2016 Fall 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. Employees selected by their department’s leadership to receive the award are helping provide Tennessee taxpayers with the highest quality service at the lowest possible cost.
Digital Marketing Specialist
Art Colebank joined the Department of Agriculture in 2013 as the Digital Marketing Specialist. Art manages the Pick TN Products website, social media platforms and the Pick TN Mobile App. One of Art's responsibilities is to provide graphic support for the Tennessee Agricultural Enhancement Program (TAEP). While working with TAEP staff, Art suggested an option for scanning applications into the TAEP data base system as opposed to entering them manually. Art’s new process is currently being utilized to process the 2016 applications with excellent results. Art embraces new technology and always looks for new and better ways to conduct the Division's business. Art's creativity and adaptability make him a valuable asset to the Department of Agriculture. Prior to joining the Department of Agriculture he was the Digital Imaging Manager for the Department of General Services. In this position he managed, designed and led innovation for the General Services Printing Division. Art joined the state workforce in 1994 after graduating from MTSU with a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Graphic Design.
Human Resource Analyst
Commerce and Insurance
In June 2014, Ashton Bode moved from Colorado to begin her state career with the Department of Commerce and Insurance, Human Resources division. It was immediately clear that Ashton was extremely talented, and she quickly worked her way through the ranks to her current position. Ashton implemented a new level of review for the Performance Management process and has conducted numerous individual coaching sessions with managers to assist them in ensuring their employees’ work outcomes were written in compliance with the S.M.A.R.T. requirements. Ashton holds a bachelor's degree in Psychology with a focus in Industrial Organizational Psychology from the University of North Carolina at Asheville. Ashton continually exceeds leadership expectations making numerous contributions outside of her assigned work outcomes. Ashton has worked tirelessly to earn the trust and respect of her peers and colleagues, and her dedication and commitment to her department and its employees is to be commended.
Christy Espey is an active leader within the Office of Child Safety for the Department of Children’s Services. Christy supervises the Child Protective Services Investigations Team in the Northwest Region, which includes 13 rural counties in West Tennessee. She works with families to address their concerns and looks for ways to ensure success. Christy helped create a recruitment video to help potential employees have a better understanding of the department. When Christy recognizes a team is struggling, she steps in and is willing to do whatever necessary to guarantee the staff is supported and the tasks are accomplished. Christy was awarded the Office of Child Safety employee of the year for 2016. Christy obtained a Bachelor of Science degree from the University of Tennessee at Martin. She is married to Lee and helping to raise her beautiful niece, Layla. Christy is an amazing leader that epitomizes the coaching and mentoring aspect of leadership within the department.
Internal Service Fund Specialist
Linda Green joined Tennessee State Government in April of 2008 as an Accounting Technicianfor the Department of General Services. It didn’t take long for Linda’s exceptional customer service and dedication to excellence to become known throughout the department. Her skills had been developed, refined, and polished through her many years serving in the Robertson County School System and as a partner in her family’s business. Today, Linda works in the Payroll Management Office and is the department’s expert for all things “time and attendance” related. She provides personal training sessions for all new hires and newly promoted managers. Linda sets the stage for success through daily modeling of each core value established for the department: Customer Focus, Innovation, Collaboration, Responsibility and Integrity. In the eight years that Linda has been with the state, she has made it her personal mission to see our staff grow personally and professionally. Above and beyond the formal training program, she invests time and energy in teaching soft skills to new hires, such as navigation shortcuts to make their early days of employment more effective and productive. She radiates a can-do attitude, willingly shares information and knowledge, and desires to make a value-added difference in all that she is involved with. Linda’s success extends far beyond the workplace; just ask her high school sweetheart and husband of almost 40 years, Tim, with whom she has two children, Stacy and Derek, and three grandchildren, Lane, Colin and Ella.
