Central Exchange Board of Directors
Denise Kruse, Board Chair
Denise Kruse is CEO of Adams-Gabbert, a leading regional consulting firm that enhances the efficiencies and profitability of their clients. Headquartered in Kansas City, Adams-Gabbert has five locations throughout the Midwest. With consulting in business operations, process improvement, project management, GRC (governance, risk & compliance), and the recent launch of SmartSourcing, which provides contract staffing of such experts, Adams-Gabbert focuses on their customers. Recently recognized as a 2010 Top Ten Company by KC Business magazine, taking top honors in the Customer Service area, demonstrated this commitment.
Denise’s awards and recognitions include being honored in Kansas City as a Woman Who Means Business in 2006, and a Woman of Influence in 2007. She currently serves on several area boards, including R.P. Products, YouthFriends as ret. Chair, the Advisory Board at the Henry W. Bloch School of Business at UMKC, Division Chair of United Way, and National Association of Corporate Directors (NACD). Her civic involvement includes as a board member of the Greater Kansas City Chamber of Commerce. Denise was recently named as the Chair of the Go Red for Women campaign for the American Heart Association for 2010-2011.
Maria Jenks, Vice Chair Finance and Compliance
Maria Jenks joined KCP&L in 2003 as Manager of Corporate Accounting. Jenks became Vice President, Supply Chain in January 2010. In this position, Jenks facilitates enterprisewide supply chain operational efficiencies, collaboration and cost savings. She leads the materials management function, which includes warehousing, asset recovery and materials control, and the procurement function, which includes sourcing and category management, supplier diversity and the supplier relationship and warranty programs. Jenks is a Certified Public Accountant with more than 20 years of success in corporate finance and accounting.
Ms. Jenks is on the board of directors and finance committee of SAFEHOME, a domestic violence shelter and resource for women and children; a founding member of both the KCP&L Employee Relief Fund and the KCP&L Women's Leadership Employee Resource Group. Jenks is also a board member of the Economic Development Corporation of Kansas City and the Mid-America Minority Business Development Council. Jenks was honored as a 2011 Woman Who Means Business.
Joan Cohen, Vice Chair Programs & Services
Joan Cohen is an independent consultant. As the former President of H&R Block's Emerging Business and a member of the senior management team, Cohen was responsible for overseeing H&R Block’s strategic business initiatives related to international tax preparation, RedGear, Express Tax, Tax and Business Services, and multi-cultural market development.
Cohen was previously President of H&R Block Financial Advisors (and the successor firm Ameriprise Advisor Services) from January 2005 to March 2009. She was instrumental in the firm’s sale and successful transition in November 2008.
Prior to joining H&R Block in 2002, Cohen was Chief Financial Officer and Chief of Staff at ING Advisors Network, which consisted of 10,000 financial planners. She also served as Senior Vice President and Controller at ING Americas, part of one of the largest integrated financial services organizations in the world. Cohen holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in accounting from Adrian College in Michigan and is a certified public accountant.
Kimberly Young, Vice Chair Membership Engagement
Kimberly Young is the founding director of the Bloch Executive Education Center at the University of Missouri—Kansas City. She has worked in multiple industries with clients such as Coca Cola Company, H&R Block, Eli Lilly, Boeing, 3M Corporation, and Sprint. Kimberly attended Duke University where she earned a BA in Public Policy Studies and Cornell University where she earned an MBA as well as a Master of Management in Hospitality.
In addition to her service on the CX board, Kimberly serves on the board of Alphapointe Association, is the Co-chair for the Kansas City Duke Alumni Club and is active in the Junior League of Kansas City.
Debby Ballard, Vice Chair Membership Expansion
Debby Ballard is director, Community Relations for Sprint. Ballard has responsibility for leading Sprint’s community outreach, employee volunteerism, employee annual campaigns and directing charitable funding. In her 26 year career with Sprint, Ballard has held numerous management positions within Sprint in sales/sales management and sales support, as well as Sprint’s centralized training division, the University of Excellence, in training and organization development. She has led a series new product training launches and corporate wide leadership development initiatives.
Ballard is active in the community and currently serves on several boards/committees including Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater (New York), Friends of the Zoo, Partnership for Children, Kansas City Friends of Alvin Ailey, Women’s Foundation of Kansas City and Johnson County Community Foundation. She is also active in her church and other civic/service organizations.
