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2016 Spring Recipients

Governor Haslam created the Governor’s Excellence in Service Awards to recognize outstanding state employees who are at the forefront of improving the way Tennessee State Government delivers services. Employees selected by their department’s leadership to receive the award are helping provide Tennessee taxpayers with the highest quality service at the lowest possible cost.


Ward Tarkington

Data and Technology Unit Leader

Ward Tarkington serves as the Data and Technology Unit Leader for the Forestry Division of the Tennessee Department of Agriculture. In this role, Ward recognized the potential time-saving opportunity of designing and maintaining a shared database of employees, facilities, vehicles and equipment. Ward worked with departmental programmers to build these systems, which have since been replicated in other divisions. Additionally, Ward was solely responsible for establishing an online Burn Permit system which enabled the division to issue 387,559 permits in 2015. He continues to help the system evolve to better protect our state’s forest resources and ease the process for citizens to be compliant with the law. The system allows the department to map and share data with local fire departments and gives district managers an effective process to analyze their decisions regarding the issuance of permits. He earned a Bachelor’s of Science degree in Forest Management from the University of Tennessee and has served as the Continuing Forestry Education Coordinator for Kentucky/Tennessee Society of American Foresters since 2008. Ward has received numerous awards and certifications for his service including: Forestry Employee of the Year in 2011, Outstanding Service Awards from SAF, KY/TN Middle TN Chapter Chair 2006, I-Suite Database Systems, CTSP Computer Specialist for Hurricane Katrina OPS, and GIST GIS Mapping. Ward is married to his wife Jennifer of 10 years. The couple has three children and resides in Donelson.


Misty Neeley

Director of Accreditation
Children's Services

Over the last eight years, Misty Neeley has been a leader in the Department of Children’s Services, supporting its vision of being a model program in the nation. She has been critical to the success of several initiatives, such as coaching Child Protective Services Team Leaders on best practices and procedures for removal of children in an effort to reduce trauma for children and families and providing clinical support for Team Leaders and Family Service Workers. She also assumed a consulting role and assisted regional psychologists in clinically assessing challenging cases and provided recommendations based on education and experience. Finally, she mentored and coached Social Work Master’s candidates on ethical decision making and industry best practices. Most recently, Ms. Neeley assumed responsibility for leading the department’s effort to achieve COA accreditation during the summer of 2013. She worked tirelessly to accomplish this through her efforts with 12 Regions and 3 Youth Development Centers (YDCs). The Regional offices were seeking reaccreditation, and with Ms. Neeley’s guidance and support they were successful. The YDCs had never experienced an accreditation process as rigorous and demanding as COA’s and struggled in 2014 to meet the standards. Since 2014, Ms. Neeley has worked to create a cultural change within the YDCs, moving from a correctional model to a therapeutic model that is focused on developing young men to become productive citizens of Tennessee. She has lead two YDCs, Wilder and Gateway to Independence through successful COA site visits.


James Olguin

Executive Director of the Field Enforcement Unit
Commerce & Insurance

James Olguin has over 32 years of diverse public service experience, but began with the state in 2007 as a Licensing Technician. He currently serves as the Executive Director of the Field Enforcement Unit in the Regulatory Boards Division at the Tennessee Department of Commerce and Insurance. In this role, he oversees a team of 17 staff members who are tasked with enforcing applicable laws, rules, and regulations in an effort to protect the public. Over the last two years James has developed and led efforts in centralizing our enforcement process for the Regulatory Boards Division. Before this centralization effort occurred, each of our licensing agencies employed their own inspection staff. Through the centralization effort, the department has reduced the number of employees necessary to complete the division's inspections while also improving the quality and consistency of the inspection, facilitating greater oversight of work outcomes. Over the last year, James has also organized a Scrap Metal initiative to educate industry professionals on inspection requirement changes. Prior to moving to Tennessee, James graduated from the College of the Desert and served the Riverside County Sheriff’s Department, the Riverside County Health Department and the Riverside County General Hospital. James is a native of central California but has chosen Nashville as his home, where he currently resides with his wife Judy.


