Enhancing The Level Of Service To Build A Great Community With Eric Stuckey, City Administrator, City of Franklin, TN
City managers and administrators are the key people who connect elected leadership and professional staff to serve a community well. That is why taking on this job is no easy feat. Fortunately, with great people on the position, the vision to serve and build a great community is within reach. Eric Stuckey, City Administrator of the City of Franklin, TN, speaks with host, Abhijit Verekar, about the things they have been doing at Franklin. He talks about his thoughts on innovation and keeping up with the newest technology, especially with making services more accessible to the community. On handling his people, Eric shares his leadership style and the way he drives his vision forward and translates it to the language of different teams. He then shares his definition of a smart city, highlighting the use of technology not for technology’s sake but for delivering a higher level of service and building a great community.
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Enhancing The Level Of Service To Build A Great Community With Eric Stuckey, City Administrator, City of Franklin, TN
My guest is Eric Stuckey from Franklin, Tennessee. He’s the City Administrator. Eric, thank you for joining us. I know this is a busy time, a weird time, and you guys are in the thick of things in Tennessee, aren’t you?
We sure are. Thanks for having me. It’s good to be with you.Be less of a gatekeeper and more of a team member and a problem solver. Click To Tweet
Thank you. Eric, tell me how you found yourself in this position. How did you end up being the City Administrator?
I studied Business in college as an undergraduate but had a minor in Political Science. The last class I took because it fit my schedule was a class about Public Administration and it happened to be taught by a local city manager. This guy highlighted a lot of different things. He knew something about everybody’s town in the class and he would bring a lot of local government examples. It planted some seeds. I went on and worked for a large corporation and decided I wanted to do something else. Public service appealed to me. I remembered that experience and exposure and it so happened that at that time, my father was a pastor in Dayton, Ohio.
One of the church members at his church was the City Manager of Dayton. I took an afternoon and spent it with this city manager and it clicked for me. The idea of using business skills in public service and at a local government level appealed to me. I went back to school, got a Master’s in Public Administration from the University of Kansas which specializes in Local Government Management, City, and County Management. Here I am years later in the profession. That got me on my way, and it’s been what I hoped it would be which is the opportunity to serve and build a great community using business skills, working with the community, figuring that out, and working with a talented team. That’s what we do every day.
You have one of the coolest jobs, you meaning City Manager and City Admins. I say that to everybody. There is a certain innate passion that you need to have for city management and public service and yet you don’t want to be a politician. It’s an interesting skillset and a mix of talents that you bring to the table.
We’re in lots of different businesses, so no day is ever the same. We get to do a lot of different things. At the end of the day, we’re building a community. We’re working with the community. We connect elected leadership and their vision with professional staff and their vision of how to serve a community well. We need each other. What City Managers do is put that together. That’s what the good ones hopefully do. That’s what we get to do every day, even in the midst of a pandemic.
I can’t think of a bigger challenge. This is how you guys are dealing with the pandemic is exceptional. Thank you for doing that. You get asked all kinds of questions all day, but this show specifically is government technology. Tell me what your thoughts are on innovation, what it means to you, and how you translate that to the needs of the everyday citizen.
Our focus has always been on the practical application, how we serve better, and how we push services out. That’s been a common theme in my career. We’ve tried to find ways to make services more accessible to the community and technology has always been a critical link to that. It doesn’t lessen the care and personal touch. It can enhance it by giving people opportunities to interact with us in different ways. You can reach us 24/7 and we’re still going to want to follow-up and provide that care, response, and still do it effective way and in a personal way where it’s appropriate. Technology is an aid in doing that. That’s the way I’ve always looked at it. It’s blending that and it’s not technology for technology’s sake. It’s a way that we enhance services that we are more accessible to the community, to the public, and helps us do our jobs better.
You’re saying it goes beyond how many blinking lights you have in the data center. How do you stay on top of what the newest in technology is?
We have a very capable team that I rely on. That’s part of what we think of as a team that we look at that as an important tool in all of our work. It’s integrated into everything we do. Our IT department plays a key role but there’s that thinking in every department that we try to instill. Is there a better way? How do we enhance the level of service? How do we enhance the access and availability to our citizens by the use of technology? There’s a mindset around that that you try to integrate into your culture as an organization and as a team.
Do you work closely with your IT to cut through the noise? I can imagine on a daily basis you get tons of emails from vendors saying, “Here’s the latest thing,” but it’s the same thing that the other guy has with a different sticker. How do you cut through the noise here?
