About the Council

Our Vision

Economic equality, literacy, impact, opportunity and stability for every woman in Tennessee.

Our Mission

The Tennessee Economic Council on Women is an economic advocate for women.

Its purpose is to assess the economic status of women in Tennessee in order to develop and advocate for solutions that will address their economic needs and promote economic autonomy. The Council's areas of study include, but are not limited to: employment policies and practices, educational needs and opportunities, child care, property rights, health care, domestic relations, and the effect of federal and state laws on women.


The Economic Council on Women is a state agency created under TCA § 4-50-101, et seq. by the One Hundredth General Assembly in 1998 to address the economic needs of Tennessee women. The Economic Council on Women is attached administratively to the Office of the Secretary of State. Following the legislation in 1998, 21 members of the Council were appointed by the Governor, the Speakers of the House and Senate, the Tennessee Black Legislative Caucus and the Tennessee Women’s Legislative Caucus. Members of the Council represent each of the nine Development Districts of the State, the State’s university system, the Governor’s Cabinet, women’s organizations, the Black Caucus and the Women’s Caucus, along with other members from the Senate and the House. The Council first met in June 1999.

Biennial Reports

The Council is charged by its originatin legislation to submit biennial reports reviewing its activities of the previous 24 months. These publications provide overviews of the Council’s achievements while placing initiatives within the context of the Council’s purpose and direction, and constructing a vision of economic improvement for the women of Tennessee. Biennial reports summarize research findings and record the impact of conferences and other Council initiatives.

The following publications present an excellent introduction to the Economic Council: 2014, 2012, 2010, 2008, 2006, 2004, 2002.

Council Meetings

The Council's quarterly meetings are public and meeting minutes are public record. To find scheduling information for quarterly meetings, contact the Council or suscribe to our monthly newsletter; to access meeting minutes, contact the Council directly.

Tennessee Women's Hall of Fame


The Tennessee Women's Hall of Fame recognizes and honors women who have made outstanding, unique and lasting contributions to the economic, civic, and cultural well-being of Tennessee. Its inductees have individually elevated the status of women and championed other women, women's issues, and served as advocates for issues important to women and families.

Learn more about the Hall of Fame and its extraordinary inductees here.

Women's Economic Council Foundation


The Women's Economic Council Foundation is a non-profit organization formed to assist the Tennessee Economic Council on Women in studying the economic needs of women in Tennessee and in developing constructive, cost-effective programs of service and education to meet those needs. Prominent among the Foundation's many efforts are the annual Tennessee Economic Summit for Women, college scholarships offered each year to traditional and non-traditional college students, the Excellence, Equality and Equity "E" Awards, and support of the Tennessee Women's Hall of Fame. More information about the Foundation and it's work can be found at www.womenseconomicfoundation.org.

Council Officers

Dr. Dena Wise

Professor, Extension Specialist
University of Tennessee, Knoxville
(615) 253-4266 | info.ecw@tn.gov



Representative Karen Camper
State Representative
87th House District, Memphis











Immediate Past Chair

Dr. Carol Danehower
Assoc. Professor University
of Memphis

West TN Rep
Rep. Dawn White
37th Tennessee
House District
Middle TN Rep
Sen. Becky Massey
6th Tennessee
Senate District

East TN Rep
Dr. Janet F.

Columbia State
Community College

Armour Walker

President/Owner Tennessee Pewter Company


Council Members







Leslee Alexander
TNTrade Director
Department of Economic and Community Development


Administrator of Elections
Campbell County

Dr. Mimi Barnard
Assistant Provost
Belmont University

Andrea Burckhard
New York Life

Maleia Evans
TN Small Business
Development Center
Dyersburg State Community College

Many-Bears Grinder
Tennessee Department of Veterans Services






Veronica Johnson
Dir. of Programs & Operations
Ctr. for Women's Health Research
Meharry Medical College
Rep. Sherry Jones
59th Tennessee
House District

