Governor Parson Announces Graduation of Missouri Leadership Academy Fall 2020 Class, Launch of Spring 2021 Class

 — Today, Governor Mike Parson announced the graduation of 29 state employees from the Missouri Leadership Academy.

The graduates came from 15 of the state of Missouri's executive departments and were chosen by senior department leaders to participate in the cross-department leadership development program. Governor Parson also announced another 28 emerging leaders who will participate in the sixth class of the program starting today (see biographies below).

“Investing in our emerging leaders through the Missouri Leadership Academy is important to improving state government,” Governor Parson said. “I commend the graduates for growing as leaders and learning new ways to better serve their teammates and the people of Missouri.”

Earlier this week, the Fall 2020 Missouri Leadership Academy class presented recommendations from their capstone projects to Governor Parson and Cabinet leaders. Project recommendations ranged from how to improve state government’s customer service to forging innovative partnerships to help raise awareness of public service careers among high school students.

Yesterday evening, Governor Parson hosted the Fall 2020 class for their graduation ceremony followed by a reception in the Capitol Rotunda.

The Missouri Leadership Academy is an innovative, nationally-recognized program that brings together public servants from across state government to develop new skills and become better leaders. The program is based on the idea that by developing its leaders, Missouri state government will continue to improve and better serve its citizens.

Emerging leaders from the Missouri Leadership Academy build their capabilities in three core areas – leading themselves, leading others, and leading change in state government. The Academy partnered with the University of Missouri’s Novak Leadership Institute to implement elements of the program.

The Academy continues to adapt to the COVID-19 environment to protect the safety of participants while ensuring the quality of the program. The Fall 2020 class divided time between virtual and in-person meetings and followed proper safety protocols, including participant screening, social distancing, and mask wearing.

Despite the ongoing COVID-19 crisis, the class was able to meet with numerous state leaders, including legislative leaders, statewide office holders, members of the judiciary, Cabinet leaders, and reporters covering the Capitol.

The Spring 2021 class will continue to adapt to COVID-19 as needed to maintain safety.

“The Missouri Leadership Academy is the state’s flagship leadership development program whose graduates make a difference every day,” State of Missouri Chief Operating Officer Drew Erdmann said. “This class demonstrated great commitment to making the program a success while adapting to the COVID-19 environment. The opportunity to work and learn with these public servants inspires me.”

“I was honored and excited to be selected for the Missouri Leadership Academy. I knew of its excellent reputation of providing a unique, cross-departmental leadership experience. It far exceeded my expectations,” said Rachel Jones, Department of Mental Health. “Meeting talented leaders across state government, all committed to common goals despite our diverse backgrounds and expertise, was inspiring.”

“I gained a new set of leadership skills that I apply to my day-to-day work. The commitment from the Governor’s Office, Cabinet, state legislators, and other leaders across Missouri government speaks volumes,” Ms. Jones continued. “The Leadership Academy certainly strengthens Missouri government for Missouri citizens, and I’m proud to be a part of it.”

“This experience, with the mentorship from great leaders like Chief Operating Officer Drew Erdmann and Corrections Director Anne Precythe, has challenged me to continue pursuing leadership excellence that is focused on providing the best services for every Missouri taxpayer dollar,” said Vince Rost, Department of Corrections. “We all love our state and are rolling up our sleeves in response to the Missouri Leadership Academy’s challenges so that we can help Missouri thrive, not just survive these historically significant times.”

“Leadership Academy has been one of the most impactful experiences in my career,” said Shasta Miller, Department of Social Services. “It has given me the confidence to be an effective change agent not only within my department but all of Missouri government for the betterment of all Missouri citizens.”

To be considered for participation in the program, department leaders must nominate candidates. Nominees then submit a resume and brief memorandum explaining why they are a good candidate for the program to a committee of Cabinet leaders. The committee reviews the applications and makes the final selections.

Since launching the program, the state has graduated over 100 emerging leaders and will continue to have two classes per year. The Fall 2021 class will be nominated by Cabinet leaders in May 2021 and begin in July 2021.

