James E. Ford
Principal Consultant - Filling the Gap Educational Consultants, LLC
James E. Ford is an award-winning educator and Principal Consultant with Filling the Gap Education Consultants, LLC. He is the former Program Director at the Public School Forum of North Carolina, an education think-tank and policy advocacy organization. Prior to that, he served as the 2014-2015 North Carolina Teacher of the Year and the representative for 95,000 public school teachers throughout the state. For a full year, he traveled the state and country speaking before thousands of teachers, students, business leaders and policymakers about the importance of education. In his past positions, he lobbied the state legislature to secure the first post-recession raises for teachers and was made chair of the Governor’s Teacher Advisory Committee. The Governor acknowledged Ford during his 2015 State of the State address for his hard work. In Spring 2015, he, along with 54 other state teachers, were invited to the White House to be honored by President Obama in the Rose Garden during Teacher Appreciation Week. Ford taught World History at Garinger High School in Charlotte, NC, starting in 2010. He earned a Bachelor of Science in Mass Communication from Illinois State University in 2003 and a Master of Arts in Teaching from Rockford University in 2009. Ford was recognized as Charlotte Magazine’s 2014 Charlottean of the Year, the 2014 National Alliance of Black School Educators’ Teacher of the Year and is a Carnegie Fellow. He is a self-professed “equity warrior” who believes education is a human right. He writes and speaks extensively on the topics of race, class and education equity and advocates for the most disadvantaged student populations. Most notably, an article written after the Charleston shooting about the need to address racism earned him a handwritten note of praise from Secretary Arne Duncan. He writes for Education Post, EdWeek, Charlotte Magazine, Charlotte Agenda and EducationNC. His work has also appeared in Ebony and ASCD Educational Leadership magazine. He is a civic leader in Charlotte, serving on the Charlotte Board for Teach for America and is the co-chair for the Leading on Opportunity Council. Before deciding to become a teacher, Ford’s early career cemented his connection to children and youth. He worked as a truancy intervention specialist in high schools and director of a teen center that provided educational and after-school activities for youth at risk of dropping out of school. He considers his work and extension of his greater life calling. He is an activist, writer, minister, husband and father.
Andrea B. Smith
Chief Administrative Officer - Bank of America
Andrea B. Smith is Bank of America’s chief administrative officer (CAO) and a member of the company’s executive management team. Smith leads global functions and businesses that drive responsible growth, operational excellence and the company’s customer-focused strategy. As CAO, Smith is responsible for the company’s capital, recovery and resolution planning, business integration efforts in 90 U.S. markets, and operations that support the eight lines of business globally. In addition, she leads customer research and analytics, and global marketing and communications (internal and external). Smith also oversees enterprise event response, global security, an 80 million-square-foot real estate portfolio across 40 countries, and a $20.5 billion spend with vendors, including industry-leading supplier diversity efforts, a key part of the bank’s environmental, social and governance (ESG) work. Under her leadership, the bank spent more than $2 billion with women- and minority-owned businesses and has been recognized for its commitment to supplier diversity by the Women’s Business Enterprise National Council, the National LGBT Chamber of Commerce, and the National Minority Supplier Development Council. Smith has held a number of senior leadership positions for the company, including head of Global Human Resources. In that role, she managed a global workforce of more than 200,000 employees and transformed the bank’s hiring, employee benefits, and diversity and inclusion efforts. She joined Bank of America in 1988 with a degree in economics from Southern Methodist University. She is a thought leader on workforce development, education and economic mobility. Smith serves as chair of the North Carolina Business Council and co-chair of the My Future NC Commission, which focuses on education and training needs across the state. She co-chairs the Leading on Opportunity Council, which is working to address economic mobility in Charlotte. She also serves on the board of the American Bankers Association, Charlotte Sports Foundation and PGA of America. Smith has a deep commitment to diversity and inclusion and established the Black Executive Leadership Council eight years ago to help increase representation, sponsorship and advancement of black/African-American leaders. As an advocate for women, she co-founded the Global Women’s Conference to bring together top women leaders to invest in their development. Smith serves on the board of directors for the International Women’s Media Foundation. She has been recognized by American Banker for the past several years as one of the Most Powerful Women in Banking and by Business North Carolina as one of the most influential business leaders in the state.