Ruby Miller
Oak Ridge
State Farm
Robin Smith
Partner & Certified Project Manager Smith Waterhouse
Rep. Johnnie Turner
85th Tennessee
House District



Memphis Area Assocation of Governments



First Tennessee Development District



State Senate B



Council Staff






Dr. Phyllis

Executive Director
(615) 253-4266

Senior Research Manager

Adminstrative Assistant

AmeriCorps VISTA




Executive Committee Officers

denawise_sDr. Dena Wise, Chair, is a Professor and Extension Specialist with the University of Tennessee focusing on Family Economics. She works with county extension agents and partners across the state to reach more than 3 million Tennesseans each year with information about money management, consumer education and fraud prevention. Dr. Wise is state coordinator of Tennessee Saves and gives statewide leadership to Extension's bankruptcy educator program and support to homebuyer education. She is principle author and project coordinator of On My Own, a financial education simulation conducted with 20,000 junior high and high school youth across Tennessee each year and coordinates a multi-state project funded by the FINRA Foundation to reach young adults with financial and investor education. Dr. Wise represents East Tennessee on the Executive Committee. dkwise@utk.edu

karencamper_sRepresentative Karen Camper, Vice Chair, has been a member of the 105th through 107th General Assemblies representing the 87th Representative District in Shelby County. Camper is retired from the U.S. Army and owner of Key II Entertainment. In the General Assembly, Camper is a member of the House Judiciary Committee, House Children and Family Committee, and the House Government Operations Committee. She is also a member of the Shelby County Delegation, the Women's Legislative Caucus, and the Tennessee Legislative Black Caucus. In the community Camper serves on the International Business Council Advisory Board and as a substitute teacher in the Memphis City Schools. Camper is Executive Director of The Humble Hearts Foundation, Inc. She is Chairperson/CEO of Joint Services Black Heritage Committee and is a Charter Member of Women in Military Service for America. She serves as Treasurer of the Order of the Eastern Star and of the Harambee Social Club. Camper is a member of the NAACP, serves on the Maryland Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Awards Dinner Committee and is a Lifetime Member of Black in Government. She represents the Women's Legislative Caucus on the Economic Council.

caroldanehower_sDr. Carol Danehower, West Tennessee Representative, of Memphis, is Associate Professor of Management in the Fogelman College of Business and Economics at The University of Memphis. She received her doctorate in Management from the University of Kentucky and MA in Economics from the University of Arkansas. Dr. Danehower teaches both online and on campus and conducts research on women in business as well as on the impact of domestic violence in the workplace. She is also an active member of SHRM-Memphis. She represents the Tennessee Board of Regents on the Council. vdanehwr@memphis.edu

dawnwhite_sRepresentative Dawn White, Middle Tennessee Representative, represents the 37th District (part of Rutherford County) in the Tennessee House of Representatives. Rep. White is a member of the House Business & Utilities Committee and of the House Education Committee and Subcommittee. Growing up in Eagleville, Dawn learned the importance of faith, family, and giving back to her community. Dawn attended Rutherford County Schools and is a proud graduate of Middle Tennessee State University, where she earned her Bachelor of Science in Early Childhood Education, Master of Education in Curriculum and Instruction, and Education Specialist in Administration and Supervision degrees.
Dawn's love of community service led her to become involved with organizations whose work addresses some of our community's greatest needs. Recognizing that the government cannot solve all of society's problems, she has spent years volunteering with organizations across Rutherford County in an effort to improve the lives of people in our community. In 2005, Dawn felt the call of entrepreneurship. She became an owner of TheVacuumCenter.com and eventually started TheSewingCenter.com, which are online retailers of vacuum cleaners, sewing machines, and related parts and supplies. Through hard work, Dawn tripled the size of her business and has provided both full-time and part-time jobs for numerous people in Rutherford County. Her office and warehouse space are located in Smyrna, TN.

beckymassey_sSen. Becky Massey, East Tennessee Representative, of Knoxville, was born on January 2, 1955.  She received a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration from the University of Tennessee at Knoxville in 1977. She is a member of Alpha Omicron Pi, a women's fraternity.

