While U.S. Sen. Bob Corker addressed an invitation-only crowd inside Hendersonville's Hampton Inn on Tuesday, a handful of residents outside said they'd like to bend the senator's ear as well,
It was standing-room only inside the banquet room as the Republican senator from Chattanooga met with and greeted many of the county's top business and political leaders at Forward Sumner economic council's annual meeting.
Those in attendance included state Sen. Ferrell Haile, state Reps. Courtney Rogers and Terri Lynn Weaver, Sumner County Executive Anthony Holt, Sheriff Sonny Weatherford, Hendersonville Mayor Jamie Clary, former Hendersonville Mayor Scott Foster, as well as several Sumner County commissioners, Hendersonville aldermen and key business leaders.
Corker addressed the crowd for about 40 minutes, outlining his three major objectives as chairman of the senate foreign relations committee, as well as a member of the committee on banking, housing and urban affairs.
"One of the things we have to get done is tax reform," he said, noting the challenge when every business leader he meets with says they want reform, but no one wants their particular industry adversely affected.
Paying down the country's enormous debt, he says, is another objective.
"The greatest threat to our nation is us," he said, "the lack of will at the national level. If we want something we need to pay for it."
Corker, who voted in July to repeal the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare, said that healthcare reform remains a key priority as well.
Many of the media and even a few attendees wanted to know how Corker's relationship with President Donald Trump has fared following a public rebuke of sorts by Corker regarding Trump's comments following an encounter between neo-Nazi's and counter protesters in Charlottesville, Va.
Corker stood by his comments, and said that he has drawn both criticism and praise from his constituents. He said he has a close enough relationship with Trump that he feels comfortable openly expressing himself when he disagrees with him.
"I doubt there is a senator that has the same kind of relationship that I have with the president," he said.
Outside the hotel, a small group gathered, noting the absence of town hall meetings on the senator's recess schedule.
Jennifer Yamin, whose adult son has several intellectual disabilities, said she wanted to talk to Corker about health care reform.
The two spoke briefly as Corker exited the hotel and Yamin shared her concerns about repealing Obamacare.
"Candidly I don't think anything will change that would affect the condition you are talking about," Corker told her.
Yamin said she appreciated Corker speaking with her and would like to see the senator hold town hall meetings that are accessible to everyone.
"How in touch can you be with your constituents if all you're doing is having fee-based or invitation-only appearances?" she added.
Corker, who was first elected in 2006, has yet to confirm whether he'll seek a third term in 2018.