Senior Vice President of Programs and Services - The Charlotte Mecklenburg Housing Partnership
A native Charlottean, Erin Barbee is an executive operations professional with over 13 years of experience in the management of varying levels of senior housing. Throughout her career, Erin excelled in revenue growth and management, talent recruitment and retention and the creation of operational efficiencies. Recently, Erin joined the Charlotte Mecklenburg Housing Partnership as their Senior Vice President of Programs and Services for the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Housing Project. She is responsible for overseeing the programs that impact economic mobility for the clients served. This includes the financial literacy program, digital literacy program, home buyer education and management of the House Charlotte program for the City of Charlotte. Deeply embedded in the community, Erin has been challenged with making large community concerns tangible and easily understood to the everyday community member. These community concerns include but, are not limited to affordable housing, food insecurity, lack of upward mobility and building trust across lines of difference. Through the creation of innovative programs and partnerships, Erin most notably lead in the efforts to create the Urban Farm at Aldersgate, Camino Community Center site 2 and the Eastside Rising organization. Outside of work, Erin has been a dedicated community member that focuses on building equity in the City of Charlotte through her volunteer services on various boards and commissions. Erin believes that every person should have access to opportunities and programs that lead to economic mobility, a voice at the table and enjoy a fulfilled life in the place they reside. In her free time Erin enjoys traveling with her wife, deep sea fishing and DIY projects. Erin Barbee, a native of Charlotte, received her degree in Sociology and Gerontology from UNC Charlotte in 2006. For eleven years, she served as Executive Director of several different entities within the senior living field that ranged from free standing memory care communities to independent living facilities. In September 2017, she returned to Charlotte after living in Atlanta for five years, to serve as the Director of Mission Advancement with Aldersgate Retirement Community, her most rewarding position yet. In this capacity, she works with community partners to bring programs to the Aldersgate campus and the city tackling community issues through the lens of aging including transportation, education, economic mobility, food deserts, political connectivity, social justice, diversity, inclusion and equity. Outside of work, She is extremely involved in the community, serving on various board and leadership roles including the Charlotte LGBT Chamber of Commerce Board; Charlotte East Board; Eastside Rising Council Community Liaison; Simmons YMCA Board Member; Co-Chair of Charlotte LGBT Elders Group; Charlotte Mecklenburg Age Friendly Cities Steering Committee; Habitat for Humanity Neighborhood Revitalization Committee; NC Human Rights Campaign Steering Committee and the Charlotte Mecklenburg Aging Coalition Leadership Team Member. As a woman of color, her perspective as a Charlottean who advocates for the elderly, East Charlotte and the LGBTQ community, along with her desire to help build intergenerational community bridges, brings an important community perspective to the work of Leading on Opportunity. In her spare time, she enjoys being an amateur food photographer, kayaking and spending time with her family and friends.
New Voices Organizing Manager - Free Press
Alicia Bell (pronouns: they/she) is a Black, Queer, Femme, who was born and raised in Charlotte and lives and works there now, right next door to her mama, trying to re-imagine a new future and the culture it will take to get us there. A large portion of Alicia’s work in our community is as the New Voices Organizing Manager at Free Press, where she works to build, strengthen, and transform the relationships between journalists and community members, so that together they can envision and enact a future of journalism that serves all people. When they’re not doing that, Alicia can be found working with Angelou House, a placekeeping collective, whose work mainly balances between building farmlettes with community members in Charlotte and hosting community dinners and brunches. They’ve arrived where they are via a path that includes electoral organizing in North Carolina, parent, student and youth organizing in New York, and housing, health and police-accountability organizing in Oakland. Alicia holds a bachelor’s degree in social work and a master’s degree in educational leadership, politics and advocacy from New York University. Outside of this work, they find joy in raising three children, laughing with their family, and spending time outdoors, especially around large bodies of nature, like oceans, canyons, and deserts.
President & CEO - United Way of Central Carolinas
Charlotte native, Laura Clark, serves as United Way of Central Carolina’s President and Chief Executive Officer. She joined the United Way team in 2016 as Executive Vice President and Chief Impact Officer and led the transformation of the organization’s community impact strategy to more directly address the economic mobility challenges across the Charlotte region, including the recently announced the investment of $24.5 million into the community, with $16.3 million going toward the organization’s community impact strategy and $8.2 million in donor directed funding. United Way has launched two major community initiatives under her leadership – United Neighborhoods to drive neighborhood transformation and revitalization and Unite Charlotte to improve racial equity and increase social capital. She also led the development of a new grants funding process that supports more than 110 local nonprofit partners and programs. A proven leader and longtime advocate for children and families, Laura previously served as CEO of the Renaissance West Community Initiative and was formerly Director of The Larry King Center at Charlotte’s Council for Children’s Rights. Prior to that, she was United Way’s director of evaluation and community impact from 2004-2008. She currently serves as Chair of the Charlotte Branch of the Richmond Federal Reserve and is a member of the UNC Charlotte Cato College of Education Advisory Board. Laura has been engaged with a variety of other civic committees and nonprofit boards, including the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Housing Advisory Board. She earned a bachelor’s degree in psychology from Appalachian State University and a master’s degree in clinical/community psychology from UNC Charlotte.
