2017 Spring Recipients
The Governor’s Excellence in Service Awards began 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.
Naomi Kelly joined the State of Tennessee a little over a year ago and has already brought a wealth of experience and knowledge to the Department of Agriculture. Naomi serves the agriculture industry of Tennessee as a Microbiologist at the C. E. Kord Animal Health Diagnostic Laboratory. In her time at the lab, Naomi has organized and streamlined the important analytic technique known as PCR, which has resulted in clients being able to receive their results much quicker than before. During the recent avian influenza outbreak, Naomi was instrumental in organizing the laboratory’s response to the sudden influx of thousands of samples that needed to be analyzed very quickly. Her knowledge, ingenuity, and organizational skills resulted in rapid and accurate test results that aided greatly in stopping the outbreak. Naomi earned an Associate’s Degree in Arts and Sciences and an Associate’s Degree in Medical Assisting from Whatcom Community College in Bellingham, Washington. Naomi also received a Bachelor’s Degree in Forensic Science from Eastern Kentucky University in Richmond, Kentucky. Naomi worked at the University of Kentucky Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory in the Molecular Biology Department for five years before joining the C. E. Kord Animal Health Diagnostic Laboratory in 2015.
Family Services Worker
Kellee Smith began her career in child welfare in 2002 as a Case Worker for the Department of Children’s Services. Kellee has recently been promoted to her new role, Family Services Worker 3. Since coming on board with Children’s Services, Kellee has always gone above and beyond for the Department and its customers. Kellee consistently works to improve the lives of the children and families she serves. She works with parents who have lost custody of their children due to abuse and/or neglect in an effort to reunify the family. In situations where this is not possible, Kellee exhausts every effort to locate family or kinship. Kellee is also very skilled at maintaining positive working relationships with other program areas and the courts. She has worked to mentor other staff in order to help them understand the importance of completing case-related tasks timely, so we are better able to obtain suitable permanency for the children in our cases. Kellee has devoted her entire professional career to the children she serves, making her an incredible asset to the Department and to the state. Kellee received a Bachelor’s Degree in Social Work from Middle Tennessee State University and has two children, a daughter, Trinity (18), and a son, Devon (14).
Deputy General Counsel
Commerce and Insurance
Maliaka Bass began her career with the Department of Commerce and Insurance as an attorney in November of 1994, Maliaka currently serves as Deputy General Counsel. In her role, Maliaka works with program areas to address respectful workplace matters as well as actual consumer complaints against employees or contractors who represent our agency. Maliaka is highly respected by leaders at all levels of the organization for her wisdom and calm demeanor in handling challenging situations. Maliaka is a recipient of the Tennessee Federal Bureau of Investigation's Director's Award for her work as an attorney and her contributions to the citizens of the state. She has been active in the middle Tennessee community, serving on a number of non-profit organizations such as New Jerusalem Ministries, the Nashville Urban League, and Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority. Maliaka received her B.A. from Spelman College in Atlanta, GA, and her J.D. from the University Of Tennessee College Of Law.
Probation and Parole Officer
Brittany Hageseth began her career as a Probation and Parole Officer with the Department of Correction in April of 2013 and was promoted to Probation and Parole Officer 3 in December of 2016. Brittany has been instrumental in the development of the responsibilities for the Sanction position, in preparation for the January 2017 implementation of the Public Safety Act of 2016. Brittany goes above and beyond to serve her customers by consistently working with management to develop tools and processes to better manage the sanctions system more effectively. Brittany holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Criminal Justice from Austin Peay State University and is a graduate of the Department of Correction Sergeant’s Academy. Brittany is passionate about the Department of Correction’s mission, to operate safe and secure prisons and to provide effective community supervision. Brittany strives daily to deliver excellence in her position and her innovation and commitment has helped create a culture in the department that supports all customers’ needs.
Director, Center for Economic Research
Economic & Community Development
Sally Avery first joined the Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development in 2010 as an intern for the Research Division. She returned to the Department in 2012 and currently serves as the Director of CERT (Center for Economic Research in Tennessee). In this role, Sally leads a team of research professionals that carry out the Department’s mission through providing research to support informed decisions and strategic competitiveness across the state. Sally formed the CERT team’s brand in 2016 in an effort to make the team’s research available to a wider audience through an online portfolio of research papers, development of a transparency dashboard platform, and other outreach efforts. Sally’s team has a tremendous amount of respect for her and they have thrived under her direction and support. Sally earned her degree in International Economic Development from Sewanee: The University of the South and lives in Nashville with her husband, Thomas.
