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NASHVILLE — State lawmakers from Hamilton County have named Rep. Patsy Hazlewood, R-Signal Mountain, as chair of the seven-member local delegation to the state Capitol, an apparent historic first for a woman.

"We are checking our facts, but we believe Patsy is the first woman to be the delegation chair," state Sen. Bo Watson, R-Hixson, noted in a text to the Times Free Press, going on say that Republicans take pride in the milestone.

Hazlewood, who won her fourth House term on Nov. 3, succeeds Sen. Todd Gardenhire, R-Chattanooga, as chair.

While Hamilton County has been electing women to the legislature since at least 1982, beginning with Brenda Turner, a Democratic representative, none have been elected or named as the delegation chair. The county now has its highest number of women serving in history in Nashville with Hazlewood and Reps. Esther Helton, R-East Ridge, and Robin Smith, R-Hixson.

Hazlewood downplayed getting the position, saying that "since I've been involved, we've just sort of had kind of a seniority thing and taking turns. I didn't have to battle for this position."

As for the role of the chair, Hazlewood said the biggest task is communication, "particularly during session when things are moving quickly, just making sure we're communicating with each other on issues that impact Hamilton County."

Another involves logistics and coordination.

"There are a number of people or organizations that want to meet with the delegation as a group prior to going back into session," Hazlewood said. "So it's setting calendars up and setting those meetings up. Again, I think from my perspective the biggest role of the chairperson is just that communication, facilitating the communication between the delegation members."

Delegation members appoint county election commission members and have several trustee appointments to the Erlanger Health System.

Sometimes, the delegation's role as the go-to local entity for getting something done in Nashville puts its members in the spotlight, and in controversy. Nearly five years ago, Gardenhire denounced in a Senate committee what he characterized as a secretive effort by some Hamilton County commissioners to sneak a bill allowing them to raise their pay through the General Assembly.

Contact Andy Sher at asher@timesfreepress.com or 615-255-0550. Follow on Twitter @AndySher1.

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