Keynote Speakers

Anthony Foxx, Secretary, U. S. Department of Transportation

As U.S. Secretary of Transportation, Anthony Foxx leads an agency with more than 55,000 employees and a $70  billion budget that oversees air, maritime, and surface transportation. His primary goal is to ensure that America maintains the safest, most efficient transportation system in the world. Foxx joined the U.S. Department of Transportation after serving as the mayor of Charlotte, North Carolina, from 2009 to 2013. During that time, he made efficient and innovative transportation investments the centerpiece of Charlotte's job creation and economic recovery efforts. Prior to being elected mayor, Foxx served two terms on the Charlotte City Council as an At-Large Representative. As a Council Member, Foxx chaired the Transportation Committee, where he helped shepherd the largest transportation bond package in the city’s history, enabling Charlotte to take advantage of record low interest rates and favorable construction pricing to stretch city dollars beyond initial projections. Foxx is an attorney and has spent much of his career in private practice. He also worked as a law clerk for the U.S. Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals, a trial attorney for the Civil Rights Division of the U.S. Department of Justice, and staff counsel to the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on the Judiciary. Foxx received a law degree from New York University’s School of Law as a Root-Tilden Scholar, the University’s prestigious public service scholarship. He earned a bachelor’s degree in History from Davidson College.

Lisa Mensah, Under Secretary Rural Development, U. S. Department of Agriculture

Lisa Afua Serwah Mensah was nominated by President Obama for the position of Under Secretary of USDA Rural Development and she was confirmed by the U.S. Senate in November of 2014. Ms. Mensah provides leadership for three USDA agencies charged with improving the economic wellbeing of rural America: the Rural Housing Service, the Rural Utilities Service and the Rural Business-Cooperative Service. Together, these agencies provide critical infrastructure investments in the form of loans and grants for rural housing, high-speed broadband access, telephone, electric and water utilities, renewable energy generation and conservation, local and regional food systems, community facilities, and small business development in rural America. Prior to joining USDA, she was the founding Executive Director of the Initiative on Financial Security at the Aspen Institute. In that role she led a national bi-partisan effort with leaders of financial institutions, non-profit executives and experts to promote solutions to the complex problems of helping more Americans save money, buy homes, and finance retirement. Ms. Mensah began her career in commercial banking at Citibank before joining the Ford Foundation. Ms. Mensah holds an M.A. from the Paul H. Nitze School of Advanced International Studies of The Johns Hopkins University and a B.A. from Harvard University.

MATT S. ERSKINE, U.S. Deputy Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Economic Development and Chief Operating Officer for the Economic Development Administration

Matt S. Erskine was appointed by President Obama to serve as the Deputy Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Economic Development and Chief Operating Officer of the Economic Development Administration in September 2011. Mr. Erskine brings more than 20 years of leadership and management experience in business, public sector, and public-private partnerships.  Prior to joining the Obama Administration and the Department of Commerce, he led the private-public partnership driving economic development and foreign direct investment for the 5th largest metropolitan region in the U.S. and worked in senior roles at global business consulting firms. Mr. Erskine also served as the Deputy Secretary of Commerce and Trade in Virginia Governor Mark Warner’s Administration, where he led multiple innovative economic development initiatives, had oversight of 16 departments and agencies, and was a member of the management team responsible for Virginia’s designation as the nation’s best-managed state. Mr. Erskine received special recognition from the International Economic Development Council (IEDC) in 2014 for leadership in and service to the economic development profession. Mr. Erskine earned a Bachelor of Arts (B.A.) from the University of Virginia as an Echols Scholar and a Master of Business Administration (M.B.A.) from the Harvard Business School. He competes in ultra-distance races, marathons, and triathlons. Erskine and his wife have three children.

Summit Host

Jo Ann Emerson, Chief Executive Officer, National Rural Electric Cooperative Association

Jo Ann Emerson is the CEO of the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association, which represents more than 950 not-for-profit, member-owned electric cooperatives in 47 states. America’s electric cooperatives look to NRECA for advocacy, technical expertise, employer-provided benefits, and the opportunity to work together to improve the quality of life in their communities. Jo Ann leads the organization in that mission. Prior to joining NRECA, Jo Ann served in the U.S. House of Representatives for nine terms. In Southern Missouri, the Eighth Congressional District she represented covers 30 rural counties, with no city population larger than 40,000. Accordingly, Jo Ann spent considerable time on agriculture, energy, infrastructure and health care issues while in Congress, and she was Co-Chair of the Congressional Rural Caucus. Jo Ann holds a B.A. in political science from Ohio Wesleyan University. She previously served as the Senior Vice President of Public Affairs for the American Insurance Association, as Director of State Relations and Grassroots Programs for the small-business oriented National Restaurant Association, and as Deputy Communications Director for the National Republican Congressional Committee. Jo Ann also holds positions on the boards of the World Food Program USA and the Center for U.S. Global Leadership.

Summit Moderator

LOU GREEN, EXECUTIVE VICE PRESIDENT, ELECTRIC COOPERATIVES OF SOUTH CAROLINA

Lou Green is executive vice president for The Electric Cooperatives of South Carolina, Inc., the trade association for the member-owned electric cooperatives in the Palmetto State. He joined the association in 1992. Prior to going to work with the co-ops, he spent 18 years in radio and television news and programming. He held various positions as news anchor, producer, program host and executive producer at several stations in Georgia and South Carolina. Green is a native of Moultrie, Georgia. He received a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Georgia and a master’s degree in business administration from the University of South Carolina.

