Posted on: Tuesday - May 2, 2017

If you have not had the privilege of meeting Governor Haslam, you may not appreciate how hard it is to say no to his requests. 

When I was approached to accept the governor’s offer to serve as commissioner of this department, it took me no time to say yes to his offer to join the State of Tennessee. Without knowing the numerous details that this job opportunity entailed, it was an easy and instant yes!

I knew immediately that I had some big shoes to fill. One of my predecessors, former commissioner Bill Hagerty, was recently selected by the president to be the U.S. ambassador to Japan, and my immediate predecessor, Randy Boyd, is currently running to be elected the next governor of Tennessee. In other words, there was a lot pressure. Bill and Randy both did an incredible job of positioning Tennessee to compete on a global scale, while also focusing on our efforts within the state to invest in our rural and distressed areas to spread our success more evenly throughout Tennessee. As I’ve said since my first day on the job: I don’t want to change the direction of this department, I simply want to build upon the existing momentum that was created by Bill and Randy. 

I was very fortunate to inherit such an outstanding TNECD team consisting of 100 terrific colleagues who are focused not only on job recruitment, but making Tennessee a better place to live, work and raise a family. The dedication I’ve seen from this team has far surpassed any expectation I had before I accepted this job, and I’m incredibly proud to be working with all of them. 

As commissioner, I quickly learned that if I’m going to be successful at my job, the work cannot be done from behind my desk. So, in true TNECD-style, the team wasted no time in booking events and meetings throughout the state to help me become more familiarized with our regions and communities. In 60 short days, I’ve traveled to almost 20 counties meeting with stakeholders that include mayors, economic development directors, business owners and citizens, and I’ve enjoyed every minute of it. Everyone has been so kind and welcoming, and it energizes me to want to spend more time with our stakeholders.

Over the past two months, I have also participated in jobs announcements and groundbreaking ceremonies, helped cut ribbons at several new facilities throughout the state, toured industries and shook hands with a number of people that represent Tennessee’s superior workforce, spoken at Chamber luncheons, Rotary Club meetings and conferences, met with international dignitaries and business leaders, and I just completed my first tour of all nine TNECD regions. I couldn’t be more proud of our state and the amazing work that’s being done through partnerships on the federal, state, regional and local levels.

While I’m still getting acclimated and adjusting to this new role, I look forward to what the future has in store and how we can continue to improve job growth, workforce development, community and rural development, education and other areas in our great state. If I haven’t had the opportunity to visit your community yet, I hope to do so in the months ahead.