2019 Presenters
(Updated 12/21/18)

Kansas Governor

Governor Laura Kelly was elected in 2018 to serve as the 48th Governor of Kansas. Prior to this, she was a Kansas State Senator from the 18th district. Elected in 2004, Laura was the Ranking Minority Member on both the Senate Ways and Means Committee and the Public Health and Welfare Committee. In addition, she served on the Financial Institutions and Insurance Committee, the Health Policy Oversight Committee, the Home and Community Based Services Oversight Committee, the Health Care Stabilization Fund Oversight Committee, the Pay Plan Oversight Committee, the KPERS Study Commission, the Joint Committees on Pensions, Benefits and Investments, the Legislative Post Audit Committee, the Building and Construction Committee, and the Legislative Budget Committee. Prior to serving in the Senate, Laura was Executive Director of the Kansas Recreation and Park Association for 18 years.

Secretary of Agriculture

Sonny Perdue is currently serving as the 31st United States Secretary of Agriculture. As Secretary of Agriculture, Sonny has focused on helping new farmers get started in agriculture, announcing a mentoring program in August 2017. He has worked to assist rural committees, helping farmers operate with less regulation, increasing exports, and passing the 2018 Farm Bill. Sonny previously served as the 81st Governor of Georgia from 2003 to 2011.

Research Fellow at the School of Government, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Brian Dabson became Research Fellow at the School of Government, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, in July 2016 after serving as Associate Dean, Research Professor, and Director of the Institute of Public Policy in the University of Missouri’s Harry S. Truman School of Public Affairs. Prior to coming to the United States, Dabson was Director of the Center for Employment Initiatives, a UK-based research and technical assistance nonprofit that worked across Europe on community and economic development programs, and in a number of local government planning and economic development positions in Liverpool and Glasgow.

Dabson’s presentation is based on his essay published in the Federal Reserve System’s new publication Investing in America’s Workforce:  Improving Outcomes for Workers and Employers available at www.InvestInWork.org.

Westar Energy

Deb Grunst was appointed Vice President, Information Technology in 2015. Prior to that she became Executive Director, Information Technology in 2014. She joined Westar Energy in 2011 as Director, Business Systems. Having received her computer science degree in 1986 from South Central College, Mankato, Minn., Deb’s career in information technology began in Mankato in 1986, where she was Manager, Application Development, at National Independent Billing for 10 years.

Deb is a member of Edison Electric Institute’s Chief Information Officer Executive Advisory Committee, and serves as a board member for the Prevention and Recovery Services (PARS) and for the Kansas Advisory Council for Career & Technical Education (KACCTE).

Foley Equipment

Jack Frederick is a native of Wichita and 2006 graduate of Wichita North High School where he was active in their Automotive Technology program. Frederick graduated from Pittsburg State University (Pittsburg, KS) in 2010 and went to work for Foley Equipment soon after graduation. In 2007, while at Pitt State, he was elected as the National College Post-Secondary President for the national SkillsUSA organization.

Frederick is responsible for Foley’s Oil and Gas service as well as Foley’s Rebuild Center in Park City, Kansas, where the company reconditions engines for the different industries served in their territory.

Pottawatomie County Economic Development Corp. 

Jack has been Executive Director of the Pottawatomie County Economic Development Corporation for the last three years. Prior to that, he worked the majority of his time the ten years prior for the New Mexico Economic Development Partnership arranging appointments and meetings for economic development officials in the state of New Mexico.

He is a graduate of the University of Massachusetts at Lowell in Business Administration and Northeastern University, Boston, with a Masters in Labor Economics. He is a graduate of the Economic Development Institute, University of Oklahoma, American Economic Development Council, and the Institute for Organization Management sponsored by Chamber of Commerce of the U.S.

Wamego USD 320

Since 2001, Jina Kugler has served as a high school counselor in Wamego working closely with students on their individual plans of study and career planning. Jina served on the state-level IPS committee and was a board member for Pottawatomie County Economic Development Corp. Jina is passionate about partnering with post-secondary institutions as well as business and industry to provide more opportunities for students. In 2018, she was named an ACT K-12 College and Career Readiness Champion.

Jina grew up in Smith Center, KS and attended Kansas State University receiving a bachelor’s degree in secondary education with teaching endorsements in English, journalism, psychology and speech. She was an English teacher in Great Bend and an English/journalism teacher in Wamego before earning her master’s degree in school counseling and guidance services.

presenter_gieberSTEVEN GIEBER
Kansas Council on Developmental Disabilities

Steven Gieber is the Executive Director of the Kansas Council on Developmental Disabilities (KCDD) and serves as the Vice Chair of the National Association of Councils on Developmental Disabilities. The Council has a long history of providing leadership in the area of employment for people with disabilities from supporting self-employment, supported employment and bringing Project Search to Kansas. Steve has also served on the Local Area One Workforce Development Board since its inception and was appointed to the Kansas Employment First Commission.