Executive Vice President & Chief Consumer Officer - Novant Health
Jesse Cureton is chief consumer officer and executive vice president for Novant Health. In this executive role, he is the visionary who directs strategic planning, marketing, public relations, community relations, the foundations/outreach, corporate health and other business functions. He is credited with unifying the system through a rebranding initiative that showcases Novant Health’s commitment to building a culture of wellness and consumer engagement. The brand, which was launched four months after his start with Novant Health, elevates corporate presence and exemplifies remarkable patient experience. He is a former Presbyterian Healthcare and Novant Health board trustee. He joined Novant Health after retiring from a laudable tenure with Bank of America, the Charlotte-headquartered industry giant. Recognizing banking as a comprehensive and multidimensional industry, he explored and became a specialist in various disciplines. During his twenty-five year financial industry career, he successfully led the local merger efforts in North Carolina for US Trust and Bank of America, developed training for 2000+ wealth management advisors in Premier Banking and Investments, and implemented tactics that greatly improved staff satisfaction, retention and productivity. Recognized as a national leader with strong lifelong connections, he is highly sought after for board representation. He embraces the beliefs that there is great reward for making a positive difference in the life of a young person and that lives can be changed through art, education, and financial literacy. He currently serves as a board member with Queens University of Charlotte, Charlotte Mint Museum, Carolina Thread Trail, and the Charlotte Chamber of Commerce. He holds a Bachelor of Science from the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill and a Master in Business Administration, and Financial Planning Certificate from Queens University of Charlotte. He is also an executive program graduate from Harvard Business School and The Wharton School (of Business). He and his wife, Angela, who has been actively involved with the local Junior League and Jack and Jill of America organizations, have three daughters
Kandi Deitemeyer, Ed.D.
President - Central Piedmont Community College
A native of Hollywood, Florida, Kandi W. Deitemeyer attended Polk Community College and the University of South Florida where she graduated in 1988 and 1990 respectively with an undergraduate degree in mass communications. She then earned master's (1996) and doctoral (2002) degrees in Counselor Education and Educational Leadership at the University of South Florida. Deitemeyer began her academic career in 1992 at Polk Community College. Over the next 11 years, she rose through the staff and administrative ranks while completing her graduate work. Upon completion of her doctorate she became dean of student service at Sandhills Community College (2003) and earned a promotion to vice president during her tenure. In 2006, she was recruited to the administrative post of provost at Gateway Community and Technical College with the Kentucky Community and Technical College System. As provost, she worked to ensure the institution gained candidacy and eventual regional accreditation to ensure regional workforce transformation and success for students. She returned to the North Carolina Community College System (2008) as vice president for academic programs at Davidson County Community College (DCCC). At DCCC, she brought a collaborative approach to academic programs and workforce development initiatives resulting in innovative and expansive program offerings. With a focus on faculty engagement, she brought an intentional focus on student success through integrated program and course delivery approaches. In 2010, she was named president of the College of The Albemarle, in northeastern North Carolina. In that role, she led the development of the college’s fourth campus, the Regional Aviation and Technical Training Center, a strategic partnership with Currituck County. The collaboration would result in the unprecedented awarding of the Distinguished Partners in Excellence award from the North Carolina Community College System, to a municipal entity and college. She is further credited with bringing a strategic focus on student success, enrollment management and aligning academic programs to increase access for students across the college’s seven-county service area. During her six-year tenure, she led a comprehensive strategic plan which included capital construction and renovation plans for the multi-campus college; and significantly increased philanthropic partnerships and gifts to the college. Her success and passion garnered her successive nominations for President of the Year. She was honored twice in 2014 as both a Woman of Excellence by the Elizabeth City Chamber and as the Strong, Bold, Smart Person of the Year by Girls, Inc. In September 2016, she was named Central Piedmont Community College’s fourth president and assumed the role in January 2017. She has focused her efforts on building relationships across the college’s six-campus footprint and throughout Mecklenburg County. During her tenure, she has led an intentional scope of work that is future focused which developed a new vision and strategic plan for the college. The strategy phase has been built on her collective engagements with faculty, staff and students. She is committed to a vision that is advanced, college-wide, constituent-engaged and student-centered. She brings her high-impact energy and engagement to many local, statewide and national efforts. Locally she serves on the Leadership on Opportunity Council and the Charlotte Region Collaborative for a Global Workforce. She is an active member of the North Carolina Association of Community College Presidents, currently serving as treasurer. After many years of service as a board member, she currently serves on the Executive Council for the Southern Association of College and Schools Commission on Colleges. Nationally, she serves as a board member for the League of Innovation and the American Association of Community Colleges. She and her husband, Gary, and their daughter, Zoe, reside in Charlotte.
