Tennessee economic development chief Bobby Rolfe departing; former finance commissioner Stuart McWhorter to replace him

Tennessee flag tile
Tennessee flag tile

NASHVILLE - Tennessee Economic and Community Development Commissioner Bobby Rolfe is departing from his job as the state's chief business recruiter on July 11 to return to the private sector, Gov. Bill Lee announced Tuesday.

Rolfe, whose recruiting successes included helping recruit Ford Motor Co. and SK Innovation in 2021 to build their planned $5.6 billion auto and battery plant in rural West Tennessee, will be replaced by businessman Stuart McWhorter.

McWhorter, a friend of the governor, formerly served in Lee's administration as state finance commissioner, assuming the role after Lee took office in January 2019 and serving until McWhorter's May 2020 departure.

"Bobby has played an invaluable role in my cabinet by recruiting new businesses and industry to our state, supporting existing companies and expanding economic opportunity across Tennessee, particularly in our rural communities," Lee said in a prepared statement. "I commend his service to Tennesseans and wish him much success as he enters the private sector.

"Stuart has been a tremendous asset to the administration, and his knowledge of both the private and public sectors will ensure Tennessee continues to lead the nation as the best place to do business. I appreciate his service and am confident Tennesseans and our economy will thrive under his leadership."

McWhorter, whom Lee had put in charge of the administration's early response to the COVID-19 pandemic, departed from the state's Department of Finance & Administration for the private sector in 2020. Before joining the Lee administration, McWhorter co-founded Clayton Associates in 1996, a venture firm that established FCA Venture Partners.

In the governor's announcement, the administration cited what it characterized as McWhorter's "diverse background in entrepreneurship, new and small business financing and enterprise value creation."

McWhorter earned his bachelor's degree at Clemson University and master's degree at the University of Alabama at Birmingham. He and his wife, Leigh Anne, reside in Nashville with their five children.

He is the son of the late Clayton McWhorter, a Chattanooga businessman and pharmacist who over the course of a decadeslong career rose to become president and CEO of HCA Healthcare before moving on to co-found Clayton Associates with his son Stuart.

According to the state's Economic and Community Development Department website, the agency has landed some 600 projects during Rolfe's tenure, where he served as a top assistant before becoming commissioner. That represents more than 103,500 job commitments and $30.5 billion in capital investment. Of those projects, over 25 percent were the result of foreign direct investment.

Contact Andy Sher at asher@timesfreepress.com or 615-255-0550. Follow him on Twitter @AndySher1.

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