Governor Parson Announces Graduation of Third Class of Missouri Leadership Academy, Launch of Fourth Class

 — Today, Governor Mike Parson announced the graduation of 28 public servants from the third class of the Missouri Leadership Academy. 

The graduates, who come from the State of Missouri’s 16 executive departments, were chosen by senior leaders to participate in the intensive, cross-department leadership development program. Governor Parson also announced 29 leaders to join the fourth class of the Missouri Leadership Academy (see biographies below).

“Every day, I am impressed by the dedicated public servants we have within state government,” Governor Parson said. “We are committed to investing in leaders through the Leadership Academy, and we are proud of these graduates for their hard work to learn new skills, make their teams stronger, and better serve their fellow citizens.”

A reception was held Wednesday evening in the Governor's Office for the third and fourth classes of the Missouri Leadership Academy, which included a graduation ceremony for the third class.

The Missouri Leadership Academy is an innovative program that brings together leaders from across the state to develop new skills and become better leaders. Participants 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 certain elements of the leadership training.

The program originally launched July 2018, and the first class graduated in January 2019. The program now has 77 graduates. Since graduating, many participants have taken on positions of increased responsibility within state government.

An important part of the program is broadening participants’ understanding of state government and how it can be improved for our citizens. The class meets with legislative leaders, statewide office holders, members of the judiciary, Cabinet leaders, and reporters who cover the Capitol.

The graduating class also visited the Jefferson City Correctional Center (Department of Corrections), the Missouri State Highway Patrol Crime Lab (Department of Public Safety), Fulton State Hospital (Department Mental Health), a wastewater plant (Department of Natural Resources), and the Child Abuse and Neglect Call Center (Department of Social Services). Participants also attended Governor Parson’s 2020 State of the State address in January.

To conclude their experience, the third Leadership Academy class developed solutions to improve state government in their capstone projects. They presented their project findings to Cabinet leaders on Tuesday.

“Every Missourian should be proud of the Missouri Leadership Academy graduates,” State of Missouri Chief Operating Officer Drew Erdmann said. “They are talented people who have dedicated themselves to serving others. They are making our government better every day.”

“The Missouri Leadership Academy was an in-depth reflection of self and provided tools to make better decisions,” said Scott Weber, Warden, Moberly Corrections Center with the Department of Corrections. “I look forward to using the new skills and approaches to improve lives.”

“For me, the Leadership Academy has been an absolutely incredible experience. I learned about myself as a colleague and a leader and how to use my strengths to lead myself and others more effectively,” said Katie Thumann, Program Director, St. Louis Psychiatric Rehabilitation Center with the Department of Mental Health. “The exposure to departments and colleagues I’d never in my wildest dreams have imagined forging connections with is perhaps my most meaningful takeaway, and I am so excited to keep working to move Missouri forward with them.”

Each of the state’s 16 executive departments has representatives in the Missouri Leadership Academy. Department leaders nominate their team members to participate in the Academy. Nominees then submit a resume and a 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.

The fifth class will be nominated by Cabinet leaders in April 2020 and begin in July 2020.

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


Fourth Class of the Missouri Leadership Academy (Spring 2020)

Jamie Angel

Personnel Officer

Department of Economic Development

As a Personnel Officer, Jamie works hand-in-hand with division directors and managers across the Department of Economic Development (DED) to recruit and hire new team members. She also provides continuous HR support in the areas of benefits, professional development, payroll, and compensation/classification. Prior to joining the HR team, Jamie spent three years working with the DED communications and marketing team, where she was responsible for writing and editing custom content for videos, newsletters, blogs, and other media marketing pieces. Jamie holds a Bachelor of Arts in English and an MBA in human resource management from Columbia College.


Audrey Beres

Operational Excellence

Department of Conservation

Audrey serves the Missouri Department of Conservation by leading strategic planning, customer experience management, and continuous improvement efforts. She has been with the Department for 11 years, including two years coordinating environmental policy issues and six years as a field forester. Audrey holds a Master of Environmental Economics and Policy and a Master of Forestry from Duke University.


