Speakers & Presentations
Perrin Anderson has been Communications Coordinator for the Sevier County Mayor’s office in Sevierville, Tenn., since 2009. He manages internal and external communications and public relations activities for county government offices and departments, serving as a contact and liaison with local and regional governmental agencies, social service agencies, charitable organizations and the public.
During college, he began his career at WIS-TV, the NBC affiliate in Columbia, S.C., moving from there to WBIR, the NBC affiliate in Knoxville, Tenn., in the spring of 1997. In 2002, he began work at Ruby Tuesday corporate headquarters, eventually becoming Communications Manager. In 2006, he was named Public Relations Specialist/Producer for the National Wild Turkey Federation, a nonprofit conservation and hunting organization.
Perrin graduated from the University of South Carolina with a B.A. in Broadcast Journalism. He and his wife, Amy, have two girls and live in Sevierville, Tenn.
Mark Basnight is an Emergency Management Communication Analyst for Argonne National Laboratory’s Public Affairs Science and Technology (PAST) Fusion Center. He is responsible for assisting government agencies, nongovernmental organizations and private sector groups with plans, training, exercises and support materials for media and public affairs before, during, and after a crisis or emergency. He is a former Public Information Officer for the Charlotte (N.C.) Fire Department.
Basnight is a founding member and a past chair for the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Virtual Social Media Working Group. 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 Federal Emergency Management Agency 389 Masters Public Information Officer Course and an adjunct instructor for the National Emergency Training Center – Emergency Management Institute in Emmitsburg, Md.
Kent has been with the airport since 2006. Prior to working for the Airport, he spent five years as district Community Relations Manager with the Missouri Department of Transportation. Before that, he spent 18 years in broadcast journalism. He worked as a newsroom manager, reporter and photographer. His reporting work won numerous honors, including a regional Emmy Award from the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences. Areas of expertise include crisis communication, media relations, interpersonal communication and electronic media.
Blythe Campbell is a trainer and consultant in essential communication skills for executives and emerging leaders through her business, Blythe Campbell Communications. She is the author of the upcoming book, Communication, for a Change.
Blythe has worked for eight different CEOs and their teams in local, state and federal government, as well as in the engineering, telecommunications, energy, finance, and nonprofit sectors. Blythe has played a key role in organizational change, from strategy to execution, for more than 25 years. She has supported senior leadership transitions, restructuring, layoffs, mergers, and acquisitions — big changes — as well as smaller changes like implementation of new human resources programs and office relocations.
Cheryl V. Chambers is a civility and business etiquette coach. She lectures and writes about a variety of issues aimed at improving professional and personal relationships, reducing stress, and increasing productivity. Cheryl founded the Census Civility and Business Etiquette Group in 2011.
A licensed business etiquette instructor, Cheryl is a 2012 graduate of the Emily Post Institute in Burlington, Vt. She has an extensive background in speechwriting, media training, media and congressional relations, public speaking, and strategic communications planning.
She has been an active member of the National Association of Government Communicators (NAGC) since 1992, having served two terms as national secretary, Competitions Director, and chair of the Blue Pencil & Gold Screen (BP&GS) Awards Committee.
Cheryl holds a B.S. (Summa Cum Laude) in mass communication from Towson State University, with minors in theatre arts and political science.
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Marci Claude is the Public Relations Manager for the Gatlinburg Convention and Visitors Bureau in Gatlinburg, Tenn. Her background in television news and promotion are the foundations for her success in the role as city spokesperson.
Marci began her career in news and station promotion at the Knoxville (Tenn.) NBC Affiliate WTVK and later at the CBS affiliate WVLT. She also worked in public relations for the Tennessee Valley Fair and Ober Gatlinburg Ski Area and Amusement Park.
Marci has a bachelor’s in communications from the University of Tennessee. She and her husband of 28 years have three adult children.
Vera Culley is the Social Media Coordinator for the St. Louis County Police Department. Under her supervision, the department’s social media accounts increased by more than 75,000 followers in the first year. Vera is responsible for all department social media and assists the public information officers with community engagement projects and crisis management strategies.
As a guest instructor at the St. Louis County Municipal Police Academy, Vera teaches proper social media use and department expectations. Since 2015, Vera has helped several local police departments establish their social media accounts, policies, and strategies and respond to crisis events.
Vera’s work during the Ferguson unrest helped earn KTVI the 2015 Emmy for Breaking News. She also received a 2015 Telly Award for her participation in HEC-TV’s “Social Media and Current Events” live broadcast. In March 2016, she was honored by her hometown of East St. Louis, Ill., as an “Unsung Hero of 2016,” for her volunteer work, professional career accomplishments and community service.
