2022 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.
Jill Johnson, DVM
Jill Johnson DVM joined the Tennessee Department of Agriculture as a field staff veterinarian in June 2003. Before joining the Department, Dr. Johnson worked in private practice as a mixed animal veterinarian in Manchester, Tennessee, for sixteen years, where she was the first female veterinarian to work in the county.
Dr. Johnson is very committed to her job and responsibilities and is present and reliable when her services are requested. In addition to managing disease testing and surveillance in her area, Dr. Johnson has assisted in other areas to fill a critical need during Foreign Animal Disease Investigations, including sampling swine at Williams Sausage so that product movement could continue at the speed of commerce. Dr. Johnson oversaw the initial epidemiological investigation and follow-up testing of stables housing racing quarter horses with Piroplasmosis and Equine Infectious Anemia in Memphis, TN, this past year. In addition, during the COVID crisis, Dr. Johnson volunteered to assist TDH in performing epidemiological follow-ups via phone with persons who tested positive for the disease.
Dr. Johnson earned her Associate of Science degree in pre-veterinary studies from Motlow State and received her Doctorate in Veterinary Medicine from the University of Tennessee-Knoxville in 1987. Dr. Johnson resides on her 5th generation family farm in Coffee County, a Tennessee Century Farm, where she raises polled Hereford cattle.
Channing Tuttle began her career at the Department of Children’s Services as an intern in 2015 and was quickly hired as a full-time employee in 2016.
Channing has contributed to the agency as a front-line worker serving Juvenile Justice youth and a front-line supervisor serving children and youth in foster care. Over the past 18 months, her role has included the supervision of a team of front-line case managers, and, equally important, she has often stepped in to support her staff through direct management of vacant caseloads. Channing also maintains the additional role of permanency specialist, assisting with finalizing adoptions for all children in the region. Channing provides consistency, support, and understanding and never hesitates to model quality practice, whether through facilitating family visitation, transporting children and youth to appointments, or sitting with them pending a placement.
Channing holds a master’s degree in social work from the University of Tennessee. A Nashville native, Channing resides in Brentwood, TN, with her husband Jonathan and their dog Millie June.
Fire Building Codes Inspection Manager
Commerce and Insurance
George Smith began his career in the Tennessee Department of Correction in May 1985 as a security officer. He transferred to the State Fire Marshal's Office in October 2005 after twenty years in security and fire safety positions in Bledsoe County. Holding positions in the State Fire Marshal's Office ranging from Fire Inspector to Fire Inspector Supervisor. In April 2020, George was promoted to Fire and Building Code Inspection Manager.
Over the last year and a half, George has been the State Fire Marshal's Office's primary inspector conducting fire and building code inspections for unlicensed group homes across the state. George's primary concern is always for the safety and well-being of the residents. However, his concern for safety and well-being is not limited to fire hazards and building code application. George also works closely with employees at other agencies to ensure that residents in homes have access to necessary items such as blankets, toilet paper, and food. George always goes above and beyond in his service and daily duties for the Department, his division, and customers. When asked what he enjoys the most about his current position, he said, "I enjoy traveling across the state meeting and resolving our customers' issues and making sure they know we care."
George is an avid boater and enjoys spending time on the Tennessee River with his wife, family, and friends in East Tennessee.
Human Resources Analyst 3
Angie Mathis began her career with the State of Tennessee as a Correctional Officer with the Tennessee Department of Correction in March 2009. Since transitioning to the role of Human Resources Technician 2, Angie has worked diligently to provide administrative human resource support to all staff at the Morgan County Correctional Complex.
