Skip to Main Content

Important Information Regarding Federal Unemployment Benefits in Tennessee. Click Banner for Details.

Leadership Team

Deniece Thomas

Deniece Thomas,  Deputy Commissioner

Deniece Thomas is Deputy Commissioner for the Tennessee Department of Labor and Workforce Development.

Thomas is responsible for the oversight of the Workforce Services, Adult Education, and WIRED divisions. 

Appointed Assistant Commissioner of Workforce Services division in December 2018, Thomas began her career with the state of Tennessee in 2007 at the Department of Labor and Workforce Development. She previously served in a variety of roles within the agency including Workforce Services Director 1, Workforce Services Director 2, Employment Security Manager 1, Employment Manager 3, and Employment Security Interviewer Supervisor. Thomas is a member of the National Association of State Agencies (NASWA) Board of Directors since September 2018, member of the National Employment and Training Committee and Veterans since 2015 and she serves on the National Apprenticeship Workgroup. Additionally, she also serves as the State Workforce Liaison for the National Governor's Association since January 2018, the National Association of State Workforce Association, the Governor's Economic Development Council and the State Workforce Board. 

Thomas is a 2014 Graduate of LEAD Tennessee Alliance 5. She holds a Master of Arts degree in Civic Leadership from Lipscomb University in Nashville and a Bachelor of Science degree from the University of Alabama Birmingham. She is a member of the Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc.

Dewayne Scott

Dewayne Scott, Deputy Commissioner

Dewayne Scott is Deputy Commissioner for the Tennessee Department of Labor and Workforce Development.

His appointment began in March 2021. He started his career with the Kroger Company where he was an executive for 15 years. After leaving Kroger, Scott spent 17 years as President/CEO and co-founder of SRS, Inc., a company he co-founded in 2001. Under his leadership, SRS completed over 300 contracts as a prime contractor for 15 different federal agencies. In 2008, SRS was the 250th fastest growing company in the United States.

Since 2019, Scott has focused on sharing his corporate and entrepreneurial experience with individuals and businesses through his consulting firm, TDS & Associates. The firm provides business development and strategic planning, back-office services, and leadership development training both for individuals and companies.

Scott attended the University of Tennessee Knoxville and graduated with a degree in Economics and Business Management. 

Abbie Hudgens

Abbie Hudgens,  Administrator

Abbie Hudgens has served as Administrator for Tennessee’s Workers’ Compensation program since September 2011.  In 2013, following the restructuring of the state’s Workers’ Compensation system, Governor Bill Haslam officially appointed Hudgens as Administrator of the newly formed Tennessee Bureau of Workers’ Compensation.

Prior to working for the state of Tennessee, Hudgens served the city of Knoxville as Risk and Benefits Manager, and later Davidson County, as Risk Manager.  She spent six years as the public sector representative on the Tennessee Workers’ Compensation Advisory Council while in Knoxville.

Hudgens left government for a brief time and provided consulting services through a private practice, The Hudgens Group.

Long active in professional organizations, she has been the president of the Public Risk Management Association and the Southern Association of Workers’ Compensation Administrators (SAWCA) and president of the International Association of Industrial Accidents Boards and Commissions (IAIABC).

In 2015, Hudgens was honored with the IAIABC’s Frances Perkins Award, named after the former U.S. Secretary of Labor and IAIABC president.  In 2017 she received the WorkCompCentral Comp Laude Award, recognizing her as an industry leader.

Rusty Felts

Rusty Felts,  Assistant Commissioner

Rusty Felts is the Assistant Commissioner for the Employment Security Division of the Tennessee Department of Labor and Workforce Development. 

He is an 18-year veteran of the department’s unemployment insurance program.  Felts started as an interviewer and later moved to the claims center where he was a trainer, supervisor, manager, and eventually the Director of Claims Operations. He has served as Assistant Commissioner for the Employment Security Division since 2016.

He is a recent graduate of LEAD TN, a Tennessee Department of Human Resources-sponsored statewide leadership program.

Felts is an avid outdoorsman.  He and his wife Desiree have three children.

Wendy Fisher

Wendy Fisher, Assistant Commissioner

Wendy Fisher is the Assistant Commissioner for the Tennessee Occupational Safety and Health (TOSHA) Division of the Tennessee Department of Labor and Workforce Development.

Before her appointment as Assistant Commissioner in May 2019, Fisher served as Assistant Administrator of the division. 

Fisher began her career with the Department of Labor and Workforce Development's TOSHA division in August of 1992 as a Safety Compliance Supervisor in April 1999 and Safety Compliance Manager in March 2001. Fisher was responsible for the oversight of all safety inspections conducted in four area offices across the state. In that role, her duties included reviewing reports from each safety inspection conducted for consistency and accuracy. Fisher supervised four safety compliance supervisors and an administrative support staff person, along with indirectly supervising nine compliance officers. 