Director of Child Support Customer Service
Patricia Hymer has been with the Department of Human Services for 39 years and currently serves as the Director of Child Support Customer Service and Administration, a role she has held for four years. Patricia is charged with improving the manner in which customer service is provided in the Child Support Program. She works with all 31 judicial districts across the state to better educate customers about child support services and provide resolutions to their concerns. Through the efforts of the Customer Service Unit, she ensures that policies and procedures are understood and properly interpreted for all interested parties. Patricia has worked extensively with the child support customer service phone system. She improved the Child Support Main Line number to add phone queue options to allow callers to select an option and be connected with a subject matter expert. Patricia is dedicated and mission driven, striving to make a positive impact to improve the lives of the families served every day. Patricia and her husband, Raymond, live in Joelton. They have one son, Nicholas, who lives with his wife, Christina, in South Carolina.
Director of Behavior and Psychological Services
Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities
Bruce Davis is the Director of Behavioral and Psychological Services for the Tennessee Department of Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities, with 27 years of experience in the IDD field. Bruce developed Community Policing Training for law enforcement agencies around Tennessee, which assists law enforcement officers when encountering people with disabilities. Officers from more than 100 law enforcement agencies across the state have taken this training, which is Peace Officers Standards and Training (POST) certified. Bruce is a board member for the National Association for Dual Diagnosis (NADD) and has served as President of the Tennessee Chapter of NADD from 2005-2009 and again since 2011. He obtained his undergraduate degree from the University of Tennessee, Martin, his Masters from Murray State and his doctorate from the University of Georgia.
Human Resources Program Specialist
In 2013, Randy Roberts joined the Department of Human Resources as the HR Program Specialist for the HR Service Center. His job involves responding to internal and external customer inquiries regarding the rules, policies and procedures of the Department of Human Resources. In his time with the HR Service Center, Randy has changed the culture of the customer experience. Through his example, interactions with customers have been less transactional and more consultative, forming true partnerships with customers. Randy’s customer satisfaction rating is 98 percent which exceeds the global benchmark of 95 percent. Randy sets personal goals for himself that exceed the goals of his Individual Performance Plans. Randy began his career with state government in 2008 at the Department of Environment and Conservation. In Randy’s spare time he enjoys spending time with this family, playing bluegrass music, fishing with his brother-in-law, and perfecting his outdoor cooking skills.
Paul Vander Meer
Senior Advisor, Fiscal Policy
Economic & Community Development
Paul Vander Meer began his career with Economic and Community Development in 2004 as the Administrative Services Director, and now serves as the Senior Advisor for Fiscal Policy. Paul has always had a passion for improving the services provided by the departments in which he has worked. Paul is the model employee for taking pride in his work and providing solutions to issues that are present and unforeseen. He spends countless hours ensuring ECD has the tools needed to continue to provide for this great state. Paul began his career with the state in 1977 as a Research Specialist and then Research Director in the Office of Child Development, which became the Children’s Services Commission. He has also served the departments of Finance and Administration, and Children’s Services. He holds a bachelor’s degree in Psychology from Hope College in Holland, Michigan and a Master of Science degree as a Child Development Specialist from Peabody College at Vanderbilt University. He has one son, Jon, age 35, with whom he enjoys travelling the back roads of Tennessee.
Operations Manager, Core
Rick Zadd serves as the Operations Manager for the Centers of Regional Excellence (CORE) at the Department of Education. In this role, he is responsible for overseeing all of the operations for the state’s eight regional offices so that they can focus on the work of serving the Tennessee school districts. Rick supports more than 60 employees in the CORE division by leading budget management, hiring, onboarding direction, office space and technology needs, and procurement guidance. He also specifically works with CORE’s eight data analysts located throughout the state to ensure their work is aligned with the broader data work of the department. After two years of managing CORE’s budget, Rick was asked to also take on similar responsibilities for the Office of the Chief Academic Officer. Rick received his B.S. in Business Administration from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in 2008 and his M. Ed. in Instructional Practice from Lipscomb University in 2012. He came to education through Teach For America in 2011 and taught high school and middle school math before joining the Department of Education. Originally natives of Cleveland, Ohio, Rick and his wife, Sarah, have lived in Nashville for five years.
