Contributed photo / Hodgen Mainda

Hodgen Mainda describes his personal journey as "a true American story."

Born and raised in Nairobi, Kenya, he came to the United States for an education and has stayed for the past 22 years.

Earlier this year, the Chattanoogan was named by Gov. Bill Lee as the state's commissioner of commerce and insurance.

"Everything I've done, my goal is how do I make the world a better place," says Mainda. "I want to make a difference."

When he came to the U.S., Mainda had earned a rugby scholarship at Middle Tennessee State University. After college, he worked in Nashville, then came to Chattanooga more than a decade ago, he says.

Mainda, 42, says he managed a law firm in the Scenic City and later joined the private equity and venture capital firm Noon Management and John Foy, where he oversaw a portfolio of investments.

In 2017, he moved to EPB as vice president of community development. There he oversaw governmental relations, economic development and community engagement.

Mainda says he met Gov. Lee and "he saw something in me. We struck up a friendship." Mainda helped a little on Lee's transition team, and this summer was named to his current post where he's the only Chattanoogan in the governor's cabinet.

"It's a true honor," the commissioner says. "I'm really humbled."

Mainda, married with two children, says his aim in his new post is to protect consumers and provide a regulatory environment where businesses can thrive.

Within his department, there are about 900 full-time employees, and he wants to try to meet each one, he says.

"As a leader, my style is empowering my staff," Mainda says. "They need to know who their leader is in order to buy into my vision." He says his leadership style is built around purpose, people and processes.

At the same time, he says, he sees himself as "Chattanooga's ambassador" outside of the job where he can connect people to the various departments within state government.

Hodgen Mainda

* Job: Commissioner of the Tennessee Department of Commerce and Insurance

* Influence: The only Chattanoogan in Gov. Bill Lee’s cabinet, Mainda has worked in community development, government relations and investment portfolio management.

* Just for fun: He likes to spend time with his family, play golf and work out.