The Tennessee Department of Economic & Community Development operates like a closely held, family-owned business hiring family members of friends and friends of friends, but whose salaries are paid by state taxpayers.
Former commissioner Bill Hagerty established this culture which was maintained by Randy Boyd.
Shortly after taking office in 2011, Governor Haslam appointed Bill Hagerty as Commissioner of Economic & Community Development (ECD). One year later, in 2012, Hagerty promoted Sen. Lamar Alexander’s son Will Alexander, from assistant commissioner for strategy to ECD’s chief of staff.
That same year, Hagerty hired Samar Ali and Alice Rolli.
“Samar Ali is a superstar,” Steve Gill tells The Tennessee Star.
“She had huge academic credentials, international credentials. She’s a Vanderbilt Law graduate,” Gill notes.
“Her credentials are impeccable. The real question is, have other people been hired who are not as strong?” he concludes.
When concerns started circulating regarding Ali’s hiring as International Director because of her background in sharia finance, Hagerty, speaking at a “First Tuesday” gathering defended his decision:
“When it was known we were looking to fill a position in our office, I got a call from her father asking me if I would look at her resume. Like any father, he would like for his daughter to move closer to home. I interviewed her for the job, and she was the best qualified.”
There was no mention of other candidates Hagerty may have interviewed.
Alice Rolli, a former staffer working for Sen. Lamar Alexander, was hired as ECD assistant commissioner for strategy, the position formerly held by Will Alexander.
One year later in 2013, while still on the public payroll working for ECD, Rolli was named campaign manager for Lamar Alexander’s 2014 primary re-election campaign. At the same time, the TN State Museum was planning to start a statewide traveling exhibit about Alexander when he was Governor of Tennessee that would include live appearances by Sen. Alexander.
News Channel 5 aired an investigative report exposing documents and emails sent between the museum’s curator who had been appointed by Alexander when he was governor of Tennessee, and Rolli, about running the exhibit at the same time Alexander was running for re-election.
Shortly before Hagerty left ECD, he also hired Carly Schroer and Leslee Alexander.
Schroer, who had previously interned for Sen. Bob Corker, was soon promoted to ECD Public Information Officer; she is the daughter of Tennessee Department of Transportation Commissioner John Schroer.
Leslee Alexander, was hired in October 2014 as International Director for ECD. She is Sen. Lamar Alexander’s daughter.
Samar Ali left ECD after about one and one-half years; Bill Hagerty, Will Alexander and Alice Rolli all left by the start of 2015.
In December 2014, Haslam announced that Randy Boyd would serve as the new Commissioner of ECD, a position that enabled him to travel the state and establish name recognition that will be useful in his gubernatorial bid, which he announced last month. Boyd retained both Schroer and Alexander who continue to work for ECD.
After leaving ECD, Boyd hired Alice Rolli as part of his gubernatorial campaign team.