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Tenn. State Employees Association Gets New President

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP)/WMOT — The Tennessee State Employees Association has named former Nashville Councilman John Summers as its new executive director.

Summers was the executive director and lobbyist for the Tennessee Trial Lawyers Association from 1980 to 2000, and has since worked as a political consultant.

Summers comes to the TSEA amid successful efforts by Republican Gov. Bill Haslam to overhaul state civil service rules. The changes make it easier for executive branch employees to be hired and fired, and allow merit raises for high-performing workers and pay decreases for poor ones.

Summers believes weakening the civil service rules is a serious mistake.

“The whole idea was to try to take partisanship out of the political process as much as possible. So when you weaken civil service rules you actually put partisanship in the political process.”

Earlier this year, Haslam scuttled plans to give state employees a 1 percent cost of living pay raise in the next fiscal year because of worse-than-expected state revenues.

Summers says that’s going to make it harder for Tennessee to compete with the private sector.

“If we’re going to attract the best people to do the job that I think the citizens of Tennessee want done, and provide the services they want provided, then we’ve got to maintain and attract the best workforce that we can.”

New TSEA President John Summers replaces Robert O'Connell, who announced his retirement in January.

A quick disclaimer: As employees of Middle Tennessee State University WMOT staff members are state workers.