Michelle Bennett CAHM,COS, MORS, C3P, AMS, & TCS, Asset Management Specialist, West Virginia Housing Development Fund
Ms. Bennett joined the West Virginia Housing Development Fund Asset Management team in August of 2019 with fifteen years’ experience working with the Section 8, LIHTC, RD and HOME programs as both a Property Manager and as compliance. At her previous employment she managed a 150 unit property that included Section 8, LIHTC, HIGH HOME, LOW HOME and market rate units while overseeing compliance for an additional twenty-eight properties. Ms. Bennett’s experience and training in all aspects of desk reviews and physical inspections of these programs continue to make her a valuable member of the West Virginia Housing Development Fund Asset Management team.
Taylor Bennett, Executive Director, West Virginia Land Stewardship Corporation
Taylor hails from a small town in rural western New York, situated in the northern reaches of the greater Appalachian Region. She is delighted to be making her home in West Virginia. Taylor holds a master’s degree in International Peace and Conflict Resolution from Arcadia University and has decade of experience working on community, economic, and agricultural development; environmental preservation; and non-profit management. Land banking, addressing problem properties, and creating systems-level changes to support both commercial and residential property redevelopment are areas of particular interest. When she’s not taking on land reuse challenges, Taylor can be found admiring the WV hills on horseback, growing vegetables, or chasing her son around the yard.
Emily Birckhead, MSW, Executive Director, WV Alliance of Recovery Residences
Emily Birckhead is the executive director of the West Virginia Alliance of Recovery Residences. She graduated from WVU with her BS in Political Science and received her Master of Social Work Degree (MSW) from Marshall University. She is a person in recovery and is certified as both a CCAR Peer Recovery Coach and 200-RYT (Registered Yoga Teacher). Emily has previously worked as a Recovery Coach with the Partnership of African American Churches and as an AmeriCorps VISTA with Try This WV. She has supported the development of organizations including West Virginia’s first Collegiate Recovery Program (WVU CRP) and WV Recovers, an integrated, statewide peer recovery network for people with mental health and substance use disorders, and served on the Board of Directors for the WV Association of Alcoholism and Drug Abuse Counselors from 2017-2020. Emily currently serves on the Board of Directors for the Kanawha Pastoral Counseling Center (KPCC), is a member of the National Alliance of Recovery Residences’ Advocacy & Affiliates Committees, and chairs the Recovery Housing Taskforce of the WV Governor’s Advisory Council for Substance Use Disorders’ Community Engagement Subcommittee.
Jennifer Brennan, Main Street and OnTRAC Coordinator, West Virginia Main Street
Jennifer Brennan has worked in the field of historic preservation for more than 15 years, focusing on various programs and incentives. Currently, Jennifer works as the Main Street and OnTRAC Coordinator with the West Virginia Department of Economic Development. In this role, Jennifer works with communities throughout the state as they work on the rehabilitation of their historic downtowns utilizing the Main Street Four Point Approach. Jennifer also has extensive knowledge using Historic Rehabilitation Tax Credits, Grants and Preservation Easements as a redevelopment tools.
Cathy Colby, Senior Manager - HOME & HTF Programs, West Virginia Housing Development Fund
Cathy Colby has been involved with affordable housing for nearly 24 years. She is the WVHDF Senior Manager-HOME & HTF Program and counts it a privilege to positively impact West Virginians by working with programs that increase the supply of decent, safe, sanitary, and affordable housing throughout the state. Cathy earned her undergraduate and master’s degrees from the University of Charleston.
John Deskins, Director, WVU Bureau of Business and Economic Research
John Deskins serves as Director of the Bureau of Business & Economic Research and as Associate Professor of Economics at West Virginia University. He leads the Bureau’s efforts to serve the state by providing rigorous economic analysis and macroeconomic forecasting to business leaders and policymakers across the state. Deskins’ academic research has focused on economic development, small business economics, and public policy. His work has appeared in numerous professional economics outlets. Deskins has testified before the U.S. Congress and the West Virginia Legislature. He has delivered more than 200 speeches and his quotes have appeared in numerous media outlets such as The New York Times, and The Wall Street Journal. He has obtained more than $1 million in funded research.
