Cornerstone Foundation closing

Victor Ashe
Government/Politics columnist

The Cornerstone Foundation here in Knoxville, headed by former city director and attorney Laurens Tullock, is closing its doors on Sept. 4 after operating 20 years. The Foundation has been funded by Rodney and Dell Lawler.

The announcement stated that Cornerstone, which has funded many projects in East Tennessee impacting downtown development, disadvantaged kids and community leadership development, was never meant to be permanent.

Tullock will handle the wind down of the foundation and will establish his own firm, Tullock Consulting, to work with state community and change agents in the future. The Lawlers will be Tullock’s first clients.

The letter announcing the closure was signed by six board members – the Lawlers, Tullock, David Martin, Renda Burkhart and Gov. Bill Haslam, who also has his own foundation.

The local 911 board will be looking for a permanent director this year. One name being mentioned is County Commissioner Brad Anders, who serves on the board and is mentioned as a candidate for county mayor. If Anders were chosen the 911 director, it would create a vacancy on county commission, which the commission would fill, as well as an opening on the 911 board. Anders is a city police officer in his day job. He would not run for county mayor either.

County Commissioner Charles Busler turns 68 on Friday, May 5, and his much younger colleague, County Commissioner Hugh Nystrom, turns 50 on Tuesday, May 9. Nystrom is seen by some as a future county mayoral candidate.

With three seats open on the TVA board now and two more coming open in two weeks, President Donald Trump can reshape the whole board. However, they will not all be Tennesseans.

East Tennessee is missing any representation at present. State Sen. Ken Yager, 70, of Rockwood has been mentioned as a possible choice along with former Virginia state senator Bill Wampler, 57, who lives in Bristol, Va.

However, two more names have emerged. They are Jeff W. Smith, 58, associate director at ORNL in Oak Ridge, and Memphis attorney John Ryder.

Smith is viewed almost as nonpolitical but a highly respected professional. He serves on the Knoxville Airport Authority and lives in West Knox County off Pellissippi Parkway.

As an airport commissioner, he attends regularly, is methodical, has a dry sense of humor and asks questions. He has worked hard for the creation of an airport in the Oak Ridge area as chair of the general aviation committee. If on the TVA board, he might drop off the Airport Authority because of time, but it is not required.

Ryder is a longtime business attorney who served as legal counsel to the Republican National Committee for many years. He also works on redistricting for the GOP in the state legislature and is considered an expert.

Gov. Haslam continued his efforts to assist the election of more GOP senators by hosting a fundraiser last week in Knoxville for Mississippi Sen. Roger Wicker, who faces a primary challenge in 2018.

City Council candidate Wayne Christensen has named former state representative and well known attorney Dick Krieg treasurer of his campaign.

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