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Fellows Forum

Karla Davis

Karla Davis

Programs Manager, Assisi Foundation of Memphis, Inc. : Nashville, TN

Karla Davis is the former Commissioner of the state of Tennessee’s Department of Labor and Workforce Development, where she managed nearly 2,000 employees, a budget of $220 million, and over 60 offices across the state. In 2011, Davis was appointed to this position by Governor Bill Haslam. She oversaw operations of the department’s divisions of Workforce Development; Adult Education; Workplace Regulations and Compliance; Workers’ Compensation; Occupational Safety and Health; and Employment Security, which includes the unemployment insurance program and Tennessee Career Centers. 

Prior to that, Davis was Director of Urban Strategies Memphis HOPE, managing and overseeing the Community and Supportive Services Program for three U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) HOPE VI public housing redevelopment projects and two HUD ROSS Grant projects in Memphis, TN. Davis previously worked at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for 16 years, starting with the Superfund program and rising to become an Environmental Justice program manager covering six states where she focused on environmental and human health protection and community revitalization in distressed urban areas.

Davis serves as the chair of the Prevailing Wage Commission, member of the Workforce Development Board, southern representative of the National Association of Government Labor Officials, southern region alternate board member of the National Association of State Workforce Agencies and ex-officio member the Worker’s Compensation Advisory Council. She is former chair of the Tennessee Local Workforce Investment Area 13 Youth Council and has served on the Annual Grants Committee for the Women’s Foundation for a Greater Memphis, the Memphis City Beautiful Commission and the Shelby County Families First Advisory Council. She is also a member of the Leadership Memphis Class of 2009.

Over the years, Ms. Davis has received several awards, including the Regional Administrator’s Award for Excellence, the Bronze Medal for Commendable Service, and the Community Based Environmental Protection Champion Award. Ms. Davis currently holds membership in the American Society for Public Administration.

Ms. Davis, a Chicago native, attended Spelman College in Atlanta, GA and holds a bachelor’s in Bioengineering from the University of Illinois at Chicago. She and her husband, Terence, reside in Memphis, TN.