Expert Observers

David Terrell, Director, Economic Development Policy, Ball State University

David Terrell is the Director of Economic Development Policy at Ball State University. He is also the Chair of the State Policy Panel for the Rural Policy Research Institute (RUPRI), a multi-institution consortium with global reach, broadly regarded as one of the world's more influential public policy research institutions. RUPRI's mission is to provide independent, nonpartisan analysis, and to facilitate public dialogue regarding the impacts of public policy on rural people and places. Mr. Terrell previously served two Indiana Lt. Governors in various positions, including Senior Advisor and Deputy Chief of Staff, where he oversaw five state agencies. He also started the Office of Community and Rural Affairs, a state agency dedicated to rural economic development. Under Mr. Terrell’s leadership, OCRA gained national recognition for state-level economic community development policy.Before joining OCRA, Mr. Terrell consulted with communities on economic and workforce development issues. He has experience in strategic planning, leadership development, and expanding economic and community development capacity. Mr. Terrell spent nine years in manufacturing, spending most of that time as the plant manager for a steel wire manufacturer in Southern Indiana. He began his career in the Indiana Department of Commerce, in the Business Expansion Division. A graduate of Indiana State University who earned his MBA from the University of South Florida. 

Branko Terzic, Managing Director, Berkeley Research Group LLC

The Honorable Branko Terzic, managing director at the Berkeley Research Group LLC, is an independent management consultant focused on advising electric and natural gas utility management and regulators. Terzic’s government service includes appointment as a Commissioner on U.S. Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, Commissioner on the State of Wisconsin Public Service Commission and Chairman of the State of Wisconsin Racing Board. He has also served on the National Petroleum Council and National Coal Council. His business career includes many years as a consultant in regulation, and serving as Chairman, President and Chief Executive Officer of a public utility and holding company. Terzic has published articles in numerous energy and finance publications and his bi-weekly column Terzic on Strategy was published from 1999 to 2009 in New Power Executive. He has appeared as a commentator on numerous TV news programs including CNN, CNBC, Fox Business, PBS, Voice of America and others. Branko Terzic holds a BS in Energy Engineering and honorary Doctor of Sciences in Engineering from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. He was elected to the Energy Efficiency Forum Hall of Fame (2009) is a member of the ASME, AEE, IAEE, Energy Bar Association and other professional organizations. 

Jill Long Thompson, Former Board Chair and Chief Executive Officer, Farm Credit Administration

The Honorable Jill Long Thompson has many years of leadership experience. Until March of this year, she served as the Board Chair and CEO of the Farm Credit Administration, the independent agency that oversees the Farm Credit System. From 1989 to 1995 she represented northeast Indiana as a Member of the U.S. House of Representatives, serving on the Agriculture Committee, the Committee on Veterans’ Affairs, and the Select Committee on Hunger. From 1995-2001, she served as the Under Secretary for Rural Development at the U.S. Department of Agriculture where she oversaw an annual budget of $10 billion and a staff of 7,000 employees. In this position, she managed  programs targeted to underserved areas of rural America. Long Thompson is the only woman to be nominated by a major party to run for Governor of Indiana and is also the first and only Hoosier woman to be nominated by a major party to run for the U.S. Senate. Prior to her government service, Long Thompson taught at Indiana University, Valparaiso University and Manchester College. She is also a former fellow at the Institute of Politics at Harvard University’s John F. Kennedy School of Government. She holds an M.B.A. and Ph.D. in Business from the Kelley School of Business at Indiana University, and a B.S. in Business Administration from Valparaiso University.

Morning General Session Panel

Cynthia “Mil” Duncan, Research Director, AGree

Cynthia “Mil” Duncan is Research Director of AGree. From 2004-2011 she was professor of sociology and founding director of the University of New Hampshire’s Carsey Institute, an interdisciplinary research center focused on vulnerable families and sustainable development in rural America. From 2000-2004 she served as the Ford Foundation’s director of community and resource development; from 1989-2000 she was a professor of sociology at the University of New Hampshire. Duncan wrote Worlds Apart: Why Poverty Persists in Rural America (Yale  University Press 1999), which won the American Sociological Association’s Robert E. Park Award, numerous articles on poverty and development, and edited Rural Poverty in America. She serves on several regional and national boards related to poverty and development. Mil Duncan received her BA in English from Stanford University, and her MA and PhD from the University of Kentucky.

Bernadine Joselyn, Director, Public Policy, Blandin Foundation

Bernadine directs Blandin Foundation’s Public Policy and Engagement program area, where she leads efforts to facilitate the building of knowledge and catalyze community action around issues and opportunities that align with the Foundation’s mission of strengthening rural Minnesota communities, especially the Grand Rapids area. A native of Minnesota, Bernadine spent the first 15 years of her professional life in Soviet (and then post-Soviet) Affairs. She served seven years as diplomat with the U.S. Department of State, where — after an initial tour in New Delhi, India — she was assigned to Moscow, Russia, and Washington, D.C., focused on the U.S.-Soviet/Russian relationship. After the collapse of the Soviet Union, Bernadine left the diplomatic corps to work on international academic and cultural exchange programs with the International Research & Exchanges Board (IREX) and subsequently the Eurasia Foundation, where she oversaw a $5 million annual grant program. In 2000, Bernadine returned to Minnesota to complete a second master’s degree in public affairs at the University of Minnesota’s Humphrey Institute. She also has an undergraduate degree from the University of Minnesota and a master’s degree in international security policy and certificate in advanced studies from Columbia University.

