2021 In Charge – Government/Politics

Each year, our In Charge list brings together business, political and civic leaders from all corners of the Middle Tennessee landscape. This year's list is our 12th iteration and features roughly 500 people driving change across the region. We thank our friends and colleagues at the Scene and Nfocus for their help in creating it.

Kim Adkins — Principal, The Capitol Strategy Group: A lobbyist with a varied state and Metro government practice, the former college tennis player also serves as chair of the Metro Sports Authority at a key moment during the city’s relationship with several pro franchises.

Jane Alvis — Owner, Alvis Co.: Has lobbied for the Tennessee Municipal League and Metro Nashville Airport Authority at the state Capitol in recent years, as well as for energy companies doing business with Metro. A former staffer in governor’s and mayor’s offices, was formerly a partner at The Ingram Group.

Rogers Anderson — Mayor, Williamson County: Serving a fifth term as mayor of the booming county, now facing a new challenge: guiding the community through COVID-19 and related economic turbulence.

Ward Baker — President, Baker Group Strategies: The former National Republican Senatorial Committee executive director served as senior adviser to Marsha Blackburn and Bill Hagerty, two Tennessee Republicans who won open Senate seats in the past two cycles.

Marsha Blackburn — U.S. Senator: The first-term Republican, now Tennessee’s senior senator, has carved out a role as a top Trump ally, but she’ll have to pivot with a Democrat in the White House.

Heidi Campbell — State Senator, District 20: The former Oak Hill mayor is the first Democrat to win a Republican-held state Senate seat in more than a decade. Her win over Nashville Republican Steve Dickerson grew the Senate Democratic Caucus to six.

Karen Camper — House Minority Leader: House Democrats once again tapped the Memphis lawmaker as their leader. The group remains in the super-minority.

Mark Cate — Principal, Stones River Group: Former top Haslam aide who lobbies for Nashville SC and a variety of other entities at both the state and Metro level.

Jim Cooper — U.S. Congressman, 5th District: The longtime congressman and moderate Democrat fended off a primary challenge from the left in 2020, but those same groups appear ready to do it all over in 2022. Brother John was elected mayor in 2019.

John Cooper — Mayor, Metro Nashville: Recently completed his first year in office — a year defined by disaster. Faced with a tornado, an unprecedented pandemic, social unrest and the Christmas Day bombing, the city’s top spot was not the fiscal cleanup job the first-term mayor envisioned.

Kevin Crumbo — Finance Director, Metro Nashville: The former KraftCPAs consultant was tasked by new Mayor John Cooper with bringing stability to the city’s finances; neither knew that would be much more difficult as COVID upended Metro’s typical tax collections.

Yuri Cunza — President and CEO, Nashville Area Hispanic Chamber of Commerce: The longtime leader of the local Hispanic Chamber of Commerce has in recent years taken on a leadership role with the United States Hispanic Chamber of Commerce.

John Drake — Chief, Metro Nashville Police Department: After starting his career as a young patrol cop, worked his way into top leadership at the department. During a contentious summer, took over as interim chief upon Steve Anderson’s rushed departure, and then was picked as permanent leader after a national search.

Butch Eley — Commissioner, Tennessee Department of Finance and Administration: Founder of Infrastructure Corp. of America and former president of The Ingram Group was named head of Gov. Bill Lee’s 2018 transition and then COO before taking over as finance commissioner — a tall task given a rushed budget process and uncertainty around pandemic tax revenues.

Jeremy Faison — House Republican Caucus Chair: Elevated to House leadership after the fall of Speaker Glen Casada, the Cosby Republican fended off a challenge for the position from former state GOP chair Robin Smith.

Bob Freeman — State Representative, District 56: The real estate developer won his West Nashville House seat as a Democrat after it was held for decades by Republican Beth Harwell.

Glenn Funk — District Attorney General, Davidson County: Nashville’s top prosecutor has waged fights in recent years with state leaders over abortion, marijuana and the death penalty.

Brenda Gilmore — State Senator, District 19: Elected to the Senate from Nashville in 2018, the state House and Metro Council veteran has focused on criminal justice reform, among other issues.

Scott Golden — Chairman, Tennessee Republican Party: Newly re-elected to a third term at the helm, has overseen entrenchment of Republican rule of Tennessee. 

Bill Hagerty — U.S. Senator: A top Trump ally, he easily won Lamar Alexander’s Senate seat after a chippy Republican primary. The investor, political fundraiser and former ambassador to Japan heads to Washington as his main benefactor is moving out.

Tre Hargett — Secretary of State: The constitutional officer and elections head pushed back when advocates sought to loosen voting rules in response to the pandemic and supported a Trump push to overturn election results in other states.

Daron Hall — Davidson County Sheriff: The jailer who has been in office since 2002 last year oversaw the assumption of jail management from private operator CoreCivic.

Joe Hall — Partner, Hall Strategies: Metro lobbyist’s clients include major players like CoreCivic, Live Nation and the Nashville Convention and Visitors Corp.

Greg Hinote — Partner, Jigsaw: Set up a new lobbying and consulting firm with Beecher Frasier and Sam Reed where he represents, among others, the Nashville Predators and Vanderbilt University. A former top aide to Mayor Karl Dean and Rep. Jim Cooper, also advised now-Mayor John Cooper.

Tom Ingram — Founder, The Ingram Group: A longtime lobbyist at the state and Metro levels whose clients have included Global Tel Link and the Hermitage Hotel. Past life in politics included stints advising Lamar Alexander and Bill Haslam.

