Speakers and Panelists

Building a Resilient West Virginia: Taking Control of the Mountain State’s Future

John D. Rockefeller 

John D. Rockefeller IV’s 50 year public service career in West Virginia began in 1964 as a 27-year-old VISTA volunteer in the mining community of Emmons. Lessons that Rockefeller learned in Emmons shaped his public service career and led to his life-long work for West Virginia.

As a long-time advocate of accessible healthcare, Rockefeller is recognized as a champion for health care reform. He has a distinguished career of reducing the number of uninsured families, improving seniors' and veterans' health care, and fighting for the promised health benefits of retired miners and steelworkers.

To diversify our economy, Rockefeller opened the state to international investment that landed dozens of national and international companies, resulting in thousands of new jobs such as the Toyota manufacturing plant.
Senator Rockefeller strengthened the lives of children and families by co-authoring legislation to promote stability through adoptions and foster care, increase minimum wage, reduce violence on television, and create the groundbreaking E-rate program connecting 98% of all schools to the Internet. He also supported targeted tax cuts such as the child tax credit and the earned-income tax credit.

Rockefeller graduated from Harvard University in 1961. In 1966, he began his career as an elected official serving in the House of Delegates and as Secretary of State in 1968. Rockefeller was President of West Virginia Wesleyan College from 1973 to 1976. And after serving as Governor from 1976 to 1984, he began 30 years of service in the United States Senate. In 2014, the John D. Rockefeller IV School of Policy and Politics was launched. 
Rockefeller currently serves as a fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations.

Keith Burdette

In December 2010, Keith Burdette was appointed by Governor Earl Ray Tomblin as cabinet secretary for the  West Virginia Department of Commerce and executive director of the West Virginia Development Office.

Keith Burdette began his public service when he was elected to the first of two terms in the West Virginia House of Delegates. In 1982 he was elected to the West Virginia State Senate. In 1989 Keith was elected the 42nd President of the State Senate at the age of 34, the youngest Senate President in the state’s history.

The West Virginia Jaycees named him their Outstanding Young West Virginian in 1991 and in 1992 the United States Junior Chamber of Commerce named him one of Ten Outstanding Young Americans for that year.

Upon leaving the legislature in 1994, Keith formed a government relations and consulting business. Three days after the 2000 election Governor-Elect Bob Wise asked him to join the new administration where he served for three years as Director of Policy and Legislative Relations. After leaving the administration in 2003, Keith formed the Burdette Group Consulting firm.

In November 2004 the Area Roundtable hired Keith to manage and operate the Area Roundtable and the Wood County Development Authority. He serves as President of the Area Roundtable, which is the umbrella organization for all development activities in Wood County including the work of the Wood County Development Authority and the Parkersburg-Wood County Development Corporation.

Keith is actively involved in the Parkersburg community where he resides. He is married to the former Pat Haught Huffman and has two sons and two stepsons. 

Caryn E. Compton

Caryn serves as Senator Bernie Sanders’ Legislative Director and Acting Minority Staff Director of the Senate Budget Committee in Washington, DC.  She began her career on Capitol Hill working for Senator Robert C. Byrd as his Legislative Counsel.  In addition, she served as Legislative Director to Congresswoman Eddie Bernice Johnson, and in the Executive Office of the President’s Office of Management and Budget’s Legislative Resource Division, where she drafted Statements of Administrative Policy. 

Prior to that, she taught Latin at the University of Arizona, where she received her MA in Classical Philology.  She received her undergraduate degrees from Marshall University and her JD from Catholic University.

Brandon Dennison

Brandon Dennison, born and raised in the Huntington, WV area, is a social entrepreneur. In May of 2010, along with citizen leaders in Wayne County, WV, Brandon founded Coalfield Development Corporation. He is winner of the 2015 JMK Social Innovation Prize and was recognized by the Chronicle of Philanthropy as "40 under 40 Young Leaders Who are Solving the Problems of Today and Tomorrow." Dennison graduated from Shepherd University with a B.A. in History and a B.S. in Political Science and Indiana University with a M.P.A in Nonprofit Management. 

