Walter Blanks, Jr.

National Press Secretary
American Federation for Children
1020 19th Street, NW, 675
Washington, DC 20036

Walter Blanks Jr. is the Press Secretary for AFC and a private school choice program beneficiary. From a young age, Walter recognized that many children are still stuck in underperforming schools and wanted to do something about it. Before joining AFC full-time, Walter was chosen for the first cohort of the American Federation for Children Future Leaders Fellowship, a year-long advocacy and professional development program for graduates of private school choice programs.
Before moving to Washington, D.C. to join the national team, Walter championed educational freedom and shared his story across the country serving as a 2018 50CAN National Voices Fellow, an advocacy fellowship that aims to find, connect and support young leaders in education.
At AFC, Walter leads both the Voices for Choice and Future Leaders Fellowship programs. These flagship programs of the National Communications team elevate the voices of students, parents, and educators who have benefitted from school choice programs across America.
Walter also serves as a spokesperson for AFC and frequently appears in local and national print and news media. A gifted and in-demand speaker, Walter travels across the country sharing his story and advocating for expanding educational opportunities to more children and families.

Cobus Block

Director of International and Business Recruitment
NE Dept. of Economic Development
301 Centennial Mall South
Lincoln, NE 68509-4666

Cobus leads the Department of Economic Development’s International Engagement and Business Recruitment Teams. In that role, he assists Nebraska companies with exports, joint ventures, and new market entry, and works with foreign and domestic companies interested in expanding in Nebraska. Cobus is also responsible for the state’s promotional activity, which foreign trade offices in Germany and Japan. Cobus has organized multiple Governor-led trade missions to Europe and Asia and coordinates with various state and national agencies to promote Nebraska overseas.
Before working at the Department, he spent 3 years studying and working in Asia. For two years in China, Cobus worked for the Frontier Program researching agricultural development. Most of his research focused on food safety and supply chain management in the Chinese dairy industry, and the development of the Chinese aquaculture industry. His findings have been published in the Wiley Handbook of Science and Technology for Homeland Security and other publications. In 2012, Cobus received a Fulbright Research Scholarship to Kazakhstan where he spent a year at KIMEP University in Almaty, researching border trade between China and the former Soviet Union.
Cobus holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in International Relations from the University of Wyoming and a Master’s in Business Administration from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.

Debbie Borg

Springbank Poultry, LLC
Allen, NE 68710

Debbie Borg farms with her husband Terry on their family’s 5th generation farm in northeast Nebraska. They grow corn, soybeans, alfalfa, feeding cattle, growing pullets and most importantly growing the next generation, their three children: Hannah, Heidi, and Hunter. Their farm has been using climate-smart practices, such as no-till production, livestock manure as plant nutrients, cover crops and crop rotation, for over 40 years.
Debbie has served as the Nebraska Soybean Association president and currently serves on the Nebraska Corn Board. Debbie also enjoys sewing and has shown horses alongside her daughters.
She is ardent about agriculture but is most passionate about making sure the next generation has the tools, leadership skills, and love to carry on the tradition.

Terry E. Branstad

U.S. Ambassador to China (2017-2020); Longest-serving governor in U.S. history

Terry E. Branstad is the former U.S. Ambassador to China and the longest serving governor
in American history.
A native of Leland, Iowa, Branstad was elected three times to the Iowa House of Representatives, as Iowa’s lieutenant governor in 1978, and as Iowa’s youngest governor in 1983. As the state’s chief executive and longest serving governor from 1983 to 1999, Governor Branstad weathered some of Iowa’s worst economic turmoil during the farm crisis of the 1980s, while helping lead the state’s resurgence to a booming economy in the
At the end of his tenure, Iowa enjoyed record employment, an unprecedented $900 million budget surplus, and the enactment of historic government overhauls that led to greater efficiencies in state government. As a result of Governor Branstad’s hands-on, round-the clock
approach to economic development, Iowa’s unemployment rate went from 8.5 percent when he took office to a record low 2.5 percent when he left office in 1999. Following his four terms as governor, Branstad served as president of Des Moines University (DMU). During his 6-year tenure, he was able to grow the university into a world-class educational facility and send its graduates to offer health care in all 50 U.S. sates while also becoming the first college in the U.S. to receive the Platinum Level of Recognition from the Wellness Council of America.