Martin Lowery, Executive Vice President, Member & Association Relations, National Rural Electric Cooperative Association

Martin Lowery is Executive Vice President, Member and Association Relations of the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association (NRECA). His responsibility is to ensure that NRECA excels in serving the needs of its 1,000 members. Prior to being named Executive Vice President, he was Manager of NRECA’s Consulting, Training and Market Research Division, and served as Assistant Manager of NRECA’s Computer Services Division. Dr. Lowery has been employed with NRECA since 1982.In May 2014, he was inducted to the Cooperative Hall of Fame which is the highest honor that the U.S. cooperative community bestows on extraordinary men and women who have made heroic contributions to the cooperative community. Lowery serves on the board of Ralph K. Morris Foundation and the National Cooperative Business Association (NCBA) Board of Directors. Dr. Lowery served as the Chairman of NCBA from 2008-2011, Chair of the NCBA International Committee from 2007-2008, and was Chair of the NCBA Strategic Planning and Issues Committee from 2004-2007. Currently he is a member of the NCBA Executive Committee and serves as the U.S. Representation to the board of the International Cooperative Alliance. Dr. Lowery is a graduate from DePaul University and received his Ph.D. in philosophy from Duke University.

Congressional Panel

Charles F. (Chuck) Conner, President & Chief Executive Officer, National Council of Farmer Cooperatives

Charles F. (Chuck) Conner became president & CEO of the National Council of Farmer Cooperatives (NCFC) on January 22, 2009. As president of NCFC, Conner oversees the organization’s work to promote and protect the business and public policy interests of America’s farmer-owned cooperatives. Prior to joining NCFC, Conner had served as the Deputy Secretary at the U.S. Department of Agriculture since mid-2005. In this capacity, he was the Chief Operating Officer (COO) overseeing day-to-day operations of the department. Conner interacted directly with President George W. Bush and his senior staff to formulate domestic and international food, trade, security and energy policy. From August 2007 to January 2008, Conner served as both USDA Secretary and Deputy Secretary. Conner’s experience also includes the assignment of Special Assistant to the President, Executive Office of the President, from October 2001 to May 2005, working on the 2001/2 Farm Bill to develop the strategy behind the transfer of several USDA agency functions to the newly formed Department of Homeland Security. From May 1997 to October 2001 Conner served as President of the Corn Refiners Association. He also served for 17 years as an advisor to U.S. Senator Richard Lugar of Indiana. Conner is a graduate of Purdue University, with a Bachelor’s of Science degree and is the recipient of Purdue’s Distinguished Alumni Award. 

Congressman Frank Lucas, U.S. Representative for Oklahoma’s 3rd Congressional District

Congressman Frank Lucas is a fifth generation Oklahoman whose family has lived and farmed in Oklahoma for over 100 years. Born on January 6, 1960 in Cheyenne, Oklahoma, Lucas graduated from Oklahoma State University in 1982 with a degree in Agricultural Economics. He was first elected to the United States House of Representatives in a special election in 1994. Lucas proudly represents Oklahoma's Third Congressional District, which includes all or portions of 32 counties in northern and western Oklahoma, stretching from the Oklahoma panhandle to parts of Tulsa, and from Yukon to Altus in the southwest. It takes up almost half the state’s land mass and is one of the largest agricultural regions in the nation. Lucas has been a crusader for the American farmer since being elected to Congress in 1994 and he has fought to protect Oklahoma values. Congressman Lucas serves on the House Committee on Agriculture, House Committee on Financial Services and as Vice Chair on the House Committee on Science, Space and Technology.

Congressman Collin Peterson, U.S Representative for Minnesota’s 7th Congressional District

Collin Peterson was first elected to the U.S. House of Representatives from the Seventh Congressional District of Minnesota in 1990. His primarily rural and agricultural district reaches from the Canadian border in the north, almost to the Iowa state line in the south; along Minnesota’s border with North and South Dakota. Peterson is Ranking Member of the House Committee on Agriculture, which has jurisdiction over a wide range of agriculture and rural development issues, including the Farm Bill, renewable energy, disaster assistance, nutrition, crop insurance, conservation, rural development, international trade, futures market regulation, animal and plant health, agricultural research, bioterrorism, forestry, and others. Congressman Peterson graduated from Minnesota State University-Moorhead in 1966 with a double major in Business Administration and Accounting, and also served in the North Dakota National Guard from 1963 to 1969. Before being elected to the House of Representatives, he served for ten years in the Minnesota State Senate. During his public service career, Peterson has been a strong advocate for farmers and small business owners, and a leader on both federal tax policy and  conservation issues. Peterson is the most senior member of the House Committee on Agriculture and currently serves as its Ranking Member. He previously served as Chairman in the 110th and 111th Congresses and as Ranking Member in the 109th Congress.

