Phil Bredesen

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Phil Bredesen
Phil Bredesen.jpg
Governor of Tennessee
Former officeholder
In office
January 18, 2003 – January 15, 2011
PredecessorDon Sundquist
Prior offices
Mayor of Nashville and Davidson County
Bachelor'sHarvard University
Place of birthOceanport, New Jersey
ProfessionHealth Care Executive
Philip Norman "Phil" Bredesen (born November 21, 1943, in Oceanport, New Jersey) was the 48th Democratic Governor of Tennessee, having served from 2003 until 2011. He was first elected governor in 2002 and won re-election - by an historic margin - in the November 7, 2006 general election, sweeping all 95 counties while defeating opponent state Sen. Jim Bryson. His second inauguration was held on January 20, 2007 in Nashville, TN.

Bredesen was ineligible to run again in 2006 due to term limits and was succeeded by Republican Bill Haslam on January 15, 2011.

Prior to becoming Tennessee's governor, Bredesen served as the fourth mayor of the Metropolitan Government of Nashville and Davidson County from 1991 to 1999.[1]

One of the themes of Bredesen's first term as governor was healthcare. Among other approaches to expanding coverage, he backed an initiative aiming to provide access to affordable health care for severely ill residents who had been denied health insurance, as well as for uninsured children and working adults. His second term focused more on education. Among other acts, Bredesen raised teacher pay above the average salary in the region at the time and increased the state budget for education by $366.5 million. His tenure in the office was also marked by a 2006 health scare, which, although he was never rendered incapacitated during his hospitalization to the extent that would have precluded him from fulfilling the duties of his office, brought to light the fact that the Tennessee Constitution makes no provisions for a disabled governor.

In addition, Bredesen was noted for his refusal to accept a salary during his two terms as the state's chief executive official. This was in part due to the wealth he had earned from the 1986 sale of his controlling interest in HealthAmerica, the healthcare management company he founded out of his small Nashville apartment early in his career.

Bredesen formally entered politics in 1987 as a candidate for mayor of Nashville. He finished second to 5th District Congressman Bill Boner, but since Boner only won 42% of the vote, he and Bredesen faced each other in a runoff. Boner won the runoff, largely by emphasizing that he was a Nashville native while Bredesen was a Northerner. Though he won the mayoral election on his second try, by the time he won the 2002 gubernatorial election, Bredesen had added two more unsuccessful campaigns to his record, including his initial bid for the governorship in 1994, and his bid for the congressional seat left open by Boner in 1988, after Boner beat Bredesen for mayor.


Bredesen was born in Oceanport, New Jersey, but grew up in Shortsville, New York, a small agricultural community just south of Rochester. He earned a bachelor's degree in physics from Harvard University. Bredesen moved to Nashville in 1975. While doing research at the public library, he drafted a business plan in the couple's small apartment that led to the creation of HealthAmerica Corp., a health care management company that eventually grew to more than 6,000 employees and was publicly traded on the New York Stock Exchange. He sold his controlling interest in HealthAmerica in 1986.

In late August 2006, during his re-election campaign for governor, Bredesen experienced a health scare. The Tennessean reported that while hospitalized at Nashville's Centennial Medical Center, he was in intensive care with a fever of 104 degrees Fahrenheit. Bredesen was hospitalized for a total of four nights with what was thought to be a tick bite, but testing was inconclusive. The following week he was tested for two more days as an outpatient at Minnesota's Mayo Clinic, but no definitive diagnosis based on testing there was determined either. The incident brought to light the fact that the Tennessee Constitution makes no provisions for a disabled governor, although Bredesen was not incapacitated at any point during this illness to the extent that would have precluded him from fulfilling the duties of his office.


  • Bachelor's degree in Physics - Harvard University

Political career

Governor of Tennessee (2003-2011)

Bredesen was elected governor on November 7, 2002 and sworn into office on January 18, 2003. He served two terms, having won re-election in 2006, and was succeeded by current incumbent Gov. Bill Haslam, a Republican, on January 15, 2011.