In November 2011, she was elected to the sixth district in the Tennessee Senate, after Republican Senator Jamie Woodson resigned. She serves as Executive Director of the Sertoma Center to treat patients with mental disorders in Knoxville. She is a former board member of Big Brothers Big Sisters.  She also served as an Adjunct Professor at Walters State Community College, where she taught a Money and Banking course.  She attends a Presbyterian church.

She is married to Morton Massey, a software developer, and they have two daughters, Courtney and Kristen. Her father was John Duncan, Sr., Mayor of Knoxville from 1954 to 1964, and a U.S. Representative for Tennessee's 2nd congressional district from 1965 to 1988.  Her brother is Jimmy Duncan, who took up their father's district at the federal level.

janetsmill_sDr. Janet F. Smith, Treasurer, became the fifth president of Columbia State Community College on February 18, 2008. Prior to joining Columbia State, Dr. Smith served in various administrative roles at several institutions of higher education across the country, including her time as President of Rich Mountain Community College in Mena, Arkansas. She has been honored for her leadership in community colleges by the Governor of Arkansas and the Kentucky Legislature. Dr. Smith has a rich history of involvement in her community and profession. She serves on the Workforce Investment Board, Maury Alliance Board of Directors (Executive Committee and Chamber Council Chair 2009-2011), and the Maury Advisory Board to First Farmers Bank, Nashville Symphony Advisory Council and the Family Support Center Board. She was also the founder of the Arkansas Association of Women in Community Colleges and has served as chair of the Community College Association. Dr. Smith is a graduate of Leadership Middle Tennessee and has served on the Williamson County-Franklin Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors. She is Past President of the Tennessee College Association and a member of the national advisory board for the Higher Education Research and Development Institute; she has presented at area and state conferences, clubs, organizations and events.

kathleenwalker_sKathleen Armour Walker, Secretary (non-voting), is President of Tennessee Pewter Company, in Somerville, TN. The company manufactures pewter tableware, giftware and jewelry. She represents the Southwest Tennessee Development District. She has been featured in numerous magazines, newspapers, and on public television sharing the beauty of pewter and introducing a new generation to the joy of entertaining and celebrating the finer things in life. She is a top authority on fine, hand-made pewter and her eye for beauty and detail has earned her rave reviews as she has helped to set some of the finest tables in the South and beyond. Kathleen received her Bachelor of Science degree from Delta State University and a Master of Science in Agriculture from Mississippi State University. She is a graduate of the WestStar Leadership program at University of Tennessee at Martin. Kathleen Armour Walker lives in Brownsville, Tennessee, with her husband, Dan. They are the proud parents of two Golden Pyrenees and a Schnoodle, all of which were rescued.


Council Members

lesleealexander_sLeslee Alexander is the TNTrade Director for the Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development as well as the Principal of LTA Consulting, a certified small, women-owned business in Nashville, Tennessee. Ms. Alexander has more than twenty years’ experience in environmental planning, communications and public participation; and excels at facilitating collaborative relationships at the individual, local and regional levels, between industry, government, and citizenry. She has been involved in strategic planning at many levels: from marketing and communications strategies to rural economic community development, and her experiences include several years of work with the Tennessee Valley Authority, and the Regional and Nashville Metropolitan Transit Authorities. Ms. Alexander has received degrees and certifications from the University of Colorado Boulder, University of Denver, and Duke University in Environmental Studies and Management; and she represents the Greater Nashville Development District.

