Governor of Tennessee

Governor of Tennessee
Flag of the Governor
Bill Haslam

since January 15, 2011
Residence Tennessee Governor's Mansion
Term length Four years, renewable once
Constituting instrument Tennessee Constitution of 1796
Inaugural holder John Sevier
Formation March 30, 1796 (1796-03-30)
Deputy Lieutenant Governor of Tennessee
Salary $178,356 (2013)[1]

The Governor of Tennessee is the head of government of the U.S. state of Tennessee. The governor is the only official in Tennessee state government who is directly elected by the voters of the entire state.

The current governor is Bill Haslam, a Republican. Haslam won election in November 2010 and took office on January 15, 2011.


The Tennessee Constitution provides that the governor must be at least 30 years old and must have lived in the state for at least seven years before being elected to the office. The governor is elected to a four-year term and may serve no more than two terms consecutively.[2]

The governor is the only official of the Tennessee state government who is directly elected by the voters of the State of Tennessee. Judges on several state courts also appear on statewide ballots, but in accordance with the Tennessee Plan they are subject to votes only on their retention in office.</ref> There are only two other U.S. states, New Jersey and Hawaii, where the governor is the only state official to be elected statewide.[3]

Powers and duties

The Tennessee Constitution provides that “The supreme executive power of this state shall be vested in a governor.”[4] Most state department heads and some members of boards and commissions are appointed by the governor.[4]

The governor is the commander-in-chief of the state's army and navy and the state militia, except when they have been called up into federal service.[5] The governor chairs the Tennessee Board of Regents and the University of Tennessee Board of Trustees and holds seats on the State Funding Board, State Building Commission, Board of Equalization, Tennessee Local Development Authority, School Bond Authority, and Tennessee Industrial and Agricultural Development Commission.[4]

The Tennessee governor can veto laws passed by the Tennessee General Assembly and has line-item veto authority for individual spending items included in bills passed by the legislature. In either situation, the governor's veto can be overridden by a simple majority of both houses of the legislature. If a governor exercises the veto authority after the legislature has adjourned, the veto stands.[2] It is uncommon for Tennessee governors to use their veto power, probably because it is so easy for the General Assembly to override a veto.[6]

The state constitution empowers the governor to call the General Assembly into special session, with the subjects to be considered limited to matters specified in the call.[2]


As of 2010, the governor's salary was set at $170,340 per year. This is the ninth highest U.S. gubernatorial salary.[7] Haslam and his predecessor, Phil Bredesen, both were independently wealthy before taking office and refused to accept state salaries for their service as governor.[7][8]

Line of succession

Tennessee does not elect a lieutenant governor. If a vacancy occurs in the office of governor due to the governor's death, removal, or resignation from office, the Tennessee Constitution provides for the Speaker of the Tennessee Senate to become governor.[2][4] Because this has the effect of making the speaker the lieutenant governor, the speaker is often referred to by the title "lieutenant governor." and was also granted this title by statute in 1951.[2] Following the lieutenant governor/senate speaker in the line of succession are the speaker of the Tennessee House of Representatives, the secretary of state, and the comptroller.[4]

Governor William Blount served from 1790 to 1796, when Tennessee was known as the Southwest Territory. He was replaced by John Sevier, the state's first governor. Other notable governors include Willie Blount (William's half-brother), Sam Houston (better known for his role as the President of the Republic of Texas), and future U.S Presidents James K. Polk and Andrew Johnson.


  1. "CSG Releases 2013 Governor Salaries" (Press release). Council of State Governments. June 25, 2013. Retrieved November 23, 2014.
  2. 1 2 3 4 5 Lyons, William; Scheb, John M.; Stair, Billy (2001). Government and Politics in Tennessee. University of Tennessee Press. pp. 48–49. ISBN 978-1-57233-141-9.
  3. Goodman, Josh (January 6, 2009). "Why Everyone Is Running for Governor of Tennessee". Archived from the original on July 4, 2012. Retrieved January 27, 2012.. Judges on several state courts also appear on statewide ballots, but in accordance with the Tennessee Plan they are subject to votes only on their retention in office.
  4. 1 2 3 4 5 "Office of the Governor" (PDF). Tennessee Blue Book 2009-2010. pp. 123–125.
  5. Lester, Connie L. "Tennessee Governor's Office". Tennessee Encyclopedia of History and Culture.
  6. Sisk, Chas (May 3, 2012). "Gov. Bill Haslam Uses First Veto on Vanderbilt's 'All-Comers' Bill". The Tennessean.
  7. 1 2 "The Governors: Compensation, Staff, Travel and Residence (Table 4.3)" (PDF). The Book of the States 2010. Council of State Governments. pp. 199–200.
  8. "Tennessee Gov. Haslam Exempts Himself and Top Staff from Financial Disclosure". January 20, 2011.
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