continue reading

During his second tenure as Iowa governor from 2010 to 2017, Governor Branstad signed historic investments in Iowa’s infrastructure into law, including Iowa’s roads and bridges, as well as the innovative Connect Every Acre Plan that expanded high-speed broadband
internet to Iowa’s agriculture industry, schools, businesses and homes.
On December 7, 2016, Governor Branstad announced that he had accepted the nomination from President-elect Donald Trump to serve as Ambassador of the United States to the People’s Republic of China. He was sworn in as Ambassador on May 24, 2017.
Ambassador Branstad served as U.S. Ambassador to China during one of the most challenging periods in recent U.S.-China history since the two countries re-established diplomatic relations in 1979. Under his leadership during unprecedented crises including the COVID-19 outbreak and the Chinese government’s closure of the U.S. Consulate in Chengdu, Ambassador Branstad led the largest drawdown of a single diplomatic mission in U.S. State Department history while evacuating over 1,300 staff members from China. He also created the Personal Protective Equipment for America Taskforce, which delivered 5,000 tons of urgently needed medical supplies to the U.S. to combat COVID-19. During his tenure, Ambassador Branstad’s two greatest achievements were the signing of the historic Phase One Trade Agreement between the U.S. and China in January of 2020 and successfully lobbying the Chinese government to stem the flow of fentanyl into America. The Phase One Trade deal secured $200 billion in Chinese commitments to purchase U.S. goods and services in the agriculture, manufacturing, energy, and other sectors, achieved
stricter enforcement of Intellectual Property protections, and opened up China’s restrictive financial sector to U.S. banks and other financial services companies. Moreover, the Chinese government’s decision to schedule fentanyl as a controlled substance in May of 2019 virtually stopped fentanyl shipments into the U.S., saving thousands of American lives. In addition to serving as U.S. Ambassador, Branstad has also served as the Co-Chair of the Council of Governors appointed by President Barack Obama, as Commissioner and Chairman respectively of the White House Fellows Program and Commission for Excellence in Special Education appointed by President George W. Bush, and as Trustee of the Harry S.
Truman Scholarship Foundation appointed by President Ronald Reagan.
Branstad received a B.A. from The University of Iowa and a J.D. from Drake University Law School. Of the many factors behind his continued success in politics, academia, and the nonprofit and corporate board worlds, Ambassador Branstad has always stuck to one personal mantra he often repeats, “Tough times never last, but tough people do.”


Trevon Brooks

North Omaha Business Development Consultant
Nebraska Department of Economic Development
5319 North 30th Street
Omaha, NE 68111

Trevon is an entrepreneur and mentor who has been a part of the local business community since leaving the U.S. Air Force in 2017. Trevon’s background focuses on small business investments and acquisitions and the integration of emerging technologies.
He leads the North Omaha office for Economic Development where he focuses on supporting the North Omaha Community through maximizing the community’s economic potential through workforce development, business attraction and entrepreneurship investment. The North Omaha office works alongside the community and strategic partners to increase the economic prosperity of the North Omaha community.
Trevon holds a master’s degree in business administration from Midlands University as well as a Master’s in Strategic Finance from Bellevue University.

Margaret Byfield

Executive Director
American Stewards of Liberty
P.O. Box 801
Georgetown, TX 78627

Margaret Byfield serves as executive director of American Stewards of Liberty, a private property rights organization Founded in 1992. American Stewards works directly with local communities to help protect the continued use of natural resources – the production of food, fiber and energy and access to the land.
Margaret is a natural resource policy expert. She was raised on a large cow calf operation in Central Nevada, which became subject of the landmark takings case, Hage v. United States. Being thrust into the property rights issues at a young age, she continues to fight for landowners across the nation. She writes the Liberty Matters News Service along with her husband, Dan Byfield, CEO of American Stewards.

Bob Campbell

Senior Vice President – Business Development
Farm Credit Services of America
Lincoln, NE

Bob serves as a Senior Vice President-Business Development for Farm Credit Services of America and Frontier Farm Credit. He leads the lending and crop insurance business development teams across southeast Nebraska, eastern Kansas, and southwest Iowa. As a senior leader for the Associations, he works with others to create the organizations’ business development and customer retention strategies, with a strong emphasis on employee engagement and the customer experience.
Bob is a board member for the Nebraska Farm Bureau Foundation; serves on the advisory council for the Center for Agricultural Profitability that is housed within the Institute of Agriculture and Natural Resources at the University of Nebraska – Lincoln; and is a member of Agriculture Builders of Nebraska.
Bob and his wife Holly live near Denton, NE.

Corey DeAngelis

National Director of Research
American Federation for Children
1414 Belmont Street NW, Apt. 302
Washington, DC 20009

Corey DeAngelis is the national director of research at the American Federation for Children, the executive director at Educational Freedom Institute, an adjunct scholar at the Cato Institute, and a senior fellow at Reason Foundation.
He was named on the Forbes 30 under 30 list for his work on education policy and received the Buckley Award from America’s Future in 2020.

