NASHVILLE - Republican Senate Speaker Ron Ramsey on Friday named Sen. Bo Watson, R-Hixson, as the next speaker pro tempore, one of the chamber's top positions.
Watson, 50, will replace Sen. Jamie Woodson, R-Knoxville, who announced this week she will resign from the Senate when the current legislative session ends July 1 to take a job with SCORE, the State Collaborative on Reforming Education. The group was founded by former U.S. Sen. Bill Frist of Tennessee.
"It is rare that you find someone who works as hard for the people of Tennessee as Bo Watson," Ramsey said in a news release. "His tireless work on issues of government reform has been an inspiration to all of us striving to make state government as small, efficient and transparent as possible."
Watson, first elected to the Senate in 2006, said Ramsey sounded him out earlier this week after Woodson said she would be leaving.
"He approached me and said, 'I know you're currently chairman of the Government Operations Committee and there's other stuff you're doing, but I would like for you to do this,'" Watson said. "Of course, when the speaker asks me to do something, I will be doing it."
Watson will have to give up the chairmanship of the Government Operations Committee when he becomes speaker pro tem.
As speaker pro tem, Watson will take over as speaker when Ramsey is absent from the chamber. But perhaps even more significantly, it thrusts the Hamilton County lawmaker into the highest ranks of leadership.
Watson said he will be working with Ramsey, who is also the state's lieutenant governor, on the Senate's agenda "and helping guide the direction of the Senate. That means working with both the majority and the minority leader."
He also will be involved in policy, Watson said, noting the speaker pro tem "is part of the core leadership team of the Senate."
House Majority Leader Gerald McCormick, R-Chattanooga, called Watson's appointment "great for Hamilton County and the state."
"He studies and understands the issues, particularly the budget," McCormick said.
Watson also is "honest, hardworking, very fair and listens to all sides of issues from different people," McCormick said.
Prior to his election to the Senate, Watson served one term in the House. He represents the 11th Senatorial District.