The Best of Tennessee Announces Board of Directors

NASHVILLE, TN (June 5, 2024)

The Best of Tennessee, a recently formed nonpartisan initiative aiming to “revitalize Tennessee’s tradition of robust political competition and constructive, bipartisan governance,” announced its board of directors Wednesday. The board features members from both sides of the aisle and all parts of the state.

The organization believes this group of prominent individuals brings a breadth of professional and civic seasoning to its mission of shifting Tennessee’s political culture away from what it calls “domination by the fringes.”

“Our board of directors is leading by example, showing that Republicans and Democrats can come together to prioritize what’s best for Tennessee as a whole instead of all-or-nothing partisan politics,” said Chloe Akers, the organization’s Founder and CEO.

The group is taking a two-pronged approach during its initial election cycle to help temper what it sees as an “accelerating cycle of extremism.”

First, the group’s 501(c)(4) nonprofit will seek to increase turnout in the August 1st primary elections, especially among general election voters who normally skip party nominating contests.

“Almost 70% of Tennessee voters cast a ballot in the last presidential election, but the average is just 22% participating in our primaries. That gap,” Akers said, “is the middle majority. If we can narrow that gap, we can change the incentives lawmakers face and realign our representation with the priorities of the majority in each party.”

Second, the group’s affiliated Super PAC will weigh in on targeted primaries in both parties. Independent expenditure efforts will support what the group deems to be “reasonable candidates” focused on “policy objectives reflective of a majority of Tennessee voters.”

“Only 11% of contested legislative races over the last decade were decided in the general election by less than 10 percentage points,” Akers said, “so primaries are where the competition is.”

Akers said the Best of Tennessee’s political efforts will be “agnostic about ideologies and issues” but “focused on a constructive attitude and approach to public service.”

“If we can elevate thoughtful leaders who believe in communication, civility, and collaboration, over time, we can offer Tennesseans better choices and better government.”

“The Best of Tennessee is an organization with a tangible strategy,” said board member and 2010 Democratic nominee for governor Mike McWherter. “Beginning its efforts by engaging more voters in the primary process, this project stands to change the incentives of lawmakers, encouraging them to represent the majority instead of the fringes. I trust the voters to decide what’s right for their families, and I am proud to be part of an organization that helps make that happen.”

Additional quotes from members

Susan Miller Bush

“As one of the project’s first investors, I have supported this effort since it began in March of 2023 because I believe we each have the right to be fairly represented by our government. This organization recognizes that to have our voices heard, we must be active participants in all aspects of the political process, which includes paying attention to whom we nominate and whom we elect. The Best of Tennessee’s approach to closing the gap between what Tennesseans want from their leaders and what we’re getting gives me hope for something better.”

Jim Coppinger

“I believe most Tennesseans are simply worn out by the divisiveness we’ve seen in our government. While we may not agree on everything, we can all agree something needs to be done to restore a more common-sense approach to governing. The Best of Tennessee is an organization committed to charting that path forward step by step, beginning with its efforts to engage folks in the primary election. I look forward to being a part of this group.”

Susan Simons

“I’m grateful to serve alongside such an impressive and passionate group of leaders. It gives me hope to be a part of an organization that is focused on upholding our Tennessee values and bringing the majority of Tennesseans back into the primary process. The time for change is now.”

The Best of Tennessee board members bios

Susan Miller Bush

Ms. Miller Bush is a resident of Knoxville, Tennessee, and Appleton, Wisconsin. She currently serves on the Bush Family Senate. Her husband Jay works for Bush Brothers & Company. She previously worked as a Chancery Court Clerk, with The Trust Company, and with Bush Brothers & Company. She currently serves as a Trustee to the Chi Omega Foundation Board of Trustees, having previously served on The National Foundation Scholarship Committee, the Donor Relations Committee, the Pi Chapter New Member Advisory, and as Fraternity Regional Alumnae Director for the Midwest. She began her studies at The University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, and later graduated from The University of Tennessee.

Gerald Coggin

Mr. Coggin worked for Murfreesboro-based National Healthcare Corporation for over 43 years before retiring in 2016 from his role as Senior Vice President of Corporate Affairs and Ancillary Services. He currently serves on the Board of Trustees for his undergraduate alma mater, Lipscomb University, and remains active as a healthcare consultant and co-founder of the Coggin Group. Mr. Coggin is also a graduate of the University of Tennessee, where he received a Master’s in Public Health.

Jim Coppinger

Mr. Coppinger served as Hamilton County Mayor from 2011 until 2022. From 2006 until his mayorship, Mr. Coppinger served as a county commissioner, representing Hixson, Middle Valley, and Lakesite. Before taking public office, he was a Chattanooga firefighter for 28 years and was named fire chief in 1997. He lives in Chattanooga and is a graduate of Hixson High School, where he likes to say he was an average quarterback on a winning team, and a former Chattanooga State and University of Tennessee at Chattanooga student.

