2018 Spring Recipients
Governor Haslam created the Governor’s Excellence in Service Awards in 2016 to recognize outstanding state employees who are at the forefront of improving the way Tennessee State Government delivers services. The employees selected by their departments’ leaders are helping provide Tennessee taxpayers with the highest quality service at the lowest possible cost. Read below to learn more about each recipient.
Danny Sutton joined the Tennessee Department of Agriculture in 2006 in the Weights and Measures Section. He transitioned to the Food and Dairy Section in 2012 and then, in 2017, he was appointed to Dairy Administrator. Danny is constantly seeking new ideas for how the Department of Agriculture can assist its customers, while strengthening relationships, and improving the department’s regulatory outreach. He continues to expand his knowledge of the industry and recently obtained a certification as a milk rating officer. Danny stays up-to-date on the latest technological improvements and was instrumental in developing a comprehensive handbook for farmers interested in pursuing robotic milking operations. After several Tennessee dairy farmers learned the company that buys their milk was scaling back and ending contracts, Danny reached out to those farmers individually to gain insight regarding their situations. He spent months meeting with farmers and with local, state and federal stakeholders to discuss a path forward. His efforts have eased the flow of information, which greatly benefits farmers. Danny embodies excellence in his daily work to improve the dairy industry and raise awareness of the importance of regulation in providing safe dairy products.
Danny and his wife, Carmen, have 3 grown children, Eli, Guille and Gabriella. Danny is an avid bass fisherman and is the Conservation Chairman of the Tennessee Bass Nation.
Special Assistant to the Commissioner, Child Welfare Reform
Britany has worked for the Tennessee Department of Children’s Services (DCS) since 2011 when she began her career as an attorney in the Central Office legal division. Prior to that, she represented children in dependency and neglect proceedings as part of the Children’s Rights Clinic at the University of Texas School of Law. In her current role, Britany oversees the Title IV-E Waiver Demonstration Project, manages implementation of the FAST and CANS assessments, serves as the department's liaison with TennCare, and facilitates the EDGE: Evidence Driven Growth & Excellence leadership development program. Prior to undertaking that work, Britany’s primary focus was the State of Tennessee’s successful exit from the Brian A. lawsuit. Through her work on the Brian A. lawsuit, Britany had the opportunity to work with staff at all levels of DCS. Her interactions with the dedicated individuals protecting and strengthening Tennessee’s children and families fueled her passion for creating system reform that makes sense in practical application. She has carried that passion and the lessons learned from successfully shepherding progress in the Brian A. lawsuit into her ongoing work to optimize the way DCS serves children and families.
Britany received her J.D. from the University of Texas at Austin in 2011 and a B.A. in communications and information sciences from the University of Alabama in 2008.
Food Service Supervisor 2, Tennessee Law Enforcement Training Academy
Commerce & Insurance
Joe Malone has been with Tennessee State Government for more than eight years and currently serves the Department of Commerce and Insurance as a Food Service Supervisor 2 for the Tennessee Law Enforcement Training Academy (TLETA). Upon assuming his supervisory duties, Joe quickly assessed the food services strengths and deficiencies, then developed an outline for improvement. Joe transformed the service by reassigning staff members to duties that capitalized upon their strengths and implemented pertinent training programs to improve their culinary skills. He also routinely met with the staff individually and as a whole to set priorities and goals, and encouraged each member to take ownership of food services. Under his leadership, the consistently high-quality product receives excellent ratings from each Basic Police School critique, as well as, high health department scores for the overall operation.
Joe grew up in Murfreesboro. In 1989, he entered the U.S. Navy and served honorably for 20 years as a Culinary Specialist as part of the Admiral's staff on board the aircraft carriers USS Saratoga, USS John F. Kennedy and the USS Theodore Roosevelt. He retired from service in 2009 as a Chief Petty Officer. Joe is a devoted father to two sons and one daughter and a grandfather to four grandsons.