Joyce Carmichael

Director of Records Management

Joyce Carmichael is leading cultural change within the Department of Correction in her role as the Director of Records Management. Her priority has been to push the department to shift from a manual, paper-driven organization to one that is digital and streamlined. She took on the Lois M. DeBerry Special Needs Facility and Tennessee State Prison records management projects. For several years, paper-driven processes had hampered the effectiveness of facility records management, but in just under three months, Joyce and her team eliminated several pallets and trailers of files. The completion of this first project facilitated the implementation of two new initiatives, the Transportation Hub project and the Charles Bass Correctional Complex. Joyce has been instrumental in spearheading the purchase of the appropriate technology to facilitate more efficient archive research by cutting employee time spent on records searches. In addition, she is working on a project in conjunction with the department’s communication division to redefine records work-flow within central office to realize maximum efficiency and cost savings. Joyce Carmichael started her career with the state in 1995 as the Director of Benefit Operations for Employment Security. When the Department of Labor and Workforce Development was created, Joyce took on the responsibility of heading up the marketing program, becoming its first Director. She was instrumental in helping to develop workforce investment areas and laid the foundation to promote the agency's services to employers across the state.


Rebecca Hargrove Smith

Regional Director for the Upper Cumberland
Economic and Community Development

Rebecca Hargrove Smith joined the Department of Economic and Community Development in June 2011 as the regional director for the Upper Cumberland.  As regional director, Smith works with companies who are seeking state assistance with expansion or with accessing state services. Rebecca continuously strives to provide helpful, timely and competent service in order to deliver the best product to our customers. Rebecca represents her stakeholders and her clients well when explaining a project, and comes to the table with all of the necessary information. She is diligent in being prepared for meetings by acquiring the necessary information prior to submitting applications to ensure she understands every aspect and can answer all questions that might be presented. For example, Rebecca submitted a project to the pre-grant team in order to get the project on the Grant Committee agenda, but identified that the company’s starting wage was lower than the county’s median average wage. Rebecca sat down with the HR Director of the company to get a better understanding of the company’s compensation increase pattern and was able to relay that pattern adequately to the Grant Committee. Also in the department, Smith conducted asset-based strategic planning addressing community development needs in 14 counties. Prior to her work at with the state, she held senior roles in government affairs and campaign management. Smith is active with Susan G. Komen for the Cure. She is a graduate of the University of Tennessee at Knoxville, the Nashville School of Law and is a member of the Tennessee Bar.


Kathi Rowe

Director of IDEA Fiscal Management

Kathi Rowe is the Director of IDEA Fiscal Management in the Department of Education. Kathi works with the Special Education funding and is very focused on providing outstanding work to make sure that Special Education students receive the education they deserve with the resources provided across the state. Additionally, she provides direct technical assistance to school districts on a daily basis. Kathi is known for her positive attitude and can-do outlook. As a supervisor, she takes a personal interest in the wellbeing of her employees and invests time and energy in teaching them new skills to help them grow professionally. She is a patient teacher. Kathi has been with the state for over 37 years, and is known for her positive attitude. "I know that I can always go to Kathi for anything – professionally or personally," is a sentiment felt by many of Kathi's co-workers.


Tisha Calabrese-Benton

Director of Water Resources
Environment & Conservation

Tisha Calabrese-Benton was appointed Director of the Department of Environment and Conservation’s Division of Water Resources in July 2014. With over ten years of experience at TDEC, Tisha has become known as a leader who excels at building teams, asking the right questions and supporting the critical work of the department. Calabrese-Benton took over leadership of the Division of Water Resources shortly after it was combined from three historical divisions including Water Pollution Control, Drinking Water, and Groundwater. As a singular division, there were multiple challenges of fiscal deficiency, lack of consistent and efficient processes and strained relationships with external stakeholders and customers. Calabrese-Benton’s leadership, focus on the customer and belief in the process of teamwork have propelled the Division of Water Resources to fiscal solvency, improved relationships with external stakeholders, focus on internal resources such as technical training and career opportunities and an overall sense of teamwork in the division. In her time with the department, Tisha has worked on such critical issues as the Kingston ash spill and recovery, and the floods of 2010. She is a graduate of the Lead Tennessee leadership program.


