The executive power of the state is vested in the office of the governor, the elected official responsible for the enforcement of the laws, collection of taxes, and well-being of the state and its citizens. The recognized state leader of his or her political party, a governor must be thirty years of age, a citizen of the United States, and must have been a resident of Tennessee for seven years before his or her election.
The governor is the commander-in-chief of the army and navy of the state as well as the state militia unless they are called into the service of the United States. The governor has the authority to recommend legislation to the general assembly and to veto bills passed by the legislature which the governor judges to be not in the best interests of the state. The governor has the power to appoint judges and chancellors to fill vacancies and can grant executive clemency following all convictions, except in the case of impeachment.
Governors speak for all the people of the state in national matters and represent both labor and industry, commerce and agriculture, and urban and rural areas. They are elected to a four-year term and can succeed themselves one time. Receiving eighty-five thousand dollars annually in compensation, they are entitled to the use of the Governor’s Mansion plus expenses for its operation. In the event of a vacancy in the office, the lieutenant governor (Speaker of the Senate) succeeds to the office, followed by the Speaker of the House, the secretary of state, and the comptroller.
The governor appoints the commissioners who head the various departments of the executive branch of government. These commissioners plus six senior members of the governor’s staff make up the governor’s cabinet. The cabinet advises the governor and assists him in the administration of the state’s business.
Three of the executive departments began in the nineteenth Century: the Department of Agriculture (1854); the Department of Commerce and Insurance (1873); and the Department of Military (1887). The greatest period of agency creation came during the Progressive era from 1905 to 1925 when nine departments had their beginnings: Environment and Conservation (1905); Financial Institutions (1913); Transportation (1915); Correction (1923); Education (1923); Health (1923); Labor (1923); Revenue (1923); and Human Services (1925). Several of these departments also had nineteenth-century roots in different offices and divisions.
Two departments–Personnel and Safety–were created in 1939. At the end of World War II came the Department of Economic and Community Planning (1945 and 1953); the Department of Employment Security (1945); and the Department of Veterans Affairs (1945). Executive departments established in the last fifty years are the Department of Mental Health and Mental Retardation (1953); Department of Finance and Administration (1959); Department of General Services (1972); Tourist Development (1972, 1976); and Department of Youth Development (1989). The regularly updated Tennessee Blue Book has extensive information about the personnel and programs of these various departments and that information also is available on the Tennessee State Government Web page (www.tennesseeanytime.org).