Gov. Philip Bredesen
Philip Bredesen, a Democrat, served as Tennessee’s governor from 2003 until 2011.
Known for his nonpartisan approach to problem solving and careful fiscal management, Bredesen’s political style proved successful and popular. In 2006, despite his state’s strong Republican majority, he won re-election with more votes than any candidate for governor in Tennessee history and became the first governor in over a century to carry all 95 counties. Among senior elected officials, Governor Bredesen has a unique depth of experience in the field of health care. As a private sector entrepreneur, he started a managed care business from his home in 1980 and grew it to an NYSE-listed company with 6000 employees before the end of the decade.
As governor, he reformed Tennessee’s out-of-control Medicaid program—called TennCare—and developed several innovative approaches to assisting the uninsured. He was a leader nationally in eHealth initiatives and served as both the Policy Chair of the Democratic Governors Association and the Democratic co-chair of the National Governor’s Association task force on health reform.
He is also the author of Fresh Medicine: How to Fix Reform and Build a Sustainable Health Care System (Atlantic Monthly Press, 2010). Pulitzer Prize-winning author Jon Meacham said of it: “Phil Bredesen does something unique: he brings together the perspectives of a businessman, a politician and a historian to tell the story of health care in America. Told with skill and grace, Fresh Medicine explains how we got where we are, and what we have to do going forward.”
Governor Bredesen is also well-respected for his successes with education. At the public school level, he established a state-wide pre-K program, presided over a successful multi-year campaign to raise academic standards, and gained legislation establishing the use of objective student performance data for teacher evaluation. At the college level, he shifted funding of the state’s higher education institutions to a performance-based system, mandated transfer agreements between the state’s two- and four-year institutions, and created a more unified and consistent community college system.
His leadership was recognized when Tennessee was chosen as one of the initial two states to win the federal Race to the Top competition. He’s served as co-chair of Achieve, the organization in the forefront of the standards movement. He currently chairs Complete College America, an organization funded by major foundations—including Gates, Ford and Lumina—to begin the work of improving college graduation rates.
As governor, he also spearheaded successful economic development initiatives. These included recruiting Volkswagen’s U.S. manufacturing operations and Nissan’s North American headquarters to Tennessee and obtaining multi-billion dollar investments in alternative energy. Under his leadership, Tennessee added over 200,000 new jobs, $33 billion in new investments, and secured 52 new corporate headquarters. >Also a proud conservationist, Governor Bredesen was recently honored by the Nature Conservancy for the preservation of 350,000 acres of ecologically sensitive Tennessee land for future generations.
Prior to his two terms as governor, Bredesen was the Mayor of Nashville. There, he was recognized for his downtown revitalization, including recruiting the Tennessee Titans (NFL) and Nashville Predators (NHL) to the city. He rebuilt and expanded the city’s library system, including an award-winning new downtown main library, doubled the acreage of the city’s park system, and built a large number of new public schools.
As a Democratic governor in a very red state, Governor Bredesen tackled numerous contentious issues: reform of the Medicaid system, substantial changes in both K-12 and higher education and designing and implementing the large budget cuts that were necessary during the current recession. Despite this, he remained a highly popular governor-re-elected by a landslide and exiting office with strong support from both sides of the aisle. As a successful entrepreneur, mayor and governor, Bredesen believes that true leadership is about finding common ground and that the key to success is a command of the art of persuasion. His real world experience and examples of what works offer audiences a refreshing perspective that will also challenge them to raise the bar.
Perspectives & experiences with HIT, lessons learned, thoughts for the future