Renee Boles

Manager of Retirement and Billing
Finance & Administration

Renee Boles has worked for the State of Tennessee for 11 years and currently serves as the Manager of Retirement and Billing for the Benefits Administration division of Finance and Administration. Each year, F&A conducts a Customer Satisfaction Survey among its key customers, Agency Benefits Coordinators (ABCs). We learned from our survey two years ago that the Benefits Administration Service Center’s (BASC) knowledge and consistency were opportunities for improvement. To address this concern, Renee created a “recalibration” approach to train the operations team. One key to success is to “train to 100%, 100% of the time, under 100% of the conditions an employee might face.” The service center management team adopted this approach by training and testing managers first, prior to requiring the service center staff to do so. Developing the test resulted in improvements in training materials based on the feedback received. As of April the entire operations service center workforce has been “recalibrated” with each member of the team attaining a passing score of 100 in 2016. The most recent customer satisfaction survey of our ABCs showed that our customers rated their overall satisfaction with our Service Center at 94%. Boles is a 2014 graduate of LEAD TN, a member of TGL Toastmasters and a member of the Black Belt Program. She is also in her second year as a mentor of the tnAchieves program. She has a Bachelor of Science degree in Health Care Administration from Western Kentucky University.


Ramesh Prajapati

Software Developer
Financial Institutions

Ramesh Prajapati came back to the state in September 2014 as a Software Developer for the Department of Financial Institutions. As the pilot department for the implementation of Alternative Workplace Solutions (AWS), our IT section attempted to utilize Outlook as a work station reservation system for employees without assigned offices on days when they were in the office. This system was not user friendly, and was so limited that it resulted in workstations being double-booked and created anxiety and frustration among employees. Ramesh Prajapati took it upon himself to develop an in-house reservation system that is user friendly, tracks all of an employee’s reservations, shows resources available for partial and full days and even shows the office floor plan to more comprehensively assist in scheduling the appropriate workstation. The implementation of Mr. Prajapati’s reservation system has been met with overwhelming positive feedback from all employees who work at home or who are mobile workers and have to come to the Nashville office for meetings or other work responsibilities. This software solution is one that other departments may also find beneficial as they transition towards more alternative work spaces. Prajapati is a graduate of Kathmandu University and holds a Bachelor’s degree in Computer Engineering and received his Master’s in Information Systems from Texas A&M International University. He is a website development expert and advanced troubleshooter in .net technology. Ramesh Prajapati and his wife Laxmi reside in Antioch.


Henry Deaderick

Mail Processing Manager
General Services

Henry Deaderick began his career in Postal Services in April 2002 as a Mail Clerk, and was recently promoted to Mail Processing Manager in March 2016. Since coming on board with Postal Services, Henry has always gone above and beyond for the Department, Division and its customers. Whenever and wherever he has delivered mail or had contact with a customer, Henry's interactions have always been professional and courteous. He goes out of his way to make sure the customer's needs are met and that they understand completely the department’s processes and best practices to assist them with their daily mail needs. Henry holds a Bachelor's Degree in Business Administration from TSU. He is married and has two sons: Jordan, age 23, and Jason, age 13. Henry came to us from Service Merchandise where he worked in the Mailroom and Catalog section, but gained his customer service expertise working at the Maxwell House Hotel in the hospitality industry. Henry has become a trusted and valuable member of the Postal Management Team. When asked what he enjoys the most about his job he said, "The challenge of the mail. It is always new and I enjoy learning more about it each day."


