NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WJHL) — A group of mostly Republican lawmakers blocked Gov. Bill Lee’s appointment of former Health Commissioner Lisa Piercey to the East Tennessee State University Board of Trustees.
The House Education Administration Committee on Wednesday voted 6–12 against appointing Piercey to the board. One Democrat joined 11 Republicans in voting no.
It is unclear why the dozen lawmakers voted against the appointment.
Prior to the vote Piercey appeared before the committee and answered several committee members’ questions, and the interaction was non-confrontational. None of the lawmakers explained their votes.
Republican Gov. Bill Lee appointed Piercey to ETSU’s board last October to fill the remainder of former member Kelly Wolfe’s term. She is an ETSU alumna, having earned her medical degree from the Quillen College of Medicine.
Piercey served as Tennessee’s health commissioner under Lee from January 2019 until May 2022, leading the state’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic. She left the role effective May 31 to enter the private sector.
News Channel 11 reached out to the 12 lawmakers who voted against Piercey. Only one responded.
“In conversations with several members I felt that this was the correct vote,” Rep. Bryan Richey (R-Maryville) said. “There were several different concerns that were discussed. I look forward to voting in the affirmative for a different candidate to represent the great school system that ETSU is.”
Richey didn’t specify what concerns lawmakers discussed.
News Channel 11 also contacted the governor’s office but did not receive a response.
While Piercey’s appointment was rejected, the House Education Administration and Senate Education committees did approve the governor’s reappointment of former Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey and Melissa Steagall-Jones to the ETSU Board of Trustees.