One of the key things we do and it’s a simple concept, but it’s worked well for us is we have what we call an IT Steering Committee. It’s chaired by our IT Director and the other people on our IT team and myself. We have three assistant city administrators, one for public works, for community and economic development, and our finance administration or chief financial officer as well. Those three people along with me and along with key IT people, it’s a clearinghouse and we meet at least monthly, sometimes more depending on what’s coming up. That serves as a good clearinghouse for new ideas. How does technology apply?
When a department may have something, virtually every time we say, “Let’s bring this to the steering committee.” It gives us a chance to think of it, not from an IT implementation standpoint i.e., can we support it? Is this the best type of application? But also, how does this fit in the organization? How else could we use this? How does this match up with other needs that other departments might be having? Amongst us, we have a good organizational perspective along with the evaluation of the technology itself. We try to blend fit with the mechanics of it too.
You used an interesting term, clearinghouse, and we’re going to shamelessly steal it going forward. When you recommend something like a steering committee to any of our clients or anyone in the process of building their IT teams, the immediate reaction is you picture a large table with many people sitting around and not making decisions. A clearinghouse is a great way to describe that where you bring ideas to the table and you vet them against what the needs are and where you are as an organization. Have you been doing that for a long time and how has it worked for you?
I’ve been in this position for years and that whole time, we’ve been doing it this way and do it faithfully about every month. We build understanding amongst each other and are designed to be decision-oriented in terms of helping get decisions. We’ve also tried to instill a discipline across our team that, “That’s what we’re going to bring to the IT Steering Committee and we want to have a discussion there before we jump out and make a software purchase or do something else.” That’s got to run through that group as a way to evaluate it. Initially, it was seen as almost say a hurdle they had to clear. Now, it’s turned into more of a problem solving and it’s seen as helpful. It’s a way to get feedback and it’s been seen as when we think these things through better, we have better and smoother implementation because we thought about it upfront. That’s what this committee helps us do too.A viable long-term IT strategy includes clarity and adaptability because any plan you have is going to be changing. Click To Tweet
You said it went from being a hurdle to a part of the process that’s accepted. I’m not saying you guys at Franklin, I’ve seen it everywhere. There’s a level of intimidation on both ends, the IT management and the executive management where one doesn’t necessarily know how to speak the other one’s language and it causes some strife. How did you get over that?
I give our IT team a lot of credit. They’ve seen themselves as counting in and helping to be problem solvers as assisting departments not doing it for them, but helping them solve their problems. They also roll their sleeves up and try to understand the process and the problem that they’re trying to solve and see themselves as assisting in that way. That mentality shift is less of a gatekeeper and more of a team member and a problem solver. That’s been a transition we’ve gone through too. There’s an element of gatekeeper to it because we want to make sure we invest our money in the right way, but they also see it as, “These are the folks that are going to help us implement this and get this done and they’re part of our team too.” Our IT folks from top to bottom have done a good job of engaging departments, being there to help them, and being seen as assisting them every step of the way. That’s gone a long way too.
Does your IT Director or CIO report directly to you?
The IT Director reports to our CFO, who’s the Assistant City Administrator of Finance Administration. She’s also got Chief Financial Officer with it, so it’s in her group but there’s a direct line to me too. It’s not exactly aligned that way in the organizational chart. It’s open access to me. We talk all the time and we use that IT Steering Committee to help us facilitate decision making, etc. I give our CFO a lot of credit too because she’s done a great job of integrating her teams with finance to help departments solve issues because so often, they’re side-by-side. She’s done a good job of making sure there aren’t silos amongst those departments and they do work across departments.
Everything you do is vision-based and vision-driven because you’re in a position to drive it for the city. With that comes, I’m going to use the word translation. How do you take your long-term vision? Everything these days or going into the future is going to require some technology to support it. You have to distill your vision into chunks that IT folks will understand. Franklin is very fortunate to have people that get it. How would you suggest or recommend people who translate vision into tech speak?
Ours is about a high level of service that builds a great community. We know that being an exceptional community is tied to and the quality of the community itself but also the level of service we can provide. We’re in that quality of life business. We all contribute to that and it’s our watchwords. When I interviewed for this job year ago, I stopped the interview at the end. I said, “There are a couple more things I want to talk about.” Great organizations are about excellence, innovation, teamwork, integrity, and being action-oriented. That has been what our watchword is for everything we do. How does it reflect that? We changed our evaluation process a couple of years ago so that every team member is evaluated on those five qualities.
