FOCUS St. Louis is pleased to announce the incoming officers for the 2023-24 fiscal year, as well as 11 new board members. Board members are community leaders who demonstrate interest and commitment to FOCUS’ mission to educate leaders, connect leaders and facilitate important conversations in the St. Louis region.
Board Officers for July 1, 2023-June 30, 2024 are:
- Board Chair – Jason Carter, Founder and CEO, UNCOMN (Leadership St. Louis 2023)
- Executive Vice Chair – Leann Chilton, Vice President, Government Relations, BJC HealthCare (Leadership St. Louis 2001 / Impact Fellows 2016)
- Vice Chair – Edward Bryant, VP of Public Affairs & Communications, Heartland Coca-Cola
- Treasurer – John McClelland, Portfolio Manager, Acropolis Investment Management LLC (Leadership St. Louis 2014)
- Secretary – Matthew Blakely, VP, Corporate Social Responsibility & Sustainability, RGA Reinsurance Company (Leadership St. Louis 2021)
- Member-at-Large – Sara Stock, CEO, Stock Legal, Co-Founder, Legal Back Office (Leadership St. Louis 2022)
New board members are:
- Darryl Collins, Executive Vice President, Regional Director, Retail Banking, Commerce Bank (Leadership St. Louis 2014)
- Lauren Daming, Attorney, Greensfelder, Hemker & Gale, P.C. (Emerging Leaders 2015)
- Ja’Net Daniels, Agency Chief Operating Officer, AssuredPartners (Leadership St. Louis 2021)
- Dawn M. Gipson, Director, Diversity, Equity & Inclusion, Centene Corporation (Women In Leadership 2005 / Diversity Leadership Fellowship 2016)
- Sara Govero, Owner, Govero Asset Management (Leadership St. Louis 2021)
- Jackie Janus, Senior Vice President & Senior Partner, FleishmanHillard (Leadership St. Louis 2020)
- Natasha Leonard, Director of External Relations, Foster & Adoptive Care Coalition (Emerging Leaders 2022)
- Sekhar Prabhakar, Co-founder, CEdge, Inc. (Leadership St. Louis 2021)
- Dr. Jody Sowell, President & CEO, Missouri Historical Society
In addition, FOCUS St. Louis® welcomes to the board two youth members who are 2023 graduates of FOCUS’ Youth Leadership St. Louis program:
- Ovya Diwakaran, Ladue Horton Watkins High School
- Rolen Maclin, Kirkwood High School
Since 2010, Jason Carter has overseen UNCOMN’s growth from a one-man consulting firm to the region’s “#1 Fastest Growing Company” in 2017 and a national “Best Places to Work” as rated by Glassdoor in 2021. He graduated from the University of Missouri-Rolla with a bachelor’s degree in metallurgical engineering and served in the U.S. Navy as a submarine driver and information professional for over 20 years. He retired from the Navy as a Commander in 2009. A lifelong learner, Jason holds three master’s degrees, including his most recent—an Executive MBA from Washington University in St. Louis, having graduated in 2020.
Jason is active in the community, having founded and served for six years as Board President of CyberUp, Board President of the UNCOMN Foundation, and board member to numerous local non-profit organizations. He is an investor and mentor in local startup accelerators, including SixThirty Cyber and the Cultivation Capital Geospatial Tech Fund.
Leann Chilton serves as vice president for BJC HealthCare, one of the largest nonprofit health care organizations in the United States. She works collaboratively with elected and appointed government officials at the state, local and federal levels on behalf of BJC’s hospitals and service lines including inpatient and outpatient care, primary care, community health and wellness, workplace health, home health, community mental health, rehabilitation and hospice. Prior to joining BJC HealthCare in 1999, she worked in Denver and Washington, D.C. and St. Louis in the telecommunications field.
A 2001 graduate of Leadership St. Louis and a 2016 graduate of FOCUS Impact Fellows, Leann serves on the Government Relations Council of Greater St. Louis, the Hawthorn Board and Missouri Partnership Board. She was named among the Most Influential Business Women Class of 2003 by the St. Louis Business Journal. She has an MBA from Washington University and has called St. Louis her home since 1985.
Ed Bryant has over 20 years of expertise developing and executing effective strategic and integrated stakeholder engagement, communications and public affairs, and minority economic inclusion solutions for a variety of for-profit and non-profit organizations. He currently serves as Vice President, Public Affairs and Communications, for Heartland Coca-Cola. Previous positions include serving as President of the St. Louis Minority Business Council, leading the St. Louis Economic Development Partnership’s Economic Development Collaborative, and serving as Vice President of Stakeholder Engagement at the United Way of Greater St. Louis, where he led the Ready by 21 St. Louis and East Side Aligned collective impact teams.
