There were several possible titles for this post. One was, “Bidding Abbie a Fond Farewell.” Another option was “Abbie Hudgens and Her Enormous Feet” (I’ll explain that one in a minute). But in the end, simply “Abbie” ruled the day.
Because most people active nationally in workers’ comp will immediately know who I am talking about.
Abbie Hudgens, the Administrator of the Tennessee Bureau of Workers’ Compensation for the past 11 years, retired yesterday. She leaves a legacy of leadership and reform unparalleled in the workers’ compensation space. It is a loss for the agency, although by all accounts she has left it in highly capable hands. It is likely a win for her husband Skip, who, as a speaker recently mentioned at her retirement luncheon in Murfreesboro, generously “shared” her with the division.
As if Skip ever had a choice.
Prior to leading the Bureau, Abbie was risk manager for Metro Nashville/Davidson County, the risk & benefits manager for the city of Knoxville and a consultant in private practice. She is a Tennessee native and received a B.A. from the University of Memphis and a M.P.A. from the University of Tennessee at Knoxville.
And she has done far more than lead Tennessee through the most dramatic, and by almost all accounts the most effective reforms ever conducted in the state. She served as president of the International Association of Industrial Accident Boards and Commissions (IAIABC), Southern Association of Workers’ Compensation Administrators (SAWCA), and Public Risk Management Association (PRIMA). She has also been president of the Knoxville Risk Management Society, Tennessee Valley Benefits Council, and a member of the Tennessee Advisory Council on Workers’ Compensation. As if that was not enough, she also served as Chairman of the Board of HC 21, an employer led healthcare coalition in East Tennessee. In 2015 She was awarded the IAIABC Frances Perkins Award for Innovation and Progressive Leadership in Workers’ Compensation and Social Security in 2015 and the 2017 Comp Laude Industry Leader Award.
Personally, words cannot convey the level of respect I have for Abbie Hudgens. She is an anomaly in the world of workers’ comp; a person whose soft-spoken southern charm obscures an iron will and focused determination. They say that to be successful you should “walk softly and carry a big stick.” Abbie Hudgens walks softly but doesn’t need the stick. Her words and skills of persuasion have been entirely capable of taking her and her agency where they needed to go.
Abbie’s successor is Troy Haley. Haley has been with the bureau since 2007, serving as its Legal Services Director. He is widely viewed as someone who will be able to continue the work and direction that Hudgens established for her agency. He is also charming, witty, and a snappy dresser (hey, ingratiating yourself – what some would call “sucking up” – to new regulators takes time. I have to start early). Numerous people (including yours truly) have advised him that he has “very big shoes to fill.” This did prompt the comment from me at a recent Tennessee conference that, since filling those shoes was such a large task, her feet must be enormous.
I told you I would explain that possible title.
I think we will revise that, and simply refer to the large footprint she has left on workers’ comp, both nationally and in Tennessee.
And if I am being totally honest, I am also a winner in Abbie’s retirement. She is continuing her work and contribution to the workers’ compensation industry, and one of those efforts is through WorkCompCollege.com. Her contributions as Trustee, Dean, and Faculty member have been invaluable to us, and through this program her influence will continue to shape the industry and professionals for many years to come.
So, Abbie, today we simply say thank you. Your impact and far-reaching influence have been felt and noted. Enjoy your retirement, albeit in moderation. After all, you can’t unlace those shoes just yet. There are still some enormous footprints to be made.