Tom Sottek, born the youngest of nine siblings, is no stranger to a busy and ever-changing home. Though he holds fond memories as a child bodyboarding at the beach and Friday nights at the local baseball card shop, with his father, searching for the Ken Griffey Jr. Upper Deck baseball card, such a comfortable, carefree and oblivious existence would soon be forever altered as his origin was left behind. Tom’s parents and 3 of his siblings packed up for a quieter, more intimate town called Brooklyn, Michigan, with Tom in tow. It was in Michigan where his mother and brother combined their entrepreneurialism and ambition, along with his father’s unabashed support and hard work, opened a family walk-up taco stand that resembled a chuck wagon, in the “Irish Hills", along US-12 called “Bandito’s” in the Summer 1992. This great risk came with great reward, as Bandito’s became a huge success, and the family opened a permanent sit down establishment in Ann Arbor, Michigan. Tom at the time was a young, impressionable preteen and teen, quickly learning what hard work and discipline came with long hours at a small family owned business. Two traits that he carried with him into adulthood. The family sold the restaurant in 1996 and once again set foot to pursue a similar opportunity in Lubbock, Texas. Tom is proud to report that you can still order a plate of enchiladas, with the distinctive Sottek family recipe, if you’re ever in Wolverine Country!
While in Texas, Tom experienced great heartache and homesickness. Thus, at the young age of 17, Tom proved great bravery and courage, leaving “Raiderland” and returning to quaint little Brooklyn, Michigan to finish high school, where his roots had already begun to plant. Serendipitously, he fell in love with one of the “preacher’s daughters” during his high school graduation. His friends tried to convince him that he had no chance, but Tom’s pursuit and perseverance paid off and the two plunged into a long distance relationship as they attended college. With unfailing determination to be committed to his wife-to-be, Tom quickly changed course and left Albion College to attend a school closer to Heidi, Eastern Michigan University. Ironically finding himself once again in Ann Arbor, Michigan as his wife was completing dental school. After deep discussion, the two decided to pursue a military career as their new beginning in life. Heidi graduated from the University of Michigan School of Dentistry in 2003 and was commissioned as a Captain in the Dental Corp for the United States Air Force, where as a family they served 9 years. With Tom’s infallible support, and ability to “hold down the fort” at home with 2 young daughters, she pursued further education and earned her Orthodontic Certificate from the Tri-Service Orthodontic Residency Program at Lackland Air Force Base, San Antonio, Texas. He wore the military spouse uniform well.
Tom realizes every day that he has “out-kicked his coverage” and he cherishes each moment spent with Heidi. The military brought forever friends, financial stability, and a great adventure. It also came with difficult moves, endless career changes never providing an opportunity to grow roots within a community that they could call home.
In 2012, four Air Force installments and three children later, Heidi honorably discharged from the USAF, having made rank of Major. The now family of five looked for their own “quaint little town” to raise their daughters and subsequently landed in Mt. Juliet, Tn. They were ready to establish themselves outside of the military community, call Tennessee “home” and create roots of their own. While Tom’s wife committed to a new location for Snodgrass-King Dental Associates, Tom found himself once again taking reigns on the home front. With a passion for his children and their education, he began volunteering at Rutland Elementary School. Tom’s leadership and creativity for the school lead him to the position of PTO president. He successfully ran fundraising campaigns that changed the landscape and vision of parent/teacher involvement forever. This consequently brought upon leaders asking him to run for Zone 3 Wilson County School Board, in 2016. These individuals found his honesty, integrity and passion for their students and educators unwavering. Within the past few years, Tom’s family grew again with the addition of his 4th daughter. He and his wife desired to begin a homestead, which lead them outside Zone 3 and onto the old McFarland farm, overlooking beautiful Barton’s Creek. This meant a resignation from the school board. The Sotteks now call Carroll-Oakland Elementary and the Lebanon community their new home—and they couldn’t be more happy, as it has provided a much needed addition to their family’s perspective of life in the Great State of Tennessee.
The change to country roads and added acreage, led to Tom’s resignation as a Hospital Representative from AstraZeneca, October 2019, leaving behind a fast track and placing 100% of his time and talent into his family and community. His passion to serve his community and maintain or improve Wilson County as a whole is relentless. He successfully advocated for the Wilson County Sales and Use Tax Referendum, having created “Voters for Education”, the single measure committee, in support of increased teacher pay. Teacher raises was a promise he worked hard to keep, having felt he abandoned those who supported him for Wilson County School Board with his early resignation.
The success of the committee has once again led to many more questions. What will Tom do next? His response to the educators, parents, former constituents and community leaders, has consistently been, “continue to find ways to support you and our county, our home.” Tom feels the actions recently taken by Tennessee House Representatives during General Assembly have left much to be desired. Wilson County continues to struggle under the BEP funding formula to remain competitive, placing the burden on local elected officials and property owners. With the tragic events in 2020, Tom’s desire to help the community continues to escalate. He witnessed with pride the Wilson County community come together during the tragedy of the tornado, but also recognizes the uncertainty of the COVID-19 pandemic and it’s impact on local small businesses and the economy. He fears that Tennesseans will be left without jobs, creating many needs and possibilities to overcome. During this unprecedented time, Tom has seen churches rise up to take care of much that was asked of them. Unfortunately, some needs are bigger than even the most generous congregation. Tom stated, “Ultimately, the responsibility falls on the representative government to lead the county and state into a sustainable future. Our elected officials must pass legislation and approve a budget, providing adequate funds for our communities within Wilson County in order to improve our health, support strong public education, and institute meaningful jobs and services for the People of Wilson County.”
Tom’s story is long and he’s willing to tell it to anyone who wants to listen. He wasn’t raised with a silver spoon, he witnessed massive change in many lives as a young boy, he’s seen success and has experienced many failures but through it all remained loved, cared for and steadfast. The perseverance and strength that directly impacted his life and his decisions keep him resolved in his determination to continue to do good despite the many obstacles in the way. On April 1st, 2020, with the support of his wife, Heidi, and daughters, Sydney, Sophia, Tyler and Dylan, He decided to pursue the seat of District 57 in order to “continue to support you and our county within the Great State of Tennessee,” their forever home.