annayers_sAnn Ayers-Colvin has served as Administrator of Elections for the Campbell County Elections Commission since October 2011. She has previously served as a Deputy Mayor in Campbell County and has extensive experience working in both state and county government. Ann has degrees from the Tennessee Technological Institute, Roane State Community College and the Tennessee Technology Center. She is active in numerous community organizations and has served on the board of directors for the Greater Smokey Mountain Council of The Boy Scouts of America, the Campbell County Chamber of Commerce, and Drug Free Tennessee. She has also served as Chairman for Campbell County Toys for Tots and for the Campbell County Republican Party.

mimibarnard_sDr. Mimi Barnard serves as Assistant Provost for Interdisciplinary Studies and Global Education at Belmont University. In this role, she is responsible for overseeing Belmont's interdisciplinary and adult degree programs; global education and partnerships, including PeaceJam, a collaboration with STARS that brings a Nobel Peace Laureate to campus annually; and international student programming.


andreaburckhard_sAndrea Burckhard serves as the Upper Cumberland Development District Representative to the Economic Council.  Ms. Burckhard has lived in the Upper Cumberland region since 1999, where she has served as Executive Director of the Byrdstown Pickett County Chamber of Commerce (1999-2004); founded and sold Dale Hollow Marketing Group (2001-2011); and grown a successful practice in Cookeville with New York Life Insurance Company (2007 – present).  In these roles, Ms. Burckhard has fostered economic growth and tourism in the region as a whole, as well as helped individual families, professionals, and business owners to achieve financial protection, security, and longevity.  She was instrumental in starting the local “Good Neighbor’s Theatre”, and the “Borderlands” non-profit, and has promoted local tourist destinations like Dale Hollow Lake, Big South Fork, Fall Creek Falls, Center Hill Lake and others, producing more than 250,000 related publications annually through her marketing group.  In 2004, she was nominated to receive the “Rising Star of Tourism Award” by the state Department of Tourism Development, and was the first Tennessee woman to be named “Agent of the Year” by New York Life in 2013.  Burckhard, her husband Terry, and their twin boys Grant and Blake love to hike, travel, kayak, play tennis, and cook dinner as a family.

maleiaevans_sMaleia Evans, Northwest TN Development District. After successful careers in both legal administration and health care administration, Maleia joined the TN Small Business Development Center of Dyersburg State Community College in September 2010 as Director.  She currently serves a six county territory, in which she educates, counsels, and trains business owners from all walks of life, on how to start, grow, and sustain a business. In 2012, Maleia was named the National State Star, representing TN, by the American Association of Small Business Development Centers. 

Having been born and raised in northwest TN, Maleia feels passionate about the need for women to empower women, through spiritual growth, personal growth, and professional growth.  One of the best ways to do that is by giving back to the communities.  Chair of Dyer Co Relay For Life and Team Captain of Walk Across TN are just a couple of roles Maleia currently holds in her community.  As Founder of Second Saturday Success, a non-profit organization whose mission is to educate, inspire, and nurture professional and personal development in women and children of NW TN, Maleia is a national, regional, and local speaker in areas of professional development, workplace motivation, healthcare administration, women’s inspirational topics, and prison ministry/recidivism coaching.  She is an entrepreneur, an educator, and practices what she preaches.  She firmly believes an education is essential to maximize potential, but experience is critical to success.

manybearsgrinder_sCommissioner Many-Bears Grinder has led the Tennessee Departments of Veterans Services since her appointment by Governor Bill Haslam in January 2011. She is the first woman to serve the State of Tennessee in this capacity, and she now represents the Governor's cabinet on the Economic Council. In order to accept the appointment, Grinder retired from the Tennessee Army National Guard as a Colonel with more than 35 years of service. The Operation Enduring Freedom combat veteran served in Afghanistan as the Head of Secretariat for the International Police Coordination Board. She holds a Master's Degree in Strategic Studies from the Army War College and a Master's Degree in Human Resources Development from the University of Tennessee, Knoxville. Commissioner Grinder was inducted into the Fort Benning Hall of Fame in 2004. Her military awards include the Legion of Merit and the Bronze Star Medal. As Commissioner for the Tennessee Department of Veterans Services, she is responsible for the operation of TDVS Field offices, Claims Division and four (4) State Veteran Cemeteries. She is also an ex-officio voting member of the Tennessee State Veterans Home Board (TSVHB). TSVHB oversees the operations of the three (3) existing Homes.