Joey Smith

County Director

Joey Smith, County Director for the Montgomery County Health Department, has spent the past three years partnering with Austin Peay State University in writing and submitting a Koman Grant to secure funds for mammograms for individuals throughout Montgomery County. This partnership has resulted in $182,768 being secured through this grant over the last three years. This additional funding has increased Montgomery County’s ability to provide eligible high-risk individuals the ability to access screening mammograms for the detection of breast cancer. Joey began his Public Health Career in 2000 as an Environmental Specialist. In 2009, he was promoted to the County Director of Dickson and Humphreys County Health Departments and moved into the position of County Director in Montgomery County in May 2012. Joey received his Bachelor's Degree in Environmental Geography from Austin Peay State University in 1998. He has taken graduate classes in Healthcare Administration at Austin Peay State University and is a veteran of the United States Navy.


Ben Thomas

Health Care Finance and Administration

Ben Thomas is an attorney with TennCare’s Office of General Counsel, where he serves a critical role in streamlining the Estate Recovery Program. Thomas has facilitated innovations that are having an enormous financial impact on HCFA. For example, during the calendar years of 2015, 2014, and 2013, respectively, the program brought in $12.6 million, $12.8 million, and $12.3 million. Under Ben’s leadership, in just the first quarter of calendar year 2016 (and accounting for only two months of effort in this quarter – February and March), HCFA has already brought in $7.79 million through its Estate Recovery program. To put this result in the proper perspective, if 2016’s first quarter results are annualized, HCFA will realize $31 million, which almost totals the sums recovered in the previous three years combined. The procedure Ben developed regarding Estate Recovery has also been transformed, which has led to a shift in public perception about how responsive and customer-friendly this program has become in such a short time period. Before joining the Office of General Counsel, Ben served as a litigation attorney, and later as an administrative judge, with TennCare’s appeal division. Prior to joining TennCare, Ben was a bankruptcy attorney in private practice. A Vicksburg, Mississippi native, Ben graduated from the University Of Mississippi School Of Business, cum laude, with a degree in Business Management. Ben is an honor graduate of the University Of Mississippi School Of Law where he received several academic awards and was a member of Phi Kappa Phi. Ben and his wife, Cathy, live in Sylvan Park, with their dog, Willard.


David Adams

Procurement Officer
Human Resources

David Adams is the department’s sole procurement officer. In this role, he has implemented an improved operational process by consolidating standard office supplies. He created a customer friendly request form and modified the request process, which he communicated to his customers through a lunch and learn. Prior to this improvement, these supplies would take 2 to 3 weeks to acquire. With this improved process, supplies can be garnered in 24-hours, reducing wait times by 3 weeks. By provisioning DOHR employees more efficiently, they are enabled to provide better service to external customers. David has been with the Department of Human Resources since 2006, and graduated from the inaugural class of the Next Level Leadership Academy. He has gone on to graduate from LEAD TN as well as holds a position on the TGL Council. Prior to DOHR, David served in the Armed Forces. He currently resides in Clarksville, with his wife and two daughters.


Maelena Holmes

Assistant General Counsel
Human Services

Maelena Holmes is an Assistant General Counsel with the department and works tirelessly to assure clients are protected and that those who abuse them are held responsible. In a recent case, a client was beaten severely by her adult son and, as a result, passed away after the completion of the Adult Protective Services case and her placement in the hospital. When Holmes learned the hospital indicated an inaccurate cause of death related to a disease and the family was moving to cremate the body, she contacted the Medical Examiner's Office and provided additional facts related to the case. As a result of the supplemental information, an autopsy was completed, and the cause of death amended. This change resulted in the son being prosecuted for his mother's murder. Holmes has previously served the state as an Assistant General Counsel with the Department of Children's Services. She lives in Mt. Juliet, TN with her husband.


