2020 In Charge – Government/Politics

Middle Tennessee has grown dramatically since we first published an In Charge list in 2010. New companies — homegrown and relocated — have brought to town new leaders of all stripes and our list has evolved and matured accordingly. This year’s collection of business, political and civic leaders numbers about 500 and represents Middle Tennessee’s cream of the crop — people who are “in charge” and giving their best to make this region the best it can be. We thank our friends and colleagues at the Scene and Nfocus for their help creating it.

Lamar Alexander — U.S. Senator: Decision not to seek re-election precipitated the second open Senate race in a row. The state’s senior senator is also a past governor, U.S. Secretary of Education and presidential hopeful.

Jane Alvis — Owner, Alvis Co.: The former staffer under Gov. Lamar Alexander and Mayor Bill Purcell lobbies on behalf of the Tennessee Municipal League and others after working as a partner at The Ingram Group.

Rogers Anderson — Mayor, Williamson County: Keeping the fires stoked in the booming county where he was re-elected to a fifth term as mayor in 2018.

Steve Anderson — Chief, Metro Police Department: Finally reached a memorandum of understanding with the Community Oversight Board more than a year after its approval at the ballot box. Joined the office in 1975 and in his 10th year at its helm.

Ward Baker — Political Consultant: After helping Marsha Blackburn get elected to the Senate in 2018, is a lead consultant for Republican Bill Hagerty’s 2020 Senate campaign. The former National Republican Senatorial Committee executive director has close ties to top Republicans in Washington.

Marsha Blackburn — U.S. Senator: Settling into her second year in the upper chamber, the Trump ally has taken center stage on a number of key issues since comfortably beating Democrat Phil Bredesen in 2018.

Mark Cate — Principal, Stones River Group: Leads lobbying firm that last year spun off a separate PR division. Former top Haslam aide lobbies for Nashville’s MLS team, Delta Dental and Acadia, among others.

Karen Camper — House Minority Leader: The Memphis lawmaker is tasked with organizing the state’s House Democrats, relegated to the super-minority for now.

Jim Cooper — U.S. Congressman, 5th District: The moderate Democrat has drawn multiple primary challengers from the left in 2020, though he is expected to retain financial and other institutional advantages as he seeks re-election to a 16th term in Congress. Brother John was elected mayor in 2019.

John Cooper — Mayor, Metro Nashville: Tapped into undercurrents of discontent (and his own bank account) to beat out Mayor David Briley, largely emphasizing fiscal responsibility in the campaign and his first months in office. Brother Jim currently represents Nashville in Congress.

Kevin Crumbo — Finance Director, Metro Nashville: Among John Cooper’s first appointments, the former KraftCPAs consultant was tasked with righting the fiscal ship and keeping Nashville out from under the state’s thumb.

Eddie Davidson — State Government Affairs Director, Piedmont Natural Gas: After years as Nashville’s top lobbyist, leads government affairs for the utility.

Steve Dickerson — State Senator, District 20: The only legislative Republican left from Nashville could face a spirited re-election battle this year.

Jeremy Faison — House Republican Caucus Chair: The independent-minded lawmaker from Cosby stood out in 2019 by at times bucking his party’s leadership. But with former Speaker Glen Casada out of the way, House Republicans brought him into leadership.

Glenn Funk — District Attorney General, Davidson County: In recent years, Metro’s top prosecutor has brought unprecedented murder charges against a Nashville police officer and agreed to vacate a death sentence for a convicted killer, setting up a battle with the state.

Brenda Gilmore — State Senator, District 19: The first-term state senator, a veteran of the state House and the Metro Council, has turned her attention to criminal justice reform, among other issues.

Scott Golden — Chairman, Tennessee Republican Party: Republicans in 2018 re-elected the former Fincher staffer to another term leading the state party, and there’s little question why: The state GOP has reached new heights of power in recent years.

Bill Hagerty — Automotive and Private Investment Board Member, Hall Capital: The former ambassador to Japan, state commissioner of economic and community development, and Trump fundraiser and transition leader recently rejoined his old private investment firm. He is seen as the frontrunner to succeed Lamar Alexander in the Senate after Trump pre-emptively endorsed his campaign.

Tre Hargett — Secretary of State: The state official has overseen the push for the under-construction Tennessee State Library and Archives building and for a controversial law limiting voter registration drives in the state.

Daron Hall — Davidson County Sheriff: Recently succumbed to pressure by agreeing to cooperate less with federal immigration officers. Jailer has been in office since 2002.

Joe Hall — Partner, Hall Strategies: Co-founder of boutique lobbying and strategic communications company has lobbied for the Predators, the airport and a slew of other businesses and entities working with Metro.

Angie Henderson — Metro Council, District 34: Recently elected to a second term, the councilmember now chairs the Public Works Committee.

Greg Hinote — Partner, Jigsaw: The former deputy mayor under Karl Dean and chief of staff to Rep. Jim Cooper spent the fall advising incoming Mayor John Cooper and setting up a new lobbying and consulting firm alongside Beecher Frasier and Sam Reed.

Tom Ingram — Founder, The Ingram Group: The former Lamar Alexander and Bill Haslam adviser keeps busy by lobbying for, among others, BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee.