Assistant Director, Office of Criminal Justrice Programs
Finance and Administration
Jennifer Brinkman has over 20 years of professional experience working with victims in the criminal justice system. Jennifer’s professional career includes over five years at the Nashville YWCA merging two 16-bed shelters into a 56-bed facility. From the YWCA, she went to the Tennessee Coalition Against Domestic and Sexual Violence, overseeing a team of specialists who provided technical assistance and training to local domestic violence and sexual assault programs. At the coalition, she worked on coordinating judicial conferences, served on the Department of Health’s Rape Prevention Education Committee, oversaw the committee that created the Tennessee Sexual Assault Best Practices and Cultural Competency Best Practices used by the Office of Criminal Justice Program (OCJP), as well as staffed the Domestic Violence State Coordinating Council and Batterer Intervention Subcommittee. Jennifer left the coalition to go to the Tennessee Board of Probation of Parole as the Director of Victim Services. Her responsibilities included starting a batterer intervention program and victim impact program across the state for offenders under state supervision. She served on the Victim Services Committee of the American Probation and Parole Association. In her time at OCJP, Jennifer has been responsible for implementing Governor Haslam’s Public Safety initiatives to decrease domestic violence in the state. Her accomplishments include increasing the number of family justice centers from two in 2012 to seven in 2016, implementing a statewide lethality assessment program, and coordinating statewide stakeholder meetings on violence against women.
Response Unit Specialist
Health Care Finance and Administration
Suzanne Grader joined TennCare’s Member Services Legislative Response Unit Team in 2010. Suzanne has a longstanding history with the advocacy community and utilizes this knowledge and insight to provide helpful and beneficial experiences for customers. She always provides exemplary customer service and goes above and beyond when assisting members and applicants. Suzanne is extremely detail oriented and keeps impeccable records. Suzanne will tell you that, “there is nothing more rewarding and heartwarming than knowing you have helped someone and have made a real, positive difference to their life.” Suzanne is a 1965 University of Tennessee alumna whose work history includes a wide variety of occupations including clerical, banking, accounting, paralegal, ombudsman and advocacy. Suzanne has two sons, Brian and Michael, and two grandchildren, Jake and Shelby.
Public Health Office Supervisor
Helen Allen has provided a professional environment and quality service to Jackson County and the Jackson County Health Department for over 16 years. Community members speak highly of Helen in both the general public and patient satisfaction surveys. Helen has worked to make improvements to the local health department's accounting system leading to greater transparency and ensuring proper allocation of county appropriated funds. This has increased customer satisfaction in the department’s working partnership with local government as well as provided checks and balances to ensure proper coding of funds. Helen is a lifelong resident of Jackson County. She and her husband, Darryl, have one son, Andrew, who lives in Wichita Falls, Texas with his wife, Elise.
Senior IT Manager
Labor and Workforce Development
Melinda Boner serves as a Senior IT Manager and took on a massive responsibility of replacing a 45-year-old unemployment insurance computer system. She worked with employees at all levels of the Unemployment Insurance division, providing updates to the Commissioner and Deputy Commissioner and worked with employees in Human Resources, Communications, Finance and IT. It was her orchestration of all these moving parts that made this project a reality. Melinda's leadership from an IT perspective and her technical skills helped her to manage expectations with the vendor. Melinda’s continuing effort and dedication post implementation has been critical to the agency working through issues with the new system. Reliable and knowledgeable are two words that best describe Melinda. Her years of experience in this department make her one of the most knowledgeable regarding state and federal rules as well as laws involved in the processing of unemployment benefit claims. Melinda is a native of Nashville and a graduate of North High School. Before coming to work for the state of Tennessee, she spent 10 years in the banking industry with the Federal Reserve.
Recovery Court Administrator
Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services
After receiving a bachelor's degree in Sociology from Austin Peay State University, Liz Ledbetter went to work in a community mental health center that delivered services in seven rural counties in Tennessee. There, she spent 13 years working with seriously mentally ill adults in hospitals and community settings. Liz currently serves as the Recovery Court Administrator and is responsible for the direction and oversight of the state funded recovery court programs, training of program staff and recovery court team members. Liz has been responsible for implementing 18 new Recovery Courts, where she has overseen the implementation of the Adult Drug Court Best Practice Standards. Working with this program involves being a "boundary spanner" by working with judges, district attorneys, public defenders, law enforcement, state and federal partners, and community treatment providers. Taking all these team members to become a cohesive unit takes skill, creativity and persistence. Liz has also served in various other roles within the department and served as a program manager for the Office of Criminal Justice Programs. Currently, Liz is working with the judicial districts to begin eight additional Recovery Courts. Liz lives in Clarksville and has been married to John Ledbetter for 34 years.
