Haslam cabinet

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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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.”

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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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Lobbying for state funding of local public transit on the upswing

Mark Cate, former chief of staff for Gov. Bill Haslam and founder of the consulting firm Stones River Group, has registered as lobbyist for the Greater Nashville Regional Council, which represents 13 Middle Tennessee counties and is a partner organization of the Middle Tennessee Mayors Caucus, reports The Tennessean.

Two others on the Stones River staff are also registered to lobby for the group – Stephen Susano, who joined Cate early in launching Stones River, and Daniel Culbrath, who signed on more recently after serving as top aid to former House Majority Leader Gerald McCormick.

Michael Skipper, president of GNRC, confirmed his group hired Stones River Group on behalf of the mayors caucus to “communicate with the administration and legislature on our needs as they take up the transportation funding issue this session.”

“We are optimistic about the possibilities this year given the growing and widespread interest in finding a solution to traffic and roadway safety problems across our region and the state,” Skipper said.

The mayor’s caucus, which made funding for public transit a top priority when it launched eight years ago, held an executive committee meeting on Tuesday, the same day the Tennessee General Assembly convened for the first day of the 110th session.

Mayors are hoping Haslam and the Republican-controlled legislature will pass local-option legislation that would simply let municipalities and counties dedicate certain types of local tax revenue for transit.

–Along the same lines from The Nashville Business Journal:

The pressure on Gov. Bill Haslam to include transit funding in his yet-to-be-announced transportation legislation continues to mount as another transit coalition launches.

The Tennessee Transit Coalition formally launched today when Jason Spain, executive director of the Tennessee Public Transportation Association, delivered more than 1,000 petitions to the governor’s office from residents asking for transit funding to be included in his overall transportation bill.

Along with the petitions, Spain delivered a letter requesting the governor’s help in funding transit projects that was signed by the Tennessee Public Transportation Association, AARP Tennessee, Tennessee Association of Human Resource Agencies, Tennessee Disability Coalition, Tennessee Public Health Association, Transit Alliance of Middle Tennessee and Walk Bike Tennessee.

In the letter, all seven organizations said they plan to be “active participants in legislative activities this session.”


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