Probation and Parole Manager
Tanisha Williams-Pentecost began her career with the state as Probation and Parole Officer with the Tennessee Board of Parole in August 2000 and was quickly promoted to Probation and Parole Officer 2 in April 2001. She became a Probation and Parole Officer 3 in 2006. During her tenure with the Board of Parole, Tanisha developed comprehensive knowledge of parole supervision and strong organizational administrative skills.
After transition to the Department of Correction, she was promoted to Probation and Parole Manager, serving as trusted advisor for front-line staff to ensure the appropriate supervision levels of probationers and parolees. Tanisha embodies the core values of the agency daily by demonstrating professionalism and integrity through establishing effective relationships with both internal and external customers. Additionally, she promotes the mission of the agency through her unwavering commitment to public safety and effective community supervision.
Tanisha holds a bachelor’s degree in psychology and a master’s degree in special education from Tennessee State University. Tanisha is passionate about delivering excellence in her position, and her innovation and commitment have helped create a culture in the department that supports the customer’s needs.
Technical Project Manager
Economic and Community Development
Miles Hutcherson has worked for the Tennessee State Government for three years and currently serves as a Technical Project Manager for the Department of Economic and Community Development (ECD). In this role, Miles oversees all information technology (IT) projects, manages ECD’s various digital properties and provides guidance on the direction of the department’s technology resources. In 2017, Miles was responsible for digitizing grant applications that resulted in more than $130 million invested in communities across Tennessee. Miles’s consistent dedication to going above and beyond his job description to support the governor’s goal of making Tennessee the #1 location in the Southeast for high-quality jobs continues to inspire his colleagues. Miles embodies the core values of ECD and represents the State of Tennessee in a positive light on a daily basis, whether that be through his professionalism with colleagues or his dedication to building the best online resource for our customers. Miles holds a bachelor’s degree in mathematics from the University of Alabama and is an active member of Woodmont Baptist Church.
Assistant General Counsel for Procurement
Joanna Collins has been with the State of Tennessee for four years and currently serves the Department of Education as the Assistant General Counsel for Procurement. Joanna is a fierce advocate for contract managers and works to ensure that contracts are set up for success and executed in a timely manner. She is efficient and helps others navigate through the complex contracting process. Joanna moves mountains for her coworkers, and the department would not be as effective without her guidance, humor and hard work. Joanna is dedicated to process improvement and continuously solicits and responds to feedback about her own work and the contracts process. Based on feedback from contract managers, she created a contracts resources hub on the department’s intranet site. She also serves as counsel to the Textbook Commission, represents the department in legal matters and advises divisions on a range of legal issues from copyright to public records requests.
Joanna has been a champion for education in Tennessee since receiving her Juris Doctorate degree from Vanderbilt University Law School in 2013 and starting her legal career with the state as a staff attorney at the Tennessee State Board of Education. Joanna is actively involved in state government leadership opportunities. She is a 2017 graduate of LEAD Tennessee and currently serves on the Tennessee Governmental Leadership Council on the communications subcommittee. In her free time, she enjoys experiencing Tennessee's incredible state parks.
Senior Advisor for the Bureau of Environment
Environment & Conservation
Elaine Boyd has been part of the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation’s (TDEC) senior leadership team since joining the department in 2005. She started work as the Bureau of Environment’s (BOE) Strategic Planning Manager, later becoming Director for Strategic Planning, and was most recently promoted to Senior Advisor for the BOE. For nearly 13 years, she has worked closely with TDEC executives and management teams to develop and implement strategies that help TDEC achieve its top priorities and improve customer service performance. As TDEC's Senior Advisor for the Bureau of Environment, Elaine has focused on project management, process improvement and performance excellence, leading department-wide efforts in lean process improvement and Baldrige performance excellence. She serves as the department’s primary liaison with the United States Environmental Protection Agency’s’s Region IV office in Atlanta and headquarters in Washington, D.C., managing critical stakeholder relationships with federal partners. Elaine is a cheerful champion of TDEC's mission to enhance the quality of life for Tennesseans by protecting and improving the quality of Tennessee's air, land and water through a responsible and customer-friendly regulatory system. Her intelligence, wisdom, generosity and kindness have enabled TDEC to work more effectively with all of our customers throughout the state, in the southeastern U.S. and across the nation.