Ariel Delouya

Consulate General of Canada
Canadian Consulate Office
701 South 4th Avenue, Suite 900
Minneapolis, MN 55415

Ariel Delouya (BA [Political Science], McGill University, 1984; MA [International Relations], Carleton University, 1992) joined the Department of External Affairs in 1986.
Mr. Delouya is currently Consul General at the Consulate General of Canada in Minneapolis. From 2009 to 2012, he served as Ambassador of Canada to the Republic of Tunisia. He also served as Minister-Counsellor for Congressional and Legal Affairs at the Embassy of Canada to the United States, in Washington, D.C. (2002-2006) and was posted to Ankara, Turkey from 1987 to 1989.
In Ottawa, Mr. Delouya has held a number of positions, including Departmental spokesperson with the Media Relations Office and Deputy Director of the International Economic Relations and Summits Division, where he was responsible for G7 summits. From 1998 to 2002, Mr. Delouya was on secondment to the Privy Council Office, first as foreign policy advisor in the Foreign and Defence Policy Secretariat from 1998 to 2000, and then as chief of staff to the Clerk of the Privy Council from 2000 to 2002. From 2006 to 2009, he worked as Director of the Policy Research Division at Global Affairs Headquarters, as Executive Director for Mission Inspections from 2012 to 2014, and as Director General of the Engaging Canadians Bureau from 2014 to 2018.

Todd Foje

Executive Officer
Great Plains Communications
1635 Front Street
Blair, NE 68008

Todd Foje is Chief Executive Officer of Great Plains Communications LLC. Foje has more than 20 years of experience in the telecommunications industry and became CEO in 2008. He earned a Bachelor of Business Administration from Creighton University and a Master of Laws in Taxation (LLM) from Georgetown University and a Juris Doctor (JD) from George Washington University. With prior experience as both a certified public accountant and an attorney, he has also held executive roles in other industries prior to joining Great Plains Communications.
Todd’s charitable service has included key volunteer and board roles with the Nebraska Chamber of Commerce, Nebraska Telecommunications Association, USTelecom, the American Red Cross, Creighton Prep High School, Duchesne Academy and as a mentor through the Teammates youth mentoring program.

Curt Friesen

Nebraska State Senator
Disctrict 34
State Capitol
Lincoln, NE 68509-4604

Senator Curt Friesen represents the 34th Legislative District in the Nebraska Legislature. This district includes all of Nance, Merrick and Hamilton counties, and a portion of Hall County including portions of the City of Grand Island.
Senator Friesen was elected to the legislature in 2014 and re-elected to a second term in 2018. He sits on the Revenue Committee and serves as Chairman of the Transportation and Telecommunications Committee.
Senator Friesen resides outside of Henderson, Nebraska where he farms with his family.

Anthony Goins

Nebraska Department of Economic Development
301 Centennial Mall South
Lincoln, NE 68509-4666

Anthony Goins was appointed Director of the Nebraska Department of Economic Development by Governor Pete Ricketts in August 2019. With his extensive experience building and managing successful teams and organizations at the highest levels of industry, Tony is spearheading the Department’s pursuit of new and expanded economic opportunities on behalf of all Nebraskans.
Tony has a background in operations, where he specialized in global financial services and achieved a reputation as a strategic, results-driven executive. He formerly served as Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer at Cabela’s World’s Foremost Bank. Before moving to Lincoln, he was a Senior Vice President and Support Executive at JPMorgan Chase leading operations in Asia and North America. Tony has held senior-level positions at USAA, Ford Motor Credit Company, Key Bank, QVC, and American Express.
Tony is a small business owner, being co-founder of Capital Cigar Lounge in southwest Lincoln. He is deeply involved in the community, and serves on numerous boards including the Lincoln Community Foundation, Bryan Health, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Nebraska, the Lincoln Symphony Orchestra, the Omaha Opera, and as Advisor to the Board for Bank of Bennington, Board Director and Chair of Risk Committee for Nelnet Bank, and Board Director for Inceptia, a division of the National Student Loan Program. He is also a faculty member of the Graduate School of Banking at the University of Wisconsin-Madison
Tony majored in business management at North Carolina A&T State University, and served as a Sergeant in the United States Marine Corps. He is married to Kimberly and they have three daughters, Toni (married to son-in-law Anthony Brockman, both in financial services), Briana, Jayla, and a son, Anthony II (assistant basketball coach at Boston College, married to daughter-in-law Dr. Stephanie Goins). He has five grandkids: Jaylin, Jada, Jiya, Journey, and Reese.

