2019 SPI Speaker Bios Day 2

Speaker Bios [Day 2]

[2019 SPI Home]

Alphabetical by last name of person (sorted by agenda)

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Panel Discussion: Budget & Tax

Rep. Meloyde Blancett – Oklahoma House of Representatives

Melodye Blancett earned her degree from the University of Oklahoma with a BA in Journalism and Professional Writing. After graduation, Blancett worked as a daily reporter for the Tulsa Tribune and Norman Transcript, where her interest in civic engagement first sparked. Blancett has built up her experience in the private and public realms, working as Director of Strategic Marketing for Williams Communications Group, Staff Vice President of Corporate Communications for Thrifty Car Rental, an account director for Winnercom, a national broadcast and marketing firm, and for the State of Oklahoma as Deputy Director of Marketing and Communication for the Department of Commerce. She has remained committed to entrepreneurship throughout her career, owning her own business, The Blancett Group, which specializes in providing marketing and public relations consulting for private and public institutions in Oklahoma. Blancett currently serves as the House Representative for District 78.

Rep. Jon Echols – Majority Floor Leader, Oklahoma House of Representatives

In 2012, Jon Echols was elected to represent House District 90 in the Oklahoma House of Representatives. He was appointed by the Speaker to serve as Assistant Majority Whip and was the only freshman to serve in such a House leadership position. In 2014, Echols was appointed by the Speaker to serve as the Vice-Chair of the Judiciary and Civil Procedure Committee continuing to serve as an Assistant Majority Whip. He is currently the House majority floor leader.

Jon Echols graduated from the University of Oklahoma with a Political Science degree. He then went on to Oklahoma City University School of Law, where he received numerous academic awards and graduated first in his class.

Echols is an entrepreneur with a heart for small business. The lifetime Oklahoman has started and operated several Oklahoma businesses, and through them, he now employs hundreds of Oklahomans. In addition to his small businesses, he also practices law with his family’s firm, Echols and Associates, and serves as an adjunct law professor at OCU. Jon Echols, his wife Kristen, and their three children attend Capitol Hill Baptist Church.

Tony Hutchison – Senior Vice Chancellor, Oklahoma State Regents for Higher Education

Tony Hutchison is the Senior Vice Chancellor for strategic planning and analysis at the Oklahoma State Regents for Higher Education.

Hutchison spent three years as the director of the Oklahoma Office of State Finance. In that position, he served as the chief financial officer of the state of Oklahoma and was responsible for developing the state’s budget.

Before becoming director of OSF, Hutchison was the Oklahoma State Senate director of operations and planning and the director of economic research and policy analysis. He has also held senior level positions with the Council of Governors’ Policy Advisors and the National Conference of State Legislatures.

Hutchison has extensive experience in fiscal, research, data and policy analysis and in legislative processes. He has published more than 30 articles, papers and books on public finance and other policy topics.

Hutchison graduated from the University of Oklahoma in 1981 with a bachelor’s degree in history and received his master’s in public administration in 1983.

Jodi Lewis – Director of Legislative Affairs, Oklahoma Municipal League

Jodi Lewis is Director of Legislative Affairs for the Oklahoma Municipal League. A native of Bristow, she holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Agribusiness from Oklahoma State University. While at OSU, Jodi developed her passion for Oklahoma’s cities and towns while traveling the state speaking to local FFA chapters as a State FFA Officer. Jodi’s career began at the Oklahoma Community Institute as Director of Development and Planning. She worked closely with community leaders throughout the state facilitating community-wide strategic planning. In 2008, she was named Executive Director of the organization.

In November of 2017, Jodi joined the staff of the Oklahoma Municipal League as Director of Legislative Affairs. OML’s legislative team is the unified voice for Oklahoma’s 586 municipal governments, advocating for sound public policy and safeguarding local control at the state legislature. As a service to its member cities and towns, the League monitors hundreds of bills on a daily basis that impact municipalities at the state and federal levels.

