In January 2011, Governor Bill Haslam appointed Many-Bears Grinder as the Commissioner for the Tennessee Department of Veterans Services. She is the first woman to serve the State of Tennessee in this capacity.
In order to accept the appointment, Grinder retired from the Tennessee Army National Guard as a Colonel with more than 35 years of service. The Operation Enduring Freedom combat veteran served in Afghanistan as the Head of Secretariat for the International Police Coordination Board.
Grinder holds a Master's Degree in Strategic Studies from the U.S. Army War College and a Master's Degree in Human Resource Development from the University of Tennessee, Knoxville. She was awarded an honorary Doctorate in Public Service from Maryville College in 2016 and was inducted into the Fort Benning Hall of Fame in 2004. Her military awards include the Legion of Merit and the Bronze Star Medal.
As Commissioner for the Tennessee Department of Veterans Services, Grinder is responsible for the operation of TDVS Field offices, Appeals Division and four (4) State Veteran Cemeteries. She is also an ex-officio voting member of the Tennessee State Veterans Home Board (TSVHB). TSVHB oversees the operations of the four (4) existing Homes.
Under her leadership, the department focus increased to include “Everything Veteran” to improve customer service to all Tennessee veterans. The department serves as support for Justice Involved Veterans in Veteran Treatment Courts. TDVS is making strides regarding higher education access for student veterans with the addition of Veteran Education Coordinators, increased recruiting of veterans for workforce development programs and veteran business resources.
In November 2013, Governor Bill Haslam formed the Governor’s Veterans Education Task Force and appointed Commissioner Grinder as Chair of the group charged with finding ways to improve recruiting, retaining and supporting student veterans through to graduation. She also serves on the Governor’s Subcabinet for Workforce Development, on the Tennessee State Museum Foundation Board, on the Tennessee Colleges of Applied Technology Nashville General Advisory Committee, and on the Nashville Serving Veterans Community Board.
A native of Salt Lake City, Utah, Grinder moved to Tennessee in 1989 where she met and married her husband, Ernie Grinder, a Vietnam Veteran.
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