LaVonya Goodwin

Executive Director
North 24th Street BID Association
Omaha, NE 68111

LaVonya Goodwin is an Omaha native who graduated from Central High School and obtained her Bachelor of Arts degree from Creighton University.
She is currently the Executive Director of the North 24th Street Business Improvement District Association; Owner, Goodwin’s Spencer Street Barbershop; Founder, Global Leadership Group Omaha.
LaVonya is a community builder with a specific focus on North 24th Street. “My life and my family’s life revolve around our passion to see the North 24th Street community transformed into a place where people from all walks of life can live, thrive and grow. We believe this is our calling.”
LaVonya and her husband, Dan Goodwin, Jr., have two children, Lasha and Lael from their marriage of 28 years.

Frank Hayes

Hayes & Associates, LLC
1015 North 98th Street, Suite 200
Omaha, NE 68114


  • Founder & President, Hayes & Associates, CPAs since inception in 1983.
  • Inducted into the Greater Omaha Chamber of Commerce Business Hall of Fame.
  • Previous role as Internal Revenue Agent for the IRS.
  • provides consulting, tax and accounting services to a diverse portfolio of clients

Professional Affiliations:

  • Member of the American Institute and Nebraska Society of Certified Public Accountants

Community/Civic Service:

  • Board of Trustees, Creighton University
  • Vice Chairman of Finance, 100 Black Men of America
  • Board Member & Treasurer, Kaneko
  • Board Member, Midwest Housing Equity Group
  • Board Member, Companion Life Insurance Company
  • Nebraska Society of CPAs Public Service Award
  • Community Leadership Association of America Distinguished Leadership Award

Scott Henderson

Managing Director
151 N 8th St Suite 518
Lincoln, NE 68508

A human spark plug and world-class connector, he can turn “something strong” into “something superb” through focusing on what makes you stand out. Scott is currently the managing director of NMotion Accelerator Studio, a gener8tor program, based in Lincoln, Nebraska. His career arc includes creating and building companies, raising charitable donations for universities, running a capital campaign consultancy, creating digital strategies for brands and nonprofits, leading social and entrepreneurial movements, and cultivating stronger innovation ecosystems in metro Atlanta, central Indiana, and Nebraska. You might recognize him from his leadership of the UN’s 7 Billion Actions campaign, Committee to Protect Journalist’s Speak Justice Now campaign, TLC/Discovery Channel’s Sarah Palin’s Alaska digital team,,, or VP and Chief Entrepreneurial Officer of the Purdue Research Foundation. Maybe you came across him as the host and producer of Project Tumbleweed, a real-time documentary about life in America during a pandemic.

Dan Hoffman

Executive Director
Invest Nebraska
801 R Street, Suite 1
Lincoln, NE 68508

Dan Hoffman has been actively involved in building the support system for new Nebraska enterprises for over 13 years while at Invest Nebraska, working with a variety of public and private sector partners.
He currently serves on the NMotion Board of Directors and the Advisory Board for University of Nebraska President Ted Carter.
In 2017, Dan was awarded the Entrepreneurship Advocate Award by the University of Nebraska Entrepreneurship Center. He earned a M.A. Degree in Economics and a B.S. Degree in Finance from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and is a 2012 graduate of the Venture Capital Institute.

Ralph Inforzato

Chief Executive Director
Japan External Trade Organization (JETRO Chicago)
1 East Wacker Drive, Suite 3350
Chicago, IL 60601

Dan Hoffman has been actively involved in building the support system for new Nebraska enterprises for over 13 years while at Invest Nebraska, working with a variety of public and private sector partners.
He currently serves on the NMotion Board of Directors and the Advisory Board for University of Nebraska President Ted Carter.
In 2017, Dan was awarded the Entrepreneurship Advocate Award by the University of Nebraska Entrepreneurship Center. He earned a M.A. Degree in Economics and a B.S. Degree in Finance from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and is a 2012 graduate of the Venture Capital Institute.

Clarice Jackson

Founder and Executive Director
Voice Advocacy Center and Nebraska Parents Coalition
6655 Sorenson Parkway
Omaha, NE 68152

Clarice Jackson is a lifelong Nebraskan. She is the founder of the Voice Advocacy Center in Omaha NE where she serves as the Executive Director of the Literacy/Dyslexia Screening and Teaching Program. She currently serves as Councilwoman for The Learning Community of Douglas and Sarpy County-Sub Council 1 and a Commissioner of the African American Affairs for the State of NE. She is a true public servant committed to bettering the lives of children via education through improved literacy(dyslexia) skills, school choice and special education advocacy.
Clarice is the Mother of two children-Mekhi and Latecia and considers her role as Mother as her most important role.

Chad Johnson

Co-Founder & CEO
Grain Weevil Corporation
1845 Craig Road
Aurora, NE 68818

Chad Johnson has over 20 years of informal science education experience, including exhibit design, curriculum development, and program facilitation. Chad was a NASA MESSENGER Fellow, The Association of Science and Technology Centers’ Roy L. Shafer Leading Edge Award Winner, and the recipient American Public Power Associations Energy Innovator Award.
In addition to running the Grain Weevil Corporation, Chad currently works as the Senior Education Specialist at Nebraska Public Power District where he creates resources, opportunities, and events that teach students essential workforce skills through innovation.