Senior Business Analyst
Finance and Administration
David Case is a Senior Business Analyst with the Department of Finance and Administration and has been with the State of Tennessee for 18 years. In the face of daunting challenges, David rolls up his sleeves and gets the job done with a smile. When the Tennessee Department of Correction (TDOC) changed work schedules for thousands of employees, David’s proactive approach using existing tools saved TDOC from having to manually enter each of the transactions. When the Comptroller's Office made the decision to create a unique holiday schedule, there was a potential of creating issues impacting pay and leave balances that would require countless hours of manual intervention. David identified, tested and implemented a configuration method which saved the Comptroller’s Office and Tennessee Department of Human Resources many hours of additional work. David understands customer needs and worked tirelessly to address them. As a result, he has implemented several time-saving solutions.
David’s commitment to family, faith and career are unparalleled. David is a proud husband and father. He is very involved in his church, where he serves in a variety of leadership capacities. He is gifted musically and plays several instruments and also has an incredible singing voice.
Safety and Soundness Chief Administrator
Anthony B. Rogers, Sr. began his Tennessee Department of Financial Institutions tenure as a Credit Union Examiner in 2011 and currently serves as Safety and Soundness Chief Administrator for the Credit Union Division. In this role, not only is Anthony responsible for the examination of 82 credit unions with over $12 billion in assets, but he continuously goes above and beyond to provide constant training, develop procedures in efficiencies and improve data accuracy. He has a positive "can-do" attitude and is very diligent and prepared for any task he assumes. He is strategic in his management of the division and is continuously looking for opportunities where improvements can be made that would further promote efficient and effective operations within the division.
Anthony is highly respected for his wisdom, analytical skills and ability to build effective relationships. He embodies the spirit of a servant leader as he always puts the interests of the department and his staff above his own interests. Anthony has the heart of a teacher and excels at his ability to train staff and persons in the industry. Anthony has an undergraduate degree in finance, a Master of Education and a Master of Public Administration from Troy University. Following a 20 year career in the United States Army, Anthony was honorably discharged with the rank of Army Sergeant Major.
Chief State Photographer
Jed DeKalb has been with the Tennessee State Government for 37 years and has served five governors as the State Chief Photographer with the Department of General Services. As Chief State Photographer, Jed is responsible for documenting the history of Tennessee through graphic images. Jed is on call 24/7 and frequently covers the state’s significant events after normal business hours. To continue to meet the needs of customers, Jed implemented Flickr as a positive process improvement tool to reduce turnaround time of photographs. Over his 37 years of services, Jed has had to deal with difficult and confidential situations. He has handled each situation with the utmost integrity and been a true embodiment of the values of the department.
Jed has a degree in marketing from the University of Tennessee. After graduating, he worked for newspapers before taking a position as State Photographer II under Governor Lamar Alexander’s administration. Along with winning numerous awards over the years, Jed has published work in People, Southern Living, The Chicago Tribune, Ford Times and American Airlines - American Way, and he even photographed ZZ Top for their album Fandango.
Nurse Supervisor, Hardin County Health Department
Dale Reynolds began her nursing career with the Tennessee Department of Health in 2001 as a staff nurse at the Hardin County Health Department. Her commitment to the citizens of Hardin County made her the perfect candidate to lead the health department as the supervisor in 2009. With each patient encounter, Dale works diligently to ensure that clients obtain access to the health department’s provision of clinical services, going the extra mile to guide clients through the resource referral process to determine if they qualify for public health resources. She is also active in the local community. She is as a certified lactation specialist for the county and speaking at the local hospital’s prenatal classes on Saturdays. She serves on the wellness committee for the local school board, working with Coordinated School Health to ensure that the students of Hardin County have healthy options from which to choose. Dale also works with Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) staff and social workers to plan and speak at the yearly community baby shower. She attends the Local Emergency Preparedness meeting and participates in table top exercise drills. Dale graduated from Jackson State Community College. She and her husband, Darryl, have two girls, Emma and Ellie, both of whom are very active in their local church bible drill team.
