Haslam cabinet

Stephen Smith named Haslam chief of staff; Jim Henry remains deputy to governor

News release from the governor’s office

NASHVILLE – Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam today announced Stephen Smith will serve as his chief of staff to oversee day-to-day operations of the governor’s office and serve as top advisor and strategist. Smith joined the governor’s office in August 2016 and most recently served as senior advisor to the governor. He has served in the Haslam administration since 2011, previously as deputy commissioner for policy and external affairs for the Tennessee Department of Education.

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Wells steps down as Haslam administration lobbyist

News release from the governor’s office

NASHVILLE – Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam announced today that Director of Legislation Warren Wells will leave the administration on December 1 to join the government affairs team at Unum in Chattanooga.

Wells, 34, has served in the Governor’s Office since 2011. He became Gov. Haslam’s chief strategist for legislation in 2015 and was instrumental to the passage of the IMPROVE Act, the Reconnect Act and the STRONG Act, landmark initiatives for Haslam.

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Former TN education commissioner calls for resignation of DeVos as U.S. education chief

Former Tennessee Education Commissioner Kevin Huffman says Betsy DeVos should resign as the nation’s education chief because of her boss’s ambivalent response to racist violence in Charlottesville undercut her ability to work on behalf of public school students, reports Chalkbeat Tennessee.

Huffman, who was appointed commissioner by Gov. Bill Haslam in 2011 and served through 2014, initially called for DeVos to resign in a series of tweets Thursday, then elaborated.

“There have been a lot of generic calls on people in the administration to resign, but it’s too easy for everyone to duck responsibility,” said Huffman, now an education consultant and writer living in Nashville. “I think it’s appropriate for people to call out specific people in our own field.”

He said the education secretary’s main responsibility is to uphold civil rights in schools — and Trump’s comments mean “she has lost the moral authority to do her job.”

“I can’t imagine Secretary DeVos walking into a room of educators and explaining that your civil rights agenda is to advance all kids, particularly children of color. How would you have the moral authority to have that conversation, given the things your boss has said, particularly when you’re unwilling to call out your boss?” he said.

DeVos posted several tweets over the weekend criticizing the “behavior and the violence and hate-filled rhetoric displayed” in Charlottesville.

Haslam names Reen Baskin as communications director

News release from the governor’s office

NASHVILLE – Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam today announced Reen Baskin will become the new communications director for his administration, a Cabinet-level position on his senior staff.

“As a trusted and valuable member of this administration since my first year in office, Reen is incredibly talented and hard-working, and I’m excited to have her take on this new role in the administration,” Haslam said. “Her knowledge and experience with the many facets of state government will serve our communications efforts – both internal and external – well.”

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David Smith exits as Haslam director of communications

News release from the governor’s office

NASHVILLE – Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam today announced that David Smith, his director of communications and one of the longest serving members of his staff, will leave the administration in August to start his own business as a communications consultant.

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Haslam appoints Bob Rolfe as ECD commissioner

News release from the governor’s office

NASHVILLE – Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam today announced Nashville business executive Bob Rolfe as commissioner of the Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development (ECD). An innovative business leader, Rolfe, 56, has more than three decades of experience in business and investment banking in Tennessee.

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Haslam staff changes: Smith promoted; Simmons hired

News release from the governor’s office

NASHVILLE – Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam today announced Jayme Place Simmons will join his senior team as special assistant to the governor for strategy and policy director as Stephen Smith becomes senior advisor to Haslam, serving as a top advisor and strategist for the administration and assisting the governor with day-to-day activities.

Simmons, who currently serves as chief of staff for the Tennessee Department of Education, is returning to the governor’s office where she previously served during his first term as an education policy analyst. Simmons starts her new position on February 13.

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Haslam names Danielle Barnes as new DHS commissioner

News release from the governor’s office

NASHVILLE – Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam today announced Danielle Whitworth Barnes as commissioner of the Tennessee Department of Human Services effective February 6.

Barnes, 41, is currently the deputy commissioner and general counsel for the Tennessee Department of Human Resources (DOHR). She will return to the Department of Human Services (DHS) to lead the agency where she started her state government career in 2004, replacing Commissioner Raquel Hatter, who last month announced plans to return to the private sector. (Note: Previous post HERE — press release then with a note on controversy surrounding Hatter.)

One of Barnes’ greatest accomplishments has been co-authoring and implementing the 2012 Tennessee Excellence, Accountability and Management (TEAM) Act, an overhaul of the state’s antiquated civil service employment practices.

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Randy Boyd exits Haslam cabinet; will seek ‘ways to best serve our state’

News release from the governor’s office

NASHVILLE – Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam today announced Department of Economic and Community Development (ECD) Commissioner Randy Boyd will return to the private sector February 1, serving as chairman of Radio Systems Corp., the business he started in 1991.

During Boyd’s two-year tenure as commissioner, the state has been recognized as first in the nation for advanced industry job growth, first in foreign direct investment, and second in the growth of household median incomes. ECD has also set several records and generated nearly 50,000 new job commitments and nearly $11 billion in capital investment in the state.

Boyd joined the administration in 2013 as a special advisor to the governor for higher education, helping create the state’s Drive to 55 initiative, the Tennessee Promise and Reconnect programs and other initiatives to increase the number of Tennesseans with a postsecondary degree or certificate to 55 percent by 2025.

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Black Caucus urges Haslam to diversify cabinet

The legislature’s Black Caucus is urging Gov. Bill Haslam to diversify his cabinet and offering to help him find qualified appointees. At one point, Haslam had three black cabinet members, but all have resigned – the last being Human Services Commissioner Raquel Hatter.

News release from Tennessee Black Caucus of State Legislators

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Representative Brenda Gilmore, Chair of the Tennessee Black Caucus of State Legislators, has sent a letter to Governor Bill Haslam calling on him to diversify his cabinet.

With the announcement of Commissioner Raquel Hatter’s forthcoming departure, it will leave the Haslam 20+ member cabinet with only one commissioner who is not white and none who are African American.

“The leadership of the cabinet should be diverse and reflect the broad range of all that Tennessee has to offer.  This is not only about diversity. It is also about making sure that the very best and most skilled individuals are in service in state government,” said Rep. Brenda Gilmore.

“The Tennessee Black Caucus believes that it is not possible that the Governor has the best talent available, if he has no African Americans in his cabinet,” said Gilmore.

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