Dennis J. DiBello, COO/Chief Inspector, American Property Consultants, Inc
Mr. Dennis DiBello is the founder and COO/Chief Inspector of American Property Consultants, a Nationwide Inspection & Consulting Company. Mr. DiBello’s experiences started with UPCS inspections under the initial HUD REAC pilot program in July 1998 and he has been managing/performing inspections (UPCS, HQS) and training ever since. In these last 24 years Dennis has certified multiple times as a HUD REAC inspector and trained 1000’s of housing personnel about inspection. He is one of the nation’s top HUD Inspection knowledgeable persons. His company, APC, has performed 1000’s of UPCS/HQS inspections from Maine to Puerto Rico to California and Oregon. Mr. DiBello also has conducted over 300 UPCS training sessions for over 7,000 housing personnel. Mr. DiBello is actively involved in the development of the new inspection protocol NSPIRE with HUD-REAC, national associations, and Washington meetings and discussion.
Meredith Dreistadt, Tax Credit Coordinator, West Virginia State Historic Preservation Office
Meredith Dreistadt has worked in historic preservation and public history throughout West Virginia for the past five years. She served for several years in AmeriCorps before attending graduate school at West Virginia University. After work in the field, she began at the State Historic Preservation Office as the Tax Credit and CLG Coordinator.
Daniel Eades, Associate Professor & Extension Specialist, WVU Extension
Daniel Eades is an Associate Professor and Extension Specialist with West Virginia University, working in the areas of rural economics and rural development. His community-based research and teaching programs engage local leaders and community development stakeholders in the generation, interpretation, and use of socio-economic data to guide community planning and regional economic development decisions. Daniel received his B.S. degree in Environmental Studies, Natural Resource Management from Shepherd University and a Master's in Agricultural and Resource Economics from WVU. He is currently pursuing his doctorate in Human and Community Development at WVU. Before accepting his current position, he worked as a research associate in Clemson University’s EDA University Center and Regional Economic Development Research Laboratory (REDRL).
Omar Hakeem, AIA, Founder/Principal, To Be Done Studio
Omar Hakeem, AIA, is an architect working in the DC area and nationally to bring greater social and environmental equality through thoughtful design and planning. His firm To Be Done Studio is focused on geographical, social cultural frontiers and works to address the systemic poverty, health issues that plague these communities. Through these efforts he has completed award winning affordable housing, rapid response disaster housing prototypes, urban bike and pedestrian infrastructure, regional drainage improvements and community based rural planning initiatives. Omar has been recognized as a Grist 50 “Fixer”, an annual list of emerging leaders from across the U.S. who are working on fresh, real-world solutions to our world’s biggest climate challenges. In addition to his professional practice he sits on the American Institute of Architect’s Strategic Council and the AIA’s Climate Action and Design Excellence Committee.
Henry Alexander Hatfield, Housing Programs Manager, State of West Virginia/WV Department of Economic Development
Henry Hatfield arrived in WV Community Advancement and Development (CAD) in 2018 and during his time with the State organization, Henry has been responsible for the programmatic and administrative oversight of nearly $22 million funding over five years provided to 37+ non-profit organizations highly experienced and dedicated to providing housing and supportive services to many of our most vulnerable “unsheltered neighbors” throughout all 55 counties. These funds serve those experiencing homelessness, at risk of homelessness, and persons living with HIV/AIDS.
Outside of the CAD, Henry’s level of civic and community engagement involvement goes unmatched. From organizations within his professional fields, to those locally for the city and his community, his commitment to service, advocacy, and fighting for those who can’t fight for themselves has been a lifetime effort. He graduated Marshall University with bachelor’s in advertising/marketing, Marshall Graduate College with a master’s degree in public relations/journalism and is currently attending WVU pursuing a second master’s degree in Legal Studies.
Henry currently resides in Charleston with his (spoiled) Great Dane, Lily, and cats Tucker and Gus. He has aspirations to work for HUD on the regional or national level or attend law school at the completion of his latest degree.
Matthew Heckles, Regional Administrator - HUD's Mid-Atlantic Region, U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development
Prior to joining HUD, Mr. Heckles served as the Assistant Secretary and Director of the Community Development Administration at the Maryland Department of Housing and Community Development. In this capacity, he oversaw a range of operations and services from the administration and financing of single-family mortgage and multifamily development financing to housing rehabilitation and local government infrastructure programs. Immediately prior to joining HUD, his efforts centered on COVID-19 relief programs that offered forbearance for small businesses as well as tenant and homeowner assistance. Prior to his service in Maryland, Heckles worked in various positions at the Delaware State Housing Authority for more than 12 years. Heckles earned a Masters in Business Administration and a Bachelor of Arts in economics and international relations from the University of Delaware. Appointed by President Biden in February 2022 as the Regional Administrator for the Mid-Atlantic region, Mr. Heckles is responsible for the oversight and delivery of HUD programs and services throughout Delaware, Maryland, Pennsylvania, Virginia, Washington D.C. and West Virginia.