Rusty Kemp

Pioneer Outfitters, LLP
960 Pioneer Road
Tryon, NE 69167

Rusty Kemp operates a cow/calf/stocker operation in McPherson County Nebraska with his wife Rachael and their two young sons. He is also a founding member of Sustainable Beef LLC. He graduated from McPherson County High School then obtained an Ag Business degree from the University of Nebraska at Kearney. They run their operation in McPherson and Cherry County Nebraska as well as Todd County, South Dakota. The operation consists of native grass and some irrigated crop ground.
They market 1800-2000 head of yearling feeder cattle annually. Most of which are eligible for export through Verified Natural, Non-Hormone Treated Cattle, and the Global Animal Partnership programs. These cattle are Third Party Verified through IMI Global to ensure they meet the required criteria for export. They have been producing high-quality beef cattle that are eligible for export for well over a decade.
They take great pride in producing extremely high-quality beef that is eligible to be exported to any United States trading partner.

Jason Kvols

Northeast Region
Nebraska Farm Bureau
57381 874th Road
Laurel, NE 68745

Jason Kvols has dedicated his entire life to agriculture. Growing up on a third-generation diversified farming operation instilled in him a passion for farming. Jason was not always encouraged to come back to the farm. “Go get an education and a real job” is what he was told. Growing up through the eighties was tough for agriculture. There wasn’t a lot of hope or future for ag during that era. Regardless, he always had a passion to be involved in agriculture. Fast forward several decades and the future for agriculture couldn’t be brighter. Opportunities for agriculture continue to expand daily.
Jason pursued ag after college and eventually returned to the family farm. Jason now owns and operates a 9800 head wean to finish hog facility in northeast Nebraska along with his son Dylan.
The future of agriculture is heavily dependent on technology. The use of broadband and its expansion will shape our future. With it, we make informed decisions today that will change tomorrow.

Steve Martin

Executive Director
Alliance for the Future of Agriculture in Nebraska (AFAN)
5225 South 16th Street
Lincoln, NE 68512

Steve grew up on a diversified farm in Southwest Iowa. He went to college at Colorado State University and has a bachelor’s degree in Agriculture Business as well as a teaching degree from Buena Vista University. Steve has worked in the swine industry, taught high school business classes, coached wrestling, managed an assembly line in a factory, been a freelance writer, and worked for the Nebraska Department of Agriculture and is now the executive director with the Alliance for the Future of Agriculture in Nebraska (AFAN) and We Support Ag (WSA).
Steve lives on a small farm south of Lincoln, NE with his wife, Renae, and two sons where they raise row crops, cattle, hogs, and Vizsla hunting dogs.

Mark McHargue

Nebraska Farm Bureau Federation
5225 South 16th Street
Lincoln, NE 68512

Mark McHargue is a fourth-generation farmer from Central City. He and his wife Judi have four children. They have a diversified farming operation raising irrigated corn, popcorn, and soybeans utilizing and organic and conventional cropping methods along with running a nursery and finishing hog operation. Mark and his son also own and operate McHargue Builders. He was elected President of Nebraska Farm Bureau in December 2020 and elected to the American Farm Bureau Board of Directors in January 2021.
McHargue is a past Merrick County Farm Bureau president and has been in leadership capacities for more than 20 years in Nebraska Farm Bureau. He has served as First Vice President of Nebraska Farm Bureau and has been an active member of the Nebraska Pork Producers Association.
He has a passion for agriculture policy and advocacy. Mark’s hope is that the next generation of farmers and ranchers will have the same opportunity to purse their dreams as an agriculturalist he was given.
McHargue attended Grace University in Omaha. He is involved in his community and has served on various boards including Chairman of Nebraska Christian Schools and Chairman of Heartland Evangelical Free Church. Mark and Judi are members of the National Angelman Syndrome Foundation, which advocates on behalf of those who have no speech, such as their daughter Charis, who has been diagnosed with Angelman syndrome.
The McHargues’ have four children. Rachel and her husband Danial reside in Michigan with their daughter Charlotte and are expecting in May, 2021; Andrew and his wife Emily reside in Central City, NE with their children Carl, Rex & Willa; Jordan and his wife Janae reside in Central City, NE with their children Evelyn & Austin; and Charis resides with Mark and Judi in Marquette, NE.