Linda Stachera has worked for the State of Tennessee for over 16 years and currently serves as the System Administrator of ePlan, the online planning and grants management system for the Department of Education. In this role, Linda works with the Division of Consolidated Planning and Monitoring. The division is focused on providing friendly and reliable technical assistance to the 147 school districts in Tennessee in order to help them achieve their goals. Linda is a dedicated and highly motivated employee who works cooperatively and supportively with many offices throughout the department. Linda truly values her long-standing relationships with the school districts throughout Tennessee and continually looks for ways to improve the systems in which they work. She has never met a challenge to which she could not find a solution. Linda holds a Bachelor’s Degree in IT from the University of Tennessee and a Master’s of Science in Management from Austin Peay State University.
Grants & Community Engagement Program Manager
Environment & Conservation
Paula Middlebrooks has worked for the State of Tennessee for over 11 years. Paula serves as the Community Engagement Program Manager in the Department of Environment and Conservation. Paula has consistently proven herself to be a champion for public health and the environment as a skilled leader and dedicated public servant. She is responsible for developing relationships at the local level that have successfully facilitated and secured EPA Brownfields Grants worth more than $6.5 million for Tennessee communities. These grants allow the state to address contaminated properties by cleaning up and reinvesting in them, which increases local tax bases, facilitates job growth, and improves and protects the environment. Paula's efforts and successes have made Tennessee a leader in the southeast for receiving Brownfields grant assistance. While her professional focus is improving public health and the environment, Paula also gives back to her community as a board member of Historic Nashville, Inc. and volunteer leader for the Historic Belcourt Theater. A native of South Dakota, Paula earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Biology from Dakota Wesleyan and a Master’s Degree in Environmental Health from the University Of Minnesota School Of Public Health.
Executive Administrative Assistant
Finance & Administration
April Mayambu has worked for the State of Tennessee for over 18 years and currently serves as the Executive Administrative Assistant to the Office of General Counsel and the Deputy Commissioner. Additionally, April serves as the primary person responsible for answering the department’s main phone line. Because of this, April talks to citizens all day long and is always professional and customer-focused. She constantly strives to ensure all needs are met and all issues are resolved by providing callers with detailed information when transferring to another agency, as well as offering her direct contact information so she can again assist should an issue not be resolved. As the voice of the Finance & Administration, April is authentically compassionate and represents the state well by exceeding the expectations of customers and fellow colleagues.
Wade McCullough began his service to the State of Tennessee in the Department of Financial Institutions in 1986 as a Financial Examiner 1. In the last few years, Wade was appointed to his current position, of Financial Program Administrator 2 for Trust, which is a growing industry in the State of Tennessee. Wade also accepted the appointment of TEMA Emergency Services Coordinator in 2016, where he took the lead to work collectively with TEMA to facilitate a state-wide emergency exercise that encompassed participation from banks and credit unions across the state. Wade’s efforts to further enhance the awareness needed for emergency planning and practice was instrumental in the success of the exercise. Wade represents the core values of the Department in all that he does, whether that involves working overtime whenever needed to best assist our customers, or coordinating state-wide emergency and cyber security emergency preparedness exercises. Wade has the safety of the State of Tennessee and its customers at the forefront of his mind always.
Fleet Supervisor 2
David Keith has worked for the State of Tennessee in the Department of General Services for over 33 years. He began as a Vehicle Shuttle Driver, worked his way to an Equipment Service Worker, and now serves as a Fleet Supervisor 2. David’s primary function is to coordinate, schedule, and ensure that executive level vehicles are serviced and maintained on a weekly basis. This responsibility is considered high profile, with David working directly with commissioner’s offices, judicial offices, and executive offices. David must fulfill customer requests within short time frames and maintain an excellent level of customer service. David embodies the core values of Vehicles and Asset Management and demonstrates a mission-driven, customer-focused attitude in every aspect of his performance.
Vitals Records Clerk
Rhonda Edens began her Public Health career in October 2001 as a Public Health Office Assistant. In 2004, Rhonda became certified as a Deputy Registrar and has served as a Vital Records Clerk ever since. Rhonda is always welcoming and embodies great customer service for the State of Tennessee at the Washington County Health Department. She has taken ownership of the new vital records process (VRISM); even taking the time to provide a letter to all of our local funeral home partners that fully explained the new details of the process prior to its implementation. This prepared them ahead of time and warranted many phone calls from the partners complementing Rhonda on her effectiveness and positive demeanor during the transition. Rhonda is regularly noted as making days brighter with her friendly and gentle demeanor, which is crucial when serving in a vital records role.
Health Care Finance & Administration
Thomas “Tommy” Wood has been with the State of Tennessee for over five years and currently serves as the Training Coordinator in the Division of Long-Term Services and Supports within the Department of Health Care Finance and Administration (HCFA). Tommy’s responsibilities include a variety of internal and external communication processes, including LTSS training activities, preparation of a monthly newsletter, ongoing review and updates of LTSS information on the tn.gov website, handling LTSS-related legislative inquiries, and managing member correspondence. Tommy embodies the core values of HCFA and Tennessee State government in many ways. He is committed to excellent customer services, consistently going above and beyond in all of his day-to-day responsibilities. Whether he is conducting a training, mailing a letter about a person’s eligibility for LTSS, or helping a legislator’s constituent resolve a question or concern. Tommy strives to make each customer feel valued and important. Tommy is originally from Kentucky and an alumnus of Western Kentucky University. Tommy received a Bachelor’s Degree in Broadcasting and a Master’s Degree in Public Administration.