When everybody has the same framework that they approach the job, even though the jobs are different, it helps us have a common language around it and a common approach to it. That’s worked into everything we do. That helps and we try to have good communication around what’s going on in the organization. We have leadership team meetings weekly and IT is always part of that. They’re hearing what’s going on across the organization and it’s good. Everybody’s hearing that from each other. I have my department directors set what we call 3×6 goals meaning the three most important deliverables they can get done in the next six months. It’s both a longer-term vision but also more tactical. What would make me feel good? It’s around the calendar year. When you’re on that 4th of July picnic, where are you going to feel good about that you got done in the last six months?
You’re at that New Year’s Eve party and you’re going to be like, “It’s been a good last six months. I’ve got these three things done.” We share those goals with one another. We go around the room and the police chief is hearing the same goal that the public works people have. They share each other’s goals with one another and it’s amazing how often they can help each other with the goals. IT is so often and almost everybody’s goal somewhere. When we understand that, we can serve better too. It’s the idea that we are communicating across the different lines, we have this shared responsibility to serve, and serve well and build a great community. IT is so often integrated into all of those goals and when we go around that room, it’s amazing. That’s a lot of times what they say, “Our goal is to help you achieve your goals.” They do a good job of having that mindset.
Along those lines, what do you think are the foundations of a viable long-term IT strategy?
Clarity and adaptability because any plan you have, you know it’s going to be changing. Look at all the plans we had in January 2020 that now have changed dramatically because we’re all working through an unprecedented global pandemic. Technology has played a critical role in our change in strategy and the things we’ve had to do to adapt and modify service so that we’re still serving well but doing it in a different way. That’s a great example. You got to know where you’re headed, but also be flexible and adaptable enough to change tactics, approaches, and even change your mindset on certain things because the environment’s changed around you. It’s both a guideline but it also has to have that flexibility build into it.
It’s amazing, isn’t it, things like video conferencing? This thing has been around and you had adoption almost overnight because of the pandemic and good point on being flexible. One of the things we keep hearing in the media on any publication, not all over the websites is a smart city. What does that mean to you?
To me, it means a lot of what we talked about. You’re serving at a high level, you’re looking at the way your services integrate with one another, with your ability to track the level of service, the needs of your community, and respond to them. You’re looking at so many facets of your city services connect with one another, you have the ability to recognize that and adapt your services appropriately as the community needs of all.
One of the definitions I heard is a smart city is one that uses any of its technology for data-driven decision making. How is Franklin using all the data that’s available to you to make smarter decisions?
We’ve got a lot of data and the fact is we want to make sure we’re using it well. We do have a strategic plan that we have developed with our board years ago and we integrated with that several key performance measures across the whole organization. It’s oriented around like four key principles within that plan. Through them, there’s 60 some things we measure and look at. It’s a blend of measuring how we deliver services. It also ties to some benchmarking we do with other cities across Tennessee and nationally. It’s collecting information that matters and then comparing it in, learning from it, and adapting as you go.
It’s about service delivery but it’s also about understanding how are we moving the needle in key areas and then bringing that back to the board so that you can track your progress, what’s next, and helps us make budget decisions and policy decisions effectively. We don’t want to measure everything. We want to measure what is most meaningful. That’s the question we ask ourselves regularly as we come back to these measures that say, “Did these still make sense?” There are several that we look at and say. “That seemed like a good idea at the time, but this isn’t as good as this measure.” We want to make it so that we can track it. It’s meaningful and then it helps guide our decisions from there. We try to look at that on a regular basis to keep it fresh and make sure it’s meaningful and we’re not doing it to do it.
When you do collect a lot of data and have access to it, you also have to be wary of cybersecurity and ransomware. What is your philosophy on how this is going to evolve? We’re up against armies of robots trying to take us down and no matter how much you do, it comes down to education and almost hammering it into your people saying, “Don’t open this a link that you think is suspicious.” How are you guys thinking about this?
