David Purkey

NASHVILLE – Gov. Bill Haslam today announced the appointment of David Purkey as his new commissioner of the Tennessee Department of Safety and Homeland Security.

Purkey takes over from Bill Gibbons, the current commissioner, on Sept. 1.  

"He is well-qualified to lead this department, and he is passionate about serving our state and its citizens," Haslam said in a news release.

Purkey, 57, has served as the department's assistant commissioner and homeland security advisor since 2011. Under his leadership, according to the governor's office, the Office of Homeland Security has transformed into a "proactive agency," overseeing school security plans, training citizens and law enforcement agencies in active shooter response, and leading the state's efforts to combat cybercrime.


From 2014-2016 Purkey served in a dual role as director of the Tennessee Emergency Management Agency..  

"David has more than 35 years of experience in state and local government and emergency management and has been the state's primary homeland security advisor for the past five years," Haslam said.

Haslam said that as TEMA director, Purkey "guided the state's response to devastating storms and their lasting effects as well as our collaborative effort with local and federal law enforcement in the wake of the Chattanooga attack last July."

Purkey said that as a former state trooper he is "humbled" by Haslam's confidence in him.  He noted Gibbons " has set a strong course for our four divisions, and I will keep that momentum going as we continue our work to make Tennessee safer." 

Purkey is a native of Hamblen County with more than 35 years of experience in state and local government and emergency management, including service as a 9-1-1 dispatcher, emergency management director in Morristown, state trooper in the Nashville and Fall Branch districts, Tennessee Bureau of Investigation (TBI) special agent in Chattanooga, and mayor of Hamblen County for four terms.

He served in the Tennessee Army National Guard and United States Army Reserves for eight years, and he has been a licensed emergency medical technician for the past 35 years.

Purkey earned his bachelor's degree in public health from East Tennessee State University and master's degree in public health from the University of Tennessee.

He and his wife, Pam, an employee of the Tennessee Department of Health, have been married for 20 years. They live in Morristown.

Gibbons announced this spring that he will leave Aug. 31 to become president of the Memphis Shelby County Crime Commission and director of the new Public Safety Institute at the University of Memphis.