John Deskins

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 provide rigorous economic analysis and macroeconomic forecasting to West Virginia’s business leaders and policymakers. Deskins received his Ph.D. in Economics from the University of Tennessee. Deskins’ academic research has focused on economic development, small business economics, and public policy, primarily at the U.S. state level. Recent research has examined the relationship between state tax policy and entrepreneurship, education spending and state economic growth, and the importance of small business to economic growth. 

Charles W. Fluharty

Charles W. Fluharty is the founder, President, and CEO of the Rural Policy Research Institute(RUPRI), the only U.S. national policy institute solely dedicated to assessing the rural impacts of public policies. Since RUPRI’s founding in 1990, over 300 scholars representing 16 different disciplines in 100 universities, all U.S. states and 30 other nations have participated in RUPRI projects, which address the full range of policy and program dynamics affecting rural people and places. Collaborations with the OECD, the EU, the German Marshall Fund, the Inter- American Institute for Cooperation on Agriculture, the International Comparative Rural Policy Studies Committee, and other international organizations have framed RUPRI's comparativerural policy foci.

A Clinical Professor in the University of Iowa College of Public Health and a graduate of Yale Divinity School, he was also a German Marshall Fund Transatlantic Fellow from 2007 to 2011. Chuck is the author of numerous policy studies and journal articles, has presented dozens of Congressional testimonies and briefings, and is also a frequent speaker before national and international audiences, having delivered major public policy speeches in over a  dozen nations. He has also provided senior policy consultation to most federal departments, state  and local governments, associations of government, planning and developmentorganizations,  and many foundations.

Michael B. Gerrard

Michael B. Gerrard is the Andrew Sabin Professor of Professional Practice at Columbia Law School, where he teaches courses on environmental and energy law and directs the Sabin Center for Climate Change Law.   He is also Chair of the Faculty of Columbia’s Earth Institute. Before joining the Columbia faculty in January 2009, he was partner in charge of the 110-lawyer New York office of Arnold & Porter LLP; he is now Senior Counsel to the firm.  He practiced environmental law in New York City full time from 1979 to 2008 and tried numerous cases and argued many appeals in federal and state courts and administrative tribunals.  He was the 2004-2005 chair of the American Bar Association’s 10,000-member Section of Environment, Energy and Resources.  He has also chaired the Executive Committee of the New York City Bar Association, and the Environmental Law Section of the New York State Bar Association.  He has served as a member of the executive committees of the boards of the Environmental Law Institute and the American College of Environmental Lawyers.

Since 1986, Gerrard has written an environmental law column for the New York Law Journal, and since 1989 he has been editor of a monthly newsletter, Environmental Law in New York.  He is author or editor of eleven books, two of which were named Best Law Book of the Year by the Association of American Publishers: Environmental Law Practice Guide (twelve volumes, 1992) and Brownfields Law and Practice: The Cleanup and Redevelopment of Contaminated Land (four volumes, 1998). His other books are Environmental Impact Review in New York (two volumes, with Philip Weinberg and Daniel Ruzow, 1990); Whose Backyard, Whose Risk: Fear and Fairness in Toxic and Nuclear Waste Siting (1994); The Law of Environmental Justice (with Sheila Foster) (2d ed. 2008); Amending CERCLA (with Joel Gross) (2006);   Global Climate Change and U.S. Law (with Jody Freeman) (2d ed. 2014); The Law of Green Buildings (with Cullen Howe) (2010); The Law of Clean Energy: Efficiency and Renewables (2011); The Law of Adaptation to Climate Change: U.S. and International Aspects (with Katrina F. Kuh) (2012); and Threatened Island Nations: Legal Implications of Rising Seas and a Changing Climate (with Gregory E. Wannier) (2013).

Legal Media Group’s Guide to the World’s Leading Environment Lawyers, based on 4,000 questionnaires, reported in 2005 and again in 2007 that Gerrard "received more personal nominations for this guide than any other lawyer in the world."

