New River Community and Technical College
Thursday, February 20, 2014
Founder and CEO, Akins Public Strategies
Since founding his company in 1989, Darrell has become one of the leading public strategists in the Tennessee Valley region. His career in community, business and political leadership has well prepared him to advise many of our nation’s and region’s leading companies and organizations.
With special expertise in reputation and relationship management, Darrell has forged his own reputation as a go-to person for those seeking to do business, impact opinion or shape public policy in the Valley region.
A native East Tennessean, he began his professional career following graduation from the University of Tennessee in 1972 working on the staff of Knoxville Mayor Kyle Testerman and afterwards he worked as Vice President at the Bank of Maryville.
With the election of fellow Blount Countian Lamar Alexander as Tennessee’s Governor in 1978, Darrell joined the new administration as Deputy Commissioner of Human Services and then as Deputy Commissioner of Transportation. At the age of thirty-one, he became the youngest member of the Alexander cabinet with his appointment as Commissioner of Personnel.
Following his state service, Darrell became Chief Executive Officer of the Greater Knoxville Chamber of Commerce in 1984, where he is credited with providing the leadership to form Tennessee’s first regional economic development effort, then known as Tennessee’s Resource Valley, and also starting the state’s second community leadership program, Leadership Knoxville.
Among many community honors, Darrell is a life member of the Florence Crittenton Agency of Knoxville, received the Southeast U.S. Volunteer of Year Award of the Child Welfare League of America, and was awarded the Maryville College Distinguished Service Award for his many contributions as a long-time MC Board member. He is a former Vice President of the Tennessee Business Roundtable and past Vice Chairman of the Tennessee Independent College and Universities Association. He is also Past Chairman of the United Way of Greater Knoxville and the United Way of Roane County.
In the 1995 he helped coordinate the efforts to organize and manage the first Tennessee Valley Corridor (TVC) Summit. Since then, he has become the Executive Manager of the five-state, non-profit organization that manages the TVC that promotes the federal missions in the Tennessee Valley region and seeks to leverage those investments into private sector job development. In 2004 the TVC was named the best regional economic development organization in the nation by the U.S. Department of Commerce in a tie with North Carolina’s Research Triangle.
He serves on the boards of the East Tennessee Economic Council, the Knoxville-area Advisory Board of SunTrust Bank and is the president-elect of the Oak Ridge Rotary Club. In 2011 he received the East Tennessee Economic Council’s ’Muddy Boot Award” for career-long service to the Oak Ridge community particularly for his efforts to promote regional economic partnerships.