Angie's primary responsibilities include personnel recruiting and new hire orientation. Angie is the first point of contact for individuals seeking employment opportunities with the institution, and she demonstrates a strong ability to communicate the expectations of a correctional officer. Candidates appear to gravitate towards Angie due to her passion, high energy, and expertise. Through her impactful recruiting efforts, the facility correctional officer's vacancy rate decreased by 64% following Governor Lee's recent pay increase for correctional staff and her innovative and advantageous recruiting efforts in new areas. Angie consistently goes above and beyond to serve the state in her role. She embodies the agency's core values daily by demonstrating professionalism and integrity through establishing effective relationships with internal and external customers. Angie promotes the agency's mission through her unwavering commitment to public safety and effective human resources support.
Angie is married and has two daughters. Her most enjoyable pastime is spending time with her family. She loves cooking, gardening, and doing crafts with her girls.
Janna W. Hellums
Business Development Consultant
Economic and Community Development
Janna W. Hellums is a Business Development Consultant for the Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development in the Northwest Tennessee Region. She began her career with Economic and Community Development in March 2008 and has served the state of Tennessee for 14 years.
Janna serves the industrial and business needs of communities in Benton, Carroll, Crockett, Dyer, Gibson, Henry, Lake, Obion, and Weakley counties. Prior to her current position, she worked in the Southwest Tennessee region serving Chester, McNairy, Hardin, and Decatur counties with their economic development needs. Since coming on board with Business Development, Janna has always gone above and beyond for the Department, Division, and its customers, both internally and externally.
Janna is a graduate of the University of Texas with a Master of Business Administration in International Business and of Lambuth University with a Bachelor of Business Administration in Business Management and Marketing. She is married and has one daughter, Rachel.
Chief Financial Officer
In 2011 Maryanne joined the Tennessee Department of Education as the Executive Director of the Office of Local Finance. In this position, she led a team responsible for allocating state and federal funds to districts. She also supervised six regional finance consultants who provided financial assistance, technical assistance, and support to Tennessee’s 147 districts and state special schools. In April, Maryanne was appointed Chief Financial Officer for the Tennessee Department of Education.
Maryanne is known throughout the state of Tennessee as the department of education’s leading expert on local school funding. She possesses a loyal customer base and is viewed as the person to go to by stakeholders throughout the state. Maryanne excels at following up with customers to ensure they are fully satisfied. She shows an extraordinary ability to understand what local finance leaders, school directors, and county officials are experiencing and can meet all their needs fully. Through her leadership, her team excels in redefining customer service processes to meet the ever-changing needs of local school districts.
Maryanne Durski is a native of Cleveland, Ohio. She holds a bachelor’s degree in French from Assumption College in Worcester, Massachusetts, and a master’s in business administration with a concentration in finance from Boston College in Boston, Massachusetts. Maryanne has been married to her husband, Zyg, for 45 years. They live in Hendersonville, Tennessee, as do their two children, a daughter-in-law and two grandsons, who are the lights of her life.
Digital Marketing Manager
Environment and Conservation
Brenna began her career with Tennessee State Parks in January 2019 as an intern with the Division of Marketing. She worked diligently to grow her marketing skills and support the execution of events throughout the park system and was promoted to Digital Marketing Manager in 2020.
Brenna’s role includes managing social media accounts for Tennessee State Parks, writing engaging content for blogs and the TNstateparks.com website, crafting marketing email campaigns that reach numerous park visitors, and working closely with park staff to develop social media content that best serves their online audience.
Brenna truly embodies the mission of Tennessee State Parks and TDEC. She is passionate about Tennessee’s parks, park staff, and visitors. She brings a positive attitude, new ideas, and a solutions-oriented approach to the digital marketing team to capture and communicate the authentic Tennessee State Park experience. In 2021, Brenna wrote the script and helped execute a commercial promoting outdoor recreation and overnight stays at Tennessee State Parks that was the recipient of a Silver ADDY award – a great recognition in the advertising industry.
Brenna is a Middle Tennessee State University graduate and holds a bachelor’s degree in Journalism with an emphasis in Advertising.