Director of Human Resources Service Center
Sharon Moidja has worked for the Department of Human Resources since November of 1998. During her time, Sharon has held multiple positions and most recently serves as the director of the newly formed HR Service Center. Sharon works directly with customers to determine their needs, hear their stories, and assist them with their questions and concerns. Sharon endlessly shows compassion and empathy when addressing issues from applicants. Sharon truly embodies the meaning of customer service by treating her customers as she would want to be treated. Sharon goes above and beyond to provide respect and compassion to all customers, making her a true asset to the State of Tennessee. Sharon’s dedication to the entire customer experience has now spread to other members of the team and has become the standard in the HR Service Center.
Supervisor, TRC Vocational Training Program
Linda Baharloo has been serving individuals with disabilities in the Department of Human Services for 26 years and currently holds the title of Supervisor for the Tennessee Rehabilitation Center (TRC) Vocational Training Program. As the supervisor, Linda is responsible for the effective and efficient operation of eight training classes, which includes the review and revision of all curriculum materials and development of new training opportunities based on local needs and national trends. Linda’s commitment to the TRC students is evident in her drive to see every student experience success in their program. Linda never focuses on a student’s limitations or disciplinary issues; instead, she asks herself what can be done to assist the individual and help move them forward. Linda always encourages teamwork; not only within her unit, but across all programs. Linda truly loves her job and is highly respected by her staff, co-workers, and colleagues. Linda has a Bachelor’s Degree in Sociology and obtained her Master of Education in Rehabilitation Counseling from Auburn University.
Director of East Tennessee Homes
Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities
Margi Story’s career with people with intellectual disabilities spans over 25 years, but she began working for the Department as the Director of the East Tennessee Homes in 2010. In this position, Margi oversees the sixteen homes in East Tennessee that provide 24-hour support to ensure the daily health, safety, and welfare of the residents. Since appointed, Margi has led the development of a comprehensive safety program, which adheres to the Centers for Medicaid/Medicare Services regulations for best practice planning and preparation. Margi’s extensive research and development of training mechanisms has resulted in outstanding staff performance. Margi’s dedication to involve people in naturally occurring activities creates opportunities to learn and experience personal growth while enjoying life. Margi is a true leader and leads by example. Margi’s imagination, enthusiasm, passion, and tenacity inspire others to do more and make her an asset to the State of Tennessee.
Labor and Workforce Development
Charlotte Ely has dedicated herself to the State of Tennessee for over 40 years. Charlotte currently serves as east Tennessee’s Regional Director for the Department of Labor and Workforce Development. Each day, Charlotte comes to work with one goal; helping the people of east Tennessee. From Morristown to Sevierville, Charlotte works with the department's local workforce partners to ensure services in the American Job Centers are available to the residents who need them. On November 28, 2016 a wildfire tore through Sevier County, one of the largest areas served by LWDA 2. Charlotte led the department’s disaster response. Charlotte coordinated the locations and staffing for all of the mobile job centers and the comprehensive center. Charlotte not only made sure each staff member knew their role, she made sure they had food to eat, water to drink, and rest room facilities to use. Charlotte’s organizational skills and innovative approach to problem solve and serve the people of Sevier County makes Charlotte a true talent.
Lead Psychiatric Technician
Mental Health & Substance Abuse Services
Tijuana Williams has been with the State of Tennessee for almost 15 years and currently serves the Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services as a Lead Psychiatric Technician at the Memphis Mental Health Institute (MMHI). On a daily basis, Tijuana compassionately interacts with individuals who are referred to MMHI for involuntary services. Tijuana makes sure to attempt to put the patient at ease about their referral for services and explains the steps that will be taken in evaluating their needs. Her interactions with patients during the admission evaluation process helps patients feel more comfortable in a stressful and confusing situation. Tijuana is regarded by her co-workers as a committed leader, always going above and beyond expectations in providing service to both internal and external customers. Tijuana demonstrates benevolence and professionalism while being a leader who is committed to serving those in need.
