Danielle Whitworth Barnes was reappointed to serve as a member of the Governor’s Cabinet as the Commissioner of the Tennessee Department of Human Services in 2019, leading the operations and strategic direction of the state’s second largest agency. The Department provides services to approximately two million Tennesseans each year through programs such as Families First, Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, Child Support, Child Care Services, Vocational Rehabilitation, Disability Determination Services, Adult Protective Services, Child and Adult Food Program and Social Services Block Grant. Operating a budget of over $2.1 billion, providing leadership to more than 4,000 employees, and managing 113 facilities, Ms. Barnes continues to drive for strong results for individuals, families and communities through meaningful work outcomes and community partnerships.
At the start of her appointment in 2017, Ms. Barnes led the department in operationalizing its two-generational approach through the concept of building a thriving Tennessee. To further the Department’s impact, in 2019 Ms. Barnes launched a new departmental mission statement, vision statement, and core values to align the Department with its goal to provide transformative services to Tennesseans. Under her leadership the Department has increased the number of collaborative partnerships with emphasis on meeting the essential needs of families, enhancing the customer experience, modernizing technology, reducing administrative process, increasing access to services in rural communities, and connecting DHS customers to sustainable employment opportunities.
Prior to her appointment at DHS, she served as Deputy Commissioner & General Counsel for the Tennessee Department of Human Resources. In her capacity, she had oversight over all administrative and legal issues within the Department, executing daily operations, providing counsel and advice to her agency, other state agencies, and state employees on employment matters. She co-authored and implemented the Tennessee Excellence and Accountability (T.E.A.M.) Act, created the state’s mediation program and enacted pay for performance for state employees. Before her tenure in public service, she also practiced at the law firm of Farris Mathews Branan Bobango & Hellen, PLC in both the Nashville and Memphis office.
Ms. Barnes holds certification as a Senior Professional in Human Resources (SPHR), Society for Human Resource Management Senior Certified Professional (SHRM-SCP), and International Public Management Association Senior Certified Professional (IPMA-SCP). In addition, she is a Rule 31 Listed Mediator. She earned her undergraduate degree from Spelman College and her law degree from the University of Tennessee College of Law. Ms. Barnes is also an active member of Ascend Federal Credit Union, Hands on Nashville, and Tennessee Center for Performance Excellence. Ms. Barnes and her husband, Victor, have two children, Cameron and Vivian.