Slayton Named Tennessee State Forester
NASHVILLE – Gov. Bill Lee and Agriculture Commissioner Charlie Hatcher, D.V.M. announce the appointment of Heather Slayton as Tennessee State Forester and Assistant Commissioner for the Forestry Division. She succeeds David Arnold, who is retiring after more than three decades of public service.
“This is an exciting period of transition for the department,” Commissioner Hatcher said. “We are indebted to David for his visionary leadership and we are proud that Heather is taking on this challenge.”
As State Forester and Assistant Commissioner, Slayton will now oversee 400 division staff members and the management of more than 168,000 acres of state-owned forests. Additionally, she will direct programs to assist forest landowners, provide quality tree seedlings, support forest health, collect forest inventory data, aid forest industries, and prevent and suppress wildland fires.
Slayton has more than 20 years of professional experience in private, corporate, and public forestry sectors. She joined the department in 2012 as a Forest Health Specialist. Within two years she was promoted to leader of the Forest Health and Sustainability Unit. In 2018, Slayton was named Assistant State Forester, providing executive leadership to divisional units and overseeing operational and facility maintenance budgets totaling more than $47 million. Slayton also guided key administrative functions including grants, purchasing, contracts, facilities, and workforce development.
“I am honored and thrilled to be appointed the 10th State Forester for Tennessee,” Slayton said. “David has provided me with a solid foundation for a seamless transition. The Division is in the best position it has ever been in to capitalize on opportunities and partnerships, all while strengthening the way we protect, conserve, and enhance the forests of Tennessee.”
Arnold spent 33 years with the Forestry Division and retires following more than 5 years as State Forester. Under his leadership, the department modernized emergency response capabilities and capacity, improved rural economies by bolstering the forest products industry, and positioned employees to excel in their jobs and duties.
“Serving as Tennessee’s State Forester has been a wonderful adventure,” Arnold said. “I am deeply grateful to all the people I’ve worked with along the way who share the same passion for our state’s natural resources. I want to thank the dedicated personnel for everything they have done and will continue to do to ensure the health and sustainability of our forests.”
“David is known and respected for his tremendous commitment to our staff and the people we serve,” Commissioner Hatcher added. “His thoughtful demeanor, kind nature, and informative approach make him an outstanding manager and human being. David leaves an incredible legacy that Heather will be able to build on. Heather brings to this role a great deal of insight and professional experience. She is recognized and valued among our team and our stakeholders as an innovative thinker focused on the future of forestry in Tennessee.”
Slayton earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Forestry from Virginia Tech and a Master of Science in Forestry from the University of Tennessee.
She enjoys working on her 10-acre farm in Rutherford County, playing golf, and engaging in all forms of exercise, particularly road biking and boxing.