Tennessee Gov.-elect Bill Lee taps Williamson County sheriff as new state safety commissioner

Tennessee Gov.-elect Bill Lee taps Williamson County sheriff as new state safety commissioner

December 11th, 2018 by Andy Sher in Breaking News
Williamson County Sheriff Jeff Long is photographed after opening ceremonies at the 24th annual Homicide Conference of the Regional Organized Crime Information Center, held at the Chattanooga Convention Center on Monday, Oct. 5, 2015., in Chattanooga, Tenn. Long is chairman of the board of directors of the ROCIC.

Williamson County Sheriff Jeff Long is photographed after...

Photo by Staff File Photo /Times Free Press.

NASHVILLE — Tennessee Gov.-elect Bill Lee on Monday continued filling out his cabinet, announcing appointments to four departments — Safety and Homeland Security, Commerce and Insurance, Financial Institutions and Tourist Development.

The Republican tapped Williamson County Sheriff Jeff Long to be commissioner of Safety and Homeland Security, replacing current Commissioner David Purkey.

And he named retired Purity Dairies top executive Mark Ezell to head Tourist Development, replacing current Commissioner Kevin Triplett.

Long becomes the third commissioner from Williamson County that Lee, who also calls the county his home, has appointed.

At the same time, Lee is keeping two commissioners who served under outgoing Gov. Bill Haslam, a Republican as is Lee.

Julie Mix McPeak will remain as commissioner of the Department of Commerce and Insurance. Greg Gonzales will continue as the head of the Department of Financial Institutions.

"I am pleased these four talented individuals have agreed to join my cabinet and lead these important departments," Lee said in a news release. "Their experience and institutional knowledge will be invaluable as we build long-term solutions for our state."

In 2008, Long, a former assistant district attorney and former special agent in charge with the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation, succeeded former Williamson County Sheriff Ricky Headley. Headley resigned earlier in 2008 in a plea agreement with Middle Tennessee prosecutors over fraudulently obtaining prescription pain pills.

Long has had a 44-year career in law enforcement, previously serving as an investigator for the 21st Judicial District, an arson investigator with the Tennessee Fire Marshal's Office and as a captain with the Williamson County Sheriff's Office.

He was the Tennessee Sheriff Association's Sheriff of the Year in 2013 and is a past president of the organization.

The department has four divisions — the Highway Patrol, Driver Services for licensure, the Office of Homeland Security and the Tennessee Highway Safety Office.

As the incoming head of Tourist Development, Ezell, a seventh-generation Tennessean, will oversee a department tasked with promoting tourism in the state through promotional and advertising campaigns. The department has a marketing division and also oversees Tennessee's 16 welcome centers, usually located on interstates at entry points into the state.

Ezell had worked with Dean Foods for two decades as a senior executive focusing on brand development for Purity Dairies, formerly owned by his family, and other Southeast dairies. He retired earlier this year.

According to Lee's transition office, Ezell helped coordinate the creation and implementation of the national "Milk Mustache — Got Milk?" campaign by milk producers.

During his 35 years at Purity Dairies, where he spent time as president and general manager, he also helped the former family- owned company receive recognition as a "Brands That Built Nashville" winner from the Nashville American Advertising Federation.

Before coming to the Haslam administration, McPeak, an attorney, worked for Burr & Forman LLP. She previously served as executive director of the Kentucky Office and earlier as the office's legal counsel.

McPeak brings more than 20 years of legal and administrative experience in state government. She is the first woman to serve as chief insurance regulator in more than one state.

The sprawling department takes in areas ranging from fire prevention — as commissioner McPeak is the state fire marshal — to the agency's insurance division with licensure and regulatory powers over insurors in areas ranging from accident and health to workers' compensation.

Another major departmental function is overseeing the state's regulatory boards division that licenses and oversees several hundred thousand Tennesseans in 27 regulatory programs ranging from accountants to funeral homes and plumbing licenses.

Financial Institutions Commissioner Gonzales has served in the department since 1986, having been appointed to the top post by Democratic Gov. Phil Bredesen in 2007. Haslam chose to keep Gonzales, the department's former general counsel, in the commissioner post.

He serves as the state's chief regulatory officer of all state-chartered depository banks and licensed nondepository institutions, including payday loan lenders. Gonzales is a past chairman of the Conference of State Bank Supervisors, which is the professional organization of state banking commissioners. He serves on the U.S. Treasury's Bank Secrecy Act Advisory Group.

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


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