2017 Fall Recipients
Governor Haslam created the Governor’s Excellence in Service Awards in 2016 to recognize outstanding state employees who are at the forefront of improving the way Tennessee State Government delivers services. The employees selected by their departments’ leaders are helping provide Tennessee taxpayers with the highest quality service at the lowest possible cost. Read below to learn more about each recipient.
Animal Health Technician
Barron Russell serves the Department of Agriculture as an Animal Health Technician with the state veterinarian's office where he ensures the health and welfare of livestock in Tennessee. In this role, Barron has established himself as an efficient, dependable and positive asset to the department. He is always striving to provide the best possible customer service in a professional yet friendly manner. Barron’s efforts during the avian influenza outbreak in March 2017 were imperative to eradication of the disease and restoration of poultry trade locally and abroad. His knowledge of animal health issues and his pleasant demeanor are key to his success in providing excellent customer service. Barron earned a bachelor of science degree in animal science from Middle Tennessee State University.
Director of Performance Quality Improvement
Michael (Mike) Leach has worked with the State of Tennessee for more than 10 years and currently serves as the Director of Performance Quality Improvement (PQI) for the Department of Children’s Services. In this role, Mike is responsible for DCS’s statewide Continuous Quality Improvement (CQI) Division, where he works daily to make business processes more effective and efficient. In the last year alone, Mike has revamped the entire customer service process to capture data on how to best serve the public. He also worked diligently to standardize the department’s statewide drug testing protocol, which ensures better results and less confusion for case workers and the families served. Mike is held in high regards by senior leadership and peers. He was selected by the Children’s Bureau of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to teach other states how to develop a highly functioning CQI system. He is always known to have a positive can-do attitude. Mike will accept all challenges to improve the outcomes for children and families. Mike holds a master’s degree in marriage and family therapy from Trevecca Nazarene University in Nashville. He obtained his bachelor’s degree in sociology from California State University, Stanislaus.
Regulatory Boards Director of Accounting
Commerce and Insurance
As the Regulatory Boards Director of Accounting for the Department of Commerce and Insurance, Bill Huddleston is daily relied on for accurate cost analysis. Recently, Bill saw the need and created a new financial report containing substantially more reliable and actionable information in order to provide each regulatory board with the necessary material to make sure they stay financially self-sufficient, as required by the legislature. This amount of detail ensures regulatory board members, licensees and the public have confidence in the fairness and accuracy of cost allocations. Although Bill’s job duties do not place him in front-line interactions with customers on a day-to-day basis, his diligent back office work allows the department to provide excellent customer service and make sound financial decisions. Because of the focus Bill has placed on customer service, his employees routinely receive commendations for excellent customer service. This is especially noteworthy given the stressful nature of the auditing work undertaken by his employees. From the consistent monitoring of programs’ financial positions to the immediate and accurate responses to fiscal note requests, Bill has shown himself to be a model state employee.
Assistant Director of Human Resources
Carrie Brock began her career with the state 15 years ago with the Department of Children Services. Carrie transitioned to the Department of Correction as the Affirmative Action Officer and has since been promoted to her current role as the Assistant Director of Human Resources. In this role, Carrie serves as a trusted advisor for supervisors and front-line staff to effectively resolve workplace issues. Carrie has been instrumental in leading the Department of Correction in the creation of an Employee Relations Division. Carrie embodies the core values of the agency daily by demonstrating professionalism and integrity through her effective relationships with both internal and external customers. Her unwavering commitment to exceeding customer’s expectations is often demonstrated through her unselfish acts, as she often works during weekends and after hours to ensure agency objectives are met. Carrie holds a master’s degree in public service management from Cumberland University and a master’s degree in conflict management from Lipscomb University.