Jack Johnson — Senate Majority Leader: After his election as majority leader, worked to push the legislative agenda of fellow Williamson Countian, Gov. Bill Lee.

Martesha Johnson — Metropolitan Nashville Public Defender: Took over office from mentor Dawn Deaner and has continued the tradition of serving as a leading local voice on criminal justice reform.

Kim Kaegi — Fundraiser: Political fundraiser working with Senate candidate Bill Hagerty who has walked the Republican/Democratic tightrope with past clients including Bill Lee, Bill Haslam, Lamar Alexander, Megan Barry and David Briley.

Kristal Knight — Political Director, Priorities USA: After working on the Bredesen campaign and as executive director of Emerge Tennessee, took on a new national role with the Democratic super PAC while remaining based locally.

William Lamberth — House Majority Leader: The Portland Republican was able to stand beside Speaker Glen Casada and come out of the experience with his leadership position intact. Expected to again push the governor’s legislative agenda.

Brad Lampley — Nashville Partner in Charge, Adams and Reese: Leads both the law firm’s government relations team and its Nashville office. Ex-UT football player and past board member lobbies on behalf of the Nashville airport, the Tennessee Bar Association and the Wine and Spirit Wholesalers of Tennessee.

Bill Lee — Governor, State of Tennessee: Now entering second year in office, the former Williamson County businessman pushed education savings accounts and a Medicaid block grant in his first year.

Mary Mancini — Chair, Tennessee Democratic Party: Under some pressure internally after mounting Democratic losses, the Nashville-based activist and former political candidate successfully held off a re-election challenge and will lead the state’s minority party through the 2020 election.

David McMahan — Principal, McMahan Winstead: Lobbyist with decades of experience has a roster of major clients, including charter school groups, sports betting interests and Vanderbilt University.

Randy McNally — Lieutenant Governor, State of Tennessee: Presided over relative sanity in the state Senate in 2019 as the House descended into Casada-fueled madness.

Stuart McWhorter — Commissioner, Tennessee Department of Finance and Administration: An investor who helped Gov. Bill Lee during the campaign and since his inauguration has served as a top cabinet official and adviser.

Bob Mendes — Metro Council, At Large: The top vote-getter in the 2019 Council election entered the new term as the new chair of the powerful Budget and Finance Committee.

Ken Moore — Mayor, City of Franklin: Longtime local mayor among the group of regional leaders clamoring for transit solutions.

Justin Owen — President and CEO, Beacon Center of Tennessee: The leader of the rabble-rousing think tank has seen varying degrees of success, but last year made a splash when the group pointed out that the state was hoarding hundreds of millions of dollars in funds earmarked for needy families.

Emily Passini — Partner, Greenlight Media Strategies: Longtime political strategist entered Metro government to be Mayor David Briley’s chief of staff, and rejoined her growing direct-mail firm upon his 2019 defeat.

Bob Rolfe — Commissioner, Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development: Among the state commissioners retained by Gov. Bill Lee during the transition, kept the high-profile role working with the private sector on behalf of state government.

Jim Schmidt — President, Schmidt Government Solutions: Longtime state lobbyist who opened his own shop in 2011. Represents the Tennessee chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics, among other, mostly medical, clients.

Ralph Schulz — President and CEO, Nashville Area Chamber of Commerce: Leading the organization since 2006, has worked as a booster for the city’s thriving business and tourism communities.

Manny Sethi — Founder, Healthy Tennessee: The Vanderbilt surgeon hopes to follow in the footsteps of Bill Frist as he seeks the Republican nomination for Senate.

Cameron Sexton — Speaker of the House: After a tumultuous few months as caucus chair, the Crossville Republican cobbled together the votes to succeed ousted Speaker Glen Casada.

Herbert Slatery III — Tennessee Attorney General: Monthslong push to clear Tennessee’s death row of prisoners will continue in 2020 as Bill Haslam’s former legal counsel and friend presses for more executions.

Zulfat Suara — Metro Council, At Large: Believed to be the first Muslim elected official in the state, built an impressive electoral coalition of both established politicos and newcomers.

Stephanie Teatro — Co-Executive Director, Tennessee Immigrant and Refugee Rights Coalition: As co-leader of TIRRC Votes, the nonprofit’s political arm, oversaw an electoral effort that ended with 21 of 25 endorsed candidates winning their races in the 2019 Metro election.

Justin Wilson — Tennessee Comptroller of the Treasury: The state’s “money cop” for more than a decade, in 2019 turned his attention to Nashville, where he warned of possible state takeover if the city didn’t rein in its budgetary problems.

Joe Woolley — CEO, Nashville LGBT Chamber of Commerce: As leader of pro-LGBT business group, helped Wall Street firm AllianceBernstein push back against a slate of anti-LGBT state legislative proposals deemed to be “anti-growth, anti-jobs and against the interests of the citizens.”

Jeff Yarbro — Senate Minority Leader: Nashville Democrat leads the Senate Democratic Caucus, which famously can fit inside a sedan.

Bill Young — Director, Bureau of Ethics and Campaign Finance: Former Nashville judge picked last year to lead the state ethics watchdog at a time when it had a number of prominent cases before it, including those related to former House Speaker Glen Casada and former Sen. Bill Ketron.

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