Monthly Archives: November 2018

Haslam names final voting member of UT board

A release from Gov. Bill Haslam’s office:

NASHVILLE – Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam today made his final appointment to the University of Tennessee Board of Trustees. Alan D. Wilson is the 12th member to join the reconstituted board following passage of the University of Tennessee Focusing On Campus and University Success (FOCUS) Act earlier this year. The legislation restructured the UT Board of Trustees to enhance governance of the UT system.

Wilson retired in 2016 as chief executive officer, president and chairman of the board of directors of McCormick & Company, Inc., where he served in leadership roles for 23 years. He subsequently served as executive chairman of McCormick & Company until 2017. Before joining McCormick & Company, Wilson worked for nine years at Procter & Gamble. Wilson graduated from the University of Tennessee, Knoxville with a bachelor’s degree in communications and is a veteran of the U.S. Army.

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Former state Senate GOP leader Ben Atchley dies

Former state Senate Republican leader Ben Atchley of Knoxville has died, the Knoxville News Sentinel reports. He was 88.

A statement from Senate Speaker Randy McNally (R-Oak Ridge):

Ben Atchley was the very definition of a statesman. He always did what was right and never sought credit for his accomplishments — which were many. He never shied away from hard decisions and his integrity was unquestioned. As Senate Republican Leader for 16 years, his work ensured Republicans had a seat at the table in the minority and laid the groundwork for our eventual majority. Both he and Sue provided the Senate and the Republican Party with so much and yet asked little in return. You can trace the lineage of all our success as a party and as a state back to the leadership he provided. He was a great man and a great senator. My heart goes out to Sue and the entire Atchley family in this time of mourning. Tennessee’s gentle giant has passed. I will miss him.

Ernst & Young announces 600 new jobs in Nashville

Gov. Bill Haslam announces on Nov. 13, 2018, that Ernst & Young will add 600 jobs in Nashville. (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)

A press release from Gov. Bill Haslam’s office:

NASHVILLE – Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam, Department of Economic and Community Development Commissioner Bob Rolfe and Ernst & Young LLP (EY) officials announced today that the global professional services firm will invest more than $20 million to establish a facility to deliver tax managed services for clients and tax technology operations in Nashville. EY expects to create more than 600 jobs over the next five years.

“EY’s decision to create hundreds of technology and service delivery jobs in Nashville affirms our ongoing efforts to bring high quality jobs to Tennessee,” Haslam said. “Tennessee’s pro-growth policies continue to attract leading international businesses to our state. I’d like to thank EY for making this major investment in Middle Tennessee and bringing us one step closer to making Tennessee the top state in the Southeast for high quality jobs.”

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UPDATE: Amazon to invest $230M, add 5,000 jobs in Nashville

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

Here’s a press release from Amazon outlining its $230 million and adding 5,000 jobs in Nashville.

Amazon’s new Operations Center of Excellence in Nashville

  • Downtown Nashville, along the Cumberland River, is the heart of the city just north of the Gulch and is home to urban living, retail, restaurants, entertainment venues, hospitality, open green spaces, and offices. The area is served by commuter rail, more than a dozen bus routes, and is a 15-minute drive to Nashville International Airport.
  • As part of Amazon’s investment, Tennessee, Davidson County and the city of Nashville will benefit from 5,000 full-time, high-paying jobs; over $230 million in investment; 1 million square feet of energy-efficient office space; and an estimated incremental tax revenue of more than $1 billion over the next 10 years as a result of Amazon’s investment and job creation.
  • Amazon will receive performance-based direct incentives of up to $102 million based on the company creating 5,000 jobs with an average wage of over $150,000 in Nashville. This includes a cash grant for capital expenditures from the state of Tennessee of $65 million based on the company creating 5,000 jobs over the next 7 years, which is equivalent to $13,000 per job; a cash grant from the city of Nashvilleof up to $15 million based on $500 for each job created over the next 7 years; and a job tax credit to offset franchise and excise taxes from the state of Tennessee of $21.7 million based on $4,500 per new job over the next 7 years.