Nancy Mellard, Chair Elect & Chair win|win, LLC
Nancy M. Mellard is Executive Vice President and General Counsel for the Employee Services Division of CBIZ, Inc. Mellard is a member of the Senior Management Team for the Employee Services Division, providing comprehensive strategic-level business counseling to this Division and acts as a liaison to the parent company’s legal department.
In addition to serving in various capacities (including Chairperson) on several not-for-profit Boards in the Kansas City community, Mellard is currently serving on the Council of Insurance Agents and Brokers (CIAB), Council of Employee Benefit Executives Board (CEBE) and is past Chairperson of the CIAB Legal Counsel’s Committee in Washington, D.C. She and her husband, Ken, just completed their terms as Presidents of Snowball for Catholic Charities.
Essie Davis, Board Director
Essie Davis is Senior Vice President Human Resources for Ascend Learning.Previous to her current role, Essie held the position of Vice President – Human Resources and Chief Diversity Officer at EMBARQ 2005 - 2009. Prior to her HR assignment, Essie had a successful 20 year Finance career and served in a variety of Finance leadership roles. She spent 14 years at Sprint and started her career at General Dynamics in San Diego where she was part of the Financial Management Leadership program.
Essie also serves on the Board of the Family Conservancy which focuses on the healthy development of children by supporting parents and families, and promoting quality early education.
Ann Earp, Vice Chair Strategic Initiatives
Ann Earp is Vice President – Creative for Hallmark Cards, Inc. Ann is responsible for the development of creative strategies for product development and innovation across Hallmark’s portfolio of businesses. Prior to joining Hallmark, Ann managed her own consulting company,
Branding+Design+Development, focused growing businesses through
innovation in toy & digital markets. She has worked for other top toy companies like Leapfrog Enterprises, Mattel and Hasbro.
Ann holds a bachelor’s degree in economics from Indiana University and a master’s degree in business administration from Loyola University Chicago. She has been active as a mentor for Operation Breakthrough, Girls on the Run and Step Up Women’s Network.
Rachel Hack, Board Director
Rachel Hack is Google's Community Manager in Kansas City. In this role, she works closely with the Fiber Team and serves as a liaison between local organizations, governments and Google. She also oversees community affairs for Google in Kansas City, pursuing opportunities to strengthen relationships and engagement across the metro.
Rachel received her BA from Truman State University. Prior to joining Google, she was the President of the Software and Information Technology Association of Kansas and the Executive Director of the American Advertising Federation - Kansas City.
Rachel is a lifelong Kansas Citian. In addition to her service to Central Exchange, she serves on the boards of directors of the Guadalupe Centers, Kansas City Convention and Visitors Association, Kansas City Kansas Chamber of Commerce, and Women's Center at the University of Missouri - Kansas City.
Mark Jorgensen, Board Director
Jorgenson is President and CEO of the Kansas City Market for US Bank. US Bank is the country’s fifth largest commercial bank and has been regarded by many as one of the strongest, most stable and innovative banks in the United States. Jorgenson has been employed by US Bank and its predecessor banks in the Kansas City market since June 1981.
Active in industry and community affairs, Jorgenson has held officer and board positions in the following organizations: The Civic Council of Greater Kansas City, Kansas City Area Development Corporation, The Chamber of Commerce of Greater Kansas City, United Way of Greater Kansas City, Kansas Venture Capital, Inc., Midwest Research Institute, KU Hospital Authority, National World War I Museum, Heart of America Council Boy Scouts, Urban Neighborhood Initiative, Central Exchange, Kansas/Western Missouri Chapter March of Dimes, Entrepreneur Assistance Corporation, Milburn Golf and Country Club, and Southminster Presbyterian Church. Jorgenson is a member of the inaugural class of the Ewing M. Kauffman Distinguished Eagle Scout Award for notable contributions to the Kansas City community.
Kay Julian, Board Director
Kay Julian is President of the Mid America Chapter of the National Multiple Sclerosis Society. In this position she is responsible for strategic and operational planning and oversees all operational areas including marketing and fundraising campaigns, program and service delivery to people with MS, professional and community education, state and local advocacy, public relations and community outreach, and Board and volunteer development. Prior to joining the MS Society in 1992, she worked in the for–profit health care Marketing field for ten years.