Mitzi R. Hale
STS Contract Specialist
Finance and Administration
Mitzi started working for the State of Tennessee in 1985 as an administrative assistant for Commissioner Ray Wilson. She quickly moved into different roles, including traveling across the state teaching Medicaid workshops and working as a quality assurance investigator with TBI and nurses. In 1998 she transitioned to the Department of Finance and Administration (F&A), where she has served for 23 years.
Mitzi's focus at F&A has been to provide customer service excellence and create successful contracts. She has worked with numerous agencies and divisions to draft Request for Proposals (RFPs), sole-source contracts, and Invitations to Bid (ITBs) that best serve the state's technical needs. In addition to her primary responsibilities, Mitzi volunteers her time and expertise to assist in special projects to ensure they meet customers' needs and are user-friendly. Mitzi embodies the core values of F&A and proudly represents the State of Tennessee daily. She conducts herself with integrity, honesty, empathy, and an attitude of service at work. She actively mentors her teammates and is a positive role model within F&A.
Outside work, Mitzi shares two daughters, Tori and Hannah, with Kyle, her husband of 33 years.
FI Chief Administrator
Alan Smith began his career with the State of Tennessee in 2001. Alan currently serves as the Chief Administrator of Consumer Resources, where he oversees consumer complaints, fosters community outreach, and encourages financial education in Tennessee
A critical requirement for his job is the use of active listening skills. He employs that skill by carefully explaining to consumers any statutory issues applicable to a complaint and helping the consumer understand the consumer complaint process and how the Department may assist. Alan is always sure to respond quickly and professionally when responding to constituent concerns sent to the Department. In addition to his work with the Department of Financial Institutions, Alan has been the Department’s representative as a Board Member of Tennessee Jump$tart and A Coalition for Personal Financial Literacy, Inc. since 2005. He is currently serving a two-year term as President for Tennessee Jump$tart, as of January 1, 2021, after a one-year term as President-Elect.
Alan is a native Tennessean. He holds a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration from Tennessee Technological University, with a major in Finance and a minor in Economics. He has been married for over 32 years and has three beautiful daughters and two sons-in-law.
Procurement Program Team Lead
Kimberly Henry began her career with the State of Tennessee in 2006. Currently serving as the Learning & Development (L&D) Team Lead, Kim not only develops and teaches CPO-related classes but is frequently asked by customer agencies to create and provide instruction on agency-specific, specialized classes.
Kim is currently heading the implementation of the Department of General Services (DGS) Onboarding Program within CPO and serves in a lead role on the DGS Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Belonging (DEIB) Council. With the outbreak of Covid, Kim seamlessly transitioned the CPO curriculum into online and hybrid training classes to maximize attendance, learning opportunities, and convenience to the State's procurement personnel. She is considered an expert in her field by her procurement L&D peers nationwide and has been invited on numerous occasions to present at the National Association of State Procurement Officials sessions.
A native Nashvillian, Kim received her bachelor's degree from the University of Tennessee, Chattanooga in Business (Economics), and her master's from the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, in Human Resource Development.
Cornelia Johnson started working with the Tennessee Department of Health in November 2006 as a Secretary working the main switchboard. From the beginning, she endeared herself to the staff with her infectious enthusiasm and friendly smile. Since then, she has consistently been given increased responsibilities and promotions and has supported many programs, including the Tuberculosis Clinic, Children's Special Services, the TN Breast and Cervical Cancer program, the Communicable and Environmental Disease Surveillance (CEDS) program, and many more.
Cornelia currently serves as an Administrative Assistant 1 in the Southeast Region, working diligently to provide administrative support to staff in the Regional Office and health departments in 10 counties and the regional TB clinic. Cornelia goes above and beyond to serve the state in her role. She embodies the agency's core values by demonstrating professionalism and integrity through establishing effective relationships with internal and external customers. Additionally, Cornelia promotes the Southeast Regional Office's Core Values- Mutual Respect, Excellence, Responsiveness, Integrity, and Teamwork (MERIT).
When not working, she enjoys listening to jazz, dancing, hiking, reading, gardening, doing volunteer work, and spending time with her family and friends.