Eric Berwanger

Administrator, Grain Regulatory Services

Department of Agriculture

Eric serves as the Administrator of Grain Regulatory Services for the Department of Agriculture. This program licenses and regulates grain warehouses and dealers while providing protection for Missouri farmers and ensuring a strong and stable Missouri grain industry.  He began his employment with the Department of Agriculture in 1998, working as a Field Auditor in the Department’s Grain Regulatory Services Program and was later promoted to Senior Auditor in the same program. Eric assumed his current role as Administrator of Grain Regulatory Services in 2019. He earned a Bachelor of Science from the University of Missouri-Columbia. Eric also served twenty eight years in the U.S. Army Reserves, completed one tour in Iraq, and retired at the rank of Lieutenant Colonel.


Brady Clevenger

Program Development Specialist, Rehabilitation Services for the Blind

Department of Social Services

Brady joined Rehabilitation Services for the Blind in May 2006 as a Vocational Rehabilitation Counselor. In July 2017, Brady was promoted to Program Development Specialist, in which he mentors vocational rehabilitation counselors across the state and carries a vocational rehabilitation caseload serving clients in the Southwest District of Missouri. Brady has had the privilege to serve on the State Rehabilitation Council for the Blind representing vocational counselors. He serves on the Program and Policy Committee as well as the Evaluation Committee. Brady holds a Bachelor of Arts in psychology from Missouri Southern State University and a Master of Science in community counseling from Pittsburg State University.


Brenna Davidson

Public Health Data Interoperability Coordinator

Department of Health and Senior Services

Brenna joined the Department of Health and Senior Services (DHSS) in 2014 and serves as the Public Health Data Interoperability Coordinator. She works as a liaison between all the programs under the Division of Community and Public Health (DCPH) and ITSD, facilitates data exchange between health care providers and DHSS, and serves on the DHSS Lean Six Sigma Team. Brenna’s position within the DCPH Director’s Office allows her to partner with multiple programs to pursue innovative projects and ideas. Brenna holds a Bachelor of Arts in public communication from Truman State University.


Lisa Franz

Chief Performance Improvement Officer

Department of Mental Health

As the Chief Performance Improvement Officer for the Western Region of the Division of Behavioral Health, Lisa leads change at the two forensic psychiatric hospitals, Center for Behavioral Medicine in Kansas City, and Northwest Missouri Psychiatric Rehabilitation Center in St. Joseph. Lisa and her teams are dedicated to improving the operations of the hospitals and the delivery of  care, treatment, and services to patients. Lisa holds a Master of Business Administration from the University of Missouri-Columbia. She is a Lean Six Sigma Master Black Belt, a Certified Professional in Healthcare Quality, and a Certified Joint Commission Professional.


Kelly Griffon

Vendor Services Coordinator, St. Louis Regional Office

Department of Mental Health

Kelly serves the Department of Mental Health as a Vendor Service Coordinator within the Division of Developmental Disabilities for the St. Louis Regional Office. She manages contracts and provides technical assistance to DMH contracted vendors that are providing the much needed support services to individuals with developmental disabilities living in the community. She ensures that vendors understand their roles and responsibilities as they relate to the Missouri Home and Community Based Waivers as well as their contract with the Department of Mental Health. Kelly has been with the Department for 14 years. During her tenure, she has served the Department as a Community Living Coordinator, Case Management Supervisor, and Support Coordinator. Kelly holds a Master of Social Work from the University of Missouri-St. Louis.


Ryan Halbert

Probation and Parole Unit Supervisor

Department of Corrections

Ryan has worked for the Department of Corrections for 12 years and currently holds the position of Probation and Parole Unit Supervisor at the Probation and Parole Interstate Compact Unit. In this position, he is responsible for working with Probation and Parole Offices throughout Missouri and across the country to ensure compliance with the Interstate Compact for Adult Offender Supervision. This allows individuals on probation or parole to transfer their supervision between states, giving them the greatest chance of successfully completing their supervision. During his time with the Department of Corrections, he has also served on several committees and worked in multiple capacities at different locations including the Probation and Parole Command Center, Fulton Community Supervision Center, Probation and Parole Central Office, and multiple field offices. 


