Attorney Jeff Yarbro has taken a commanding fundraising lead in the Democratic primary to replace longtime state Sen. Douglas Henry, hauling in more than four times the figure of his opponent, Metro Councilman Jason Holleman, according to The Tennessean. Yarbro raised $95,225 in the financial quarter that ended June 30, giving him a total war chest of $101,089, while Holleman raked in $22,200. The deadline to submit financial disclosures for 2014 state elections was Monday.
…Besides these two, no one else has publicly expressed intentions to run for District 21, which now stretches from West Nashville to parts of East Nashville and Madison after Republican-controlled redistricting.
The contest between Yarbro and Holleman, considered a bitter rivalry, is likely to be Davidson County’s most watched race in 2014. The winner would be heavily favored in the November general election.
News release from governor’s office:
NASHVILLE – Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam today announced Debra Payne as the new commissioner of the Department of Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities (DIDD) as Jim Henry becomes the permanent commissioner at the Department of Children’s Services (DCS).
Payne currently serves as deputy commissioner of DIDD and Henry as the interim commissioner of DCS.
“These two departments handle some of the state’s most difficult work concerning our most vulnerable citizens,” Haslam said. “I want to thank Debbie for taking on this new role in such a young department. Her experience and hard work will continue to serve the state of Tennessee very well.”
As deputy commissioner of program operations at DIDD, Payne has overseen two development centers, a statewide community-based service delivery system supported by more than 2,000 employees, 475 community providers and three regional offices.
“I want to thank Gov. Haslam for the opportunity to continue to serve Tennesseans with disabilities,” Payne said. “I look forward to working with this department and all of our providers in continuing to offer quality care.”
Payne has a bachelor’s degree in Psychology and Criminal Justice from Middle Tennessee State University. She has served in numerous capacities throughout her career and is credited with assembling a nationally recognized Protection from Harm system as the statewide director of Protection from Harm for DIDD.
Payne lives in Mt. Juliet with her husband, Mike, and she has three children, two step-children and one granddaughter.
Henry was the first commissioner of DIDD, which was formerly a division of the Department of Finance and Administration before becoming a state department on January 15, 2011. He has headed up both DIDD and DCS since February when he became interim commissioner of DCS.
“I am honored to serve in this capacity with Gov. Haslam,” Henry said. “We have taken important steps at DCS, and we will continue to strengthen our processes and policies as well as continue to improve the department as a whole.”
The appointments are effective June 1.
— Note: Interestingly, House Democrats have issued praise of the governor’s appointment of Henry. It’s below.
By Lucas Johnson, Associated Press
NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Longtime Sen. Douglas Henry said Wednesday that his health and the high cost of campaigning were factors in his decision not to seek re-election next year, even though he believes he could win if he did run.
The 86-year-old Nashville Democrat officially met with reporters about a week after his campaign manager sent an email to Henry’s supporters last week announcing his decision.
Henry, who turns 87 this month, said he had been disregarding his doctor’s request that he not run again but finally decided to heed his advice. He also said the amount of money he spent on his 2010 election was “obscene.”
“If I told y’all how much money it cost to get elected last time, you’d never believe it,” he said. (Note: His campaign expenditures for the 2010 cycle were about $582,000.)
State Sen. Douglas Henry’s announcement that he will retire from the Legislature this week has already led two men to say they will run for the Democratic nominationn to succeed him.
They are, says the City Paper, Nashville attorney Jeff Yarbro, who nearly defeated Henry in a 2010 primary challenge, and Metro Councilman Jason Holleman, who is term-limited at the courthouse and whose ambition is well known in Nashville’s political circles. Holleman, who has called Henry a hero of his, confirmed his plans to The City Paper.
“I intend to run for the state Senate next year, because I think it’s the place where I can do the largest good,” he said, noting that he has lived in District 21 his entire life.
With the caveat that formal announcements and campaign organizations are still a ways off, Holleman said education is a top-of-mind issue for him at the state level, where policy decisions “have a tremendous impact on the classrooms in our local school system.”
