In Charge 2022: Government/Politics | Leaders 2022

The effects of a tumultuous 2020 were still evident in 2021. Now, the region’s business, political and civic leaders are helping bring their organizations into a new era. We hope this 13th edition of the In Charge list is not unlucky. Those on it embody what it means to be “in charge,” and it will be up to them to make sure the city and state continue their collective forward trajectory.

See the In Charge lists for other industries here.

Burkley Allen— Metro Council, At Large: Former two-term district councilmember was elected to one of five countywide seats in 2019 and this year serves in one of the city’s most important positions as chair of the Budget Committee.

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 and formerly a partner at The Ingram Group.

Rogers Anderson— Mayor, Williamson County: Serving a fifth term as mayor of the booming county, now campaigning for a sixth term in office.

Ward Baker— President and Founder, 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. Currently working with Donald Trump-backed Nashville congressional candidate Morgan Ortagus.

Marsha Blackburn— US Senator: First-term Republican, now Tennessee’s senior senator, had carved out a role as a top Trump ally, but has had to pivot with a Democrat in the White House.

Heidi Campbell— State Senator, District 20: Former Oak Hill mayor was the first Democrat to win a Republican-held state Senate seat in more than a decade. Her win over Nashville Republican Steve Dickerson raised the Senate Democratic Caucus to six. Now running for Congress.

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 Haslam Aide has lobbied for various entities at both the state and Metro level.

Jim Cooper— US Congressman, 5th District: Longtime representative decided to retire rather than run again in a drastically altered district, which now includes parts of Williamson, Wilson and other counties and favors Republicans.

John Cooper— Mayor, Metro Nashville: Halfway through a term defined by external disasters, including a tornado, a pandemic and a bombing. Now faces the prospect of a re-election challenge.

Vincent Dixie— State Representative, District 54: First elected from the North Nashville-centered district in 2018, now chairs the small House Democratic Caucus.

John Drake— Chief, Metro Nashville Police Department: After starting career as a patrol cop, worked way into top leadership at the department. During a contentious 2020 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 and Deputy Governor: Earlier this year, the Bill Lee confidant and veteran business executive added a new line to his lengthy resume: deputy governor.

Jeremy Faison House Republican Caucus Chair: Elevated to House leadership after the fall of Speaker Glen Casada, the Cosby Republican has taken a major role in pushing conservative priorities in the state legislature.

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. Now facing two challengers in re-election bid.

Brenda Gadd— President, Rethink Public Strategies: Political operative and strategist who has made electing more women to public office a top priority.

Erica Garrison— Partner, Bradley Arant Boult Cummings: Attorney and lobbyist took some by surprise late last year when she jumped from Waller to Bradley. Long list of prominent lobbying clients has included the Titans, PSC Metals and developer AJ Capital.

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: In a third term at the helm, has overseen entrenchment of Republican rule of Tennessee.

Bill Hagerty— US 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 headed to Washington as his main benefactor was 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 recently oversaw the assumption of jail management from private operator CoreCivic.

Joe Hall— Partner, Hall Strategies: Metro lobbyist’s clients have included major players like CoreCivic, Live Nation and the Nashville Convention & 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 form 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, led a push during a 2020 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: Franklin-based senator is tasked, in part, with carrying legislation on behalf of Gov. Bill Lee.

Tequila Johnson and Charlane Oliver— Founders and Executive Directors, The Equity Alliance: 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.

Odessa Kelly— Executive Director, Stand Up Nashville: Worked for years in Metro community centers before joining advocacy group she co-founded full-time. In 2021, secured backing of leading national progressive group Justice Democrats for a primary challenge of Rep. Jim Cooper. Switched to a run in the 7th District after redistricting left Nashille split into three districts.

William Lambert— House Majority Leader: Republican leader passed on a bid for speaker in the wake of Glen Casada’s downfall. Former judicial chair has staked out a position as a hard-core conservative.

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

Bill Lee— Governor, State of Tennessee: In an election year, has so far scared off any serious primary challenges. Main focus this year is rewriting the state’s 30-year-old school funding formula.

Lisa Sherman Luna— Executive Director, Tennessee Immigrant and Refugee Rights Coalition: In 2020, took over as leader of statewide organization, which built new headquarters and is continuing to grow its affiliated political advocacy group.

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: Among the most powerful figures at the Capitol, will be key figure in any debates about school funding and criminal justice at the state legislature.

Bob Mendes— Metro Council, At Large: One of the council’s most active communicators, has sought to educate residents on the intricacies of Metro finances and budget processes.

Justin Owen— President and CEO, Beacon Center of Tennessee: Libertarian-leaning think tank leader has carved out a niche highlighting government misspending and pushing school choice.

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

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

Hendrel Remus — Chair, Tennessee Democratic Party: In early 2021 was elected to lead the party that has struggled for years to hold the line against surging Republicans.

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.

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. Has proven that it will take more than a pandemic to stop city’s supercharged tourism industry.

Sandra Sepulveda — Metro Council, District 30: Elected in 2019 as the council’s youngest member and has since proven one of its most effective advocates and communicators, especially on matters of equity, housing and immigration.

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

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. Has also been active on litigation against opioid manufacturers.

Tori Venable — State Director, Americans for Prosperity: Leader of the Koch-backed organization with the ear of many state lawmakers. Though the group often works in lockstep with dominating state Republicans, cracks occasionally arise, including on the hundreds of millions of dollars spent to lure Ford to the state.

Jeff Yarbro— Senate Minority Leader: Nashville Democrat continues to lead the Senate’s minority caucus, which has grown from five to six members.


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