NASHVILLE -- Gov. Bill Haslam said he's happy both with the new chief operating officer slot he's added to his cabinet and the former top IBM executive he recruited to fill it.
Haslam said Tuesday his selection of Greg Adams, 58, is not intended as a "replacement" for his current deputy, Claude Ramsey, the 70-year-old former Hamilton County mayor who last week announced he is retiring Aug. 31 after spending a little over 21/2 years in the Republican governor's administration.
"Obviously he's going to take the spot, but he's going to do a very different job," Haslam told reporters. "When I asked Claude to do that job I knew Claude brought a unique skill set from being a [former] legislator, being a Hamilton County mayor for so long and I thought that was really important."
But after 21/2 years in office, the Republican governor said, "I realize that one of the things that's hardest for me being governor is I can't spend the time I would like with each department."
He said he's found it "frustrating that the main things we're trying to do whether it be issuing a driver's license or help a child be adopted quicker or make sure a road gets paved faster, all the other things that we do, I can't focus the time I would like on that."
Adams said in a news release that he is "excited to work with Gov. Haslam and join his senior team in this new role."
It's a "unique opportunity to apply my experience and skills in the public sector, and I look forward to being back in Tennessee. Not only have I lived and worked in Knoxville and Nashville, we have several proud graduates of Tennessee universities in my family. It will be great to be back."
Adams, whom Haslam got to know when Adams worked for IBM in Knoxville in the 1980s, has "literally got a world class background," the governor said. "I've been talking to him for a while about coming to work for the state. And when we agreed to do it, I thought this was a place that he could contribute in a big way."
He spent nearly 37 years at IBM in various roles ranging from general manager of process industries for IBM North America to vice president of small and medium business for Canada, the U.S. and Latin America.
"Greg's main function is going to be the internal workings of state government," Haslam said of his pick, who has a bachelor's degree in science and engineering from Princeton and a master's degree in science and management from Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
"He won't be dealing as much on policy or the political side," Haslam said, noting his chief of staff, Mark Cate, will be focusing more there.
Ramsey, who initially held the chief of staff title in addition to deputy, focused on political and legislative matters as well as economic development and occasional trouble spots.
Lauding Adams' resume, Haslam said that in the late 1990s, "when IBM kind of got off track," then-company CEO Louis Gerstner "put Greg in charge of the whole transformation project. So he really brings a lot of capacity to state government."
Asked if state government is "off track," Haslam said, "not at all. Not at all. I actually think we're doing great work in state government. Also, I don't have nearly enough time to spend with the agency heads as I would like to."
Adams will bring a "fresh perspective" on state functions, Haslam said.
He does not intend to name a new deputy.
Gerstner will be paid $165,000 annually. Ramsey makes $187,542. Cate is paid $155,004.
Contact staff writer Andy Sher at asher@timesfree press.com or 615-255-0550.