Tag Archives: victor ashe

Museum board boss: No more emailing

The chair of the Douglas Henry State Museum Commission, Tom Smith, has informed all fellow members that they should no longer email each other, about anything, at any time, reports Nashville Post Politics.

“It has come to my attention that one or more Commission members have been communicating with other Commission members by e-mail,” Smith wrote (in an email) last week. “Per my conversations with the Attorney General’s office these e-mail communications could be viewed as discussions and/or deliberations in violation of Tennessee’s Open Meetings Act and otherwise foster a perception of a lack of transparency by this public body.

“Accordingly, in order to ensure that we are in full compliance with Tennessee’s Open Meetings Act, as Chairman, I am directing that that there be no further email communications between and among members of this Commission in their capacity as members of this Commission,” Smith added (emphasis his).
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Ashe, Haslam differ on museum donation disclosure

Though a recent state attorney general opinion says donors to a $40 million fundraising campaign for the Tennessee State Museum can be kept secret, Gov. Bill Haslam — who is leading the campaign — says the names should be made public, but not the exact amount of each contribution.

The governor’s position, relayed through spokeswoman Jennifer Donnals, is criticized as “a half-baked disclosure” and likened to “being a little bit pregnant” by Victor Ashe, a former Knoxville mayor and U.S. ambassador to Poland who is a member both of the board overseeing museum operations and the Tennessee Coalition on Open Government, which advocates transparency in governmental operations.

It is the latest spinoff in a long-running series of clashes over museum management and tangential issues between Ashe and fellow members of the museum oversight board, officially known as the Douglas Henry State Museum Commission. It does appear to be a first in that Ashe is directly differing with the governor, who is also a former Knoxville mayor.

The clashes continue otherwise, though the initial objective of Ashe’s two-year crusade on museum matters — replacement of Lois Riggins-Ezzell as the museum’s executive director — was apparently achieved last week.

Haslam and the commission’s current chairman, Thomas S. Smith of Nashville, announced Thursday the retirement effective Dec. 31 of Riggins-Ezzell, 76, who has served 35 years in the position. Ashe had accused Riggins-Ezzell of mismanagement, favoritism toward friends in acquiring museum exhibits and other faults.

Haslam said last week that “Lois has given her heart and soul to telling Tennessee’s story and showcasing its rich history” during her tenure, which has seen the museum expand from basement housing with six employees to a 42-employee operation with a $3.8 million annual budget and housing on three floors of the James K. Polk State Office Building, located a block from the state capitol.

At Haslam’s request, the Legislature has authorized construction of a new $160 million museum in a stand-alone building, scheduled to open in December of 2018. The money will come from $120 million in taxpayer funds with the remaining $40 million to be raised in private donations, with the governor spearheading the fundraising efforts. Continue reading

State museum moves, slowly, toward semi-replacement of Riggins-Ezzell

Eleven months after the decision was made to replace Lois Riggins-Ezzell, 76, as the longtime executive director of the Tennessee State Museum, there is finally a tentative timeline for the future hire to start as work toward a new $160 million state-of the-art museum building is underway.

In a comprehensive Nashville Post update on the the museum situation, Cari Wade Gervin also reports the new tentative timeline is already behind schedule, that initial efforts in seeking applicants for the new executive director’s position drew little or no response and that management experts think it’s a really bad idea to keep Riggins-Ezell on the job after her successor is hired, as planned.

An excerpt: Continue reading

TN Republicans on Cruz non-endorsement (‘excellent’ to ‘unfortunate’)

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Tennessee delegates to the Republican National Convention have mixed reactions to a Wednesday speech by Texas Sen. Ted Cruz in which he stopped short of endorsing Donald Trump.

Delegation Chairwoman state Sen. Mae Beavers says she thinks Cruz broke a promise to support the party’s nominee. But she says it “says a lot” for the Trump campaign that they let Cruz speak anyway.

But delegate Victor Ashe, a former ambassador to Poland, says he was “very surprised” the Trump campaign did not make an endorsement of the nominee a condition of allowing Cruz to speak.

Meanwhile, delegate Charlie Cato, a Nashville attorney and Cruz supporter, says Cruz’s speech was excellent, and he approves of Cruz’s call to delegates to vote their conscience in November.

Excerpt from Victor Ashe’s “Delegate Diary” on the same subject:

The Atlantic magazine has been sponsoring breakfasts and some lunches during convention week at the Blue Pointe Grill in Cleveland, with in-depth analysis of various topics.

On Thursday morning the conversation generally ranged from a tough and uphill climb for Trump to reach the White House to the future of the GOP. Most felt U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, who came up short in his nomination run, used his time Wednesday night not endorsing trump “for his benefit.”

Some felt if Trump wins without him, Cruz will be finished in politics, while others felt if Trump fails in November then Cruz has positioned himself well for 2020.

Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam has of this writing not endorsed Trump either. He urged Trump to give a positive speech Thursday night but never stated if Trump meets the threshold for support. Trump delegates at the convention are very disappointed with Haslam.