Brian Hammann


Department of Commerce and Insurance

As an Examiner within the Division of Insurance Company Regulation, Brian performs risk-focused examinations of insurance companies domiciled in the state of Missouri. His work involves evaluating the current financial condition and prospective solvency of insurers. Prior to joining the Department in 2017, he conducted audits of state and local governments for the State Auditor’s Office. Brian holds a Master of Accountancy and a Bachelor of Science in Accounting from Missouri State University. Brian is a licensed CPA in Missouri and an Accredited Financial Examiner with the Society of Financial Examiners.


Beth Johnson

Deputy Warden, Kansas City Reentry Center

Department of Corrections

Beth is the Deputy Warden of Offender Management at the Kansas City Reentry Center, a minimum security correctional center. Her daily operations include the oversight of custody and security measures as well as the appropriate classification and assignment of offenders. Beth has been with the Department for 20 years and has served as an Institutional Parole Officer, a field Probation and Parole Officer, Unit Supervisor, and Functional Unit Manager. Beth holds a Bachelor of Science in criminal justice from Missouri Western State College.


Leshia Kempker

Compliance Audit Manager

Missouri Gaming Commission

Leshia manages the operations of the Compliance Audit Department, which is responsible for auditing the 13 licensed riverboat casinos in the state of Missouri. In this role, she supervises a team comprised of 17 auditors and audit supervisors in Jefferson City, Kansas City, and St. Louis. She began her professional career in 2000 as a clerk typist and has been promoted through the ranks in various departments at the Missouri Gaming Commission to her current position. Leshia holds a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration with an emphasis in accounting from Columbia College and a Master of Business Administration from William Woods University.


Christopher John Kennedy

SE Fisheries Regional Supervisor

Missouri Department of Conservation

A native St. Louisan, Christopher J. Kennedy graduated from Cardinal Ritter College Prep in 1991 and began obtaining his degree in Fisheries Biology at the University of Arkansas. During that time, he completed many internships with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service that allowed him to assist with stream and fish community research on Indian Reservations in Kansas, the bayous of Arkansas, the and swamps of Louisiana. After completion of his degree, he immediately began working for the Missouri Department of Conservation (MDC). He began his career as a Fisheries Management Assistant. After five years of service, he was promoted to Fisheries Management Biologist and began managing public impoundments, assisting private land owners with fisheries management, and coordinating the regional aquatic resource education program. During this time, he also created and coordinated the Alligator Gar Restoration Project and the MDC Youth Conservation Corps program and began intensively exposing diverse groups of high school and college students to the world of aquatic resource conservation while reintroducing Alligator Gar to the State. Chris has also spent his career assisting MDC with its workforce diversity initiatives including recruitment, facilitating diversity training courses, and assisting with MDC’s internship program. He continues to serve MDC as a Fisheries Regional Supervisor, leading and supervising seven fisheries management biologists while managing the aquatic resources for a 16-county region located in the Southeast area of the state. Christopher is also currently assisting with a MDC reorganization by serving on organizational modeling and implementation teams that are responsible for initiating and implementing a new organizational structure.


Kayla Kueckelhan

Driver License Bureau Administrator

Department of Revenue

As the Driver License Bureau Administrator, Kayla is responsible for overseeing the issuance, suspension, and revocation of Missouri driver licenses, permits, nondriver licenses, and commercial driver licenses. She has been with the Missouri Department of Revenue for 7 years. During that time, she has worked within the Taxation Division and the Driver License Bureau.  Prior to moving to Missouri, Kayla worked for the Motor Vehicle Department in Johnson County, Kansas. Kayla holds a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration from the University of Central Missouri.


Liz McDermit

Management Analysis Specialist

Department of Labor and Industrial Relations

As a Management Analysis Specialist at the Department of Labor and Industrial Relations, Liz coordinates Department and multi-agency strategic data initiatives. She previously worked in Human Resources within the Department of Labor and Industrial Relations where she specialized in data analytics and continuous improvement. She is a member of the Department’s Op Ex team and is currently obtaining a Six Sigma Green Belt from Ohio State University. Liz holds a Master of Business Administration from William Woods University.


Kevin Onstott

Director, Facilities Operations

Department of Public Safety

Kevin serves as the Director of Facilities Operations with the Missouri Veterans Commission.  He leads a team of professional staff which deals with budgets, grants, codes, and facility operations. Prior to his current role, Kevin served at the Missouri Department of Transportation for nearly 16 years. Kevin holds a bachelor’s degree along with a professional license as fire inspector and continues to volunteer for various local groups.