We’ve done things where we deploy little tests, little pop quizzes out there to see, and to make sure people don’t open stuff they shouldn’t open and then provide training and feedback from there. We try to track how well we’re doing and how often people are clicking stuff they shouldn’t or flagging it as inappropriate or as phishing or whatever it might be appropriate. We’re giving our folks more tools and we’re trying to monitor that we’re doing it well, but it is if you do have these exposures. That’s been a focus we’ve had a lot over the last several years is how do we protect our systems? How do we have solid reliable disaster recovery components?
All of those pieces, nobody’s ever going to be perfectly protected, but you try to have as many safeguards in place as you can, press the education deeper and deeper in the organization, and test yourself. Some of it is being diligent and stand on it regularly, consistently, making sure people are learning and it continues to evolve. We look at what some other cities are doing and try to apply that in our environment too. That’s what we’ve tried to keep learning as we go and get those lessons out to our team.
What we’ve learned from our work is there are a great set of tools available out there and you can get to 90% protection using tools, but the 10% that’s the most vulnerable is the people piece of it. In your career, what have been the biggest challenges you’ve overcome or faced?
I’ve had the opportunity to work in a lot of different environments. I’ve worked in different regions. I’ve worked in the Midwest and Southeast area of the country. I don’t know that there’s a singular thing I’d point at, but you’re always looking at building the community that reflects. Each community has its personality and potential and you need to build off of what that is. We can’t be fill-in the blank city. We have to be the best Franklin we can be, or the best Cincinnati we can be or whatever. We can’t say, “I want to be like Austin, Texas.” Maybe but you’re better served if you’d be the very best Franklin you can be. A lot of times we beat Austin out for economic development projects and other things because we know who we are. We know what our brand is, we know what fits here and the right fit for an economic development project or something else is reflective of what you’ve built that is authentic to your community and that reflects that.
Having worked in large cities and worked in a more suburban or regional city like Franklin, each of them has its own challenges. Some of them work as similar but each of them has unique opportunities and challenges to them. I’ve worked to significant natural disasters, now a pandemic, huge challenges in terms of community interactions. In Cincinnati, when I was there, there were some real challenges. I worked on the County level with some real challenges in the mid-2000 around police-community relations, especially within the African-American community. A lot of challenges in how to build that and be a stronger community on the backend. I think good progress is made, but you’re always working at some problems you never totally solve. You’re always trying to get better on. The opportunity to work in a lot of different settings and their challenges, but there are always great opportunities at the end if you’re able to get there and work through it. Many dedicated people work in this business and that’s what’s fun and inspiring to see people step up and find ways to solve problems and help a community.
One of the challenges we all face is getting the next generation of workers excited like we are about municipalities. I told some of my friends that know I’m doing a show on municipal city managers were like, “Really?” How do you get the next generation excited about coming to work for us? I’m sure you have some open positions in a large metro area like Nashville. Do you struggle to find talent that is willing to come work for a city?
What we’ve tried to do is a couple of different things and people were motivated by pay. It is always been an issue, but it’s a threshold issue. If you’ve studied the market, you get yourself in the right position, and we try to be in that top. We look at the top 15% of the market in terms of what we’re looking at. We look at both cities and private comparatives where we can. We need to get that threshold right. Once you get from there, it’s about the work. It’s about the quality of what they’re getting to be a part of. Do they feel good about it? Do they have some autonomy, opportunity to grow and build a career in that? That’s what we try to look at. We’ve looked at ways to enhance people’s skills.Each community has its own personality and potential. You need to build off of what that is. Click To Tweet
Training is one of the last things I cut when I have had to reduce budgets because I know we need to develop the skills and the people we have. We always try to make sure we’re being smart around that. We’re heading into a cycle where we’re going to have to reduce budgets because of the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. We’re keeping our people’s skills sharp and we’re challenging them and giving them opportunities to build. That’s the key if you can create that environment where there’s that support, that ability to have a positive impact, and that people feel valued. That’s what we try to stay focused on.
We’ve been trying to bring some entry points into our organization for people that are new in the career. We’ve started a management fellow position which is somebody either grad school or coming out that wants to be in local government management, city management in particular. It gets them a great exposure across our whole organization. We have a lower level or a more entry-level program that we’re looking at for public works for youth that maybe not on the college track, but it might be great at working as a utility worker or somebody on our public works team. It gives them a chance to get exposed through the summer to the different facets of what we do in water management, streets, parks, our sanitation environmental services group so that they can say, “I didn’t realize that was a career opportunity for me.”