Jeff Metz

Morrill County Commissioner
11830 Road 95
Bayard, NE 69334

Jeff operates a family farm/ranch in rural Morrill County, Nebraska. They have a commercial cow herd, run yearlings and feed some calves. They also raise dryland crops, mostly wheat and proso millet.
His wife Kim teaches 2nd grade at Bridgeport Elementary and his 2 boys are high school students in Bridgeport as well.
He has been fortunate to have served the residents of Morrill County as Chairman of the Board of Commissioners for the past 11 years. Prior to being elected Commissioner, he served on the County Planning and Zoning Board, where he practiced his belief, that a private property right is the most undeniable and unrefuted right we as property owners have.

Wolfgang Moessinger

Consul General of the Federal Republic of Germany
German Consulate General
676 North Michigan Avenue, Suite 3200
Chicago, IL 60611-2804

Wolfgang Moessinger is Consul General of the Federal Republic of Germany for the Midwest, based in Chicago. After school and military service he studied German, French and History at the Albert-Ludwigs-University in Freiburg. He joined the Federal Foreign Office in 1987. His first postings abroad were Dakar, Helsinki and Moscow. From 2008 to 2012 he was Consul General in Edinburgh, from 2012 to 2015 Deputy Ambassador in Baku, from 2015 to 2019 Consul General in Dnipro (Eastern Ukraine). On July 1, 2019 he joined the Consulate General in Chicago.
Consul General Moessinger is married to Mairéad Winters-Moessinger, an Irish citizen. The couple has two adult daughters.

James Premkumar

Senior Director of Capital Markets
Monolith Materials
134 Sout 13th Street, Suite 700
Lincoln, NE 68508

James is Senior Director, Capital Markets for Monolith Materials Inc. and leads capital raising activities. Prior to joining Monolith, he served as the VP of Finance for a multi-billion-dollar LNG project development, raising more than $200 million of seed capital. From 2009 to 2014, James worked at a North American private equity firm, investing $2+ billion in numerous early and late-stage energy and energy technology companies.
James received a Bachelor of Commerce in Finance and Bachelor of Science in Chemical Engineering from the University of Calgary. He is a registered Profession Engineer and a CFA Charter holder.

Maria Rennie

Deputy Consul General
British Consulate General – Chicago
625 North Michigan Avenue, Suite 2200
Chicago, IL 60611

Maria Rennie joined the British Consulate General in Chicago as Deputy Consul General in April 2019. In this role she works to advance the UK-US relationship across the Midwest, supporting the Consulate team in doing the same.
Since joining the Diplomatic Service in 2002 Maria has worked in over 25 British diplomatic posts overseas in a variety of roles. Prior to Chicago, her most recent postings include HM Consul in Bogotá, Colombia, and Regional Project Manager in Miami for UK Visas & Immigration.
Maria joined Chicago directly from a posting in London as Head of the Training and Policy Team in the Foreign & Commonwealth Office’s Crisis Management Department. In that role over a 4-year period, Maria oversaw the FCO’s consular or operational response to over 35 crises ranging from terrorist attacks and natural disasters to political unrest and was the international lead on supporting victims of terrorism.

Governor Pete Ricketts

State of Nebraska
P.O. Box 94848
Lincoln, NE 68509-4848

Governor Pete Ricketts was sworn in as Nebraska’s 40th Governor on January 8, 2015 and reelected to a second term in November 2018.
Over the past six years, Governor Ricketts has worked with the Legislature to deliver over $1.5 billion in direct property tax relief, dramatically reduce the rate of state spending growth, create new workforce development programming, cut unnecessary red tape to bolster Nebraska’s business-friendly climate, and expand international markets for Nebraska’s farmers and ranchers. Thanks in part to the Governor’s leadership, Nebraska won the Governor’s Cup for the most economic development projects per capita three years in a row from 2016 to 2018.

President Donald J. Trump has appointed Governor Ricketts to serve on the Council of Governors and the Advisory Committee for Trade Policy and Negotiations.
Born in Nebraska City and raised in Omaha, Ricketts is the son of an entrepreneur and a schoolteacher. Governor Ricketts and his wife, First Lady Susanne Shore, have been married for 23 years and live in Omaha. They have three children: Roscoe, Margot, and Eleanor.
Ricketts graduated from Westside High School before attending the University of Chicago where he earned his bachelor’s degree in biology and an MBA in marketing and finance. After graduate school, Ricketts returned to Omaha and worked for Union Pacific before working as a customer services representative in his family’s business, a company that would eventually become known as Ameritrade. He went on to hold leadership roles in the company including Senior Vice President of Strategy and Business Development, Senior Vice President of Product Development, Senior Vice President of Marketing, President, and Chief Operating Officer (COO).
Prior to his election as governor, he worked to support Nebraska entrepreneurs and startup companies. Ricketts is the founder of Drakon, LLC that supports local entrepreneurs and startup companies. He is also a past board member of TD Ameritrade’s Board of Directors and the Chicago Cubs baseball team.
Driven by a desire to give back to his community and create education and job opportunities, Governor Ricketts has taken on leadership roles in local and state associations and organizations. Currently, he serves on the board of the Mid-America Council of the Boy Scouts, as a director of the Nebraska Game and Parks Foundation, a member of the Board of Advisors of Opportunity Education Foundation, a member of the Archbishop’s Committee for Development, a member of the Knights of Columbus, and a Knight of the Holy Sepulchre. Governor Ricketts and his family attend St. Margaret Mary’s church.

