AP story on reporter Rick Locker’s job change — with Haslam comment

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — The Tennessee Board of Regents has hired longtime Statehouse reporter Richard Locker as the higher education system’s spokesman.

Locker succeeds Monica Greppin-Watts, who is joining the communications team at the University of Alabama.

Locker began covering the state Capitol for The Commercial Appeal of Memphis 33 years ago and has since contributed state government and politics coverage for the Knoxville News Sentinel and The Tennessean of Nashville. He previously worked for the Nashville Banner and the Knoxville Journal.

“It’s been an honor and a privilege to cover state government and politics for West Tennesseans all these years, and more recently for a broader audience,” Locker said in statement. “It hurts to leave and I will miss all my colleagues at all three newspapers, all of whom work hard every day to keep Tennesseans informed.”

Gov. Bill Haslam told reporters on Monday that he is happy to see Locker join the Board of Regents, but that he is saddened to see another departure from Statehouse press corps.

“I don’t always agree with what he writes, but he is a professional who does care,” Haslam said. “And he’s been around a long time and has a history about Capitol Hill.”

“It matters that we have fewer and fewer people that have been around and understands what happens with state government,” the governor said. “We all lose when that happens.”

Locker joins the Board of Regents staff as the education system faces major changes. Haslam, a Republican, has taken steps toward giving independent boards to its six four-year universities. Once the four-year schools are spun off, the Board of Regents system will concentrate on the administration of two-year colleges where free tuition is available to any high school graduate.

Locker begins his new job on Friday.

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