The start of a Knoxville Business Journal article on Mark Emkes, the recently departed state finance commissioner who may exemplify the kind of business-oriented guy Gov. Bill Haslam likes to have in state government:
Insofar as knowledge about operations goes, there was quite a contrast at the outset of Mark Emkes’ last two executive undertakings.
When he became CEO of Bridge- stone Americas Holding Inc. in 2004, Emkes says he had firsthand experience in virtually all aspects at the world’s largest tire manufacturer — from changing tires, his first job in a Texas Firestone store back in 1975, to subsequently managing company dealings in locales from the United Arab Emirates to Brazil. Firestone was acquired by Japan-based Bridgestone in 1988.
“You know everything they know,” Emkes recalls about managing the company’s thousands of employees in North and South America.
That was not the case when Emkes became CFO for the state of Tennessee, a position officially known as commissioner of the Department of Finance and Administration. That is the top position among the 22 commissioners hired by Gov. Bill Haslam.
“When I walked into this job, I didn’t know anything about state government,” Emkes says. “The learning curve is really steep.”
U.S. Rep. Scott DesJarlais says he never intentionally misled voters about his past and stressed that he has no plans to resign over recent revelations that depict a private life starkly at odds with his public image as an anti-abortion, family values congressman.
Further from Michael Collins: In his first extensive remarks since the release of a court transcript from his 14-year-old divorce, the Jasper Republican conceded that he often used “very poor judgment” during his first marriage and the lengthy separation that followed.
But DesJarlais said he is not the same man who supported his first wife’s decision to have two abortions. The physician-turned-congressman said he also deeply regrets sexual relationships with multiple women, including two patients, three co-workers and a drug company representative while he was chief of staff at Grandview Medical Center in Jasper.
DesJarlais, re-elected to a second term just two weeks ago, said he hopes voters will look at the job he has done while in office and will not judge him on his past.
“I am human,” he said during an hourlong interview with the News Sentinel. “I don’t think I ever put myself out there to be somebody that was perfect. I put myself out there as somebody who wanted to serve the public.”
He added, “I will serve as long as the people want me to serve.”
…DesJarlais said the charges of hypocrisy are unfair because, he said, his anti-abortion views have evolved over time but had not been formed when his wife aborted her pregnancies.
“I guess as a physician, I was a fairly objective person,” he said of his beliefs at the time. “I try not to be a judgmental person. (Abortion) was just not something that I put as much thought into as I should have, in retrospect. Going back, if I could change and do things differently, certainly I would.”
DesJarlais said his first wife’s abortions helped to eventually shape his anti-abortion views. Another factor in that evolution, he said, was his marriage to his second wife, Amy, a decade ago. Amy DesJarlais had gotten pregnant in high school, but chose to get married and have the child. Her husband died in a mining accident when the child was 3, and she later married DesJarlais, who helped raise her son, Tyler, now 17.
“I can’t imagine not having Tyler as my son,” he said. “That certainly had a major influence on my life and my beliefs.”
Regarding the phone conversation in which he was recorded urging a sexual partner to get an abortion, DesJarlais said he knew the woman wasn’t pregnant and that he was trying to get her to admit it. In his divorce transcript, however, the woman insists that she was pregnant, although she declines to give the outcome of that pregnancy.
Despite the woman’s testimony, DesJarlais insists that she was not pregnant. “She was not pregnant by me,” he said. “I don’t think she was pregnant period.”
Economic and Community Development Commissioner Bill Hagerty did a Q&A session with the Tennessean. A couple of excerpts: On the results of ECD’s “top-to-bottom review:
“The result of that was a fundamental change in our organizational structure. We are now divided into nine distinct regions, each with a highly competent regional director and staff that is focused extensively on the needs of existing businesses in the state of Tennessee.
“The (department) staff itself has been reduced by 42 percent while the average salary of each employee in our department has increased by more than $10,000. We have a smaller department but a very highly functioning department, and that staff is highly focused on recruiting.
“We have four overseas offices and we have a business development team that is focused on recruitment of companies from outside the state. They are working on a global basis every day to bring new companies to the state.” On the search for regulations bothersome to business that should be changed, Hagerty said the big problem is at the federal level.
“There, our objective is to work closely with our congressional delegation to make sure those issues are aired in a constructive manner and identify businesses that may be willing to either testify before Congress in Washington or maybe field hearings here in Tennessee to underscore their issues and perhaps make a difference at the federal level.
“I don’t expect anything transformational at the state level, but I do suspect we’ll find opportunities for incremental improvement there. At the municipal level, I suspect we’ll find opportunities to share learning and best practices across the state.”
Knox County commissioners Monday interviewed four potential interim successors to state Sen. Jamie Woodson, reports Mike Donilla. They’ll make a final selection next week during their regularly scheduled meeting. Under state law, the Knox County Commission will choose a temporary successor who will serve until a special election is scheduled by the governor.
It’s anticipated to coincide with Knoxville city elections Sept. 27 and Nov. 8.
Five candidates applied for the spot before last week’s deadline. One — Janie Vega, a long-time legal secretary — did not attend the interview process. Neither she nor the others plan to run for the seat on a permanent basis.
Commissioners gave the other four candidates roughly five minutes Monday to say why they were qualified for the seat, which isn’t expected to be more than a caretaker position, because the General Assembly is not in session.
…Here’s a snapshot of their comments:
At lunch one day last week, Gov. Bill Haslam decisively ordered the “redneck burrito,” a pork-based specialty at the downtown restaurant that he later said was good but caused a bit of indigestion.
In an interview over lunch, the former Knoxville mayor indicated that the state Legislature may have had a similar effect during his first months as Tennessee’s chief executive..
“Did my life change a whole lot since the Legislature left? Sure,” he said. “The things I’m doing now are the things that I ran for governor to do.”
He ran through a lengthy list of gubernatorial doings in the last 24 hours or so, ranging from a strategy session on education issues to dinner at the executive residence the previous evening with corporate executives considering Tennessee as an investment location. It was one of many such dinners he and his wife, Crissy, has hosted, he said.
Haslam said he was “absolutely astounded” at the number of potential corporate
investments in the pipeline when he took over from former Gov Phil Bredesen and the number has grown. He was almost as surprised, however, at the amount of state incentives or subsidies that the would-be investors want.
That has him contemplating development of a “measurable metric” for calculating whether the incentives granted by the state in any given case are worth the jobs that would be created. It seems the sort of businesslike, managerial thing that Haslam relishes.