Jessica L. Johnson
Director of Budget
Economic and Community Development
Jessica L. Johnson serves as the Director of Budget in the Administrative Services Division of the Department of Economic and Community Development. Her responsibilities include creating, managing and executing the department’s $250million budget by matching resources with mission objectives. Jessica provides leadership and guidance for the budget, fiscal and procurement teams. She serves as an advisor to program managers focused on recruiting industry from around the world to locate to Tennessee. Jessica has served with the State of Tennessee since 2004. She is a licensed minister and holds Bachelor of Arts and Master of Business Administration degrees from Vanderbilt University.
Customer Product Manager, Information Technology
Melissa Teat has served the State of Tennessee and the Department of Education for almost three years. In her current role as the Customer Product Manager, Information Technology, Melissa manages the Education Information System (EIS) which involves complex coordination across teams within the department, school districts and vendors. The data in the department's EIS system is used to determine $6 billion annually in district funding. There are issues that require regular changes to EIS and Melissa works diligently to communicate, as well as work with all individuals to make sure the change is completed to a high level of excellence. She is incredibly patient and will teach other employees what they need to know in the kindest and most understandable way. Melissa also participates in the Data Governance Committee and provides integral cross-divisional information in those meetings. She uses strong judgment and excellence in her daily work as well as interpersonal relationships. Melissa is also incredibly proactive and will come to teams with solutions to problems. She spent many years as a teacher in the classroom for Smith County and was promoted to a department head managing the student information system and the Education Information System (EIS) for the school district. After realizing that accuracy of data and helping people were two of her passions, she joined the Tennessee Department of Education to work with the state’s EIS team.
Parks Area Manager
Environment and Conservation
Chris Padgett has nearly two decades of service with the Department of Environment and Conservation. He began his career as a volunteer with Tennessee State Parks at Long Hunter State Park, and then moved to the Bicentennial Capitol Mall in a full-time position before transferring to Tims Ford State Park near Winchester. At Tims Ford, Chris served as a Ranger and Assistant Park Manager before being promoted to Park Manager in 2009, where he served until his current appointment as Middle Tennessee Area Manager in 2012. Chris is a strong day-to-day manager and an admired leader. Chris has delivered positive operating results for parks at the local and statewide levels while also managing a variety of projects, personnel and community relationships. He earned a bachelor’s degree from Murray State University and he is working toward a master’s degree in recreation and leisure services at Middle Tennessee State University. Chris has completed TDEC’s Green Leadership Series and graduated from both the Tennessee Government Executive Institute (TGEI) and the National Association of State Park Directors Leadership School.
Benefits Administration Communication Officer
Finance and Administration
Heather Pease is a creative and driven communications officer experienced in all phases of this field including writing and materials design, public speaking, event planning, team leadership and budget management. As a valued and talented member of the Benefits Administration communications team, she is primarily responsible for providing our nearly 300,000 insurance plan members and the more than 1,000 human resources professionals from 560 participating agencies with timely, accurate and up-to-date information about their voluntary benefits options. As such, she works with our staff and vendors to develop educational brochures, fliers, websites and webinars for all insurance options available to plan members, as well as the ParTNers employee health clinic. She is a customer service advocate who searches for ways to listen to needs and find interesting and effective ways to provide accurate information in an accessible and timely way. Heather earned her bachelor’s degree in public relations, a graduate certification in women’s studies, and her master’s degree in English as a second language from Western Kentucky University. She and her husband live in Nashville and have one son.
Chief Administrator of Applications, Bank and Credit Union Division
Debra Grissom began her state service with the Department of Financial Institutions in 1982. Since then, she has pursued every opportunity to further develop her knowledge and has been willing to serve in any capacity in which she was needed. Currently, as the Chief Administrator of Applications, Debra is the liaison between the state regulated financial institutions and the federal regulators. Many times, navigating the requirements to meet federal regulations and guidelines for new applications can be overwhelming and cumbersome but Debra steps in to provide explanations, support and liaison communication between the state-chartered institutions and the federal regulators. Her work in this area is invaluable to not only the department but has placed her in high regard with our state regulated institutions. Debra starts each day with the thought that, “there are always opportunities for improvement,” and she continually strives to seek out those opportunities while endlessly exuding kindness and support for everyone. Debra and her husband, Guy, live in Martin, Tenn. She is a devoted mother to their daughter, Courtney.
