- Associated Press - Friday, January 13, 2017

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) - Newly elected state Senate Speaker Randy McNally announced Friday that he will replace his predecessor’s chief of staff with a longtime aide.

McNally, an Oak Ridge Republican who took over the chamber’s top post earlier this week, named Rick Nicholson to succeed former Speaker Ron Ramsey’s chief of staff, Lance Frizzell. It is the second high-profile staff departure from the Legislature in the week after House Clerk Joe McCord stepped down on Jan. 6.

Frizzell and McCord were the second- and third-highest-paid staffers in the General Assembly, with salaries of $182,412 and $177,348 respectively. Senate Clerk Russell Humphrey has the highest salary at $185,040.

McNally called Nicholson a “trusted and professional policy adviser.” Nicholson was a research analyst for McNally from 2001 to 2012, when Ramsey named him Senate budget director.

“His temperament, policy expertise and executive experience make him perfectly suited to serve the Senate as Chief of Staff,” McNally said in a release. “I am confident he will do an excellent job.”

Ramsey became Tennessee’s first Republican speaker since Reconstruction when he won the post in 2007. The Blountville auctioneer did not run for another term last year.

Frizzell had worked for Ramsey since 2007 and as his chief adviser since 2011. The Iraq veteran has also held positions in the House Republican Caucus and the state Republican Party.

“It was the highlight of my career to serve as Senate chief of staff,” Frizzell said in a statement issued through McNally’s office. “Just as Ron Ramsey was Tennessee’s conservative leader, Randy McNally is truly Tennessee’s fiscal conscience. I thoroughly enjoyed working with them both.”

Republican House Speaker Beth Harwell of Nashville last week named Tammy Letzler to replace McCord. Letzler is the first woman to hold the position of chief clerk in the history of the Tennessee General Assembly.

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