2019 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.
International Marketing Consultant
Whitney Flatt has been with the State of Tennessee Department of Agriculture since 2016, originally serving as a program coordinator for the Tennessee Agricultural Enhancement Program (TAEP). In Whitney’s current role as International Marketing Consultant, she leads the Department’s trade-focused initiatives where she is promoting Tennessee value-added food, horticulture, livestock and genetics, and forestry and wood products abroad. She organizes and executes international trade shows and trade missions in addition to consulting with growing Tennessee businesses to prepare them for entry into the global marketplace.
Prior to joining the department, Whitney worked as a project coordinator for the 2Seeds Network, a development non-profit based in Tanzania, East Africa. Her work with 2Seeds centered on agribusiness training, value and supply chain management, and human capital development.
Whitney is a native of Newbern, TN and holds a Bachelor of Science in international relations from Middle Tennessee State University (MTSU), with a focus on food security and international development. While attending MTSU, she studied abroad in the Czech Republic, Honduras, and Israel and interned with the Center for Strategic and International Studies, a D.C.-based policy think tank.
Executive Administrative Assistant 2
Cathlyn Smith began her service to the State of Tennessee over twenty years ago. She currently serves the Department of Children’s Services as the Interstate Compact for Juveniles (ICJ) Commissioner for Tennessee, under the Office of Juvenile Justice. She provides oversight for the ICJ program providing technical assistance to regional staff, Tennessee courts, and law enforcement. Cathlyn currently serves on the Executive Board and as the Training, Education and Public Relations Chairperson for the Interstate Commission on Juveniles National Office, the governing body for the ICJ. She leads the National ICJ Training Committee, which addresses training needs for all member states and is a member of the ICJ Human Trafficking Committee, which keeps abreast of human trafficking issues around the country affecting youth served by ICJ.
Cathlyn obtained her undergraduate degree in communications from the University of Central Arkansas, a master’s degree in public service management from Cumberland University and a Master of Social Work degree from the Middle Tennessee Collaborative MSW Program at Tennessee State University. She was a member of the Lead TN Alliance Nine and completed the Commissioner’s Cornerstone Leadership Academy. She is married to Marvin Smith and they have four children and one grandchild.
Assistant Communications Director
Commerce and Insurance
Baylie Scott began working for the Tennessee Department of Commerce and Insurance in the Tennessee State Fire Marshal’s Office in February 2016. She quickly distinguished herself as a community risk reduction coordinator, overseeing the creation of the “Close the Door!” public messaging campaign. Due to her hard work, she was named assistant director of marketing and communications in April 2018. In this current role, Baylie has elevated the department’s social media outreach campaign, which was a new avenue of media for the department and allowed the department to tap into audiences previously unreached. Baylie is responsive, conscientious, team-oriented, and customer-focused. She is a solution-first thinker who draws on her wealth of knowledge from real-world fire service and insurance experience to respond to customer questions and media inquiries. Baylie is a native of Knoxville and a graduate of East Tennessee State University.
Retention Specialist Lieutenant for Bledsoe County Correctional Facility
Patricia Speck began her career with state government in October of 2012 as a Correctional Officer with the Tennessee Department of Correction. Patricia’s confidence and ability to look at challenges as opportunities assisted her in rising through the security ranks to Correctional Corporal in June 2014 and Correctional Sergeant in November 2015. Patricia was promoted to her current position, Correctional Lieutenant, in November 2017 and serves as the facility’s Retention Specialist where she works effortlessly to ensure the safety and security of staff and inmates assigned to the Bledsoe County Correctional Complex.
Patricia serves as a trusted advisor for supervisors and front-line staff to ensure the effective operation of the institution. Daily, she embodies the core values of the department by demonstrating professionalism and integrity through establishing effective relationships with both internal and external customers. Additionally, she promotes the mission of the department through her unwavering commitment to institutional security and public safety.
Patricia is currently pursuing a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice and a master’s degree in public safety administration. She is also a graduate of the Department of Correction Commissioner’s Academy.
Deputy Assistant Commissioner of Rural Development
Economic and Community Development
Brooxie Carlton joined the Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development in 2007. In her almost twelve years, she has served as the program manager for the Energy Efficiency and Conservation Block Grants and as the director of community programs. Her role has continuously expanded and she currently serves as the Deputy Assistant Commissioner of Rural and Community Development. In this position, she oversees federal grant funding from the Delta Regional Authority, the Appalachian Regional Commission and the Community Development Block Grant program. She works with the Tennessee Main Street, ThreeStar, and SelectTN programs. Brooxie has worked all areas of the state in her roles with ECD. She is known and well respected by the local communities. She responds quickly to all requests and local leaders feel comfortable reaching out to her directly for help, knowing that she always has their best interest at heart. Brooxie cares so much about our communities and her passion is contagious to the team; she constantly goes above and beyond to figure out how to meet local needs.
