Washington County GOP chairman talks charity, inclusiveness

Gary B. Gray • Apr 30, 2013 at 10:30 AM

Michael Hartman, who was elected as Washington County Republican Party chairman in February, said Monday he views his role as that of a public servant obligated to help others and give back to East Tennesseans.

Hartman, 37, a rental property owner and real estate developer with a family history of political involvement on both the Republican and Democratic parties, is a Jonesborough native intent on helping conservatives think outside the box.

“I decided this year at our Lincoln Day Dinner that we would turn what is ordinarily a Republican Party fundraiser into a simultaneous food drive for a local charity,” he said during a visit to the Johnson City Press. “At our Reagan Day Picnic, we are going to collect school supplies to be donated to a school identified as having the greatest need.”

Hartman, who attended David Crockett High School and graduated from East Tennessee State University with a degree in business, took over the spot from Washington County attorney John Rambo on Feb. 16. Rambo said he did not step down because of his new position but to “scale back” his activities to give proper attention to his new job and the increased responsibilities that came with it.

“Although he is young, he’s participated in public functions for several years now,” Rambo said about Hartman. “He brings a lot of energy and enthusiasm, and we need that.”

His family has a history of political involvement. His great-grandfather, C.C. Hartman, was Washington County’s former Republican Party chairman and a former county magistrate, now known as a commissioner. The young Mr. Hartman served as the county’s Young Republicans chairman in 1994.

“We as a political party help facilitate the day-to-day process,” he said. “However, I feel we need to give back to East Tennessee in a non-partisan manner for the betterment of our society as a whole. While recently attending an event for Coalition for Kids, I had the privilege to speak to some of the children helped by that program — you realize we need to reach out with a helping hand. This personally touched my heart, as I was from a broken home. And being mostly raised by my grandmother, you don’t know as a child in need what the words ‘Democrat’ or ‘Republican’ mean.”

He said he stays busy maintaining his paying gig and does not have any ambitions to run for political office. He said his functions as a party chairman include visiting the election commission office to check voting statistics, advising people considering running for office for the first time and meeting with party delegates and members to make sure everyone’s on the same page. County Commissioners also call him from time to time to “run an idea by me” or vice versa.

His take on the consistently low voter turnouts at municipal elections was as follows: “Yes, typically low voter turnout may mean there’s some apathy out there, but it may also mean they’re happy with the way things are.”

Hartman said his overall goal is to reach out to people in the 1st Congressional District.

“You reach out and get your message across to let them know we’re inclusive,” he said. “Next year will be filled with candidates running for offices they currently hold and some running for the first time, and we will encourage those folks to help enhance the lives of others as well.”

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