State Representative Beth Harwell represents the 56th District, which includes a part of Davidson County. Beth currently serves as the Speaker of the House, a position to which she was elected by her House colleagues. Directly prior to this, she served as House Commerce Committee Chairwoman and as House Republican Caucus Whip.
Beth has been a strong advocate for tougher sexual abuse laws, victims’ rights, welfare reform, children’s issues, and most notably, education. She has sponsored and passed legislation clarifying and toughening the penalties against stalkers, requiring more time behind bars for rapists, strengthening Tennessee’s laws for rape of a child, and building crime prevention cooperation among the states.
Beth sponsored the “Families First” legislation that enacted Tennessee’s current welfare reform program and the “Children’s Act for Clean Indoor Air” to keep children safe from the harmful effects of second hand smoke.
Beth has impacted Tennessee’s education system in numerous ways, always maintaining a legislative focus on innovative education policy. In 2009, her passion for education reform resulted in the passage of landmark charter school legislation, enabling thousands of Tennessee children statewide to benefit from attending a charter school. In addition, she pushed passage of legislation to direct additional funds for improvement of training for day care workers.
A friend of small business, Beth was twice awarded the coveted Guardian of Small Business Award from the National Federation of Independent Businesses (NFIB).
In addition to her legislative career, Beth served as Chair of the Tennessee Republican Party from 2001 to 2004. During that time she was instrumental in the Republicans taking control of the State Senate for the first time in 105 years. While serving as Chair she also contributed immensely to George W. Bush’s presidential campaign, and served as a Bush Pioneer.
Beth has also been an active member of her community as a member of the Tennessee State Museum Foundation, the David Lipscomb University Advisory Council, the Montgomery Bell Academy Board, the National Foundation for Women Legislators, the Mental Health Association of Middle Tennessee, the Nashville Children’s Theater Board of Trustees, and as an alumni of Leadership Nashville. She has previously served on the Board of Directors of Agape, the American Heart Association, the Exchange Club Family Center, the Centennial Medical Center Board of Directors, the Senior Citizens Board of Directors, and Middle Tennessee Mental Health Center.
Representative Harwell has won numerous awards over her career, including the Harold Bradley Legislative Leadership Award, the American Cancer Society Legislative Leadership Award, Champion for Children Award, and the Junior League 2012 Legislator of the Year Award.
Harwell received her Bachelor of Arts degree from David Lipscomb University, an M.S. degree from George Peabody College, and a Ph.D. from Vanderbilt. She has been an Assistant Professor of Political Science at Belmont University. She and her husband, Sam, have three children – Allie, Sam, and Tucker.