Susan Richardson Williams, longtime GOP activist and close friend of Haslam, keeps saying the (g)overnor will back Trump yet.

Other comments on the panel:
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Delegate Victor Ashe: Party platform puts GOP ‘squarely on the right’

Note: Victor Ashe, former Knoxville mayor and U.S. ambassador to Poland, will be writing a “Delegate Diary” for the News Sentinel from the 2016 Republican National Convention. The following is an excerpt from his report on a meeting of the Platform Committee, of which he is a member:

The committee-approved platform “certainly marks the party as the most conservative.

Whether social issues or national defense or economic issues, the party is squarely on the right. To the credit of the 112 delegates, there was extensive debate and almost exhaustive consideration given.

The section on foreign policy was titled a “Dangerous World,” and contains the view of how the world looks today. Given the tragic set of attacks across the world, the title is an accurate summary of the situation all of us face.

As an observer, the shortcomings were lack of substantive research on some amendments as there was on occasion an absence of resources to verify or nullify assertions. That is why the committee focused on national security and relationships with foreign allies in Asia, Africa, Latin America and Europe. The United Kingdom was recognized as our top ally — whether the U.K. is in the European Union or not.

A quick glance at the composition of the Platform Committee shows a membership overwhelmingly white, with only one African-American woman and one openly gay woman. At some point, the Republican Party must include more nonwhites if there is a serious intent to win future national elections. The makeup of the committees is governed by each state delegation, which chooses one man and one woman on each standing committee.

…An innovative development among committee members was continued discussion on changing to a short, direct statement of principles not to exceed 1,200 words. Such a platform would be much more readable and understandable than the current 33,000-word document.

Led by Boyd Matheson of Utah, the effort to shrink built support as the arcane debate on numerous amendments left delegates wondering how much the American public would ever understand or know about the decisions made in Cleveland. They are right on target: only policy wonks and some media people will ever read such long reports.

Shorter statements of principle for both political parties would enable more voters to be better informed on both parties’ platform. Perhaps it would increase voter turnout. Such a move could not take place until the 2020 presidential election.

Ashe protests closing of museum board ‘workshop’

Former Knoxville Mayor Victor Ashe, recently appointed to the board of directors of the Tennessee Coalition for Open Government, is protesting a closed meeting planned by another board where he serves as a member.

The board governing the Tennessee State Museum, officially known as the Douglas Henry State Museum Commission, has scheduled an eight-hour “workshop” March 28 on selection of a new museum executive director to succeed Lois Riggins-Ezzell at some point.

In an exchange of email with Tom Smith of Nashville, who chairs a museum board committee on “succession planning” that set up the workshop, Ashe said the meeting should be open to the public. Smith said that it should not and suggested Ashe was being unreasonably critical. Ashe provided a copy of the email exchange to a reporter.
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New museum plans unveiled, new leadership debated

Tennessee State Museum commissioners on Monday saw a conceptual design presentation for a new $160 million facility before later arguing over how quickly to replace the museum’s longtime director, Lois Riggins-Ezzell.

Further, from the Times-Free Press:

Meanwhile, Riggins-Ezzell was named a non-voting member of the very search committee named to replace her. She later told reporters she doesn’t want to leave the post she’s held for 35 years.

“I want to help the new museum,” Riggins-Ezzell said, later adding, “I want to stay. I am the museum director.”

Earlier, members of the Douglas Henry State Museum Commission heard from presentations from project coordinator Mark Cate, former chief of staff to Gov. Bill Haslam.

The governor is taking the lead role on raising $40 million that will supplement a $120 million state appropriation approved last year for the facility. The new building will replace the current museum housed in the basement of the James K. Polk State Office Building. Work is scheduled to begin this spring.

Museum commissioners also heard from Patrick Gallagher, president of Gallagher & Associates, whose firm is designing the exhibit experience for the 50,000-square-foot building that will go up on the state’s Bicentennial Mall near the state Capitol.

“This could easily be a multi-day experience for visitors,” said Gallagher, as he described various galleries with artifacts and interactive displays outlining Tennessee history, culture and more.

He also presented conceptual drawings, which officials stressed were not yet set in concrete.


Commissioners later followed up on their October meeting where they agreed to begin a succession plan for Riggins-Ezzell.

A state comptroller’s performance audit last year raised concerns about the lack of a succession plan while the new $160 million museum is under development. Riggins-Ezzell, meanwhile, has come under criticism for some actions and has been accused of engineering the removal of two members of the Tennessee Museum Foundation, who had raised operational and other concerns.

The foundation is the chief fundraising arm of the museum for purchases of historical artifacts and art.

Haslam’s Human Resources Department is helping commissioners structure the search, as well as aiding the museum on new workforce planning.
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Ashe switches from backing Bush to backing Rubio

Former Knoxville Mayor Victor Ashe, who earlier this year gave a maximum campaign donation to Jeb Bush, has switched to supporting Florida U.S. Sen Marco Rubio for the Republican presidential nomination, reports Georgiana Vines. Ashe is also seeking to become an at-large delegate for Rubio at the Republican National Convention and has donated $2,700 to his campaign.

