Governor of Tennessee

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Governor of Tennessee
Seal of Tennessee.svg
State seal
Flag of the Governor of Tennessee.svg
Flag of the Governor
Bill Haslam 2016.jpg
Bill Haslam

since January 15, 2011
ResidenceTennessee Governor's Mansion
Term lengthFour years, renewable once
Constituting instrumentTennessee Constitution of 1796
Inaugural holderJohn Sevier
FormationMarch 30, 1796
(222 years ago)
DeputyLieutenant 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 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]

In the event the governor's office becomes vacant during the first 18 months of his term, a special election for the balance of the term must be held at the time of the next federal general election. If the vacancy occurs after the first 18 months, whoever ascends to the governorship serves out the balance of the term. In either case, a partial term counts toward the two-term limit.

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.

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