Fisher earned a Bachelor of Science in Industrial Technology from Middle Tennessee State University. Her extensive career with TOSHA includes completing in excess of 14 training courses and/or programs and she has conducted over 50 seminars on safety topics such as lock out/ tag out (LOTO), electrical safety, fall protection, master loggers safety, the top 25 most cited standards, in addition to the OSHA 10 & 30 hour courses.

Tom Herrod

Tom Herrod, Assistant Commissioner

Tom Herrod is the Assistant Commissioner for the Workplace Regulations and Compliance Division of the Tennessee Department of Labor and Workforce Development.

Herrod started his career with Tennessee state government in 2010 when he joined the Tennessee Occupational Safety and Health Administration (TOSHA) as an Industrial Hygienist 1. He worked his way to Industrial Hygienist Supervisor in 2014. The following year Herrod was named Manager of Public Sector, a position he held until he was appointed Assistant Commissioner in May 2019.

Before joining the state of Tennessee, Herrod was a Chemical Engineer with the DuPont Company for 36 years.

Herrod earned a Bachelor of Engineering in chemical engineering from Vanderbilt University in Nashville.

Jay Baker

Jay Baker, Assistant Commissioner

Jay Baker is the Assistant Commissioner for the Adult Education Division of the Tennessee Department of Labor and Workforce Development.

Baker started with the Department in July 2015 as the Director of Curriculum and Instruction for the Adult Education division and was later promoted to Assistant Administrator, then to Assistant Commissioner in September 2020.

Before joining the Department, Baker was a site manager and an instructor for the Tennessee College of Applied Technology’s adult education program in Nashville.

Baker is currently a member of the Tennessee Workforce Development Board. He is also a member of the National Association of State Directors of Adult Education.

A graduate of Brigham Young University, with a degree in psychology, Baker also holds a Master of Education degree from Vanderbilt University’s Peabody College. He is working toward his Master of Business Administration degree at the University of Memphis.

Steve Playl, Jr.

Steve Playl, Jr., Assistant Commissioner 

Steve Playl, Jr. is the Assistant Commissioner for the Workforce Services Division of the Tennessee Department of Labor and Workforce Development.

Playl previously served as a Senior Director in the Division of College, Career and Technical Education (CTE) at the Tennessee Department of Education since 2018. In that role, he was also the Tennessee State Director for Career and Technical Education.

Throughout his career, Playl has worked in multiple national, state, and local leadership capacities, each with a focus on career education and workforce training.

As a former Director of CTE for Bristol Tennessee City Schools, Playl regularly partnered with workforce, higher education, and community organizations to expand early postsecondary and work-based learning opportunities for students.

He is also a former high school teacher with Knox County Schools in Knoxville, TN.

Playl currently serves on the national board of directors for Advance CTE and the ASE Education Foundation. He has also worked with several other national workforce development and career education organizations such as the Association for Career and Technical Education, Jobs for the Future, New Skills for Youth, and the Coalition for Career Development Center.

Fred Gaston

Fred Gaston,  Assistant Commissioner

Fred Gaston is the Human Resources Assistant Commissioner for the Tennessee Department of Labor and Workforce Development.

Having held this position since March 2013, Fred works in partnership with the Senior Executive team to define human resource strategic initiatives and assists the Commissioner, Deputy Commissioner, and Chief of Staff with senior executive team performance and development. Fred is also responsible for employee relations, recruitment, hiring and retention, class compensation, and leadership development within the department. Prior to working for the state, he was Director of Human Resources for the City of LaVergne.

Fred is a current member of the Tennessee Government Leadership Council (TGLC) and a graduate of TGLC Tennessee Government Executive Institute (TGEI), LEAD Tennessee, and the Human Resources Master’s Program. He is also a member of the International Personnel Management Association (IPMA-HR) and the Tennessee Personnel Management Association (TPMA), which are the international and state associations of human resource personnel members working in the public sector. He served as the 2018 TPMA Human Resources Conference Program Chair.

Fred holds a Bachelor of Science from Middle Tennessee State University and a Master of Arts from Lipscomb University. He is a certified Rule 31 Mediator, an DOHR SLS Facilitator, and an International Personnel Management Association Senior Certified Professional (IPMA-SCP) in public sector human resources.

Andy Summar

Andy Summar, Assistant Commissioner

Andy Summar is the Assistant Commissioner of Finance, Fiscal, and Facilities for the Tennessee Department of Labor and Workforce Development.

Summar is a certified public accountant with over fifteen years of experience in the accounting and auditing fields. Summar takes pride in providing customer service to management, and he specializes in financial accounting, process improvement, and internal controls.  

Summar is a strong believer in teamwork and continuous process improvement.  He previously worked as a staff auditor and senior auditor with the Comptroller of the Treasury, Division of Tennessee State Audit and most recently as a Department Controller with the Department of Finance Administration.  

A devout UT fan, Summar loves anything Tennessee and bleeds orange.  He also enjoys spending time with his family, sports and exercising. He is a graduate of Middle Tennessee State University where he earned a Bachelor’s of Business Administration (BBA) in Accounting.