Hi, I'm Debbie.

Choosing Johnson City

I grew up in a town similar in size and pace of living to Johnson City; I grew up in Springfield, Ohio. Both of my younger brothers and myself all graduated from public schools. While we were growing up, multiple members of my family, including my father, worked as civilian employees on Wright Patterson Airforce Base. Dedication and a strong work ethic are qualities they instilled in me.


I’ve lived in a few other places on the east coast, but 35 years ago I made Johnson City my home. This is where I raised my daughters. It’s a beautiful part of the country where people have opened their doors and their hearts to me and my family. It’s why my high school best friend and her husband made this place their home after they retired. 


Just as I did, my daughters graduated from public schools and together we continued to find community through Girl Scouts, piano lessons, dance lessons, art lessons, softball and basketball seasons, and of course with the SHHS marching band. 

Investing in Johnson City

Initially, I set out to be a math teacher. I graduated from the University of South Florida with a degree in math and teaching, but I realized that during my student teaching year something didn’t add up. I wanted to help students even more, help them grow and develop and connect them with their communities. So I went on to graduate with a master’s degree in counseling and then a doctorate in educational leadership and policy analysis from East Tennessee State University. 


At my core, I love to learn. Every step of my professional journey has taught me more about the student process, community engagement, and leadership development. In fact, it was these lessons that empowered me to create the Leadership Minor at ETSU. I also founded and led ETSU’s Leadership House, a living-learning environment in servant leadership for undergraduate students. I’ve spent 35 years as an administrator and faculty member at ETSU leading and learning with students. 

I’ve published two books. The first is a textbook I use in the classroom: Developing Human Service Leaders. The second was a co-authorship with Sean Covey for the 2019 2nd edition of The 7 Habits of Highly Effective College Students.

Engaged in Johnson City

My passions have always centered around leadership and civic engagement, empowering the voices of all citizens, as well as inspiring and enabling others to make choices in line with the core values—integrity, inclusiveness, human respect, and dignity for all.


I have acted on those values by serving on the boards of directors for the Girls Scouts, Coalition for Kids, and Second Harvest Food Bank. I participated in our Chamber’s Leadership Program and then co-chaired the start of the first Youth Leadership Program for the Johnson City/Washington County Chamber of Commerce. 

Engaged in the Region

I have prepared and taught leadership development programs for many organizations in the health care, manufacturing, education, nonprofit, human service and public sectors. I have trained as an examiner for the Tennessee Center for Performance Excellence and provide feedback to TN health care and education organizations.


I’ve also successfully written grants and directed the creation of a nine-university partnership in Tennessee for Service-Learning Programs. I’ve also collaborated with the Tennessee Commission on National and Community Service, America’s Promise, and local AmeriCorps Programs. 


Awards I have received for my work include: Tennessee Volunteer Hero from the Office of the Governor of TN, Tennessee Treasure from the TN Higher Education Commission, Women Who Make a Difference from the Girl Scouts, ETSU Outstanding Staff Member, and the Love Community Service Award from the TN Board of Regents.

Called to Serve in Johnson City

In 2018, I was elected to serve on the Tennessee Democratic Party’s Executive Committee, representing Senate District 3—Washington County, Carter County, and Unicoi County. In this, I work with local county parties and local leaders to build bridges and create opportunities for progress. 


I know that as a Johnson City Commissioner I can continue my passion and commitment to investing in Johnson City and its residents, to create opportunities and responsive government that will benefit and work for everyone.