Born and raised in Dyersburg, Tennessee, Brooxie attended Birmingham-Southern College in Birmingham, Alabama, majoring in psychology and sociology, graduating as a member of Phi Beta Kappa and with honors. Brooxie received her master’s degree in human, organizational and community development from Vanderbilt University and lives in Nashville.
Director of Policy
Aleah Guthrie serves as the Director of Policy for the Policy and Legislative Affairs team within the Tennessee Department of Education. Aleah has grown to be a critical member of the policy and legislation team and a huge asset to the Department. As a former teacher, she provides an invaluable perspective in policy development. Aleah builds, maintains, and fosters positive relationships with state legislators, their staff, and external stakeholders. She is always asking questions to learn more about the issues so she is better prepared to respond to legislator inquiries. She genuinely cares about understanding the ins-and-outs of the Department's work. She recently took it upon herself to develop a comprehensive project plan for a quarterly internal process to make sure all targets and deadlines are met on time and she proactively helps other teams develop similar plans and policies.
Aleah holds a master's degree in education policy from Vanderbilt University. She previously taught 7th grade in Metro Nashville Public Schools. She and her husband, Scott, enjoy living downtown, volunteering with their church, riding bikes, and backpacking.
Environmental Scientist 3
Environment and Conservation
Lonnie began his state service with the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation (TDEC) at the Cookeville Field Office in March 2015 as an Environmental Scientist 2 in the Division of Air Pollution Control. One year later, he transferred to the Division of Water Resources to work in the water supply program where he serves in his current role as an Environmental Scientist 3. Lonnie has become well known for providing critical insight and advice on the Safe Drinking Water program throughout the Cookeville region. He is sought out by both peers and local leaders for his knowledge, understanding, and ability to convey his expertise. He has also earned a reputation as one of the most effective instructors, teaching courses to the regulated community at the Fleming Training Center in Murfreesboro. Lonnie’s customer service approach, responsiveness, and enthusiasm have been key to successfully addressing an array of water quality needs across the Upper Cumberland. He was recognized by the Department in March 2017 for his critical support to utilities’ drought management operations in the region, and in June 2018, he received the TDEC Above and Beyond Award for volunteering to provide valuable assistance to a vital water quality project within the Falling Water River Basin.
Lonnie is a consistent model of great customer service in all his interactions and an effective mentor for other department staff. He learned much of this approach from his mother, a long-time state employee. Lonnie was born and raised in Cookeville and his family roots are in Putnam County. He graduated cum laude from Tennessee Technological University in 2012 with a Bachelor of Science in biology.
Insurance Benefits Manager
Finance and Administration
Tameka Allen has worked for the Tennessee Department of Finance and Administration (F&A) for almost six years. In her current role as Insurance Benefits Manager, she manages the front-line insurance call center – the Benefits Administration Service Center (BASC). The BASC serves 559 agencies, over 280 members, with 128,000+ phone calls, emails, web interactions, and chats just last year alone. Tameka not only manages the front-line customer service team but she also provides direct customer services to ensure that she stays close to the voice and needs of our customers. One recent example is when a call was escalated to her to assist with a member whose daughter was removed from her health plan without notice. The child has a severe medical condition that requires tube feeding, expensive medication, and in-home services. Tameka was able to assist the member in obtaining the necessary documentation to enroll in a new plan with no break in coverage. Tameka provides peace of mind to customers by being empathetic to their needs, exhibiting integrity in everything she does, and being accountable for her work. Through her leadership and example, she demonstrates that great customer service is a p priority for her and her team.
Tameka has a Bachelor of Science in communications from Arkansas State University and plans to pursue a master’s degree in public administration. She is a 2016 graduate of LEAD TN and an active member of the Black Belt Program. She is also currently enrolled in the first F&A Executive Leadership Certificate program with Tennessee State University and will receive that certificate in August. When not at work, Tameka loves spending time with her two daughters, Delaney and Dawn.
FI Safety & Soundness Program Administrator
Justin McClinton joined the Tennessee Department of Financial Institutions (TDFI) in 2003 as an analyst. In his current role as a Safety & Soundness Program Administrator, Justin is routinely relied upon to provide financial research to the Commissioner. The reports he presents have become the standard for the Department. Justin is also the Department’s point person for the Conference of State Bank Supervisors (CSBS) accreditation program; he works diligently to ensure all accreditation criteria are met. Recently, he was tasked with identifying how the bank division is meeting the needs of economically distressed communities within the state. In his analysis, Justin has had to think outside of the box and has identified several criteria to address this task. Justin always approaches his job in a positive manner and is willing to assist anyone in need. He constantly takes on any task and consistently delivers an excellent end result.