Julian attained a Bachelor's Degree in Marketing from Avila University and a MBA degree with a concentration in Marketing from Rockhurst University. Julian is a graduate of the Helzberg Entrepreneurial Mentoring program and currently serves as a Fellow. She is a also an alumni of the Kansas City Civic Council’s Kansas City Tomorrow leadership development program and The Central Exchange’s Women on the Leading Edge leadership develop program. She served as chair of the 30th Anniversary Committee during 2010.
Joni Lindquist, Board Director
Joni is co-founder and President of KHC Executive Coaching, a division of KHC Wealth Management Services. As a Certified Career Management Coach, she has coached corporate leaders from various industries, including companies such as AIG, Black & Veatch, Nortel, Quest Diagnostics, Sprint and Waddell & Reed.
Joni brings over 25 years of management experience in public and private companies. Previously, she was Chief Marketing Officer at the biotech firm SCD. Prior to that, in 21 years at Sprint she held executive roles in strategic planning, marketing, sales management and product management & development.
Joni currently serves as a mentor for MENTTIUM, a global program pairing female executives at sponsoring Fortune 100 companies with volunteer mentors. She is a member in the Career Management Alliance, the International Coach Federation, the Heartland Coaches Association, and the Society of Human Resource Management - KC. Joni serves on the board of the Women’s Christian Association, a non-profit providing retirement living for the low income elderly and on the board of Bishop Sullivan, the largest single site provider of emergency assistance in Kansas City.
She is a graduate of Bowling Green State University in Ohio with a B.S. degree in Business Administration and earned her M.B.A. from The Ohio State University.
Amber Manning, Board Director
Amber Manning is Vice President of The Miller Group, one of the top brokerage firms in the Midwest offering a comprehensive array of products and services, including Commercial Insurance; Employee Benefits; HR Consulting; Surety Bonds; Safety & Loss Prevention and Business and Private Risk Management. Manning earned an art history and sociology degree from Loyola University, Chicago and is a Kansas City native.
Amber's community involvement includes participation with the KC Symphony Business Council, the DeLaSalle Education Center and the Sustained Generation of Kansas City.
Bob Marcusse, Board Director
Bob Marcusse joined the Kansas City Area Development Council (KCADC) in 1991 as president and chief executive officer. During his tenure, KCADC along with its state and local partners have attracted companies that have created more than 40,000 new jobs and added more than $5.0 billion in capital investment to the 18-county, bi-state Kansas City region.
Bob’s community involvement extends well beyond his role at KCADC. Bob serves on the Executive Committees of KC SmartPort, KCnext and Missouri BIO. He is a member of the University of Kansas Edwards Campus Advisory Board, and University of Missouri Economic Development Cabinet. He is immediate past Chairman of the University of Kansas Medical Center Research Institute and is a member of the listing review committee for BATS, the country’s third largest stock exchange.
Sam Meers, Board Director
Sam Meers is a strong proponent of advertising and digital strategy to build a brand and generate results, Sam has developed his marketing communications beliefs through experience.
Founding Meers Advertising in 1993, he brings over 30 years of consumer and business-to-business experience to the agency. Some of the companies with which the agency works include Blue KC and several other Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association plans, Missouri Gas Energy, Assurant Solar, GoHealth.com, The Whole Person, Virtuous Living and 3M.Prior to forming his agency, Meers was Vice President, Account Supervisor with Carmichael Lynch in Minneapolis and Fletcher/Mayo/Associates, St. Joseph, Missouri.
Sam posts frequently to his blog, Smoke & Meers, on advertising and marketing topics. He has been a guest lecturer at the University of Kansas, the University of Illinois and the University of Missouri. Meers holds a Bachelors degree in Advertising from the University of Illinois. He serves as Vice President of the American Advertising Federation of Kansas City, is on the Board of Governors of the American Association of Advertising Agencies, is a member of the Helzberg Entrepreneurial Mentoring Program, and is a long-time supporter of Children’s Mercy Hospitals and Clinics.