What Now. Connecting with the Media and Community Post Ferguson (PPT) 30,841 KB
Christian DeLeon of New Life Arts has worked as a freelance artist and designer for more than 15 years. During this time, he has worked on numerous and varied projects including packaging design, corporate branding, sculptural design and fabrication, and website development. He is known by his clients as the go-to person to manage difficult projects and develop specialized solutions.
He currently lives in Morgantown, W.Va.
Kelley Elliott is the lead messaging strategist and writer for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of Minority Health. She is responsible for leading development of communications plans and key editorial products, including those that support National Minority Health Month.
Kelley’s previous work at a Washington, D.C.-based public relations firm included leading campaigns for award- winning public relations programs on behalf of the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality and the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases at the National Institutes of Health.
Kelley began her career at Merck & Co., Inc., where she developed her passion for improving the lives of patients and reducing health disparities. She earned a Bachelor of Science in Communication Studies from Northwestern University and a Master of Science in Communication Management from Temple University.
Manley Feinberg is an award winning international keynote speaker, business leader, and author. He served two
terms as the President of the National Speakers Association, St. Louis chapter, and is a member of the National GeospatialIntelligence Agency Leadership Development Staff.
Manley is a former leader of the Build-A-Bear Workshop company. During his 11 years with the company, his leadership helped take the revolutionary retail concept from 40 stores to more than 400 worldwide, realizing revenue growth from $55 million to more than $474 million, and a successful initial public offering on the New York Stock Exchange. Manley’s leadership influence contributed to a workplace culture that landed Build-A-Bear on the FORTUNE 100 Best Companies to Work For® List four years in a row.
Andrew Gilman is President, Chief Executive Officer and founder of CommCore. Andrew is an award-winning journalist and a lawyer. He has counseled clients for challenges that include “60 Minutes” interviews, congressional hearings, Food and Drug Administration advisory committees, town halls, teleprompter speeches, new business pitches, crisis response and product launches. Andrew was counsel to Johnson & Johnson in Tylenol 1 and the Government of Canada during a SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome) Outbreak. He also has had global training assignments for General Motors, PepsiCo and several pharmaceutical companies..
Bethany Hornbeck is a freelance communications specialist based in Pittsburgh, Pa., and Morgantown, W.Va. She is helping the Health Sciences & Technology Academy package its program for replication outside of West Virginia. She also develops content for ECO Partners, a recycling education company that serves U.S. municipalities.
Bethany spent 11 years as contracted lead technical writer at the National Energy Technology Laboratory, a U.S. Department of Energy research facility, and nearly 10 years in the private sector as an editor and project manager.
Bethany has served as Professional Development Director for NAGC since June 2015. She is the originator and facilitator of the association’s Webinar Wednesday online training series and Encore! webinar miniseries, which brings Communications School content to members unable to attend.
Dennis Kendall is a Peabody, Emmy and Edward R. Murrow award-winning journalist who is now Director of Broadcast News for Quincy Media. He oversees 18 affiliated stations generating 70 hours of local news a day and more than 500 journalists.
Previously, as a partner at The Coaching Company in Dallas, Dennis was a performance coach at CNN and lead consultant for 18 television stations across the country, along with a 24-hour news network in Canada. Having started as a broadcast journalist in the U.S. Navy, Dennis has spent over four decades working every facet of television news.
Ben Kessler has been the Director of Government Solutions since 2015, having joined the firm in early 2012. He oversees Meltwater’s relationships with various government agencies at the federal, state and local levels. Ben is responsible for working with senior government public affairs and media relations leaders to develop key performance indicators, measurement methodologies and public affairs strategies, and proposals for government contracts.
Laura Kirkpatrick, APR, is the Deputy Director of Public Information for Monmouth County, N.J., where she helps create, manage and deliver public relations and marketing communications to residents, visitors and employees. Laura began her government career in parks and recreation. In 2015, with more than two decades of public relations experience, she earned her Accreditation in Public Relations. She now represents NAGC on the Universal Accreditation Board.
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.
Mike Koehler is the president and chief strategist at Smirk New Media LLC, a consulting firm he founded in July 2010. Smirk is recognized as one of the largest and fastest growing digital consulting firms in the region.
Mike speaks around the country about how to use social media tools and integrate them into marketing and public relations plans. He was a featured speaker at the 140 Characters Conference in New York City in 2009, the first national conference on the impact of Twitter on business.