Executive Administrative Assistant
Felicia began her career with the Department of Human Resources in January 2007 as an HR Administrative Technician. After four years, she was promoted to the role of Executive Administrative Assistant.
In previous positions, as well as her current one, Felicia strives to provide the “optimal customer experience” per the DOHR agency’s mission statement. One of Felicia’s guiding statements is “give more than you take.” She believes if one gives the very best service possible to everyone, no matter who they are, you will more than likely walk away with a great sense of gratitude knowing you’ve helped someone in such a small part of their day. As a founding member of the Executive Administrative Assistants group, Bridge, Felicia enhanced an idea she received from the 2021 Tennessee Administrative Professionals conference. The idea was to bring together administrative professionals to learn and share best practices in serving their customers and to support one another throughout their work.
A very important part of Felicia’s life is spending time with her four (and one on the way) amazing, talented and beautiful grandchildren. Felicia takes great pleasure in every moment she gets with them.
Eligibility Counselor 1
Rachael Corry began her career with the State of Tennessee as an Eligibility Clerk in 2009. Rachael currently serves as an Eligibility Counselor under Family Assistance.
Rachael is client-focused, caring deeply about the people she assists while doing her best to ensure they receive all benefits and resources available to them. Self-motivated, she effectively collaborates with other team members within the State and operates with the primary focus in life to make a difference in the lives of others. In addition to her role, Rachael also serves on the TANF Advisory Board. In this capacity, she participated in the grant selection process for pilot implementation grants, which allows grant funding to assist recipients in changing the way eligible families are served in Tennessee.
Rachael lives in Cocke County, TN, and has two children and four wonderful grandchildren.
Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities
Trey King began working with the Department of Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities (DIDD) in 2019, initially serving as the Coordinator of Crisis and Forensic Services after serving the State of Tennessee for 15 years as an investigator for the judicial system with a stint as a mental health liaison for Rutherford County.
Trey is now the Director of the Harold Jordan Center. From day one, Trey has worked diligently to ensure that people with co-occurring mental health disorders and intellectual disabilities receive the mental health services they need. He quickly developed contacts in managed care organizations, mental health, law enforcement, courts, and DIDD service providers to facilitate psychiatric admissions or find other resources to meet their needs. Trey has been instrumental to the success of DIDD's Assessment and Stabilization Teams which provide crisis services to people with intellectual disabilities throughout the state. His diligence in completing this task was remarkable and helped secure agreements with 13 mobile crisis providers, 3 managed care organizations, and two of the largest hospital systems in the state.
Trey has two sons, Jack, 14, and Grayson, 18. His primary professional goal is to ensure that every person supported by DIDD gets the services they need to be successful.
Boiler Inspector 2
Labor and Workforce Development
Greg Strickland began his career as a boiler operator in 2014 with the Department of Corrections. While working with the Department of Corrections, Greg conducted many tasks; operating and performing preventative maintenance on the various vessels were his primary duties.
In January 2020, Greg became a part of the Workplace Regulations and Compliance Division, Boiler Inspection Unit, for Labor & Workforce Development. During this time, he obtained his commission as a boiler inspector. Greg is a team player and always looks to assist a fellow boiler inspector. Greg values the importance of his position as a boiler inspector and puts the public's safety at the forefront of his decision-making. He represents the state well by always being professional and letting the customer know that we are there for their safety and the general public's safety.
Greg and his family reside in Perry County, Tennessee. In his free time, he enjoys spending time on his farm.
Rachel L. Jones
Executive Administrative Assistant 2
Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services
Rachel L. Jones has faithfully served the State of Tennessee for over 14 years, and her service has been legendary and beyond compare. Rachel is the first person many people talk to when they call the Department of Mental Health & Substance Abuse Services' Division of Planning, Policy & Legislation. She listens to the questions that customers ask, but she also tries to understand and provide a thorough answer to the question they are seeking the solution to, ensuring that the department meets the customer at a place where they need assistance the most.