He received his B.A. from Columbia University and his J.D. from New York University Law School, where he was a Root Tilden Scholar.

Ben Gilmer

Ben Gilmer is president of Refresh Appalachia, a social enterprise of the Coalfield Development Corporation. Ben has over 10 years of experience in the non-profit, government, academic, and private sectors.  Born and raised in Russell County, Virginia, his specialties include natural resource management, economic and community development, land use planning, and sustainable agriculture.  He has worked on projects in the U.S., Latin America, Asia-Pacific, and the Caribbean; and his favorite place to work is at home in Central Appalachia.  Ben has a Masters in Geography from West Virginia University and a BSc. degree in Geography from Radford University.

Kelley M. Goes

Kelley M. Goes is a Member of Jackson Kelly practicing in the Environmental Practice Group in the Charleston, West Virginia, office.  Ms. Goes has wide legal experience, including litigating patent infringement cases for one of the world's largest energy companies.  She has negotiated to structure land and financial deals for location and expansion of businesses and mediated commercial litigation, mineral lease disputes, contract disputes and tort cases.  Ms. Goes represented a client in federal litigation for recovery of natural resources in the Ohio River and was awarded a Certificate of Commendation from the U.S. Department of Justice in recognition of advocacy in the case.  Ms. Goes also has extensive experience in government relations for energy and business clients, having served at high levels in both state and federal government.

Ms. Goes previously served as the State Director for United States Senator Joe Manchin, III, as the Cabinet Secretary for the West Virginia Department of Commerce and Executive Director of the West Virginia Development Office.  In these roles, she evaluated business deals for economic viability and investment opportunities, and reviewed potential funding sources ranging from asset‑based lending to private equity.  Ms. Goes also has a strong working knowledge of the legal issues and protocols of the myriad West Virginia state agencies ranging from legislation and regulatory compliances to labor matters and bond issues.

Ms. Goes also chaired the West Virginia Economic Development Authority, the West Virginia Jobs Investment Trust, the West Virginia Water Development Authority and the West Virginia Broadband Deployment Council.  In these positions, she had the opportunity to draft and advocate for numerous pieces of legislation and legislative rules.  

Ms. Goes earned a Juris Doctor, magna cum laude, and Order of the Coif from the University of Kentucky College of Law in 1995.  While in law school, she was the Associate Editor of the  Kentucky Law Journal.  She received a Bachelor of Arts degree in English, cum laude, from Vanderbilt University in 1991 and was a National Merit Scholar.

Court Gould


Thomas A. Heywood

Tom Heywood is the Managing Partner of Bowles Rice, a full-service, regional law firm with offices in West Virginia, Pennsylvania and Virginia.  Acting as the firm’s CEO, his responsibilities include overall operations, practice management and administration and strategic planning and growth.

Tom has significant experience in health care, banking and corporate/commercial law, and is frequently called upon by clients and community leaders for advice on business matters related to acquisitions, divestitures and other transactional matters.  He is a former chief of staff (1989-1993) to the Honorable Gaston Caperton, Governor of the State of West Virginia, and chairs the Bowles Rice Government Relations Group.

He earned his law degree in 1982 from Harvard Law School, where he served as developments editor of the Harvard International Law Journal (1981-82). He earned a bachelor of arts degree in international relations from Stanford University in 1978, with distinction, and was elected to the Phi Beta Kappa Honorary Society.  

Tom serves on many charitable and non-profit boards, and actively participates in various business and economic development organizations and trade associations, including the Claude Worthington Benedum Foundation (2012 to present), the Discover the Real West Virginia Foundation (President, 2011 to present), the West Virginia Roundtable (Vice Chairman); the West Virginia Manufacturers Association (Government Affairs Chairman, 1993 to present), the West Virginia Chamber of Commerce, Vision Shared and Imagine West Virginia (Chairman, 2013 to present).

