State Senator Charlotte Burks (D-Monterey) recently announced that she will be retiring at the end of her current term. She will not seek re-election to serve the 15th District, which includes Cumberland, Jackson, Overton, Bledsoe, Putnam and White counties. The next election is scheduled for August 2014.
She is a native of Jackson County and owns a farm in Monterey where she raised her family and has resided for nearly 50 years. Burks has three daughters, ten grandchildren and four great grandchildren. The only occupation she has ever known is that of a farmer.
She has served in the State Legislature since 1998. The people of the 15th District made her a part of Tennessee history by electing her as the first ever “write-in” candidate to the state Senate after the tragic death of her late husband state Senator Tommy Burks. During her tenure in office, Burks has served on numerous committees, including ethics, commerce, labor, agriculture, education, government operations and the select committee on children and youth.
She has also received multiple awards and recognitions for her work as a State Senator. Much of her focus has been in the areas of education, domestic violence and issues concerning children. She has been an 8 time recipient of the “Legislator of the Year” award from the Tennessee Coalition against Domestic and Sexual Violence for her work in those areas. She also received national recognition from the U. S. Attorney General’s Foundation for the Improvement of Justice.
Sen. Burks’ first efforts in Nashville focused on completing some of the work started by her late husband. He had been successful in getting a constitutional amendment on the state ballot for a “Victims Bill of Rights” which passed in the November 1998 election. Ironically, this was after he himself had become a victim of crime and lost his own life. She completed his work by drafting and passing the legislation that made the provisions of the amendment into law. She also passed a bill that allowed inmates in local jails to pick up litter on our state highways on which he had been working.
She has sponsored and passed many important pieces of her own legislation during her tenure in office. When asked what stands out in her mind as the most important legislation on which she worked, she replied, “My work on the fight against Meth in our state.” She had tried unsuccessfully for three sessions to pass a law to regulate and limit the sale of over-the-counter drugs containing Ephedrine which is the main ingredient of Meth.
The attention caused by Sen. Burks’ efforts caused Governor Phil Bredeson to create a state Meth Task Force, of which, Burks was a member. Legislation recommended by the task force and endorsed by the governor that was finally made into law contained all of her original recommendations and was made even stronger. The passage of this bill significantly reduced the production of Meth across our state.
“I have tried to focus on the issues that are important to our families and our every day life,” Burks commented. She has been an advocate for Tennessee’s families, as well as for education, affordable health care, senior assistance and for issues important to our rural communities. She served on the Domestic and Sexual Violence State Coordinating Council, the Creating Homes Initiative Task Force, the State Vocational Education Board, the Southern Regional Education Board and the state Victims of Crime Coordinating Council.
“It has been an honor to represent the people of the 15th Senatorial District over the years,” Burks reflected. “I never imagined that I would ever serve in the state legislature, but it gave me a sense of direction and purpose that I needed after the loss of Tommy. It was a responsibility that I took seriously, and I am satisfied that I served the people of this district with honesty and integrity. Our family has a deep love and appreciation for the Upper Cumberland and its people. We will forever be grateful for the kindness and support we have received. Thank you for allowing us to serve.”
To show her appreciation, Senator Burks will host a reception on Oct. 10 at the Leslie Towne Center in Cookeville from 4:30 p.m. until 6:30 p.m. Everyone is welcome to attend.