Lee cabinet

New TNJ edition alert: Ask not for whom Mike Bell tolls…

Sen. Mike Bell (R-Riceville) attends a redistricting hearing on Oct. 18, 2021. (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)

The latest print edition of The Tennessee Journal is out in the world. Here is what’s in it:

— Bell bypassing lame-duck status in effort to soothe TWRA turmoil.

— Campaign finance: New interim reports shed light on last-minute spending, Cothren fights subpoena.

— Restocking the Cabinet: Lee names Merrick legal counsel, Sellars communications director.

Also: Payday lending impresario loses Cleveland school board race to … a Democrat, the Highlander institute opposes a historical designation for its original Grundy County site, and Garth Brooks is footing the bill for a police station next to his new honky-tonk.

As always, access the your copy of the TNJ here.

Or subscribe here.

Lee Cabinet member named president of Northeast State Community College

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)

Jeff McCord, the commissioner of the Department of Labor and Workforce in Gov. Bill Lee’s administration, has been named president of Northeast State Community College.

Here’s the release from the state Board of Regents:

NASHVILLE (Aug. 8, 2022) – The Tennessee Board of Regents today unanimously approved the appointment of Dr. Jeff McCord as the next president of Northeast State Community College, effective Sept. 30.

Dr. McCord, currently commissioner of the Tennessee Department of Labor and Workforce Development, will be returning to the college he served as a vice president for seven years prior to his appointment as commissioner. As Northeast State’s vice president for economic and workforce development from 2012 to 2019, he led the successful operation and expansion of the college’s Regional Center for Advanced Manufacturing and provided administrative leadership for the Kingsport Academic Village, among other responsibilities.

“I’m excited to come alongside the hundreds of individuals who work at the College, who love the College, and who want the very best for the students and communities in which they live,” McCord said after the board’s vote. “Northeast Tennessee is a special place with enormous opportunity. And Northeast State is central to helping our region realize its potential.”

He will succeed Dr. Bethany Bullock, who stepped down as Northeast’s president in March, and Dr. Connie Marshall, the college’s vice president for academic affairs who is serving as interim president. Board members thanked Dr. Marshall for her work as interim president.

In other action during today’s special-called meeting, the Board of Regents approved criteria for the next presidents of the Tennessee Colleges of Applied Technology at Athens and Murfreesboro. TCAT Athens President Stewart Smith is retiring Dec. 31 and TCAT Murfreesboro President Carol Puryear is retiring Sept. 30, both after 30 years of service in the College System of Tennessee.

Approval of the criteria is the first step in the search process for the next presidents. Search advisory committees, composed of Board members and representatives of the colleges’ faculty, staff, students and alumni and the local civic and business communities, will be appointed soon.

McCord earned a Doctor of Education degree in Learning & Leadership at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga; a Master of Business Administration with a concentration in Information Systems at Kennesaw State University in Georgia, and a Bachelor of Science in Management from the Georgia Institute of Technology.

He was appointed commissioner of the Department of Labor and Workforce Development by Gov. Bill Lee in January 2019, after he served for seven years as Northeast State’s vice president for economic and workforce development. Prior to joining the Northeast State leadership team in January 2012, he worked in several leadership and management positions at Eastman Chemical Company in Kingsport from 1996 to 2012. His full resumé is posted on the TBR website at https://www.tbr.edu/hr/executivesearches/president-northeast-state-community-college.

McCord was one of four finalists for the Northeast presidency recommended in late June by a 17-member search advisory committee that reviewed 58 applicants and candidates. Chaired by Regent Miles Burdine of Kingsport, the search committee also included Board Members Emily J. Reynolds and Danni Varlan, representatives of the college’s students, faculty, staff and alumni, and civic and business leaders from the Northeast Tennessee area. The finalists participated in campus visits and open forums with campus groups and the public July 11-14.

After the forums, Dr. Tydings reviewed input from the campus community and the public and conducted further interviews with each of the finalists before recommending McCord to the board.

The Tennessee Board of Regents governs the state’s public community colleges and colleges of applied technology. Today’s meeting was live-streamed and is archived on the TBR website at https://www.tbr.edu/board/august-8-2022-special-called-board-meeting.

Report: Former commissioner kept consulting gig, had free housing at state prison

Commerce and Insurance Commissioner Hodgen Mainda speaks in Nashville on Nov. 8, 2019. (Image Credit: Tennessee Department of Veterans Services)

Former state Commerce and Insurance Commissioner Hodgen Mainda kept a lucrative consulting contract with his former employer and lived in free state-owned housing on the grounds of the old Tennessee State Prison in Nashville, according to the Chattanooga Times Free Press.

