Haslam cabinet

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.

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.

Continue reading

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.”

Continue reading

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.

Continue reading

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.

Continue reading

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.

Continue reading

Former Haslam cabinet member reported in line to become ambassador to Japan

President-elect Donald Trump is expected to name Tennessee businessman William Hagerty, according to media reports – initially from the Japanese news service Nikkei. Hagerty, previously the state’s commissioner of the Department of Economic and Community Development, has recently been working on Trump’s transition team.

The Tennessee native joined Trump’s transition team in the summer and now serves as director of presidential appointments. Hagerty previously spent three years in Tokyo while with Boston Consulting Group. He went on to co-found private equity firm Hagerty Peterson after starting his career in the field at Trident Capital.

Hagerty’s business success makes him a natural fit for the Trump team. He has close links to the Republican Party establishment, having served in the George H.W. Bush White House as a policy adviser and as a member of Mitt Romney’s campaign for president in 2012.

Note: He also journeyed to Japan as ECD commissioner on a trade mission with Gov. Bill Haslam. He’s been mentioned as a prospective candidate for governor in 2018. Serving as ambassador to Japan would presumably make such a run unlikely.

Embattled Raquel Hatter exits as TN Human Services Commissioner

News release from the governor’s office

NASHVILLE – Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam today announced Department of Human Services (DHS) Commissioner Raquel Hatter will return to the private sector in February to work at the national level on poverty, social mobility and social justice with children, families and communities across the country.

Under her team-oriented leadership, DHS adopted the Two Gen strategy focused on addressing poverty and creating cycles of success, and the department received national recognition from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food and Nutrition Service for administration of the SNAP program. She also established the Fatherhood Initiative Office to ensure an intentional focus on whole family services when partnering with families and collaborated with the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation to develop an adult protective services investigation academy.

“When Raquel informed me she was leaving, my immediate thought was how much I would miss her passion and dedication to serving families and children,” Haslam said. “She brought fresh perspective and subject matter expertise to her role, taking a generational approach to solving some of the unique challenges facing Tennessee’s most vulnerable, and the State of Tennessee was extremely fortunate to have her lead the Department of Human Services over the last six years.”

Continue reading


Posts and Opinions about Tennessee politics, government, and legislative news.