County Manager - Mecklenburg County Government
Dena Diorio is the Mecklenburg County Manager. She is responsible for executing the policy decisions of the Board of County Commissioners and leading the County organization by overseeing the administration of County departments. She also advises the Board on operational and financial matters, services and other issues, and submits an annual operating and capital budget for the Board’s consideration. She is currently a member of the following boards and committees: Levine Museum of the New South Executive Committee; Blumenthal Board of Trustees; North Tryon Vision Plan Committee; Charlotte Regional Partnership Board of Directors; Early Childhood Development Executive Committee; Read Charlotte Governing Board; Charlotte Center City Partners Board; Trees Charlotte Board and the United Way Board of Directors. She joined Mecklenburg County in 2007 as director of the Department of Financial Services. In 2013, she was promoted to assistant county manager for fiscal control, policies and standards compliance where she provided executive management oversight of the County’s Financial Services Department (comprising Central Finance, Human Services Finance, and the Office of Tax Collector) as well as MECKLINK Finance and the Assessor’s Office. Raised in Westchester County, N.Y., she started her career in New York City, eventually working for then-Mayor Rudy Giuliani. Later, she took jobs in Stamford and Danbury, Conn., until moving to Mecklenburg County. She earned her Bachelor of Science in Social Services from the State University of New York at Plattsburgh. She earned a master’s degree in public administration from Columbia University.
Jim Dunn, Ph.D.
Executive Vice President and System Chief Resource Officer - Atrium Health
Jim Dunn leads teams that focus on the engagement of Atrium Health teammates – from recruitment through retirement – including workforce relations, diversity and inclusion, compensation, benefits, learning and organizational development, teammate health, LiveWELL, recognition, events and HR communications. Prior to joining Atrium Health in 2018, Dunn served as the executive vice president and chief talent officer for Parkland Health and Hospital System in Dallas, Texas. He served as a member of the executive leadership team overseeing the people and talent operations for the system, including human resources operations, inclusion and diversity, employee experience, language and linguistic services, pastoral care, occupational health and their learning and development structure. Prior to joining Parkland, Dunn served as the human resources and learning executive for the Cleveland Clinic, the American Cancer Society, Georgia Tech Research Institute and led the HR operations for former President Jimmy Carter at the Carter Presidential Center in Atlanta. Among numerous notable achievements, Dunn has received the Outstanding Business Leader Award from the Dallas Business Journal, the South Dallas Outstanding Leader Award, and the Global Strategic HR and OD Award from the Organizational Development Institute for his work on informal cultures. He also was named among the 2018 Most Influential African-Americans in Corporate America by Savoy Magazine. Dunn holds a bachelor’s degree in chemistry and macro-environmental science from Howard University, a master’s degree in business administration from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), and a master of public health degree in occupational health from Emory University. Additionally, he holds multiple doctoral degrees in education, organizational development and healthcare administration from Emory University, Benedictine University and the Medical University of South Carolina, respectively. He is also a state registered professional mediator, specializing in workplace conflict resolution strategies, and a fellow (FACHE) and faculty member of the American College of Healthcare Executives.
Director of Community Engagement - Raydal Hospitality
Miriam Espaillat is Director of Community Engagement and Development for Raydal Hospitality LLC managing company for Sabor Latin Street Grill. She is an immigrant Latina from El Salvador who grew up in Queens, NY and migrated to Charlotte, NC in 2006. She married in 2008, is mother of two boys, and has support from extended family of origin and in-laws who have migrated to Charlotte within the last 10 years. Miriam graduated with a master’s in social work degree from the University of NC at Charlotte in 2013. She holds an associate clinical social work license and is a member of the National Association of Social Workers - NC Chapter (NASW-NC). She has completed trainings through NASW-NC that focus on access, segregation, advocacy, ethics, and cultural awareness. Miriam is passionate about the immigrant community and other vulnerable populations who experience hardship and have barriers to access employment, education, and other services that hinder community members from thriving and achieving personal goals. She is also passionate about the social determinants of health that impact Latinos in Mecklenburg county. As Director of Community Engagement and Development and co-owner of Sabor Latin Street Grill, she is building relationships with community agencies who work with young and older adults who are experiencing barriers to access employment – including disconnected youth. Through these relationships she has been able to employ candidates who are reentering the workforce or have limited access to higher education – supporting upper economic mobility and being socially responsible to its community members.