Afternoon General Session Panel

Charles W. Fluharty, President & Chief Executive Officer, Rural Policy Research Institute

Charles W. Fluharty is the founder, President, and CEO of the Rural Policy Research Institute (RUPRI), the only U.S. national policy institute solely dedicated to assessing the rural impacts of public policies. Since RUPRI’s founding in 1990, over 300 scholars representing 16 different disciplines in 100 universities, all U.S. states and 30 other nations have participated in RUPRI projects, which address the full range of policy and dynamics affecting rural people and places. Collaborations with the OECD, the EU, the German Marshall Fund, the Inter-American Institute for Cooperation on Agriculture, the International Comparative Rural Policy Studies Committee, and other international  organizations have framed RUPRI's Comparative rural policy foci. A Clinical Professor in the University of Iowa College of Public Health and a graduate of Yale Divinity School, he was also a German Marshall Fund Transatlantic Fellow from 2007 to 2011. Chuck is the author of numerous policy studies and journal articles, has presented dozens of Congressional testimonies and briefings, and is also a frequent speaker before national and international audiences, having delivered major public policy speeches in over a dozen nations. He has also provided senior policy consultation to most federal departments, state and local governments, associations of government, planning and development organizations, and many foundations.

Brian Fogle, President, 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. He currently chairs the Good Community Committee and is on the board of the Every Child Promise, Mercy Health Systems-Springfield, and the Federal Reserve Community Advisory Board. He was awarded the O Franklin Kenworthy Leadership Award in 1990, the National Community Leadership Award in 1993, and the Springfieldian Award in 2010, and received and honorary doctorate of humane letters from Drury University in December, 2011. He was appointed by Governor Nixon to the Coordinating Board for Higher Education in 2012. He holds a B.B.A. and an M.B.A. in banking and finance from the University of Mississippi. He is also a graduate of the Graduate School of Banking of the South at L.S.U. Brian has been active in numerous civic and non-profit groups. His motto in life is “Often wrong, seldom in doubt”.

Dr. Emilia Istrate, Director, Research & Outreach, National Association of Counties

Dr. Emilia Istrate is the National Association of Counties (NACo) Director of Research and Outreach. Her responsibilities include developing the research priorities in support of NACo's strategic plan and mission. Emilia joined NACo in February 2013 from the Brookings Institution, where she was a senior research associate and associate fellow with the Metropolitan Policy Program. She specializes in economic development and transportation. Her research has been widely cited by the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Reuters, CNN, the Atlantic, the Economist and other media outlets.

Christopher A. Masingill, Federal Co-Chairman, Delta Regional Authority

Christopher A. Masingill was appointed by President Obama and confirmed by the U.S. Senate in 2010 to serve as the Federal Co-Chairman of the Delta Regional Authority. In his five years with the DRA, Masingill has made it his hallmark to cultivate strategic connections between public and private sectors to achieve economic and community development results on the local, state, and national levels. Prior to leading the DRA, Chairman Masingill served the state of Arkansas as Governor Mike Beebe’s Director of Intergovernmental Affairs and during that time was the Arkansas Recovery Implementation Director for the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, coordinating the implementation of $3 billion of investment into 48 programs across 13 state agencies. While at the DRA, Chairman Masingill has emphasized supporting small businesses and entrepreneurs as well as investing in workforce development and rural health access, recognizing these as the greatest opportunities for the Delta region’s economy. In five years with the DRA, his leadership has helped leverage $44 million in DRA investments into nearly $1 billion in private and other public investment into Delta communities—helping to create and retain 42,000 jobs and train 13,000 workers.

Doug O’Brien, Senior Policy Advisor for Rural Affairs, The White House Domestic Policy Council

Doug O'Brien has served as the Senior Advisor for Rural Affairs for the White House Domestic Policy Council since January 2015. Before that time and since March of 2009, O’Brien served in a number of leadership capacities at the U.S. Department of Agriculture, including as the Acting Under Secretary for the Rural Development Mission Area. At the White House, he helps lead the work of the White House Rural Council, which President Obama created in 2011 to encourage interagency cooperation and improve the effectiveness of federal programs in rural areas. Recently, the Council announced Rural Impact, an effort focused on rural child poverty. This work builds on O’Brien’s leadership in rural community economic development that has focused on both emerging opportunities and in impoverished areas. Prior to serving in the Obama Administration, he worked for two State governors, the Senate Agricultural Committee, the U.S. House of Representatives, and in legal academia as a professor and author. O’Brien has degrees from Loras College in Dubuque, Iowa, the University of Iowa Law School, and a Masters in Law from the University of Arkansas. He was raised on a diversified farm in Iowa and dedicated his career to food and rural policy.

Physical Infrastructure Breakout Panel

Shirley Bloomfield, Chief Executive Officer, NTCA – The Rural Broadband Association

Shirley Bloomfield is a staunch advocate for rural telecommunications. During the course of her career, she has led efforts to raise the visibility of the value and innovation of independent, rural telecom companies. As CEO of NTCA–The Rural Broadband Association, Bloomfield’s leadership has been a significant factor in moving the organization forward in uncertain regulatory times. Recently, Bloomfield served as the staff lead for the unification of the National Telecommunications Cooperative Association (NTCA) with the Organization for the Promotion and Advancement of Small Telecommunications Companies (OPASTCO). Working with the boards of directors of both organizations, Bloomfield brought to fruition a combined industry organization that was years in the making. Bloomfield also serves as a board member of GlobalWin, an organization of women leaders in the high-tech industry. Through the organization, she participates in efforts to support and advance women in telecommunications through educational opportunities and networking. She serves as a mentor and advisor to those interested in developing their careers in telecommunications. From her days as a congressional aide to her years as a lobbyist for NTCA, Qwest and Verizon, Bloomfield has developed expertise in understanding complex issues and advocating effectively on behalf of her constituency. Bloomfield received her Bachelor of Arts degree in economics from Northwestern University and a master's degree in public administration from American University. 

