David Wayne Purkey was educated in the Hamblen County School System at Manley Elementary, Alpha Elementary, West View Middle School and Morristown-Hamblen High School West where he graduated in 1977. Purkey was the salutatorian of his senior class, selected as a Who’s Who student, achieved First Honors status and was elected Senior Class Treasurer. He was awarded the Dr. J.C. Freels and (perhaps as a further foreboding to his government and political career) the Senator Estes Kefauver academic scholarships to the University of Tennessee.
As a college freshman on Christmas break, Purkey earned a personally signed recognition from President Jimmy Carter, the American Red Cross Award of Merit and the Lion’s Club Medal of Valor for saving the life of a young boy using CPR. He graduated from East Tennessee State University in 1981 with a Bachelor’s degree in Public Health and interned with the State Division of Emergency Medical Services. He earned a Master’s degree in Public Health in 1987 from the University of Tennessee where he interned with the Tennessee Department of Safety. Purkey also trained as an Emergency Medical Technician, a certification he continues to hold some 34 years later.
His first government position was Judicial Assistant to his mentor, Judge James K. Miller. He also served as a 911 Dispatcher, Morristown-Hamblen County Emergency Management Director, Tennessee State Trooper assigned to the Nashville and Fall Branch Districts, Tennessee Bureau of Investigation Special Agent assigned to the Chattanooga Region, and Police Accreditation Manager for the City of Morristown. Purkey proudly wore the uniform as an officer in the Tennessee Army National Guard and United State Army Reserves for eight years.
Purkey was appointed to the vacancy of Hamblen County Mayor in 1995 and went on to be elected four times before voluntarily retiring in 2010. At the time of his retirement, he left the County with historically low property tax rates, the highest bond rating on record and audit recognized record “rainy day” reserves while supporting the largest building program in history to address needs of the Hamblen County School System. Purkey had the unique experience of serving two terms with his brother Otto, who was elected Sheriff during his tenure.
Purkey’s 30 year retirement was short lived. Governor-Elect Bill Haslam and Commissioner-Designee Bill Gibbons tapped him to be the fourth State Homeland Security Advisor and Assistant Commissioner for the Department of Safety and Homeland Security in 2011. He serves with some 1,700 employees statewide. The Governor-Elect commented at the time that “David Purkey is a man who has helped make Tennesseans safer throughout his life and I’m grateful that he’ll be a part of our team.”
Purkey was inducted into his high school Hall of Fame in 2011. He also received the coveted Chamber of Commerce Community Service Award in 2012.