published Thursday, June 20th, 2013

Claude Ramsey retiring as Bill Haslam's deputy

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NASHVILLE — Claude Ramsey will retire Aug. 31 as deputy to Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam to spend more time with his family.

Haslam, a Republican, said the 70-year-old former Hamilton County mayor had played an "integral" role on several of his key initiatives, including a civil service overhaul, economic development efforts and workforce development training.

"Claude's experience at the state and local levels of government and his common-sense approach have been invaluable assets to our administration, and I am incredibly grateful to him and his wife, Jan, for their time in Nashville and commitment to the state of Tennessee," Haslam said in a news release.

Ramsey did not respond to requests for an interview.

In the news release, he said it was "a true pleasure to work with the governor on the important issues of job growth, education reform and making Tennessee the best-run state in the country."

The governor's spokesman, David Smith, had no comment on a successor to Ramsey.

"Today is Claude's day. The governor will have more to say about that [his replacement] later," he said.

House Majority Leader Gerald McCormick, R-Chattanooga, said he's sorry to see Ramsey go, saying he has provided invaluable help in the role of a "mature counselor" who served 16 years as mayor and before that as a state legislator, county commissioner and property assessor.

"It's been great not only for Chattanooga but for the entire state to have Claude Ramsey in that role," McCormick said.

Having Ramsey, who as mayor was deeply involved in luring Volkswagen and Amazon to Chattanooga, has been "key to keeping the lines open in economic development projects" and other areas, McCormick said.

In an interview last year, Haslam called Ramsey "just incredibly helpful to me in helping solve problems."

One of Ramsey's roles involved dealing with the GOP-led General Assembly, where he had served two terms in the House.

Haslam said the low-key Ramsey was "pretty good at walking into the middle of problems, listening to both sides and finding a solution."

In the Legislature, staffers respected Ramsey for his institutional memory, preference for working behind the scenes and being a "people person" who was more interested in getting things done than being what one described as a "glory hound."

At times, legislative staffers say, Ramsey would be the one to deliver bad news to lawmakers that one of their top priorities was a no-go.

Senate Minority Leader Jim Kyle, D-Memphis, said his dealings with Ramsey were relatively rare outside of the governor's weekly meetings with top legislative leaders.

That's not unusual with a Republican governor and GOP-dominated Legislature, he said.

Rep. Mike Carter, R-Ooltewah, who served as a top aide to then-Mayor Ramsey, said one of Ramsey's key strengths was understanding what made people tick. Ramsey provided him invaluable lessons in public service, Carter said.

"What he taught me was you're here to improve the lives of people and to act as a sacred trust," Carter said. "But don't lose sight of the fact that it can't always be your way."

about Andy Sher...

Andy Sher is a Nashville-based staff writer covering Tennessee state government and politics for the Times Free Press. A Washington correspondent from 1999-2005 for the Times Free Press, Andy previously headed up state Capitol coverage for The Chattanooga Times, worked as a state Capitol reporter for The Nashville Banner and was a contributor to The Tennessee Journal, among other publications. Andy worked for 17 years at The Chattanooga Times covering police, health care, county government, ...

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