Council Staff


To contact  the  Council, call our office at 615-532-6615 or email  Staff contact information listed below.


outdoor posed photo of 10 staff members of the Tennessee Council on Developmental Disabilities
Pictured, from left to right: Lauren Pearcy; Mildred Sparkman; Cathlyn Smith; JoEllen Fowler; Jolene Sharp; Lynette Porter; Emma Shouse; Ashley Edwards; and Alicia Cone.
9-14-17  Pearcy_Lauren_DIDD_Offical Portrait

Lauren Pearcy, Executive Director - 615.741.5019 |

Lauren has worked at the Council since 2016 and served as Executive Director since 2022. Before joining the Council staff, she worked at the State Medicaid Agency, TennCare, in Long-Term Services and Supports for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities. Lauren started her career at the National Governors Association in Washington, DC, where she fell in love with disability policy after being assigned staff to Delaware Governor Jack Markell’s initiative, “A Better Bottom Line: Employing People with Disabilities.”

headshot of Lynette Porter, a white woman with short brown hair, a striped blouse and black cardigan

Lynette Porter, Deputy Director - 615.532.4684 |

Lynette has worked at the Council since 2000. Her primary roles include overseeing the agency budget, operations, and compliance with state and federal policies. For over a decade prior to the Council, Lynette managed staffing, contractors and operations in the private sector. Her personal connection to the disability field started with her daughter with a disability, who is now an adult.

headshot of Ashley Edwards, a white woman with long brown hair, a black shirt and gray sweater

Ashley Edwards Hill, Assistant to the Executive Director - 615.253.5369 |

Ashley joined the Council as Assistant to the Executive Director in 2018. She previously worked in the education field, where teaching students with disabilities became a passion for her. Her main responsibilities include supporting the Executive Director and Council members, meeting planning and coordination, and special projects.

headshot of JoEllen Fowler, a white woman with short brown hair and an orange striped knit sweater and black blouse, glasses and gold earings

JoEllen Fowler, Office Resources Manager - 615.532.6560 |

JoEllen has worked at the Council since 2003. As the administrative lead for the Council, her responsibilities include coordinating agency technology, public records management, Council meeting venue logistics, and other operational activities. Before the Council, she worked at Vanderbilt Kennedy Center for Developmental Disabilities. Her interest in the disability field was sparked by a her cousin who has a disability.

headshot of Mildred Sparkman, a Black woman with curly black ringlets and a blue blouse

Mildred Sparkman, Administrative Secretary - 615.532.1409 |

Mildred joined the Council staff in 2004. In addition to a variety of other duties, Mildred serves as first point of contact for many people contacting the Council by assisting all callers to the Council’s main phone line and welcoming agency visitors. She provides administrative support for all Council programs, maintains Council subscription lists, and supports logistics for Council meetings and our leadership development programs.

headshot of Alicia Cone, a white woman with short gray hair and an embroidered purple blouse with a state of TN and a leadership academy pin on it

Alicia Cone, Director of Program Operations - 615.253.1105 |

Alicia has been at the Council since 2000. Her primary responsibilities include federal and state reporting, contracts, program evaluation, and data collection. She has worked in several different areas of the disability field since her first job after college, which was supporting Mississippians with intellectual disabilities to find employment in their communities. Her connection to the disability community started with her sister, who has a disability.

headshot of Jolene Sharp, a white woman with long curly brown hair, a white blouse and a beige suit jacket

Jolene Sharp, Chief Strategy Officer - 615.253.8778 |

Jolene Sharp has been with the Council since 2019, when she joined staff as head of communications. In her current role, she provides vision and oversight for all three of the Council’s work areas: leadership development, public policy, and communications.  Jolene’s roots in the disability community go deep as both the daughter of a father with a disability and mother to two children with disabilities.

headshot of Emma Shouse Garton, a white woman with short brown hair, brown glasses and an olive green blouse

Emma Shouse Garton, Director of Public Policy - 615.253.5368 |

Emma joined the Council in 2011 after completing a public policy college internship there the year before. She worked in supporting the Council's communications efforts and other priorities from 2011-2023. She now leads the Council's public policy work and tracks developments about Council priorities. She also supports the Tennessee Adult Brothers and Sisters (TABS) statewide sibling support network, launched by the Council and Vanderbilt Kennedy Center a decade ago. She is passionate about this work because she has a younger brother with disabilities.

headshot of Cathlyn Smith, a Black woman with short brown hair, hoop earrings, a gold blazer and white blouse, and a state of TN pin

Cathlyn ("Cat") Smith, Director of Leadership Development - 615.532.6556 |

Cat joined the Council as its first-ever Director of Leadership Development in 2020. Her primary responsibilities are leading three key Council leadership development programs: Partners in Policymaking® Leadership Institute, the Council’s Scholarship Fund, and the Leadership Academy for Excellence in Disability Services (in partnership with the TN Dept. of Human Resources). Cathlyn previously worked at the Department of Children’s Services as Executive Assistant and Tennessee’s Commissioner for the Interstate Compact Commission for Juveniles. Her personal interest in the disability field started with her daughter with disabilities, who is now an adult.