In 2007, Jodi was elected as the youngest person in history to the Piedmont City Council, and later that year was named one of OKC Business’ “Forty Under 40”. She currently serves as President of the board of directors for Parent Promise (the Oklahoma Chapter of Prevent Child Abuse America) and is the Development Chair for the Leadership Oklahoma board of directors. Jodi also serves on the board of directors for Positive Tomorrows, the Oklahoma Academy, and the Oklahoma Career Tech Foundation.

Today, Jodi, her husband David, and their two sons, Bauer and Beckham, live in Edmond where they are active members of Quail Springs Baptist Church and the Heritage Hall School Patrons Association.

Cynthia Rogers – Professor of Economics, University of Oklahoma

Cynthia Rogers is a Professor of Economics at the University of Oklahoma and has been Appointed to the Incentive Evaluation Commission of Oklahoma. Rogers does research that focuses on state and local public finance and economic development, with a special focus on methodological issues about the relationship between state tax policy and economic growth. She also uses Oklahoma data to analyze multi-tier, multijurisdictional taxation of retail sales. A common thread in her research is the development of estimation techniques to understand and evaluate the impact of public policies. She frequently shares her research in public forums about economic and tax issues in Oklahoma.

Kim Teehee – Vice President of Government Relations, Cherokee Nation Businesses

Kim Teehee is a citizen of the Cherokee Nation.  She is Vice President of Government Relations for Cherokee Nation Businesses and Director of Government Relations for Cherokee Nation.  Prior to joining Cherokee Nation, she served as Partner for Mapetsi Policy Group, a Washington, D.C. based federal advocacy group representing Indian tribes and tribal organizations.  She served President Barack Obama as the first-ever Senior Policy Advisor for Native American Affairs in the White House Domestic Policy Council for three years. Kim worked with federal agencies to develop and implement policies focused on environmental justice, tribal consultation, tribal self-determination, economic growth, public safety, health care, and education and to resolve longstanding disputes.

Kim’s work helped lead to a Presidential Memorandum on tribal consultation and an Executive Order on Improving American Indian and Alaska Native Educational Opportunities and Strengthening Tribal Colleges and Universities. Kim guided the Administration’s support for the U.N. Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and addressed the U.N. Permanent Forum on issues affecting the world’s indigenous peoples. Kim is especially proud of her work toward the Administration’s support of VAWA reauthorization provisions to hold all perpetrators of domestic violence accountable for their crimes against Native American women, closing a jurisdictional gap in Indian country. She also played a key role in three White House Tribal Nations Conferences and led a government-wide team to ensure that progress was being made on tribal policy and legislative priorities.

Roundtable Discussion: Careers in Public Policy 

Carrie Blumert – Oklahoma County Commissioner

Oklahoma County Commissioner Carrie Blumert was sworn in as the youngest female county commissioner in state history in January 2019. Her vision for Oklahoma County is a brand new county jail that includes a reformed local criminal justice system prioritizing mental health and addiction treatment and diversion programs as a first option over jail. Commissioner Blumert’s passion for justice reform and better mental health treatment comes from her personal family history – her mother has mental illness and addiction and sought treatment in 2003 after 30 years of suffering in silence. Carrie’s background includes work at the Oklahoma City County Health Department, Open Streets OKC, The OKC Mobile Market, OU Behavioral Pediatrics, and Make a Wish Foundation. She has a Master’s in Public Health from the OU Health Science Center, a Bachelor’s in Child and Family Services from OSU, and is a certified yoga instructor.

Nick Doctor – Chief of Community Development and Policy, City of Tulsa

Nick Doctor serves as the Chief of Community Development & Policy for the City of Tulsa on behalf of Mayor G.T. Bynum. In this role, Nick works to build opportunity and prosperity for all Tulsans and strengthen the city’s ability to develop, attract, and retain talented individuals through strong community planning, neighborhood revitalization, and managing Tulsa’s signature capital investments.  His work is focused on building a more equitable Tulsa, and eliminating race and income disparities in housing, employment, and education.

Prior to joining the Mayor’s team in December 2016, Nick served as the Senior Vice President of Government Affairs for the Tulsa Regional Chamber.  In this role he coordinated all elements of the regional business community’s political activities, including local, state, and federal agenda building and lobbying efforts; campaign management for municipal and school district ballot proposals; and overseeing three political action committees.

