Yes, Gov. Bill Haslam is on Facebook — and he has with 40,042 friends.
But he’s not reading too much into that.
“Now, I’ve read some of those comments. I’m not sure they’re all ‘friends,’” he joked at the Tennessee Digital Government Summit Thursday.
Nevertheless, Haslam said he is embracing new media technology and the roles it can play in helping the state government adapt and interact with the people it is supposed to serve.
“I have said over and over again that the days of doing government the same way are gone. They just are,” Haslam said. “All of you know the budget pressures that we’re under.
“I know a lot of you are from Tennessee. A lot of you are from other places. I’m relatively confident that no matter where you work in government right now, things are very different than they were several years ago.”
Haslam told the audience at the downtown Nashville Doubletree Hotel how he used the term “new normal” in his budget speech this year and drove home the point again Thursday.
“We might like to think we’re in a temporary position of tightened revenues and having to be harder on expenses than we have historically, but I don’t think that’s going to change anytime in the forseeable future,” Haslam said, with several members of his Cabinet in the audience.
“And that ‘new normal’ means totally re-evaluating how we do everything.”
Haslam noted that Tennessee’s revenue will not be back to its 2007 levels until 2014. He said the old way of doing things was to take every department and cut by 3 percent.
“I don’t think any of us think that’s the best way to do government anymore,” Haslam said.
“We need to be smarter, to be strategic, about where we have to make expense reductions when we do, but also to be strategic about how we use the assets we have in this digital age we live in, to do things more effectively.”
Haslam said the state will have to be smarter as it tackles budget challenges in the face of the rising demand for college graduates — minutes before he left for Knoxville to participate in a University of Tennessee Board of Trustees meeting where tuition would be raised.
Haslam said that as every department in state government re-evaluates its mission in a top-to-bottom review, “inevitably the whole information process is a key piece of that.”
Haslam’s team said in a press release that in addition to his Facebook presence he has 8,388 Twitter followers; 1,072 LinkedIn connections; 17,305 YouTube views; 97,302 Flickr views; and 94,021 visits to his Web site, tn.gov/governor.
“We’re looking for all the different ways that we can communicate through media today that nobody ever dreamed of five or six years ago,” Haslam said.
“But the point of all that is, whether it’s looking at how we run government more inexpensively, how we communicate so we can be transparent to people about what we’re doing, how we teach in ways we didn’t dream we could teach five or 10 years ago, what you all are talking about and what you’re in the middle of is the key process.”
The governor said after his speech that in the big picture, considering a state population of 6 million, even his large number of Facebook followers is not staggering.
“But it’s a way for us to get information out for people who want it,” he said.