This comes after donating $2,700 to former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, a member of a prominent family of presidents with whom Ashe and his mother, Martha Henderson Ashe, were long-time friends. Ashe served as ambassador to Poland under President George W. Bush, the former governor’s brother, who was president from 2001-09. Martha Ashe was a convention delegate for the father, George H.W. Bush, as early as 1980. He was president from 1989-93.

Rubio is expected to name his official delegate list at a Monday press conference in Nashville.

“I have supported Jeb Bush and wish he were doing better, but he’s not. Of those remaining, Marco Rubio represents the best nominee for the Republicans,” Ashe said.

He said he thought about it long and hard and in the end, “it’s political reality.”

Ashe described Rubio as articulate, attractive and qualified by having served in local, state and national governments. He said he does not know the son of Cuban immigrants personally.

Knoxville mayor Rogero bashes former mayor Ashe

Knoxville Mayor Madeline Rogero has harshly criticized former Mayor Victor Ashe, who recently criticized her administration’s handling of a local greenway project, reports the News Sentinel.

In his column, Ashe, who served as mayor from 1987-2003 and later as U.S. ambassador to Poland, criticized handling of the greenway from the Buck Karnes Bridge on Alcoa Highway to the Naval Reserve Center. He wrote “delay, postponement, excuses and process” have been Goerlich’s greenway “watchwords.” (Note: the column is HERE.)

“Despite being on the job for almost four years, she has little to show for it,” Ashe wrote. “Rogero, who calls herself a ‘green mayor,’ runs the risk of becoming the ‘red clay mayor’ if Goerlich continues her snail’s pace.”

Rogero called that column the latest in a string of personal attacks by Ashe.

“It is one thing for you to criticize me or my senior staff — we get paid to make the decisions and take the heat,” Rogero wrote. “It is something else entirely for you to so nastily and unfairly single out a hard-working junior staff member.”

In the email, Rogero maintained Ashe’s “abuse” of city staffers — particularly women — is part of a pattern that she called “profoundly unfair” and “the classic tactics of a bully.”

She also took issue with the volume of questions Ashe has asked the city to answer for his “weekly gossip column” in the Shopper, writing that, although Ashe rarely uses the information the city provides, he has “taken up more time and occupied more city resources — by far — than any other member of the local media.

…Ashe said Saturday he wouldn’t comment on the email other than to reiterate “the issue of greenways is important, and I hope that the pace of their construction is accelerated.”

See also Knoxviews, which posts Rogero’s full letter and has a substantial number of comments, most agreeing with Rogero.

State museum board to seek new leader

The Tennessee State Museum’s governing board agreed Monday to begin the process for replacing longtime executive director Lois Riggins-Ezzell after a new performance audit of the museum raised concerns about the lack of a succession plan while a new $160 million museum is under development, reports Richard Locker.

Riggins-Ezzell has led the museum for 34 years and most of her senior management staff have also been in place for several years. The state Legislature in April approved $120 million in public funding for a new museum building on the state’s Bicentennial Capitol Mall in Nashville, to replace cramped quarters in three basement levels of a state office building where it’s been for nearly 30 years. Gov. Bill Haslam is leading an effort to raise another $40 million in private donations.

“One of the things that was significant (in the audit) that caused us pause is that we don’t have a succession plan,” museum commission member Tom Smith said during a meeting of the commission in Memphis. “Lois has made no secret that she’s going to retire. With the new museum, it makes perfect sense for this commission to discuss a succession plan.”

Smith and state Rep. Steve McDaniel, R-Parkers Crossroads, the museum commission chairman, plan a meeting for Oct. 27 with other state officials on the process for selecting a search firm to carry out a national search for a new executive director. Riggins-Ezzell has not said when she plans to retire but told reporters this summer she hopes to remain on board, while helping transition to a new director, until the new museum’s targeted opening in 2018.

…The commission also approved new guidelines for acquisitions for the museum drafted by its acquisitions committee Chairwoman Deanie Parker of Memphis. Ashe has criticized the museum staff for acquiring most of its art and artifacts from Middle Tennessee sources, with considerably fewer from East and West Tennessee.

Further. excerpting from an Andy Sher story:

Commission member Victor Ashe, a former Knoxville mayor who has been critical of Riggins-Ezzell and has openly called for her replacement, said in an interview later that “I’m cautiously optimistic that this will result in needed change.”

But he added that “until I see it happening, it hasn’t happened. I’m pleased the commission is moving in the right direction.” He said a proper search could take six to eight months.

…Bob Thomas, the Museum Foundation’s chairman, on Monday applauded the move to begin finding a successor.

“I feel the commission moved forward in a positive way regarding the succession plan. I’m happy with what they decided.”

Thomas also serves on Haslam’s new seven-member steering committee which is charged with raising the $40 million in private funds.