Ryan McClure is the Director of Communications for the CityArchRiver Foundation. The foundation is a nonprofit organization with a mission to ensure that the Gateway Arch, its grounds and neighboring public space and attractions will be a vital resource for decades to come. Ryan serves as the main spokesperson for the ongoing renovation of the Arch grounds and surrounding areas. He oversees all public information about the foundation and CityArchRiver project including messaging, media relations, social media and web development.
McClure previously worked on public affairs and civic improvement campaigns at global communications firm Fleishman-Hillard and corporate communications at Safety National. He holds a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Missouri.
B.J. Mendelson is a public speaker and author of the book, Social Media Is BS.
In the early 2000s, B.J. turned his financial struggles as a millennial in the great recession into media coverage for himself. After an unsuccessful national breast cancer tour, B.J. went on to write Social Media Is BS based on the experience and his research into the social media marketing industry.
B.J. has appeared in various venues to talk about the myths of social media marketing, including an appearance at the United Nations to debate the ambassador to Pakistan about the larger effects of social media on society.
B.J. was born in Oyster Bay, N.Y., and attended Alfred State College and the State University of New York at Potsdam.
Jessica Milcetich is the product manager of USA.gov and GobiernoUSA.gov at the U.S. General Services Administration (GSA). Jessica helps millions of people get answers to their questions about navigating the complexities of the federal government through USAGov’s websites, call center and social media accounts.
Before joining GSA, Jessica was a journalist who covered business and consumer news at the York Daily Record in York, Pa. She has a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Maryland and a master’s degree in business administration from Auburn University. When she’s not busy working, studying or cheering for the Terps, Jessica spends her time running marathons and triathlons.
Jennifer Miller is a principal at Rockford Gray, LLC. She has more than 15 years experience in news reporting, including 7 years at CBS News. At Rockford Gray, Jennifer developed a media training program specifically for elected officials, government leaders, political candidates and members of the military.
Jennifer holds a master’s in professional studies from the University of Denver. She also graduated cum laude from the University of Minnesota with a degree in Journalism and French. Jennifer serves on the board of directors for Remembering the Brave, a nonprofit organization dedicated to honoring fallen service members and their families.
Ben Muldrow is a talented graphic artist with experience in a wide variety of marketing applications. He provides community identity and branding services for communities across the United States. Ben has worked on a number of projects specializing in the development of city and neighborhood identities, wayfinding strategies, and promotional marketing material.
Ben was a speaker for several years at the National Main Streets Conference on community branding.
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 is a Program Manager with the U.S. Department of Transportation where he provides communications and outreach support for the Connected Vehicle research program. He supervises all work related to communications, website content, meeting planning, publications, media relations and stakeholder engagement.
Previously, Mike was Director of Public Relations for AAA, responsible for AAA’s nationally recognized holiday weekend travel forecasts. Mike also served as manager of communications for the U.S. Travel Association and was Deputy Washington, D.C., bureau chief for Travel Weekly, North America’s largest travel trade publication.
How to Communicate Complex Ideas to the General Public (PPT) 90,790 KB
Leslie Quiroz is a Public Affairs Specialist at the Division of Information and Education of the HHS Office of Minority Health. She is the Spanish-language content lead overseeing the development and implementation of health observances for the people the agency serves. A skilled cross-cultural communicator, Leslie has experience in advertising, public and media relations, journalism, social marketing, and social media.
Before joining HHS, Leslie served as a communications consultant for almost 13 years in the private sector. She started her career in her native Puerto Rico, as writer in the newsroom of El Nuevo Día, the main newspaper of the island.
Leslie earned a Bachelor of Arts in public communication from the University of Puerto Rico, a Master of Arts in organizational communication from the University of Colorado, and a professional certificate in translation from New York University. In 2015, she published her memoir Victorious: My Story as a Cancer Survivor.
Chris Regnier joined FOX 2 News as a general assignment reporter in January 2001. He previously reported at KFOX-TV in El Paso, Texas. He reported from Kuwait during Operation Desert Fox, from Oklahoma City during the deadly tornadoes, and from New Mexico when wildfires were destroying parts of the state.
Chris also spent time in radio, hosting and producing a medical news talk show on KELP in El Paso. Before that, Chris was a weekend anchor, reporter and producer at KAUZ-TV in Wichita Falls, Texas, and he began his career as a morning anchor, reporter and producer at KVTV in Laredo, Texas.
Chris received his bachelor’s in communication from the University of California in San Diego. He’s been a part of news reports that have won such awards as the Edward R. Murrow Award, Emmy Awards and Associated Press Awards in Texas and New Mexico.