Nick earned an undergraduate degree in history and political science from the University of Tulsa, and a Masters in political management from The George Washington University.  He currently serves on the Tulsa Area United Way’s Campaign Cabinet, and on the boards of the Tulsa Global Alliance, Tulsa Regional STEM Alliance, and the Tulsa Opportunity Project.

Moises Echevarria – President and CEO, Oklahoma Center for Community and Justice

Moises Echeverria serves as President and CEO of the Oklahoma Center for Community and Justice, an organization dedicated to achieving respect and understanding for all people. He first became acquainted with OCCJ in 2002 as a program participant. He then served as a board member and volunteer, and subsequently as staff.

Ed Long – Principal and Founder, Cross Sector Innovations

Ed Long, founder and principal of Cross Sector Innovations, holds a Master of Public Administration degree from the University of Oklahoma with specializations in public policy and public management, and completed all coursework for a Ph.D. in political science, with a focus on public administration, public policy and American politics and government. He has co-authored articles related to strategic planning and the Government Performance and Results Act of 1993. His experience includes strategic planning, evaluation, public policy, public/nonprofit management, grant writing, program development, communications and government relations. His current focus is social innovation and social entrepreneurship.

Rep. Daniel Pae – Oklahoma House of Representatives

Daniel Pae currently serves as the state representative for House District 62. Before he was elected to the state legislature, Daniel worked as an Administrative Assistant in the Lawton City Manager’s Office. He graduated from the University of Oklahoma with two majors in economics and political science, two minors in history and international area studies, and a master’s degree in public administration.

Daniel served as OU’s Student Body President, along with volunteering his time with The Oklahoma Group, Loveworks Afterschool Leadership, and Generation Citizen. He graduated Phi Beta Kappa and summa cum laude with a 4.0 grade point average. He was named the recipient of the 2017 Carl Albert Award, which is the most prestigious award given to a student by the OU College of Arts and Sciences based on academics, moral force of character, and promise of future service to the state and nation.

In his hometown, Daniel serves on the Young Professionals of Lawton Board of Directors and Marie Detty Youth & Family Services Board of Trustees. He is also a member of the Lawton Fort Sill Chamber of Commerce, graduate of Leadership Lawton Fort Sill Class 28, and current member of Leadership Oklahoma Class 33. Daniel attends Sunday services at Dayspring Community Church.

Whenever he has free time, he enjoys going on unexpected adventures with family and friends, working out at the gym, and reading books from the Lawton Public Library. Daniel regularly goes to the movie theater, especially if there is a new Disney-Pixar film that is released.

Discussion: Obstacles and Opportunities for Better Justice in Oklahoma

Erik Grayless – Assistant District Attorney, Tulsa County District Attorney’s Office

Erik Grayless attended Union High School, the University of Oklahoma and the University of Oklahoma Law School. He has been an attorney for 13 years, all of which he has served as a Prosecutor at the District Attorney’s Office. Specializing in the prosecution of violent crime, Grayless has tried over 85 trials to a jury, including more than 30 homicides. He has also served at the Juvenile Bureau, on the Drug Team, as a Team Captain and is currently second-in-command at the District Attorney’s Office.

Grayless is married to Meghan Grayless, a stay-at-home mom to their three children, Mary-Claire (6), Elizabeth (4), Benedict (2), with another baby due in October. They all attend and are active at Holy Family Cathedral, the Roman Catholic Cathedral in downtown Tulsa. Grayless is an avid gardener and raises ducks in his backyard for their eggs.

Aisha McWeay – Executive Director, Still She Rises

Aisha McWeay is a career public defender and indigent defense advocate. Prior to taking over the Executive Director role at Still She Rises in February 2019, Aisha received her J.D. from Vanderbilt and joined the Nashville Defenders as an Assistant Public Defender in 2009. She became the General Sessions Division Chief 2014 and in April 2017 was appointed the Deputy Public Defender for Nashville-Davidson County.