Justin is a graduate of Vanderbilt University with a bachelor’s degree in economics and engineering science. When not at work, Justin loves spending time with his wife, Katherine, and their young son, Harrison.
Chris Douglas began his State career with the Department of General Services (DGS) as a Vehicle Operator in November 1993 and worked for DGS until he took a promotion with TRICOR in 2004. Chris returned to DGS in 2015 and was promoted to Program Manager in 2016. Chris is always willing to step in and assist with any task or project, including recently loading and moving furniture, old mattresses, and large items for a recent surplus project with the Department of Environment and Conservation (TDEC). He strives to provide great customer service with each interaction that he has and his work ethic has been paramount to the overall success of his team and the department.
Chris holds a certification in logistics and supply chain management from Volunteer State Community College.
Social Counselor 2
Dreama Howard began her career with the Tennessee Department of Health in 2005 at the Bradley County Health Department as a home visitor with child health and development. She then went to work for the Department of Children’s Services and came back to the Department of Health in 2013 at the DeKalb County Health Department as a social counselor 2. In her current role, Dreama’s main responsibility is care coordination for the Children’s Special Services program and enrolling patients into the Breast and Cervical Cancer program. Her daily interactions are with families, children, and women involved in a health crisis and often she is meeting with them on their worst day. For example, she has helped a family with very limited income access resources for their child’s funeral expenses. She is quick to assist any family with locating the resources needed to help ease expenses.
Dreama consistently displays compassion, empathy, and kindness to everyone, while also maintaining the utmost professionalism. She goes above and beyond to make those around her feel better, both customers and coworkers. Dreama is an asset to the county, region, and department.
Christian (Kodi) Temes
HR Data Analyst
Christian (Kodi) Temes began his career with the Tennessee Department of Human Resources in July 2016 as a Classification/Compensation Analyst and was promoted to the HR Data Analyst in December 2017. Since Kodi has worked for the Department of Human Resources, he has always been a positive and energetic employee who goes above and beyond what has been asked of him. The position that Kodi has taken on was created due to a lack of data within the department. Due to his efforts, data is now flowing for metrics that were previously unaccounted for. Kodi has become the go-to for all data related inquiries and he consistently assists customers to ine metrics and data associated with visualizing those metrics. He always treats others with the utmost respect and professionalism and is a great asset to the department.
Kodi holds a bachelor’s in mathematics/philosophy. He is married and has a two-year-old daughter, Maddie.
Francis (Fran) Bass, Jr.
Assistant General Counsel
Francis M. (Fran) Bass currently serves as Assistant General Counsel for the Tennessee Department of Human Services (DHS) and provides legal and litigation support to DHS programs and staff, especially to the Adult Protective Services program. Fran has served in this role for almost 25 years and is very passionate about protection of vulnerable adults from abuse, neglect, and exploitation.
Before joining DHS, Fran worked as a solo practitioner and practiced general civil law with Jones, Rogers, and Fitzpatrick. Fran also has extensive experience in business and operated Pleasant Valley Farms and was the President and CEO of Music City Service, Inc. a transportation, tour, and travel company with annual sales of $3-5 million. Fran graduated from the University of the South, Sewanee, Tennessee and Vanderbilt University Law School in Nashville, Tennessee and was admitted to the State Bar of Tennessee in 1968. Fran is a veteran of the Navy, achieving the rank of Lieutenant in the Navy Judge Advocate General (JAG) and serving in the White House Liaison Office of the Secretary of the Navy. Fran is a member of the American Bar Association, Tennessee Bar Association, and Nashville Bar Association.
Quality Assurance Surveyor
Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities
Milan Miller has worked for the Tennessee Department of Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities in the Middle Tennessee Quality Assurance unit as a Surveyor for the past twenty years. In this role, Milan is responsible for assessing the quality of numerous services and supports that persons with disabilities receive in their daily lives. In surveying, Milan always works to determine what is best for the person supported and whether or not the provider in question is addressing what is important to and for that person. Milan has gained vast knowledge over the years and is constantly praised for his expertise and professionalism.
Originally from Waynesville, NC, Milan has also been recognized as an accomplished singer, songwriter, and multi-instrumentalist who has toured internationally. Milan has penned fifteen number one bluegrass songs, sings and plays on various artists' albums (as well as his own), and has been nominated for multiple awards. A proud graduate of Appalachian State University, he and his wife, Melanie, live in Antioch with their adorable beagle, Sadie.
