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Ron Ramsey leads NE Tennessee's most powerful list

Staff Report • Mar 16, 2009 at 12:00 AM

Businesstn.com has rolled out it latest headcount of its version of power structure in Tennessee. According to the magazine, "political churn in both Nashville and Washington, D.C., served as a key factor in much of the shake-up on this year's list; however, the majority of representatives --86%--return from last year.Here's how NE Tennessee's movers and shakers stacked up on the list:No. 4. Ron RamseyLt. GovernorState of TennesseeArguably the most powerful politician in Tennessee now that his GOP party enjoys a majority in both the House and the Senate, where he is Speaker. Despite Rep. Kent Williams’ surprise rise to the House Speakership using 49 Democratic votes, Ramsey will still largely dictate state politics, determining the bills that get considered and those that don’t, assigning committee chairmanships (he selected all Republicans this year) and blocking Gov. Bredesen’s agenda where he sees fit. The ease with which the majority of Republicans elected new GOP constitutional officers puts the degree of power they now enjoy back into perspective. Ramsey is also still a potential candidate for governor in 2010.No. 18. Scott NiswongerFounderLandair/Forward AirFounded truckload/cargo company Landair, and later, spinoff Forward Air. Both companies are now major players in supply chain management. The Niswonger Foundation he created pours money into Greeneville and Greene County, particularly in the education arena. Niswonger recently launched “learn, earn, return” initiative aimed at attracting natives back to Greeneville through a novel approach that encompasses everything from providing college scholarships to providing venture capital and increasing downtown revitalization.No. 22. J. Brian FergusonExecutive Chairman of the BoardEastman Chemical Co.Longtime CEO of the state’s largest manufacturer, Ferguson will step down from his CEO post soon to become executive chairman of the board. Ferguson, who is credited with restoring the company’s financial health as well as improving public perception of the company, gives way to new CEO James Rogers. The change comes at a time when Eastman is looking to make $100 million in cuts in an effort to combat the current economic downturn. Some predict a political future for this longtime force in Upper East Tennessee.No. 38. Paul E. Stanton Jr.PresidentEast Tennessee State UniversityRecently decided not to retire in March, as planned, but instead to remain at the helm of ETSU during a time of budget constraints, which, he said, would be difficult for a successor to navigate. Stanton plans to remain a few more years. He served as dean of the James H. Quillen College of Medicine and vice president for Health Affairs at ETSU from 1989 to 1997 before becoming ETSU’s eighth president. The 13,000+-student university has off-campus centers in Kingsport, Bristol, Elizabethton and Greeneville. No. 63. Dennis VonderfechtPresident & CEOMountain States Health AllianceNebraska native in charge of the not-for-profit hospital system with 14 hospitals covering 28 counties in Tennessee, Virginia, Kentucky and North Carolina. When he became CEO in 1990, MSHA was a single community hospital. Vonderfecht established the Children’s Hospital at JCMC in 1992. Former chairman of the Tennessee Hospital Association and the Hospital Alliance of Tennessee.

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