Joseph P. Brannan, Executive Vice President & Chief Executive Officer, North Carolina Electric Membership Corporation

Mr. Brannan serves as the Executive Vice President and Chief Executive Officer of the statewide organizations in Raleigh, serving North Carolina’s electric cooperatives. These organizations include North Carolina Electric Membership Corporation, a generation and transmission cooperative; North Carolina Association of Electric Cooperatives, a trade association; The Tarheel Electric Membership Association, a central purchasing and materials supply cooperative; and GreenCo Solutions, Inc., a service company to assist the state’s electric cooperatives in the development and implementation of energy efficiency and renewable energy projects. Mr. Brannan joined NCEMC in January 2006 where he previously served as Senior Vice President, Power Supply and Chief Operating Officer, NCEMC. Mr. Brannan has been in the electric utility and energy industry throughout his career and has experience in various areas of utility operations and management, risk management, energy trading and marketing operations. Prior to joining NCEMC, Mr. Brannan held various management positions at ACES Power Marketing (APM), PPL Corporation and its Energy Marketing affiliates. Additionally, Mr. Brannan served a critical management role in the development and start-up of the company’s unregulated retail service business. Mr. Brannan holds a B.S. degree in Electrical Engineering from Pennsylvania State University and a Master of Business Administration from Lehigh University.

Trisha Curtis, Director of Research, Upstream and Midstream, Energy Policy Research Foundation

Trisha Curtis is the Director of Research, Upstream and Midstream, at the Energy Policy Research Foundation, Inc. (EPRINC). Since 2010 she has lead extensive research efforts and authored several reports on the North American upstream and midstream. She recently spearheaded EPRINC’s project with Dept. of Energy for the Quadrennial Energy Review, evaluating production potential and crude oil transportation across the U.S. and Canada. She is currently studying global markets and evaluating the impact of lower oil prices on the U.S and other major oil producing nations. Ms. Curtis has a long standing commitment to pursuing a career in energy economics and technical analysis. Raised in northwest Colorado, she has worked on oil and gas sites in Colorado and Wyoming.Ms. Curtis’ work for Department of Defense has focused extensively on China and international economics. Ms.Curtis did her undergraduate work at Regis University in Denver, Colorado where she double majored in Economics and Politics, minored in Criminology, and graduated Summa Cum Laude. She has a Master of Science (MSc) degree from the London School of Economics in International Political Economy and wrote her MSc Dissertation on Chinese National Oil Companies. As an undergraduate she also worked as a staff assistant in UK Parliament for John Grogan, Selby Constituency.

Allen Grosboll, Senior Policy Advocate & Co-Legislative Director, Environmental Law & Policy Center

Al Grosboll is Senior Policy Advocate and Co-Legislative Director for the Environmental Law and Policy Center. He works in Washington, Illinois, South Dakota, North Dakota and other states on public policy issues related to clean energy development, energy efficiency, natural resource protection and transportation. Mr. Grosboll helped pass legislation in Illinois to establish energy efficient building codes and the Renewable Electricity Standard. He was also instrumental in forming the South Dakota Wind Energy Association. Mr. Grosboll worked in Illinois state government for 26 years. He served as the Deputy Chief of Staff and Senior Advisor to Illinois Governor Jim Edgar. Al helped draft Governor Edgar’s Education Funding Reform Program and the Chicago School Reform legislation. He also served as the Governor’s policy person for natural resources and environmental protection. Al was designated by Governor Edgar as the state’s Flood Response Coordinator to deal with the Great Flood of 1993 and its aftermath. Al also served as Chief of Staff for the Illinois Secretary of State (1984-1991), overseeing a staff of 4000. In addition, he worked as Director of the Illinois Motor Vehicles Department (1981-1984), Executive Director of the Mine Reclamation Council (1977-1981) and as a policy analyst for the Speaker of the Illinois House of Representatives (1973-1977). He is a graduate and Distinguished Alumnus of Eastern Illinois University.

Scott Hamilton, Executive Director, Appalachian Regional Commission

Scott Hamilton is executive director of the Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC), an economic development partnership between the federal government and the governors of the 13 Appalachian states. Appointed by the ARC federal co-chair and the Appalachian governors, Hamilton serves as the Commission’s chief executive officer, overseeing a wide range of programs in areas including education and workforce training, highway construction, water and sewer system construction, leadership development, small business start-up and expansion, energy, and health. He also leads regional initiatives in entrepreneurship, energy, telecommunications, export trade, and civic leadership; and has programmatic oversight of the 3,090-mile Appalachian Development Highway System. Prior to joining ARC, Hamilton was president and CEO of AdvantageWest, a nonprofit regional economic development partnership serving the westernmost counties of North Carolina. His career with AdvantageWest also included roles as the organization’s executive vice president and director of marketing and site development. Hamilton had previously served as founding president and CEO of the Henderson County Partnership for Economic Development and as executive vice president of the Henderson County Chamber of Commerce. Hamilton is a graduate of the University of North Carolina at Greensboro and received training and certification in economic development from the University of North Carolina School of Government and the Georgia Institute of Technology.