Rachel has used her ability to quickly learn about and implement workplace software and internet tools to organize better the department's legislative and sub-recipient monitoring coordination activities. She takes the lessons learned from those duties and helps others implement positive changes in their processes. Her thoughtfulness inspires trust, and her diligence and commitment to follow thru demonstrate that the trust you put in her was well placed.
Rachel is a graduate of Middle Tennessee State University. She lives in Franklin, TN, with her husband, Eric, and their two awesome children, Izzy and Lincoln. Rachel enjoys spending time with her family and friends on the lake or anywhere her beloved Atlanta Braves are playing on TV.
Timothy Williford joined Tennessee State Government in January of 1990 in the Department of Military and is an active leader in the Civil Engineer Squadron at McGhee Tyson Air National Guard Base.
As a Facilities Manager, he provides supervisors and employees with quality training and counseling, a specific interest in human connections to get the very best out of each employee, and high-value leadership from supervisors. He values employees and explains the contributions each makes to strengthen the organization's and department's views on customer service. Timothy follows through on commitments and instills confidence that his words and actions are truthful.
Tim is a lifelong learner and has an Associate of Science in biology, an Associate of Arts in Human Resources from the Community College of the Air Force, an Associate of Arts in Professional Communication from Pellissippi State; a Bachelor of Science in Environmental Science from Arlington Almeda University; and a master certificate in Human Resources from Villanova University. He spent over 27 years in military service and received meritorious service awards for his service in Southwest Asia. He enjoys playing bluegrass music with his wife, Leona, and has a daughter, Brittni, living in Nashville.
Revenue Collection Officer III
Blake started with the Department of Revenue Collection Services Division in December 2012 as an entry-level collection officer. In 2016, he was selected to represent his division as a Divisional Trainer for a department-wide upgraded tax system implementation. Shortly after, Blake was promoted to State Testing Coordinator of the system project team and managed departmental testing for each of the four-phased rollouts. After the tax system implementation, Blake returned to Collection Services, where he has since been promoted and selected to serve in a specialized work unit that shapes the division's future.
Blake promotes the agency's core values by going above and beyond for external and internal customers. Blake treats each concern the customer has with great care and understanding. He not only attends to any concerns expressed by the taxpayer but also addresses any other potential issues so that the taxpayer can take care of all needs at once. Blake promotes positivity to his peers through his actions and keeps leadership apprised of trending topics he has observed so that they may put plans in place to mitigate future similar issues.
Blake is originally from the Middle Tennessee area and graduated from Middle Tennessee State University with a bachelor's degree in Criminal Justice.
Safety and Homeland Security
Cindy Woodcock began her career in State service in April 1996 as a Driver's License Examiner. Cindy became the Administrative Secretary for the Criminal Investigation Division Region 2 in June 2006, servicing the twenty-seven counties of Region 2. Cindy found her niche in this role, as she has become the subject matter expert in all administrative functions of the Tennessee Highway Patrol, specifically investigations.
Cindy can be found working tirelessly to serve her co-workers and meet the needs of the state's customers. Cindy's work includes processing driver's license fraud matters, managing seized and forfeited assets, and transcribing hundreds of interviews while managing her administrative duties. Cindy goes out of her way to listen with compassion to victims of crimes, never complains about her work, and provides exemplary outcomes as she sets the example on how to treat internal and external customers of the state.
In her life outside the office, Cindy is married, with two adult sons, and enjoys spending time with her four grandchildren.
Joan D. Jackson
Managed Care Program Manager 2
Joan D. Jackson began her career with the TennCare Office of General Counsel's Estate Recovery division as a Legal Assistant in 2017. In that position, she was responsible for processing estate recovery cases in chancery and probate courts throughout Tennessee. In this role, Joan developed templates and improved processes to make the estate recovery program run more efficiently, thus increasing collections and improving customer service. In April 2020, she moved into a supervisory role to help lead the takeover of Estate Recovery Request for Release (RFR) services from a state contractor.