“Beyond that, we’re in a time when there is a lot of discussion about the interplay between state and local government,” he said. “I think that there is a need to be sure that our local government interests are represented. And with the background in local government, both as an elected official and an attorney, I think I can contribute in a meaningful way to that discussion.”
If he were elected, Holleman would join, at least for a bit, the ranks of council members who have held seats at the state and local level simultaneously. While his first state Senate term would begin in January 2015, his final council term would end in August.
Yarbro also confirmed that he intends to run, but said he will make a formal announcement later.
“I’m looking forward to a conversation about Tennessee’s future and this Senate seat, but there’s plenty of time for the next campaign. I’ll make an announcement when the time’s right.”
He declined to comment further, saying he’d “love for this week to be about Sen. Henry,” and his “faithfulness to the state over the years and his service.
From The Tennessean: Democratic Reps. Mike Stewart and Sherry Jones and former Metro Councilman David Briley each told The Tennessean on Wednesday that they wouldn’t be running in the District 21 Democratic primary in 2014, which is still 15 months away.
Sen. Douglas Henry, the most senior member of the Tennessee General Assembly, has announced he will not seek a 12th term next year.
“It is my intention, the Lord willing, to serve in the regular session of the General Assembly in 2014 and any special session or sessions called during that year until the November election,” Henry said in a letter to Senate Speaker Ron Ramsey, House Speaker Beth Harwell and Senate Democratic Caucus Chairman Lowe Finney.
The Tennessean reported Henry’s decision, noting he referred a reporter to a story in the Green Hills News, and quoting his long-time political ally Nick Bailey. “He asked me to let you know that he has made the decision not to seek re-election in 2014,” Bailey wrote in a letter to Henry’s supporters. “He does intend to serve the remainder of his term through next year.
“While I am convinced that Sen. Henry could have been re-elected, it was not a decision he reached based on the likely outcome of the election. Rather, it was a decision to devote his full attention to the care of his wife Lolly.”
The Green Hills News story by Drucillia Smith Fuller (pdf of the weekly paper HERE) quotes the letter to legislative leaders. An excerpt from the story: He enclosed a letter from his physician, Dr. Mohana Karlekar, written last May but only heeded a year later, advising that his continuing to work as a senator, at the pace he works, would negatively impact his health.
The decision by Sen. Henry, who turns 87 on Monday, May 13, opens the 21st District for a newcomer to the Senate, promising to spark a fierce battle between the two parties for the seat.
Henry’s quarter-century of service chairing the Senate Finance, Ways and Means Committee has been widely praised by colleagues in both parties. Republican House Speaker Beth Harwell recently expressed her appreciation of Henry, “You know, governors come and go. But it is Sen. Douglas Henry who has watched that budget year after year and worried about that program. It’s just a wonderful gift he has given our state to his children, to his grandchildren to have done this for state government.”
Republican State Treasurer David Lillard has called Sen. Henry, “the lion of the pension system — he guards it well,” while State Comptroller Justin Wilson credits Henry with keeping pensions fully-funded since 1972.”
Henry with his characteristic modesty thanks “my late friend Lt. Gov. John Wilder who made me chairman of the Senate Finance Committee. That made me a big, big dog!”
The Senator expressed his admiration for current Senate Finance Chairman Randy McNally, a Republican, with whom he now serves.
Henry served a term in the House in the 1950s – the 79th General Assembly, which convened in 1955 – and was first elected to the Senate during the 87th General Assembly, which convened in 1971
By Travis Loller, Associated Press
NASHVILLE, Tenn. — The Department of Children’s Services is reorganizing following problems that led to the recent resignation of Commissioner Kate O’Day.
One of the biggest changes includes teaming with the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation to better train child abuse investigators.
“The first responsibility of DCS, whatever happens, should be to make sure the child is safe,” Interim Commissioner Jim Henry said Monday at a news conference.
Henry said district attorneys sometimes are unwilling to prosecute a case because of problems with the investigation.
