authors Stephen Elliott
Governor-elect Bill Lee on Tuesday made the first appointments of his incoming administration.
The Republican tapped investor Stuart McWhorter to lead the Department of Finance Administration and will keep Danielle Barnes and Marie Williams, both appointed by outgoing Gov. Bill Haslam, in their roles at the helms of the Department of Human Services and Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services, respectively.
McWhorter served as finance chairman for Lee’s campaign and currently chairs planning for the governor-elect’s inauguration. He is currently chairman and president of investment firm Clayton Associates and has on multiple occasions publicly mulled running for Nashville mayor.
“We have received a tremendous amount of interest from Tennesseans across the state who are interested in serving our administration,” Lee said in a statement. “I am proud to announce these first members of my cabinet and staff. They are highly qualified to lead in their respective areas and will be an important part in helping our state continue to grow.”
Additional appointments, each of which worked in some capacity on Lee’s campaign, announced Tuesday:
• Blake Harris – Chief of Staff
• Butch Eley – Chief Operating Officer
• Lang Wiseman – Deputy to the Governor & Chief Counsel
• Chris Walker – Communications Director
• Tony Niknejad – Policy Director
• Laine Arnold – Press Secretary
Harris is an attorney and was general consultant for Lee’s campaign. He currently serves as executive director of the transition team. Eley is chairman of Lee’s transition team and was previously chief growth officer at DBI Services, an operations and management firm. He founded the Infrastructure Corp. of America in 1998.
Wiseman, a Memphis attorney and University of Tennessee trustee, served as campaign counsel for Lee. Walker was communications advisor to the Lee campaign and has held prior communications roles with the American Enterprise Institute, Heritage Foundation, Department of the Treasury and for U.S. Sens. Bill Frist, Fred Thompson and Richard Burr.
Niknejad was policy director on the Lee campaign and has held previous positions with the American Federation for Children, the Kentucky Republican Party and several campaigns.
Arnold served as press secretary for the Lee campaign after holding the same position with Randy Boyd’s gubernatorial campaign.