Mainda left his senior position at Chattanooga’s Electric Power Board last year, but signed a consulting agreement with EPB that would pay him $8,300 a month (later revised to $5,000) at the same time he was employed in his $161,904-per-year role of commissioner.

After Mainda announced he was stepping down from his state job last month, news reports surfaced that he had been the subject of a sexual misconduct investigation after a subordinate alleged unwanted advances had been made during an out-of-state work conference in February. Mainda denied inappropriate conduct.

Gov. Bill Lee was dismissive about questions over the propriety of holding a senior role in his administration while at the same time being paid by an outside entity, saying “alternative streams of income” are allowed as long as
they don’t present a conflict of interest. Mainda included consulting work in his state ethics disclosure, but didn’t say for whom he was serving as an adviser.

Tennessee Department of Correction spokeswoman Dorinda Carter told the Chattanooga Times Free Press that when TDOC Commissioner Parker reached out congratulate Mainda on his new job last year, he mentioned he was looking for housing. Parker offered Mainda the use of a home on the former prison property usually reserved for wardens, assistant commissioners, and staff.

“It was intended to be temporary,” Carter said. Mainda only moved out in October.

Rogers, Goins out at Department of Veterans Services

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)

Former Republican state Reps. Courtney Rogers and Tilman Goins have resigned from their respective positions as commissioner and deputy commissioner of the state Department of Veterans Services, The Tennessean’s Natalie Allison reports.

Gov. Bill Lee’s office did not say what caused the simultaneous resignations.

Rogers, a retired lieutenant colonel in the Air Force, was a tea party activist who benefited from a political storm surrounding her predecessor, then-Republican Caucus Chair Debra Maggart of Hendersonville, to win her first of three terms in 2012. Maggart had upset public school teachers and gun rights advocates, and Rogers ended up winning the race 57% to 43%.

The outcome sent shock waves through the legislative office complex in Nashville. But knocking off the No. 3 Republican in the House didn’t mean Rogers was fast-tracked for leadership. She mostly kept a low profile as a lawmaker, siding with groups like the Americans for Prosperity in opposing Gov. Bill Haslam’s gas tax hike and supporting various legislative initiatives to loosen gun restrictions.

UPDATE: Lee has announced Rogers’ interim successor:

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Today, Tennessee Governor Bill Lee announced Major General Tommy H. Baker as the interim commissioner for the Department of Veterans Services. Former commissioner Courtney Rogers will return to the private sector.

“Gen. Baker is a committed public servant and I thank him for his willingness to lead the Department of Veterans Services during this critical time for our state,” said Gov. Lee.

Gen. Baker previously served as the Deputy Adjutant General of the Tennessee National Guard (TNG) with the responsibility to assist the adjutant general in the oversight and administration of over 13,000 Soldiers and Airmen in the TNG. He enlisted in the Tennessee Army National Guard in Huntingdon, Tennessee in 1980 and was commissioned as an armor officer in 1985. He is a 1995 graduate of the University of Tennessee-Martin with a Bachelor’s Degree in Public Administration. He received his Masters Degree in Business Administration and Military Management from Touro University in 2003, and is a 2011 graduate of the United States Army War College with a Masters in Strategic Studies.

Lee appoints Gibson as chief operating officer

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 has named Brandon Gibson as the state’s new chief operating officer. Gibson, a former state appeals judge, previously served as a senior adviser to the governor. She succeeds Butch Eley, who is now the commissioner of the state Finance Department.

“Brandon has been a respected voice both within our administration and across our state,” Lee said in a release. “Her ability to think creatively and bring innovative ideas to fruition will be critical as state government continues to provide services to our customers in new ways during these challenging times. We’re lucky to have a public servant like Brandon in Tennessee and I’m excited for her to get started in this new role.”


Lee communications director Walker to leave adminstration

Chris Walker, the chief spokesman for Republican Bill Lee’s gubernatorial campaign and for his first year in office, is stepping down at the end of the year.

Walker plans to return to political consulting after he leaves the administration.

Walker joined the Lee campaign when few gave the Franklin businessman much of a chance in the GOP primary featuring the better-known U.S. Rep. Diane Black, former Economic and Community Development Commissioner Randy Boyd, and then-House Speaker Beth Harwell. As Black and Boyd went negative in the race, the Lee camp maintained a positive message. Lee went on to win the nomination with 37% of the vote, compared with 24% for Boyd, 23% for Black, and 15% for Harwell. Lee went on to blow out Democrat Karl Dean in the general election.

Walker shifted over to the the state Capitol after the election, crafting Lee’s speeches and managing the new administration’s message through the new governor’s first session and in response to the scandal surrounding then-House Speaker Glen Casada (R-Franklin) and close all on the controversial school voucher legislation.