HR Analyst 3
Deborah Cato joined the State of Tennessee over 33 years ago as a Data Entry Operator. Currently, she serves as an HR Analyst 3 for the Department of Human Resources. Deborah is always looking for ways to help both her internal and external customers. She interacts directly with customers to get their forms submitted correctly and provides valuable input and areas for process improvements within the department. Deborah’s positive energy is infectious and makes her customers feel at ease when working through some difficult issues such as reduction in force (RIF). Recently, she made a recommendation to provide an option for employees who have been affected by RIF to submit a county selection form by email instead of mailing the form. Not only was this a cost savings for the employee, but it also streamlined the entire process.
Deborah has been married for seven years and is step-grandparent to a beautiful five-year-old. She enjoys spending quality time with her siblings and extended family. She enjoys bowling, watching documentaries and reading mysteries, autobiographies and history books.
Legal Assistant, Case Prep Unit
Edward J. “EJ” Singley has been with the State of Tennessee for over 14 years and currently serves the Department of Human Services as a Legal Assistant with the Case Prep Unit. EJ frequently plays the role of consultant and sounding board for technological upgrades to the division’s appeal resolution tracking system (ARTS). His knowledge of the ARTS system and his innovative ideas have helped advance the division’s continuous improvement process initiative that began more than two years ago. To simplify scheduling and provide a layered snapshot of administrative activities, EJ created a draft scheduling calendar template to replace the previous Word-based calendar. The new calendar resolved numerous problems related to the way in which the division conducted its business. By sharing his work product with others outside of his unit, he took what was historically an antiquated approach to scheduling hearings and shifted the divisional paradigm.
EJ was born and raised in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. EJ earned a Bachelor of Arts in theater in 1988 and a Bachelor of Arts in psychology in 1994, both from Indiana University in Pennsylvania. He earned his Juris Doctorate in 2001 from the University of Pittsburgh. EJ currently resides in Franklin with his wife, Kristin, and their son, Grayson.
State Director of Federal Lawsuit and HIPAA Compliance
Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities
Simone Cuarino has been with the State of Tennessee for over 19 years and currently works as the State Director of Federal Lawsuit and HIPAA Compliance for the Department of Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities (DIDD). In this role, she serves as the department's Customer Focused Government coordinator, records officer and liaison to providers, other state agencies, persons supported and stakeholders in all confidentiality matters. She is also a trained LEAN facilitator and provides tracking for all lawsuit compliance as well as DIDD's management implementation plan for corrective actions in relation to the comptroller's audit findings. Simone works diligently to track initiatives and projects through templates and systems she has created to improve efficiency and tracking. Simone represents the department in a professional manner at all times, even in difficult situations. No matter the difficulty or size of a task given to her, Simone has the ability to develop a process to accomplish the task.
Simone was born and raised in Frankfurt, Germany where she worked as a court reporter prior to immigrating to the United States in her early 20s. She started working for Tennessee State Government in 1998 and this year will mark her 20th anniversary. In her spare time, Simone volunteers at her local church where she heads the senior help and cancer care outreach programs. She also loves to travel and go on walks with her German shepherd.
