Governor-Elect Bill Haslam announced Friday morning in Chattanooga that he has selected Hamilton County Mayor Claude Ramsey as his chief of staff and deputy to the governor.
The announcement was made at the County Courthouse, where Mr. Ramsey has held the top position since 1994.
He said his resignation as county mayor will be effective Jan. 11.
It will be up to the County Commission to name his successor.
County Attorney Rheubin Taylor said the commission will have 120 days to make the selection.
He said the commission could make the appointment prior to Jan. 11 or on that day.
At least two County Commission members said they are seeking the post - Jim Coppinger and Larry Henry.
Another candidate is Mike Carter, former General Sessions Court judge who now serves as an assistant county attorney.
Governor-Elect Haslam, standing with Mr. Ramsey in the County Commission meeting room at a 9 a.m. press conference, said one of the most important parts of being governor is picking the right team. He said, "Chief of staff is arguably the most important position."
He said he chose Mr. Ramsey because of his long track record in economic development and public education, his experience in dealing with difficult budgets and his character and integrity.
Governor-Elect Haslam said he was on a trip to China with Mr. Ramsey three years ago and he decided at the time he was the type of person he would like to work closely with in the future.
He said the chief of staff "will literally be the right-hand man of the governor" and will be "my number one problem solver."
Mr. Ramsey will represent him on numerous issues and at various events, he said.
Mr. Ramsey said one assignment he has already asked for is when the new mid-size sedan that will be produced at the local Volkswagen plant is unveiled at the Detroit Auto Show on Jan. 9 and 10.
Mr. Ramsey, 67, called it "a very special day for me."
He said Hamilton County will continue to be his home, though he and wife, Jan, will also have a residence in Nashville.
Mr. Ramsey said he will not be involved in "picking my successor" unless the commission seems headed for someone he feels cannot adequately handle the job.
But he said there are many "very capable" local candidates.
Governor-Elect Haslam said he expects to announce several commissioner choices soon. He said he may not have all 23 in place by the time of his inauguration.
He said, "I have a commitment to get it right, not do it fast."
He said he learned in business to "hire slow and fire fast."
The commission room was overflowing for the announcement. Among those present were Mayor Ron Littlefield and members of the local delegation.
Many longtime county staff members were also present. Mr. Ramsey met with them and with the commission prior to the press conference.
Senator Bob Corker said, “Bill sought the best person in the state for this position, and in Claude, Bill has found that person. Claude Ramsey is a remarkable person and the epitome of a true public servant.
“When I served as Chattanooga’s mayor, we began many mornings with a phone call. He was an incredible partner, particularly in economic development. He will be a tremendous asset to the Haslam administration as they work to recruit business and bring good jobs to Tennessee, and I look forward to him replicating his efforts in Hamilton County in counties across our state.”
General Sessions Court Judge Bob Moon said, "County Mayor Ramsey has certainly been a friend of the courts. He has assisted the judges and their staff in their operational needs and conservative budget requests. His local wit, wisdom and leadership will be sorely missed by many. Nevertheless, we are proud of him and proud for him. We wish County Mayor Ramsey and his family the very best as he begins his new career journey."
With longtime administrative assistant Arlene Hughes
- Photo2 by Wes Schultz