Breaking Ground 99 - Ned Andrew Solomon Retirement

by Wanda Willis, Executive Director, Tennessee Council on Developmental Disabilities
a warm smiling head shot of Ned at a Council holiday party a few years ago

It has been 19 years since Ned Andrew Solomon first joined the Council as Director of our Partners in Policymaking Leadership Institute. In that time, hundreds of Partners graduates have become empowered advocates for themselves and others under his leadership and mentoring. Hundreds of high school students and young adults with disabilities have left Council trainings better prepared for adulthood, with skills to build the future they want for themselves. Countless professionals across the state have been trained in disability sensitivity and person-centered practices.

Here in Breaking Ground, I especially want to note how this magazine has grown under Ned Andrew’s leadership. As editor-in-chief, he has elevated the annual arts issue to national recognition. Ned works with our communications staff to choose story topics. He recruits authors from state government, private organizations, and the community to write stories that inform and inspire. He brings his own keen writing skills to articles he authors. His sharp editor’s eye brings out the best in every story. He sets a high bar for quality at every level. The growth in Breaking Ground’s readership shows its value as a key source of disability information and education.

Every project Ned Andrew has touched has been improved. It is impossible to measure how many lives he has touched through his work at the Council. We can count Partners in Policymaking graduates, youth and professionals who attended trainings, and readers of this magazine.

But those lives touch other lives, forming ripples that flow across our state and beyond.

Many of our Partners in Policymaking graduates have shared their own stories of how Ned Andrew has affected their lives. I’d like to end with a few of those personal tributes, which best show the legacy Ned Andrew Solomon leaves through his work at the Council.

If you would like to share your stories and photos from Ned’s time at the Council, email them to

a group of the Council staff - 9 women and Ned, seated and standing in 2 rows in the lobby of the hotel where the Council meets
Nov. 2019 photo of the TN Council on Developmental Disabilities staff, including Partners in Policymaking director and editor of this publication, Ned Andrew Solomon, who retired in Dec. 2019.
Ned in a bright green Council t-shirt and a young man with a disability who was in a past Council youth leadership training
Ned with a graduate of our former Youth Leadership Forum

The following are quotes from people whose lives Ned Andrew impacted.

I was lucky enough to have Ned Solomon in my Partners class, so I have had the absolute pleasure of getting to know Ned as a fellow Partner and watching him grow and nourish this amazing network. It takes someone very special to work with Partners from across the state, because we all bring our unique strengths and differences with us. I am grateful to Ned for the time and passion he has shared to build leaders across Tennessee. It’s hard now to imagine Partners without him.

-Elise McMillan, Class of 1995-96

He has a way of encouraging people to be and do their best through asking amazing questions and offering opportunities like no one else. Ned Andrew is paying attention when no one else might be looking, which is a great gift for everybody. He is a partner in policy making and real life for all who know, respect him, and love him. His impact will be forever felt and appreciated in all places he has broken ground for good, and will in days ahead. Travel mercies in all your new adventures, Ned Andrew!

-Laura Payne, Class of 2016-17

Meeting Ned and working with Partners in Policymaking® remains in my top ten life events. I found Ned to be a perfect fit for PIP. He was serious, dedicated, and yet made it pleasant, downright fun. I feel that way about everyone involved in the program. Ned was always trying to tweak it to make it MORE perfect. He was open, honest, and it was refreshing to meet someone that was making a difference. I often recommend the program, and I wish him all the best.

-Julie Matejko, Class of 2001-02

Ned listens and smiles as a middle aged woman reads from a paper in her hand as she gives a speech to a room of people; she was doing an exercise for people with disabilities to practice speaking up for themselves
Ned listens as a woman speaks up during a training he led at SRVS on self-advocacy skills
Ned at a recent Youth Readiness Day training for high school students with disabilities; he sits with 3 young men with disabilities at a table in a school classroom as they do an activity and discuss things together
Ned at a recent Youth Readiness Day training for high school students with disabilities
Thank you, Ned, for everything. From remembering my name to remembering my child’s name and for always answering emails or phone calls showing you care so much. For following up, for encouraging to keep going, for smiling and for making me a better advocate. I wish you the very best in your new adventure. Take care of yourself.

-Luz Belleza-Binns, Class of 2010-11

2001 wasn’t the greatest year. 9/11 happened, one of my best friends was killed by a car, and I acquired a spinal cord injury. At the time, I was woefully ignorant of the entire disability world. Partners in Policymaking (PIP) gave me an education that I have used extensively ever since my “graduation.” I can’t think of PIP without thinking of Ned. Over the years, I have received more valuable disability information from Ned than anyone else. I never properly thanked him for everything. I never let him know how much he positively affected so many people in need of life-saving assistance and knowledge. Thank you, Ned. You’re a priceless jewel. 

- Dennis Clark, Class of 2008-09

I wanted to share that without Ned Andrew's encouragement to submit art into Breaking Ground most of my work would probably still be hidden in my closet or stashed around my house. Because of him I began sharing and even selling my work. He must be the most supportive and encouraging person I have ever met.  I considered myself a strong advocate for myself and others and didn't expect to get so much out of Partners in Policymaking. In the end I gained friends and more knowledge I thought possible. I would go as far as to say I got more from that than from some of the classes I had to take to earn my Masters degree in Social Work. Congratulations to Ned Andrew and best wishes!!!!

- Christy Earhart, Partners graduate


Partners in Policymaking is a free advocacy and leadership training course for Tennesseans with disabilities and family members of people with disabilities. For more information or to apply for a future class, click here.