Matthew Parriott

Public Information Officer
Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities

Matthew Parriott serves as the department’s Public Information Officer, responsible for all department social media activities as well as video production efforts to promote the department’s vision and mission. Parriott has created dozens of videos that have improved the department's image to external customers. He was also in charge of creating social media sites for the department to expand its reach. Parriott joined the state after working at WSMV-TV in Nashville where he was a newscast producer. He studied at Middle Tennessee State University where he graduated with degrees in both Electronic Media Communication and Political Science. Parriott has also produced award-winning newscasts in Huntsville, Birmingham, and at Channel 4 in Nashville. Matthew was born and raised in Nashville, and continues to live in Music City with his wife, Lindsay.


Camille Frech

Program Specialist
Labor and Workforce Development

Camille serves as a Program Specialist 4 for the Department of Labor and Workforce Development. She led the department as a Lead Business Analyst in the massive undertaking of replacing a 45-year-old unemployment insurance computer system. She organized the project, with the entire Unemployment Insurance division, as well as several dozen employees in human resources, communications, finance, and information technology. It was her orchestration of all these moving parts, combined with her leadership skills and coordinated work with the vendor that made this project, a reality, as well as on time and on budget. The completion of this 24 month computer system overhaul has put exciting new tools into the hands of the department’s employees and the customers we serve. Previously, Camille worked in accounting for Porter Cable & Tool Company, and eventually relocated to Nashville with her husband and worked to obtain an Associate Degree in Accounting from Volunteer State Community College. She and her husband, Darren, live in Springfield. They have an adult son who lives in West Tennessee and they love to ride motorcycles and travel.


Dr. Kevin Turner

Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services

Dr. Kevin Turner is a Physician-Psychiatrist with the department serving at the Western Mental Health Institute where he has been a consistent leader and role model for the hospital and in the community throughout the course of his state service. One of the most important primary characteristics of his personality that consistently stands out has been his willingness to assume any assignment given to him without question or regard to his own personal preferences or interest, and prioritizes the needs of the hospital and its patients. Many of these assignments were based on staffing shortages or due to managing more difficult to treat cases when others were reluctant to take on the challenge. He has built a strong working relationship with other treating professionals both in the hospital and within the community that focuses on quality treatment outcomes, teamwork, and recovery. This philosophy of care results in patients being returned to their families in the community to a less restrictive environment that makes beds available in the state system for those who are more in acute distress. Dr. Turner is a Board Certified Psychiatrist, who received his board certification in general Psychiatry in September 2004. He graduated from Southern Illinois University School of Medicine with a medical degree in 1980 and completed his residency at the University of Southern California Medical Center in 1987. Dr. Turner came to work at Western Mental Health Institute in May 1996 as a staff physician-psychiatrist. He served as Clinical Director and acting Clinical Director from 1997-2004. He has almost 19 years of State service and 30 years of combined work experience.


Rob Pennington

Web Developer

Rob Pennington has worked with the Tennessee Military Department as a web developer since 2013. In addition to his full-time responsibilities, he serves as a board member on the state's Customer Focused Government Web Group where he develops, maintains, and enhances both the and sites. Pennington puts in countless hours reviewing software, other state agency sites and other National Guard sites throughout the nation. His work is often the first impression of the department seen by the public, and is passionate about how the department is perceived by the public. Prior to his tenure with the state, Rob was the senior print and web graphic designer with AT&T, where he received several awards for service excellence. Pennington graduated from Nossi College of Art with an Associate of Arts in 1998, and has received various awards including first place in The Volunteer State Guard on-line magazine for the Air National Guard Media Contest digital publication in 2015, and placed second in the National Air Force competition. In 2016, the magazine won second place in the Army National Guard Media Contest for digital publication. He has also received an award from the 2015 ADOBE Creativity in the Public Sector competition.


