Missy Marshall, who has spent the past 20 years working in state government, was recently named executive director of Keep Tennessee Beautiful.
The public service organization is a partnership with the Tennessee Department of Transportation and the University of Memphis Extended Programs, and is funded by the Tennessee Alcoholic Beverage Commission.
“Our main charge is to promote and educate Tennesseans on taking a greater responsibility for keeping our environment clean,” Marshall said. “I actually live it. I recycle, I’ve participated in community cleanups – but I’d never really connected the dots.”
Once those dots were connected, it gave her the bigger picture that is Keep Tennessee Beautiful and a new passion to work toward. The organization spent a year searching for a new director, and Marshall is only the third in its 30-year history.
“Tennesseans interested in a cleaner and greener and safer state are really lucky she accepted the position. She brings a pretty wide array of experience to the job that’s awfully exciting for us,” said Shawn Bible, beautification coordinator for TDOT in Nashville and a member of the Keep Tennessee Beautiful Advisory Council.
Keep Tennessee Beautiful is part of the national Keep America Beautiful network and boasts 24 affiliates across the state, including the Memphis City Beautiful Commission.
Marshall grew up in Blount County in East Tennessee and attended college at Middle Tennessee State University. She began her career as a public health educator with the Department of Health, and most recently worked with the Department of Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities.
“I have lived in every region of the state, so I’m very familiar with it. It’s all of ours — it’s not just the state’s responsibility. Technically it’s our backyard. Tennessee belongs to all of us.”
“I was the person on Capitol Hill that worked with advocacy organizations; I represented the department from policy and legislation,” said Marshall, who realized she “could bring those skills to this organization to heighten the awareness of it, to get people more involved and to get excited about it.”
At a recent states’ leaders council at the national Keep America Beautiful conference, Marshall seconded the motion made by the director of Keep Pennsylvania Beautiful to fund a study on the economic impact of blight, a hot topic in Memphis recently. Representatives from Tennessee, Pennsylvania and Georgia will sit on the committee.
“Right here in our backyard, Memphis has its issues with blight, and most big cities do,” she said. “There’s a lot of data out there, but it hasn’t been compiled into one report that could give us a greater picture of the impact of blight.”
In addition to working with the committee, Marshall hopes to engage with counties that are not affiliates to find out why and get them on board. Keep Tennessee Beautiful is an actions-based organization, and Marshall notes that for the past several years Tennessee has garnered awards for 100 percent participation among counties in the Great American Cleanup, a national day of volunteering.
“We think Keep Tennessee Beautiful is just one of the very best volunteer organizations in the state, but I’m not sure everybody knows it,” Bible said, “and I think one of the important things we want to see – and (Marshall) can help us do – is to let folks know what we’re doing, and then we’ll draw in more volunteers and more support.”
While Marshall admits it’s not glamorous, litter is a continuing problem for our society. “Litter is an expensive problem in Tennessee,” she said. “TDOT spends a little more than $11 million each year cleaning litter along the roadway. There are many negative impacts associated with litter: community living, community image, quality of life, safety and criminal activity, health of the environment, and economics, whether potential income through tourism or recruitment of business.”
Awareness of the problem comes into play and Bible sees that “one of the most important things is her experience developing partnerships. … We want to help communities, and it takes the government and business and nonprofits to really help and do more in communities.”
Marshall would like to see such partnerships with local schools to incorporate lessons at an early age regarding the environment and the perils of littering.
“It’s about preserving our planet,” Marshall said.
With her husband, Barry, a US Airways pilot, and their four children – Alex, Blake, Addy and Barrett – Marshall now lives in Collierville and makes use of the vast amount of recreational green space Shelby County has to offer.
“I have lived in every region of the state, so I’m very familiar with it,” she said. “It’s all of ours – it’s not just the state’s responsibility. Technically it’s our backyard. Tennessee belongs to all of us.”