NASHVILLE — Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam on Monday announced Danielle Whitworth Barnes as the new commissioner of the Tennessee Department of Human Services effective Feb. 6.
Barnes, 41, replaces Commissioner Raquel Hatter, who announced last month she is leaving after a sometimes-rocky tenure at the agency.
Barnes is now deputy commissioner and general counsel for the Tennessee Department of Human Resources. She began her state government career at the Human Services Department in 2004.
In the Haslam administration's view, one of Barnes' "greatest accomplishments has been co-authoring and implementing the 2012 Tennessee Excellence, Accountability and Management Act, an overhaul of the state's civil service employment practices.
"Danielle has been instrumental in creating one of our administration's top initiatives, helping transform how we effectively manage, retain and recruit state employees. She is a smart and thoughtful leader, and I am thrilled she is returning to the Department of Human Services to continue a generational, empowering approach to serving some of our most vulnerable citizens and reducing dependency," Haslam said in a news release.
Critics say the overhaul ended many protections for state workers.
Barnes joined the Human Resources Department as assistant general counsel, director of the Equal Employment Opportunities Division and legislative director.
She previously served as the legislative coordinator and assistant general counsel for DHS and worked for a private law firm in Nashville and Memphis.
"It is a tremendous honor to serve the department and the citizens of Tennessee. I am grateful to Governor Haslam for the opportunity to return to the agency which solidified my passion for public service and that continues to provide so many essential services to many Tennesseans," Barnes said.
Barnes earned an undergraduate degree from Spelman College and a law degree from the University of Tennessee College of Law. She holds several professional human resource certifications and is a graduate of Tennessee Government Executive Institute, LEAD Tennessee, Leadership Nashville and Tennessee Bar Association Leadership Law.
This story was updated Jan. 23 at 11:30 p.m.