Deb Wallace, a native of McMinn County, is the inspector general for the State of Georgia.
She has worked with Georgia’s Office of Inspector General since its inception in 2003, working under Govs. Sonny Perdue, Nathan Deal and now Brian Kemp.
“I initially worked as deputy inspector general for 10 years and, in 2013, was appointed as the state inspector general,” Wallace said. “As inspector general, I direct the office responsible for investigating allegations of fraud, waste, abuse and corruption in the executive branch for state government.”
Her office has jurisdiction and authority to conduct both administrative and criminal investigations for approximately 100,000 state employees that span over 86 separate agencies, along with 330,000 vendors that conduct business with the state government.
“Anti-fraud awareness and ethics training presentations are essential components of my job,” stated Wallace. “Therefore, my staff and I speak to about 3,000 employees a year at various conferences and events.”
In January of 2019, Kemp signed an executive order assigning Wallace’s department oversight of the state’s sexual harassment investigations.
She holds a bachelor’s degree in management science from Chaminade University and a master’s degree in education administration from Troy University.
She is a graduate of the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center, the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation (TBI) special agent training, executive leadership programs in both Tennessee and Georgia state government, as well as being a certified inspector general and certified fraud examiner.
“Upon graduation from McMinn Central High School in 1980, I served on active duty in the United States Navy five years in the enlisted ranks, advancing from seaman recruit to yeoman first class petty officer,” stated Wallace looking back on her work history. “I then transitioned to the United States Naval Reserve where I was promoted to chief petty officer and subsequently earned a direct commission as an officer. I worked as a communications officer overseeing the administration and training divisions.”
She is a veteran of 20 years and ultimately retired as a lieutenant commander.
“The beauty of being a naval reservist all those years allowed me to also maintain a parallel civilian career. Hence, my professional work experience includes working as an adult education instructor for government contracted Central Texas College and an academic advisor for Chaminade University prior to becoming a federal law enforcement officer,” Wallace said. “Once in the federal government, I worked as a criminal investigator with the U.S. Navy Criminal Investigative Service (NCIS), compensation investigator with the U.S. Army Criminal Investigative Division and security specialist with the U.S. Department of Energy. I also worked for the State of Tennessee as an internal affairs Investigator for the Department of Corrections and was later promoted by the corrections commissioner to serve as the director of education for the Department’s Special School District encompassing academic and vocational programs in 22 state prisons. Subsequently, I transitioned to Georgia state government where I’ve been the past 17 years.”
She believes a person’s success is determined by their own abilities to work and form connections.
“People have said that ‘you don’t seem like you would be the state inspector general, what would you say has made you able to be good at what you have done all these years?’ And what I tell people is because of my unassuming nature, I have really been underestimated my whole life — my soft voice, my feminine demeanor — they never think that I have been in the roles that I have been in, but in my experience success is not based on your craft knowledge it is really based on your soft skills,” she stated. “Your personal attributes influence how well you can work or interact with others and that is what makes you better at whatever your trade craft is … You could be a guru at whatever your trade craft is but if you don’t have those soft skills then you aren’t going to get that far. I think just trying to treat people right and do the right thing has helped me get to where I am just by being authentic and real.”
Her affiliations consist of “proudly” being a seventh generation native of McMinn County, a member of the National Association of Inspector Generals, Georgia Chapter of Certified Fraud Examiners, and Alexander Keith Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution.
“I travel home frequently to Athens to spend time with my daughter, Ashley Wallace Copeland, who works at Tennessee Wesleyan University, my father, Larry Wallace, who founded TWU’s Criminal Justice program and continues to serve on TWU’s Board of Trustees, and mother and step-father, Eva and Richard Burris, who are artisans and gardeners, and other special family members,” she said. “I enjoy collecting heirloom and vintage things that bring comfort, character and joy to home. An avid hiker, I relish spending time outdoors and love to travel with my little Maltese, The Colonel, affectionately named in honor of my father.”
Her future aspirations are to return to her hometown of Athens where she would like to contribute to the community.
“I am too young to actually retire from my current position, but I am sure that I will do something else, it may be that I want to open an antique store, it may be that I want to help somebody else in their story, or that I want to work at TWU or volunteer,” she said. “I am incredibly grateful for my good East Tennessee roots and upbringing. With a genuine passion for my work, I continue to be very challenged and fulfilled as a public servant at the pinnacle of my career. I do look forward to transitioning in a few years to my hometown of Athens and giving back to this beautiful community.”