Tanya Storer

Cherry County Commissioner

Tanya Storer is a fourth-generation rancher from Whitman Nebraska. She and her husband raise beef in the Sandhills of Cherry County, where she also currently serves as a County Commissioner.
Tanya graduated from the University of Nebraska, Lincoln with a degree in education. Her public service began as a rural Class I school board member for Carver Dist. 170, the grade school that her children attended, where she served for 11 years. She also served on the Class I’s United States Board, an organization that fought to preserve the Class I school system in Nebraska.
She continues to follow her passion for both education and youth, leading parenting classes in local communities and later teaching at-risk youth at the Boys and Girls home in North Platte Nebraska.

Carmen Tapio

President & CEO
North End Teleservices
1500 North 24th Street, Suite 111
Omaha, NE 68110

Carmen A. Tapio is the President and CEO of North End Teleservices, LLC. a customer contact center solutions company which she founded in 2015 with the mission of creating jobs and changing lives in North East Omaha, Nebraska and the surrounding area. In 2020, the company was named to the Inc. 5000 list of fastest-growing privately-owned companies in America. It is the largest African American-owned business in Nebraska.
Prior to founding North End, Carmen owned Core Advantage Consulting a multi-disciplined consultancy and held executive roles with companies in the contact center industry working domestically and internationally. She also led the Diversity and Social Responsibility Organization for Carlson Companies.
A champion of DEI, Economic Development and Economic Empowerment, Carmen sits on the board of directors for the Greater Omaha Chamber of Commerce, Lending Link and Spark CDI. She is an Executive Committee member of the Chamber board, council chair of the Council for Opportunity, Diversity and Equity (CODE), co-chair of the CEOs for CODE cohort and is council chair of the Chamber Diversity economic recovery Thrive initiative. Carmen is the 2023 incoming chair of the Greater Omaha Chamber of Commerce and the first African American to serve in this role.
Carmen is a member of the Nebraska Department of Economic Development Get Nebraska Growing Taskforce and the state Economic Inclusion Task Force. She serves on the Werner Enterprises board of directors and is a Director of the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City Omaha branch. Carmen is a recipient of the 2021 Enterprising Women of the Year Awards, an annual tribute to the world’s top female entrepreneurs.
A servant-leader who believes “A rising tide lifts all boats” she believes strongly in the spirit of giving back and is a mentor to many women, girls and businesses in the community.

Mark Tomkins

President & CEO
German-American Chamber of Commerce of the Midwest, Inc. (GACC Midwest)
150 North Michigan Avenue, 35th Floor
Chicago, IL 60601

Mark Tomkins joined the German American Chamber of Commerce of the Midwest (GACC Midwest) in March 2006 and became President & CEO in 2015. Prior to this, Mr. Tomkins spent over 10 years in business development consulting, working with companies throughout the world in developing strategic alliances and long-term cooperation.
Mr. Tomkins began his professional career in the automotive and IT industry in Germany and the U.S. While at GACC Midwest, Mr. Tomkins has spear-headed a number of initiatives, including leading the creation of the ICATT Apprenticeship Program, building GACC Midwest’s consulting services department and programs such as the Transatlantic Cluster Initiative, and broadening the organization’s presence throughout the Midwest.
He serves on the board of the German American Chamber of Commerce of the Midwest and GAE, LLC, the Honorary Board of the German International School Chicago, the Board of Directors of AIESEC Life, and the Board of Advisors for AIESEC at Northwestern University.
Mr. Tomkins graduated from Northwestern University in Evanston, IL with a B.A. in Applied Mathematics (Honors Program), Economics and German.

Sherry Vinton

Nebraska Environmental Trust
80687 Haney Lane
Whitman, NE 69366

Sherry Vinton and her husband represent the 5th generation of a family ranch south of Whitman in the Sandhills of Nebraska where they raise Angus cattle with their adult children and families.
Currently, she serves as Vice President of Nebraska Farm Bureau, on the Grant County Planning Commission and is a member of St. Mary’s Altar Society.
Because of her love of nature, farming, ranching and fiscal responsibility, Sherry has spent the last 20 years advocating for agriculture on the Nebraska Environmental Trust, Grazing Lands Coalition, and the National Cattleman’s Beef Board.

