NASHVILLE – Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam and First Lady Crissy Haslam today joined Tennessee Department of Veterans Services Commissioner Many-Bears Grinder and Major General Terry “Max” Haston from the Tennessee Military Department to recognize five veteran state employees and more than 470,000 Tennessee veterans of all ages and eras. The Governor’s Veterans Day event was held on the second floor of the State Capitol in downtown Nashville.
“Veterans bring a variety of life experiences, technical skills and varying degrees of leadership qualities which enrich our Departments,” Haslam said. “Their commitment to the mission and to public service is a tradition that is evolving into transformation and innovative state government. I thank this year’s honorees and all of the veterans who serve the citizens of Tennessee.”
“It is a great time for Tennessee veterans and I believe we are moving in the right direction in improving how we serve them,” Grinder said. “We are picking up momentum and veteran employees are a big part of the developing solutions to create innovative state government for citizens in the Volunteer State.”
“Today, we come together to appreciate a debt we can never fully repay,” Haston said. “Veterans Day is a day set aside to remember and honor every man and woman who has taken up arms to defend our country. We honor every Soldier, Sailor, Airman, Marine and Coast Guardsman who gave some of the best years of their lives to the service of the United States and stood ready to give life itself, on our behalf.”
There are currently 2,269 veterans working for the state and an estimated 470,390 veterans living in Tennessee.
Haslam recognized the achievements of five veteran state employees currently making a difference within their area of expertise with a combined 41 years of state service.
John Briggs is currently serving as Transportation Manager in the Aeronautics Division at the Tennessee Department of Transportation. Commander Briggs is also assigned to U.S. Navy Operational Support Center-Memphis. He has held various roles during his 20 year military career, which includes plans, operations, aviation and human resources as well as a recent deployment in support of Operation Freedom’s Sentinel in Afghanistan. In the Aeronautics Division, Briggs’ team has closed 689 projects in fiscal year 2018 and returned more than 7 million dollars in state and federal funds to the general aviation budget for capital improvement projects.
Don Coleman is currently serving as Human Resources Manager of the Employee Relations Unit at the Tennessee Department of Commerce and Insurance. Previously, Staff Sergeant Coleman worked as an Information Management Craftsman for more than ten years in the U.S. Air Force. Coleman’s team has established performance management clinics and offers one on one consultations. He has developed a supervisory boot camp which includes a refresher of respectful workplace, diversity awareness, preventing sexual harassment as well as generational and cultural awareness.
Angelo Giansante is currently serving as Park Manager at Hiwassee Ocoee Rivers State Park with the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation. Previously, Sergeant Giansante was a Motor Transport Operator in the U.S. Army with deployments to Afghanistan, Kuwait and Iraq in support of Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom. Giansante has expanded park programming, made critical infrastructure investments at multiples sites and more than tripled park visitation. Since 2011, Giansante has climbed the 125-foot pine trees to place cable and a camera to provide video of the bald eagle nests to millions of web viewers across the world.
William Houser is currently serving as a Veteran Resource Coordinator in the Knoxville field office with the Tennessee Department of Veterans Services. Previously, Master Sergeant Houser served more than 20 years in the U.S. Air Force in Cyber Systems Operations. His military service assignments in Iceland, South Korea and Iraq. This emerging leader offers claims assistance in Knoxville, but also drives more than two hours to Johnson City multiple times a week to support a staff that produces more than double the volume of fully developed claims than any other field office in the state.
Paul Nielsen is a Correctional Officer at the Turney Center Industrial Complex (TCIX) with the Tennessee Department of Correction. Previously, Specialist Nielsen was an Aircraft Structural Repairer in the U.S. Army with two deployments in Afghanistan within six years of military service. As a Correctional Officer, Nielsen laid his life on the line on April 9, 2017 to protect his fellow employees during a major disturbance at TCIX. Officer Nielsen responded to a call for assistance and witnessed a fellow officer in distress and under assault. As he and another officer tried to take control of the situation, they were overpowered by 16 inmates and held hostage for several hours before they were released. Paul sustained nine stab wounds and sustained other serious injuries.