For more information about the Missouri Leadership Academy, visit You can also keep up with the new class on social media by following #MOLeadershipAcademy.


Sixth Class of the Missouri Leadership Academy (Spring 2021)


Cheryl Alonzo 

Assistant Director, Compliance 

Department of Public Safety - Missouri Gaming Commission

Cheryl joined the Missouri Gaming Commission in 2000 as a compliance auditor. She has held several audit positions with the Commission until her appointment as Assistant Director of Compliance in 2012. Cheryl provides management oversight in the areas of casino tax audit, compliance audit, table games, internal controls, bingo, and fantasy sports contests. Cheryl holds a bachelor’s degree in business and a master’s degree from the University of Missouri-Columbia. She is a Certified Internal Auditor and currently sits on the Institute of Internal Auditors’ Gaming Audit Advisory Board.


Donald A. Arias 

Southeast Regional Administrator 

Department of Corrections

Donald has worked for the Division of Probation and Parole at the Department of Corrections for over 19 years. He currently holds the position of regional administrator for the Southeast Region. In this position, he provides oversight of the operations of all district offices, community supervision centers, and institutional parole offices in the region. This includes building relations with all relevant criminal justice areas and agencies across the region, collaborating with various resource partners to develop effective program services, contract management, budget management, policy and procedure management and development, resource allocations, team member support, and budget administration. During his years of service, he has held the positions of Field Probation and Parole Officer, Field Unit Supervisor, District Administrator, and TCSTL Superintendent. He is a certified Lean Six Sigma Green Belt and holds a Bachelor of Arts from Saint Mary’s University in Winona, Minnesota. 


Jessica Bateman 

Social Services Administrator - Home and Community Based Services Intake & Person Centered Care Planning 

Department of Health and Senior Services

Jessica has been with the Division of Senior and Disability Services at the Department of Health and Senior Services since 2014. She is currently the Social Services Administrator for the Home and Community Based Services (HCBS) Intake and Person Centered Care Planning units. She and her team are dedicated to the referral and care plan maintenance components of the HCBS program, which serves Missouri’s Medicaid-eligible senior citizens and adults with disabilities by authorizing services to meet unmet needs, allowing participants’ to remain as independent as possible in the least restrictive environment. Jessica graduated from Lincoln University in 2013 with a Bachelor of Science in psychology and started graduate coursework in community and agency counseling. 


Nick Bestgen 

Senior Bank Examiner - Division of Finance

Department of Commerce & Insurance

Nick joined the Missouri Division of Finance at the Department of Commerce and Insurance in 2013. As a commissioned Senior Bank Examiner within the Central Missouri District, he works to ensure the safety and soundness of state chartered banks. Nick works alongside a team of examiners who review compliance with state and federal laws and regulations while also assessing the overall financial performance of these institutions. He holds a Bachelor of General Studies with a minor in accounting and business from Columbia College. 


Jerri Bowles 

Customer Support Unit Lead 

Department of Higher Education & Workforce Development

Jerri started her journey with the Office of Workforce Development four years ago as a Workforce Specialist I at the Columbia Job Center. She worked her way up through the ranks from Supervisor to Specialist IV to Trainer and currently Customer Support Unit Lead.  Jerri enjoys serving people as customer service has always been at least some capacity of her job duties in any position she has ever held. Last year, Jerri took part in Missouri’s Task Force for Call Center Transformation and also worked on her department’s placemat team. Jerri is currently excited to be working on the Job Centers of the Future Initiative to help move Missouri’s Job Centers forward to best serve and meet customers where they are.


Sylvia Bonner 

Assistant Director of Operations - Division of General Services 

Office of Administration

As the Division Assistant Director of Operations, Sylvia oversees the division’s business activities, budget, and finances to ensure each division’s program financial viability. Her main responsibilities are to analyze data to identify trends and risks, evaluate how programs can reduce costs, and maintain the division and program-specific dashboards in Tableau. She collaborates with programs on various initiatives and assists program leadership with monthly financial business reviews. She has direct oversight of the Fleet Management Program as well as Surplus Property and State Recycling.

