NASHVILLE – Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam today announced Jim Henry as his new chief of staff. Henry currently serves as commissioner of the Department of Children’s Services (DCS) and replaces Mark Cate who announced his departure last month.
“Over the past four years, Jim has led two departments in state government that handle some of our most difficult work concerning our most vulnerable citizens,” Haslam said. “Along with his experience in DIDD and DCS, he has been a mayor, a legislator and businessman. I appreciate his willingness to serve in this capacity and bring his knowledge and expertise to our office.”
Henry, 70, first served in the Haslam administration as the first commissioner of the Department of Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities (DIDD), which was formerly a division of the Department of Finance and Administration before becoming a state department on January 15, 2011. He became commissioner of DCS in 2013.
“I am honored to serve the administration in this new capacity and look forward to working in the governor’s office,” Henry said. “I’ll miss working every day with the dedicated and hardworking employees at DCS but know that they will continue to do great work for the state.”
Before joining the Haslam administration, Henry served as president and chief executive officer of Omni Visions, Inc., a company serving adults with developmental disabilities and children and families in crisis. A Vietnam veteran and former mayor of Kingston, Henry spent 12 years as a state representative and six of those years as minority leader.
Haslam also announced that Leslie Hafner, 45, who currently serves as director for legislation, will be promoted to senior advisor to the governor. Hafner is a 20-year veteran of legislative plaza and Tennessee politics. Before joining the Haslam administration, she was a principal at Hafner/Alexander Government Relations. She has also been director of government relations for Bass, Berry & Sims and served seven years in the administration of Gov. Don Sundquist.
In addition, the governor announced that Will Cromer, 30, who currently serves as policy director will be promoted. Cromer will become special assistant to the governor for strategy and will also continue to serve as director of policy. Prior to joining the Haslam administration, Cromer served as policy director for the 2010 Bill Haslam for Governor campaign and as a member of the governor-elect’s transition team. Cromer previously worked for the State Collaborative on Reforming Education (SCORE) and before that worked in the Washington, D.C. nonprofit sector promoting free market policies.
The governor also announced that Deputy Director for Legislation Warren Wells, 31, will become the new director for legislation. Before joining the administration as a legislative liaison to the Department of Finance and Administration, Wells served as a research analyst for the Senate Transportation Committee and worked in the office of Sen. Jim Tracy (R-Shelbyville). Before that he spent nine years in the Army National Guard. He served in Operation Iraqi Freedom and was stationed at Al Taqaddum, Iraq, where he earned a Combat Action Badge and Army Commendation Medal.
The appointments are effective August 1.