State Employees Union Head Announces Retirement

Jan 13, 2014


NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Robert O'Connell, the executive director of the 13,000 member Tennessee State Employees Association, has announced he plans to retire in May.

O'Connell led the TSEA during four turbulent years. During his tenure, Republican Gov. Bill Haslam and a GOP super-majority in the legislature made extensive changes to state civil service rules. The changes make it easier for executive branch employees to be hired and fired, and allow pay to be raised or lowered based on performance.

O’Connell says he was deeply worried by the implications.

“It looked like it had the possibility of bringing back patronage and kind of the buddy system in hiring. It looked like it was taking the Civil Service system and basically was gonna’ gut it and leave state employees with fewer rights, possibly.”

But O’Connell says the Governor was willing to listen to suggestions and about 20 changes were ultimately made to the original bill before it passed.

O’Connell says civility and respect were the keys to the success of those negotiations.