Longtime Knox County lawmaker prepares to take TN House gavel, unknown how long

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KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) – When Tennessee House Speaker Glen Casada announced Tuesday he would resign following a planned vacation, it became clear: Speaker Pro Tempore and longtime Knox County lawmaker Rep. Bill Dunn will be taking the gavel.

While an exact date for Casada’s departure is unknown, is it also unclear how long Dunn would serve in that role. 

Rep. Martin Daniel reacted to Casada’s resignation Tuesday, saying, “I think he realizes it’s the best thing for the legislature and the state. Immediately after yesterday’s vote, he noted he’d stay on, but I think he realizes this is the best thing. I look forward to working with him for a smooth transition. Speaker Dunn will become a speaker by default, but I believe the house republican caucus will make a motion to elect a new speaker before the legislature reconvenes next January.”

Daniel also said Tuesday there could be a chance Dunn would be considered as speaker on a more permanent basis because “he’s a good man, he’s been in the legislature for a long time and knows the ropes.”

Other lawmakers continue to weigh in. 

“I think it will be very good for the house because he provides a lot of stability, a lot of experience. he’s got a sterling character. he’s somebody I think the house could be very comfortable with,” Lt. Governor Randy McNally said following Casada’s announcement. 

Rep. Jeremy Faison called Casada a “failure at leadership” Tuesday and said his no-confidence vote went beyond the text message.

He said he doesn’t believe the house was run fairly under his watch. While it could be temporary, Faison said Rep. Dunn will bring steady calm to the state and you “there won’t be any scandals.” 

Rep. Jason Zachary said it was a tough moment Monday, sitting feet away from the current speaker, as he made the motion to amend the no-confidence resolution, ultimately ending debate and speeding up Casada’s fate.

“Yesterday was the toughest part. People are involved in this, families, people’s lives,” he said.

While he considers Casada a friend, he said his vote of no confidence Monday was about the future of the institution. 

Whether Rep. Dunn’s time holding the gavel is long or short, Zachary things he’ll be great for Tennessee.

“There’s not a man of higher character and integrity in the House of Representatives. He’s forgotten more about the political institution than most of us know that is there. He’s a man of absolute integrity. He’s a leader and I think he’ll do a great job standing in as our speaker until we decide what we’re doing going forward,” he said. 

Rep. Dunn said discussions are taking place about whether to have an election immediately or to wait until January.

Dunn, who brings 25 years of service to the table, was elected Speaker Pro Tem in January.

“I knew this day could come. It was never my dream to become a speaker, but it is my duty. When I’m the acting speaker, then I need to make decisions to help move Tennessee forward, to help move my caucus forward. So, that’s just what I need to be focused on,” he said. 

Dunn acknowledged while people may know him as “far right,” he said most would say he’s fair. 

Rep. Gloria Johnson, who was never called on by Speaker Casada during an abortion debate on the house floor, said she wants fairness out of the next speaker.

“I would love to see the next speaker be more fair-minded, more interested in public debate. The reality is we don’t have a democracy if every representative doesn’t have a voice,” Johnson said. 

That’s a quality Dunn pledged he’d be Tuesday.

“I believe everyone that was elected, whatever party you’re from, deserve to be heard on the house floor, and the best decision come by listening to a diverse group of individuals,” Dunn said. 

Johnson also said because Casada is only being called to step down as speaker, she believes he’ll still hold his seat as a state representative.

“He’s still going to be right there in those chambers, there is still corruption outside of him, so we have to continue to fight that corruption,” she said. 

Dunn is left waiting for Casada to return on June 3, and set a date and time to officially resign.

“We wish him well in whatever his future endeavors are, but it’s time for the house of representatives to get back to the people’s business,” Dunn said. “I just want to help with whatever transition it is, keep things stable and calm, I think I bring a lot of boredom to the table, which is probably needed right now.” 

While Dunn hasn’t said he’d be interested in the gavel long-term, he hasn’t ruled it out.

“My wife gives me very good advice. She says just do the next right thing, so instead of looking to next week or next month, I look to today and say what it the next right thing to do. As long as I keep doing that, things will be okay.”

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