Brandon McBride, Administrator, Rural Utilities Service, U.S. Department of Agriculture

Brandon McBride was appointed by President Obama to serve as the 19th Administrator of USDA's Rural Utilities Service in March 2015. Mr. McBride's appointment follows his role as a senior staff member for the United States Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry. McBride, a lifelong public servant, has dedicated his career to fighting for rural America. Before working for the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry under the leadership of Chairwoman Debbie Stabenow, McBride served for several years as a senior legislative assistant for United States Senator Blanche L. Lincoln. As a member of Senator Lincoln's staff, McBride handled appropriations and economic development issues. Mr. McBride earned his undergraduate degrees as well as his Master's degree in Public Administration from Arkansas State University. USDA's Rural Utilities Service administers programs that provide infrastructure and/or infrastructure improvements to rural communities. These improvements include water and waste treatment, electric power and telecommunications services. Administrator McBride realizes that these services play a critical role in helping to expand economic opportunities and improve the quality of life for rural Americans.

Sheldon C. Petersen, Chief Executive Officer, National Rural Utility Cooperative Finance Corporation

Sheldon C. Petersen has served as governor and chief executive officer of CFC since March 1995. Petersen began his career in the rural electrification program in 1976 as staff assistant for Nishnabotna Valley REC in Harlan, Iowa. He later served as general manager of Rock County Electric Cooperative Association in Janesville, Wisconsin. Petersen joined CFC in 1983 as an area representative and provided financial management and consulting services to the states of Minnesota, Wisconsin, Montana and the Dakotas. In 1990, Petersen moved to CFC headquarters where he held various positions, including director of Policy Development and Internal Audit, director of Credit Analysis, assistant to the governor and acting administrative officer. He also was instrumental in the governance of two CFC affiliated organizations that meet the financial needs of electric cooperatives and rural telecommunications companies and cooperatives. He served as administrative coordinator for the board of directors and coordinated corporate activities of the Rural Telephone Finance Cooperative and the National Cooperative Services Corporation. Petersen received his bachelor’s degree in marketing from the University of Northern Iowa in 1975.

21st Century Rural Business Breakout Session

Clare Gustin, Vice President, Member Services & External Affairs, Sunflower Electric Power

Clare Gustin serves as the Vice President, Member Services & External Affairs, for Sunflower Electric Power Corporation. Sunflower is a generation and transmission cooperative owned by six rural electric cooperatives which serve in western and central Kansas. In her current position she is responsible for Member services, economic development, marketing, communication, and legislative activities for Sunflower. Clare received the 2012 Rural Economic Development Leadership Award from the National Rural Economic Developers Association and currently serves as the past president of the association. She serves on the Hays Catholic School board and is a member of the TMP-Marian Endowment board and has been active in civic and philanthropic organizations for many years. Clare holds an MBA and Bachelor of Science from Fort Hays State University. 

Kermit Kaleba, Federal Policy Director, National Skills Coalition

Kermit Kaleba is the Federal Policy Director for National Skills Coalition and leads the organization’s Washington-based efforts to advance a national skills strategy within federal legislation, agency regulation and national funding initiatives. Kermit assists state and local leaders in federal policy advocacy both within Washington and in theirhome districts and works with National Skills Coalition field staff and partner organizations to help improve state and local implementation of federal programs. Kermit returned to NSC in 2015. Kermit was previously NSC’s Senior Policy Analyst from 2008-12 before he left to develop his on-the-ground knowledge of workforce development and administration at the Washington DC Workforce Investment Council, where he rose to the position of Executive Director. In addition to helping set workforce development policies for the District of Columbia, Kermit was the primary author of the District’s five-year workforce development strategy. He also helped to develop DC’s first industry-focused workforce intermediary programs, as well as new programming for opportunity youth. Kermit holds a J.D. and a bachelor's degree from the College of William and Mary. He is based in Washington, DC.

Chris James, Assistant Administrator, U.S. Small Business Administration

Chris James was appointed assistant administrator at the U.S. Small Business Administration in July 2011 and is based in Washington, D.C. Chris is responsible for numerous initiatives and programs at the SBA including serving as the agency’s lead on SupplierPay, a White House-led partnership with the private sector designed to strengthen America’s small businesses. He also is the agency head of the American Supplier Initiative. In addition to these roles, Chris runs the SBA’s Office of Native American Affairs, which promotes and enhances small business services and opportunities for Native Americans. He is also active in the White House Council on Native American Affairs (including Co-Chairing the Economic Development Subgroup), the White House Rural Council, and the White House Interagency Group on Insular Affairs. Chris has more than 15 years of experience in the field of small business and economic development. Before joining the SBA, Chris was an associate program manager at the U.S. Department of the Treasury’s Community Development Financial Institutions Fund (CDFI) in Washington. Prior to joining the CDFI Fund, he was associate director and senior loan officer for the Sequoyah Fund, Inc., a CDFI in Cherokee, N.C. Chris earned a bachelor’s degree in Communication Studies from the University of North Carolina at Wilmington, and a master’s degree in Entrepreneurship from Western Carolina University. 