Steve is a lifelong Kansan who earned a Bachelor of Science Degree in Industrial Art, then a Master of Arts Degree in Organizational Leadership from Fort Hays State University.

Kansas State Board of Education

Jim Porter has dedicated the last 50 years to his career in education and has spent 34 years as the Superintendent of Schools both in Missouri and Kansas. In 2015, he was elected to the Kansas State Board of Education and currently serves as its Chairman. Jim is heavily involved in his community. He has served as a Board of Director for numerous organizations including the Fredonia Public Library and Arts Council and is a member of the Fredonia Lions Club.

Jim received his undergraduate degree from Hardin Simmons University and a Masters in Secondary Education from North Texas State University.

Disability Rights Center of Kansas

Rocky Nichols brings over 25 years of experience in non-profit leadership and public policy advocacy (11 as a member of the Kansas House of Representatives, two as legislative staff and 15 at DRC Kansas). Rocky is a veteran advocate for disability rights issues. Rocky is also a former member of the Next Generation Leadership Committee of the President’s Committee for People with Intellectual Disabilities.

Rocky received his undergraduate degree from Washburn University and a Masters in Public Administration from the University of Kansas.

Autism Speaks

Mike, Director of State Government Affairs, joined Autism Speaks in 2011 and has helped lead the passage of autism insurance reform laws across the country.  A frequent speaker on autism advocacy and policy, Mike has also successfully advocated for the addition of meaningful autism benefits in many self-funded health benefit plans. While continuing his work with stakeholders to ensure effective implementation and enforcement of autism insurance laws, Mike and the State Government Affairs Team at Autism Speaks are also working to improve transition services and outcomes for individuals impacted by autism.

presenter_tenbrinkTYLER TENBRINK
Kansas Department of Labor

Tyler graduated from Kansas State University in 2005.  While at Kansas State, he earned a Bachelor of Science Degree in Agricultural Economics. Tyler then attended graduate school at the University of Kansas starting in 2005. In 2006, he graduated with a Master of Arts Degree in Economics. Upon graduation, Tyler joined the workforce taking a job in the financial services industry. Nearly two years later, he started as a Labor Economist for the Labor Market Information Services (LMIS) division of the Kansas Department of Labor.

Since 2008, Tyler has worked in LMIS moving from Labor Economist to his current position as Senior Labor Economist. He works on several projects within LMIS including long-term employment projections, high demand occupations, and the monthly labor report.

Kansas City STEM Alliance

Martha McCabe, Executive Director for the Kansas City STEM Alliance, manages relationships with pK -12 schools, post-secondary institutions, STEM organizations and industry working on strategic education initiatives, community partnerships and workforce needs locally, regionally and nationally. Martha coordinates outreach and advocacy efforts serving as a liaison to the national Project Lead The Way and FIRST organizations focused on access and equity strategies.

Martha received both her graduate and undergraduate degrees from the University of Kansas.

Kansas City STEM Alliance

Ann Zimmerman, Ecosystem Coordinator for the Kansas City STEM Alliance, has supported the work of non-profits for over 25 years. Ann has a background in strategic planning and marketing, program development, event management, fundraising and governance. As a skilled facilitator, problem solver and communicator, Ann thrives on building consensus and moving organizations forward.

In 2011, Ann was part of the planning team to develop the KC STEM Alliance and has helped that organization grow to serve thousands of students in the KC metro area.

Bartlett & West

Jackie Shufelberger, Operation Support Manager at Bartlett & West, has worked for the engineering and technical solutions company for almost 19 years. One of Shufelberger’s key responsibilities with the company is to manage the charitable outreach in Topeka. Bartlett & West is a company that needs employees with STEM skills and has helped drive and support some of the STEM activity in Topeka.

Jackie has a Bachelor of Science in Business Management.

Midwestern Higher Education Compact

Susan Heegaard, President of the Midwestern Higher Education Compact, has a long history of working in higher education. From 2004 to 2009, Susan served as Commissioner of the Minnesota Office of Higher Education, as well as serving as a Commissioner Alternate for the Midwestern Higher Education Compact. Starting in 2013, Susan was a Senior Consultant with HCM Strategists, a public policy firm connecting state and system leaders with effective approaches aimed at improved postsecondary education outcomes.

Susan holds a law degree from Mitchell Hamline College of Law and a bachelor’s in economics and government.

