Skip to Main Content

Find COVID-19 Information and Resources

Danielle W. Barnes Announces Departure as Department of Human Services Commissioner

Tuesday, October 27, 2020 | 04:00pm

NASHVILLE – The Tennessee Department of Human Services (TDHS) announced Commissioner Danielle Whitworth Barnes will leave state government in mid-November after 16 years of service to the citizens of Tennessee to return to the private sector.

Former Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam initially named Barnes TDHS Commissioner in 2017 and she was one of the first Commissioners to be reappointed by Gov. Bill Lee in 2019. Barnes leads the state’s second largest agency, overseeing a $3 billion budget with more than 4,000 employees working out of more than 120 facilities.

At the start of her appointment in 2017, Commissioner Barnes led the department in expanding its Two-Generational approach into a nationally recognized model to build strong families. Under Barnes’ leadership, TDHS has increased the number of collaborative partnerships the department has with an emphasis on meeting the essential needs of families, enhancing the customer experience, modernizing technology, reducing administrative process, increasing access to services in rural communities, and connecting customers to sustainable employment opportunities.

Barnes’ leadership has been invaluable steering TDHS though this year that saw the department’s office in Davidson County destroyed by a tornado and the launch of several new programs to respond to the pandemic including the Pandemic Electronic Benefit Transfer (P-EBT) Program, Emergency Cash Assistance, the Tennessee Community CARES Program, and programs to provide child care to essential workers across the state.

“It’s been a true honor and a blessing to serve in a position that allows me to help people each and every day,” said TDHS Commissioner Danielle W. Barnes. “I could not be more proud of the work our employees have done over these last three years revolutionizing the customer experience for those who seek out our services and helping build a thriving Tennessee.”

“Commissioner Barnes has been a trusted public servant and valuable member of our administration,” said Gov. Lee.  “She will be missed, and I wish her the best in her return to the private sector.”

Commissioner Barnes began her career with the State of Tennessee in 2004, serving as Legislative Coordinator and Assistant General Counsel for the Tennessee Department of Human Services. In 2007, she moved to the Tennessee Department of Human Resources to serve as Deputy Commissioner & General Counsel. In that capacity, Barnes co-authored and implemented the Tennessee Excellence, Accountability and Management (T.E.A.M.) Act, an overhaul of the State’s antiquated civil service employment practices, and implemented pay for performance for state employees.

Gov. Lee will name Barnes’ replacement at a later date.

TDHS provides services to Tennesseans statewide through programs such as Families First, Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, Child Support, Child Care Services, Vocational Rehabilitation, Disability Determination Services, Adult Protective Services, Child and Adult Food Program and Social Services Block Grant.

Learn more about the Tennessee Department of Human Services at