NASHVILLE – Tennessee House Speaker Beth Harwell, R-Nashville, announced today that her senior advisor, Leslie Hafner, will be leaving the House to return to the private sector.
Hafner, 47, who came to Harwell's office last January after previously working as senior advisor to Republican Gov. Bill Haslam, will leave Jan. 5 to take a new role at the law and lobby firm Butler Snow.
"I know the decision to move away from public policy development was a difficult one," Harwell said in a news release, adding, "I wish her and her family all the best in her new endeavors. I will miss having her in the Speaker's Office, but I know she will never be far away."
Harwell herself isn't seeking reelection to the House as she pursues the 2018 Republican gubernatorial nomination.
As the speaker's senior policy advisor, Hafner oversaw strategic projects and initiatives and worked on the Opioid Task Force and on the Blue Ribbon Commission on Juvenile Justice Reform.
She also collaborated with a team of 11 research analysts to support day-to-day work of House committees and served as the speaker's liaison to various departments and stakeholder groups.
A 23-year veteran of Legislative Plaza and Tennessee politics, Hafner served in Haslam's cabinet for six years as his legislative director before becoming senior advisor. She previously served in Republican Gov. Don Sundquist's administration.
Prior to joining the Haslam administration, Hafner was a principal at Hafner Alexander Government Relations.
Hafner said it's been an "honor to serve Speaker Harwell and to be a part of the incredible team she has brought together. Our state is so fortunate to have a leader who is passionate about serving citizens, committed to finding the right answers, and is focused on issues that will advance Tennessee in education and economic development."
She has been an ambassador to the Department of State's affiliate program American Council of Young Political Leaders for 10 years and has hosted Fellows from Israel, Malaysia and Indonesia.
For six consecutive years, Hafner was recognized by the Nashville Post Magazine in its "In Charge" compendium of Middle Tennessee's top business, politics and civic leaders.
She and her husband, Matt, reside in Nashville with their three dogs, Mr. Biscuits, Louie and Hank.