Labor and Workforce Development
Parnell Turner is a Career Specialist for the Tennessee Department of Labor and Workforce Development. In this role, he specifically works to deliver career services utilizing the mobile American Job Center (AJC), taking the functionality of a traditional AJC out into the communities in Northern Middle Tennessee. Parnell often uses his position to help Tennesseans who have fallen on hard times. He works with residents at the Nashville Rescue Mission's Women’s Shelter and also takes the mobile AJC into the city's homeless communities to help residents find employment.
Parnell is the first person to volunteer during disaster situations. He traveled to Gatlinburg during the 2016 wildfires that left hundreds of people unemployed. He stayed in east Tennessee for two weeks assisting claimants who needed to apply for unemployment. He was also part of the team who traveled to South Carolina in September 2018 after a hurricane hit the state. He and his colleagues took two mobile job centers and assisted the South Carolina Department of Employment and Workforce with their efforts after the storm.
Parnell is a Nashville native and he and his wife, Connie, have been married for 30 years. Their son, Juwan, is a graduate of the University of Tennessee at Martin.
Kristopher (Kris) Woods
Information Resource Support Specialist 5
Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services
Kris Woods began working for the Tennessee Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services in August 2016 as an Information Resource Support Specialist 4. He quickly became instrumental in the installation of an IP based phone system, Electronic Clinical Record preparation, video surveillance systems, and the badging system, leading him to his current position as an Information Resource Support Specialist 5 (IRSS) at the Western Mental Health Institute (WMHI). Even though Kris is the IRSS at WMHI, he has also been instrumental in helping with these rollouts at the Memphis Mental Health Institute (MMHI), often coming in well outside of his scheduled work hours to ensure everything is running smoothly so nurses and patients are not hindered by the implementation of new systems. Because of his dedication, Kris was recently nominated for four awards at the annual 2018 Information Technology Professionals Association Awards, including Improving State Operations, Individual Excellence, IT and Business Collaboration, and Citizen Impact Award. Kris exudes excellence in everything that he does and has proven to be a genuine asset to WMHI, MMHI, and the department.
Kris has been married to his wife, Lisa, for 18 years and they have a dog named Riggs. He is also an active member of his church, enjoys playing his guitar, and spending time with his family. Kris received an associate’s degree in computer information systems from Jackson State Community College.
Planning Branch Manager
Joshua Wickham has been with the Tennessee Department of Military and the Tennessee Emergency Management Agency (TEMA) for nine years. Joshua recently spent two years as the leader and manager of TEMA’s effort to achieve the national Emergency Management Accreditation Program (EMAP) certification. Because of his exhausted efforts, TEMA received this accreditation which is considered the highest professional recognition an emergency management program can receive. Additionally, Joshua has been selected by the National Emergency Management Association to become a Team Leader for EMAP assessment teams. Assessment teams are assembled from professional emergency management practitioners throughout the nation who are organized to assess federal, state and local emergency management programs against the national EMAP standards of excellence. He has been acknowledged as an innovative leader in emergency management planning, mitigation, and operations. Joshua is certainly considered a vital part of the TEMA team.
Joshua is originally from Florida and has a bachelor’s degree and a master’s degree from Florida State University. He and his wife, Jessica, live in Donelson with their two young children.
Jacob Roper is a Tax Auditor with the Department of Revenue's Audit Division. He has been with the Division for three years and has become a very valuable member of the Division's Sales and Miscellaneous Audit Review Unit. Jacob provides excellent service to external customers (taxpayers) by reviewing their audit assessments and discussing in-depth technical matters to provide greater context to the audit process. Not only does he do a great job in explaining the tax laws and the department's position on key matters, but he also works with taxpayers in advance of conferences and hearings to resolve issues - saving time and expense for all involved. In addition, Jacob has served both taxpayers and internal customers by being both a Tester and Trainer for multiple roll-outs of the TR3 system. His knowledge and expertise helps taxpayers file and respond to tax issues on a timely basis and his assistance and training allows other Revenue employees to better serve the public.
Jacob holds an accounting degree from Tennessee Tech University. In his spare time, Jacob enjoys hiking and cooking.