RobertsPAT ROBERTS – Invited
U.S. Senate

Pat Roberts is a senior member of the United States Senate. A member of the Republican Party, Pat has served since 1997. He previously served as the Chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence. Born in Topeka, Kansas, Roberts is a graduate of Kansas State University. He served as a captain in the U.S. Marine Corps and worked as a newspaper reporter before entering politics in the late 1960s. He was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in 1980. He served eight terms in the House, including one as chairman of the House Agriculture Committee. Roberts was elected to the U.S. Senate in 1996 and is currently serving his fourth term.

 Kansas Senate

Senator Lynn was elected to the Kansas Senate in 2006 after a long career in Marketing and Sales. Senate Committees include Chair of Commerce, Vice Chair of Judiciary, Tax, Utilities, Legislative Post Audit. Other appointments include Governors Council on Tourism, KansasWorks Board, and the Judicial Council Sub Committee on CINC.

When not serving in Topeka, Senator Lynn is an Account Executive for an IT Business Solutions company.

presenter_budestesBUD ESTES
Kansas Senate

Bud Estes represents District 38 in the Kansas Senate. Senator Estes resides in Dodge City, Kansas, and formerly represented the 119th District in the Kansas House of Representatives from 2013 until 2017. Estes, along with his brothers, owns Bucklin Tractor & Implement, which includes five John Deere dealerships in western Kansas. Bud is a graduate of Fort Hays State University.

Kansas Senate

Ed Berger is a lifelong Kansan raised on a small family farm in Harvey County. He attended Hutchinson Community College, has bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Wichita State University and a Doctorate in Education from Kansas State University. Berger was part of the charter faculty at Seward County Community College in 1969 before becoming Dean of Continuing Education. He then served as Dean of Continuing Education at Hutchinson Community College before becoming President, a position that he held for 23 years. He is now President of Berger Training and Consulting. In 2016, Berger was elected State Senator for the 34th District in Kansas.

presenter_ballardBARBARA BALLARD
Kansas House of Representatives

Rep. Barbara Ballard was elected to the Kansas House of Representatives in 1992. She represents the 44th House District, covering most of western Lawrence.

Within the Lawrence community, Rep. Ballard serves on the Board of Directors at the Bert Nash Community Mental Health Center and Cottonwood, Inc. She and her husband attend Plymouth Congressional Church, where she participates in the Chancel Choir. In the past, Ballard has also served on the board of directors of the Lawrence Chamber of Commerce and was a member of Rotary International. She also served eight years as the first black woman on the Lawrence Public School Board and was elected Board President twice.

As a state legislator, Rep. Ballard is active on the House Appropriations Committee. She also serves on the House Committees on Social Services Budget. Rep. Ballard was the first black member elected to the House Leadership team and has served as Democratic Caucus Chair for over 10 years.

Nationally, Rep. Ballard has been extremely active in the National Black Caucus of State Legislators (NBCSL), a policy organization committed to advancing the welfare of African Americans. She currently serves as the Vice President of the NBCSL Executive Committee and has also served as a State Regional Chair and Vice-chair. Rep. Ballard was recognized in 2007 as the organization’s Outstanding Legislator of the Year.

Kansas House of Representatives

Ken Rahjes was raised on a family farm and ranch in north central Kansas near the community of Agra, where he lives today. He is beginning his fourth year as a member of the Kansas House of Representatives, serving the 110th District. He currently serves on the Taxation and Transportation committees and is Vice-Chairman of the Water & Natural Resources Committee.

Rahjes is also President of Authentic Ag, Inc., a multi-channel agriculture media company, including the Kansas Ag Report television program along with AgView.net and radio network.

Kansas House of Representatives

Representative Ralph is currently the City Attorney for Dodge City, Kansas. Prior to this position, he was in private practice with the firm of Williams, Malone & Ralph for 25 years. He is in his first term in the Kansas legislature.

Representative Ralph currently serves on Committee on Appropriations, Judiciary Committee, and the Committee on Commerce, Labor and Economic Development.

Brad has been active in his community in leadership positions with his church and the Community Foundation of Southwest Kansas.  He has also served the legal profession on several professional committees, including the Kansas Bar Association’s Professional Ethics Committee.

Representative Ralph is a graduate of St. Mary of the Plains College and Washburn University School of Law.

Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation

Carla Tillmon is a Community Affairs Specialist with the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation Division of Depositor and Consumer Protection. Carla is responsible for convening banks, non-profits and other community stakeholders to identify community development opportunities through appropriate outreach events and serves as a liaison for financial institutions, examiners, community organizations and other stakeholders in the areas of economic inclusion, the Community Reinvestment Act and fair lending laws in Kansas and South Dakota.

Prior to joining the FDIC, she was employed for 10 years with the U.S. Department of Labor, Women’s Bureau, implementing projects and programs related to promoting the interests of women and families. She worked as a workforce development professional for 15 years before joining the Women’s Bureau. Carla is a graduate of the University of Missouri-Kansas City, where she earned a Bachelor of Arts in Communications and a Master’s Degree in Public Administration.