Smyrna Volunteer Training Site Supervisor
Mike Helms began his career as a Building Maintenance Worker and was quickly selected as the Supervisor for the Smyrna Volunteer Training Site in July 2015. Mike has exceeded all expectations in his latest role through implementing new processes and control measures to maximize productivity, streamline workflows, improve tracking and reduce costs. His consistent efforts even eliminated the use of an outside lawn care contract for 45 acres. He further reduced the maintenance costs for over 60 facilities through efficient management and staff development. Additionally, Mike developed a curriculum for an OSHA-level safety class on the maintenance and use of fire extinguishers. Michael has taught 16 sessions and the class is being used to train site personnel at three other locations. His proactive attitude has fostered great working relationships with all site tenants. Mike earned his experience and training with the United States Navy, Seabee Division. He has received numerous awards and medals in recognition of exceptional meritorious achievement during deployments to Afghanistan. Mike has returned home to Tennessee where he lives with his wife and two sons and enjoys spending his time with his family in the quiet rural countryside of Tennessee.
Vehicle Services Assistant Director
An employee of the Department of Revenue for 30 years, Michelle Hudson currently serves as the Vehicle Services Assistant Director for the Department of Revenue. Under Michelle's leadership and her commitment to improve customer service, the relationships between the Department of Revenue and the 95 County Clerks is now flourishing. Along with streamlining procedures and effectively communicating with and providing training to the County Clerks, Michelle is personally responsible for stabilizing numerous County Clerk offices that were struggling to implement effective service to their customers. Michelle is committed to customer focused government and strives to streamline and improve processes and procedures on a daily basis. Michelle attended Tennessee State University and was a graduate of the Tennessee Government Management Institute (TGMI) Class of 2014. She started her career as a “searcher” in the Error Corrections Unit of Revenue. Michelle has one son and is the proud grandmother of two grandsons.
Safety Handgun Director
Safety and Homeland Security
Lisa Knight is a 34-year state employee who began her career with the Department of Safety and Homeland Security in June 1982. Most of her time was spent in the Financial Responsibility Division. She was promoted to Driver’s License Issuance Assistant Director in September 2004. Lisa's longevity in driver’s license issuance, reinstatement, records management and handgun applications allowed her to obtain a diverse collection of experiences within Driver’s License. As the director of Handgun Issuance, Lisa's comprehensive knowledge of the department and her commitment to improve customer service led to her recent promotion to Safety Handgun Director. With help from IT, Lisa built computer logic in the main frame to automatically issue handgun permits. After the first full year of implementation with the logic, the Division averaged issuing permits in 35 days. Currently, 94 percent of the time permits are issued in 20 days or less. Lisa not only wants to serve the citizens of this state effectively and efficiently, but goes above and beyond to help her employees create a work atmosphere that is cohesive and professional. Lisa a graduate of Tennessee Government Management Institute (TGMI) and models the way for continued learning and career growth for her divisional employees.
Environment and Conservation
With more than 32 years of experience with Tennessee State Parks, Randy Hedgepath has served as a Ranger Naturalist at South Cumberland and Radnor Lake State Parks. He was appointed State Naturalist for Tennessee State Parks in 2007. Randy’s work ethic, commitment, and boundless energy have made him the most sought after State Naturalist. From January 1, 2014 through October 12, 2016 Randy provided programming in 35 of the 56 state parks, reaching 13,176 visitors by providing 473 programs. Guests and participants come far and wide just to hear Randy speak about the history of Tennessee and interpret the natural and cultural resources that we love and preserve. Randy's many years of work promoting the authentic, natural, and cultural wonders of Tennessee have made him a face and voice recognizable across the state. Wherever Randy may be, park guests can count on a friendly face, a kind word and the opportunity to explore Tennessee treasures with our state naturalist.
