For the third time in just over a month, Governor Bill Lee is witnessing a cabinet reshuffle as his chief economic recruiter prepares to leave and pave the way for the return of a former administrator chief.
The Governor announced on Tuesday that Commissioner Bobby Rolfe is leaving the Ministry of Economic and Community Development after a term that extends from the former Haslam administration and makes way for former Finance and Administration Commissioner Stuart McWhorter to return after two years and take over as the main economic player in the state. recruiter.
“Bobby has been invaluable in my firm bringing new businesses and industries to our state, supporting existing businesses, and expanding economic opportunity across Tennessee, especially in our rural communities,” Lee said in a statement. statement on Tuesday. “I commend his services to Tennesseans and wish him well as he enters the private sector.”
Rolfe played a key role in moving Ford’s electric truck and battery manufacturing plant to the Memphis regional megasite in Haywood County in 2021, years after the state lost a bid to a vehicle manufacturing plant that went to Alabama because state-owned territory 45 miles from Memphis was unprepared for a major manufacturer.
McWhorter, who co-founded Clayton Associates in 1996, a company that created FCA Venture Partners, was among the first to back Lee in his gubernatorial campaign four years ago. He then became Lee’s Commissioner of Finance and Administration before taking charge of the Governor’s Unified Command Group at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.
McWhorter left administration in 2020 and became a counselor for Clemson University where he earned his bachelor’s degree and was the tiger mascot. In February 2021, McWhorter and his wife, Leigh Anne, pledged a Cornerstone Partner donation of $2.5 million to support Clemson University’s softball program.
“Stuart has been a tremendous asset to the administration, and his knowledge of both the private and public sectors will ensure Tennessee continues to lead the country as the best place to do business,” the governor said in his statement. “I appreciate his services and am confident that the people of Tennessee and our economy will thrive under his leadership.”
McWhorter also served as chairman of a panel the governor appointed to determine how to handle the bust of Nathan Bedford Forrest, which was later moved to the Tennessee State Museum from the second floor of the State Capitol.
Rolfe’s transition to McWhorter marks the third major change in the governor’s cabinet in the past five weeks.
In early May, Lee announced he was appointing Deputy Governor Butch Eley as Commissioner of the Tennessee Department of Transportation and Jim Bryson to replace him as Commissioner of Finance and Administration. Eley continues to advise the governor as a deputy.
Additionally, the governor last week appointed Dr. Morgan McDonald as acting health commissioner to step in and lead the department following the departure of Dr. Lisa Piercey.
Piercey became a key figure in the state’s battle against COVID-19 in 2020, but suffered poor public relations last year when she fired Michelle Fiscus, director of the state’s immunization program, under pressure from lawmakers who complained that she was trying to force children to take the vaccination without their parents’ permission.
State Rep. Scott Cepicky, R-Culleoka, has threatened to try to disband the Department of Health if it doesn’t reverse its efforts to vaccinate children.