As governor, Bredesen was a member of the National Governors Association, the Southern Governors' Association and the Democratic Governors Association.


Health care

During his first year in office, Bredesen worked to instill the citizens of Tennessee with a renewed confidence that government can work for the betterment of the citizens and the entire state. One of his first acts as governor was to open the door on administrative budget meetings, creating a new level of candor, openness and accountability and allowing taxpayers to see how the decisions are made on how their money is spent. Bredesen’s first three executive orders established the toughest ethics rules in history for the Tennessee executive branch. He also managed Tennessee through a fiscal crisis without raising taxes or cutting funding for education. By Bredesen’s fourth year in office, Tennessee had passed four balanced budgets, received top rankings from national bond rating agencies and raised its Rainy Day Fund to a record high.


In his second and third years on the job, Bredesen pushed to improve education. He did this by raising teacher pay above average salary in the Southeast and expanding Tennessee’s pre-kindergarten initiative into a program for four-year-olds across Tennessee. He created the Governor’s Books from Birth Foundation, a statewide expansion of Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library that offers children free books monthly in all 95 counties. In his fourth year, Bredesen worked with the General Assembly to increase funding for education by $366.5 million.

He worked with the General Assembly to reform Tennessee’s worker compensation system and invest in programs to help laid-off employees develop new skills, in order to recruit new industry and jobs to Tennessee. To recruit new industry and jobs, Bredesen led reform of Tennessee's workers' compensation system and invested in retraining programs to help laid-off employees develop new skills. Since he took office, 2,889 companies – including Nissan and International Paper- have expanded in or moved to Tennessee, bringing more than 104,000 jobs and $12.8 billion in new business investment to the state.

Drug abuse

Bredesen launched Tennessee’s war on methamphetamine abuse, focusing on treatment, prevention and public awareness with the Governor’s Meth-Free Tennessee initiative. In addition, the criminal penalties and resources for law enforcement were enhanced as part of this program and led to a 50 percent decline in illegal and toxic meth labs.

Land preservation

Bredesen’s founding of the Heritage Conservation Trust fund increased the state’s land-buying power and has worked with public and private partners to preserve nearly 30,000 acres (120 km²) for future generations.

Bredesen is a founding member of Nashville's Table, a non-profit group that collects overstocked and discarded food from local restaurants for the city's homeless population. He served on the board of the Frist Center, a major art gallery that was established to utilize the former downtown main Nashville post office.

Bredesen founded the Land Trust for Tennessee, a non-profit organization which works to preserve open areas and family farms.

Death penalty

Bredesen: TN Executions are Humane

In November 2010, the Tennessee Supreme Court stopped the executions of four death row inmates so a lower court could examine the constitutionality of Tennessee's new lethal injection procedure.[2] The trial courts had 90 days to test whether a new step added during the lethal injection is constitutionally sound. Bredesen stood by Tennessee’s lethal injection protocol despite the Tennessee Supreme Court's decision. He said that he respected the high court’s decision, but believed the state was already operating within all confines of the law.

“I’m confident that what we’re doing is humane and sensible and in the main stream, it is certainly what a great many other states do, and that in the end we’ll find that what we’re doing is consistent with the Constitution and the law and that Tennessee will be able to go ahead,” said the former governor.[3]


Questionable investment

Bredesen’s personal interest in the company Silicon Ranch Corporation, which benefited from policies he enacted while governor, raised questions in Tennessee in November 2010.

Bredesen had invested in, and held minority shareholder status with, the Silicon Ranch Corporation, according to his November 9 Disclosure of Interests Statement filed with the state’s Bureau of Ethics and Campaign Finance. He listed it as a venture that will help finance construction of solar arrays.

