“My father always used to tell me, of course, it was a different time than now, but he said, ‘Tim if you learn a trade, you’ll always have a job,’” Hicks said Tuesday.
Hicks is the son of Bobby Hicks, a former two-term state house representative for District 6 who also served for 12 years as a Washington County commissioner. Bobby Hicks died in 2007.
Now, Timothy Hicks, the owner of Hicks Construction, a custom home builder in Johnson City, is “very seriously considering” a run for his father’s old District 6 seat in the Tennessee House of Representatives, which is currently occupied by state Rep. Micah Van Huss, R-Jonesborough. Hicks also serves as a member of the Washington County Planning Commission and as an area vice president for the Home Builders Association of Tennessee.
Hicks said he wants to bring a new style to Nashville, pointing to the experience he’s developed through his personal struggles and his years as a businessman.
“I don’t have anything against Micah Van Huss personally at all,” Hicks said.
Asked for his response to having a possible challenger during the primary next year, Van Huss said, “Running for state representative has been one of the greatest experiences of my life, and I highly recommend it for anyone that’s interested.”
Hicks said a frequent concern he has heard from people in the community has to do with the need for more comprehensive workforce development.
“Whether it be kids coming out of high school or kids getting out of high school and not knowing which direction to go, I feel like we should help those kids have a direction,” he said.
He believes trade and vocational education should receive a greater emphasis in schools and advocates setting up trade and vocational centers around Washington County.
“I think that kids should be able to come out of high school and find a job right then in a trade or a vocation,” Hicks said. “I think they should be job-ready by the time they come out of high school. I think that’s very, very important.”
Workforce development is the starting point for bringing new jobs to the area, he said.
“Growth is a problem right now in Washington County and Johnson City, and I believe that too many times we start at the top and work our way down,” he said. “We need to start at the bottom and work our way up.”
Aside from the need for more education, Hicks said addiction also poses a risk to the region’s workforce. At Hicks Construction, he said the company has people on staff who are recovering from addiction.
“I actually have a whole crew that are all addicts in recovery,” Hicks said. “They have a lot of time under their belt, and I think that if we can put workforce development along with addiction recovery, I think it will go a long ways.”
Hicks himself has previously grappled with an addiction to drugs and alcohol.
“By the time I was 19, I was a full-blown alcoholic,” Hicks said. “By the time I was 30, I had made many, many bad choices in my life. By the time I got to 40, I had had several bad things happen to me and seen that there needed to be a better way, and God pulled me out of all that stuff.”
Hicks said he’s now been clean and sober for 17 years.
“It has really changed my life,” he said. “And it’s given me an even bigger want ... to serve.”
Van Huss said he voted in favor of three pieces of legislation this year that helped foster workforce development in the state: House Bill 949, which invests $25 million to develop work-based learning and apprenticeship opportunities; House Bill 945, which establishes a task force to encourage and promote agricultural education; and HB 952, which gives the Department of Education the authority to accept and administer federal funds for career and technical education.
He also said he continues to support TN Together, a state plan and set of resources designed to address the opioid epidemic.
“Employers here in Tennessee are struggling to find workers who can pass a drug test,” Van Huss said. “In our current opioid crisis we need to focus on prevention, treatment and law enforcement.”
Hicks said he looks forward to continue meeting people in Washington County and Johnson City.
“That’s really, really important, I think, is listening to people’s stories,” he said. “I have a story, and I don’t mind sharing it.”
According to the Tennessee Secretary of State website, the first day to pick up petitions for state House candidates is Feb. 3. The qualifying deadline is noon April 2.