He is active as a leader in many civic initiatives and has received numerous awards for his public service.  He was elected as a Fellow of the American Bar Association in 2010. 

Trevor Houser

Trevor Houser is a partner with the Rhodium Group (RHG) and leads the firm’s energy and natural resources work. RHG combines policy experience, quantitative economic tools and on-the-ground research to analyze disruptive global trends. Trevor’s work supports the investment management, strategic planning and policy needs of RHG clients in the financial, corporate, philanthropic and government sectors.

Trevor is also a visiting fellow at the Peterson Institute for International Economics in Washington and serves on the US Trade Representative’s Trade and Environment Policy Advisory Committee (TEPAC). He is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations and the National Committee on US-China Relations and serves on the Advisory Board of Center for US-China Relations at the Asia Society. During 2009, Trevor left RHG temporarily to serve as a senior advisor at the US State Department where he worked on international energy, natural resource and environmental policy issues.

Trevor is author most recently of Economic Risks of Climate Change: An American Prospectus (2015) , Navigating the US Oil Export Debate (2015),  Fueling Up: The Economic and Environmental Implications of America’s Oil & Gas Boom (2014),  America’s Energy Security Options (2011), A Role for the G20 in Addressing Climate Change? (2010), Assessing the American Power Act (2010), The Economics of Energy Efficiency in Buildings (2009), Leveling the Carbon Playing Field: International Competition and US Climate Policy Design (2008), The Roots of Chinese Oil Investment Abroad (2008) and China Energy: A Guide for the Perplexed (2007).

Trevor speaks regularly on international energy market and policy trends to private sector, public policy and academic audiences, including regular appearances at the Peterson Institute for International Economic, the Aspen Institute, the Brookings Institution, the Council on Foreign Relations, the Center for Strategic and International Studies, the Center on Global Energy Policy, Resources for the Future, the Asia Society, the World Affairs Council, and Chatham House. He has presented to the Board of Directors or management committees of a number of Fortune 500 companies, guest lectured at a range of universities, including Harvard, Stanford, Columbia, Princeton, NYU, and UT Austin, and testified before the House Energy and Commerce Committee, the House Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming, the US Helsinki Commission and the US-China Economic and Security Review Commission.

Mary Hunt

Mary Hunt is the Senior Program Officer for the Claude Worthington Benedum Foundation based in Pittsburgh serving all of West Virginia and four counties in southwestern Pennsylvania.  In her program focus areas of community and economic development Mary works with nonprofits, local, state and federal governments as well as educational institutions.  

Prior to joining the Benedum Foundation, she held community development and administrative management positions at the local and state government levels and a private corporation in West Virginia.  She holds a BS in Sociology and MS in Public Administration.  Mary’s work at the Foundation focuses on Rural and Technology-Based Economic Development, Entrepreneurship, Community Capacity Building and Civic Engagement.  She serves on several advisory councils and boards which advance the efforts supported by the Foundation.

Noah Kaufman

Noah Kaufman is an economist for the World Resources Institute’s Climate Program. At WRI, Noah’s work focuses on promoting cost-effective and equitable climate change solutions. He has authored multiple papers on the design and effects of national carbon price in the United States. He also works on projects related to the economic impacts of climate change policies.

Prior to joining WRI, Noah worked for the Environmental Economics Practice at NERA Economic Consulting. He specialized on projects related to the economics of environmental and energy policies, as well as evaluating the impacts to the economy and to the electricity grid of infrastructure investments and energy policies. Noah has published peer-reviewed journal articles on the topics of the social cost of carbon dioxide emissions, the role of risk aversion in environmental policy evaluations, and the design of incentives to support green consumer products and energy-efficiency programs run by electric and gas utilities.

Noah received his B.S. in economics, cum laude, from Duke University, and his Ph.D. and M.S. in economics, with a concentration on energy and environmental economics, from the University of Texas at Austin, where his dissertation examined optimal policy responses to climate change.