Five days before this investment came to light, The Tennessean reported that Bredesen was chairman of the company. The report also showed that Community Development Commissioner Matthew Kisber and former state Revenue Commissioner Reagan Farr were also investors and executives. Kisber was its president and Farr was the vice chairman and secretary.

In Nov. 2011, Bredesen’s personal interest in Silicon Ranch was suspected as being in violation of the state’s Guiding Principles of Ethical Conduct for Public Officials because of conflict of interest issues, or at least the appearance of them.[4]

Mayor of Nashville (1991-1999)

After losing his first bid in 1987, Bredesen ran for mayor again in 1991 and won by a comfortable majority. He was re-elected almost as easily in 1995.

As mayor of Nashville, he added more than 440 new teachers, built 32 new schools and renovated 43 others. He also implemented a back-to-basics curriculum to teach students the fundamentals of learning. Additionally, under the Bredesen Administration, the NFL's Houston Oilers (now Tennessee Titans) were brought to Nashville and were furnished with a new stadium; the NHL awarded Nashville its first of four new expansion franchises as the Nashville Predators; a new arena was built; and a new downtown library was built as a cornerstone of major improvements to the entire library system. However, Bredesen's effort to lure the Minnesota Timberwolves NBA franchise to Nashville was not successful.

Bredesen did not run for a third term in 1999 since The Metro Charter had been amended to limit city council members to two consecutive four-year terms. However, the amendment was worded in such a way that it appeared to apply to mayors as well. Although mayors had been limited to three consecutive terms since the formation of Metro Nashville in 1963, Bredesen did not make an issue of it.



Viewed by many as a centrist Democrat based in the South, Bredesen was touted as a potential Presidential candidate in 2008. Bredesen, however, stated no interest in joining the wide field of Democrats seeking the nomination. Many also suspected that he would be a possible candidate to take on Lamar Alexander in the 2008 Senate race. Bredesen, however, showed no interest in that position, either.


For much of 2005, Bredesen was considered a heavy favorite for re-election in 2006. However, several scandals placed his re-election in doubt. In particular, evidence of cronyism and influence-peddling in the State Highway Patrol and Bredesen's decision to terminate health insurance coverage for some 200,000 state citizens caused a shift away from Bredesen in some polls. However, as 2005 ended, most polls showed Bredesen had surged back to a substantial lead.

On November 7, 2006, Bredesen won re-election by an historic margin. He swept all 95 counties while defeating State Senator Jim Bryson. His second inauguration was held on January 20, 2007 in Nashville, TN.


Bredesen's predecessor, Don Sundquist, was barred by term limits from seeking re-election in 2002. Bredesen decided to run for governor again, after losing his first bid for the office back in 1994. He easily won the Democratic nomination in the primary and later overtook Republican U.S. Rep. from Tennessee's 4th Congressional District, Van Hilleary, by a margin of one percentage point in the November general election. Bredesen promised to manage state government better, improve Tennessee's schools and use his experience as a managed-care executive to fix TennCare. Bredesen had also built a well-established reputation as a moderate Democrat, since he was at the time a member of the "good government" faction of the Nashville Democratic Party, making Hilleary's attempts to brand him as a modern liberal ineffective. This allowed Bredesen to garner far more support in East Tennessee than was usual for a Democrat, especially a Democrat from Nashville.

Bredesen narrowly defeated Hilleary with 51 percent of the vote. He did well in several East Tennessee counties where Democrats usually do not fare well except in landslides. He won Knox County, home to Knoxville, by a few hundred votes; by comparison, George W. Bush had won Knox County by over 40,000 votes


Bredesen ran for


In 1988, he ran in the Democratic primary for the congressional seat left open by Boner's victory in a district that had been in Democratic hands since 1875. However, he finished a distant second behind Bob Clement, son of former governor Frank G. Clement.


Bredesen and his wife, Andrea Conte, have one son, Ben.

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Political offices
Preceded by
Don Sundquist
Governor of Tennessee
Succeeded by
Bill Haslam (R)

This state official-related article is in the process of being updated.