TN workers take break from regulating business by carving jack o’ lanterns


By Chris Butler | Tennessee Watchdog

NASHVILLE — Halloween is fast approaching, and Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation officials want to boost morale by teaching workers to carve jack-o’-lanterns.

But will TDEC employees finally be happy?

Earlier this year TDEC officials would not disclose results of an employee survey measuring whether employees were glad to go to work.

One never knows, considering TDEC leadership has scolded employees for reported laziness on the job.

But why are employees of a taxpayer-subsidized agency worrying themselves with jack-o-lanterns?

TDEC spokesman Eric Ward said Wednesday that Michael’s Arts and Crafts employees are offering the free demonstration to agency employees during lunch breaks.

HAPPY HALLOWEEN: How many pumpkin jack-o’-lanterns will TDEC employees learn how to make?

“These are fun activities intended to build camaraderie among employees,” Ward told Tennessee Watchdog.

“I hope that you would consider the fact that employee engagement and workplace culture are common ingredients to productive and efficient workplaces.”

Ward would not say where, exactly, TDEC employees will learn to do something maybe more ghoulish than regulate a private business, but it’s likely they will do so in a taxpayer-funded building in downtown Nashville.

TDEC’s Office of Talent Management, which is supposed to help employees with team development, recruitment and professional goals, is helping with the demonstration, Ward said.

Ward would not answer specific questions as to how many employees this particular branch of TDEC has or how much money taxpayers allocate to it every year.

Tennessee Watchdog received anonymous information earlier this year suggesting TDEC management received lousy feedback on an employee happiness survey, but agency officials downplayed those concerns.

Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation

As reported earlier this year, TDEC’s Water Quality deputy director under the Division of Water Resources criticized employees for “non-productive, non-work related activities during the work hours.”

Former Water Resources Division Director Sandra K. Dudley, the Tennessee official most responsible for maintaining the quality of the state’s water and public works systems, reminded her own employees about how to use a toilet.

Dudley’s email included a warning, saying workers aren’t supposed to flush shoes down the commodes at the department’s main offices in downtown Nashville, at the Tennessee Tower.

Dudley advised workers against flushing ink pens and paper clips.

Justin Owen, president of the free-market Beacon Center of Tennessee, said earlier this year TDEC plays one of the biggest roles of any state agency in regulating the state’s businesses.

“If its employees have so much free time to socialize and play on the Internet, the department should be shrunk, and taxpayer money returned to our pockets. Tennessee businesses should not have to face unnecessary hurdles just so bureaucrats can justify their positions.”

Contact Christopher Butler at

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