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.

“Jayme has been instrumental in many of our education initiatives, from the Governor’s Academy for School Leadership to the Drive to 55, and she has experience working with various stakeholders on many complex issues. We are excited she is returning to our team to help guide our policy proposals aimed at building and sustaining economic growth and the state’s competitiveness for the next generation of Tennesseans,” Haslam said.

Simmons, 32, has played a key role in crafting and implementing the Department of Education’s strategic plan focusing on early foundations, the bridge from high school to postsecondary and educator support. She also developed a process that allows the department to track the progress of the strategic plan, managed funds to the department from outside foundations and successfully launched the Read to be Ready statewide campaign to increase the percentage of third grade students reading on grade level.

“I have been so fortunate to work in the Tennessee Department of Education under Commissioner McQueen’s leadership and see firsthand the passion of my colleagues for ensuring all students are equipped with the knowledge and skills to pursue their chosen path in life,” Simmons said. “I am honored to return to Governor Haslam’s team and work on behalf of Tennesseans to make this state the best place to live, work, and raise a family.”

A former high school math teacher, Simmons earned a Master’s of Public Policy in Education from Vanderbilt University and a bachelor’s degree in public policy from The College of William and Mary. She has volunteered as a tnAchieves mentor for the past four years. She and her husband, Barry, live in Nashville and are members of Christ Presbyterian Church Intown.

Haslam also announced that Smith, 41, who currently serves as senior advisor for policy and strategy, will become senior advisor to the governor. Smith joined the governor’s staff last July and has helped shape his 2017 NextTennessee legislative agenda, taking on the lead role in developing the governor’s plan to increase broadband access to Tennessee’s unserved citizens. In his new role, Smith will lead the administration’s efforts on the IMPROVE Act, the governor’s comprehensive plan to cut taxes on food and manufacturing while updating how the state provides Tennesseans the safe and reliable transportation network needed to support future job growth.

Note: Smith replaces Leslie Hafner, who recently left as his senior advisor to work for House Speaker Beth Harwell. Previous post HERE.

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