Kim Kaegi

Ms. Kaegi is the Founder and Principal of Kaegi Resources, a Nashville-based fundraising firm. She has nearly four decades of fundraising experience in the political, corporate, and not-for-profit arenas. In addition to her work with prominent Tennessee Republicans, Ms. Kaegi worked in Washington, D.C., and has enjoyed partnerships and contracts with all national committee organizations, including the Republican National Committee, the National Republican Senatorial Committee, the National Republican Congressional Committee, and the Republican Governors Association. She is a graduate of Saint Mary’s College, Notre Dame, Indiana, and has been consistently recognized as one of Nashville’s business, political, and civic power brokers.

Jeff McGruder

Mr. McGruder, Chief Relationship Officer for Citizens Bank, is a proven finance leader with vast experience in capital raising, community investment, and client relationship management. He is an East Nashville native, an Eagle Scout, and a graduate of the University of Tennessee, where he was both a recruiting assistant and a walk-on member of the men’s basketball team. Mr. McGruder has championed the cause of building wealth and access to resources across the black community through several civic and nonprofit leadership roles. He currently serves on the Lipscomb University Board of Trustees and the Board of Directors for KIPP Academy Nashville, and serves as Chairman of the Hustlestrong Foundation and the Nashville Pro-Am Baseball League. He has also been an active member and volunteer with the Williamson County Chamber of Commerce and Junior Achievement. He has a Master’s of Business Administration with a minor in Healthcare Administration from Trevecca Nazarene University.

Mike McWherter

Mr. McWherter is a lawyer and businessman. He was the Democratic nominee for Governor of Tennessee in 2010 and serves as the Chairman of the Board of the Ned R. McWherter Charitable Foundation. Mr. McWherter has served on numerous charity boards over his career and currently operates both a family cattle operation based in Northwest Tennessee as well as three beverage operations based in West Tennessee and Eastern Arkansas. He served on the Jackson Energy Authority Board before 2013, when President Barack Obama nominated him to serve on the Board of Directors of the Tennessee Valley Authority, with support from Senators Lamar Alexander (R-TN) and Bob Corker (R-TN). He attended Vanderbilt University for both his undergraduate as well as his law degree.

Elliott Moore

Ms. Moore is a government relations consultant in the healthcare industry. She was formerly Vice President of Community and Government Relations for Mountain States Health Alliance and President and CEO of the Hospital Alliance of Tennessee. Ms. Moore also serves on several state and federal healthcare advocacy organizations. In Northeast Tennessee, Ms. Moore chaired the capital campaign for the Bristol YWCA and served as Chair of the Bristol YMCA. In addition, Ms. Moore has served on the boards of Frontier Health, the Sullivan County Children’s Advocacy Center, Appalachia Project Access, and the Bristol Chamber of Commerce. She currently serves on the University of Tennessee Board of Visitors for the College of Social Work, the Emory and Henry College Board of Trustees, the Development Council of the East Tennessee State University College of Nursing, and the Board of Directors for Healing Hands Health. Elliott is the widow of the late Carl Moore, a co-founder of Bristol Motor Speedway who led Democrats as Majority Leader of the Tennessee State Senate.

Jim Seabury

Mr. Seabury serves as Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Enterprise Electric, LLC d/b/a Enterprise Solutions, an electrical engineering and construction merit shop that specializes in designing and constructing electrical systems for institutional, commercial, industrial, and service projects of all types and sizes. He has served on the Board of Directors for the Nashville Symphony and the Board of Directors Advisory Council for the Middle Tennessee American Heart Association. He is a graduate of Centre College and Vanderbilt University.

Susan Simons

Ms. Simons is known for her philanthropic efforts in the arts and healthcare sectors and her nonprofit service throughout the Nashville community. A graduate of Leadership Nashville, Ms. Simons has served on many of the most respected nonprofit boards in the city, including Alive Hospice, the Center for Nonprofit Management, Cheekwood, The Community Foundation of Middle Tennessee, and the Frist Art Museum, among many others. Under Tennessee Governor Lamar Alexander, she served as both the Commissioner of General Services and as Chairman of the Alcoholic Beverage Commission. In 2021, alongside her husband, Ms. Simons was awarded the Joe Kraft Humanitarian Award in recognition of her more than five decades of service to the Nashville community. She is a graduate of Wellesley College.

Jim Tracy

Mr. Tracy is a Senior Advisor to the Department of Commerce and Insurance. He most recently served as State Director for USDA Rural Development in Tennessee. Mr. Tracy’s list of public service spans decades — having previously served as a State Senator, Bedford County Board of Education member, President of the Shelbyville-Bedford County Chamber of Commerce, founding member of the Bedford County Economic Development and Tourism Committee, and Chairman of the Tennessee Leadership Council of the National Federation of Independent Business. For more than 20 years, he owned and operated his own insurance company, where he sold all lines of insurance. Mr. Tracy is a graduate of the University of Tennessee at Martin with a degree in Agriculture Education.

The Best of Tennessee