Purchasing Card Assistant
Sharonette (Sharon) Thomas has worked for the Department of General Services as a Purchasing Card Assistant for over four years. Sharon is always quick to identify issues and always has well-thought-out ideas for solutions. Recently, she worked endlessly to find process and communication improvements to the Pcard model in Edison. Her hard work led to the creation of the Pcard Tracking and Metrics Workbook, which is used to capture team members’ tasks, activities and projects. Sharon exemplifies a customer-focused mentality. For example, during the Gatlinburg fires and the recent hurricanes, she took multiple calls from home and after regular working hours to ensure that the state’s emergency responders could make purchases for their necessities. Sharon is a member of Christ the Healer Church of Clarksville, Tenn. In her free time, she enjoys the symphony, traveling, visiting historical sites and ballroom dancing.
Public Health Office Assistant
Angela Scarlett has dedicated more than 30 years of service to the State of Tennessee, 25 of them with the Department of Health. In her current role as the Public Health Office Assistant, Angela is the face and voice of the Putnam County Health Department. As we know, first impressions are powerful drivers of good customer service. Angela meets customers with a warm smile and helping hand. She is a true public servant as she interacts with visitors in all areas of public health and other community resources. Angela greets each customer with respect and has a true desire to meet needs as evidenced by outstanding patient satisfaction surveys and genuine relationships with customers. Angela exhibits good judgment and diplomacy while creating a welcoming atmosphere for visitors and staff. Her enthusiasm and eagerness to improve customer service has helped to nurture a positive and energized environment in the Putnam County Health Department. Angela has focused on making the registration process smooth and effortless for the public. The end result is an efficient and well-managed clinic with high customer satisfaction reviews. Angela has been married to her husband, John, for 34 years and is a proud mother to their son, James.
Lead Legal Assistant
Healthcare Finance and Administration
Joseph “Trevor” Haley began his career with TennCare in February 2012 as a Legal Assistant in the Valid Factual Dispute Unit, and has since been promoted to his current role as Lead Legal Assistant for that unit. Since beginning his career with TennCare, Trevor has always gone above and beyond for the unit and the state's TennCare members. He is consistently the first person to step up to solve problems that arise and his persistence ensures that issues reach an accurate and timely resolution. Trevor handles change with ease, welcomes new ideas and is an effective leader. He always makes sure member needs are met as quickly as possible in the appeals process, while staying calm under pressure. Trevor works as a team member with the employees of the Managed Care Organizations on a daily basis to ensure that medical coverage is delivered to members in a timely and seamless manner. He is never without a smile on his face, and is always willing to help his fellow employees in times of need. Trevor attended Nashville State Technical Community College. He is married and has one daughter, Presleigh.
Administrative Services Assistant 4
Sharon Buwalda has served the State of Tennessee for more than 32 years, 17 of those years with the Department of Human Resources (DOHR). In her current role as the Office Manager for the Strategic Learning Solutions, she is the statewide coordinator for DOHR's conferences and event planning. Sharon consistently goes out of her way to assist leaders at all levels across the enterprise by responding immediately to internal and external customer requests, ensuring customer satisfaction and needs are met at all times. Using her organization, event planning and implementation skills, Sharon's extraordinary customer service annually serves over 1,900 leaders across all state agencies in the DOHR leadership development programs and conferences. Sharon is known for her attention to detail and her tireless efforts in helping others get what they need to be successful. Sharon's talent and dedication to customer service enhances the products and services offered by DOHR, contributing to the quality of services and products provided.
