By KEITH RYAN CARTWRIGHT
Rutherford County Schools
On the morning of Aug. 3, there was one common question among voters who are not from the Town of La Vergne and parts of Smyrna, as they looked at the election results for the Rutherford County School Board.
Who is Tammy Sharp?
What a majority of them did not realize is that every morning at 5 a.m. on the north end of the county, Sharp was standing out in front of the Kentucky Fried Chicken at the intersection of Murfreesboro Road and Waldron Road.
Sharp was out there every morning waving signs and yelling, “Hey, vote for me.”
Her campaign did not have a lot of funds, but she and her team — Sharp is an active member of Americans for Prosperity, Textbook Advocates and Heritage Action — took a grassroots approach to knocking on more than 1,200 doors and shaking hands at fish fries, pancake breakfasts and any other event taking place in the La Vergne community, where Sharp is raising her son, Eli, as a single parent.
“That’s America,” she said. “That’s our county.”
It paid off.
She won the election to represent Zone 1 by 568 votes.
Sharp was born and raised 40 miles north of Memphis in Tipton County.
Most of her family still lives in Tipton, where her grandparents farmed in the middle of the 20th century.
As young ladies, her mother and her aunt moved to Memphis.
“They tell stories about seeing Elvis (Presley) walking the streets,” said Sharp, who made her own adventurous move from Memphis to Nashville.
Sharp and a friend worked as assistants in the public relations department for a fertilizer company. Sharp was in her second year as a nursing major at Memphis State University — she was classmates with Penny Hardaway, who went on to be a four-time NBA All-Star with the Orlando Magic — when the two finished producing a large annual report.
When they finished the extra work, the two took a trip to Nashville.
“We saw how different it was,” recalled Sharp, whose father often made work-related trips to Nashville. “So it was not unusual to come to Nashville.”
This particular trip was different than the summertime trips she made with her dad as a child.
Sharp and her friend were in their 20s. Both were single. Neither one had kids and they had their own money.
“We stayed a few days,” she said, “and we were like, ‘Why don’t we just move up here?’ There’s a reason it is the itcity.”
Four months after her friend moved in January 1996, Sharp moved to Nashville in April.
She had thought about transferring from MSU to a school in Nashville. Instead, she took a job with First American Corp.
“Had I seen a trauma room or some of the other things they show on TV now, I probably would have stuck with (nursing),” Sharp said. “Back then, they said when you become a nurse you go to work at a doctor’s office. It’s not exciting. I just didn’t stick with it and once I came up here, the field I was in — more education wouldn’t necessarily raise my pay.
“It was one of those things, where I could go to college, but then I’d have to change careers or I could stay where I am and advance where I am.”
She was fortunate to land a position where she was able to utilize her customer service skills, Sharp said.
The decision worked out for Sharp.
In 2001, she moved to Rutherford County to take advantage of enrolling her son in one of the top public school districts in the state of Tennessee. She spent about 15 years in commercial banking until “some horrendous health emergencies” from 2007 to 2012 resulted in multiple surgeries and left her on disability.
“I have a disability that’s developed from all of that,” said Sharp, who added, “That’s kind of what enabled me to have to stay home.”
Sharp, who volunteered to work on campaigns for the late Fred Thompson and, more recently, Ted Cruz, added, “I am still contributing regardless of my physical capabilities and I think that’s important for people to see — regardless of what our capabilities are — we can be productive members of society and affect change.”
During that time, she read up on what was happening with local, state and national politics, as well as education. While recovering, Sharp also started spending time paging through her son’s school books.
Two things that caught her attention were textbooks and the Response to Intervention program.
She’s not sure the School Board can have a great impact on textbooks but plans to encourage more parents, especially in Zone 1, to take an active interest in attending School Board meetings.
Sharp knows they won’t all take an active role, like she has, but she would like to see more parents become informed about various issues impacting their own child’s education.
As for her transition from working behind the scenes to campaigning with her name on the signs, Sharp said, “It was quite different being on the frontend of it versus behind.
“I’m the one that’s out there,” continued Sharp, who started looking at potential opportunities in November 2017. “It’s so much easier telling people, ‘this is what you need to do, this is where you need to go, this is who you need to see.’ This time I was the one that was out front, but I had a great staff that we’ve all worked together before.”
Sharp concluded, “I was always going to run for School Board.”