Sylvia has been with the agency for eight years and the state of Missouri for a total of 14 years. In addition to her daily responsibilities, she is also actively involved in the division’s strategic planning efforts, performance management, and process improvement initiatives. She is also part of the Office of Administration’s Operational Excellence Team. Sylvia holds a Bachelor of Business Administration with an emphasis in accounting, human resources, and management from Columbia College.


Megan Buchanan

Terrestrial Habitat Science Supervisor 

Department of Conservation

As the Terrestrial Habitat Science Supervisor, Megan leads a team of ecologists who support the Department’s wetland, grassland, forest, and woodland habitat management across the state. Megan and her team collaborate with internal and external partners on research projects, monitoring programs, and planning initiatives to ensure habitat management is driven by priorities and objectives, guided by science and on-the-ground knowledge, inclusive of stakeholder perspectives, and makes efficient use of Department resources. Megan has been with the Department for five years having also served on teams to plan and implement the agency’s reorganization. Before coming to Missouri, Megan attended the Universities of Alabama and Minnesota where she earned a bachelor’s and master’s degree in geography with a focus on forest ecology and natural resource management. 


Shad Burner

Southeast Regional Manager

Department of Economic Development

Shad joined DED in March 2019 after serving a variety of roles in the public and private sector, including Vice President of the Cape Chamber and most recently as Vice President of Business Development for carGO, a ride-share and food delivery startup. In his role as Southeast Regional Manager, he is responsible for building relationships with communities and businesses to help facilitate economic growth. Shad has managed more than a dozen projects representing 1,500+ new jobs and more than $250 million in private investment as well as over $10 million in grant dollars for community infrastructure. Additionally, he has been active in Missouri’s COVID-19 response, including working with Director Rob Dixon to oversee the Phase 1B and 2 microcell team. Shad is a 2020 graduate of the Delta Leadership Institute. 


Michelle Coleman 

Managing Attorney - Administrative Hearings Unit

Department of Social Services

As Managing Attorney for the Child Support Section of the Department of Social Services’ (DSS) Administrative Hearings Unit, Michelle is responsible for supervising the 16 member team that handles the establishment, modification, and enforcement of all administrative child support hearings in the state of Missouri. She has served in all three branches of state government – first as Office Attorney for Senator J.B. “Jet” Banks, Assistant Legal Counsel to the late Governor Mel Carnahan, and Law Clerk to The Honorable Duane Benton during his tenure on the Supreme Court of Missouri. After serving as an Administrative Hearings Officer in the Administrative Hearings Unit for 11 years, she was promoted to Managing Attorney in 2018.  She earned a Lean Six Sigma Green Belt in January 2020 and serves on the DSS Operational Excellence Team. Michelle holds a Bachelor of Arts in political science from the University of New Orleans, a Juris Doctorate from St. Louis University School of Law, and a Masters of Law in dispute resolution from the University of Missouri-Columbia. 


Tanya Douleh, Ph.D. 

Mental Health Contract Monitor - Division of Offender Rehabilitative Services 

Department of Corrections

As a Mental Health Contract Monitor with the Department of Corrections, Dr. Douleh provides contractual oversight of mental health services in Missouri’s prisons. She and her teammates are dedicated to ensuring incarcerated individuals across Missouri receive high quality mental health care. Previously, Dr. Douleh served as an addictions counselor, psychologist, and Institutional Chief of Mental Health Services within the department in addition to providing psychological services in a variety of settings in the public sector. She earned a Bachelor of Science in psychology from Missouri State University as well as a Master of Arts and a Doctorate in clinical psychology from Western Michigan University. She completed a pre-doctoral internship with Duke University Medical Center.


Virginia Fletcher

Benefit Program Senior Specialist

Department of Labor & Industrial Relations

Virginia is a Benefit Program Senior Specialist for the Division of Employment Security (DES). In this role, she provides technical experience and training for frontline staff and helps solve complex issues related to unemployment claims. She has been with DES for three years and with the state for 11 years. Prior to her start with DES, she was with the Missouri Military Funeral Honors Program for eight years and served in the Army National Guard for 10 years. She holds a Bachelor’s of Arts in sociology with a minor in psychology. 


