Blog Entries

Sheriff Jeff Long to be named Lee’s safety commissioner

Gov.-elect Bill Lee plans to name Williamson County Sheriff Jeff Long as commissioner of the state Department of Safety and Homeland Security, a source close to the transition tells The Tennessee Journal.

Long, the Tennessee Sheriff Association’s sheriff of the year of 2013, will succeed David Purkey, who was named safety commissioner in 2016. Purkey, , a former state trooper and mayor of Hamblen County, had previously served as assistant commissioner since 2011.

Long succeeded former Williamson County Sheriff Ricky Headley, who had resigned earlier in 2008 as part of a plea agreement with prosecutors in Davidson and Williamson counties over fraudulently obtaining prescription pain pills.

Long wrote in a 2017 letter to the editor of The Tennessean that he met Lt. Gov. Rand McNally (R-Oak Ridge) in the opening phases of Operation Rocky Top, in which the lawmaker wore a wire for investigators. “He placed his whole political career in jeopardy by having the strength to stand up for what was right,” Long wrote. “Operation Rocky Top would not have been possible if not for a man of high character and morality as Lt. Governor McNally.”

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Internal poll finds Alexander with 65% approval rating among Republicans

As U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander mulls whether to run for another term, his pollster has found that the incumbent is “in a strong position” to win the Republican nomination if he runs again. According to the internal poll memo obtained by The Tennessee Journal, Alexander has a favorability rating of 65% among Republican primary voters, compared with just 22% who view him unfavorably.

Alexander’s job performance was rated at 64%-27% among “very conservative” Republicans in the poll, while it was 73%-18% among somewhat and moderate Republicans.

Alexander has said he will decide before the end of the year whether to run again.

The survey of 600 likely Republican voters was conducted Nov. 26 through Nov. 29. It has a margin of error of plus or minus 4 percentage points.

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Spring Hill and Thompson’s Station show biggest population growth in state

The communities of Spring Hill and Thompson’s Station are experiencing the fastest population growth in the state, according to new Census tract data analyzed by the University of Tennessee. Nearly 6,200 people moved to the area between 2013 and 2017, a 19% increase.

Click on the map for a look at the top 20 population increases.

The statistics for the state’s nearly 1,500 census tracts show that 268, or 18%, showed significant population growth, while 90 tracts, or 6%, showed decreases.

 

Of the 20 fastest-growing tracts, 12 were in the Nashville metropolitan area. And the state capital region accounted for 46% of the tracts with population increases. The Memphis area accounted for 28 of the 90 tracts with decreases. Another 29 tracts posting population declines were located in rural areas.

 

 

Richardson named partner at McMahan Winstead lobbying firm

Anna Richardson will become a parter in the lobbying firm founded by David McMahan and Beth Winstead. Richardson joined the prominent contract lobbying outfit in 2011 after serving as a legislative staffer, including for newly-elected Senate Majority Leader Jack Johnson (R-Franklin). The firm will be renamed McMahan Winstead & Richardson on Jan. 1.

Here’s the full release:

NASHVILLE – McMahan Winstead today announced Anna M. Richardson will join David McMahan and Beth Winstead as a partner with the firm effective January 1. The firm will officially change its name to McMahan Winstead & Richardson on that date.

“Eight years ago, Anna brought her extensive legislative experience and legal expertise to our firm giving our clients unmatched representation in the Tennessee General Assembly. Her contributions have brought our firm to new heights,” said David McMahan. “Joining Beth and me as a partner is the next logical step for Anna and well-deserved. Our firm is built on honesty, loyalty and hard work. Anna displays all three on a daily basis. We could not be more excited about this new partnership.

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Lee staffs up his legislative team

Gov.-elect Bill Lee speaks to a Chamber of Commerce event in Memphis on Dec. 6, 2018. (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)

A release from Gov.-elect Bill Lee’s office:

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Today, Tennessee Governor-elect Bill Lee announced four additions to his staff in the Office of the Governor, all of whom will have responsibilities connected to Legislative Affairs.

“Working with the legislature is one of the most important jobs a governor has,” said Lee. “These four talented and qualified individuals will do a tremendous job representing my administration and the State of Tennessee at the Tennessee General Assembly. I am grateful they are joining our team.” 

The Governor-elect named the following to his staff today:

  • Chris Devaney– Special Assistant to the Governor
  • Brent Easley– Legislative Director
  • Liz Alvey– Legislative Counsel
  • Brittany Collins – Senior Legislative Liaison

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Woodson stepping aside as head of education group founded by Frist

Former state Sen. Jamie Woodson (R-Knoxville), who Gov. Bill Haslam recently appointed to the board of the University of Tennessee, is stepping down as head of the head of SCORE, the education group founded former U.S. Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Nashville). Woodson will remain with the group as a senior adviser, and David Mansouri will be promoted to president and CEO.

Here’s the full email from Bill Frist:

I am writing today to share exciting news about SCORE and steps our Board of Directors have taken to continue the momentum of our organization and the historic educational gains Tennessee students are making.