Brandon Ousley

Client Services Manager, Information Technology Services Division (ITSD)

Office of Administration

Brandon joined ITSD in June 2011 after receiving a Bachelor of Science in computer science from Central Methodist University. Originally, Brandon was hired by ITSD as a Junior Java Developer, but in early 2012, Brandon became an IT Project Manager for ITSD. In November 2015, Brandon was named an ITSD Client Services Manager to support the Department of Natural Resources. In this role, Brandon leads a team of application developers, project managers, and business analysts. In addition, Brandon is responsible for coordinating and managing all business between OA-ITSD and the Department of Natural Resources, including but not limited to project management, portfolio management, budget oversight, project prioritization, and vendor management.


Courtney W. Schweder

Deputy Warden

Department of Corrections

Courtney has been employed with the Missouri Department of Corrections (DOC) for 25 years. In his current position as the Deputy Warden, he is assigned to special projects in support of the DOC Central Office including policy revision, security audits, and development of strategic plan initiatives both as a committee leader and member. Courtney has been promoted through the ranks in custody and security during his time working at four separate Missouri correctional facilities and was promoted to his current position in September 2017.


Lisa Sireno

Standards and Assessment Administrator

Department of Elementary and Secondary Education 

Lisa is the Standards and Assessment Administrator in the Office of College and Career Readiness at the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education. She leads the curriculum and assessment teams responsible for implementation of the K-12 Missouri Learning Standards and administration of the Missouri Assessment Program. Lisa joined the Department in 2015 to lead the transition to new academic standards and statewide assessments. Lisa also works to serve students, parents, and educators through programs for English learners, struggling readers, healthy schools, fine arts, and personal finance.


Marcus Slaughter

Management Coordinator

Department of Transportation

As Incident Management Coordinator for KC Scout, the region’s only bi-state traffic management and technology organization, Marcus manages traffic incidents in the metropolitan areas of both Kansas and Missouri. He provides traffic incident management training (SHRP2) to law enforcement, fire, the towing industry, and both the Kansas and Missouri Departments of Transportation. This is a lifesaving training that ensures all emergency and first responders are safe and efficient in performing their duties on the area’s highways, which reduces traffic congestion and air pollutants created by vehicles sitting idling at traffic incidents. Prior to becoming Incident Management Coordinator, Marcus was the Maintenance Superintendent responsible for the Missouri Department of Transportation’s (MoDOT) maintenance activities in Kansas City’s urban core. Combined, he has 27 years of service to the citizens of Missouri in various roles within MoDOT. 


Peggy Smith

Marketing & Branding Manager, Missouri One Start

Department of Economic Development

Peggy joined Missouri One Start (MOS) in July 2019 after 25 years in private sector marketing and advertising. As the Marketing and Branding Manager of MOS, she is tasked with creating the MOS brand and building its recognition and share of voice in the fields of workforce training and economic development. Before joining the state, she worked within advertising and mass media, managing regional, national, and international business-to-consumer and business-to-business communications of Fortune 500 Companies and broadcast brands. Peggy holds a Bachelor of Arts in communications (radio, TV, film) as well as minors in sociology and creative writing from the University of Missouri-Columbia.


Cecille Swan

Administrator of the Field Compliance Bureau

Department of Revenue

As Administrator of the Field Compliance Bureau, Cecille leads a diverse team of professionals that identify non-compliant taxpayers and educate them for future compliance, conduct compliance audits, validate taxpayer refund claims, and maintain the electronic interfaces between Missouri taxpayers, taxpayer representatives, software developers, and the Information Technology Services Department. Cecille has served the citizens and businesses of Missouri for 27 years and works in various capacities at the Department of Revenue. Cecille holds a Bachelor of Science in accounting from the University of Missouri-Kansas City and is a certified Lean Six Sigma Green Belt professional.