Andrea Follett

Assistant General Counsel

Department of Labor & Industrial Relations

Andrea is an Assistant General Counsel for the Missouri Department of Labor and Industrial Relations (DOLIR). She joined DOLIR in 2016 and previously served as the Department’s Equal Opportunity Officer. Andrea has focused much of her professional career on issues that matter in the workplace. For several years, she provided human resource counsel to Missouri school districts and advised University of Missouri law students as they prepared to join the workforce. In her current role, Andrea not only provides legal advice to the Department but also serves as a trainer and mediator. She most enjoys helping state employees create and foster courteous, professional working relationships. 


Arthur Goodin

Southeast Regional Director

Department of Natural Resources

Arthur is the Regional Director for the Missouri Department of Natural Resources’ Southeast Regional Office.  In this role, he directs the operation of the office’s activities, including the leadership of a staff of 30 environmental scientists, engineers, and administrative professionals as they work to protect environmental quality in 28 counties in Southeast Missouri. He joined the Department in 2002 and has worked in water pollution control, safe drinking water, and hazardous materials emergency response prior to becoming Regional Director in early 2019.  His current certifications include Certified Hazardous Materials Manager, wastewater treatment facility operator, drinking water treatment and distribution operator, and Lean Six Sigma Green Belt. 


Annie Herman

Division of Adult Institutions Programs Administrator

Department of Corrections

Annie serves as Program Administrator for the Division of Adult Institutions. In this position, she provides oversight to the employee relations unit, policy and procedures, library services, religious and spiritual services, offender records, and crisis intervention training for the Department of Corrections as well as other special projects as assigned. She began her professional career in 2008 as a Corrections Case Manager. She was then promoted to Functional Unit Manager in 2012 and to Reentry Coordinator in 2017 before being promoted to her current position. She earned a bachelor’s degree in political science and communications from the University of Kansas. 


Shelly Lamb

Director - Adult Education and Literacy and Office of College and Career Readiness

Department of Elementary and Secondary Education

Shelly is the Director of Adult Education and Literacy (AEL) in the Office of College and Career Readiness for the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE). She works directly with federal and state leaders as well as local AEL programs assisting Missouri adults in expanding their educational opportunities so that they can acquire the basic skills necessary to become more employable, productive, and responsible citizens. She is also responsible for overseeing the High School Equivalency (HSE) Program, which provides students an opportunity to obtain their HSE credential. Shelly began her career with DESE in 2017 as a supervisor for AEL and then moved to assistant director for HSE. In August 2020, she was promoted to director of AEL. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in business administration and computer information systems from William Woods University. 


Tiffany Moore

Staff Development Training Manager

Department of Social Services

As Staff Development and Training Manager, Tiffany develops and ensures implementation of federal, state, and divisional training policies and practices. In this role, she creates the divisional goals and vision while executing quality training curriculum and guidance. She is also responsible for oversight of the Children’s Division’s implementation of the Employee Learning System. Tiffany has been with the Children’s Division for 17 years. Her previous roles include frontline alternative care/family centered service worker, on-the-job training and quality improvement specialist, and Continuous Quality Improvement/Council on Accreditation manager. Tiffany holds a Bachelor of Science in social work from Southern Illinois University in Edwardsville, Illinois. 


Melody Reichel

Acting Administrator - License Office Bureau

Department of Revenue

Melody has worked for the Department of Revenue (DOR) for 28 years. As the License Offices Bureau’s acting administrator, she oversees 173 contract license offices that provide motor vehicle and driver licensing services to Missourians. Melody also serves as DOR’s process improvement coordinator, tracking the Department’s process improvement projects and tracking and mentoring all Lean Six Sigma Yellow and Green Belts. For over 10 years, Melody was a trainer for the Department in which she designed, piloted, and implemented hard-skills training for all DOR team members. She also assists DOR leadership with the Department’s dashboards, strategic initiatives, and placemat. Melody holds a Lean Six Sigma Black Belt. 