“We want to thank Amazon for its continued investment in the state of Tennessee and are excited about the additional 5,000 corporate jobs they will be creating in Nashville,” said Governor Bill Haslam of Tennessee. “It has never been clearer that Tennessee is a great place to do business, and we continue to attract a wide variety of global companies that provide high-paying, quality jobs for our residents.”

“Amazon’s decision to expand its presence in Nashville is a direct result of the talented workforce and strong community we’ve built here,” said Mayor David Briley of Nashville. “These are quality, high-paying jobs that will boost our economy, provide our workers with new opportunities, and show the rest of the world that Nashville is a premiere location for business investment. We thank Amazon for investing in Nashville, and we look forward to welcoming them to this community.”

8:49 a.m.: Reuters reports that while Nashville might not have made the final cut for Amazon’s second headquarters (that one appears to be a split decision between New York and northern Virginia),  the Tennessee capital is in line for a separate East Coast hub of operations. That decision will be good for 5,000 new corporate jobs in the city, according to the news services’ sources.

A press conference for an unspecified “significant economic development announcement” was scheduled for 9:30 a.m. Central at the state Capitol.

Former House Finance Chairman Charles Sargent dies

Rep. Charles Sargent (R-Franklin), left, confers with Rep. Bob Ramsey (R-Maryville) on the House floor in Nashville on April 23, 2018. (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)

Charles Sargent, the former chairman of the House Finance Committee has died, The Tennessean reports. He was 73.

Sargent was first elected to the General Assembly in 1996. He decided not to run again this year.

The New York native moved to Nashville in 1970 and later settled in Williamson County. He was named finance chairman by then-Speaker Kent Williams (I-Elizabethton) in 2009 and was retained in that role by House Speaker Beth Harwell (R-Nashville) when she took over two years later.

At the time of his retirement, Sargent was one of the few remaining House members who had voted against the state income tax championed by then-Gov. Don Sundquist, a fellow Republican. The others were Harwell, Glen Casada (R-Franklin), Bill Dunn (R-Knoxville), and John Mark Windle (D-Livingston).

Sargent, an insurance agent, was a strong advocate for the business community during his time in office, incurring the wrath of the the likes of the Tennessee Firearms Association in the process (but retaining strong ratings from the National Rifle Association).

Sargent narrowly turned back a strong challenge from Sonic drive-in franchisee Steve Gawrys in 2014, winning the Republican primary by just 255 votes. But Sargent came back strong  in a 2016 rematch, trouncing Gawrys by a 2-to-1 margin.

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Capitol Commission: Not so fast on Polk move

Gov. Bill Haslam attends a ceremony at the James K. Polk tomb in Nashville on Nov. 2, 2012. (Image credit: Gov. Bill Haslam’s office)

(A report from on our James K. Polk correspondent J.R. Lind)

The Capitol Commission, the obscure hodgepodge body charged with maintenance of the state Capitol grounds, will wait just a bit longer to decide whether to give its imprimatur to the effort to relocate the tomb of President James K. Polk and his wife, Sarah.

The commission heard arguments from both sides Friday, but opted to delay a vote to some unspecified future date on the advice of chairman Larry Martin, the commissioner of Finance and Administration.

Spearheaded by Maury County legislators led by Republican Sen. Joey Hensley of Hohenwald, the movement to exhume the Polks from their tomb on the Capitol grounds and move them to the Polk Ancestral Home in Columbia has wound through the legislature for nearly two years.

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Gov.-elect Bill Lee announces transition team

Gov.-elect Bill Lee speaks at a press conference at the state Capitol in Nashville on Nov. 7, 2018. (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)

A release from Gov.-elect Bill Lee:

FRANKLIN, Tenn.Today, Tennessee Governor-elect Bill Lee announced several key leadership positions for his Transition Team and Inaugural Committee. The announcement comes a day after the launch of a new transition website – – which seeks to engage Tennesseans to help share ideas to help take our state from good to great.


“Now that the campaign is over, it is time to get to work,” said Lee. “I’ve said throughout the campaign that I’m looking for talented individuals who can help Tennessee thrive, and I’m honored that these individuals are dedicating themselves to helping move Tennessee to a place where we can lead the nation.”


