State ‘Dashboard’ Still in Works

Yes, Gov. Bill Haslam will indeed have a dashboard — the device for measuring the state’s progress, as the former Knoxville mayor outlined in his campaign for governor.

But it’s still not certain when the dashboard will appear, or what will be on it.

When Haslam, a Republican, announced the idea of a dashboard for state government to the Rotary Club of Nashville last September, Mike McWherter, his Democratic opponent, said it was “little more than a gimmick masquerading as policy.”

But Haslam said Tuesday the dashboard idea is alive and well and headed to a place Tennesseans will be able to see, presumably online. He mentioned it might appear in a couple of months, but not to hold him to the timing.

When asked Tuesday if the state is going to get the promised dashboard, Haslam replied, “I’ve been waiting for somebody to ask me that.”

In fact, Haslam said he and Mark Cate, special assistant to the governor, had been working on the dashboard just Tuesday morning.

While a dashboard for state performance might sound quirky, the dashboard concept is actually quite normal and common for businesses. Haslam comes from a business background, as a former executive with his family’s company, Pilot Corp., which has grown into one of the nation’s top truck stop chains, Pilot Flying J. He envisions a dashboard for state government, just as Pilot has at its corporate headquarters in Knoxville.

“We’re trying to decide: What are the things that are the right measurements, area by area, of state government?” Haslam said. “Some are easier to do. That’s the discussion we’re having. Does the dashboard have 50 dials on it or 10? It’s hard to watch 50 dials, at the end of the day.”

Haslam said some things will be on display for sure, including college graduation rates and unemployment rates.

“Those are no-brainers,” he said. “The problem is the bigger no-brainers are the stuff that take a long time to impact.”

Haslam said if you walk into the Pilot office, “everything in the world is on the walls.”

“It lets you know how you’re doing, so you don’t kid yourself, but it lets everybody know what you think is important,” he said.

“The hard part is coming up with what those should be, the things we can really impact and don’t take forever to move the needle.”

When Haslam first unveiled the dashboard idea at Nashville’s Wildhorse Saloon last year, he said it would cover five categories: jobs and economic development; education and workforce development; fiscal strength; health; and public safety.