veronicajohnson_sVeronica Marable Johnson is currently employed as the Director of Programs and Operations for the Center for Women's Health Research at Meharry Medical College. Veronica oversees the Center's Fiscal responsibilities, Programs, Fund Development and Community Outreach Initiatives.
After graduating from Austin Peay, she began her professional career with First American National Bank. Veronica rose thru the ranks to Senior Vice President and Corporate Director of Diversity prior to the bank's acquisition. Following a 13 year banking career, Veronica became the first African American female to manage a multi-million dollar sales portfolio in the Middle Tennessee Region for one of the world's largest transportation corporations. Active on various community boards and organizations, including the National Coalition of 100 Black Women – Metro Nashville Chapter President, TN Economic Council on Women, Girl Scouts, Leadership Nashville, CABLE, TN Coalition to End Domestic & Sexual Violence, Hendersonville Links, American Heart Association – Go Red for Women Society, Habitat for Humanity, and Lake Providence Missionary Baptist Church – where she is the Associate Youth Director and Sunday School teacher. Previous community involvement: Immediate Past President of the Urban League Guild and Board of Directors, YWCA, Jr. Chamber, Junior League, Harding Place YMCA and numerous others.

sherryjones_sRep. Sherry Jones, of Nashville, has been a House member of the 99th through 107th General Assemblies. She is the Vice-Chair of the House Children and Family Affairs Committee. Rep. Jones is a member of the Nashville Women’s Political Caucus and Davidson County Democratic Women. She also volunteers for Court Appointed Special Advocates. Prior to her work in the General Assembly, Rep. Jones was a member of the Metro Nashville Council for the 30th District from 1987 to 1995. She has received leadership awards from the Mid-Cumberland Council on Children and Youth, Tennessee Trial Lawyers Association, Tennessee AFL-CIO, Tennessee Citizen Action, Tennessee March of Dimes, and Vanderbilt Law School, among others. She was appointed by the Speaker of the House to serve on the Economic Council. rep.sherry.jones@capitol.tn.gov

rubymiller_sRuby Miller is a native of Spartanburg, South Carolina. She received her bachelor's degree in business education from Livingstone College, Salisbury, NC. Following graduation, she was recruited by Union Carbide Corporation to work at the nuclear facilities in Oak Ridge, Tennessee. Miller held positions of increasing responsibility with Union Carbide and Martin Marietta Energy Systems, including associate director of Public Relations and manager of Small Business and Socioeconomic Programs. In 1990, she resigned from the company to start her own State Farm Insurance Agency which provides insurance products and financial services to individuals and small businesses. She also founded RAM/VITEC, Inc., a specialized business and management support services company, and continues to serve as corporate secretary and majority shareholder. A Board Member Emeritus of the Roane State Community College Foundation, Miller is a founding member of the Committee of 100 Women for Girls Inc. In 2007, Miller was appointed by Governor Phil Bredesen to a five-year term on the Tennessee Human Rights Commission. She was selected by NAIFA-TN as "Agent of the Year" in 2009, and has received numerous other awards and honors.

robinsmith_sRobin Smith, Southwest TN Development District. Robin Smith, partner of SmithWaterhouse Strategies of Chattanooga, works daily with companies, campaigns, and causes to craft effective strategies at the local, state and national levels to compete and to excel. Robin Smith is also founder and head of Rivers Edge Alliance, a firm providing project management and consulting with current clients in the sectors of healthcare, energy and nonprofit. Smith has worked on local, state and national political campaigns, including presidential, gubernatorial, congressional and county elections, for more than 25 years. She graduated from the University of Tennessee at Knoxville with a Bachelo'rs of Science in nursing and is certified in project management through Stanford University. Among her long list of government relations accomplishments, Smith has served as the chairman of the Tennessee Republican party, founded and chaired a statewide council for minority leadership in politics, the Tennessee GOP Development Council, and acted as the Tennessee Human Rights Commissioner. Smith currently serves on a variety of boards and writes a weekly column for the Chattanooga Times Free Press.

