As Commissioner of the Tennessee Department of Tourist Development (TDTD), Mark Ezell is responsible for the growth strategy and overall branding of the state’s global tourism footprint. He is responsible for building national campaigns that reinforce Tennessee as a world-class destination while building better opportunities for citizens through revenue and job creation.
Tourism is the state’s No. 2 industry, and in 2019 the state hit a record-high $23 billion in domestic and international travel spending. The industry was on track for another record-breaking year in 2020, before COVID-19 halted a decade of consecutive growth. In April 2020, Governor Lee appointed Ezell as the Director of the Economic Recovery Group (ERG) to reboot the state’s economy as nearly half a million Tennesseans experienced job loss. Ezell oversaw leaders from a diverse cross-section of public and private sectors to restore economic growth throughout Tennessee.
Since joining TDTD in January 2019, Ezell’s work includes such groundbreaking campaigns as “Kid Reviewed,” which used wearable technology to scientifically prove kids have more fun in Tennessee. Building on the success of Ken Burns’ hit PBS documentary “Country Music,” the Department expanded its Tennessee Music Pathways initiative with a new “Country Music Pathway,” encouraging visitors to walk in the footsteps of history as seen in the historic film. Ezell also spearheaded growth of the annual Tennessee Songwriters Week to include events reaching more than 1,000 songwriters across the state. Additionally, he established the department’s new Office of Rural Tourism to better assist rural counties through marketing, grants, education and outreach.
Under Ezell’s leadership, the department has received numerous accolades including a prestigious Gold Cannes Lion, North American Effie, Ad Age A-List and Reggie Awards for “Kid Reviewed;” a Bronze Clio for “For the Love of Tennessee;” and a Yesawich Award for Marketing Excellence, to name a few. Additionally, Ezell was named HospitalityTN’ s Tourism Leader of the Year in 2021.
Prior to joining Tourist Development, Ezell worked his way from entry-level to eventually serve in a range of senior roles at both his family-owned business Purity Dairies, Inc., as well as Dean Foods, a Fortune 500 Company where he focused on brand development and achieved record profitability. He received national recognition for his work on campaigns including the iconic “Milk Mustache – Got Milk?” campaign.
Ezell is a seventh-generation Tennessean, born and raised in Middle Tennessee. He received his bachelor’s degree from Lipscomb University and completed his master’s degree at Tennessee Technological University. Ezell and his wife Martha have four children and five grandchildren and are active members of Ethos Church.