When I was a young girl, my mother used to say to me, “you don’t have to know ‘why’ about everything!” Having never grown out of it in spite of my mother’s exasperation, I’m still asking “why.” Now I’m asking, “why did John Mark Windle lose the this last 2022 election?”
The last 2 years has seen an upheaval in every area of life. Our social, emotional, physical and spiritual lives have been turned on end, challenged terribly, and events hurl at us like water out of a fire hydrant, so hard we cannot concentrate on it all and shut down. And forget. People must have forgot what this man has done for the people of the counties he represented- Fentress, Morgan and Overton- in the Tennessee state legislature for the last 28 years.
Or maybe they never knew. An influx of people into Tennessee might have voted a straight ticket without knowing the long faithful service of one of Tennessee’s own. With no knowledge, people jumped into the “Red wave”.
John Mark’s name was familiar to me only from cards sent to my address within his district for almost 10 years. However, as a transplant, and not involved in county or city affairs, I did not develop a point of reference to get to know him.
That changed last February when as a representative of a new political grassroots group I met John Mark in Nashville during the legislative sessions. We needed to voice our concerns on issues he would be voting on so we went looking for this unknown man who represented half of our county.
Our first experience was his laughter. He read literature we handed on our group as an introduction, ignoring our conversation to read it first. When he immediately saw our Opinion piece on “Will Tennessee Turn Blue?” (1) he howled with laughter, and it opened a door to knowing a delightful man.
This local country boy grew up in Livingston Tennessee. His people still populate the various counties nearby. His roots are deep Democrat. We got the sense that John Mark identifies with the democrats known as Blue Dog’s from the 1990s which was “ fiscally and socially conservative, representing the center-right in the Democratic Party and themselves as the ‘commonsense’ alternative to political extremism.“ (2)(3)
Last summer, the Democratic party ousted John Mark. Why? (See, it’s good to ask questions). No one will admit why, even John Mark.
This author is willing to make a guess– because he voted too conservatively, contrary to the “political correct” platform of the new progressive Democratic party. He mysteriously and abruptly did switch parties in March 2022 to Independent. (4) And subsequently, for a short time, John Mark was the only Independent in the Tennessee General Assembly. That’s the ticket he ran on November 8, 2022.
So what did his colleagues at the General Assembly think of him? He was Chair of the House Ethics Committee. The other legislators trusted him to “judge” them, and punish them for wrongdoing should an occasion arise. Who do you trust to do that in your life? The safest bet is to pick someone you know who is known to judge fairly, impartially, and justly.
Trying to find information on John Mark is not easy in the printed records. He is not a man to seek recognition of his deeds. So we decided to talk to local and state leaders who have known him personally in his capacity as representative over the last 28 years.
County Executive Brian Langley of Morgan county knows John Mark well in large part because he worked for the local newspaper as a reporter for many years before his current position. His biggest impressions are that John Mark is a true “ervant, he goes “above and beyond” which is well reflected in his concerned for the individual citizens, whom some call “the little guy.” Byian comments that in general, politicians pay more attention to big projects like highway projects and grants, which are needed. But John Mark was just as concerned that an elderly citizen needed to get her roof fixed.
State representative Kelly Keisling says, “Good men are rare and far between. A good man knows what he stands for, what he ought to do, what he will never do and believes in the principles that he will use to guide his lifw. In the twelve years that I served in the Tennessee General Assembly with John Mark Windle, this best illustrates the individual that I came to know. A true public servant.”
If you want to judge for yourself, take a look at his record. (5) You can find out how he voted 2006 – 2022. Take a look and see what you think. And then ask yourself, “what did I base my voting decision on?”
When questioned about his policies John Mark says, “I vote how my constituents want me to vote.” Would that be the Democrats or the 70% Republican population? How about the forgotten, salt of the earth, common man? The one who carries most of the weight of the decisions made in government? How about the party of “common sense” that seems lost these days. Perhaps that is who and what John Mark stands for. And it cost him. It cost him big time.
We lost a silent hero. One who did not do what is convenient, politically correct or even politically expedient. We lost a man who stood up for his constituent values, who stood against the tide of partisan popularity, who stood tall in the face of any adversity for his positions, and who stood up for his people of the counties he represented. He will be missed.