Battle of the ex-commissioners: Templeton, Walley to run for Gresham’s state Senate seat

Jai Templeton and Page Walley are announcing their bids to seek the Republican nomination to succeed retiring state Sen. Dolores Gresham.

Templeton is a former state agriculture commissioner, while Walley was once commissioner of the state Department of Children’s Services. Senate District 26 comprises Chester, Decatur, Fayette, Hardeman, Hardin, Haywood, McNairy, and Henderson counties.

Gresham was elected to the West Tennessee seat after John Wilder (D-Mason), retired after 44 years in the Senate — 36 of them as speaker. Gresham, a retired Marine lieutenant colonel, has served as chair of the Education Committee ever since she joined the Senate.

Templeton, a former McNairy County mayor, lives in the Stantonville community, about 15 miles southwest of Savannah. Walley, of Hardeman County, served in the state House from 1990 to 2000. State Rep. Ron Gant (R-Rossville) plans to stay in the House.

Read the campaign releases after the jump.

Here’s the Templeton campaign announcement:

Jai Templeton, Tennessee’s former Commissioner of Agriculture, today declared his candidacy for the Tennessee Senate in District 26. Three-term Senator Dolores Gresham recently announced her decision not to run for re-election. Templeton will seek the Republican nomination for the district that includes Chester, Decatur, Fayette, Hardeman, Hardin, Haywood, Henderson, and McNairy counties.

“I believe my experiences serving as Agriculture Commissioner, McNairy County Mayor, and family farmer uniquely qualify me to serve our rural communities,” Templeton stated. “I’m pro-life, pro-Second Amendment, and I support President Trump’s America First agenda. My values are in line with most people here in southern West Tennessee,” remarked Templeton.

Templeton is a sixth generation family farmer with timber, cattle, grain, and cotton farming operations in McNairy and Hardin counties. He is the Community Development Manager for Centennial Bank in Adamsville. Templeton served as Commissioner of the Tennessee Department of Agriculture from 2016-2019. He was elected McNairy County Mayor in 2006 and re-elected in 2010. Templeton was a Field Representative for former Congressman Ed Bryant and has been an apprentice auctioneer for 20 years.

Templeton holds a Bachelors of Science degree in Business Administration from Union University. He has served on the Agri-Center International Board of Directors since 2013. Templeton is Chairman of the McNairy County Republican Party and was a Delegate to the 2004 Republican National Convention.

Templeton and his wife, Allison, live in Stantonville and are the parents of three adult children. He has been a member of the First Baptist Church of Adamsville for 22 years.

And here’s Walley’s:

Dr. Page Walley, former State Representative and current Vice Mayor of Bolivar, announced today he is running for State Senator from the 26th District. Since Senator Dolores Gresham announced she will not be seeking re-election, voters from across the district have reached out to Walley and encouraged him to run.

Walley served five terms in the Tennessee House of Representatives and six years in executive branch leadership under Republican governors as Commissioner of the Tennessee Department of Children’s Services and the Alabama Departments of Children’s Affairs and Human Services. Under his leadership, Alabama became the first state to exceed federal court expectations by fundamentally reforming its child and family services system.

Currently, Walley-a clinical psychologist and licensed minister-works as Chief Public Policy Officer at Saint Francis Ministries, one of the nation’s largest social service providers and advocacy organizations. He partners with local, state, and federal officials to address the complex needs of children, families, and communities.

“Working with communities in West Tennessee and nationally has shown me firsthand the struggles people face in order to provide for their families. Nothing is more important than the safety and well-being of children and families. Without educated young people and technologically equipped communities, we cannot build the workforce we need and provide the hope our citizens are so desperately seeking. 

“This eight-county district is blessed in so many ways; however, we are also challenged to achieve the hopes and dreams of our people. The majority of our counties are considered economically “distressed” or “at risk”. We need someone who understands how to build upon the strengths we have and to fight for the resources we need so we aren’t being left further behind by other areas of our State. “

As a popular state legislator who served on the Agriculture, Finance, and Health and Human Services Committees, Walley was also known as a problem-solving consensus builder who held more than 800 “Listening Meetings” throughout his district. Walley is a sought-after speaker both here and abroad on issues of faith, family, and community well-being.

“During the coming weeks, I will visit citizens in communities across the 26th District to learn what they want from their Senator, and to respectfully earn their support.”

The district includes eight West Tennessee counties. They are: Chester, Fayette, Hardeman, McNairy, Hardin, Henderson, Decatur and Haywood.

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