Tennessee Finance Chief to Retire From Haslam Cabinet

ERIK SCHELZIG | Associated Press

NASHVILLE (AP) – State finance chief Mark Emkes is retiring after presiding over three annual spending plans, Republican Gov. Bill Haslam's administration announced Monday.

Emkes, a former CEO of Nashville-based tiremaker Bridgestone Americas, was one of Haslam's highest-profile Cabinet choices following the 2010 election.

As Department of Finance and Administration commissioner, Emkes, 60, has been responsible for budget matters and managing the state's day-to-day finances.

"We've presented three responsible, thoughtful and strategic budgets, and he has played a significant role in those efforts," Haslam said in a release. "Mark has brought a fresh perspective to state government with a focus on running it like a business."

Emkes' retirement comes following Haslam's decision to forgo – at least for the time being – $1.4 billion in federal money in the upcoming budget year for Medicaid expansion while pursuing a special arrangement with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

Emkes, whose last day will be May 31, is the third Cabinet member to resign from the Haslam administration this year.

Children's Services Commissioner Kate O'Day resigned in February amid mounting criticism about her agency, and Labor Commissioner Karla Davis left her department last month shortly before the release of an audit that determined that management had led to the overpayment of $73 million in unemployment benefits over the course of six years.

Emkes has been a vocal supporter of changing the culture of state employment, calling for more emphasis to be placed on performance than on experience.

"Having had the chance to participate on a team that helped make government more effective and efficient is truly a great feeling," Emkes said in a release.

Emkes, a native of Seymour, Ind., was recruited by what was then the Firestone Tire & Rubber Co. in 1976, and ended up spending 21 of his 33 years with the company overseas. His wife, Conchi, is from Spain, and his two children were born in Mexico and Brazil.

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