We try to be creative and find those ways to connect people to the type of work we do, but also the benefit and the appeal of public service. I find that people have that in them or they don’t. If they get exposed to that right environment where public service, they can see the connection to what they do every day to public service, that it resonates with certain folks. Those are the folks that we want on our team. They get it. They’re smart and competent in their jobs, but also have something inside them that says, “I want to be part of something bigger than myself. I want to help build a community. I want to be part of a team of public servants that are doing great work.”
When we find that, we know we’ve got a winner. That’s what we try to create those connection points and we do things with police and fire. They have these Explorer Programs that give students at the high school age range a chance to get exposed to what happens in public safety. It’s being creative and finding ways for people to connect to the different types of work. We’re in a broad-based business and whatever your interest is, we do something that relates to it. We want to try to find as many connection points as we can.
That’s a great point because we hire interns every year. Most of our interns from the high school system or local colleges come in and say, “We know you’re an IT company.” I say, “What do you want to do with your life?” There was one girl that said, “I want to be a hacker.” I said, “It’s not what we do. We serve the government. Let me show you the 10,000 other things you can do with your life.” She stuck around. A lot of times, it blows their mind to know that there’s such a huge demand for technology in the government sector. I enjoy that part a lot. What is the largest IT project you have going on?
We’re working on an electronic bill presentment approach that we’re doing. Originally, we were trying to source it through one vendor and that ended up not quite working for some process and technical issues but it ended up being the best thing that could have happened to us in some ways. We broke the project into some smaller pieces and different facets of our team took the lead in each of those. We’re going to put together a much better solution at the end of the day. It was because of the quality of both IT, finance and our customer service. The old school name for it is Revenue Management Group that works with our customers, they each had an aspect of it and they each took a lead but they were working with each other through each of them. I think we’re going to have a good solution at the end of it. It’s enabled us also to build off of some existing systems to do it better. That’s the thing that jumps out to me that is going on.
We’ve done some huge projects related to billing upgrade. We went from a very old billing system to a much more sophisticated system. We’re also in the process of implementing an updated virtual meter reading system for our utilities that people can access any time and see their usage and all that. We’ve had radio reads for many years, but this takes it to the next level and integrates it far better. We were one of the first in the region to do the body cams and all that came with that. There’s no shortage of big projects that have been completed or are in process. It’s amazing how much the IT components are integrated into virtually everything we do. We integrated a new agenda management program that we happened to integrate which also coincided with all of these going to virtual meetings because of the pandemic. We’re asking our board and our staff team to not only go to that but also adapt to it and do a platform for our online agendas. It’s gone beautifully. It has been smooth but sometimes you don’t know until you push yourself to do it. In some ways, the pandemic has made us accelerate and do things quicker than we otherwise would have.
There are a lot of good things that are going to come out. The new normal isn’t going to be the old normal. Overnight, things have changed so much. Are you doing anything with residential broadband as a city?
There’s the local cable provider, but our electric utility has also worked in that space. We have not been in the direct provision of that. We’ve done it internally in terms of our own network and providing a fiber backbone that connects all of our facilities and serves different elements of both our public safety radio system and everything we do. The cameras that are out there for our traffic operation center, all of that, we’ve utilized that to be our internal city network but we haven’t gone to a community provision. Comcast, AT&T, and Middle Tennessee Electric, that’s the space they’ve all worked into. That’s how we’ve approached that.
You mentioned being conscious of the budget going forward. In your role, your job is to be risk-averse for the most part, at the same time be innovative and to do more with what you have, how do you find the balance between risk and innovation?
It’s staying focused on how we get things done the best way we can for our citizens, but it’s also not being afraid to try things and try them on a scale that learns something and then push it back out. We’ve not been afraid to shake things up when we need to. There’s a number of things we’ve done that have helped us. Sometimes, these budget pressures help you get a little more creative and gives you a little bit of license to try something different that you might not have tried otherwise. We consolidated our public safety dispatch with Williamson County. Some of that was looking at it and saying, “We can do this better. We can have a deeper bench in terms of emergency communication than doing our own thing and letting the County do their own thing.” We can have better technology. We were going in together with the County in the City of Brentwood, one of our neighboring cities to do an enhanced public safety radio system. It’s built off of Franklin’s 800 MHz system.