Dina Hornbaker, Community Partnership Coordinator, Solar Holler
Dina Hornbaker is a Charleston native and WVU Alumni with a background in Agriculture and Natural Resources. She switched gears when she began working for Solar Holler in 2021. She is passionate about community development as she continues to create positive impacts for central Appalachian communities.
Mel Jones, Associate Director, Virginia Center for Housing Research
Mel Jones is a Research Scientist and Associate Director of the Virginia Center for Housing Research at Virginia Tech. Mel leads housing studies and housing research in Virginia and across the country. She specializes in quantitative analysis and data driven policy connecting housing to broad issues including economic and community development, individual economic opportunity, and well-being. Mel's current research is focused on regional housing markets and strategies, especially those that include rural and small metropolitan or micropolitan areas. Mel’s expertise is demonstrated in her recent work: New River Valley Regional + Local Housing Study, the Fairfax County Consolidated Plan, and the Loudoun County Unmet Housing Needs Strategic Plan. Mel earned a BS in Economics and a BA in International Service from American University as well as an MS in Applied Economics and a Master of Urban Affairs and Planning from Virginia Tech.
Reggie Jones, D.Min., MSW, Executive Director, Recovery Point West Virginia
As the Executive Director of Recovery Point West Virginia and Recovery Point West Virginia Behavioral Health, Reggie Jones is responsible for overseeing all facets of the organizations. Reggie has more than 20 years of senior executive level management experience in non-profit and community development. He has a proven record of being a results-oriented leader who focuses on success and developing organizations to exceed levels of excellence. His professional goals have always surrounded empowering lives, strengthening communities, and affecting change through the development of impactful programming. His leadership philosophy centers around developing future leadership that helps ensure the continued success of organizations after his departure. Reggie’s dedication to service is widely known and he is a highly respected member of the non-profit community. Reggie earned his BSW and MSW degrees from West Virginia University and Doctor of Ministry degree from Newburgh Theological Seminary.
Allison Karakis, Government Relations Director, FHLBank Pittsburgh
Allison Karakis, Government Relations Director, joined FHLBank Pittsburgh in 2015 and oversees the Bank’s government relations program. She advises the Bank on key policy issues impacting the FHLBanks and their members, builds relationships with elected officials, and develops and implements strategies to engage and partner with members of Congress, trade associations and stakeholders.
Karakis has worked in both U.S. Senate and U.S. House offices. Karakis is a frequent speaker at industry and stakeholder events, providing policy updates and advocacy training. She serves on the Women in Housing and Finance, Inc. board of directors and on the Pennsylvania Bankers Association Public Relations and Communications Committee.
Melissa Lapsa, Building Technologies Program Manager, Oak Ridge National Laboratory
Melissa Lapsa currently serves as Building Technologies Program Manager at Oak Ridge National Laboratory. Ms. Lapsa has over 25 years experience conducting market research, policy analysis, and institutional and consumer behavior research aimed at deploying cost-effective energy efficient technologies. From 1996-1998, Ms. Lapsa was on assignment from ORNL to the Netherlands Agency for Energy and the Environment (SenterNOVEM).
Paige Looney, Housing Policy Specialist, West Virginia Coalition to End Homelessness
Paige Looney is a Housing Policy Specialist with the West Virginia Coalition to End Homelessness. She works in advocacy for affordable housing and Housing First policies. Paige graduated from Marshall University in 2020 with a Bachelors in Political Science and History.
Hannah McCune, Fair Housing Specialist, The West Virginia Coalition to End Homelessness
Kathy McMurray, Executive Director, Mountain Community Action Partnership; Board President, CommunityWorks in WVV
Jason Miller, Program Director, Southwestern Community Action Council, Inc.
Ray Moeller, Redevelopment Specialist, Brownfield Assistance Center at WVU
Ray has a Bachelor of Science from Western Michigan University and worked for 28 years in the pharmaceutical industry before escaping to West Virginia over a decade ago. Starting as an AmeriCorps VISTA in the New River Gorge Region, Ray then transitioned to a WV State University Community & Economic Development Extension position working in communities within the same region. Then four years ago, Ray took the leap north, landing in Morgantown to work in the Brownfield Assistance Center at WVU. He provides general brownfield revitalization guidance and on-the-ground support facilitating statewide downtown redevelopment.