Ed holds a bachelor’s degree in communications from the University of Memphis and a master’s degree in public policy from Regent University. In addition, he has completed graduate level coursework in policy development and urban planning at the Edward J. Bloustein School of Planning and Public Policy at Rutgers University and the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs at Princeton University. He is also a certified DEI trainer (NCCJSTL). Throughout his career, Ed has served numerous state and local government commissions and Boards, as well as several non-profit boards. Ed has been married to his wife, Mary, for 21 years and has two young adult children (Caleb and Charis).
John McClelland joined Acropolis in 2003 as a Portfolio Manager. He works directly with clients developing and implementing personal financial plans and investment strategies, as well as advising on estate and tax planning, retirement planning, insurance and banking needs, and trust administration. Prior to Acropolis, John worked for six years as a fixed-income research analyst at A.G. Edwards & Sons.
John holds a bachelor’s degree from Yale University and Master of Business Administration, with a concentration in finance and accounting, from Washington University. He earned his Certified Financial Planner (CFP) designation in 2006. John has served on the finance committees and board of directors at the Sheldon Arts Foundation and New City School. He also serves on the alumni board of the Yale University Rugby Football Club. Originally from Bozeman, Montana, John has been a resident of St. Louis since 1998 and has three children. He is a 2014 graduate of Leadership St. Louis.
Matt Blakely has 24 years of experience working with foundations and corporate social responsibility programs. He is Vice President, Corporate Social Responsibility and Sustainability for Reinsurance Group of America, Incorporated (RGA). In that role, Matt leads the philanthropic, employee volunteerism, sustainability, and CSR reporting for RGA – one of the world’s largest global life and health reinsurance companies. Previously, Matt served as Executive Director of Motorola Solutions Foundation and Director of Inclusion, Diversity and Outreach for Motorola Solutions, coordinating the giving, volunteerism, and inclusion efforts of Motorola Solutions Foundation and Motorola Solutions.
Matt is a 2020-21 graduate of FOCUS Leadership St. Louis and has served on the boards and advisory committees of many large and small nonprofit organizations.
Sara Stock is founder and CEO of Stock Legal, and co-founder of Legal Back Office. Her legal practice focuses on general corporate work for small- to medium-sized businesses and commercial real estate transactions, advising clients in all aspects of the business lifecycle. Sara’s joint MBA and law degree uniquely position her to provide the highest quality legal advice seasoned with a solid understanding of her clients’ business objectives. She left an equity position at a large St. Louis law firm to join KWS Law, and later to form Stock Legal, because she felt she could better serve her target clients – small- to medium-sized businesses – from a small- to medium-sized law firm. Sara is passionate about these types of clients because they surround her in her personal life. Sara’s mom and dad ran the family trucking company out of their home while Sara was a child, and Sara’s dad and brother continue to run this successful business today. In 2018, Sara cofounded Legal Back Office, which provides back office services to small- to medium-sized businesses.
Sara is chair of the Middle Market and Small Business Committee, a committee of the American Bar Association, and sits on the YWCA Board of Directors, the St. Louis Children’s Hospital Development Board of Directors, and the Gateway 180 Board of Directors. She is also an active member of ACG St. Louis, and sits on the advisory board for a number of institutions, including banking organizations and local companies.
New Board Members
Darryl Collins joined Commerce Bank in 2000. With over 34 years in banking, he worked previously at US Bank, Firstar Bank and Mercantile Bank, gaining extensive experience in all aspects of Retail sales, branch management, several years in small business and commercial relationship management, and numerous special projects related to mergers, acquisitions, and charter integration. Currently, he serves as Regional Director for the Retail division of Commerce. This includes responsibility for all aspects of Commerce Bank’s 40-branch network in the St. Louis Metro area.
A SWIC alumnus, Darryl received his Associates degree in 1982, then moved on to Southern Illinois University Edwardsville where he earned his B.S. in Business and Mass Communications in 1984 and returned to complete his MBA course work in 2002. His board affiliations include serving as past President of CFT (a.k.a AIB), SWIC Foundation, St. John Home and Community Care, Collinsville Chamber, the SIU-E Athletic Advisory committee, the Deaconess Foundation, Norman J. Stupp foundation, the SIU-E School of Business Alumni Advisory Board, and the Leadership Council, Southwestern Illinois. He is a 2013-14 graduate of the FOCUS Leadership St. Louis program.