Wade Sikkink

Director, Global Product Management
Lindsay Corporation
18135 Burke Street, Suite 100
Omaha, NE 68022

Wade grew up in Rapid City, SD. He attended the University of Nebraska-Lincoln on a Navy ROTC scholarship and received a Bachelor of Science in Civil Engineering. After graduation Wade served 6 years in the US Navy submarine force achieving the submarine warfare and chief engineer designations. Following his naval service, Wade returned to the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and obtained his MBA.
He spent the next several years working in the high-tech industry on the west coast, primarily focused on new product development and offshore manufacturing. 15 years ago, Wade and his family returned to Nebraska to work in the ag industry. For the last 3 years Wade has worked for Lindsay Corporation as the Director of Global Product Management where he is responsible for strategy and product development for all business units at Lindsay.
Wade has deep experience in product development and global markets. His experience includes growth in existing businesses as well as startups. He has successfully launched products with hundreds of millions of dollars in sales and built new businesses from scratch to multi-million-dollar operations.
Wade lives in Firth NE with his wife Geory and their three children.

Steve Wellman

NE Dept. of Agriculture
301 Centennial Mall South
Lincoln, NE 68509-4947
Phone: 402-471-2341

Steve Wellman became the 27th Director of the Nebraska Department of Agriculture in December 2017, after being appointed by Governor Pete Ricketts. Wellman brings a broad range of experience to the position having farmed in Nebraska for more than 30 years and also serving on various agricultural organizations and advisory committees at the federal, state and local level. Wellman owns and operates a fourth-generation family farm near Syracuse, Nebraska. His diversified family farm produces soybeans, corn, wheat, alfalfa and cattle.
Wellman has been a leader in the Nebraska Soybean Association (NSA) and the American Soybean Association (ASA). He served on the ASA Board of Directors from 2006-2015 and was elected ASA President in 2012 and Chairman in 2013. He served on the NSA Board of Directors from 1998-2006 and was elected NSA president 2002-2003 and NSA chairman 2004-2005.
Wellman has also served on the USDA/USTR Agricultural Technical Advisory Committee for Grains, Feeds, Oilseeds and Planting Seeds from 2011-2015, the Commodities Futures Trading Commission Agricultural Advisory Committee from 2013-2015 and the CME Group Agricultural Markets Advisory Council from 2013- 2015. He has been involved with agriculture advisory committees for Gov. Ricketts and President Donald Trump.
An alumnus of the University of Nebraska’s College of Technical Agriculture, Wellman received a degree in production agriculture in 1981. He is a member of the American Farm Bureau, Nebraska Farm Bureau, Nebraska Cattlemen, Nebraska Corn Growers Association, Ag Builders of Nebraska and Outstanding Farmers of America. Wellman and his wife, Susan, have two adult children.

Kirk Zeller

Founder – The Silicon Prairie Center
Co-Founder and CEO, Progressive NEURO, Inc
Council Leader, US-Japan Council
121 West Seneca Street
Ravenna, NE 68869
Phone: 308-708-8994 or 415-515-7851

Kirk Zeller is a fifth generation Nebraskan displaced from farming by the farm crisis of the 1980s. Through listening to the 1980s news on the tractor and truck radios Kirk became to promote American products in Japan and spent most of his undergraduate degree (and part of doctorate) studying in Japan where he started his career in the medical device industry bringing American products to Japan.
Kirk is a healthcare entrepreneur and filmmaker as well as a returnee to Nebraska where he started the Silicon Prairie Center to incubate medical device companies and independent films. Kirk is a board member of several entities including US Japan MedTech Frontiers (NPO), Progressive NEURO, Inc, ATS.Solutions, RADUX Devices, LLC, MedMarket Access, LLC as well as the Ravenna Chamber of Commerce and Ravenna Economic Development. In 2020 Kirk was appointed to the US-Japan Council as a Council Leader.
Kirk co-wrote and produced the romantic comedy #MyCorona which has been featured in the The Hollywood Reporter and won numerous film awards. The majority of the movie was filmed in Ravenna and the DVD limited early release was at Ravenna’s annual celebration, Annevar, and at the BuyNebraska store in Kearney.
Kirk has a Doctorate of Business Administration (DBA) from the International School of Management (Paris) and MBA from Imperial College London with a specialization in BioPharma and Health Technology Entrepreneurship. Kirk’s undergraduate studies were completed at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, Nanzan University (Nagoya), and Senshu University (Tokyo).

Conference Information

Younes Conference Center – Kearney, NE
Date: August 4, 2021
8:00 a.m. – 4:30 p.m.

Event Registration

Please contact Lori Shaal for additional information at