Tennessee Human Services commissioner resigns

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Tennessee Commissioner of Human Services Danielle Barnes announced Tuesday she will leave state government next month after 16 years of public service.

Barnes has led the state’s second-largest agency since Gov. Bill Haslam appointed her to the post in 2017. She was reappointed by Gov. Bill Lee two years later. Before her service as commissioner, Barnes served as assistant general counsel and legislative coordinator at the department.

“It’s been a true honor and a blessing to serve in a position that allows me to help people each and every day,” Barnes said. “I could not be more proud of the work our employees have done over these last three years revolutionizing the customer experience for those who seek out our services and helping build a thriving Tennessee.”

Barnes’ departure comes at the close of a challenging year. In March, the department’s Davidson County office was destroyed when a tornado ripped through Nashville. When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, the department facilitated the Pandemic Electronic Benefit Transfer program to provide financial benefits to replace school meals missed because of school closures. The department also facilitated emergency cash assistance and programs to provide child care to essential workers in Tennessee.

“Commissioner Barnes has been a trusted public servant and valuable member of our administration,” Lee said. “She will be missed, and I wish her the best in her return to the private sector.”

The Tennessee Department of Human Services facilitates the state’s SNAP food stamps program, child care services, vocational rehabilitation and child support. During her tenure as commissioner, Barnes oversaw a budget of $3 billion and more than 4,000 employees.

Lee has not yet announced a replacement to lead the department.

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