Dawn Sweazea

Director of Talent Acquisition

Office of Administration

Dawn Sweazea serves as the state’s first Director of Talent Acquisition, joining the team in July 2019. In this role, Dawn is working with the state agencies to modernize the State of Missouri’s approach to talent recruitment. This will include a new online application system that offers mobile-first technology for the optimal candidate and internal user experience. In addition, Dawn and her team are involved in initiatives around new employee onboarding, social media marketing, and professional development of recruiters. Dawn has served in various human resource roles for the duration of her career. She holds a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration in human resource management and a Master of Business Administration. Dawn also holds two internationally recognized professional certifications with SPHR (senior professional in human resources) and SHRM-SCP (society for human resource management senior certified professional).


Brian Umfleet

District Traffic Engineer

Department of Transportation

Brian works for the Department of Transportation in the St. Louis District.  He serves as the District Traffic Engineer, overseeing operations of freeways, arterials, work zones, and incident management. Brian joined the Department of Transportation in January of 1997 after receiving a Bachelor of Science in civil engineering from the Missouri University of Science and Technology in December 1996. Brian is also a licensed Professional Engineer in the state of Missouri. 


Joshua A. Vaughn

Service Coordinator Supervisor and Facility Manager

Department of Social Services

Joshua A. Vaughn has served youth and families for the past seven years with the Division of Youth Services. He currently holds a dual position as a Service Coordinator Supervisor and Facility Manager (Met Day Treatment). Joshua’s daily duties are to review and approve individual treatment and educational plans for youth offenders as well as oversee program financial budgets. Joshua holds a Bachelor of Science from Central Methodist University with a double major in psychology and criminal justice. He also completed the Missouri Way Training in spring 2019.


Colette Weckenborg

Continuous Improvement and Performance Coordinator

Department of Natural Resources

As the Continuous Improvement and Performance Coordinator, Colette coaches, facilitates, and leads continuous improvement efforts for the Department of Natural Resources and consults with leadership on strategic priorities and opportunities for improvement. She joined the Department in 2007, serving in multiple roles from Environmental Specialist to Fiscal and Administrative Manager. She holds a Bachelor of Science in agricultural business from the University of Missouri-Columbia and is a Lean Six Sigma Black Belt.


Travis West

Bureau Chief, Bureau of Home & Community Based Services Systems & Data Reporting

Department of Health & Senior Services

Travis is the Bureau Chief of the Bureau of Home and Community Based Services (HCBS) Systems & Data Reporting within the Department of Health and Senior Services. In this role, Travis oversees the management and operations of HCBS systems that house personal care service authorizations for Missouri Medicaid beneficiaries. In addition, Travis oversees the collection, maintenance, and distribution of HCBS program data to Missouri executive departments, HCBS program staff, and community stakeholders. Travis holds a Bachelor of Arts in political science from Missouri State University.


Jacob Westen

Deputy General Counsel

Department of Natural Resources

Jacob serves as Deputy General Counsel for the Department of Natural Resources (DNR). He manages four attorneys and the Custodian of Records and provides legal advice to the Department on a variety of topics including funding, operations, personnel matters, environmental regulation, energy policy, and property management. Jacob coordinates the other Department attorneys and their respective programs to break down silos and assist with internal policy guidance and clarity. Prior to joining DNR in 2018, Jacob worked at the Public Service Commission, and before that, the Missouri Attorney General’s Office.


Ashley Wilson

Fiscal Liaison

Department of Social Services

Ashley serves as the MO HealthNet Division’s Fiscal Liaison in Jefferson City. She has been with the Division since 2006. In her current role, she is highly involved in the development, planning, and management of the multi-billion dollar Missouri Medicaid program. Ashley has held several key positions within the Division that have given her extensive policy and program knowledge. She recently completed the Lean Six Sigma Green Belt training/certification with Ohio State University. Ashley holds a Bachelor of Science from Lincoln University.


Mara Woody

Assistant Commissioner for Postsecondary Policy

Missouri Department of Higher Education and Workforce Development

Mara has served in this position since July 2019, Innovation and Performance, Academic Affairs, Proprietary School Certification, and Strategic Initiatives. Prior to this, Mara served as the Judicial Education Manager for the Missouri Office of State Courts Administrator where she led judicial education efforts for court staff. She holds a Doctor of Education in educational leadership and policy from Vanderbilt University, a Master of Science in criminal justice from Columbia College, and a Bachelor of Arts in criminal justice.