Alcoholic Beverage Commission hires new executive director

The state Alcoholic Beverage Commission has selected attorney Clay Byrd as its new executive director, reports The Tennessean.

Byrd, 31, previously served as assistant general counsel for the Tennessee Comptroller of the Secretary. Before that, he worked as an attorney for the legislature, where he helped develop alcohol regulations.

Byrd, who will officially start in two weeks, will take over for Ginna Winfree, who entered the position on an interim basis in late March after then-executive director Keith Bell abruptly resigned.

Although the reasons for Bell’s departure remain unclear, some worried the timing could complicate the rollout of the new wine in grocery stores law.

Further complicating matters, Winfree was expected to join Nashville-based law firm Gullett Sanford Robinson and Martin, a firm with several attorneys and lobbyists who work on alcohol-related issues. Winfree was set to join the law firm in April but opted to serve as interim executive director of the commission until a new one was selected.

After Byrd was congratulated by Mary McDaniel, who serves as chairwoman of the three-member commission, for his selection, he promised to be “business friendly, objective and fair.”

McDaniel later told The Tennessean that Byrd was one of more than 20 applicants for the position.

Byrd said he understands people are keeping a close eye on the rollout of the wine in grocery stores law, while offering assurances that he will work quickly to ensure its success.

“This is a large undertaking,” he said. “I saw it as an avenue to contribute to the public good, and that’s the reason I got involved in public service to begin with.”