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2018 Speakers and Bio

Mark Basnight

Mark is the Co-Director of the Public Affairs Science and Technology (PAST) Fusion Cell and National Public Affairs Academy at Argonne National Laboratory (ANL). Basnight is responsible for assisting government agencies, non-governmental organizations, and private sector groups with plans, training, exercises, and support materials relating to public affairs before, during, and after a crisis.

A former Public Information Officer for the Charlotte Fire Department and Charlotte-Mecklenburg Emergency Management, Mark was responsible for the innovation of how the fire department and emergency management division engaged in public affairs. Basnight was the lead writer for all news releases and introduced new prospective for interacting, gathering and disseminating information pertaining to public affairs. He was responsible for research, development, and initiation of social media technology. The CFD was one of the first public safety agencies (2009) on the east coast to employ social media for risk and crisis communications. Mark was recognized by the Charlotte City Council for his efforts to develop the synergies that led other areas of city government to utilize social media.

Basnight is a founding member and a past Chair for the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Virtual Social Media Working Group. Mark has established relationships and worked closely with police departments across the nation, the FBI, and the U.S. Secret Service. He served as a Lead Public Information Officer during the 2012 Democratic National Convention and had a significant role in planning, coordinating and implementing the Joint Information Center for Charlotte-Mecklenburg. Mark is an alumnus of the inaugural FEMA 389 Masters Public Information Officer Course and has served as an adjunct instructor for the Emergency Management Institute (Emmitsburg, MD). Basnight is a resourceful communication ace with over 10 years’ experience in the industry. He is accomplished at leading and managing national, regional, and tribal relations to promote knowledge, awareness, and support for multifaceted issues and programs. Mark has a degree in Communications and is sought after as a subject matter expert in the areas of media relations, crisis communications, emergency public information, Joint Information Systems\Centers and social media technology & strategy for public safety agencies. He is a nationally known communications crackerjack who has assisted dozens of communities and organizations in preparing to effectively communicate with multiple audiences during times of crises.

Mark has been a keynote speaker, panelist or presenter at the National Information Officers Association Conference, National Association of Government Communicators Conference, National Radiological Emergency Preparedness Conference, (UASI) Homeland Security Conference, National Fire Protection Association Conference, Technologies for Critical Incident Preparedness Conference and the National League of Cities Conference

Laura Cederberg

Laura Cederberg is Assistant Chief of Staff, Communications for Minnesota Governor Mark Dayton. In this role, Laura oversees one-voice messaging across 24 state agencies and more than 100 boards and commissions and serves as Deputy Communications Director for the State of Minnesota, a $43 billion enterprise with 35,000 employees. Prior to joining the Dayton Administration in 2016, Laura was head of marketing and communications for the American Swedish Institute, an internationally acclaimed cultural center and museum in Minneapolis. She previously served as Research Director of EMILY’s List, the nation’s largest resource for women in politics. She held communications, policy and research roles on the winning U.S. Senate campaigns of Senator Amy Klobuchar (MN), Senator Al Franken (MN), and Senator Mazie Hirono (HI). Laura holds a B.A. in political science and women’s studies from the University of Michigan – Ann Arbor.

Paige Davidson

Paige is a communications, education, and training professional. She is currently the Executive Staff Advisory and Communications Officer at the Kentucky Department for Libraries and Archives, and has worked as an educator and academic program consultant. She holds a Masters in Elementary Education from Georgetown College.

Erik Deckers

Erik is a professional communicator with more than 20 years of experience and results in copywriting, content marketing, and social media marketing. He has owned and operated a content marketing agency since 2009. Prior to that, he led the crisis communications efforts for the Indiana State Department of Health. Erik has published nearly 2,000 columns, articles, and reviews, and is the author of four books including “Branding Yourself” and “The Owned Media Doctrine.

Josh DeLung

Josh brings 15 years of strategic communication experience with a focus on building and managing teams who work in audience engagement using digital methods. In his current role with ICF, Josh directs digital experience projects that help organizations achieve measurable success. His strengths include business management, content strategy, messaging, and research and analytics.

Officer Drew Fennelly

Officer Fennelly has been with the Lawrence Police Department since 2009, and in 2015, after entering the Public Affairs Unit, started @LawrenceKS_PD. Officer Fennelly has previously presented at the IACP-PIO Midyear Conference and the Government Social Media Conference on using humor to engage with citizens and shape how you are perceived in the community.

