Top Haslam advisor/strategist Leslie Hafner resigns to work for Harwell

News release from the governor’s office

NASHVILLE – Gov. Bill Haslam today announced that Leslie Hafner is leaving the administration to serve as senior policy advisor to House Speaker Beth Harwell.

Joining the governor’s Cabinet in 2011, Hafner served as Director of Legislation before becoming the governor’s senior advisor in July 2015, serving as a top advisor and strategist for the administration and assisting the governor in day-to-day activities.

“Leslie has been an invaluable member to our team, and every achievement we’ve had since 2011 has Leslie’s influence behind it – from the TEAM Act to Tennessee Promise,” Haslam said.  “Her judgment, experience and knowledge extend far beyond the legislative process, touching on just about every facet of the governor’s office. I will miss her counsel and look forward to working with her in her new capacity. She will be a great asset to Speaker Harwell.”

Hafner is a 22-year veteran of Legislative Plaza and Tennessee politics.  Prior to joining the Haslam administration, she was a principal at HafnerAlexander Government Relations, a business she co-founded after serving as director of government relations at Bass, Berry & Sims.

“I’ve known Speaker Harwell for 20 years, and there aren’t many other people who could get me to leave Governor Haslam’s office,” Hafner said. “I will miss working day in and day out with the governor, but I am excited to continue to serve Tennesseans in this new role.”

Hafner, 46, has been recognized by Business Tennessee as one of the state’s “Next Wave of Influential Lobbyists,” and Nashville Post Magazine as “In Charge.” She has also served on the Tennessee Lobbyist Association’s Election Information panel.

Hafner served in the administration of former Tennessee Gov. Don Sundquist, serving on the governor’s communications team and in his legislative office before moving over to the Department of Finance and Administration. In her final year with Sundquist, she worked with education and policy experts to develop the Reading Improvement Act, a $98 million initiative to boost K-12 test scores.

From Waverly, she and her husband, Matt, live in Nashville with their three dogs, Mr. Biscuits, Louie and Hank. Hafner will assume her new role on Wednesday, February 2.

2 Responses to Top Haslam advisor/strategist Leslie Hafner resigns to work for Harwell

  • Dwayne Oxford says:

    Lobbyist? Who pays her?

    • Tom Humphrey
      Tom Humphrey says:

      Well, when lobbying for the governor (as director of legislation), she is paid by the state, as will be the case in working for Harwell. In her prior ‘government relations’ work, she was paid by clients under contract. Private lobbyists must register with TN Ethics Commission. Those with government agencies do not have to register.

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