Mary McBride, President, CoBank

Mary McBride serves as CoBank’s president and is responsible for the management of the Finance, Credit, Banking Services, Regulatory and Legislative, Electric Distribution, Water and Community Facilities, and Public Private Partnership groups in the bank. Ms. McBride is a member of the bank’s Management Executive Committee and serves as chairwoman of Farm Credit Leasing. Ms. McBride joined CoBank in 1993. Prior to her current position, she was the bank’s chief banking officer. Ms. McBride also has served as chief operating officer and as executive vice president for the bank’s Communications and Energy Banking Group, serving rural communications, energy and water customers across the United States. In total, she has more than 30 years of financial experience. Before joining CoBank, Ms. McBride worked as senior vice president of Wells Fargo/First Interstate Bank of Denver, N.A. Prior to that, she was assistant vice president at Bank of Boston. Ms. McBride earned a bachelor’s degree from Wellesley College, a master’s degree from the London School of Economics, and a Master of Science degree from Sloan School of Management at Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Lillian Salerno, Administrator, Rural Business-Cooperative Service, U.S. Department of Agriculture

Lillian Salerno was appointed by President Obama as Administrator for Rural Business-Cooperative Service (RBS) where she oversees an $11 billion dollar portfolio and a multitude of programs that spur economic development and job opportunities throughout rural America. She is cultivating RBS internally by improving organizational performance; applying process improvements; and creating risk-based portfolio management.As Administrator, her focus has been on strengthening economic development capacity in rural communities including initiatives for job creation, increased access to capital, regional collaboration, and energy efficiency. During her tenure at USDA, Salerno has participated on The White House Business Council and played a critical role in support of several Administration initiatives including: Investing in Manufacturing Communities Partnership (IMCP), Made in Rural America, Rural Opportunity Investment Initiative, Advanced Manufacturing, and Small Business Credit Initiatives. As the Executive Director for the Safe Healthcare International Institute, she encouraged policy makers, federal agencies, and the Executive Branch to formulate solutions for the protection of healthcare workers and delivery systems while building coalitions to promote long-term HIV/AIDS prevention internationally. Administrator Salerno attained a B.A. in Latin American Studies at the University of Texas, a Master's Degree in Sociology from the University of North Texas, and a J.D. from Southern Methodist University in Dallas, Texas.

James Schmeling, Managing Director, Program, Veterans & Military Families Institute, Syracuse University

James Schmeling, J.D., co-founded the Institute for Veterans and Military Families at Syracuse University, and was appointed as its first managing director. He currently supervises the Entrepreneurship Bootcamp for Veterans with Disabilities(EBV); the Entrepreneurship Bootcamp for Veterans-Families (EBV-F); the Veterans Career Transition Program (VCTP); the Transition Assistance Program: Boots to Business Program; Veteran Women Igniting the Spirit of Entrepreneurship (VWISE); and, VetNet. Schmeling’s work on veteran employment includes collaboration with GE for the Get Skills to Work initiative, and for a veteran employment toolkit - Veteran Employment Leading Practices: Tools for Engaging Talent; with JPMC’s 100,000 Jobs Mission. He sits on the Veterans Employment Advisory Committee for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s Hiring Our Heroes initiative. Schmeling co-founded two, and built three, highly successful publicly-engaged institutes in public and private universities with between 35 and 60 employees in each. He has administered or implemented over $90 million in grant funding, and authored or co-authored proposals directly resulting in over $45 million in funding, as well as being co-principal investigator or principal investigator on over $16.3 million in funded projects. Schmeling is a U.S. Air Force veteran, served 6+ years, and was honorably discharged as a sergeant. He earned his law degree, with distinction, from the University of Iowa, and his B.A. in political science with a minor in international studies (Latin America) from Iowa State University.

Dr. Randy Smith, President, Rural Community College Alliance

Dr. Randy Smith serves as the President of the Rural Community College Alliance. He has been involved in higher education for over nineteen years. His main interests include leadership in higher education and recruitment and retention of students at tribal and rural colleges. Randy is a regular presenter at state and national conferences on the topics of leadership in higher education and student recruitment and retention at two-year colleges. Randy has testified in front of committees of the U.S. House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate as an expert on issues regarding community colleges. He was an invited participant to the White House Summit on Community Colleges. He served as a member of the 21st Century Community College Commission that was charged with developing a long-term strategic plan for community colleges nationally. Randy also facilitated the first ever Memorandum of Understanding between a higher education organization and the U.S. Department of Agriculture. He recently facilitated the inclusion of rural community and technical colleges in the 2014 Farm Bill, the first time rural colleges have been specifically included in federal legislation. Randy holds a B.A. in Political Science, an M.S. in Emergency Health Services Administration, and a Ph.D. in Higher Education Leadership. He also completed the Educators’ Leadership Academy at the University of Central Oklahoma.

Quality of Life Breakout Session

Suzanne Anarde, Vice President, Programs, Rural LISC

Suzanne Anarde serves as Program Vice President for Rural LISC. She is a community development professional with over 24 years of experience helping rural communities and non-profits build their organizations and communities through collaborative efforts. Suzanne began her career as the founding Executive Director of Tri-County Housing & CDC in southeastern Colorado, serving Bent, Crowley and Otero counties, with a population of just over 30,000 and an area encompassing 1400 square miles. Suzanne joined Rural LISC as a consultant in 2005, and became an employee in 2010. As a consultant, she was active with Hurricane Katrina recovery efforts in Mississippi, rebuilding medical clinics, also serving as post-storm special needs shelters. As Senior Program Director for Rural LISC, she managed loan and grant portfolios and relationships with Rural LISC partners in California, Oregon and Utah. In May of 2013, Suzanne was appointed Program Vice-President for Rural LISC, a national intermediary CDFI working in 39 states and over 1200 rural counties. Suzanne served on the Colorado State Housing Board for 7 years and is currently President of her local School Board, of which she has been an elected representative since 1998. In addition, she is a Board member of the National Rural Housing Coalition, serving since 2001. In January of 2015, she joined the Dakotas America Advisory Board and CEI National Advisory Board.