Administrative Services Manager
Christy Adams has served the Department of Financial Institutions since April 2004. She has served in human resources, as an analyst for the compliance division, cashiering, records management, procurement and office management. Christy can always be counted on to carry out any assigned task efficiently and effectively. Christy played a huge part in successfully implementing alternative workplace solutions for TDFI, working with IT and management to order necessary equipment, and with STREAM on office layout and furniture needs. Prior to the move, Christy assisted staff with packing, surplus, office clean-up and preparations needed to ensure an easier move. . Christy does her due diligence and explores multiple options and ideas to ensure every issue and opportunity is considered so that we can make the best and most cost efficient decision for the department. Christy is a graduate of LEAD Tennessee and the TDFI Commissioner’s Leadership Academy. In addition to being a public servant, Christy enjoys traveling and spending time with her two sons, Connor and Ryan.
Judicial Cost Accountant
Landon Kenderdine has worked for the Department of Correction for six years as a representative for county jails and sheriffs’ departments. Landon is directly responsible for reimbursement to these stakeholders for expenses associated with housing state prisoners. These expenditures account for nearly 20 percent of the Department of Correction's budget and require an extraordinary amount of accurate and timely processing. Landon has excelled at being responsive and sensitive to these stakeholders and is frequently cited by them as helpful, courteous and knowledgeable. Landon has led the implementation of the Jail Expenditure Tracking System (JETS), an online, user-based software application for monitoring and tracking county jail expenditures. This application allows both staff and management real time control over budget and planning decisions. Landon has led the successful implementation of this application over the last two years and was absolutely vital to the creation, design and continued automation of this process. Landon is a true ambassador for the Department of Correction. He is loyal, honest and takes pride in his work and never loses his composure even in difficult situations.
Director of Human Resources
Sharon Reed has enjoyed a varied career within Tennessee State Government over the past 37 years. She has served in her current 11 eleven years. Sharon is an incredible resource to TDTD and is considered to be a "one-person shop" when it comes to all things human resources. Sharon manages the human resources functions and develops strong working relationships with executives, management and staff. She does this by providing advice, guidance, coaching and counseling as needed. Sharon also oversees the implementation and administration of human resources policies, programs, law, and standards related to legal compliance and employee relations. Sharon's first reaction to any situation is to try to find a solution. She is extremely dedicated and trustworthy. Sharon attended the Economic Development Institute, Volunteer State Community College. She has studied Business and Management, Marketing and Business Retention and Expansion, Law Enforcement and Criminal Justice.
Alan began his career with TDOT’S Maintenance Division in April 2002 as an Executive Administrative Assistant and was promoted to Transportation Manager in April 2015. In his role, Alan works hard to ensure that TDOT is the best transportation agency in the nation. He is always willing to take on new challenges and find innovative solutions while keeping a very positive attitude. Alan worked relentlessly on the development of the I-40 Memphis Welcome Center. During project development, many issues arose that Alan helped to overcome successfully. Alan also oversees TDOT’s Rest Area Program ensuring that these facilities are properly maintained. Additionally, Alan is certified to serve as an alternate Emergency Service Coordinator (ESC) at the Tennessee Emergency Management Agency (TEMA). As an ESC, he often works weeknight and weekend shifts at TEMA to assist recovery effort from disaster events. Alan is on call 24 hours a day, seven days a week in the event that TEMA needs to reach TDOT regarding a need for resources or coordination. Alan always strives to provide the highest level of customer service to the field staff he supports. He constantly seeks to develop projects that will meet needs while ensuring that they are completed in a cost effective manner.
William (Bill) Pichette
Bill served in the United States Air Force as an Emergency Manager from 1982 to 1989 at which point he transitioned to the Air National Guard and continued service until 2004. Concurrently, Bill was employed as a Department of Defense, Air Force Civil Servant from 1996 to 2013. Bill is most proud of his accomplishments creating or improving programs that ensured the safety and security of Air Force active duty and civil servant personnel. In October 2015, Bill assumed the role as Administrative Assistant supporting the Tennessee Department of Veterans Services Memphis Field Office, where assisting veterans with benefit claims processing is the cornerstone service. The Memphis Field Office processes over 1,100 claims per year, and prior to Bill’s arrival, the average customer wait time was 1.5 to 2.5 hours. Bill implemented several innovative processes that reduced the wait time to 10 to 45 minutes, vastly improving the customer experience. Bill not only provides the highest level of customer care and engagement with veterans, but he spends the majority of his nights and weekends volunteering for veterans and citizens in the community.