Investigations were formerly a part of Child Protective Services, a program that was under the same division as foster care and adoption. Those investigations will now be under a new division called Child Safety, which will have its own deputy commissioner in Scott Modell.
By Lucas Johnson, Associated Press
NASHVILLE, Tenn. — The man who took over Tennessee’s embattled child welfare agency said Tuesday he’s addressing problems that have plagued it for years, including having staffers personally call him when a child death is reported.
Tennessee Department of Children’s Services interim commissioner Jim Henry and key members of his staff spoke before the House Government Operations Committee about improvements made since Henry stepped in about a month ago. Henry replaced Kate O’Day, who resigned at the end of last month.
The agency has been heavily scrutinized for years and has come under even more fire recently because of the number of children who have died while in its custody. More than 200 Tennessee children lost their lives or nearly died since 2009 after having some contact with the agency. The exact number isn’t clear.
So far this year, six children have died in state custody.
Henry said changes include having regional administrators call his personal cellphone when a child dies and immediately notifying lawmakers in that child’s district. He said a death review process has been established and cases are checked monthly.
In addition to reciting the Pledge of Allegiance to the United States flag, an official “Salute to the Tennessee flag” is now part of the state Senate’s opening ceremony at the start of a day’s meeting.
The first recitation came Thursday in compliance with a Senate Rules Committee proposal adopted earlier by the full Senate.
Sen. Douglas Henry, D-Nashville, the Legislature’s senior member, had proposed the recitation and led colleagues on the first occasion. The salute goes like this: “Three white stars on a field of blue
God keep them strong and ever true.
It is with pride and love that we
Salute the flag of Tennessee.”
During a committee meeting, Henry acknowledged that some senators were not familiar with the salute yet. He quoted Sen. Jim Kyle, D-Memphis, jokingly suggesting a variation: “Three starts upon a field of blue. I don’t know the rest and neither do you.”
By Lucas Johnson, Associated Press
NASHVILLE, Tenn. — State lawmakers told the interim commissioner of the embattled Department of Children’s Services on Wednesday that they want to be made aware of the agency’s challenges so they can help address its problems.
Jim Henry, who headed the Department of Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities, spoke before the Senate Health and Welfare Committee. He replaces Kate O’Day, who resigned the day before under scrutiny of how her agency handled the cases of children who were investigated as possible victims of abuse and neglect, then later died.
Committee member Doug Overbey said lawmakers would like to have more meetings with agency officials.
“I think it would be very helpful that we meet again like this as we move forward, that we work … together to address the problems,” the Maryville Republican said.
Committee chairman Rusty Crowe said he wants to give Henry time to get situated in his new position, but he’d like to have him back before the committee as early as next month.
News release from the governor’s office:
NASHVILLE – Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam today announced that Department of Children’s Services (DCS) Commissioner Kate O’Day has resigned from her post.
“Kate has informed me that she felt the time was right to step down,” Haslam said. “She was concerned that she had become more of a focus than the children the department serves.
“I appreciate Kate’s service to this administration and to our state. She has done a lot of good work in identifying longstanding problems that have hampered the department, and we will build on those efforts as we move forward.”
O’Day joined the Haslam administration in January 2011. Prior to that, she served as president and chief executive officer of Child & Family Tennessee in Knoxville. She began her career as a youth counselor with the Broward County Sheriff’s Office in Florida and later served as vice president of program development and evaluation for Children’s Home Society of Florida and director of program services for Covenant House of Florida.
The governor has named Commissioner Jim Henry, who currently heads up the Department of Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities (DIDD), to serve as interim commissioner of DCS.
“I am grateful to Jim for agreeing to take on this interim role,” Haslam continued. “He has significant experience both in the private and public sectors and has devoted the better part of his life to caring for some of our most vulnerable citizens.”
Henry is the first commissioner of DIDD, which was formerly a division of the Department of Finance and Administration before becoming a state department on January 15, 2011. 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.
Henry will continue to serve as commissioner of DIDD during his interim role of leading DCS. The governor will immediately begin a search for a new commissioner of DCS.