The Tennessee Aquarium’s Human Resources team is restructuring to meet the growing needs of three of Chattanooga’s top attractions. Julie Piper, the Aquarium’s vice president and chief human resource officer, announced the staff changes this week.
“I am extremely proud of this team and their proven commitment to consistently deliver the highest level of customer service to the Aquarium’s staff and volunteers as well as the staffs of the Creative Discovery Museum and the Hunter Museum of American Art,” Ms.
Piper said. “These promotions and additions will ensure that we are well-positioned to address the current and future needs of our most valuable asset: our employees.”
Mara-Lynne Payne, senior manager of inclusion, equity & diversity, was promoted to director of inclusion, equity & diversity. She has served in various roles since joining the Tennessee Aquarium 31 years ago. As membership manager, she promoted member events and directed membership and annual giving efforts targeting individuals, families and business partnerships. The Aquarium later expanded her role to include the supervision of the group reservations team. Later, as brand enhancement manager, Ms. Payne coordinated internal organizational messaging and managed projects that supported and enhanced the Aquarium’s brand promises and identity.
Currently, she is responsible for developing and implementing strategies that promote an inclusive workplace culture, equitable recruitment, accessibility, diversity awareness training and related resources as well as meeting the Association of Zoos and Aquariums’ (AZA) Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Access Action (DEIA) accreditation standards.
Ms. Payne holds an associate of science degree in accounting and a bachelor’s degree in human resource management. She is also a graduate of the Inclusion by Design Executive Leadership program and Leadership Chattanooga. She is currently a board member of Diversity Joint Venture for Conservation Careers, a collaborative effort to increase diversity in conservation fields. She is also the vice-chair of the AZA Diversity Committee.
Locally, she serves as a board member for the Bessie Smith Cultural Center and as a deaconess for her church.
Leah Wilson, human resource manager, was promoted to director of human resources. Ms. Wilson has been part of the Aquarium team for 18 years and is very passionate about supporting the Aquarium, Creative Discovery Museum and Hunter Museum employee and organizational needs. She was part of the Visitor Services team before joining Human Resources in 2012. Over the past ten years, her responsibilities have expanded into all areas of human resources, including recruiting, training, employee relations, benefits, legal compliance and reporting, and human resources information system management.
Currently, Ms. Wilson is responsible for developing, evaluating, and implementing human resources policies, programs and procedures in compliance with federal, state and local laws and regulations. She is involved with organizational and departmental strategic planning and directs the essential daily functions of human resources while providing guidance and leadership to the human resources team.
She is a member of the National Society of Human Resource Management (SHRM) and the Southeast Tennessee SHRM Chapter.
Lyndsey Johnson, human resources coordinator, was promoted to human resources manager. She has been a part of the Human Resources team for more than a year and is passionate about the Aquarium, its mission, organizational culture and employee engagement. She is eager to continue supporting the Creative Discovery Museum and Hunter Museum while expanding her responsibilities to their employees and organizational needs.
Since 2017, Ms. Johnson has gained experience in developing human resources policies and strategies, relationship management, ethical practices, talent acquisition, employee engagement and retention, and corporate social responsibility. She is currently responsible for daily human resources functions, including orientation, onboarding, benefits, assistance with reporting and employee engagement. Her professional goal is to leave any workplace better than she found it.
Ms. Johnson holds an associate of science degree in business administration from Chattanooga State Community College and a bachelor’s of science degree in finance from the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga. She is a member of the National Society of Human Resource Management (SHRM) and the Southeast Tennessee SHRM Chapter. This May, she received SHRM-Certified Professional certification.
Darleene Cole, volunteer manager, was promoted to senior program manager of volunteer services.
She joined the Aquarium more than 30 years ago as one of the first membership associates, a role in which she assisted in developing the membership department. She later moved to the human resources department as the benefits coordinator. In this role, she handled administrative requirements of employee benefits plans, provided support to employees and coordinated leave programs.
For the past five years, Ms. Cole has managed the volunteer programs and implemented strategies to enhance and rebuild the Aquarium’s volunteer support base, which diminished after the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic. She currently is responsible for recruitment, onboarding, engagement, measuring impact and communicating with the volunteer base as well as envisioning new opportunities for volunteer involvement throughout the Aquarium.
Tre’Mere Greer, was recently hired as the Human Resource Assistant. She was recently hired as a part-time human resource administrative assistant. She is a junior at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga where she is involved in the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) club and Moc Leadership Team. She serves as a mentor to incoming freshmen as part of the Moc Up program.