HeeChong Yu has been with the State of Tennessee since 2002 and currently serves as a GIS Analyst for the Department of Military. HeeChong consistently strives to provide the best level of support to our customers at the federal, state, and local levels. During the recent response efforts of the Sevier County wildfires, HeeChong developed an efficient and effective GIS interactive map to assist federal, state, and local partners. HeeChong’s product allowed Federal and State assistance to be approved and awarded to citizens of the State of Tennessee rapidly. HeeChong strives to improve fiscal strength and efficiency by developing products to reduce costs and strengthen the capabilities of State Government. HeeChong was born in a small town in South Korea and came to America in 1996. He has earned a Bachelor’s degree in Physics from Han-Nam University in South Korea, an Associate degree of Applied Science from Miller-Motte Technical College, and a Graduate Certificate in Applied Geospatial from Tennessee State University.
Taxpayer Services Representative
Justin Rodgers began his career with the Department of Revenue in January of 2016 as a Taxpayer Services Representative in the Bartlett office. Justin goes above and beyond to thoroughly explain vital tax information to taxpayers to help them become or remain voluntarily compliant. Justin takes ownership to fully resolve issues facing taxpayers and works collaboratively with other divisions within Revenue to provide a seamless customer service experience. Justin acts with professionalism in all of his interactions with both internal and external customers. He collaborates with his co-workers to creatively resolve issues on behalf of taxpayers and to help train new employees. Justin acts with a high degree of integrity and honesty in his everyday role, making him a great asset to the department. Justin holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Business Administration from Alcorn State University and a Master’s Degree in Business Administration from The University of Memphis.
TITAN Program Director
Safety & Homeland Security
Christopher Osbourn has been with the Department of Safety and Homeland Security since 2004. Christopher currently serves as the department’s Integrated Traffic Analysis Network (TITAN) Program Director. Christopher oversees the TITAN Program and Tennessee’s traffic records management system, Predictive Analytics and Statistical Analysis, Fatality Analysis Reporting System (FARS), and GIS Services. Christopher strives to assist other agencies with providing them traffic related data that will aid in promoting a safer Tennessee. Christopher was instrumental in the development of the department’s Predictive Analytics Model which was developed with IBM. This model takes historic crash data, special events, weather predictions, arrests, and alcohol and drug related incidents and provides troopers with the ability to utilize information to strategically self-deploy into areas of high risk for serious crashes and highway fatalities involving impaired drivers, unrestrained, and distracted drivers. Christopher and the TITAN Business Unit directly help to reduce crime in Tennessee by providing officers with focused data-driven criminal statistical interdiction. Christopher graduated with a Master’s Degree from Clemson University and a Bachelor’s Degree from the University of Central Florida.
Welcome Center Manager
Sherry Hutchinson has been with the State of Tennessee for over 15 years and currently serves as Manager of the Mitchellville Welcome Center for the Department of Tourist Development. Sherry is known for her willingness to help staff and guests regardless of the circumstances. A little over a year ago, an elderly visitor was traveling through Tennessee from Minnesota to Florida. She had fallen and her clothes were dirty and torn. Fairly disheveled and somewhat shaken, she entered the Welcome Center where Sherry immediately came to her aid. The visitor, traveling alone, arrived in Florida a couple of days later but wrote back to the Department to express her sincere appreciation of Sherry’s attention to her and stating how amazed she was at being the recipient of such kindness by a stranger. This is just one of the examples of how Sherry goes above and beyond to provide incredible customer service to our guests.
Highway Response Supervisor
Emerson Boguskie has been in public service most of his life, serving the Metro Nashville Police Department for over 30 years prior to joining the State of Tennessee in 2005. Emerson continues his love of public service and safety as a Highway Response Supervisor 2 for the Department of Transportation. Emerson has the ability, in the most horrific situations, to treat crash victims, crash victim’s families, and TDOT employees with the utmost compassion, respect, and dignity. Emerson’s experience during the recent tragedies of two of our TDOT Region 3 employees was and has been an example for all to follow. During those tragedies, Emerson became the calming influence to our TDOT family, always keeping in mind the grace and reverence deserved in these situations. Emerson exemplifies the core values for the Department of Transportation and is a true asset to the State of Tennessee.
Robert Million has served the Department of Veterans Services for almost 19 years. Robert currently serves as the Cemetery Foreman for Middle Tennessee State Veterans Cemetery. Robert is responsible for the day-to-day operations of interments, perpetual care, and maintenance of the cemetery grounds. Robert developed and implemented a Grounds Maintenance Plan (GMP) which outlines tasks for equipment operators and cemetery caretakers for the entire calendar year. Middle TN State Veterans Cemetery has roughly 15,000 visitors a year and due to Robert’s efforts, the department consistently receives accolades on the overall appearance of the cemetery grounds. Within the past year, the department has not received a single complaint regarding the appearance or professionalism of cemetery employees. Robert’s ability to manage and lead by example has earned him the respect and commitment of his team members, which ultimately results in leaving customers with peace of mind as to why they elected to inter their loved one at Middle TN State Veterans Cemetery. Robert’s work is always performed in a professional and exemplary manner keeping in the highest traditions of Veterans Services.