Matthew Hill measures his success as a state representative by the way people greet him at places such as football games, breakfasts, yard sales, and Wal-Mart. If he hears “Hi, Matthew” or “Hello, Matthew,” he counts it as a badge of honor.
Hill likes to relate a story of a politician he watched years ago work an event. The lawmaker received formal greeting after formal greeting as he moved through the crowd. To Hill, the salutations rang false.
“It was apparent they did not view him as one of them,” said Hill, a 2001 Northeast State graduate. “That’s why I like it when I hear “Hey, Matthew” because if someone feels comfortable calling me by my first name, they’re willing to call me up when they have a problem.”
Hill, a four-term representative for Tennessee’s 7th District, will present this year’s Alumni Lecture Series address Sept. 25 at 9 a.m. in the Wellmont Regional Center for the Performing Arts. The lecture is entitled: “Getting Involved and Making a Difference.”
In addition to his lawmaking duties, Hill is vice president of operations of the Information Communications Corp., having begun working with ICC and its radio stations while in high school. Presently he is the host of the nationally syndicated “Matthew Hill Show” on the IRN/USA Radio Network and is heard as Mr. Matthew on the children’s program “Bible Buddies” on WHCB 91.5 FM. He also graduated from East Tennessee State University with a bachelor of science degree.
Hill said his radio career has been the perfect preparation for politics, teaching him the value of communication and the importance of knowing his audience.
“You don’t talk at people, but with them,” Hill said. “Even more important is listening – you can learn so much just by listening.”
In fact, Hill loves to relate small stories about his constituents and the problems and concerns they’ve brought to him. He said he isn’t always able to solve every problem, but he makes sure he does everything possible to get results – regardless of politics.
“It’s their government and I represent every one of the 64,000 people in my district,” Hill said “I’m not here to occupy space or take up time – I’m here to make a difference now while staying true to what I believe. My job is to remove the barriers so people can get access to their government.”
Hill, the College’s commencement speaker for 2012, fondly recalls his time at Northeast State, mentioning the old library in the Pierce Building and the long-gone gravel parking lots where the library and humanities buildings now stand.
“Most of all, I remember the personal nature and feeling of acceptance by the faculty and staff,” Hill said. “They really cared and took the time to listen – that pervasive attitude of service is why Northeast State excelled then and why it does now.”
Hill said he urges everyone – no matter their station of life – to pursue an education and map out goals. For most successful people, education was the catalyst for their achievements, Hill said.
“Education is a process, but for it to work it has to start,” Hill said. “When I started at Northeast State would I have known I would be a four-term state representative, have a radio career, and a beautiful family? No, and I certainly wouldn’t have all those things if I hadn’t started the process. The important thing is to complete your education and don’t quit – no matter how hard it gets.”
In addition to his lecture, Hill will also visit several classes and talk with students. For more information about the Alumni Lecture Series, contact Rayma Gibbs at 279.7637 or rjgibbs@NortheastState.edu.
The Wellmont Regional Center for the Performing Arts is located on the Blountville campus, 2425 Highway 75, adjacent to Tri-Cities Regional Airport.