jonnieturner_sRep. Johnnie Turner represents District 85 (part of Shelby County) in the Tennessee House of Representatives. She is a member of the House Consumer & Employee Affairs Committee and of the House Children & Family Affairs Committee. Rep. Turner sits on the Board of Directors of the NAACP Tennessee State Conference and of the New Memphis Arena Building Authority. She is also active with Leadership Memphis, LeMoyne Owen National Alumni Association, and Memphis Retired Teachers Association. Rep. Turner is the recipient of numerous awards, including the Living Legends Award from the Northeast Region of the NAACP, the Living Legends Award from the Memphis Grizzlies and the National Civil Rights Museum, and the Addie G. Owen Racial Justice Award presented by the YWCA of Greater Memphis. On the Council, Rep. Turner represents the Tennessee Black Caucus of State Legislators.



phyllisquallsbrooks_sPhyllis Qualls-Brooks was named Executive Director of The Tennessee Economic Council in 2012. Phyllis has extensive experience in both state and federal government, education and communications. She holds a doctorate in higher education from the Peabody College of Education at Vanderbilt University and a master's degree in English from Tennessee State University. She recently served as a Congressional Affairs Specialist with the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and Special Projects Coordinator with the Office of the Treasurer of the African Methodist Episcopal Church. She formerly served as Assistant Commissioner in the Tennessee Department of Tourist Development and Director of Public Relations at Tennessee State University. Phyllis.Qualls-Brooks@tn.gov

billarth_sBill Arth joined the Economic Council on Women as Senior Research Manager in 2012. A transplant from Columbus, Ohio, Bill brings with him over eight years of experience in the Ohio General Assembly, where he worked in both chambers, including as a researcher and policy analyst for the Speaker of the Ohio House. Prior to his work in the Statehouse, Bill earned his bachelor's degree in political science and economics at Ohio State University. Bill's passion for public policy extends beyond the workplace, where he is drawn to community efforts pertaining to social justice, public transportation and urban affairs. William.Arth@tn.gov

maggiebroeschl_sMaggie Groeschl likes to think of herself as a “Northerner Who Found Herself in the South.” She was raised in a small, farm town in Wisconsin, studied literature and communication at the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities, and fell in love with Tennessee shortly thereafter. Having prior experience in the Service and Healthcare industries, she could not be more elated to work for a state organization that promotes her gender’s betterment. Her “can-do” attitude, curiosity for knowledge, and passion for societal advancement has nourished her interest in politics. She believes strongly in the Story of Women, and is honored to contribute her skills towards the research and advocacy that is conducted at the Economic Council. One of her favorite quotes from Desmond Tutu is: “don’t raise your voice, improve your argument.” As a writer and perpetual learner, Maggie seeks every day to improve discourse and understanding. Oh, and her last name is pronounced “Gresh-ul”—rhymes with “Special”. Maggie.Groeschl@tn.gov

noelblackmire_sNoel Blackmire is a native Jersey Girl with a passion for volunteering and community organizing.  She graduated from La Salle University in Philadelphia Pennsylvania with a dual concentration in communication management and public relations.  She is an active AmeriCorps VISTA here at the Council and continues to serve her community in other various nonprofit activities and services.  Before coming to the Council, she volunteered at the 2013 Economic Summit and realized how important it is to not only improve the economy status, but the emotional and physical wellbeing of women. Practicing yoga and developing new relationships keeps her grounded to help others make a difference. Noel.Blackmire@tn.gov