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November 19, 2020 | Tom Ballard

Panelists highlight their thoughts on leadership to move region forward

Yesterday’s 11th annual “Mayors’ Leadership Luncheon” for Leadership Knoxville featured a panel of leaders of major institutions in the region.

Moderated by University of Tennessee (UT) President Randy Boyd, the panelists were: (1) Cassius Cash, Superintendent of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park; (2) Jeff Lyash, President and Chief Executive Officer of TVA; (3) UT, Knoxville Chancellor Donde Plowman who joined by video due to a quarantining decision announced earlier in the day; and (4) Thomas Zacharia, Director of Oak Ridge National Laboratory.

The final question that Boyd posed to the panel focused on their thoughts about leadership needs and opportunities going forward, such an appropriate question for an event celebrating leaders. Many of the answers were familiar to those who have participated in previous sessions that featured Boyd, Lyash and Zacharia.

As he has in the past, ORNL’s Director talked about the opportunity for the region to become one of the nation’s next innovation hubs, something that Zacharia said would be further enabled by the expected priorities of the likely next federal administration.

“Thomas is exactly right,” Lyash said. “We have great institutions here . . . all of the elements. The key for us, not just Knoxville but the region, is to attract entrepreneurs and capital.”

Cash reminded attendees of the importance of the institution he leads and what it symbolizes. “We need to remain a green community,” he said.

One of the answers from Plowman was something that is not articulated that often, but one that is clearly important from a talent recruitment and retention perspective for any enterprise that needs technical talent. “We need to help each other with spousal hires,” she said. Her other answer was to do a much better job of telling the region’s story to the nation and world.

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