Program Specialist 2
Labor and Workforce Development
Geicole Diggs has served the Tennessee Department of Labor and Workforce Development for nearly three years and currently serves as a Program Specialist 2 for the Unemployment Insurance Division. She has been effective in resolving numerous unemployment claims for those applying for benefits and helping employers resolve wage protest issues. She is a subject matter expert in claims and sets high standards in resolving cases, which has helped the division to meet and exceed its' first pay timeliness goal that 87% of all unemployment claims be paid in 21 days or less. She uses her knowledge, experience and ability to gather data quickly to satisfy the citizens and employers that we serve. Geicole is highly valued by her fellow team members. She has previously been recognized for her service to assisting employers such as General Motors, Ryder and Dollywood with their unemployment insurance needs. Geicole is passionate about assisting young women who are in crisis or dealing with personal issues. In 2016, she was selected to serve as a mentor in the YMCA Reach & Rise Program to assist young female adults, and considers this role one of her greatest accomplishments. A native of Nashville, Geicole enjoys reading, traveling and hiking. She is a graduate of Middle Tennessee State University.
Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services
Kris Jernighan has worked for the State of Tennessee for over 15 years and currently serves the Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services as the Executive Assistant for the Commissioner’s Office. Kris uses his extensive experience in Tennessee State Government to develop creative, cross-cutting solutions to any customer concerns. He is extremely resourceful and maintains strong working relationships across all human services agencies. One of his most impressive strengths is his intuition. He's a natural self-starter, and he frequently anticipates challenges and independently creates responses and interventions prior to being asked. Kris provides consistently exemplary customer service to high-level decision makers, both internal and external to the department. He is often the first voice one hears when calling the department, and as such, he approaches every customer with a commitment to serve, connect and support. Previously, Kris served as an assistant to the Counsel to the Attorney General and also worked in the Medicaid Fraud and Integrity Division of the Tennessee Attorney General's Office. In his spare time, he enjoys traveling, interior decorating and singing.
Charles B. Loveday began his military career with the Tennessee Air National Guard in 1991 as a Fire Protection Specialist. His service has included deployments in support of Operations Southern Watch, Coronet Oak, and Iraqi Freedom, during which he earned sixteen federal decorations. In 2001, he brought his civilian and military experience to the State of Tennessee as a firefighter at McGhee Tyson Air National Guard Base. Rapidly promoted from Firefighter 1 to Firefighter 2 with the responsibility of Fire Prevention Inspector, he ensured the safety of the people, aircraft and facilities of the 134th Air Refueling Wing. In 2012, he was selected to lead the civilian employees of the department as Firefighter Manager. Over the last 6 years, he has earned multiple professional certifications and has dedicated himself to the safety of all assigned personnel and improving administrative processes while ensuring the department’s capabilities and readiness are constantly maintained. He has been requested by the National Guard Bureau on many occasions to teach fire officer courses and provide guidance to other state military department firefighter managers.
Revenue TR3 Consultant
Sonya Meacham has served the Tennessee Department of Revenue for 32 years. She has had many roles, including Tax Audit Manager, Assistant Director for Audit Office Operations, and most recently, Revenue TR3 Consultant, where she works closely with project team members to ensure that the new tax system meets the needs of the Department of Revenue as a whole. She also works closely with leadership and others within the division to make system configuration decisions. She serves as a critical link in communications by listening to users' needs and explaining those needs to the developers and other team members. Her exceptional communication skills help to bring different groups together to find common ground.
Sonya is a graduate of Middle Tennessee State University with a Bachelor of Business Administration. She and her husband, Buddy, have two children, Ben and Anna, both of whom currently attend college.
Director, Financial Responsibility Section
Safety and Homeland Security
Susan Lowe has served the Tennessee Department of Safety and Homeland Security since April 2011 when she began as the Executive Assistant to the Deputy Commissioner. In January 2015, Susan was promoted to Director of the Financial Responsibility Division within Driver Services. She quickly assessed the needs of the financial responsibility unit and began redesigning the work environment, transforming the division’s employees from individuals to a team. Susan also completely streamlined the work in her unit, changing processes that had been in place for years. She currently manages a staff of 90 employees that oversees the processing of driver license-related compliance documents in the Correspondence Unit and Document Management Unit as well as the supervision of a high volume call center. Susan’s leadership and creative thinking has made a positive impact in the lives of the employees and the service they provide to the customers.