Jeanette Hernandez Prenger, Board Director & Chair Elect win|win, LLC
Jeanette Hernandez Prenger is the Founder, President, and CEO of ECCO Select, an award winning IT consulting and services firm based in Kansas City, and one of the top 500 Hispanic Businesses in the United States. ECCO has not one, but two offices located in downtown Kansas City, as well as a recent location added in DC.
Jeanette and ECCO are recipients of numerous awards for their achievements in business and generosity in the community. Jeanette’s most recent award, bestowed in February 2013 by Enterprising Women Magazine, named her as a 2013 Enterprising Woman of the Year. Other awards include the SBA Region VII Minority Small Business Champion of the Year and CEO of the Year from the Latinos in Information and Science Technology Association.
Jeanette serves for Governor Nixon as a commissioner on the Workforce Investment Board and serves for Mayor James’ Early Education Commission. She was appointed in 2002 by President Bush to serve on the SBA Regulatory Fairness Board and has worked on councils for Senator Roy Blunt and Congressman Sam Graves.
Although her contributions outside of her business include serving on boards that advocate for business, the arts, and education, her passion is in helping children. She is the immediate past chair of Junior Achievement of Mid America and is an executive board member of the Boy Scouts of America Heartland Council. She is also on the board of the New York based Orphaned Starfish Foundation, which provides technology to orphanages in Spanish-speaking countries and Ethiopia.
Jeanette and her husband, Kevin, reside at Weatherby Lake. They have two sons, married to the beautiful mothers of their four grandchildren.
Holly Streeter-Schaefer, Vice Chair WiSTEMM Committee
Holly Streeter-Schaefer, a shareholder at the law firm of Polsinelli Shughart, focuses her practice in the areas of construction/real estate/energy litigation. She has a unique perspective of the construction industry gained from her undergraduate degree in construction engineering to working as corporate counsel for a top 50 ENR contractor. She has extensive knowledge in preparing, assessing and negotiating owner-contractor/construction manager contracts, design-build contracts, teaming and joint venture agreements, subcontracts, leases and real estate contracts as well as litigating construction defect, delay and payment claims, insurance claims on first party property insurance policies, coverage for construction defect lawsuits, coverage under Contractor and Owner Controlled Insurance Programs and commercial general liability policies.
Holly's passion for the business of law carries over with her active participation in industry organizations. She is a member of the Central Exchange WiSTEMM committee. She also serves on the City of Overland Park's Code Board of Appeals and as a board member of the Greater Kansas City NAWIC chapter. She has served NAWIC in various capacities over the years to include a position as President. She is an active member of other industry organizations including the Defense Research Institute and Women Construction Owners & Executives.
Grisel Wiley, Board Director
Grisel Wiley is a partner in Equity Payment Inc., an electronic payment processing service with clients throughout the U.S. Focused on building long term relationships based on trust and value-added services, Equity Payment invests the time to understand a client’s business practices to ensure credit card and check transactions are managed in the most secure and cost efficient manner. Equity Payment has been recognized for providing outstanding customer service and doing business with the highest integrity.
Wiley has over 25 years of sales and management experience in the telecommunications industry. Prior to joining Equity Payment, she was Vice President of North America/Sales for London–based Marconi Wireless, a leading provider of software applications to all major wireless carriers worldwide.
Wiley was born in New York City and raised in New Jersey. She graduated with honors from the University of Missouri–Kansas City with a BLA degree. She is an active member of The Central Exchange, Lyric Opera Circle, Board Member of NAWBO, an Angel Investor and a Youth Friend.
Aileen Wilkins, Board Director
In her role as H&R Block’s Chief People Officer for H&R Block, Aileen Wilkins leads the human resources organization and is responsible for strategy and execution of talent acquisition, workforce and talent management, organizational capabilities and company culture.
Since its founding in 1955, H&R Block has become one of the most recognized and iconic brands in the consumer landscape, reinforcing its leadership position as the trusted source for tax-based knowledge and tax preparation services.
The company has grown from a single retail office in Kansas City to a global $3 billion enterprise of over 10,000 offices worldwide, including Canada and Australia, and recent entries into Brazil and India.
Aileen is an experienced human resources leader with over 20 years of progressively responsible roles in companies ranging from technology start-ups to global pharmaceuticals. She received her undergraduate degree from the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh and her MBA from the University of Kansas.