Sean O'Leary, Senior Policy Analyst, WV Center on Budget and Policy
Sean O’Leary is the senior policy analyst at the West Virginia Center on Budget and Policy. Since joining the Center in 2010, Sean has authored numerous reports on working family issues, economic development, and state and federal budget and tax policy, including annual reports on the state budget and the State of Working West Virginia. Sean also collaborates with West Virginia Kids Count for the annual West Virginia Kids Count Data Book and serves on the board of directors for the West Virginia Food and Farm Coalition. Sean holds a B.A. in political science and economics and a Master of Public Administration from West Virginia University.
Margaret Ann O'Neal, President, United Way of Central WV and WV 211
Margaret Ann O’Neal currently serves as the President and CPO of United Way of Central WV. As a native West Virginian, she was born to a first generation American mother and a dad who believed work ethic was the most important thing you could bring to a job.
After ten years in healthcare, Margaret began working at WJLS Radio in Beckley. There she was introduced to Hospice of Southern WV, and began her work in the non-profit community. During her time with Hospice she helped raise nearly three million dollars to build the Bowers Hospice House. The transition from Hospice to United Way of Southern WV came in 2008, allowing her the opportunity to build an established United Way into an even stronger and more impactful organization. In August 2017, she accepted the position President of United Way of Central West Virginia and moved her family to Charleston. O’Neal resides in Kanawha City with her husband Greg and kittens Ellie and Pearl.
Bryan Phillips, Policy Engagement Coordinator, West Virginia Community Development Hub
Bryan focuses his work on improving the health of the community economic development system in West Virginia's small and rural communities by researching and addressing federal barriers to investment and state-level initiatives. Previously, he has worked in the fields of criminal justice, science and technology, health, and as legislative staff. His past work has received recognition from institutions such as the National Conference of State Legislatures and the Georgetown Law Center on Poverty and Inequality. Bryan received both his Bachelor's and Master's degrees from West Virginia University focusing on American politics and public policy and is dedicated to making improvements to the lives of West Virginians everywhere.
Theodore C. “Ted” Ranson, Senior Vice President, West Virginia Region Manager, Mortgage Division, Huntington National Bank
Ted has been in the banking industry for over 38 years. Thirty years ago Ted moved to the mortgage area of banking becoming the West Virginia Regional Manager 24 years ago. Ted has always had a passion for CRA lending and Huntington has been lauded as one of the best CRA lenders in the state of WV always producing some of the highest bond loans in the state.
Cassie Province, Resident and Resource Case Manager, Covenant House
Dustin Smith, Director of Project Development, Woodlands Development Group
Dustin Smith is the Director of Project Development for Woodlands Development Group, and has worked with Woodlands for the past 9 years. In his role with WDG, Dustin works on projects from start to completion, often managing complex financial scenarios, maintaining project compliance, and managing the construction process.
Chuck Stump, Owner and President, The Performance Group, Inc.
Chuck Stump is an engaging, knowledgeable speaker and management consultant. Since 1996, he has presented over 2000 fun and informative presentations in the areas of leadership, communication, individual and organizational behavior, client care, and change management. His seminars utilize over thirty years of hard-learned life lessons that help people change not only the way they think…but the way they act!
Haley Walker, Executive Director, Rea of Hope
Haley Walker is the Executive Director of Rea of Hope, and a woman in long term abstinent recovery. She is a 2009 graduate of the program and began working at Rea of Hope in 2010. In 2012, Haley obtained her Associate degree in Addictions Counseling and Psychiatric Rehabilitation and became certified as an Alcohol and Drug Counselor in 2013 by the WV Certification Board of Addiction Prevention Professionals. She went on to earn her Bachelor’s degree in Education in 2018 from WV State University. Haley has remained at Rea of Hope for over 13 years and has been promoted within to reach her current position. Haley recently celebrated 13 years of continuous sobriety and lives with her husband and children in her hometown of Elkview, WV.
Shelly Woda, Unit Manager, WV Department of Economic Development - CAD
Shelly Woda currently works for the Community Advancement and Development division of the West Virginia Department of Economic Development. As the Sustainability Unit Manager, she oversees the Community Services Block Grant, LIHEAP Emergency Repair and Replacement Program, HUD’s Emergency Solutions Grant and Housing Opportunities for Persons With AIDS grant, the Weatherization Assistance Program, the WV Neighborhood Investment Program. She previously managed West Virginia’s Community Services Block Grant program from September 2011 to November 2018. She’s a previous recipient of a national CSBG Data Champion award, the National ROMA Partnership Award, and has been a Nationally Certified ROMA Trainer since August 2009. Her favorite role in life however is that of “mom” to two little girls, Lucy (7) and Elly (6).