Aisha graduated summa cum laude from Clark Atlanta University, where she majored in Mass Communications with a concentration in Public Relations. She has served in a number of training and mentoring capacities to public defense and community service organizations nationally. In recognition of her contributions to the public defense community, in July 2017 she was awarded the Stephen B. Bright award from Gideon’s Promise.

D’Marria Monday – Criminal Justice Advocate

D’Marria Monday is the Vision Director of Block Builderz, a community development, and grassroots advocacy firm dedicated to identifying underutilized resources and transforming them into assets the community can use to combat mass incarceration. As a formerly incarcerated woman, D’Marria has suffered the horror of mass incarceration and survived. Her pain fuels her purpose to take on the tremendous challenge of reducing mass incarceration in the most incarcerated state. That can be accomplished by bridging the divide to form partnerships with unlikely allies in order to dismantle the system. She is moving the conversation beyond focusing on the problem to highlighting solutions that are led directly by impacted people.

D’Marria led a grass-roots, legislative campaign to prohibit the shackling of incarcerated pregnant women during labor, delivery, and postpartum. The bill also allows for the incarcerated woman to have a doula, loved one, clergy, or family member to be in the room with them.

The legislative victory of HB 3393 with Rep. Regina Goodwin inspired D’Marria to believe that anything is possible if you just believe. Now, she uses her story to empower others to believe, “Our Voices Matter.” She has made it her life’s purpose to be a Voice for the Voiceless and to advocate for change.

Hon. April Seibert – Special Judge, 14th Judicial District for Tulsa County, Oklahoma

The Honorable April L. Seibert is a Special Judge with the 14th Judicial District of Tulsa County, Oklahoma.  She currently presides over all misdemeanor criminal offenses including Domestic Violence and Protective Order Violations, as well as the Mental Health Treatment Court for all misdemeanor and felony offenses.   Judge Seibert is currently the chair of the diversity division for the Tulsa County Bar Association which is dedicated to public service and diversity in the law.  Judge Seibert earned a bachelor’s degree in Criminal Justice from the University of Nebraska at Kearney, and her juris doctorate from the University of Oklahoma. Prior to taking the bench, Judge Seibert served as an Assistant Tulsa County District Attorney from 2005 to 2010.  In 2010, Judge Seibert entered private practice where she represented indigent individuals involved in the criminal justice system, as well as, family law matters.  Judge Seibert joined the bench in August, 2017, where she presides currently over criminal matters.

Kris Steele – Chair, Oklahomans for Criminal Justice Reform

Kris Steele is Executive Director of TEEM (The Education and Employment Ministry), a nonprofit dedicated to breaking the cycle of poverty and incarceration in Oklahoma. TEEM offers educational opportunities, character development courses, job training and employment placement assistance to individuals reentering the community. Steele also serves as the Chair of Oklahomans for Criminal Justice Reform, a coalition comprised of community groups, business leaders, health professionals and faith leaders dedicated to advancing effective approaches to public safety by increasing access to treatment and programs designed to address root causes of crime. Kris earned a bachelor’s degree in Religion from Oklahoma Baptist University, and master’s degree in Education from East Central University. Prior to joining TEEM, Kris served as State Representative from 2000-2012, and Speaker of the Oklahoma House of Representatives for the 53rd Legislature. During his tenure in office, he led the charge on a number of reforms in the areas of health care, human services and criminal justice. Kris and his wife, Kellie, are blessed with two daughters: Mackenzie (14) and Madison (12) and currently reside in Shawnee.


Ryan Gentzler – Director, Open Justice Oklahoma

Read about Ryan on the OK Policy staff bio page.

