- Associated Press - Monday, January 9, 2017

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) - Randy Boyd is stepping down as commissioner of the state Department of Economic and Community Development as he ponders a bid to succeed term-limited Gov. Bill Haslam in 2018.

Boyd, a Knoxville entrepreneur, has served as Haslam’s chief business recruiter since January 2015. Before that, he was a top adviser to the governor as he rolled out his free community college program called Tennessee Promise and his “Drive to 55” initiative to boost the percentage of Tennesseans with higher education degrees or certificates from the current 38 percent to 55 percent by 2025.

Haslam in a release praised Boyd’s service to the state.

“To put it simply: Without Randy, there is no Tennessee Promise or Drive to 55 or a comprehensive approach to job growth via workforce development,” Haslam said. “I will miss his energy, passion and deep commitment to bringing economic growth and success to every corner of the state.”

Boyd is leaving Haslam’s Cabinet on Feb. 1 to return to his previous role as chairman of Radio Systems Corp., the Knoxville-based company he founded in 1991 that makes invisible fences and other pet products.

Boyd thanked Haslam for the opportunity to serve in state government.

“The governor has taught me what a positive impact one can have in public service,” he said in a statement. “Now, I look forward to returning home to Knoxville to continue to find ways to best serve our state.”

Boyd earned his undergraduate degree from the University of Tennessee and his master’s degree from Oklahoma University in 1988. He is the owner of two minor league baseball teams, the Tennessee Smokies and Johnson City Cardinals.

Boyd is among several Republicans milling gubernatorial bids. They include U.S. Rep. Diane Black of Gallatin, state House Speaker Beth Harwell and state Senate Majority Leader Mark Norris of Collierville. State Sen. Mark Green of Ashland City is the only candidate to file official fundraising papers so far.

Democrats who have expressed interests in running for governor include former Nashville Mayor Karl Dean, state House Minority Leader Craig Fitzhugh of Ripley and real estate investor Bill Freeman of Nashville.

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