Ophelia Garmon-Brown, M.D.
Senior Vice President, Community Wellness & Education - Novant Health
Dr. Ophelia Garmon-Brown, MD, M. Div., is a woman with many gifts and talents. A physician, a minister, a volunteer, a leader — these are just a few of the hats that she wears in her daily work. But most of all, She is a caregiver and advocate for the health and well-being of Charlotte community members and beyond. She was born in Detroit, Michigan. She has two children, LaShawn and Spenser, and she is a very proud grandmother. She has spent decades caring for others around the world. In her current role as Senior Vice President, Chief Community Health and Wellness Officer, at Novant and as a board-certified family practitioner, she has touched the lives of thousands of patients from Charlotte, her home since 1980, to distant countries around the world in her work as a medical missionary. She began her higher education at North Carolina Central University where she received her Bachelor of Science in Biology. She graduated from The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in 1980 and began her internship and residency in family medicine at Carolinas Medical Center in Charlotte. In doing so, she became the first African-American female resident in Family Medicine. After completing her residency, She became a physician and partner of Metrolina Family Practice for the next six years. She then joined the prestigious Nalle Clinic, a multi-specialty group of 137 physicians. In 1996, she moved into a leadership role by taking the position of Medical Director of Nalle Clinic Urgent Care. She became the Medical Director of all Presbyterian Urgent Care Centers in 2000 and Medical Director of Presbyterian Company Care in 2001. In 2007, she was promoted to Vice President of Business & Community Partnerships as well as Novant’s Community Benefit Department. In 2012, she was promoted to Senior Vice President of Physician Services. She also served as team physician for the Charlotte Sting. She currently is chair of the Presbyterian Hospital Ethics Committee and a member of the Executive Committee of Presbyterian Hospital as well as Novant Medical Group. In 2003, she returned to school to obtain a Master of Divinity degree. She graduated from the Union Theological Seminary and Presbyterian School of Christian Education in fall 2007. Currently she is an active member of St. Luke Missionary Baptist Church. Armed with an insatiable appetite to help others, she is also a leader in the community serving as Medical Director of the Charlotte Community Health Clinic, a free clinic for the poor and uninsured; formerly Medical Director of the health clinic at the Salvation Army’s Women’s and Children’s Shelter; and in her spare time, she also volunteers at the Charlotte Pregnancy Care Center.
City Manager - City of Charlotte
Marcus D. Jones is the City Manager for the City of Charlotte. He began his new role on Dec. 1, 2016. Before moving to Charlotte, he served as the city manager of Norfolk, Va., a role he began in February 2011 after serving the city from 2004-2009 as the director of budget and grants management and as an assistant city manager. As the city manager of the second largest city in the Commonwealth of Virginia, he helped Norfolk build on its competitive advantages as the urban core of a region of more than 1.7 million people. He has 23 years of public service experience, which includes serving as a deputy secretary of finance for two governors in the Commonwealth of Virginia. In each case, he played a major role in protecting the Commonwealth’s coveted AAA bond rating and streamlining government operations. He has experience managing complex budgets ranging from $1.2 billion (local) to $50 billion (state). While serving with the state government, he gained a strong reputation for his ability to negotiate complex financial and legislative issues across party lines. He earned his bachelor's degree in Public Administration from James Madison University and a Master in Public Administration degree from Virginia Commonwealth University. Jones and his wife, Jillian, have three children.
Janice D. Little
Vice President of Talent Development - Lowe's Companies Inc.