Sally Boofer, Assistant National Director, AARP Foundation

Sally is Senior Community Service Employment Program (SCSEP) Assistant National Director for AARP Foundation. Her role has been to create and implement the strategy to expand the employment program across the United States. A part of this strategy included determining effective rural service delivery practices and strategies to be adopted in the expansion and implementation of services in rural communities. Sally has been in nonprofit management, including program and resource development, and grants management, for more than 25 years. She has more than 40 years of experience in workforce services for mature workers, which includes the SCSEP, other government workforce programs, the small business administration, and foundation funded programs. The majority of these years were spent managing, developing, and implementing programs for seniors in rural communities. She holds a B.S. in Business Administration from Indiana University and is currently completing her MSM in non-profit management. 

David Dangler, Director, Rural Initiative, NeighborWorks America

David Dangler has been the national director of the Rural Initiative at NeighborWorks America since 2000. Membership in the initiative has grown to 106 of the NeighborWorks network’s 240 member organizations. Current priorities for the Initiative include strengthening rural homeownership, increasing the supply of affordable rental housing, supporting rural access to essential homebuyer preparation services, and promoting comprehensive community economic development. Prior to joining NeighborWorks America, Dangler was the founding executive director of NeighborWorks of Western Vermont. As a proponent of broad-based rural development, Dangler serves on the boards of the National Rural Housing Coalition, and Next Step, a social enterprise working on innovations with factory built housing. Most recently, Dangler joined the National Rural Assembly steering committee. 

Lance George, Director, Research and Information, Housing Assistance Council

Lance George is the Director of Research and Information at the Housing Assistance Council (HAC). Prior to becoming the HAC’s Research Director, Lance served as the organization’s Senior Research Associate for 10 years. Prior to working at HAC, Lance worked for Frontier Housing, Inc., a nonprofit organization that builds affordable homes for low-income families in Appalachian Eastern Kentucky. Lance’s research and policy analysis at HAC encompasses a wide array of issues and topics related to affordable housing; including manufactured housing, poverty and high need rural areas, rural definitions and classifications, mortgage access and finance, and general demography, mapping, and data analysis of rural people and their housing conditions. 

Tony Hernandez, Administrator, Rural Housing Service, U.S. Department of Agriculture

Tony Hernandez was sworn in as the Rural Housing Service (RHS) Administrator on December 16, 2013 with more than 26 years of experience in housing, community and economic development, business strategic, sales, marketing, business advocacy, policy development, legislative and government relations. Prior to being appointed as the RHS Administrator, Mr. Hernandez served as the Director of Division of Local Government within the Colorado Department of Local Affairs. As the Director for the Colorado Business Center with the Fannie Mae Corporation for ten years he facilitated the investment $21 billion in housing and community development. As the Housing Urban Development (HUD) Regional Administrator with the Clinton Administration he served six states that included Colorado, Utah, Montana, Wyoming, North and South Dakota. He was recognized by the Secretary of HUD with the Customer Service Award and also HUD Leadership Award. Prior to his appointment at HUD, Mr. Hernandez was a business planner and senior marketing representative for the IBM Corporation. During that same time he served as a Colorado State Representative for nine and a half years almost five terms. Mr. Hernandez earned a Master's Degree in Management and Public policy from Carnegie-Mellon in 1981; Master's Degree in Community Organizing and Social Planning from University of Denver in 1975; and Bachelor of Social Work in 1973 from Colorado State University.

Alan Morgan, Chief Executive Officer, National Rural Health Association

Alan Morgan serves as Chief Executive Officer for the National Rural Health Association. He has more than 22 years experience in health policy development at the state and federal level. He served as staff for former US Congressman Dick Nichols and former Kansas Governor Mike Hayden. Additionally, his experience includes tenures with the American Society of Clinical Pathologists and with the Heart Rhythm Society where he established a Washington, DC based government affairs office. Prior to joining NRHA, he served as a federal lobbyist for VHA Inc.Mr. Morgan’s health policy articles have been published in: The Journal of Rural Health, The Journal of Cardiovascular Management, The Journal of Pacing and Clinical Electrophysiology, Cardiac Electrophysiology Review, and in Laboratory Medicine. He also served as a co-author for the 6th edition of “Policy & Politics in Nursing and Health Care.” He holds a bachelor's degree in journalism from University of Kansas, and a master's degree in public administration from George Mason University. In 2011, he was selected by readers of Modern Healthcare Magazine as being among the top 100 most influential people in healthcare.

Jennifer Sirangelo, President & Chief Executive Officer, National 4H Council

Jennifer Sirangelo is a believer in young people and their capacity to change the world. She leads National 4-H Council in its mission to increase investment and participation in high-quality 4-H positive youth development programs around the world. Ms. Sirangelo, who joined Council in 2006 to grow support for the 4-H movement, has focused on supporting education, growth and leadership development for 7 million young people worldwide through programs in agriculture, science, health and citizenship. In her previous roles as Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer, she led the development of Council's strategic plan and tripled annual fundraising. She received a Bachelor of Arts degree in communications and political science from William Jewell College, a Master of Public Administration degree from Syracuse University, and attended St. Peter's College at Oxford University. As an undergraduate, Jennifer was recognized as a Harry S. Truman Scholar. Ms. Sirangelo serves on the boards of America's Promise Alliance and AgriCorps. She also co-chairs the Youth Committee of the STEM Connector Food and Ag Council.