Lee names key cabinet, staff positions

Gov.-Elect Bill Lee has named several more members of his staff ahead of his Jan. 19 inaguration.


Williamson County Sheriff Jeff Long will replace David Purkey as the commissioner of the Tennessee Department of Safety and Homeland Security in Lee’s administration. Purkey has served in the role since 2016.


Long has served as Williamson County’s sheriff since 2008 and was re-elected to the post in November 2018, running uncontested. As commissioner, he will oversee the Tennessee Highway Patrol, driver services and licensing, homeland security, and the Tennessee highway safety office. Long holds a bachelor’s degree in political science from the University of Memphis and a law degree from the Nashville School of Law.


He previously worked as an assistant district attorney with the 21st Judicial District, a special agent with the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation, arson investigator with the state fire marshal’s office and as a federal hospital police officer with the VA hospital in Memphis.


Lee also selected Mark Ezell to replace Kevin Triplett as the commissioner for the Department of Tourist Development, a role Triplett has held since 2015. Ezell has worked with Dean Foods since 1998 as a senior executive focused on brand development for Purity Dairies and other southeast dairies.


His 35 years at Purity Dairies, including time as president and general manager, helped the former family-owned company receive recognition as a “Brands That Built Nashville” winner from the Nashville American Advertising Federation.


Dr. Jeff McCord will be the next commissioner of the Tennessee Department of Labor and Workforce Development. McCord currently serves as the vice president for economic and workforce development at Northeast State Community College.


He also leads Workforce Solutions, a workforce development program that includes the development of registered apprenticeship programs, as well as the Regional Center for Advanced Manufacturing (RCAM), a technical career academy.


Additionally, Lee said Department of Commerce and Insurance Commissioner Julie McPeak, Tennessee Department of Community and Economic Development Commissioner Bob Rolfe, Commissioner of the Department of Revenue David Gerregano, and Commissioner of Financial Institutions Greg Gonzales, will keep the positions they were appointed to during the Haslam administration.


Lee also named four staff members who will be working directly with the legislature on his behalf.


Chris Devaney will serve as special assistant to the governor, a cabinet-level position with a broad portfolio, including legislative affairs. A Chattanoogan, Devaney served as the deputy director and legislative liaison for Lee’s transition team.


Prior to managing the campaign, he served as executive director of CNP Haiti, a Christian mission organization working to prevent childhood malnutrition. He was also chairman of the Tennessee Republican Party from 2009 – 2015 and was a senior aide to U.S. Sen. Bob Corker and late U.S. Sen. Fred Thompson.


Brent Easley will serve as director of the governor’s Legislative Affairs Office. He currently serves as the state director for TennesseeCAN, an education advocacy group. Previously, he served as the state director for StudentsFirst Tennessee. Prior to that, he worked in the Tennessee House as the senior research and policy analyst for the Tennessee House Republican Caucus.


Liz Alvey will serve as Lee’s legislative counsel. An attorney, she has worked with the Tennessee State Senate since 1999, having served as the senior policy advisor to Senate Majority Leader Mark Norris since 2007. Over the past eight years, Alvey chaired the State Transformation in Action Recognition (STAR) of the Southern Legislative Conference. She also served on the Shared State Legislation Committee on the Council of State Governments from 2010 to 2018.


Former state Rep. Courtney Rogers, R-Hendersonville, has been appointed commissioner of veterans’ services. A retired lieutenant colonel, Rogers presently serves as director of recruiting and retention for the Tennessee State Guard, the all-volunteer arm of the Tennessee Military Department. She also served 28 years with the Air Force and the Tennessee Air National Guard.


Maj. Gen. Jeff Holmes was also selected as head of military affairs for the Lee administration. Holmes presently serves as the deputy commanding general of First Army, which provides training and readiness oversight to reserve component units deploying worldwide. He has previously served as the Deputy adjutant general of the Tennessee National Guard and has commanded Tennessee National Guard units at all levels, serving in multiple combat deployments. Holmes, a registered architect, has also served in national level positions serving as deputy chief of engineers at the Pentagon.


He will also retain Brittany Collins, who served as a legislative liaison to Haslam, in a role as senior legislative liaison for the Lee administration. Prior to joining the Haslam administration, she served as Regional Political Director for the Tennessee Republican Party, helping the party elect a record number of Republicans in 2014. She has worked extensively with military families and service members.


Lee earlier named Stuart McWhorter as his finance chairman, Blake Harris as his chief of staff, Butch Eley as his chief operating officer, Lang Wiseman as his deputy to the governor and chief counsel, Tony Niknejad as his policy director, Dr. Charlie Hatcher as his agriculture commissioner, Chris Walker as his communications director, and Laine Arnold as his press secretary.


The new administration will also be retaining Department of Human Services Commissioner Danielle Barnes and Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services Marie Williams, both of whom were appointed under the Haslam administration.