Top Haslam campaign fundraiser to lead Tennessee State Museum building effort

Top Haslam campaign fundraiser to lead Tennessee State Museum building effort

July 27th, 2015 by Andy Sher in Local Regional News

Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam speaks during a meeting with the Chattanooga Times Free Press editorial board Thursday, June 11, 2015, in Chattanooga, Tenn.

Photo by John Rawlston /Times Free Press.

NASHVILLE -- Gov. Bill Haslam's chief campaign fundraiser as well as a one-time top staffer to former-U.S. Sen. Bill Frist, R-Tenn., were both selected Monday to lead efforts to raise $41.775 million in private funds for the new $160 million Tennessee State Museum building.

The state's private nonprofit Museum Foundation board, acting on Haslam's preference, unanimously approved Kim Kaegi and Emily Reynolds. Reynolds, a Museum Foundation board member, resigned her position prior to the vote.

A formal contract for their services is expected to be ready for action by Museum Foundation members to approve by Sept. 1 at the latest.

Over the past 20 or so years, Kaegi has helped raise tens of millions of dollars in campaign cash for Tennessee Republican politicians including Haslam and U.S. Sens. Lamar Alexander and Bob Corker.

Reynolds served as a chief of staff for Frist and then served as secretary of the U.S. Senate before later becoming head over the Tennessee Valley Authority's public and government relations office. She currently is the vice chairman of the Tennessee Board of Regents overseeing many state universities and all community colleges.

"The fundraising team that is being proposed is a great combination," Haslam Chief of Staff Mark Cate earlier told Museum Foundation members. "This was an idea the governor came up with."

Haslam has taken political ownership of the years-long effort to move the current Tennessee State Museum out of its cramped quarters in the bottom three floors of the James K. Polk State Office Building into a new stand-alone building to be built on the state's Bicentennial Capitol Mall in Nashville.

A contract will later be drafted and submitted to the Museum Foundation board, said foundation chairman Bob Thomas, a Nashville attorney. The Museum Foundation's board, which is self-perpetuating, will name a replacement for Reynolds.

Acting on the governor's recommendation this spring, state lawmakers approved $120 million in state funds for the project. Another $40 million will be privately raised through the nonprofit Museum Foundation, where contributions will be tax deductible.

During Monday's presentation, Cate, whose last day as Haslam's chief of staff is Friday, said the additional $1.775 million will cover three years worth of expenses related to staffing for fundraising, project coordination and communications as well as fundraising events like meals and venues and development of material to encourage large donors ranging from companies and private foundations to individuals to support the project.

Of that amount, staffing and consultants got fundraising, project coordination and communications would account for $1.26 million. Another $225,000 would go toward "donor recognition" and the grand opening for the new museum which officials hope to have completed before Haslam leaves office in January 2019.

The effort to make that happen will include a project coordinator who will tie together fundraising and other elements including work overseen by the state General Services Department-designated project manager who will oversee the architect, engineers, construction company and exhibit designers that are selected.

There has been widespread speculation that Cate would be in line for the project coordinator position.

"My hope is somehow to be involved in the project because I think it's a project I have a lot of experience in," Cate later told two reporters.

But Cate, who in the past has been involved in real estate development and once worked on capital projects and raising money for Maryville College, said no decisions have been made on that for the museum project.

"My hope is there's a place for me in all this, but again, this won't be my primary business moving forward" once he leaves the administration after Friday, Cate said.

While Kaegi is known primarily as a political fundraiser -- a fundraising "guru" has been one description of her -- she said she has also been involved in capital fundraising campaigns, too.

Cate said the fact that Kaegi's so well known among major donors and others is a plus because they want someone who is "high-profile. We know she's been successful in fundraising."

Reynolds, Cate said, has also been involved in fundraising, including capital project campaigns, with work on The Hermitage, home of President Andrew Jackson. "She has a lot of connections across the state. By putting the two of them together, it's a really good team to get the job done."

Haslam will also be heavily involved, Cate said. The governor will serve as chairman of the new state museum capital campaign "cabinet" that through the foundation will be hiring the fundraisers. The cabinet will include two Museum Foundation members and other donors and stakeholders considered "key" to success.

Meanwhile, one foundation board member, Nashville Mayor Karl Dean, formally resigned from the board Monday.

"He supports the museum but believes he should not hold a position with the nonprofit organization that may create a conflict or even the appearance of a conflict with his position as mayor as discussions surrounding the construction of a new building and related issues begin to move forward," Dean spokeswoman Bonna Johnson said in an email.

Nashvillians are in the process of electing a new mayor to replace Dean, who is term limited, and will assume the office in late September.

Contact Andy Sher at asher@timesfreepress.com or 615-255-0550.


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