Janice D. Little serves as Vice President of Talent Development and the Chief Diversity Officer at Lowe’s. She leads their organizational global strategies for diversity, inclusion and culture; organizational design; strategic workforce planning; leadership development and talent practices (e.g. succession planning, core behaviors, performance management, etc.). She works closely with leaders across the enterprise to expand and develop solutions that support their mission. She joined Lowe’s in November 2017. Janice has fifteen years of human resources and diversity and inclusion experience. Before joining Lowe’s, she served as vice president, diversity and inclusion, chief diversity officer for McKesson Corp. She previously held several human resources leadership roles at Dell. Before transitioning into human resources, Janice experienced an extended career in finance and accounting with Dell, IBM and EY. Janice earned a bachelor’s degree in accounting and an MBA in finance and management from the University of Texas in Austin. She is an active member of the Executive Leadership Council, current board member of DisabilityIN and an advisory board member for Linkage’s Women in Leadership Institute. In 2016 and 2018, she was named one of Black Enterprise’s Top Executives in Corporate Diversity.
Michael Marsicano, Ph.D.
President & CEO - Foundation For The Carolinas
Michael Marsicano is President and Chief Executive Officer of Foundation For The Carolinas. Managing assets, owned and represented, of $2.5 billion, the Foundation holds 3000 charitable funds and ranks as the 6th largest community foundation in the United States. Since Dr. Marsicano has been at the helm of FFTC, contributions to the Foundation have totaled more than $4 billion and grant awards more than $2.6 billion. The Foundation leads a variety of civic leadership initiatives in multiple subject areas. Dr. Marsicano joined the Foundation in 1999 after serving as President and CEO of the Arts & Science Council in Charlotte, North Carolina for 10 years. During his tenure, the united arts fund moved to the nation’s highest in per capita annual giving. With Dr. Marsicano at its helm, the Arts & Science Council became one of the largest endowed arts councils in the United States. Dr. Marsicano has been active in several national and local organizations. He currently serves on the Governing Boards of Duke University, Duke University Health System, Charlotte Center City Partners, Charlotte Chamber of Commerce and is immediate past Chair of the Queens University Board of Trustees. He has previously chaired the Board of the National Assembly of Local Arts Agencies and the University of North Carolina School of the Arts, and has served on the Boards of Americans for the Arts, Charlotte Symphony Orchestra, Discovery Place Science Museum, Nasher Museum of Art, the University of North Carolina at Charlotte Foundation, Winthrop University Foundation, the Vann Center for Ethics at Davidson College as well as the Board of Community Foundations of America. Dr. Marsicano has received several honors and awards. On the national level, he was the recipient of the Selina Roberts Ottum Award given annually to the top arts administrator in the nation. On the local level, he was the inaugural winner of the Innovator of the Year award, which is sponsored by the Charlotte Chamber of Commerce. He has received the Distinguished Service Award from The University of North Carolina-Charlotte; the Vision Award from Charlotte Center City Partners; Excellence in Management Award, sponsored annually by Charlotte Rotary, the Charlotte Business Journal and the Charlotte Chamber of Commerce; as well as the recipient of the Medal of Honor in the Arts from Winthrop University and Whitney M. Young, Jr. Award from the Urban League of Central Carolinas and Johnson C. Smith University’s Arch of Triumph Award. In 2017, Charlotte Magazine ranked Dr. Marsicano as the #1 most important person in Charlotte. In 2018, the Washington D.C. based Non-Profit Times ranked Dr. Marsicano in the top 50 most important non-profit leaders in America. A native of New York, Dr. Marsicano received his Bachelor of Science, Masters of Education and Doctor of Philosophy from Duke University. He is married to the Reverend Leslie Montfort Marsicano, also a graduate of Duke University and the Duke University Divinity School. Leslie is an ordained Methodist Minister serving Davidson College as Associate Dean for Academic Administration. The Marsicano's have three sons.
Pastor - South Tryon Community United Methodist Church
Ray McKinnon is a graduate of John Wesley University and serves as the pastor of South Tryon Community United Methodist Church in Charlotte, N.C. He is married to V. Kelly McKinnon and together they are the parents to four boys (Quinton, Alex, Malik, and Mikel), a cat (Baxter), and a dog (Sebbi). They live in Northwest Charlotte in the Sunset Oaks community. He moved to Charlotte in 2012 for a job at University City United Methodist Church and is passionate about community advocacy—particularly surrounding affordable housing, criminal justice reform, and equity (racial, gender, sexuality). He is involved with several community organizations, including: co-vice chair, Western North Carolina Conference of the United Methodist Church’s Justice and Reconciliation Team; member of WNCCUMC Dismantling Racism Task Force; A Peace with Justice coordinator, WNCCUMC; member, Committee on the Status and Role of Women, WNCCUMC; founder and vice-president, New South Progressives; member, Black Political Caucus; member, Mecklenburg County Association of Foster and Adoptive Parents; past-president, Oakdale Elementary School PTA; member, Charlotte Clergy Coalition for Justice; and past board member, Exodus Homes. Realizing that the work of the Leading on Opportunity Council is generational work, he is committed to roll up his sleeves to see that the recommendations of the Opportunity Task Force are implemented.