Breakout Sessions #1

Breakout Session: Voting Rights Act

Dr. Jason Kirksey – Vice President for Institutional Diversity and Chief Diversity Officer, Oklahoma State University

Dr. Jason F. Kirksey is the Vice President for Institutional Diversity and the Chief Diversity Officer at Oklahoma State University (OSU). He also holds the rank of Associate Professor in the OSU Department of Political Science. Dr. Kirksey serves as the principal investigator for the Oklahoma Louis Stokes Alliance for Minority Participation (OK-LSAMP) Program, which is a $3.4M, five-year National Science Foundation (NSF) grant designed to increase underrepresented minority science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) graduates at eleven higher educational institutions across the state of Oklahoma. He is also the principal investigator for the OK-LSAMP Bridge to the Doctorate Program at OSU, which is a $1.1M two-year NSF grant that provides graduate school funding for twelve LSAMP Scholars.

Dr. Kirksey brings approximately 25 years of experience teaching, researching, and studying issues related to diversity and inclusion. His areas of expertise include minority politics, race and sports, and public policy, with emphasis on African Americans, Native Americans, and women in the American political system. Dr. Kirksey’s published research has appeared in the National Political Science Review, Women and Politics, the Voting Rights Review, Focus on Law Review, and Oklahoma Politics. In addition to his published articles, Dr. Kirksey has written several book chapters, focused primarily on the Voting Rights Act of 1965. Additionally, he has served as a litigation consultant in federal and state voting rights cases.

He holds a BA in both Political Science and Economics (1989) and an MA in Political Science (1991) from OSU.  He earned his Ph.D. in Political Science from the University of New Orleans in 1997. He is also a 2014 graduate of Class XXVII of Leadership Oklahoma. Dr. Kirksey is a native of Denver, Colorado. He and his wife Kim, also an OSU alum, have two children.

Breakout Session: OJO Data Demonstration

Ryan Gentzler – Director, Open Justice Oklahoma

Read about Ryan on the OK Policy staff bio page.

Breakout Session: Grassroots Advocacy

Jacobi Crowley – Southwest Oklahoma Field Organizer, Together Oklahoma

Read about Jacobi on the OK Policy staff bio page.

Presentation: Black Wall Street: Remembering the Tulsa Race Massacre

Chief Egunwale F. Amusan – President, Tulsa African Ancestral Society

A lifetime resident of Tulsa, Chief Egunwale Amusan is a social justice advocate and certified chief councilor, holding many influential roles in African American affairs and the Tulsa community. He is an organizational member of the African American Affairs Commission and is President of the African Ancestral Society, presiding over chapters in Tulsa, Dallas, Oklahoma City, Houston, and New Orleans. As a key influencer in the Black Wall Street movement, Amusan serves as Adviser to the Black Wall Street Chamber of Commerce, founder of the Black Wall Street Memorial March and founder of the Real Black Wall Street Tour. He is a Historic Greenwood/Black Wall Street Historian and is kin to Tulsa Massacre Survivor, Raymond Beard Sr. Chief Amusan is also an associate film producer and advisor, a husband, and a father of five.

Kristi Williams – Operations Manager, Greenwood Leadership Academy

Kristi Williams also known as Orisabiyi is a mother of two, Operations Manager at Greenwood Leadership Academy, Author, Community Activist, Campaign Manager, Political Consultant, Co-Chair of the Greater Tulsa African American Affairs Commission, Chair of the Equal Justice & Accountability Policing Committee and a Mother of two.

Kristi served as the Campaign Manager and Political Consultant for City Councilor Vanessa Hall Harper’s successful run in 2016. In 2015, she published a book titled, “Healing Me for Me.” William’s activism became noticeable in 2013 when she and others challenged the City to rename the Brady District/Street with Leeroy Chapman and Chief Egunwale Amusan, which obtained national attention. She is also a strong advocate of Greenwood and Black Wall Street.

In 2014, Kristi was awarded the, “Community Activist of The Year,” award from Alpha Phi Alpha. She has been invited to speak about activism and racism at numerous events such as YWCA’s Stand Against Racism Campaign, Embrace Yourself Foundation and many more. Kristi has participated in many panel discussions regarding race relations and activism.

Kristi’s inspiration of community activism derives from a quote stated by Dr. Cornel West, ‘You can’t lead the people if you don’t love the people. You can’t save the people if you don’t serve the people.” It is because of this that she works diligently as a servant in her community and wants to ensure that she leaves her community a little better than how she found it.