Bradley Jackson — President and CEO, Tennessee Chamber of Commerce & Industry: Leader of the state chamber since 2016, last year led a push during a special session to protect Tennessee businesses from coronavirus-related litigation. Chamber in early 2021 signed a partnership deal to bring Tennessee Automotive Manufacturers Association under its umbrella.

Jack Johnson — Senate Majority Leader: Staying on in his leadership role, the Franklin-based senator is tasked, in part, with carrying legislation for Gov. Bill Lee.

Tequila Johnson and Charlane Oliver — Founders and Executive Directors, The Equity Alliance: The duo started the Black empowerment and civic engagement organization in the wake of Trump’s 2016 election and have since grown it to include several staff members, an affiliated political advocacy group and a statewide voting rights push.

Kim Kaegi — Fundraiser: A go-to political fundraiser whose past work in Nashville and Tennessee has included candidates from both parties, including Bill Hagerty, Bill Lee, Megan Barry and David Briley.

William Lamberth — House Majority Leader: After one potential rival said he would challenge the Republican leader, an election cycle in which House Republicans held on to their 73-seat super-majority resulted in the challenger backing down.

Brad Lampley — Partner, Adams and Reese: Ex-UT lineman and member of the Nashville Sports Council, until recently led the law firm’s local office as it preps for a 2021 move. Also maintains varied lobbying practice that has included clients like the Metro Nashville government and Carfax.

Bill Lee — Governor, State of Tennessee: Moving through third year in office with signature achievements like education savings accounts and anti-abortion measures on ice. Has staved off calls for COVID mask mandate as he leads state government through unprecedented pandemic.

David McMahan — Principal, McMahan Winstead & Richardson: Longtime local lobbyist’s firm in 2020 expanded to Washington while keeping a state-level client list that includes pro sports leagues, betting interests and the Tennessee Cash Advance Association.

Randy McNally — Lieutenant Governor, State of Tennessee: Republicans once again picked the longtime lawmaker as leader of the Senate, where he will oversee a legislative session focused on COVID-19, public education and more.

Bob Mendes — Metro Council, At Large: After a year as chair of the Budget and Finance Committee, has taken on a role as one of the Council’s most visible communicators.

Ken Moore — Mayor, City of Franklin: Mayor of the hot Middle Tennessee city for a decade, now the doctor with decades of experience is helping Franklin manage the COVID-19 pandemic.

Justin Owen — President and CEO, Beacon Center of Tennessee: Libertarian-leaning think tank leader has carved out a niche highlighting government misspending and overspending at the state and local levels.

Emily Passini — Partner, Greenlight Media Strategies: Served as chief of staff to Mayor David Briley before rejoining her direct-mail firm, which has grown in recent years and taken on high-profile clients, including Jamaal Bowman in New York.

Delishia Porterfield — District 29, Metro Council: As vice chair of the Budget and Finance Committee, is tasked with assisting in the city’s response to coronavirus-related budget issues. Represents a district that sits between Murfreesboro Pike and Percy Priest Lake.

Lisa Quigley — Chief of Staff, Congressman Jim Cooper: A top aide to Nashville’s representative in Congress, the former candidate is heavily involved in Democratic politics around the state.

Emily Reynolds — Chair, Davidson County Election Commission: A former aide to Sens. Howard Baker and Bill Frist, now leads the county election commission in a time of great uncertainty for voting.

Bob Rolfe — Commissioner, Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development: Has worked as top economic development official for two governors and has continued announcing new deals with the private sector during uncertain time for many businesses.

Jim Schmidt — President, Schmidt Government Solutions: State-level lobbyist with his own practice and a client list heavy on health care, including GlaxoSmithKline and the Tennessee Radiological Society.

Ralph Schulz — President and CEO, Nashville Area Chamber of Commerce: Well over a decade as one of the leaders of the city’s business and tourism communities, the former Adventure Science Center CEO now faces a new challenge to the once-unbeatable tourism sector: COVID-19.

Cameron Sexton — Speaker of the House: Continues to lead the state House after taking over after the fall of Glen Casada. Largely in step with Gov. Bill Lee and his Senate Republican counterparts, with occasional exceptions.

Lisa Sherman-Nikolaus — Executive Director, Tennessee Immigrant and Refugee Rights Coalition: In 2020, took over as leader of the statewide organization, which is building a new headquarters and continuing to build its affiliated political advocacy group.

Herbert Slatery III — Tennessee Attorney General: State’s top attorney joined an ill-fated attempt by Texas to overturn presidential election results in swing states, a move hailed by many Republican lawmakers.

Kyonztè Toombs — Metro Council, District 2: Defeated an incumbent for the position, now chairs the Budget and Finance Committee. Tasked with leading the Council’s efforts at managing a turbulent budget cycle.

Nancy VanReece — Metro Council, District 8: Chairs the Parks, Library and Arts Committee. In her second term representing the fast-changing Madison district and parts of East Nashville.

Erica Vick — Member, Bass Berry and Sims: Leader of the firm’s government advocacy and public policy group, with a lobbying client list that includes Brown-Forman, RaceTrac and Acadia.

Joe Woolley — CEO, Nashville LGBT Chamber of Commerce: Has worked with big businesses moving to the state to fight against anti-LGBT legislation, often to little avail in the Republican-dominated Tennessee legislature.

Jeff Yarbro — Senate Minority Leader: Senate Democratic Caucus again picked the Nashville senator as its leader. Now, the group has grown from five members to six, though it still has a significant disadvantage in the 33-member chamber

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