Prior to joining the state, Susan served the citizens of Memphis for 26 years as an officer with the Memphis Police Department (MPD), where she was promoted during her time there and retired at the rank of Major. During her tenure with the MPD, she was assigned to work in various units and roles in Uniform Patrol, Vice & Narcotics, the Interstate Interdiction Team, Crime Prevention and Research & Development.
Jim Guffey has been with the State of Tennessee for 12 years and currently serves as a web developer for the Division of TennCare. Jim helps to ensure all the information on the public-facing websites, as well as the agency's intranet, are up-to-date, accurate and easily accessible. Jim has fully immersed himself in learning new tools and skills to better support projects at TennCare. He has been recognized for his knowledge of 508 Compliance and his ability to work with tools such as Adobe Sign. To better serve customers, both internal and external, Jim instituted a semi-annual web content review process to ensure all the information provided via the website is accurate and up-to-date. Jim is a retired Sergeant Major with the United States Army. With 22 years of service, he retired in the top 1% of the Army's enlisted forces. Jim served as the Army Transportation Corps enlisted personnel manager guiding the career paths for more than 46,000 soldiers. He also served as the senior advisor to the Company Commanders. Jim and his wife, Toni, who is also a veteran and TennCare employee, live in Springfield and have a son and a daughter.
Transportation Program Monitor 2
James Brown is a Transportation Program Monitor 2 for the Tennessee Department of Transportation (TDOT), where he has been employed for the past 14 years. In this role, James operates office productivity software, allowing him to research training classes that align to the job duties of employees. He also developed a database to track and monitor training certifications. James is committed to continued professional development of personnel in the department.
James graduated from Middle Tennessee State University in 2001 with a Bachelor of Science degree in political science and government. He obtained a Masters of Arts degree in counseling and psychology from Trevecca Nazarene University in 2010. James also has an Entry Level Certification from Tennessee Business Enterprises. James and his wife, Crystal, live in Antioch. Outside of work, James has served in a volunteer capacity as the president and as a board member of the National Federation of the Blind of Tennessee, an organization of over 50,000 members who are visually impaired. James and his guide dog, Vantis, love people and consider it their mission in life to serve others.
Manager, Jellico Welcome Center
A native Tennessean, Ryne Cummins is an 11-year employee of the Tennessee Department of Tourist Development (TDTD) and is currently Manager of the Jellico Welcome Center on I-75 in Campbell County. Ryne has served in that capacity for two years, after nine years serving in other maintenance roles at Jellico. As manager of one of the busiest Welcome Centers in the state, Ryne oversees not only the personnel at the center, but its operations and readiness to handle the constant flow of visitors that total more than 2.3 million a year. Ryne's leadership of a center with such high visitor volume led TDTD executives to name Jellico the state's Welcome Center of the Year in 2017. Ryne's dedication and commitment to state service was instilled in him by his father, Jerome Cummins, long-time park manager of the Indian Mountain State Park, part of the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation.
Veterans Education Coordinator
Gregg Crawford serves the Tennessee Department of Veterans Services as the Veterans Education Coordinator. Higher education campus partners have built strong collaborative relationships with Gregg, trusting him as a problem solver dedicated to getting all of the right decision makers at the table to the benefit of the student Veteran. He was the first Veteran Education Coordinator to make widespread progress with engagement with campus partners at the Tennessee Colleges of Applied Technology who previously felt ill-equipped to compete for grants or to actively recruit student veterans. Gregg has helped campuses to think innovatively through continued communication and ongoing solution seeking discussions with Student Veterans of America (SVA). He was selected by the Tennessee Higher Education Commission (THEC) to be part of the Prior Learning Assessment Task Force in 2017-2018. Gregg successfully graduated from the Veterans Services Commissioner’s Leadership Academy in January 2018, making an impression on facilitators as an emerging leader with a servant’s heart
Gregg served four years in the United States Marine Corps before achieving a Bachelor of Science in business management from the University of Tennessee, Knoxville. Gregg is also currently working towards a Master of Business Administration at the University of Tennessee’s Haslam College of Business.