Without a doubt, the progress Tennessee has made in student achievement has been unprecedented. The state has become a national leader in education improvement. I am so proud that under the strong leadership of Jamie Woodson, SCORE has played such a major role as an advocate for student-focused, research-backed policies that have helped Tennessee educators produce these historic gains for our students.

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Haslam names advisory boards for UT campuses

Gov. Bill Haslam announces on Nov. 13, 2018, that Amazon will locate its East Coast logistics hub in Nashville. (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal )

A release from Gov. Bill Haslam’s office:

NASHVILLE – Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam today appointed 20 members to the new advisory boards for each of the four campuses within the University of Tennessee system: The University of Tennessee, Knoxville; The University of Tennessee at Chattanooga; The University of Tennessee at Martin; and The University of Tennessee Health Science Center. The advisory boards were created under the UT FOCUS Act passed by the General Assembly last session.

“These board members will positively impact the multiple and diverse campuses that comprise the UT system,” Haslam said. “We wanted members who could focus their attention on the individual campuses and respond nimbly to the specific needs of each institution.”

The UT advisory board members are appointed by the governor and confirmed by the General Assembly. Each board is comprised of five public members, one faculty member and one student member.

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Yarbro, Akbari elected to lead Senate Democrats

Senate Majority Leader Mark Norris (R-Collierville), right, and Senate Democratic Caucus Chairman Jeff Yarbro (D-Nashville) attend a hearing on open records exemptions in Nashville on Jan. 30, 2018. (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)

A release from the five-member Senate Democratic Caucus:

NASHVILLE – State Sens. Jeff Yarbro and Raumesh Akbari were elected to head the Senate Democratic Caucus in leadership elections Tuesday.

“This caucus will fight for every Tennessean to have a shot, a shot at a good education and a good job, not one where you just make a living, but can build a life,” Sen. Yarbro said.” Our caucus will bring new energy, new ideas, and be united to meet the challenges of the coming session.”

Sen. Yarbro of Nashville will serve as Senate Minority Leader, and Sen. Akbari of Memphis will serve as Democratic Chairman for the caucus.

“Democrats are picking up momentum around the state, and I am honored to serve in this role with such a phenomenal group of Senators,” Sen. Akbari said. “The energy is undeniable, and I know we can kick it up a notch for 2020.”

Both elections were unanimous. In addition, Sen. Brenda Gilmore was elected Democratic Floor Leader; Sen. Sara Kyle was elected Caucus Vice-Chair; and Sen. Katrina Robinson was elected Democratic Whip.

Lee chooses Charlie Hatcher as his agriculture commissioner

A release from Republican Gov.-elect Bill Lee’s transition office:

FRANKLIN, Tenn.At the Tennessee Farm Bureau Annual Convention, Tennessee Governor-elect Bill Lee announced that Dr. Charlie Hatcher will join his cabinet to serve as Commissioner of the Tennessee Department of Agriculture.

“Charlie brings tremendous perspective about our state’s rural resources and agricultural way of life,” said Lee. “What happens in rural Tennessee matters to all Tennesseans and Charlie has the experience to carry out the administration’s key priorities in agriculture and rural economic development.”

Since 2009, Dr. Hatcher has served as the State Veterinarian for the Tennessee Department of Agriculture where he protects the health and welfare of animals within the state, as well as promoting the marketability of animals and animal products.

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Johnson elected Senate majority leader, Yager wins caucus chairmanship

Senate Republicans have elected Jack Johnson of Franklin as majority leader and Ken Yager of Kingston as Republican caucus chairman. Sen. Randy McNally was unopposed for another term as speaker.

Johnson defeated Sen. Mike Bell of Riceville, while Yager won on the first ballot against Sens. Becky Duncan Massey of Knoxville and Brian Kelsey of Germantown.

The majority leader position was vacated by former Sen. Mark Norris of Collierville, who has become a federal judge in Memphis. The caucus chairmanship was open because former Sen. Bill Ketron was elected Rutherford County mayor.

The next scramble will be over who replaces Johnson as chairman of the Commerce Committee and Yager as chairman of the State and Local Government Committee.

Here’s a statement from Speaker McNally:

Jack Johnson will be an outstanding Senate Majority Leader. He has the experience, temperament and policy expertise to lead our caucus and the Senate to new heights. Jack has been intimately involved in the progress we have made as a state. Beginning with his transformation of the Government Operations Committee to his strong leadership on the Commerce Committee, Jack has put conservative ideas into action on behalf of the people of Tennessee. As we embark on a new era in Tennessee state government, Jack’s leadership will be critical. Congratulations, Leader Johnson.

Ken Yager has the depth of skill and breadth of experience to excel as chairman of our Senate Republican Caucus. As a county executive and chairman of the Senate State and Local Committee, he has demonstrated an ability to lead under pressure. Our caucus has achieved much success both in policy and in politics. I expect that success to continue under Ken Yager’s leadership. Congratulations, Chairman Yager.

The Senate is fortunate to have a membership full of capable and talented leaders. I am confident the team we have elected today will work together with Governor Lee and the state House to keep Tennessee the best state in the nation in which to live, work and raise a family.