Ex-GOP chair joins private sector

Victor Ashe
Government/Politics columnist

Former GOP state chair Ryan Haynes will become head of the Wine and Spirits Wholesalers and will not be a candidate for local office in Knox County anytime soon or ever if this becomes his career path. As such he will replace the fabled Col. Tom Hensley of Jackson, known for years among legislators as “the Golden Goose.” Hensley also worked closely with the Miss Tennessee pageant in Jackson.

Hensley had been a fixture in the Legislature for over 50 years. Whether this turns out to be a 30-year job for Haynes or not remains to be seen, but compensation (while not public) is very comfortable and is in the six-digit range. Haynes served as state representative from Farragut for five years and will maintain a residence in both Knoxville and Nashville. He has a law degree.

The big news in Knoxville’s legal community is that prominent, highly regarded attorney L. Caesar Stair III, 72, father of City Council member Marshall Stair, has retired as a partner of Bernstein Stair and McAdams law firm and is now of counsel. This means his law practice has been sharply curtailed and he no longer is a partner in the firm.

Stair’s retirement follows well-respected atto-ney Bernard Bernstein, who retired several years ago from the same firm, located in West Knoxville’s Bearden on Agnes Street. Stair will maintain an office there.

His specialty has been divorces, and virtually every affluent individual (and some not so affluent) in Knoxville who had marital issues sought him out to be their attorney or, in the alternative, hoped the other spouse did not retain his services. He was that good. His older son, Caesar Stair IV, continues working at the firm.

He was superb in maintaining confidentiality with well-known clients who were often a who’s who in Knoxville and often getting positive results for his clients. His civic leadership over the years in the arts has been outstanding and tireless, heading up both the Knoxville Museum of Art and Knoxville Opera at different times. He has been an advocate along with his wife, Dorothy, of historic preservation.

Their home, Hilltop Farm, on Lyons View Pike celebrated its 100th birthday and has one of the most spectacular views in Knoxville of both the Tennessee River and the mountains. The home was originally acquired by his parents. It has been the site of major fundraising events for charities in Knoxville. Govs. Ned McWherter, Lamar Alexander and Bill Haslam have all been guests there, as well as George W. Bush before he became president.

Stair was a strong advocate and proponent in the early 1990s of the creation of Lakeshore Park. He was a major player, along with Tom McAdams, in placing it on the city agenda. He even went to Nashville to lobby then-Gov. McWherter on the project.

He is a 1962 graduate of the Hotchkiss School, Lakeville, Conn., and a 1966 graduate of Yale University. He served in the U.S. Marine Corps in Vietnam as an officer.

■ Beth Harwell was re-elected House speaker last week after a closer than anticipated vote among Republicans of 40 to 30 over Loudon County’s popular state Rep. Jimmy Matlock. It will be interesting to see how she appoints members to committees and whether she attempts to punish those who opposed her. With a secret ballot, it is not possible for her to know the identity of all who opposed her or pledged their support to both candidates.

However, the smartest move she might make is to announce all 74 GOP members are on the same team and she would not sideline any member who opposed her in committee appointments. That would shock her rivals who expect retribution and go a long way toward healing the divisions which exist.

It would help her if she seeks another term as speaker in 2018 or runs for governor that year.

Mayor Madeline Rogero a week ago on Jan. 4 opened her annual legislative breakfast to the public. Last year she tried to close it, got criticized and learned from the criticism by not repeating it this year. She deserves a compliment for transparency on this, in contrast to UT President Joe DiPietro, who misled the media as to the purpose of his legislative breakfast as he closed the meeting to the public.

Rogero included the whole city council and several city directors, such as David Brace. Rogero often learns from her errors and does not repeat them.

U.S. Rep. Jimmy Duncan made the front page of the Jan. 4 issue of USA Today when he was sworn into office for his 15th term.

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