Crossville physician assistant Johnny “J.J.” Presley told 105.7 News in an exclusive interview today he will run for the U.S. Senate seat that will be vacated in 2020 by current Senator Lamar Alexander. Alexander announced last year he would not seek a fourth term in the senate. Presley will run as a Republican.
Presley will make a formal announcement this Thursday (December 5, 2019) at 1 p.m. central/2 p.m. eastern time at Cumberland River Hospital in Celina, Tennessee.
“One of the main reasons I am running is there are too many small towns in the state that have no representation in the Senate,” said Presley. “It is almost impossible for a small town person to be elected. I want to change that with the upcoming election.”
One of Presley’s main focuses, if elected, will be health care.
“There are many small town hospitals that are closing. It creates more problems when it is already hard to recruit a doctor for a small town without a hospital. We can re-open some of the closed hospitals and in doing so, bring more businesses and jobs to those towns,” said Presley.
“If I am elected, the first thing I will do on day one will be to get federal agencies to consider the reopening of closed hospitals on an emergency basis instead of when they get to it,” added Presley. “Presently, a serious issue of a closed hospital that could offer lifesaving treatment has the same priority as non-life threatening equipment being requested and that is not right.”
Presley recently bought Cumberland River Hospital in Celina, Tennessee and has plans to re-opened the facility.
The issue that Presley wishes to address as a senator is a huge one. The loss of more than a dozen rural hospitals in Tennessee in less than a decade ranks somewhere toward the bottom of the list of closures by states. Only Texas outranks the Volunteer State in rural hospital closures.
The number one reason for so many closures is the state’s failure to expand Medicaid. According to the Tennessee Justice Center, every day Tennessee loses $3.8 million dollars in federal health care funding. The lack of Medicaid expansion has left more than 300,000 residents without insurance. Nationwide, nearly 700 rural hospital are at risk of closing. The problem for rural hospitals is this: A Rand study of 1,600 hospitals showed they are not getting paid for what they are doing. Hospitals send out bills for three times as much money as they receive.
Across the state, small town hospitals are closing their doors. Johnny Presley has a plan to change the trend and provide time critical lifesaving services again to those that do not have a hospital in close range to go to.
“This is one of several issues I want to improve as your new senator,” said Presley.
The deadline to pick up papers to run for the senate seat is February 3, 2020. The papers must be returned and certified by noon on April 2, 2020. The primaries will be held August 6, 2020.
The 52-year-old Presley is a native of Crossville, Tennessee. He graduated from Cumberland County High School in 1985. Presley went on to graduate from Roane State Community College and Tennessee Tech. He obtained his bachelor’s degree in Science from Trevecca Nazarene University and completed his physician assistant post graduate program.
Presley has served as an emergency medical technician since 1985. He was also a member of the Cumberland County Board of Education from 1998 to 2002.
Presley was named the 2017 Top Physician/Physician Assistant of Crossville, the Physician Assistant of the Year by the Tennessee Academy of Physicians Assistants in 2004. He also served on the Tennessee Committee of Physician Assistants for 8 years serving four of them as chairman of the committee. Presley was also named a lifetime HERO Physician Assistant in the United States. Only three individuals have been bestowed that honor.
Presley worked at several rural hospitals in his career including in Jellico, Jamestown, Celina and Crossville. He had a full time internal medical practice with Dr. John Sherrill at Crossville Medical Group.
Presley currently owns several companies including Cumberland River Hospital in Celina, Tollett Stone Inc., JWP Commercial Properties and the J.J. Presley Company. He is also one of the owners of Acute Care Clinics of Crossville/Clarkrange/Jamestown and Rocky Ridge Stone Company.
Presley is married to his wife, Kimberly Presley. She is a native of Fentress County and a graduate Clarkrange High School. They have two children, Amanda Kerley and Jonathan Presley. They have one 5-year-old grandson.