Maintenance Worker 3
Terry Bain began his State of Tennessee career at the Tennessee Rehabilitation Center – Smyrna (TRC) in March 2006 as a Building Maintenance Worker 2. In August 2007, Terry was promoted to Building Maintenance Worker 3. On a daily basis, Terry exceeds any and all expectations. He has provided numerous job shadowing opportunities in the maintenance field for students with disabilities. During this time, he answers questions and provides an orientation to the various jobs which are available in the industry. By building real world modules in the evaluation program, students can be tested on their functional skills in different to better determine their best path in vocational rehabilitation. Terry volunteers to teach classes for students regarding how to use a fire extinguisher and is always present to assist training programs on how to institute improvements in their work area. Terry is an integral part of the TRC organization and diligently works to ensure physical resources necessary to support TRC are always in place and supported 24/7. Numerous times throughout the year, Terry has responded in person to TRC needs in the middle of the night to ensure the facilities were fully supporting the TRC mission. Terry excels in his job performance and duties and as a result he holds not only himself but maintenance staff and vendors accountable for assigned duties thus ensuring TRC is always safe and well maintained.
Middle Tennessee Employment and Day Services Coordinator
Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities
Michael Barbour has served the State of Tennessee for more than 22 years. He began as a Developmental Technician with the Department of Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities in 1995 and has worked his way up to his current position as the Middle Tennessee Employment and Day Services Coordinator. In this role, Michael is a liaison between all agencies contracted with DIDD. Michael consistently maintains a positive energy and attitude toward the customers he serves. When an agency has any concerns or issues with day or employment services, Michael will take the time to personally visit the agency and/or family to help find a solution. If he is unable to resolve the matter, he will find the right person who is better able to assist, following through until the issue is resolved. His customer service skills are excellent, and his commitment and energy are often praised by the department's customers. Michael is married to his wife of 29 years and is a proud father of two children.
Administrative Service Assistant 5
Labor and Workforce Development
Jackie Berg has served the State of Tennessee for more than 31 years and currently supports the Department of Labor and Workforce Development as an Administrative Service Assistant 5 for the agency’s assistant commissioner of human resources. In this role, Jackie also serves as the Performance Review Coordinator and manages workers comp claims. Jackie applies the core value of continuous improvement in everything she does. She is a team leader and constantly puts the needs of the agency and others above her own. Jackie currently serves as a volunteer on the Tennessee Personal Management Association (TPMA) 2018 HR Conference Program Committee. She is described as an optimistic person who believes and demonstrates living a valued and purposeful life. She continuously serves her community of La Vergne where she has assisted countless families with food and clothing needs. Jackie and her husband Randy have two daughters and one grandson.
Mental Health & Substance Abuse Services
Since 1999, Kathy Haley has been serving the State of Tennessee as a Helpline Advocate for the Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services. In this role, Kathy provides friendly, attentive customer service to Tennessee citizens in need of mental health and addiction services. She is often the first person people talk to when calling the department for help. Often, those that call are in crisis and needing assistance; Kathy consistently shows kindness and concern to each person reaching out for help. She is highly regarded by her colleagues and shows a sincere compassion for the people she serves every day. In fact, one of her most often used skills is empathetic listening as callers share with her their struggles with mental illness or addiction. Kathy received her bachelor’s degree from Sewanee: The University of the South in 1983.
Administrative Services Assistant 5
Crystal Lysinger began her career in procurement while serving in the United States Army. In May of 1998, after leaving the Army, she began working for the State of Tennessee in Central Purchasing. Crystal then transitioned to the Department of Military in July 2014. Since coming on board with Military, Crystal has always gone above and beyond for the department and its customers. Crystal assists her customers with writing specifications, locating potential vendors, and creating/dispatching purchase orders in a friendly and professional manner. She has a great attitude and understands that her primary responsibility is to ensure that her customers get what they need in an efficient and cost-effective manner. Crystal received an associate’s degree in public administration from Brookline Community College. She is married and has two daughters and four grandchildren. When asked what she enjoys most about her job she said, "Helping people. That's what I love doing."