Joan and her team have implemented significant improvements, including an average 24-hour turnaround for RFRs. Through her work ethic, innovation, and leadership, she has vastly improved customer service to Tennesseans in the estate recovery process. In response to her tremendous work, Joan was recently nominated and selected to attend the Tennessee Government Management Institute. Joan is an infinitely valuable member of TennCare, and her work has benefited the agency in innumerable ways.
Joan has been in the legal field for over 43 years and has been in Nashville, Tennessee, since 2012. Joan enjoys spending time with her family, including four grandchildren, when not working. Joan also enjoys reading, movies, and the theatre.
Welcome Center Assistant
Mary Bailey began her career with the Department of Tourist Development in 1997 as a Welcome Center Assistant at the Bristol Welcome Center. Mary is a Certified Travel Ambassador and was in the Department's first graduating class in 2016.
Mary's welcoming smile and passion for sharing her knowledge of the state are to be commended. She is an invaluable asset to the tourism industry, working to ensure travelers get the most out of their time in the beautiful state of Tennessee. Mary's expertise and memorable service make her a sought-after expert for returning guests.
Mary makes her home in Bristol, TN. She has three children, Robin, Raven, and Lance. Five grandchildren and two great-grandchildren. She is active in her church, enjoys spending time with her family, loves reading, especially her bible, and cheering on her son, a professional golf caddy for the PGA.
Denise Beard Baker
Transportation Program Supervisor
Denise Beard Baker began her career with TDOT in 2015. Denise currently works in the Highway Beautification office, where she manages the State's litter prevention campaign - Nobody Trashes Tennessee, TDOT's Litter Grant Program, and Adopt-A-Highway. In this role, Denise is responsible for audit findings on the grants she manages and assisting the grant recipients in their correction process.
Denise is especially talented at creating opportunities for public education, helping her customers understand the psychology and science of littering and litter prevention. Denise recently organized a statewide grant training event for more than 100 attendees. She planned every aspect with grant partner customers in mind, resulting in high-level customer satisfaction.
Denise obtained an undergraduate degree in communications from The University of Tennessee, Knoxville, and a Master of Public Administration from Tennessee State University. Denise lives in Sumner County with her husband. She enjoys spending time with her six nieces and nephews and traveling.
Quality & Appeals Specialist 1
Jimmie Sanders began his career with the Department of Veterans Services (TDVS) in 2010, following his retirement from the United States Air Force. He has continued his service life by advocating on behalf of Tennessee Veterans and their families for the past 11 years.
TDVS's Appeals Division comprises two teams providing advocacy at various stages of the Veteran's Affairs benefit process. To address a growing appellate workload, Jimmie volunteered to support the Board of Veterans' Appeals Team to ensure TDVS could support each Veteran at their appeal hearings. For the past eight months, Jimmie has quietly served Tennessee Veterans by supporting the work of both Appeals Division Teams. He has asked for nothing in return, and when asked why he does it, he says, "I'm just doing what is needed for the Veterans we serve." Jimmie's approach allows him to find effective solutions to customer concerns. There is no job too big and no client issue too small when it comes to Jimmie's commitment to advocating for his fellow Veterans.
Jimmie served his fellow Servicemembers for over 20 years as an Air Force Chaplain, earning numerous awards and decorations, including the Meritorious Service Medal with 3 Oak Leaf Clusters. He is a graduate of Middle Tennessee State University (1981). Jimmie is married to Lisa (Gist), a native of Sparta, TN. The Sanders have been wonderfully blessed with four children: April Ray (Roeshad), Jimmie III (Keri), David, and Bryson, and they are proud grandparents of seven. Jimmie currently serves as associate pastor at Believers Faith Fellowship in Christiana, TN, where he is involved in leadership training, marriage and family ministry, men's ministry, and mentoring.