In The News

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Change at the TABC

In March we saw a change in the  composition of the Tennessee Alcoholic Beverage Commission.  Governor Haslam appointed two new members,  and in an unusual political move, reappointed longtime TABC member John  Jones.  Given his historical ties to the  Democratic party, Jones was likely reappointed to provide continuity and  historical perspective to the three person commission and bring consistent  application of the complicated and often arcane laws that regulate liquor in Tennessee.  Jones’ father served on the original TABC  when it was established in the 1960’s, and a Jones family member has always  served as a TABC Commissioner.  We see the appointment of Jones as being consistent with the Governor’s broad vision  of enhancing Tennessee's  reputation as a business-friendly state.

The two new Commissioners are  Mary McDaniel and Bryan Kaegi.

Commissioner Kaegi, the Middle  Tennessee representative, has a long history of support for prominent  Republican campaigns.  He currently works  with Persuasion Partners, a high-profile political campaign service.  Commissioner Kaegi served on the 2010  Tennessee Victory Leadership Team that led and funded the successful TNGOP get  out the vote campaign, was Finance Director for Senator Lamar Alexander and  also the former Finance Director for the Tennessee Republican Party. He served  as Finance Director for the Tennessee Victory program for President Bush in  2000 and 2004.  His sister, Kim Kaegi,  was Governor Haslam’s finance director.

Commissioner McDaniel, the West Tennessee representative, is recently retired FedEx  Vice President of Aircraft Materiel.  Her  career with FedEx spanned 30 years and she managed aircraft parts inventory and  technical support for the FedEx global fleet.   She is President of the Board of Trustees for Southwest Tennessee   Community College, her  alma mater, and leads fundraising efforts for the college.

We say farewell to Senator Harlan  Matthews and Cynthia Bond, who served the state as Commissioners for the past  eight years, and welcome Commissioners Kaegi and McDaniel to our insane little  world.  We are glad to see the return of  Commissioner Jones for another term.

At the conclusion of April's  regular TABC meeting, Commissioner Jones announced that he was stepping down as  chair. Commissioner Jones has chaired the Tennessee ABC for longer than we  recall.  Commissioner McDaniel was  appointed the new Chair and promised to spend a lot of time with the staff  helping out with TABC functions.  For  example, Commissioner McDaniel attended the National Conference of State Liquor  Administrators and spoke to the group.

Commissioner McDaniel’s  assistance could not come at a better time.  The staff at the TABC is pretty thin and seems to be getting thinner all  the time.  There are numerous high level  vacancies.  Acting Assistant Director  Melinda Arrington departed in May. Former Assistant Director Carolyn Smith  departed late last year. Senior ABC agents Mike Cawthon and Al Watson have  retired.  Hiring freezes have left a  number of key positions vacant.

The ABC was already a thinly staffed agency charged with overseeing several thousand licenses.  Director Danielle Elks is now filling the role of three staff attorneys and also leading the agency. ABC agents are  sparse.  Although licensees do not look  forward to stings, ABC agents are vital to conducting inspections necessary for  issuance of licenses to new businesses and changes of ownership.  In addition, the General Assembly is passing laws that create more classes of licenses and opening up the number of eligible  locations and entities that can obtain licenses; thus, further increasing the workload of a diminished staff.

So far, the ABC has done an admirable  job of working through this tough time. We hope that help is on the way, as  backlogs are certain to build up and morale can easily suffer.
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