U.S. Department of Labor

Theo Coney joined the U.S. Department of Labor and became the Director of Veteran Employment and Training for the state of Kansas in November of 2016. Coney has over 15 years of public service experience, seven of which were served in a law enforcement capacity and five years as a State Veteran Employment Program Manager with the Kansas Department of Commerce. Theo served as a Field Radio Operator in the United States Marine Corps. After serving honorably at two American Embassies, he exited the Marine Corps in 2004 to pursue higher education endeavors.

In 2008, Theo graduated from Upper Iowa University with a Bachelor of Science in Public Administration and an Undergraduate Certificate in Human Resources Management. Currently, Theo is attending the University of Missouri pursuing a Doctorate’s degree in Higher Education Administration and Leadership, with research that focuses on veterans’ transition and service accountability. Coney’s commitment to veterans, passion for service and values are in accordance with the highest standards and tradition of the USDOL-VETS.

USDA Rural Development

Lynne Hinrichsen served the state of Kansas as the Agribusiness Development Director for the Kansas Department of Agriculture for the past four years. Prior to working in the public sector, she owned and operated a professional staffing service for 13 years where she provided human resource consulting services to companies as well as temporary and permanent employment opportunities to people.

She has an extensive background in sales, marketing, advertising, management, strategic planning and business development through her career in the staffing, beef cattle and food distribution industries. She remains active in the agricultural industry through membership in the American Angus Association, Kansas Angus Association, American Angus Auxiliary, Kansas Angus Auxiliary, National Cattlemen’s Beef Association and Kansas Livestock Association.  She has served in officer and committee roles within several of these organizations and most recently was the President of the American Angus Auxiliary after serving eight years on the board.

Hinrichsen is a graduate of Michigan State University with dual Bachelor of Science degrees in Animal Science and Agricultural Communications. During college she was a member of the livestock, meats and horse judging teams and an active member of the MSU Block and Bridle organization.

Northeast Workforce Development Board

Michelle Bish is a workforce development professional and has served as the Executive Director for the Northeast Workforce Development Board since May 2015.  Michelle began her career in workforce development in 2008 as a National Emergency Grant Coordinator in Southeast Kansas. Michelle also worked as Project Director and State Program Manager overseeing WIOA programs and services. Michelle began her career in long term care health administration and is a licensed Assisted Living Director.

Michelle is a graduate of the Northeast Oklahoma Regional Alliance Leadership Academy.

Little Dixie Community Action Agency, Inc.

Johnny Moffitt is the Associate Director for Little Dixie Community Action Agency, Inc. and oversees different programs, including the Drug Free Communities Program, Retired Senior Volunteer Program, Court Appointed Special Advocates for Children Program, and the Self Help Housing Technical & Management Assistance Program. Johnny also worked as a Planning Director that wrote grants for overall agency program expansions, enhancements, new programs, job creation, and other avenues to assist low-income persons within the service area to become self-sufficient.

Johnny received a Bachelor’s Degree in Business Administration/Management from Southeastern Oklahoma State University.

University of Arkansas Community College at Morrilton

Diana Arn is the current Vice Chancellor for Academic Services with the University of Arkansas Community College at Morrilton. Diana has worked with UACC of Morrilton since 1987 when she began her career as an instructor for Business Education. Diana has served on various educational boards and committees.

NetWork Kansas

As Director of Strategic Partnerships & Impact Investment, Imagene oversees NetWork Kansas’ flagship statewide loan portfolios, including StartUp Kansas, Kansas Capital Multiplier programs, and the new Kansas Community Investment Fund. She also assists with NetWork Kansas’s involvement in the Kansas Healthy Food Initiative. Imagene joined NetWork Kansas in December 2013 after working in compliance for the Kansas Department of Health and Environment (KDHE).

Imagene is a lifelong Kansan, hailing from Franklin County and now calling Lawrence home, where she also earned a BS in environmental studies from the University of Kansas. Most recently she completed her Masters of Business Administration from Fort Hays State University.

Community Foundation of the Ozarks

Brian Fogle is President at Community Foundation of the Ozarks. Prior to joining CFO, he spent 30 years in banking in Springfield. Brian has been active in numerous civic and non-profit groups. He currently chairs the Good Community Committee and is on the board of Every Child Promise, the Mercy Health Foundation, the Downtown Council of Champions, Healthy Living Alliance, and the Missouri Scholarship and Loan Foundation.

Brian’s hometown is Aurora, MO, where he is a graduate of Aurora High School. He has his B.B.A. and M.B.A. in banking and finance from the University of Mississippi.