Dennis Tumlin brings a deep understanding of tourism to his role as Chief Customer Officer at TDTD, where he is responsible for creating customer-centric strategies to increase partner connectivity and grow tourism. Read more about Dennis below.
What Do You Do For TDTD?
My role is to assist communities in creating opportunities to inspire economic activity. Often, I find myself focused on “special projects.” In some communities, I serve as a mentor, sharing real-life experiences that have proven to grow local economies and create jobs. In other communities, I may serve as a project manager, helping navigate a project through the complicated completion process. Other times, I’m negotiating partnerships and building relationships. Currently, I am leading the development and launch of the Bill Dance Signature Lakes initiative for our department. This is a $15.4 million multi-agency project that will honor the legacy of iconic Tennessee outdoorsman Bill Dance. This project touches 34 counties, and 22 are federally classified as either “At-Risk” or “Distressed” in their economic ranking. I also represent TDTD by serving on Governor Lee’s Distressed County Outdoor Recreation Task Force. This multi-agency group is focused on finding ways to help our nine distressed counties create economic opportunities through better use of their state-owned public lands. We’re reviewing everything from leadership capability building & asset enhancement to suggesting policy changes. I also represent TDTD on Governor Lee’s Non-Native Species Advisory Board and the National Governor’s Association Outdoor Recreation Learning Network. Whether in a big city or a small one, my role is to help and serve our partners!
Why Do You Like Working for TDTD?
How can you NOT love working with Commissioner Ezell? When I felt the call to come into the public service sector, it was about serving others. I also call it ministry. I had already achieved many professional goals in corporate America, but it wasn’t fulfilling. I wasn’t satisfied at the end of the day and felt there had to be more. When I first met with Commissioner Ezell, I knew immediately that our goals were aligned and this would be a great place to serve. Working for TDTD allows me to serve the communities and the state I grew up and love so dearly. Our team is comprised of a great group of professionals that are constantly inspiring me to be better
How Does Your Role Benefit Our Industry Partners?
I believe there are several benefits that my role offers the industry partners. First, my position serves as an industry resource. As a businessman and former elected official, I can assist communities and industry partners as they navigate the complicated local, state, and federal processes. My time at the local government level allows me to help communities and offer guidance based on real-life experiences. My background in the private sector also enables me to be knowledgeable in the business world and assist partners with long-term business strategy conversations. As Commissioner Ezell likes to say, “Tourism is real money”, and my role is to support our internal & external partners as they work to create an economic event!
What’s Your Background?
I’ve always heard that your experiences will prepare you for the next opportunity, and I believe that to be true in my journey. I grew up in rural East Tennessee, in the small community of Dayton in Rhea County. I spent the summers working in the hay and tomato fields, cutting cabbage and tobacco and trimming Christmas trees on my uncle’s farm near the Bledsoe County line. That is where my passion for the rural Tennessee way of life was formed. I graduated from the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga with a BS in Business Management. Immediately after college, I joined Federal Express in Charlotte, NC, where I learned about logistics and the global supply chain. Those experiences led me to Coca-Cola, where I spent 16 years in various management & marketing roles, with 12 of those years managing the Walmart account at a national level. It was an Atlanta-based role, with much of my time spent in Bentonville, Arkansas, at the Walmart headquarters. We developed our complete business strategy to grow our mutual businesses in that role. We built marketing plans to drive consumer traffic and pricing plans to build profitability. Most of my time was spent in another city and away from my family. To reduce travel, I transitioned to Coca-Cola’s “Prestige Properties” team for the last two years, where I managed our Dollywood and University of Tennessee relationships. It was during my time there that I felt called into public service. My friend was elected Mayor of my hometown of Dayton, and he called me one day looking for help. He asked me to come “home” and help him serve the community. I served there for seven years leading economic development & tourism efforts for Rhea County. This is where I created the “Fish Dayton” brand to promote our outdoor recreation assets. We led the state in “tourism growth” in 2018. We also had several significant industrial wins, including the Finnish based $360M Nokian Tyre manufacturing plant, which created 400 jobs. In the middle of that, I was elected to serve as a County Commissioner in Rhea County, where I learned about local politics. I’m a businessman at heart with a love to serve others.
What Do You Like To Do On The Weekends?
For a hobby, I’ve had a 25+ year passion for investing in Tennessee farmland. There’s nothing like finding that hidden gem and looking at the history of the land and the natural beauty it features. I’ve been able to do several conservation easements to protect some of Tennessee’s most scenic land over the last 25 years. For fun, there is nothing I cherish more than family time. You can always find us recreational boating on Chickamauga or Watts Bar Lake in the summers. During the fall, we’re almost always in Knoxville at a UT football game where two of my daughters attend college.