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Governor-Elect Announces Administration Appointments

Press Release from the Transition Team of Tennessee Governor-Elect Bill Lee, November 27, 2018

Transition names three commissioners and several key personnel to the governor’s staff

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Today, Tennessee Governor-elect Bill Lee announced his first cabinet appointments as well as several key appointments to his forthcoming gubernatorial staff.

“We have received a tremendous amount of interest from Tennesseans across the state who are interested in serving our administration,” said Lee. “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.”

The Governor-elect named the following appointments to his cabinet today:

  • Danielle Barnes – Department of Human Services
  • Stuart McWhorter – Department of Finance and Administration
  • Marie Williams – Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services

Danielle Barnes currently serves as the Commissioner of the Tennessee Department of Human Services, and she will continue in that role. Prior to joining DHS, she served as Deputy Commissioner & General Counsel for the Tennessee Department of Human Resources. In her capacity, she had oversight over all legal issues within the Department, offering counsel and advice to her agency, other state agencies and individuals on employment law matters. Commissioner Barnes grew up in the Knoxville area. She received her undergraduate degree from Spelman College and her law degree from the University of Tennessee College of Law.

Stuart McWhorter currently chairs inauguration planning efforts. He served as Finance Chairman for Governor-elect Lee’s gubernatorial campaign. McWhorter serves as Chairman and President of Clayton Associates, founded in 1996, an investment management company primarily focused on the early stage investment cycle in the healthcare and technology industries.

Crockett County native Marie Williams currently serves as Commissioner of the Tennessee Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services (TDMHSAS), and she will continue in that role. She leads the Department and their over 1,800 employees in assisting individuals in securing treatment and recovery services for serious mental illness, serious emotional disturbances, and substance abuse disorders. Prior to assuming the Commissioner role, she served as Deputy Commissioner and as the Assistant Commissioner of Mental Health Services where she worked collaboratively to expand consumer-based recovery services.

Governor-elect Lee also announced the following senior staff roles in the governor’s office:

  • 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

Blake Harris currently serves as the Executive Director for Governor-elect Lee’s transition leadership team. He is an attorney and served as General Consultant for Bill Lee’s successful gubernatorial campaign. Responsible for overall campaign strategy for the campaign, he built the campaign team that helped propel Bill to victory this year.

Butch Eley currently serves as the Chairman for Governor-elect Lee’s transition leadership team. He most recently served as Chief Growth Officer of DBI Services, one of the nation’s leading providers of performance-driven operations and maintenance and asset management services. Prior to that, he founded Infrastructure Corporation of America in 1998 to provide comprehensive asset management solutions for infrastructure assets. Butch served on Bill Lee’s Business Advisory Coalition during his campaign and is a former member of the Republican Governor’s Association Executive Roundtable.

Lang Wiseman served as Campaign Counsel to Bill Lee’s gubernatorial campaign. He founded Wiseman Bray PLLC in Memphis and specializes in business and commercial litigation. Lang currently serves on the University of Tennessee’s Board of Trustees and also currently serves on Gov. Haslam’s Council for Judicial Appointments.

Chris Walker served as Communications Advisor to Bill Lee’s gubernatorial campaign. Most recently, he worked in communications advisory roles with the American Enterprise Institute and The Heritage Foundation. He has served in various capacities for former U.S. Senators Bill Frist and Fred Thompson and served as Press Secretary for U.S. Senator Richard Burr (NC). He also served in the George W. Bush administration as a Public Affairs officer at the Department of the Treasury and as a Defense Fellow at the Department of Defense.

Tony Niknejad served as the Policy Director for Bill Lee’s gubernatorial campaign. Prior to that, he served as Tennessee State Director for the American Federation for Children. He also worked with the Republican Party of Kentucky in their historic retaking of the state House in 2016, as well as two Republican campaigns for congressional candidates in Georgia and Tennessee. He has also served as a policy staffer at the Tennessee State Senate and is the former chairman of the Davidson County Young Republicans.

Laine Arnold currently serves as the Press Secretary for the Transition. Previously, Arnold served in the same role for Governor-elect Lee’s General Election campaign. She also served as Press Secretary for the Randy Boyd for Governor campaign in 2017 and 2018.

On November 7, the transition unveiled a new website – transition.billlee.com. The site includes detailed information about the Governor-elect’s policy priorities, a section where Tennesseans can submit their resumes to potentially join his team, and most importantly, a section where Tennesseans can share their ideas with the Governor-elect and his team.

Since launching the site, the Lee Transition Team has received information from over 900 applicants who are interested in serving in the administration and nearly 2,000 ideas for bettering state government.