Williams lone UC rep on new TN task force to promote rural development

Rep. Ryan Williams.
Rep. Ryan Williams.

UPPER CUMBERLAND – A new task force has been created in Tennessee in an effort to advance economic development in rural areas, including the Upper Cumberland.

Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam and Economic and Community Development Commissioner Randy Boyd this week announced the creation of a 20-member Rural Development Task Force. It’s largely comprised of heads of various state agencies; ultimately, the task force will implement programming that addresses key issues impacting rural life.

Rep. Ryan Williams (R-Cookeville) has been assigned to the group and is the only representative based in the Upper Cumberland. The task force is scheduled to meet for the first time next month.

Red Boiling Springs in Macon County.
Red Boiling Springs in Macon County.

The Rural Development Task Force will develop and adopt an initial three to four year strategic plan that will include a comprehensive vision for rural development. In order to this, the task force will convene issues forums, identify and engage stakeholder groups and look to the successful ThreeStar program as a way to identify gaps, challenges and opportunities.

Boyd said his department is “doubling down” on rural development efforts. The task force brings together all key departments in state government along with legislative leaders and public and private partners.

“Tennessee is experiencing tremendous economic momentum, but unfortunately our success is not shared in many of our rural communities,” he added in a release. “Many are still suffering and our state can only be great if all communities share in the success. It’s not just about recruiting a new business. It is about increasing educational attainment, supporting rural entrepreneurship, creating and promoting tourism, and of course, agri-business. Also, rural broadband is critical. The challenge is great, but so are the combined resources of this team. Together, we can make a major impact.”

Other members of the Rural Development Task Force include:

  • Will Cromer, governor’s office, special assistant for strategy and policy director
  • Dolores Gresham, state Senator, Somerville
  • Julius Johnson, commissioner, Department of Agriculture (co-chair)
  • Kevin Triplett, commissioner, Department of Tourist Development (co-chair)
  • Randy Boyd, commissioner, Department of Economic & Community Development (co-chair)
  • Amy New, assistant commissioner, rural development, Department of Economic & Community Development
  • Toks Omishakin, deputy commissioner, Department of Transportation
  • Dr. Shari Meghreblian, deputy commissioner, Department of Environment & Conservation
  • Burns Phillips, commissioner, Department of Labor & Workforce Development:
  • Jayme Place, chief of staff, Department of Education
  • John Dreyzehner, commissioner, Department of Health
  • Greg Gonzales, commissioner, Department of Financial Institutions
  • Bobby Goode, state director, USDA Rural Development
  • John Bradley, senior vice president of economic development, TVA
  • Brooxie Carlton, TNECD Community Programs director, federal grant programs
  • Dr. Herb Byrd, interim vice president, University of Tennessee Public Service
  • Lacy Upchurch, president, Farm Bureau
  • Tim Cross, dean, University of Tennessee Ag Extension
  • Beth Jones, chair, Tennessee Development District Association


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