Some political aspects of Haslam trustee appointments

Gov. Bill Haslam has named trustees for six universities currently overseen by the state Board of Regents, but getting their own independent boards under Haslam-advocated legislation (now Public Chapter 869, HERE) that was approved by the General Assembly earlier this year.

In general, they are what one would expect: wealthy ladies and gentlemen capable of helping raise money for their universities and with an interest in educational endeavors.

Politically speaking, undoubtedly the most prominent appointee is Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey, named to the East Tennessee State University board. (At one point, there was speculation that Ramsey, who is retiring from the legislature, could wind up as ETSU president – a proposition he adamantly rejected. But it can still be speculated that he’s got a pretty good chance of becoming chairman of the board.)

Some other notable political picks:

At ETSU: Janet Ayers, wife of West Tennessee businessman Jim Ayers, a major donor to education philanthropy efforts and Republican political causes, got a seat along with and Scott Niswonger, a Northeast Tennessee businessman who has also been active in the education arena while backing Republican politicians, including Haslam. The full ETSU list is HERE in Haslam’s press release.

At the University of Memphis there’s Brad Martin, who became a multimillionaire after service in younger days as a Republican state legislator and who did a stint as UM president on an interim basis. Haslam’s Memphis press release with all appointees is HERE.

At Middle Tennessee State University, the political standout is Andrew Adams, longtime CEO of National HealthCare Corp., who has been a major donor – individually and through the nursing home chain’s PAC – to political campaigns, almost always Republican. But there’s also Pete Delay, a businessman and personal friend of former Gov. Phil Bredesen.  The MTSU release with all names is HERE.

At Tennessee Technological University, there’s Millard Oakley, a banker who once served as a Democrat in the state House. The Tennessee Tech release with names is HERE.

At Tennessee State University, Haslam appointed Bill Freeman to the board. Freeman, who ran unsuccessfully for Nashville mayor last year and is a major donor to Democratic political causes, is rumored to be a potential candidate for his party’s nomination for governor in 2018 – along with former Nashville Mayor Karl Dean. The TSU press release with all appointees is HERE.

The Austin Peay State University appointees, none with standout political involvement from one old guy’s perspective, are HERE.

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