Thirty days after a new law took effect transforming the Tennessee Regulatory Authority, the utility regulating agency got an executive director and a quorum for its new part-time board on Tuesday.
Earl R. Taylor, a Panera Bread franchisee who lives in Knoxville and has previously worked as a consultant to media companies, was named as the full-time executive director of the agency jointly by Haslam, House Speaker Beth Harwell and Senate Speaker Ron Ramsey.
Previously, the TRA had four full-time directors and no executive director. Under the legislation passed this year at Haslam’s urging, it will have five part-time directors and a full-time executive director.
Two of the part-time director positions were also filled Tuesday by appointment of James Allison and Herbert Hillard.
Allison is president and CEO of the Duck River Electric Membership Corp., headquartered in Shelbyville. He grew up in Maryville, according to Haslam spokesman and is described in a news release as “also regarded as one of the top instant replay officials in college football after having been an on-field official in the Southeastern Conference for more than 12 years.”
Hillard is executive vice president and chief government relatons officer of First Horizon National Corp. in Memphis.
Two of the former full-time TRA directors – Kenneth Hill and Sara Kyle – remain as part-time directors after the agency overhaul. One part-time director position still remains to be filled.
The new law took effect July 1 and when it did, the agency was left with only two of the part-time board members in place – not enough for a quorum – and with no executive director. The appointments Tuesday resolve that situation.
Taylor was not among the 18 persons who initially applied for the TRA executive director position.
“We wanted to cast as wide a net as possible, so we had those who applied and we also had conversations with others who might be interested,” said Haslam spokesman David Smith in an email. “We’re excited Mr. Taylor is willing to serve in this capacity.”
Taylor’s resume, provided by the governor’s office, says that as a Panera franchisee since 2000, he has developed stores in Florida and has stores under development in Texas and Louisiana. Before that, he was employed by Harmony Media as a consultant. In the 1990s, the resume says Taylor “developed and signed-on” WBXX-TV, Channel 20, in Knoxville and served as general partner and in other capacities at WKXT-TV in Knoxville.
Before that, he practiced law in Johnson City. He holds a bachelor’s degree from UT Knoxville and a law degree from the University of Memphis.
Note: The governor’s news release is below.
News release from the governor’s office:
NASHVILLE – The newly reconfigured Tennessee Regulatory Authority (TRA) has its first full-time executive director and two new part-time directors after Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam’s reforms were passed during this year’s legislative session.
Haslam worked with Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey (R-Blountville) and House Speaker Beth Harwell (R-Nashville) on the joint appointments of business executive Earl Taylor as executive director and utility industry veteran James Allison as a director.
The governor also appointed Herbert Hilliard, executive vice president and chief government relations officer of First Horizon National Corporation, as a TRA director.
“It is our job to make state government as accountable and responsive as possible to Tennesseans,” Haslam said. “These appointees bring years of experience and expertise to the TRA. I am grateful for their willingness to serve our citizens and appreciate the lieutenant governor and house speaker for their efforts in this selection process.”
Passed during this year’s legislative session and signed into law by Haslam, HB 2385/SB 2247 changed the membership of the TRA from four full-time members to five part-time members and established the executive director position, the first of which was to be jointly appointed by the governor, lieutenant governor and house speaker.
The TRA sets utility rates and service standards of privately-owned telephone, natural gas, electric and water utilities.
Taylor practiced law in Johnson City for ten years and has an executive background as part owner of the CBS affiliate in Knoxville and as a business developer in Knoxville, the Tri-Cities area, Florida and Texas. He has a bachelor’s degree from the University of Tennessee, Knoxville and a J.D. from the University of Memphis. Taylor serves as a Metropolitan Knoxville Airport Authority commissioner, Knoxville Fellows Program mentor and as a Young Life of Knoxville committee member.
Allison has utilities experience in Georgia, Kentucky, Tennessee and West Virginia, and is also regarded as one of the top instant replay officials in college football after having been an on-field official in the Southeastern Conference for more than 12 years.
Hilliard has spent 42 years at First Horizon and is currently the board chair for the National Civil Rights Museum, a board member of Blue Cross/Blue Shield of Tennessee and a commissioner for the Memphis/Shelby County Airport Authority.