Emily Rinehart

St. Louis Regional Tri-County Office Director - Division of Developmental Disabilities

Department of Mental Health

Emily is currently the Regional Director for the Division of Developmental Disabilities (DD) St. Louis Regional Office. Emily oversees the operations for the DD department for Jefferson County, St. Louis City, and St. Charles County including the direct supervision of 12 employees as well as indirect supervision of approximately 160 employees at the St. Louis Regional Office. Before moving to the Department of Mental Health, Emily worked in the foster care system for 10 years helping reunite families and helping children find their forever homes. She also oversaw a youth homelessness program providing emergency and structured placements for homeless youth in the St. Louis area. Emily holds a bachelor’s degree in psychology from Missouri Valley College and a master’s degree in professional counseling from Lindenwood University. 


Rebecca Riley

Recruitment & Volunteer Coordinator

Department of Corrections

Rebecca serves as the Recruitment and Volunteer Coordinator for the Missouri Department of Corrections. She is currently responsible for overseeing all recruitment and volunteer activities and supervises recruitment staff statewide throughout the Department. She has worked for the Department of Corrections for 12 years within several different roles throughout her career. She has also worked in the private sector in a marketing manager role to develop a STEM aviation educational program for students across the world to gain hands-on experience in building a two-seat aircraft. She also worked in a training coordinator role to develop several certificated training programs for businesses and local government in a community college setting for a 16 county region. Rebecca holds a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration with a double major in management and human resources management and a minor in psychology from Columbia College. 


Melanie Robinson-Smith

Deputy Regional Director & Katy Trail Coordinator 

Department of Natural Resources - Missouri State Parks

Melanie is a Deputy Regional Director and Katy Trail Coordinator for Missouri State Parks. In this role, she oversees 10 parks and sites in central Missouri. Melanie has more than 13 years of experience in state government, including work in marketing and events for the Missouri Lottery and Missouri State Parks. She has also served as Assistant City Manager in Kirksville where she managed parks and recreation, economic development, public information and community services.  Melanie holds a Bachelor of Science in parks, recreation, and tourism from the University of Missouri-Columbia. 


Kaitlyn Thomas

Economic Analyst

Department of Economic Development

As an Economic Analyst for the Department of Economic Development (DED), Kaitlyn is highly involved in driving the Department towards more data-driven decision making. This includes leading and supporting the evaluation of the economic and fiscal impacts of projects and programs, the development and utilization of performance and economic dashboards, providing insightful economic research internally and externally, and growing the Department’s data analytics capability. Kaitlyn’s recent focus has been on leading projects to improve the economic and fiscal impact analysis of Historic Tax Credit projects and the deployment and building of DED’s Tableau resources and skills. She has been with the Department for four years and is currently pursuing a Master of Economics from the University of Missouri-Columbia. 


Jenny Thompson

St. Louis County Regional Office Director - Division of Developmental Disabilities

Department of Mental Health

Jenny joined the Department of Mental Health (DMH) in April 2020 and currently serves as Regional Office Director for the Division of Developmental Disabilities at the St. Louis Regional Office.  She is responsible for overseeing the operations of the St. Louis County office, including direct supervision of nine management team members and indirect supervision of approximately 160 Regional Office staff. The Director is responsible for determinations of abuse and neglect cases, appeal meetings for denial of services and eligibility, and building strong community partnerships with DMH providers and other state agencies. Jenny is a Licensed Professional Counselor and holds a bachelor’s degree in psychology from Culver-Stockton College and a master’s degree in professional counseling from Lindenwood University. 


Curtis Vaughn

Assistant Regional Administrator - Division of Youth Services

Department of Social Services

Curtis has worked for the Division of Youth Services for 25 years and currently serves as the Assistant Regional Administer for the Southeast Region. As an Assistant Regional Administrator, it is his responsibility to provide oversight and give guidance to the youth treatment residential facilities as well as day treatment facilities and community care programs within the region. Curtis began his career with the Division of Youth Services in 1995 as a youth specialist and has held the positions of group leader, facility manager, and regional trainer. Curtis holds a bachelor’s degree in social work and sociology from Western Illinois University. 