Supervisor, Collections Services Division
Jacob Beal has been dedicated to serving the State of Tennessee for almost 13 years and currently serves the Department of Revenue as a Supervisor in the Collections Services Division. In this role, Jacob works directly with taxpayers and does an excellent job ensuring that taxpayers receive outstanding customer service. Jacob is truly customer-focused and serves as an example to those around him. Recently, Jacob successfully created and launched the Amish Community Outreach Program in Lawrence County following the closure of a local Collection Services office. He recognized and responded to the needs of these taxpayers, who do not conduct any business online, by securing a location in Lawrence County where he provides in-person customer service on a monthly basis. This directly contributes to the department’s ability to maintain tax compliance within a hard-to-reach community. Jacob received his bachelor’s degree in business administration from Martin Methodist College in 2001. He currently lives in West Point, Tenn. with his wife of 13 years, Elizabeth, and their two sons, Elijah (1) and Levi (9). Jacob enjoys the outdoors, loves bacon, knife carving and raising goats.
Captain, Protective Services Division
Safety and Homeland Security
Captain Tommy Fyke has more than 30 years of law enforcement experience and has served the citizens of Tennessee through the Department of Safety & Homeland Security since 1997. As captain of the Protective Services Division, Captain Fyke has consistently ensured that his staff performs at the highest levels of professionalism. He conducts yearly briefings with the more than 40 personnel in his division to ensure courtesy and professionalism is maintained and exhibited on a daily basis. In addition, he has completed close to 40 successful operation plans for protests and rallies at the State Capitol complex this year alone. These plans help to ensure the safety of those in attendance, as well as visitors to the area, while allowing protesters and counter-protesters the freedom to express their First Amendment rights. These actions help to ensure that visitors and employees to the State Capitol complex and executive residence enjoy a pleasant, safe and secure experience. Captain Fyke was also instrumental in helping to develop the first Dignitary Protection School for the Tennessee Highway Patrol in 2011 and has since trained hundreds of troopers and officers in dignitary protection. He is a 2012 graduate of the Northwestern University School of Police Staff and Command. He lives in Clarksville, Tenn. with his wife, Kay, and has two grown children, James and Katherine, and two grandchildren, Harper and Parker.
Unicoi County Welcome Center
Brody Shell has been a member of the Department of Tourist Development for over six years and proves to be an incredible asset to the I-26, Unicoi County Welcome Center. Due to his expansive skillset, Brody has allowed TDTD to complete some unique projects, and save money by doing those projects himself. For example, he has fabricated safety gates for the loading dock area, when TDTD decided to create walking trails at all Welcome Centers; Brody constructed the music note templates that designate the trail area as well as the distance markers. He built brochure racks for the Unicoi County Welcome Center that were so well constructed that he was asked to build additional racks for other centers across the state. Brody is a fantastic team member who takes pride in his local Welcome Center as well as those around the state. When not helping guests, Brody enjoys spending time with his wife, Amanda, and their two children, Mara Jade and Daniel. He also enjoys training, spending time outdoors and coaching little league.
Transportation Manager 2
Danielle Hagewood began her career with the Department of Transportation in February 1996 as a Transportation Assistant. Since joining TDOT, Danielle has held multiple roles including Transportation Planner and Project Manager. In her current role as Transportation Manager 2, Danielle is responsible for overseeing the State Industrial Access (SIA) Program and providing support to the Department of Economic and Community Development. The program provides funding and technical assistance for highway access to new and expanding industries across the state. Under Danielle’s leadership, the program currently has 35 active projects, 15 projects that have been bid, and 18 projects that have been completed. These 68 projects have created almost 22,000 jobs. Danielle embodies the core values of TDOT on a daily basis and represents the department and the state in an outstanding manner. Her work ethic and positive attitude continuously gain praise from others; she is a true role model. When asked what she enjoys most about her job Danielle said, “Every day is different and brings new challenges. Working as a team to build partnerships, inside and outside of the department, and seeing the finished road project for an industry is very rewarding.” Danielle is married and has two children, a daughter, Amelia (4) and an infant son, Roman.