Jaime Espinosa-Bowen

Statistical Research Specialist

Jaime Espinosa-Bowen is a statistical research specialist for the department, and is responsible for tracking revenue collection on a daily basis. This information is distributed to the Department of Revenue’s executive leadership, the Commissioner of Finance and Administration and the Budget Office, and Dr. Fox at the University of Tennessee. On his own initiative, he has made many improvements to the process after he assumed responsibility for it. These improvements include automating the process and implementing procedures for identifying and tracking non-recurring items. Prior to joining Revenue in 2014, Jaime worked as a research analyst for the International Monetary Fund where he maintained the main economic database for the Middle East and Central Asia Department, and contributed to the preparation of economic research papers on a wide range of topics; from trade and financial linkages between Europe and the Middle East to the impact of remittances from Russia to Central Asian countries. Jaime has a B.S. in economics from Lamar University in Beaumont, TX. Prior to moving to Nashville, he was enrolled in the M.A. in Economics program at Johns Hopkins University and worked as a financial analyst for a financial services company in Houston, TX. Jaime lives in Nashville with his two sons. He enjoys playing soccer and going on camping trips with his sons.


Michael Hogan

Director of the Driver License Issuance Section
Safety & Homeland Security

Michael Hogan is the Director of the Driver License Issuance Section for the Tennessee Department of Safety & Homeland Security. He is responsible for overseeing a statewide staff of 394 employees, 44 Driver Service Centers and 39 county and municipal partners. Under Hogan's leadership, the Driver Services Section has broadened services and instituted a number of customer service improvements such as credit card payments, expanded online services, increased organ and tissue donation registration, the implementation of the Self Service Kiosk at 39 locations across the state, and the realization and deployment of a new state-of-the-art Driver License System, A-List. Under his leadership, the average wait time for customers at Driver Service Centers has dropped from 35 minutes in 2011 to under 20 minutes. Prior to his appointment as Director of Driver License Issuance, he served as Director of the department's Office of Strategic Planning from 2004-2008. Hogan is a native of Nashville and a Marine Corps veteran. He earned his degree in Business Administration from Middle Tennessee State University.


Michael Ross

Regional Manager
Tourist Development

Michael Ross is a regional manager of four welcome centers in Middle Tennessee, and is a five-year employee of the Department of Tourist Development. His responsibilities include coordinating the efforts of the four centers and their team members, to serve as front-line ambassadors to welcome guests to the State of Tennessee. From picking up trash to helping provide information to some of the more than 13 million guests a year in the state's welcome centers, his commitment to the job, the state and his team members is unquestioned. In just two years, Mr. Ross exemplified work effort and enthusiasm to be promoted from manager of one center to management oversight of four. He commuted from Cookeville to Clarksville because of his passion for the job. He completed the Tennessee Government Management Institute program and asked for the opportunity to help train other employees and completed the Fundamentals of Facilitation training. His dedication as a leader is crucial in helping keep Tennessee's Welcome Centers as some of the best in the country. Mr. Ross lives with his family in Cookeville.


Larry McGoogin

Assistant Director of Comprehensive Planning

Larry McGoogin is the Assistant Director of Comprehensive Planning within the department’s Long Range Planning Division. Previously, he worked in various capacities within the department, first starting his public service career helping local governments comply with regulations to ensure their projects are completed in a timely manner. He also served in the then-newly formed Office of Community Transportation to help develop the 25 year long range transportation plan. After receiving another promotion and transitioning as an assistant director, he has gone above and beyond by maintaining his regular planning work while helping build a new Comprehensive Planning team. In addition to his daily administrative responsibilities, Larry played an active role in the governor's transportation tour and remained the point of contact for the Office of Community Transportation. His work with the Book-A-Planner presentation series, a public outreach initiative created by the 25 Year Long Range Transportation Plan, exceeded leadership and customer expectations by explaining decisions we have to make on transportation in the State of Tennessee. McGoogin is a graduate of Iowa State University with a Bachelor of Science in Community and Regional Planning. He obtained a Master of Community Planning from the University of Cincinnati in 2001. Prior to joining the department in 2010, Larry worked for 7 years as a Transportation Planner for Parsons Brinckerhoff in Cincinnati, Nashville, and Baltimore.