Safety and Homeland Security
Travis Plotzer joined the Tennessee Department of Safety and Homeland Security in 2005 as a State Trooper assigned to Dickson County. In 2013, he was promoted to Sergeant and assigned to the Nashville District Special Programs Unit. This unit is responsible for Inspecting school buses and daycare vans, conducting school bus driver in-service trainings, and presenting traffic safety programs to community organizations and area schools. Travis was then promoted to Lieutenant in 2017 and serves as the supervisor for Cheatham, Dickson, and Humphreys Counties. Travis works diligently to maintain strong relationships with local agencies in these areas, often assisting them in times of need. This past February, he helped local authorities save the lives of adults, children, and animals that were trapped due to the extensive flooding in that area; without hesitation, he entered raging floodwaters to bring people to safety. Travis has also been a key figure in many recent high-profile cases, working closely with local, state, and federal authorities to ensure thorough investigations were completed. These are just a few examples of bravery from Travis Plotzer, but it exemplifies the best of the Tennessee Highway Patrol (THP) and shows how members of the THP always stand ready to help those in need.
Travis has an associate’s degree in police administration from Nashville State Community College. He is also a graduate of the John A. Gupton School of Mortuary Science and the Northwestern University School of Police Staff and Command. He serves his community as a White Bluff City Councilman, as a children’s court-appointed special advocate, and as a member of the White Bluff Civitan Club.
Help Desk Manager
Julie Skinner has been employed with the State for four and a half years. She currently serves as the Help Desk Manager for the Long Term Services and Supports Division of TennCare. Julie is responsible for managing the day to day activities of the Help Desk and Validation and Verification unit. Her persistent and unwavering commitment of providing our members with outstanding customer service has not only been apparent by consistently strong customer service ratings but has helped elevate the Help Desk team's performance and overall customer service ratings. She accomplishes this primarily from a strong ability to develop and maintain healthy relationships.
Julie is a Veteran who served four years in the U.S. Air Force and another four years in the Army and Army National Guard. She graduated from Austin Peay State University with a Bachelor of Arts degree in public management and a minor in criminal justice. She is married with one child.
Building Maintenance Worker, Ardmore/Giles County Welcome Center
Paul Whitfield has a nearly 40-year tenure working for the state. He currently serves the Department of Tourist Development as the lead Building Maintenance Worker at the Ardmore/Giles County Welcome Center. In this role, Paul is responsible for the ongoing repair, preventative maintenance, and cleanliness of the Welcome Center. As a certified wastewater operator, Paul offers critical skills to ensure a safe supply of water in the areas of wastewater, its distribution and reuse, as well as related equipment. His role often requires quick response to unscheduled projects including repair of equipment to maintain a safe and pleasant experience for workers.
As the lead building maintenance worker, Paul encompasses many skill sets. His experience in this role brings efficiency and cost-savings to the State of Tennessee, in addition to providing a safe and welcoming environment to guests. He is highly proficient and often eliminates the need to bring in additional contractors which provides a significant cost-savings to the state. In addition, his role as a certified wastewater operator ensures we are in compliance with TDEC regulations.
Paul is an exemplary employee and demonstrates excellence across all areas of his job. He serves as a role model for workers across the state and provides excellent customer service through his interactions with guests.
Business Technology Support
Michael Desta joined the Tennessee Department of Transportation, Information Technology Division in July 2015 as a Help Desk-Intermediate. In that position, he continuously went above and beyond his daily duties, leading him to his current role as Business Technology Support. In this role, Michael assists customers with a variety of technology requests. For example, he recently was in charge of deploying new computers in the agency-wide computer upgrade at the TDOT Headquarters. He also recently developed an educational training session for the new WebEx roll-out and traveled to every TDOT region to train the users on the technology. Michael looks for ways to be more efficient in his job so that employees will be more enabled to use information technology to provide safe and reliable transportation options to the public.
Michael graduated from Nashville State Community College with an associate’s degree in computer information security. In his spare time, he loves to travel, snowboard, and explore nature.
Veterans Cemetery Foreman
Eric O’Neal has been with the Tennessee Department of Veteran Services for just over a year and serves as the first Foreman for the new Parkers Crossroads State Veterans Cemetery in West Tennessee. During his short tenure with the Department of Veteran Services, Eric has created multiple maintenance programs to care for a 312-acre cemetery and the equipment used to preserve it. Eric has also initiated the state’s first training program for cemetery operations while deploying a Mobile Training Team to two other state Veteran cemeteries to teach National Cemetery Administration (NCA) standards. This program proved highly successful by national standards and is now being used throughout the state. He has also saved thousands of taxpayer dollars by implementing innovative solutions to the cemetery’s operations strategy. Eric is enthusiastic and passionate about his work; he takes great pride in his contribution to providing dignified and prestigious final resting places for those who have served our nation.
Eric is married and has four children. He served in the Tennessee Army National Guard from 2001 to 2008, deploying once to Iraq in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom. He has a Master of Business Administration (MBA) from Bethel University.