Lauren Daming is an Officer in Greenfelder, Hemker & Gale, P.C.’s Labor and Employment Group, advising and representing clients in employment and privacy matters. She serves as the firm’s Assistant General Counsel for employment matters and co-chair of the recruiting committee. She is a Certified Information Privacy Professional and member of the International Association of Privacy Professionals Exam Development Board.
Lauren is a proud Emerging Leaders graduate and regularly provides pro bono legal services to The Little Bit Foundation and other community organizations.
Ja’Net Daniels serves as Agency Chief Operating Officer for AssuredPartners, the fastest growing independent insurance agency in the United States. She leads a change management program, consolidating multiple agencies into one. She is instrumental in creating efficiencies through processes analysis, improvements, structural alignment and fostering a culture valuing career and personal development. Prior to joining AssuredPartners in 2021, She spent over 20 years in the insurance industry leading operations and business transformation.
A graduate of FOCUS Leadership St. Louis 2020-21, Ja’Net is a committee member of the St. Louis Forum, a mentor in the Professional Women’s Network and the Founder and President of BeLovely, a wellbeing and gift boutique who supports other women by partnering with women artisans and women entrepreneurs.
Dawn Gipson is currently Director of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion for Centene Corporation, where she is responsible for analyzing employee metrics and developing policy recommendations and educational programming that advance the company’s inclusive culture. Before joining Centene, Dawn worked at FleishmanHillard for 19 years, where she did communications strategy, program planning, events management, and DE&I strategic development. As the D&I Champion for the company’s Global Headquarters, some of the initiatives launched during her tenure included a focus on inclusive policies to drive results in talent and employee engagement, a mentoring program for high school students, and the launch of an LGBTQ+ employee resource group. Dawn’s work at FleishmanHillard was recognized by the St. Louis Business Journal in 2018, when she was a recipient of the Diverse Business Leaders Award.
Dawn is a member of the St. Louis Alumnae Chapter of Delta Sigma Theta and co-chair of the regional leadership development team, along with serving as Chair of the St. Louis Delta Foundation. In 2016, she became a certified yoga instructor, and she works to bring practices to underrepresented communities, including people of color and those with differing abilities. Born and raised in St. Louis, Dawn received her bachelor’s of journalism degree from the University of Missouri-Columbia. She earned her master’s of fine arts with a concentration in graphic communications from the University of Illinois at Chicago.
Sara Govero grew up in the small town of Crystal City, Missouri. As a competitive gymnast, she learned quickly that you don’t have to be the best; you have to train the hardest to be the most consistent. Sara applies this principle everyday. At age 19, Sara approached a bank, made an aggressive proposal and was able to purchase her first piece of real estate, and Govero Asset Management, a property management company, was born. Sara now owns a multimillion-dollar real estate portfolio. At 20 years old, Sara graduated with a Masters in Legal Studies from Webster University. She now sits on Webster’s Arts and Sciences Board of Directors. After college, and while simultaneously managing Govero Asset Management, Sara has worked in the legal field since 2005 in multiple capacities including as a trial paralegal, revenue management, growth/change management, knowledge management, client relations, and overall firm operations. In 2010, Sara earned a MBA from Missouri Baptist University. Entrepreneurially, Sara has started two businesses – The Defense Collaborative and Strategic Solutions.
Sara serves as the treasurer for the Court Appointed Special Advocates of Jefferson County and created and funded its first endowed fund in 2021. She also created and funded both an endowed fund and a special care nursery at Mercy Jefferson Hospital. She recently named the Welcome Center & Lobby as part of Stray Rescue’s Capital Campaign, created an endowed fund for MindsEye, and she led her Leadership St. Louis 45 Class to create and fund the first ever endowed class scholarship.
A Leadership St. Louis graduate, Jackie Janus has more than 15 years of experience at leading strategic communications firm FleishmanHillard. Jackie has both B2B and B2C background, including media-strategy chops, executive visibility, thought leadership, and issues-management experience. As a member of the St. Louis office’s leadership team, Jackie helps manage a 35-person corporate reputation practice group and profit center, where she is responsible for new business, recruitment, staffing, employee engagement, and more. In addition to her client and management responsibilities, Jackie helped create and oversees her office’s learning and development program. Last year, she was selected for the inaugural FleishmanHillard Senior Leader Institute, a yearlong MBA-like program for some of the firm’s top leaders.