Regional Executive - U.S. Bank
Dee O’Dell is a Regional Executive in U. S. Bank’s Consumer and Business Banking Group. He is responsible all retail branches and small business banking in the metropolitan markets in Ohio, Kentucky and Tennessee. In this region, U. S. Bank has approximately 300 branches in the cities of Cleveland, Columbus, Dayton, Cincinnati, Louisville and Nashville. He has recently been named to this new role, building on an extensive banking career that has included experience in investment banking, corporate banking, capital markets, credit underwriting, and leadership at various levels. He is an active member of the Charlotte community. From 2014 through 2017, he served as the Co-Chair of the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Opportunity Task Force whose findings have shaped the dialog on economic mobility, affordable housing, early childhood development and college and career preparation in the Charlotte community. He currently serves on the boards of the United Way of the Central Carolinas, the YMCA of Greater Charlotte, the Leading on Opportunity Council, and the Charlotte Mecklenburg Community Foundation. He also serves as an advisor to Opportunity Insights and as a mentor with the Friedland Foundation. His previous service includes Heart Math Tutoring, The American Red Cross, The American Diabetes Association, and Habitat for Humanity. He was born and raised in Oxford, Mississippi. He graduated from Hampden-Sydney College in Virginia and received an MBA from The University of North Carolina’s Kenan Flagler School of Business. He and his wife Christina have three teenage daughters.
President - The Pomfret Financial Company, Inc.
Edwin Peacock is a Charlotte native and President of The Pomfret Financial Company, Inc.. He served on the Charlotte City Council from 2007-2011 as an at-large member. In 2013 and 2015, he was the Republican nominee for Mayor. He currently serves as a trustee for the Blumenthal Performing Arts. Edwin earned his Bachelor of Arts in Political Science and Certificate of Global Studies from The University of Georgia. He and his wife Amy have been married for 21 years and have two teenagers in Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools.
Assistant Director, Office of Equity, Mobility and Immigrant Integration - City of Charlotte
Federico Rios serves as Charlotte’s first Assistant Director of the Office of Equity, Mobility and Immigrant Integration for the City of Charlotte. Federico manages the city’s efforts in equity, economic mobility and its international business and immigrant integration work. He is charged with implementing the Immigrant Integration Task Force report’s recommendations and eliminating systemic barriers confronting Charlotte’s immigrant community. Prior to joining the city, he spent eight and half years with Communities In Schools Charlotte-Mecklenburg. As the founding Director of the Newcomer Services Program in partnership with Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools, he created a case management model to serve newly arrived and often highly traumatized, Central American youth. As the child of an Immigrant mother, he has felt a deep sense of calling to his work. His commitment to service is driven by his desire to see all of the members of our community have equitable opportunities. Apart from the roles that have already been mentioned he has served the community as a Crisis Intervention Specialist, Qualified Mental Health Professional and educator. He is a member of the Leading on Opportunity Council, Mental Health America’s Policy and Advocacy Committee, the Communities In Schools Charlotte-Mecklenburg Board of Directors, the Charlotte Mecklenburg Library Engagement Committee and the Opportunity Insights Advisory Panel. In 2018, he received the Latin American Excelente Community Service Person of the Year Award. His proudest accomplishment is being a husband to his wife Lakisha and father to his two boys Elias and Jaden.
Michael (Mike) Rizer previously served as Executive Vice President Head of Community Relations for Wells Fargo & Company and Vice President of the Wells Fargo Foundation. In these roles, he managed the community development and philanthropy teams across the country that are responsible for community outreach, stakeholder engagement, charitable contributions and reputation risk. He has more than 25 years of experience in advancing affordable housing and neighborhood revitalization initiatives, having started his career as an attorney representing low- and moderate-income families. He is active in the community and serves on the board of Queens University and the advisory board for the University of Dayton College of Arts and Science, as well as boards of the National Center for Healthy Housing and Leading on Opportunity. Rizer received his Bachelor of Arts cum laude from the University of Dayton and his Juris Doctorate from the University of Cincinnati. He resides in Charlotte, NC with his wife, Jo. They have two daughters, Clare and Rachel.
