Lee names Butch Eley as new finance commissioner

Gov. Bill Lee, bottom left, looks on as his Cabinet takes the oath of office in Nashville on Jan. 19, 2019. (Erik Schelzig Tennessee Journal)

Gov. Bill Lee is naming Butch Eley as his new finance commissioner. Eley has served as Lee’s chief operating officer and was a top adviser during the 2018 governor’s race. He replaces Stuart McWhorter, who stepped down to lead the state’s “unified command” in response to the coronavirus pandemic.

“The Department of Finance and Administration will play a crucial role in the reboot of our state’s economy and Butch brings significant expertise to the role as our state faces economic changes,” Lee. said in a release. “His knowledge of the private sector and service as our chief operating officer will ensure we keep Tennessee in a fiscally sound position by prudent management of state services.”

Here’s what The Tennessee Journal wrote about Eley when Gov.-elect Lee  named him head of his transition team in November 2018:

Eley was an aide to then-U.S. Rep. Bill Boner (D-Nashville) who drew attention by going into real estate business with his boss in the mid-1980s. He was a spokesman for Boner’s successful 1987 mayoral bid and later served as his chief of staff, budget director, and economic development chief. The Tennessean editorial page declared Eley to be Boner’s “most loyal soldier.”

Eley left Boner’s staff in 1990 to open his own lobbying firm (later joining and then leading the Ingram Group), and was a noted campaign donor to Boner’s successor, Phil Bredesen, in 1991. He was named head of communications for Belmont University in 1995 and founded Infrastructure Corporation of America in 1998.

He was among those considering (but ultimately deciding against) a bid for Nashville mayor in 2015. Eley told The Tennessean he had been approached by several potential supporters who were “looking for somebody who can pick up where Karl leaves off.” That would be Karl Dean, the former Nashville mayor and Democratic gubernatorial candidate Lee vanquished on Tuesday.

Other members of the transition team include campaign general consultant Blake Harris, who will serve as executive director. Campaign manager Chris Devaney, a former state Republican Party Chairman, will be deputy director and legislative liaison. And Laine Arnold will reprise the role of spokeswoman that she previously held for the Lee and Randy Boyd campaigns. 


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