Beyond work, Jackie also volunteers her time as a board member for the YWCA Metro St. Louis. Before joining FleishmanHillard, Jackie developed a strong journalism background as a reporter and anchor at KOMU–TV 8 (NBC) in Columbia, Missouri, and she delivered the news for Pepper & Friends, a daily variety talk show. In addition, she has radio broadcast experience from KBIA 91.3 FM, the National Public Radio affiliate in mid-Missouri. Jackie holds a master’s degree in strategic communications from the University of Missouri–Columbia’s School of Journalism. She graduated with honors from the University of Missouri–Columbia with a bachelor’s of journalism degree in broadcast news and a bachelor’s of arts in history.
For 10 years, Natasha Leonard has had the honor and pleasure to dedicate her career to the St. Louis Metropolitan community. Starting here in St. Louis in the political scene after college, her interest quickly shifted to nonprofits. She has built a diverse career background in nonprofits from case management, marketing, government affairs, event planning, and now fundraising development. For the last five years, she has served as Director of External Relations at a local foster care nonprofit. Her biggest accomplishment has been working with the Missouri Legislature to secure an additional $5 million for her agency to grow its programs and address racial inequity that African American children are facing in the St. Louis region.
Her specialty is creating lasting relationships with corporate contributions departments and to maintain and tell the story of their impact in our region, enhanced by her years as a case manager. She gets the pleasure every day of telling the story of wonderful non-profits and communities in the St. Louis region, one rich in philanthropy and love for the area and its people.
Sekhar Prabhakar is the Co-founder of CEdge Inc, which supports several federal and commercial customers. He has worked as a senior technical staff member for high-tech companies such as Sun Microsystems & Sybase. He has received numerous awards for his commitment to the company’s excellence and philanthropy. Sekhar was recognized as one of the most inspiring CEOs by Industry Tech Outlook magazine to watch in 2020. He was one of the honorees for Who’s Who Diversity in Color 2019. He was selected as one of 14 CEOs for the 2019 C-Suite Award honorees by the St. Louis Business Journal. In 2018, Sekhar was recognized as Technology Leader of the year (finalist) by Gateway to Innovation St. Louis, Top 100 St. Louisans by St. Louis Small Business Magazine, and Small Business Person year in 2018 and 2019.
Sekhar holds a master’s degree in computer science from City College, New York. He serves as a board member on several nonprofits, including ITEN (Information Technology Network), VBRC (Veterans Business Resource Center), NAF (National Academy Foundation) & MAPO (Metro Area Professional Organization). He served as a mentor at Ameren Accelerator and Capital innovators. He serves as a co-chair for the St. Louis Working Group, a part of USGIF as a co-chair for Small Business, leading the K-12 committee.
Dr. Jody Sowell serves as the seventh president in the 156-year history of the Missouri Historical Society. Though new to the position – he was appointed in July 2022 – Jody is hardly new to MHS or to St. Louis. He has worked at MHS for 16 years and has lived in St. Louis for 19. Jody has served in several roles in his time at MHS. As Oral Historian, he conducted interviews with test pilots, air hostesses, and NASA’s first aerospace nurse for an exhibit about St. Louis’s aviation history. As Public Historian, Jody became one of the primary spokespeople for the institution, leading tours, giving presentations, and recording Here’s History segments for KDHX radio. As Director of Exhibitions & Research, Jody and his team opened eight of the 10 most visited exhibits in MHS’ history, including the exhibit that commemorated St. Louis’ 250th birthday. As Managing Director of Public History, he led the education, programing, publications, communications, evaluation, public history, and exhibits teams. As President, Jody will oversee one of the biggest transformations in MHS history with three new core galleries planned for the decade ahead and with plans to share more of the MHS collection than has ever been shared before.
Prior to MHS, Jody was an academic and a journalist. He was assistant professor of journalism at the University of Missouri’s School of Journalism and has served as an adjunct professor at Fontbonne University, Washington University, and Saint Louis University. He continues to teach at SLU, which is where he earned his doctorate in American Studies. Jody started his career as a journalist, working as a reporter for the Dallas Morning News and as an editor at the Columbia Missourian.
Jody regularly speaks about the power of public history, how to connect people to their shared past, and how St. Louisans can use their past to help build a better future for the region. He appears every week on KMOV’s CBS Sunday Morning in his popular STL History Minute segments.