Contact the Office of External Affairs

The Office of External Affairs serves as the primary point of contact for external stakeholders for environmental concerns across the state, through their eight (8) regions. Regional Directors actively work with local and state officials; business and industry; the general public; community development representatives; and environmental groups. The External Affairs team also serve as key representatives for coordinating and facilitating public meetings, regulatory hearings, information sessions, and community engagement opportunities to ensure TDEC is inclusive while meeting its mission.

Environmental Field Office Regions Map

Field Office Map
Select the image to download the Environmental Field Office map with contact information.

Meet the Team

Ronné Adkins, Ph.D.

Ronné Adkins, Ph.D.


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Dr. Ronné Adkins is the Director of the Division of Stakeholder Engagement, which includes the Office of External Affairs, Office of Sustainable Practices, and the Small Business Environmental Assistance Program. He has nearly twenty years of experience in public service and the environmental field. Dr. Adkins earned his B.A. in Environmental Studies from Dartmouth College, an M.S. in Environmental Sciences and Policy from Johns Hopkins University, and a Ph.D. in Earth Sciences from the University of Memphis, where he was also a National Science Foundation Fellow. He is a native Tennessean, husband, and father of two boys and enjoys hiking, fishing, hunting, biking, coaching baseball, and a wide variety of outdoor activities.

Rudy Collins

Rudy Collins serves as the Regional Director for External Affairs in the Jackson Environmental Field Office where he represents the department in eighteen West Tennessee counties. Rudy began his career with the State of Tennessee as a Water Quality Control Specialist in the Department of Public Health.  He has served as a Biologist with the Division of Water Pollution Control and as an Environmental Specialist in the Division of Superfund.  Rudy has also held the positions of Field Office Manager for the Division of Underground Storage Tanks and Director of the Jackson Environmental Field Office.

Prior to joining the State, Rudy was employed by Jackson-Madison County General Hospital and the Jackson Utility Division.  He is a graduate of Union University where he majored in Biology and Psychology. Rudy is a lifelong native of West Tennessee, has two children, five grandchildren and lives on a farm in the Beech Bluff Community of Madison County along with two rescue dogs.  

Jan Compton

Jan Compton serves as the Regional Director for the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation’s Office of External Affairs (OEA) in the Johnson City. With over 21 years of experience with the Department, she seeks to promote, acknowledge, and publicize environmental excellence. Prior to working with OEA, Jan managed the TN Radon Program through the Office of Policy and Sustainable Practices. She currently serves as chair of the Executive Planning Committee for the Tennessee Environmental Conference and on the board for the East Tennessee Clean Fuels Coalition. Jan has Bachelor and Master of Science degrees in Environmental Health from East Tennessee State University. Her hobbies include playing golf, especially at the beautiful State Park courses, and spending time with family, friends and her animals.

John LeCroy

John LeCroy is the Deputy Director of External Affairs working in the Knoxville Area. John has twenty-five years with the department including more than thirteen years as a Tennessee State Park Manager. In addition, he is a commissioned officer in the United States Army Reserves (USAR) currently assigned as an engineer officer with the 412th Theater Engineer Command in Vicksburg, Mississippi. John earned an M.B.A. from East Tennessee State University and a B.S. in Recreation and Leisure Studies from the University of Tennessee in Knoxville. Outside of his careers with TDEC and the USAR, he enjoys running, hiking, biking, and CrossFit workouts at the local gym. 

Meghan Ploch

Meghan Ploch is the Regional Director of External Affairs in the Chattanooga region, serving as the point of contact for stakeholders in 10 counties across southeast TN. Meghan joined OEA from the Division of Water Resources, where she served as an Environmental Consultant in the Natural Resources Unit since 2015. Her primary responsibilities included managing individual aquatic resource alteration permits, membership on the interagency review team, and working as the primary permit writer for TDOT Region 2. Meghan is a graduate of the Department’s Green Leadership Academy.

Meghan earned her Master of Science in Environmental Science and Master of Public Affairs from Indiana University Bloomington. Go Hoosiers! Meghan is an avid outdoor enthusiast; you’ll often find her mountain biking, white water kayaking, SUPing, or rock climbing around the Chattanooga area. She was president of the WaterWay’s young professional group in 2020-2021 and remains active. Meghan is also pursuing a red card to assist with the Division of Natural Area’s prescribed burns. 

Meghan Ploch

Kathryn D. Schulte

Regional Director

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Memphis EFO

Kathryn Schulte is the TDEC Regional Director of External Affairs for the Memphis Area, serving as the point of contact for department stakeholders in Shelby, Fayette, and Tipton counties.

Previously, Kathryn was the Tennessee Department of Transportation Community Relations Officer in TDOT’s Region 3. In this role, she developed communications and community outreach plans for transportation projects, served as the community liaison for the region, and was the Nashville-area spokesperson and media contact.

Kathryn is a graduate of Middle Tennessee State University and enjoys cycling, reading, and traveling to places that aren’t crowded.

Tara Wohlgemuth

Tara Wohlgemuth Pedraza

Deputy Director

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Nashville EFO

Tara Wohlgemuth Pedraza is the Deputy Director of External Affairs in the Nashville Environmental Field Office. In addition to serving the stakeholders of the 13-county Mid Cumberland region, she has statewide duties associated with TDEC’s Customer Service Survey and Annual Report. Tara joined TDEC in 2015 as the Regional Director of External Affairs in the Cookeville Office. Prior to joining TDEC, Tara worked on various efforts around land conservation planning and education in Memphis and staffed the Mid-South Regional Greenprint & Sustainability Plan. She continues to fulfill her passion for conservation through her work with the nine Tennessee State Parks in her region on stakeholder engagement, special event planning and strategic planning.  She can often be found at a State Park on the weekends as well, drawing inspiration and strength from nature. Tara earned her B.A. in Environmental Studies from Dartmouth College and is currently pursuing a Professional Science Master’s in Environmental Informatics at Tennessee Tech. She is also fluent in Spanish. 

Chuck Yoest

Chuck Yoest

Regional Director

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Columbia EFO

Chuck Yoest is the Regional Director of External Affairs for the Columbia EFO. Before joining TDEC, Chuck had a 17-year with the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency (TWRA) where he served as the Chronic Wasting Disease and Special Projects Manager; Wildlife Species Program Manager; Deer, Elk and Wild Hog Programs Coordinator; and Wildlife Officer. 

 Chuck’s educational background includes a B.S. in Wildlife and Fisheries Science from the University of Tennessee-Knoxville and an MBA from Lipscomb University. 

 Chuck is a Fellow of the National Conservation Leadership Institute and a graduate of LEAD TN.  He is a Certified Facilitator for the State of Tennessee and a Certified Wildlife Biologist of The Wildlife Society.  Chuck serves as the Southeast Section Representative for the Tennessee Chapter of the Wildlife Society, an organization which recognized him as the Wildlife Professional of the Year in 2019.   

Chuck Yoest

Robert Becker

Regional Director

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Cookeville EFO


Robert Becker is the Regional Director of External Affairs in the Cookeville Environmental Field Office where he represents the department in the fourteen Upper Cumberland counties. He spent 10 years with the Tennessee State Parks as a Park Ranger and most recently served as Assistant Manager of Fall Creek Falls State Park.

Robert has a background in resource management and earned a B.S. in Outdoor Recreation from Middle Tennessee State University. Robert is a graduate of the National Outdoor Leadership School in Palmer, Alaska and the State Parks Leadership School in Wheeling, West Virginia.

Robert has a passion for conservation and enjoys spending his time in parks, at community events, and exploring new places. He is excited to work and share the great things the Upper Cumberland Region has to offer.