Key personnel for Bill’s transition are working to advise Governor-elect Lee on decisions for his cabinet and senior leadership team for his incoming administration. The transition will work with Tennesseans across the state, ensuring that a wide range of opinions and regions are represented and included.


“I want to ensure that Tennesseans know that this is their government, and so, I want to hear their ideas on how we all can help Tennessee lead the nation,” Lee continued.


The Transition’s Senior Leadership Team includes:

Butch Eley – Chairman

Blake Harris – Executive Director

Chris Devaney – Deputy Director and Legislative Liaison

Laine Arnold – Press Secretary

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O’Hara: Bredesen carried 10 biggest counties by cumulative 10 points. It didn’t matter.

U.S. Rep. Marsha Blackburn, the Republican Senate nominee in Tennessee, speaks at a Farm Bureau event in Franklin on Aug. 9, 2018. (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)

A guest column by former reporter Jim O’Hara:

Crow is always best eaten warm.

So, why didn’t Phil Bredesen’s performance in Tennessee’s top 10 counties with the most registered voters translate into a closer contest for the U.S. Senate?

The short and simple answer is that Marsha Blackburn swamped the Democrat by a 69-31 margin in the other 85 counties.  If Bredesen had managed even a 60-40 split, he would still have lost the election.

But the Associated Press wouldn’t have called it as early as 9:06 p.m. Central.

The top 10 counties – in terms of registered voters – are Blount, Davidson, Hamilton, Knox, Montgomery, Rutherford, Shelby, Sumner, Williamson and Wilson.

On Tuesday, they voted at the levels typical in recent elections and provided slightly more than 1.2 million votes, or 56% of the 2.2 million votes cast in the Senate race. Bredesen won the cumulative vote in those 10 counties by a margin of 677,226 to 559,898, or 55% to 45%.

He got 71% of the Davidson County vote and 66% in Shelby; he essentially ran even with Blackburn in Knox and Hamilton counties with 48% and 49% of the vote respectively.

Blackburn’s biggest margins in those top 10 counties came in Blount (64%), Sumner (63%), Williamson (59%), and Wilson (62%).

But of the 970,866 votes cast for the Senate race in the other 85 counties, she won going away with her 69% to 31% margin.

Was there an enthusiasm gap?  In Davidson County, about 59% of the registered voters came to the polls; in Shelby it was 51%.

In Blount County, about 57% of the voters went to the polls, and in Williamson it was close to 70%.

On Wednesday, Lt. Gov. Randy McNally posted on Facebook a Tennessee map, proclaiming the state a “Red Wall,” with only Davidson and Shelby blue.  And a Democratic Facebook friend of mine bemoaned the lack of a Beto O’Rourke in Tennessee

Maybe, there is no longer a center to contest in Tennessee, but the voting tea leaves seem more complicated then either would admit.  Can Republicans keep running up 70-30 margins?  How long before even those margins aren’t sufficient as the top 10 counties grow?


O’Hara covered politics for the The Tennessean in the 1980s.

Mostly status quo in Tennessee General Assembly

House Republicans lost seats in Knoxville and Nashville, but picked up a rural West Tennessee seat formerly held by a Democrat to leave them with a 73-26 advantage in the chamber. No seat changed hands in the Senate, where the GOP holds 28 of 33 seats. So it will be mostly be status quo ante when the General Assembly comes into session in January, other than a slew of new faces replacing retiring lawmakers.

(Note: this post updates the percentages of various races that didn’t have all precincts reporting late Tuesday night. None of the outcomes changed.)

Rep. Eddie Smith (R-Knoxville) lost 55%-43% to Democrat Gloria Johnson, whom he defeated by about 300 votes two years ago in House District 13.

In the race to succeed House Speaker Beth Harwell (R-Nashville) in House District 56, Democrat Bob Freeman beat Republican Brent Moody by 2 percentage points.

In the race to succeed House Minority Leader Craig Fitzhugh (D-Ripley) in House District 82, Republican Chris Hurt beat Democrat Andrea Bond-Johnson 57%-44%.

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AP calls Senate race for Blackburn

Republican Marsha Blackburn has won the Tennessee Senate race against Democrat Phil Bredesen, according to The Associated Press.



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