There’s a lot of partnership going on and we found ways to extend that into other aspects of service. It’s looking for the right opportunities. It’s also where there are partnerships. A lot of times, that can help you. Those budget pressures sometimes create a unique window to say, “We can try this and save money or deliver services better.” What we’re going to be looking at is we’re going to have to hold some positions and we may have to ask people to work a little differently. Technology can be the perfect complement to that change or modification in some of the roles. It’s a grab bag, honestly. There’s no one way to do it. It’s being open to a lot of different ways and also instilling in folks that, “We’re interested in your ideas. Bring them forward and let’s try to figure it out. If there’s a better way to do it, we’ll explore it.” We’ll work with them to find those ways and it comes back to ways that we work together to figure this out too. That IT Steering Committee could be a great sounding board for some of these things. We try to integrate that in everything we do.
That’s heartening to hear because business process, vision, and strategy drive everything. We think it’s the key to making everything tick. It seems like you guys are doing it right and it’s thrilling to hear you echo some of the thoughts we’ve had. If you have any parting thoughts, we’d love to hear it.The right fit for an economic development project is reflective of what you built that is authentic to your community. Click To Tweet
Thank you for the opportunity to talk about it. It’s a great conversation. I appreciate the passion and leadership you’re bringing to this area. It’s the way we do things now, but it’s going to be more of a critical aspect as we move forward. In my business, we’re so used to talking about infrastructure as being streets, water, sewer and that’s true. The IT infrastructure is every bit as critical that we build within our cities, both within the city itself, the city organization but also out into our communities. It is a new infrastructure and we’ve got to have that mindset in what we do. I applaud you for putting the focus on it because it’s a critical part of how we need to think about things now and going forward.
As you said, we’re trying. Thank you for being on the same page and thanks for being here. We appreciate your leadership in Franklin and on TCMA. It’s awesome to see you every time. I hope to do it again soon.
Thanks a lot. Thanks for having me.
About Eric Stuckey
Eric S. Stuckey has served as City Administrator for the City of Franklin since January 1, 2009. As the City’s top administrative official, Mr. Stuckey oversees day-to-day operations and works with the Board of Mayor and Aldermen (BOMA) to chart the strategic direction of the City. Since joining the City of Franklin, Stuckey has worked closely with BOMA to adopt the City’s first strategic plan, Franklin Forward, and the Invest Franklin initiative, which provided dedicated funding to meet the infrastructure, transportation, and service needs of one of America’s fastest growing cities. He has also worked with the Board on wide-ranging financial policies that have helped the City obtain the highest possible bond ratings (triple-A) from both Moody’s and Standard & Poor’s. Under Eric’s leadership, the City of Franklin team has focused on providing multi-year financial planning for the organization, responsive local government, and cost-effective service delivery. The City of Franklin maintains one of the lowest city property tax rates of any city in Tennessee.
Prior to coming to the City of Franklin, Eric Stuckey served as the Assistant County Administrator for Hamilton County, Ohio (population 842,843; county seat – Cincinnati) from 2000 through December 2008. His responsibilities with Hamilton County included oversight of the development of the County’s $1.3 billion annual budget, management of County-owned professional sports facilities and riverfront parking operations, economic development, human resources, central purchasing services, grants management, risk management, small business development, and joint city/county riverfront redevelopment efforts.
Eric’s over 25-year public service career has also included five years as the Assistant City Manager and Budget Director for the City of Elgin, Illinois (population 94,487), and service in the City of Dayton, Ohio’s Office of Management and Budget. Mr. Stuckey is a cum laude graduate of Miami University (Ohio) with a Bachelor of Science degree in Business Administration. Eric also earned a Master of Public Administration degree with honors from the University of Kansas. Eric is active in his profession as a member of the International City/County Management Association (ICMA) and Executive Board member of the Tennessee City Management Association (TCMA). Eric is also active in the community working as a youth baseball and basketball coach, youth volunteer at his church, and a board member for the United Way, Williamson County Convention and Visitors Bureau, and the Williamson County Communications Network Authority.
Eric and his wife, Lisa, have two children, Beth and Scott. Lisa serves as a teacher and literacy coach at Sunset Middle School. Beth is a doctoral student in occupational therapy at Belmont University and Scott is studying biomedical engineering at Ohio State University. Outside of his work life, Eric enjoys sports, exercise, reading, and travel. In 2013, Eric summited Mount Kilimanjaro with his brothers, Kent and Doug. He also claimed the mirror ball trophy from the Nashville Dancing with the Stars competition (a fundraising, ballroom dancing competition benefiting Feed America First).