that I wouldn't have been as a freshman Senator."

However, the last 2 years of his first term were very frustrating.

"There was so much gridlock. Nothing was happening."

But now, 4 months into his second term, the junior Senator is much more optimistic

"I have a feeling over the next short period of time, there's going to be some constructive actions in Washington, solving some of the major problems we have."

And, if a round of golf with the president is any indication, Corker seems to be right on par. While the Senator enjoys the greens, he treasures his weekends with his wife in downtown Chattanooga.

"She thought she was marrying a business guy, and she was very happy about that."

Still, it's worked out well for them, married now 26 years.

"On the weekends, we're not talking about public policy. You know, we're talking about other kinds of things. I feel like I'm a pretty blessed person."

Recently, Senator Corker was awarded the Center for the Study of the Presidency and Congress "Publius Award" for Bipartisan Leadership in Congress. It's an honor he share with fellow East Tennessean Howard Baker, Junior.

Senator Bob Corker.

"I'm proud of our state. East Tennessee is home and it always will be."

HomeGrown in Tennessee.

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