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.