Dana Soehn is the Park Spokesperson and Management Assistant at Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Originally from Missouri, Dana started working for the National Park Service 28 years ago at Great Smoky Mountains National Park as a college intern.
She received her Bachelor of Science in wildlife and fisheries biology at the University of Tennessee and Master of Science in wildlife and fisheries science at West Virginia University while continuing to work seasonally in the Smokies. She has worked permanently at the park since 1996 in Resource Management & Science, Resource Education, and Volunteer Outreach. As Park Spokesperson, she serves in the Superintendent’s Office coordinating public and media affairs, partnerships and community relations, special park uses for park events, and the volunteer program for more than 2,500 active volunteers.
Dana lives in Gatlinburg, Tenn., with her husband of 25 years, Park Ranger Heath Soehn, and their sons, Garrett and Grant.
John Verrico, MSOL, is the Past President of NAGC. John has more than 34 years of experience as a public affairs professional in federal and state government agencies, working extensively in media, community, and employee relations. He is currently the Chief of Media Relations at the U. S. Department of Homeland Security’s Science and Technology Directorate. As a senior spokesman, he has trained hundreds of subject matter experts and organizational leaders in the public and private sectors to deliver messages to media, stakeholders, employees, special interest groups, and the general public.
A retired Navy Master Chief Journalist, John is also a professional trainer of motivational leadership and interpersonal communication. He earned his Master of Science in organizational leadership from Norwich University and a Bachelor of Science in communication from the University of the State of New York.
Wendy Wagner-Smith is a plain language expert and the training coordinator for the federal working group, the Plain Language Action and Information Network. Wendy also is the outgoing marketing director for NAGC.
She started her career in journalism and later moved to the publishing industry before entering federal service. She has written editorial style guides for three federal agencies and is known for her outstanding editing and communications work, which includes photography, web content managment, graphic design, and publishing. She currently works for the U.S. Department of the Treasury Office of Financial Research.
Wendy has a bachelor’s degree from the University of Virginia and has done postgraduate coursework at the Harvard Extension School and Virginia Commonwealth University. A Virginia native, she now lives in Chevy Chase, Md., with her husband and daughter.
Sharon Watson is the Public Affairs and Communications Director for Johnson County, Kan., the largest county in the state. She is the spokesperson and oversees all external and internal communications. Sharon also manages the county’s Joint Information Center during emergencies.
Previously, Sharon served as Public Affairs Director for the Kansas Adjutant General’s Department which includes Kansas National Guard, Division of Emergency Management and Homeland Security (2006 to 2015). Before that, she was Communications Director for the Kansas Department of Health and Environment for five years. She also was a broadcast journalist for more than 10 years.
Sharon has a bachelor’s degree from William Jewell College with a double major in communications and public relations and a master’s degree in homeland security from the Naval Post Graduate School’s Center for Homeland Defense and Security in Monterey, Calif.
Using Social Media to Pass a Public Safety Sales Tax (PPT) 12,662 KB
Kesha R. Whitaker is Manager of Public and Media Relations for the Shelby County Trustee’s Office. Kesha oversees communications for the largest county treasury office in the state of Tennessee. She develops strategic messaging and marketing campaigns for major community initiatives and manages all internal and external communications, media relations, social media, and event coordination, as well as providing support for community outreach and special initiatives.
Kesha also has worked for U.S. Bobsled team, the U.S. Olympic Committee and the New Jersey General Assembly. Whitaker was a journalist at the 2002 Olympic Winter Games, a Senior Public Information Assistant for the Ivy League Conference in Princeton, N.J., and Director of Media Relations for the Atlantic Sun Conference in Macon, Ga.
Kesha is a graduate of the University of Memphis where she earned a bachelor’s in journalism with a concentration in public relations. She was recently named one of the Top 40 Under 40 by the Memphis Business Journal.
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Kathleen A. Zona has spent her career working in the federal government for NASA’s only Midwestern Center, the Glenn Research Center (GRC) in Cleveland, Ohio. Kathleen is currently the Executive Protocol Officer in the Center Director’s Office. She handles important visitors to the Center and is critical in coordinating management participation in events, conferences and other venues.
Before taking this position, Kathleen spent 10 years as a Public Affairs Specialist, managing the Glenn Research Center’s web portal and social media channels. Under her leadership, the Glenn Research Center web team held its first social tweetup event to mark the 50th Anniversary of the first human in space, John H. Glenn, the Center’s namesake.
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