Steve Gill, Political Editor of The Tennessee Star, appeared as a panelist Sunday on Fox 17 News’ In Focus and pointed out a problem with Gov.-elect Bill Lee’s cabinet picks.
Watch the full segment here.
The show was hosted by Scott Couch and Harriet Wallace. Other guests were Holly McCall, chairwoman of the Williamson County Democratic Party, and Saletta Holloway, former Metro Nashville councilwoman.
Wallace asked Gill about Courtney Rogers, a former State Representative (R-TN-45) whom Lee selected as head of the Department of Veterans Services.
Gill said, “Courtney is going to be celebrated as a great pick.” Gill pointed out her military service of 20-plus years in the U.S. Air Force and her experience as a legislator.
However, “I think the down side is, it’s not a particularly powerful position in terms of the Cabinet,” Gill said. “It’s basically a pass-through for federal dollars through the federal Department of Veterans Affairs.”
He did say that she is the “first solid grass-roots conservative” appointment by Lee.
“For a guy who ran as a definitive conservative it’s taken him a long time to find a conservative to serve in his Cabinet,” Gill said.
McCall asked Gill about the selection of Maj. Gen. Jeff Holmes as adjutant general of the Department of Military. Gill said he is a good, conventional pick, and there have been other selections of people with good credentials.
“The problem is, personnel is policy,” Gill said.
Personnel that were mentioned included Blake Harris of Alabama. Harris is a consultant who tweeted anti-Trump statements, he said.
Gill repeated that while Rogers was a good appointment, the “power positions” are the chief of staff (which went to an out-of-stater), the chief of operations (a Democrat) and the finance commissioner (a Democrat). There are also a lot of holdovers from Gov. Bill Haslam’s staff, none of whom support President Donald Trump or will hire conservatives, Gill said.
Holloway said Lee “did not seem to be the Trump guy.” Gill disagreed, saying Lee claimed to be just like Trump.
Wallace and Couch pointed out Lee never ran pro-Trump commercials like those run by former U.S. Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN-07) in her U.S. Senate race.
Gill responded, “Yes, he did. Just not as many.”
You can watch Bill Lee’s pro-Trump primary campaign commercial here:
Gill said Trump surrounded himself with Obama-era holdovers and never-Trumpers, which has caused him a lot of problems. Bill Lee is doing the same thing, and will suffer, as a result, Gill added, noting that personnel is pollicy. If Lee wants to promote conservative policies, he needs to hire people who share his vision.
“If he wanted to run as a moderate RINO, run as one,” Gill said.
Wallace asked the question many are wondering, “Who really is Bill Lee?”
Late Thursday afternoon, Governor-Elect Lee announced six new cabinet appointments, four of whom were holdovers from the Haslam administration, as The Star reported:
Thursday afternoon, Lee announced six new commissioners:
- David Gerregano has served as Governor Bill Haslam’s Commissioner of Revenue the past two years, and helped shepherd the Haslam tax increase (including adding $300 million per year in higher gas taxes) through the Legislature last year. He will continue to serve in that capacity for Lee.
- Bob Rolfe was appointed in March 2017 by Haslam to fill the slot of Commissioner of Economic and Community Development that Randy Boyd vacated when he left to run for Governor. Rolfe is being retained by Lee in that same position.
- Gabe Roberts is presently serving as Deputy Director at TennCare and will be elevated to the top slot by Governor Lee. As Deputy Director at TennCare Roberts was actively involved in Governor Haslam’s efforts to expand Medicaid/Obamacare which was derailed by the Legislature in special session in 2015 and again in the regular Session. And during Roberts tenure at TennCare the department apparently paid a lot of tax dollars to dead people and prisoners.
- Workforce Development has been called a critical priority for the Lee Administration and the Commissioner of Labor and Workforce Development will be Dr. Jeff McCord, who is currently the VP of economic and workforce development for Northeast State Community College in Kingsport. McCord is currently in the 2018-19 class of Leadership Tennessee, the Exec. Director of which is Cathy Cate, spouse of former Haslam Chief of Staff Mark Cate (who serves on the Leadership Tennessee Advisory Board).
- Corrections has been plagued with multiple problems during Haslam’s tenure. Nevertheless, current Haslam Corrections Commissioner Tony Parker, who served as Assistant Commissioner prior to being elevated to Commissioner, will remain on the job under Lee.
- Jennifer Nichols will be joining the Lee Team to head the Department of Children’s Services. Nichols, of Shelby County, currently serves as the chief homicide prosecutor in the Shelby County District Attorney’s Office. Previously, Nichols served the Criminal Court Judge of Division 10 in the 30th Judicial District in Memphis.
Concerns about the Lee personnel process continue to rise as conservative supporters of Lee during his campaign are passed over for positions being filled by Haslam holdovers, establishment Republicans and favorites of lobbyists. Today’s announcement continued that trend.
With the exception of the selection of Courtney Rogers as Commissioner of Veterans Services, Lee has failed to select any other grassroots conservative to serve in a senior position on his staff or in his Cabinet. The absence of consistent conservatives in his inner circle, combined with the fact that his conservative policy agenda, Ten for Tenn that he released during his primary campaign, has been replaced by a more moderate list of “priorities” that eliminated 7 of his 10 campaign promises, is raising alarm bells among many conservative activists.
Gill’s commentary is available on a regular basis on Tennessee Star Report with Steve Gill and Michael Patrick Leahy – broadcast on Nashville’s Talk Radio 98.3 and 1510 WLAC weekdays from 5:00 am to 8:00 am.
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