Lee names EPB vice president as new Commerce and Insurance commissioner

Gov. Bill Lee has named Hodgen Mainda, a vice president of Chattanooga’s Electric Power Board, as commissioner of the Department of Commerce and Insurance. He succeeds Julie Mix McPeak, a holdover from Gov. Bill Haslam’s administration, who left for a job in the private sector.

Here’s the release announcing Mainda’s appointment from the governor’s office:

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Today, Tennessee Governor Bill Lee announced Hodgen Mainda will serve in his cabinet as commissioner for the Tennessee Department of Commerce & Insurance. 

“Hodgen joins my cabinet after an outstanding career as a community leader in Chattanooga,” said Lee. “He is respected for his ability to build partnerships across multiple sectors and we welcome his leadership to such a multifaceted department like Commerce & Insurance.”

Mainda currently serves as the vice president for community development at the Electric Power Board (EPB) in Chattanooga which is the first provider of Gigabit internet in the country. In his role with the EPB, Mainda built partnerships across the state and federal level and increased EPB’s role in regional economic development. 

In addition to his work with EPB, Mainda serves on several non-profit boards including the Chattanooga Area Chamber of Commerce, the Downtown Chattanooga Rotary Club, the United Way of Greater Chattanooga, the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga Chancellor’s Roundtable and the College of Business Advisory Board. Mainda is also a member of the Leadership Tennessee Class of 2019 and a 2018 graduate of the Harvard Business School Young American Leaders Program.

A native of Nairobi, Kenya, Mainda, moved to Tennessee in 1997 to study at Middle Tennessee State University. He is a graduate of the University of Eastern Africa and currently resides in Chattanooga with his wife and two children.

Mainda will begin at the Department of Commerce & Insurance on October 1, 2019.

Former Republican gubernatorial nominee joins Lee administration

Jim Bryson (handout photo)

Jim Bryson, a onetime Republican gubernatorial nominee, is joining Gov. Bill Lee’s administration.

Bryson was a state senator when he lost to then-Gov. Phil Bredesen in the 2006 governor’s race. He has been appointed deputy commissioner of parks and conservation at the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation. Bryson joins a fellow former state lawmaker Joe Carr as a deputy commissioner at the agency.

Here’s the full release from the Lee administration:

NASHVILLE – Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation Commissioner David Salyers today announced the appointment of Jim Bryson as deputy commissioner of Parks and Conservation at TDEC.

“Jim’s experience in business, state government and community involvement, coupled with his passion for the outdoors, makes him uniquely qualified for this position,” Salyers said. “I look forward to working with Jim to make Tennessee State Parks the best run state park system in the nation.”

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McPeak to leave Lee administration

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)

Commerce and Insurance Commissioner Julie Mix McPeak has become the first member of Gov. Bill Lee’s Cabinet to step down.

McPeak, a holdover from Gov. Bill Haslam’s administration, is seeking unspecified “career opportunities in the private sector,” according to a release from the Lee administration.

McPeak is the past president of the National Association of Insurance Commissioners and the former executive director of the Kentucky Office of Insurance.

Here’s the full release:

NASHVILLE – Tennessee Department of Commerce & Insurance (TDCI) Commissioner Julie Mix McPeak announces today she is leaving Tennessee state government in order to pursue career opportunities in the private sector. Her last day as commissioner will be June 14, 2019. Tennessee Governor Bill Lee has named TDCI Deputy Commissioner Carter Lawrence to serve as the Department’s Interim Commissioner until a permanent commissioner is selected. 

“We thank Julie Mix McPeak for her over eight years of service and her tireless commitment to her Department and to Tennessee. We wish her the best in her future endeavors,” said Tennessee Governor Bill Lee. “Carter Lawrence has ably served as Deputy Commissioner at the Department of Commerce and Insurance, and I look forward to serving alongside him as he steps into the role of Interim Commissioner.”

McPeak, who was first appointed commissioner by Governor Bill Haslam in 2011, is the immediate past president of the National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC), the U.S. standard-setting and regulatory support organization created and governed by the chief insurance regulators from the 50 states, the District of Columbia and five U.S. territories. The former executive director of the Kentucky Office of Insurance, McPeak is the first woman to serve as chief insurance regulator in more than one state.

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Lee raises pay for 15 members of Cabinet

Republican Gov. Bill Lee is largely paying the members of his Cabinet similarly to predecessor Bill Haslam, but 15 department heads will receive a salary bump compared with the last administration.

The AP’s Kimberlee Kruesi reports that TennCare Commissioner Gabe Roberts is the highest-paid of Lee’s top advisers at $300,000 per year. He and the next seven highest paid commissioners will make the same amount their counterparts did under Haslam.

The next 15 Cabinet members will receive $161,905 per year, an increase of between 2% and 6% from the last administration.


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