Collin Wamsley

State Entomologist & Program Administrator

Department of Agriculture

Collin has been with the Missouri Department of Agriculture’s Plant Pest Control Program since 2000, serving as State Entomologist and Program Administrator since 2007. The program’s mission is to safeguard Missouri agriculture and facilitate trade. The program’s work includes inspection of nurseries and greenhouses, conducting surveys for invasive plant pests, and certification of interstate and international shipments of agricultural commodities to meet the importing state or country’s pest freedom standards. Collin is a Missouri native who grew up on a multi-generation farm in the Mississippi river hills of Pike County. He holds a bachelor’s degree in agronomy and a master’s degree in agriculture with an emphasis in entomology from Northwest Missouri State University. 


Steve Wilhoit

Lieutenant/Assistant Director, Division of Drug & Crime Control 

Department of Public Safety - Missouri State Highway Patrol

Steve currently serves as an Assistant Director with the Missouri State Highway Patrol’s Division of Drug and Crime Control. In this capacity, he oversees criminal and narcotics investigations in the northern tier of the state as well as narcotics investigations in the central part of Missouri.  A lifelong Missouri resident, Steve is a graduate of South Shelby High School in Shelbina and holds a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice administration with a minor in political science from the University of Central Missouri in Warrensburg. Prior to joining the Highway Patrol in 1996, Steve served for several years as a police officer in Kansas City, Missouri. 


Stacey Williams

Suicide Prevention Coordinator

Department of Mental Health

Stacey serves as the Suicide Prevention Coordinator for the Missouri Department of Mental Health. She is the point of contact for state suicide prevention and serves as the Project Director for the Youth Suicide Prevention Grant, the Zero Suicide in Health Systems Grant, and the recently awarded Emergency Response for Suicide Grant. Stacey is a Licensed Clinical Level Social Worker with over 12 years of experience in the mental health field. She brings forth experience in state government, residential and community mental health settings, and policy and clinical practice. She is passionate about helping people through the process of bringing about change at the macro level. 


Crystal Wilson

Visual Data Advisor

Department of Social Services

As the Visual Data Advisor for the Department of Social Services (DSS), Crystal is responsible for creating and maintaining the Department’s dashboards and helps DSS team members make data meaningful and fun. Most notably, she developed, designed, and executed the DSS management dashboard and was instrumental in developing many of the Show Me Strong Recovery dashboards, specifically the public-facing social impact dashboard. Crystal also pioneered a Tableau training called “Crystal Clear” in which she shares her Tableau and data analytic expertise with team members across all 16 departments. Crystal's trainings have supported top Governor initiatives through data visualizations and moved the needle on implementing Tableau as the state’s data reporting enterprise. Crystal is a DSS Operational Excellence Team Member, Lean Six Sigma Green Belt, and Tableau Desktop Certified Associate. 


Scott Woerner

Unified Communications System Supervisor

Office of Administration

Scott joined OA-ITSD in 2015 with over 20 years of private sector experience in leadership and IT roles. He currently supervises the Unified Communications Systems team, which is responsible for the state’s complex audio, video, call center, and collaboration systems for consolidated agencies. The call centers are one of the most visible areas and play a significant role for Missouri constituents while internally supporting notable products including WebEx, Jabber, and the states’ phone and fax systems. One of Scott’s major roles is to drive process improvement change, such as this year’s initiative to move the call centers to a new cloud platform which will offer omni-channel access to constituents as well as many other benefits. Scott has completed the Ohio State Lean Six Sigma training and received a green belt in 2020. He also attended the OpEx Initiative Team Boot Camp, the 2019 Missouri Continuous Improvement Summit, and recently completed the Missouri Way training. He holds degrees in process technology and information technology as well a CCNA certification.