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Former Sen. Jim Tracy joins Commerce Department

Gov.-elect Bill Lee speaks to a Chamber of Commerce event in Memphis on Dec. 6, 2018. (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)

Former state Sen. Jim Tracy (R-Shelbyville), who gave up his seat in 2017 when President Donald Trump appointed him as a state USDA director, is joining the state Department of Commerce and Insurance in Gov. Bill Lee’s administration.

Here are the personnel moves announced by the department on Friday:

NASHVILLE – The Tennessee Department of Commerce & Insurance (TDCI) announces senior leadership role additions and staffing updates from Commissioner Carter Lawrence.

“With these senior leadership staffing updates, our Department is well positioned to continue our best-in-class service for Tennesseans and to further our mission of protecting Tennesseans through balanced oversight of insurance while fostering fair marketplaces and consumer education that promote the success of individuals and businesses while serving as innovative leaders,” said TDCI Commissioner Carter Lawrence. “I welcome these staff promotions and additions and thank them for their service to our great state.”

TDCI Staffing Updates:

Jennifer Peck assumes the role of Chief of Staff and Chief Operating Officer, while continuing in her role as Deputy Commissioner – overseeing Fire Prevention/State Fire Marshal’s Office, the Tennessee Law Enforcement Training Academy (TLETA)/Peace Officer Standards Training (POST) Commission and the Tennessee Emergency Communications Board (TECB). Previously, Peck served as an Executive Director in the Division of Regulatory Boards. Prior to joining the Department, she was the owner of Peck Legal Group, PLLC, which specialized in domestic relations litigation and mediation. She is a graduate of Auburn University and the Regent University School of Law.

Toby Compton is promoted to Deputy Commissioner – overseeing Insurance, Regulatory Boards, Securities and TennCare Oversight. Previously, Compton served as Assistant Commissioner for the Division of Regulatory Boards for the Department. Prior to joining the Department, Compton was the President and CEO for Associated Builders and Contractors for Greater Tennessee, held leadership positions at the Metro Sports Authority in Nashville and worked at the Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development. He is a graduate of Lipscomb University and Cumberland University.

Bill Huddleston is promoted to Assistant Commissioner for Insurance. A TDCI team member since 2014, Huddleston previously served as the Director of Insurance where he oversaw the division’s administration which includes agent licensing, company examinations, company financial analysis and other duties. A certified public accountant, Huddleston also served as Receivership Director in the Insurance Division. In 2017, he was a recipient of a Governor’s Excellence in Service Award for his leadership in the Division of Regulatory Boards. Before joining TDCI, Huddleston served as a legislative auditor with the Office of the Comptroller. A Nashville native, Huddleston is a graduate of Lipscomb University as well as Harding University. He is married with three children.

Alex Martin joins the Department as Assistant Commissioner for the Division of Regulatory Boards. Previously, Martin served as Deputy Director of External Affairs and Director of Appointments for Governor Bill Lee. In his prior role, Martin worked with the Lee Administration to appoint many of the members of the Department’s boards and commissions within the Division of Regulatory Boards. An eighth generation Tennessean, Alex is a graduate of Tennessee Tech and served on the Tennessee Higher Education Commission.

Jim Tracy joins TDCI as a Senior Advisor to the Department. Tracy most recently served as State Director for USDA Rural Development in Tennessee – working with rural communities to address local issues including facilities, broadband, water and sewer. In this role he facilitated federal grants and lower-interest loans for businesses and citizens. Tracy’s list of public service spans decades – having previously served as a State Senator, Bedford County Board of Education member, President of the Shelbyville-Bedford County Chamber of Commerce, founding member of the Bedford County Economic Development and Tourism committee and Chairman of the Tennessee Leadership Council of the National Federation of Independent Business. For more than 20 years, Tracy owned and operated his own insurance company where he sold all lines of insurance. He is a graduate of the University of Tennessee at Martin with a degree in Agriculture Education. Jim and his wife, Trena, have been married for over 30 years and have three sons: Chad, Craig and Connor.

Patrick Merkel is promoted to Director of Insurance after having served as Chief Counsel for Insurance, Securities and TennCare Oversight since July 2019. Merkel is on his second term of service with the Department. He first joined the Department in 2007 and worked with the Division of Regulatory Boards and as Chief Counsel for Fire Prevention and Law Enforcement. Merkel previously worked in private practice representing clients before the Tennessee Motor Vehicle Commission, the Tennessee Office of the Attorney General and Reporter, state trial courts and the Tennessee Court of Appeals. Merkel is a graduate of Michigan State University and the University of Dayton School of Law. Patrick is married with a daughter and two step-sons.