Superintendent - Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools
Earnest Winston was named superintendent for Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools August 2, 2019. He brings the experiences of a teacher, a parent, a communicator and a chief of staff to the role. Winston joined Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools in 2004 as an English teacher at Vance High School, where he also taught journalism and served as adviser to the school’s student newspaper. After two years in the classroom, he moved into administration, joining the district’s communications department as an external communications supervisor. In 2008, he became executive coordinator/communications liaison for then-Chief Operating Officer Hugh E. Hattabaugh, who became interim superintendent in July 2011. He served as chief of staff to the two superintendents who followed Hattabaugh. In 2017, he was named chief community relations and engagement officer. He began his career as a reporter for the Mansfield News Journal in Ohio, later moving to the Cincinnati (Ohio) Enquirer where he covered local government in the city and nearby towns, as well as education in Northern Kentucky. He left Cincinnati to join the Charlotte Observer, where he covered government, development, general news – and wrote about his cousin Jennifer Hudson’s rise to fame on “American Idol.” In addition to serving on the Leading on Opportunity Council, he also serves on the board of Communities In Schools of Charlotte-Mecklenburg, where he is chairperson of the Program Evaluation Committee. Previously, he served on the Freedom School Advisory Board at Friendship Missionary Baptist Church, where he is a member. He has also served on the boards of Charlotte Works Youth Council, Stratford Richardson YMCA, Children’s Scholarship Fund and the Ohio Wesleyan University Alumni Board of Directors. He is a 2010 graduate of Leadership Charlotte and a 2016 graduate of the Leadership Development Initiative (Community Building Initiative). He has been recognized as an Atrium Health Martin Luther King Jr. Growing the Dream Award recipient (2019) and a YBM Leadership Alliance Success Leader (2016). He is a member of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc.’s Beta Nu Lambda Chapter. A native of Chicago, he holds a bachelor’s degree in print journalism from Ohio Wesleyan University. He is married with two daughters who are CMS students.
Stephanie Kripa Cooper-Lewter, Ph.D.
Executive Director, Leading on Opportunity
Dr. Stephanie Kripa Cooper-Lewter is a longtime leader in the nonprofit and philanthropic communities, devoted to the cause of equal opportunity for all. She is the Executive Director of Leading on Opportunity, charged with addressing the finding that Charlotte ranks last among the 50 largest U.S. cities in upward mobility. Dr. Cooper-Lewter came to Charlotte in 2018 from Columbia, S.C., where she served as Vice President of Initiatives and Public Policy for the Sisters of Charity Foundation of South Carolina. With assets of $110 million, the Foundation invested more than $67 million statewide over 20 years to reduce poverty. Joining the Foundation staff in 2009, she managed the Foundation’s organizational strategy and mission effectiveness, ensuring community engagement and impact. Her signature portfolios included supporting fatherhood, immigrant families, kinship care and advocating for public policy system changes. She previously served as President & Chief Executive Officer of Big Brothers Big Sisters of Greater Columbia - the first Indian American CEO within the United Way of the Midlands community partner network. While living in Minnesota, she worked as a school and hospital social worker, as well as in child welfare. In all, she brings nearly 25 years of experience to her nonprofit and philanthropic service. Dr. Cooper-Lewter’s inspiring story informs her passion. Difficult beginnings as a little girl and challenging young adult years taught her to see the infinite possibilities in any situation - no matter what statistics predict. She graduated in 1995 from Bethel College with a Bachelor of Social Work degree. She went on to earn a Master of Social Work degree from the University of Minnesota in 1999. In 2012, she received her Ph.D. from the University of South Carolina’s College of Social Work. In 2013, she completed the Certified Personal and Executive Coaching Program through the Coaching and Positive Psychology Institute. In 2015, she graduated from the Spring Midlands Diversity Leaders Initiative through the Riley Institute at Furman University, and remains a Riley Fellow. She currently serves on the Board of Trustees for the Southeastern Council of Foundations, and previously served as a Board member of Grantmakers Concerned with Immigrants and Refugees. She received the 2017 Alumna of the Year Award from the University of South Carolina College of Social Work. In 2018, she received the International Women's Day Women's Rights & Empowerment Network's SC Trailblazers Award for her work and advocacy in philanthropy to address poverty paving the way and supporting women and girls to achieve their goals. One of 10 selected among more than 70,000 alumni, in 2018, she also received a Distinguished Alumni Award from the University of Minnesota College of Education and Human Development for her leadership in the nonprofit world and promoting equal opportunity for all.