Safety Commissioner Bill Gibbons to leave Haslam cabinet

Friday, May 6, 2016, Vol. 40, No. 19

NASHVILLE (AP) — Bill Gibbons is stepping down as commissioner of the Tennessee Department of Safety this summer, Republican Gov. Bill Haslam announced Wednesday.

The safety commissioner oversees law enforcement and homeland security issues in the state, and is in charge of the Tennessee Highway Patrol. Gibbons' last day will be Aug. 31.

Haslam cited Gibbons' role as chairman of his public safety subcabinet and for overseeing efforts to decrease traffic fatalities in Tennessee.

"Bill's passion for public safety has been an incredible asset to our administration and to our state," Haslam said in a release. "He has been instrumental in creating and carrying out a coordinated public safety action plan that helped make Tennessee safer, and I am grateful for his service."

Gibbons is a former Memphis prosecutor who joined the Haslam administration in December 2010. He had previously been a fierce rival for the Republican gubernatorial nomination and had been a frequent critic of Haslam's refusal to divulge his earnings from family owned truck-stop chain Pilot Flying J.

"Just tell us your income from Pilot Oil, right now," Gibbons demanded from Haslam during the one of the primary campaigns more memorable moments.

But Gibbons ended up dropping out before the primary and soon put his public differences with Haslam aside. The newly-elected governor in announcing Gibbons' addition to his cabinet acknowledged some disagreements during the campaign, but said he was able to look beyond them.

"While we saw a few things differently, overall do I think he understands the problems, and has the heart and the willingness and the brainpower to attack them?" he said. "You bet I do."

Gibbons was appointed as Shelby County district attorney general in 1996 and was elected to full eight-year terms in 1998 and 2006. He was previously a law partner in private practice and had served on both the Memphis City Council and the Shelby County Commission. He had started his government career as a special assistant to then-Gov. Lamar Alexander in 1979.

Gibbons' wife, Julia, has served as a federal judge since 1983, first in U.S. District Court in Memphis and on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit since 2002.