Tennessee Democratic Party has holes to fill after departures

The Tennessee Democratic Party looked Monday to move along after a string of departures by launching the search for a new executive director and other positions.

The party released job postings for the top staff position, as well as a new deputy finance director, digital director and office manager. All would fill vacancies in the party offices, including three created since the party's Jackson Day Dinner Sept. 7.

The vacancies have slashed the party's already lean operation in half, leaving just a pair of full-time staffers. But state party Chairman Roy Herron's cost-cutting — as well as his reputation as a difficult manager — have led some members of the executive committee to question his management style. The party's success in filling the positions could serve as a test of his leadership.

"I am a demanding boss. There is no question," Herron said Monday. "I expect a lot of myself, and I expect a lot out of those working with me."

Chairman praised for his performance

Earlier this month, Executive Director Kevin Teets, Deputy Finance Director Cortnye Stone and office manager Allison Jones resigned, all within days of Jackson Day, the party's biggest annual fundraiser.

The turnover has deflated some of the enthusiasm from the event, which Herron says netted more than $300,000. The sum is rivaled only by a 2009 dinner headlined by former President Bill Clinton and former Vice President Al Gore.

This year's dinner did not have nearly as much star power as that event, with Virginia Sen.Tim Kaine delivering the keynote. But Herron says he cut costs by nearly three-quarters from past dinners by placing the event at the low-cost Musicians Hall of Fame, a new venue in a lower level of Nashville Municipal Auditorium.

Herron says he also has saved $20,000 a month by slashing operating costs and will save the party $200,000 by leaving positions such as deputy executive director, political director and field director unfilled this year.

"I think Roy's doing a fine job," said Bill Owen, an executive committee member from Knoxville. "He's working very hard under difficult circumstances."

The vacancies were posted on the Tennessee Democratic Party's website Friday and went out Monday to other sites, including those run by other state parties. Herron said the party already has begun receiving applications.

"We've been fortunate to have really talented people work for us in the past," he said. "The party continues to attract extremely talented people to work for it that will work hard to elect Democrats."


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