Annalisa Nash Fernandez

Annalisa has 30 years of international experience, including as an international strategic planning director at Philip Morris and Kraft Foods, based in New York and São Paulo, Brazil; an investment banker at Bankers Trust, based in New York and Santiago, Chile; and a consultant for PwC in Washington, DC. Annalisa is the author of Intuitive Interpreting and her articles on language and culture have been published on Quartz.com, Education Week, and in other print and online media. She holds an MA in literature and translation from the University of Wisconsin, and an BS in international finance from Georgetown University.

Carly Gill

Carly is an Administrative Specialist with the Kentucky Department for Libraries and Archives. She has a 21 year track record of profitable business management and administrative experience.

Erick Gill

Erick is the Communications Division Director for the St. Lucie, FL County Board of County Commissioners. He serves as the spokesman for the Board, including leading crisis communications from the Emergency Operations Center during such events as Hurricanes Wilma, Matthew, and Irma. Erick spent many years as a reporter and freelance writer prior to becoming a government communicator. He has received many awards for his work, including the 2017 Award of Excellence in Crisis Communications for Hurricane Matthew by the Palm Beach Chapter of the Public Relations Society of America.

Janice “Jhai” James

Janice is a Communications Officer with the Georgia Institute of Technology where she creates and implements the communication, marketing, and public relations efforts of the Institute. She has over 10 years of experience in multi-platform writing, social media strategy and development, community engagement, and website content management.

Jamie Johnson

Jamie is a Social Media Technician with the St. John’s County, FL Sheriff’s Office. She is an active voice of the agency’s social media presence (Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Instagram) and communicates information effectively to the media utilizing press releases and interpersonal communications in response to media inquiries. Jamie describes herself as “a media junkie obsessed with social media and photography who wants to find new and fun ways of keeping people informed of the happenings of the day by generating conversation in an open forum. She is the Florida Law Enforcement Public Information Officer Association Region 2 Director.

Laura Kirkpatrick

Laura received her Bachelor of Science in urban affairs and planning from Boston University and a masters in corporate and public communication at Monmouth University, West Long Branch, N.J.

When Laura is not on the beach with family and friends, she teaches marketing at New Jersey City University.

Dr. Ann Knabe

Ann Peru Knabe, PhD, teaches public relations at the University of Wisconsin – Whitewater. She is currently on military leave, serving as Dean of Students at the College of International Security Affairs at National Defense University. Col. Knabe has almost three decades of experience in public relations, public affairs and strategic communication. She also owns a crisis communication firm located Milwaukee.

She is Accredited in Public Relations with a Military emphasis (APR+M) and serves on the Universal Accreditation Board.

Aaron Lavallee

Aaron is the Deputy Assistant Administrator for the U.S. Department of Agriculture. He has over 15 years of communications and management experience in both eh public and private sectors. He holds a Masters Degree in Strategic Public Relations from George Washington University. He has worked on a variety of political campaigns and also ran for the New Hampshire House of Representatives in 2004, losing by just 39 votes.

Greg Leatherman

Greg is the managing editor for a company whose best-known publications are ECO (ecomagazine.com) and Ocean News and Technology (oceannews.com). These industry-leading print magazines also include websites, social media, and weekly newsletters.
Previously, he communicated on behalf of NASA, the U.S. Department of Energy, the FBI, and the U.S. Armed Forces as a federal contractor.

Greg is a member of the Society of Environmental Journalists and the Florida Writers Association, among other organizations.

Christopher O’Neil

Chris O’Neil is the Chief of Media Relations for the National Transportation Safety Board and President-elect of NAGC. Previously, Chris was Deputy Assistant Commissioner, Office of Public Affairs, U.S. Customs and Border Protection, and NAGC’s Communications Director.

He joined U.S. Customs and Border Protection in 2014 after retiring from the U.S. Coast Guard at the rank of Commander with more than 29 years of active-duty service first with the U.S. Air Force and then with the U.S. Coast Guard (he enlisted in 1991) — more than 26 of those years in public affairs. Chris became the Chief of Media Relations for the Directorate of Governmental and Public Affairs, Coast Guard Headquarters in 2008.

He has a Master of Public Relations degree from Boston University’s College of Communication. O’Neil has a Bachelor of Science degree in Communication and an associate’s degree in criminal justice from the University of Phoenix.

Mike Pina

Mike is the Program Manager for Communications and Outreach for the U.S. Department of Transportation. He has over 20 years of communications experience in both the public and private sectors, including eight years as the Manager of Communications for the Travel Industry Association in Washington, D.C.

Devika Rao

Devika is the Vice President of Account Services for O’Neill Communications. She brings a strong writing and editing background that is key to helping clients develop their content marketing strategies. She also has solid footing in media relations to help clients’ stories be heard through multi-media outlets.

Her ability to convey ideas and thoughts through the written word was recognized by the Magazine Association of the Southeast (MAGS) two years in a row for Best Feature for her coverage on the impact of South Asians in America. She also manages a weekly column with the Atlanta Journal- Constitution, the Southeast’s largest daily newspaper.

Devika graduated from Penn State University with degrees in journalism and political science. When she is not trying the latest restaurants in the city, she volunteers with various nonprofit organizations in Atlanta and serves on the board of the Georgia Indo-American Chamber of Commerce and Spruill Center for the Arts.

Kara Roberson

Kara Roberson is a multi-faceted, award-winning marketing and communication professional with experience in water and electric utilities, parks and recreation marketing and communications, and general municipal public information management.
With more than 18 years of professional marketing and communication experience, Kara’s exceptional design savvy, attention to detail, listening skills, and creativity, produces high-quality, engaging final products that stand out in the marketing world.

Larry Schooler

Larry is an accomplished, award-winning dispute resolution practitioner, manager, and thought leader focused on public policy dispute resolution and public engagement. He holds a Doctor of Philosophy in Conflict Analysis and Resolution from Nova Southeastern University. Larry is a Senior Fellow with the National Civic League. He spent eight years as the Public Engagement Division Manager for the City of Austin, Texas, establishing one of the first public engagement and dispute resolution divisions in a U.S. municipal government. Larry also spent nearly 10 years as a news anchor on National Public Radio.

Bey-Ling Sha, Ph.D., APR

Bey-Ling is a professor of public relations and director of the School of Journalism and Media Studies at San Diego State University. She is editor-in-chief of the Journal of Public Relations Research, co-author of the 11th edition of Cutlip and Center’s Effective Public Relations, member of the Arthur W. Page Society, and past chair of the Universal Accreditation Board, which oversees the world’s largest certification program in public relations. The Public Relations Society of America named Dr. Sha its 2012 Outstanding Educator of the Year, and she has won national awards for both public relations practice and research. Dr. Sha’s primary research program examines the intersection of identity and public relations.

Steven Sobieszczyk

Steven is both a scientist and communications expert. In his work for the U.S. Geological Survey and the Bureau of Land Management, he leads, designs, and implements a diverse spectrum of earth science and science communication-themed engagement activities that connects scientists with the public, media, and/or key decision makers. He has published over 40 scientifically peer-reviewed abstracts, journal articles, reports, and digital datasets, and helped produce over 50 online videos. He holds a Bachelor of Science in Geology and Geography, and a Master of Science in landslide geology and GIS.

Nichole Thomas

Nichole is the Media Relations Director for the Indiana Department of Transportation. She is also President of The Write Designs, providing freelance publications coordination to a variety of businesses. As a former reporter, she has established relationships with the local media. In her personal life, Nichole serves as the Marketing Chair and Development Director for the Indiana Parent Teacher Association.

Janelle Tummel

With a belief that government should be transparent and accessible, Janelle Tummel serves as Assistant Commissioner for Enterprise Communications and Planning at Minnesota Management and Budget. In her role, Janelle strives to improve how state government communicates and serves our customers. She oversees six divisions dedicated to planning for the worst, celebrating the best, and effectively serving the enterprise, every day.

Janelle helped lead the launch of a uniform state brand and marketing campaigns to promote the state as one employer. She spearhead Minnesota’s plain language effort in 2014, training employees across state government on how to convey complex topics in an understandable way. She specializes in creative and unique approaches to engaging audiences with clear and user friendly communications.

Janelle previously served as Chief of Enterprise Communications at Minnesota Management and Budget, Communications and Public Relations Director at the Minnesota Department of Revenue, and Public Relations Manager for the City of St. Paul. She also spent nearly seven years on the communications team at Coca-Cola Enterprises. She has a MBA from the University of Minnesota’s Carlson School of Management.