Chris Meyer

Chris Meyer is a senior consultant focused on climate change projects for the Rockefeller Family Fund. Chris served as Vice President of Advocacy with Consumers Union, the policy and action arm of Consumer Reports, from 2004-2015. Prior, he worked for 20+ years for the New York Public Interest Research Group (NYPIRG), New York's largest student-directed consumer and environmental organization, including seven years as executive director. In his tenure at NYPIRG, Chris helped lead campaigns to stop garbage-burning incinerators in low-income neighborhoods; protect families from lead poisoning; and preserve high-quality drinking water for millions of New York City residents.

Chris was educated at Haverford College and New York University School of Law. He lives in Brooklyn with his wife, Susan Stamler. They have two adult children.

Adele Morris

Adele Morris is a senior fellow and policy director for Climate and Energy Economics at the Brookings Institution. Her expertise and interests include the economics of policies related to climate change, energy, natural resources, and public finance.

She joined Brookings in July 2008 from the Joint Economic Committee (JEC) of the U.S. Congress, where she spent a year as a Senior Economist covering energy and climate issues.

Before the JEC, Adele served nine years with the U.S. Treasury Department as its chief natural resource economist, working on climate, energy, agriculture, and radio spectrum issues. On assignment to the U.S. Department of State in 2000, she was the lead U.S. negotiator on land use and forestry issues in the international climate change treaty process. Prior to joining the Treasury, she served as the senior economist for environmental affairs at the President’s Council of Economic Advisers during the development of the Kyoto Protocol. She began her career at the Office of Management and Budget, where she conducted regulatory oversight of agriculture and natural resource agencies. She holds a Ph.D. in Economics from Princeton University, an M.S. in Mathematics from the University of Utah, and a B.A. from Rice University.

Charles Patton

Charles Patton is president and chief operating officer of Appalachian Power, serving approximately  one million customers in West Virginia, Virginia and Tennessee. Patton has approximately 30 years in the electric utility business and has served in numerous capacities throughout AEP.

Previously, Patton served at the parent company headquarters of American Electric Power in Columbus as executive vice president – AEP Utilities West and senior vice president – Regulatory and Public Policy.  Prior to these roles, a significant amount of Patton’s career was in Texas where he served as president and chief operating officer of AEP Texas as well as in other executive positions.  During his tenure in Texas, Patton was appointed by former Texas Gov. George Bush to serve on the Texas Energy Coordination Council and the Interstate Oil and Gas Compact Commission. Later, Gov. Rick Perry appointed Patton to the Texas Energy Planning Council, which was established to advise the governor on energy matters. 

As president of Appalachian Power, Patton has been appointed by West Virginia Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin to chair the state’s Science Technology Engineering and Math (STEM) Council, charged with advancing STEM education in West Virginia.  He also has been appointed by Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe to serve on the Climate Change and Resiliency Commission.

Patton was appointed to the Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond’s board of directors for a three-year term beginning in 2014. He also serves on the board of Sterling Construction, a large public engineering and construction company located in Houston.

Patton has served and chaired numerous professional and civic organizations in the communities in which he has lived. Charles and his family live in Charleston, W.Va., where he currently serves on the boards of the University of Charleston, the West Virginia Education Alliance, the West Virginia Regional Technology Park and the Buckskin Council of the Boy Scouts of America.

He is an undergraduate of Bowdoin College, located in Brunswick, Maine, and holds a graduate degree from The University of Texas LBJ School of Public Policy.

Sam Petsonk

Sam joined Mountain State Justice in 2013 to launch the Miner Safety and Health Project as a Skadden Fellow. Previously, he spent several years working for U.S. Senator Robert C. Byrd in Washington, DC as a legislative staffer on coal miners’ safety, black lung, energy, and other issues. After leaving Senator Byrd’s office, he worked for U.S. Senator Carte Goodwin and then returned to school, earning a law degree at Washington & Lee University where he served as Editor-in-Chief of the Journal of Energy, Climate, and the Environment. He received an undergraduate degree in geography from Brandeis University, and he has worked on various community economic development projects in West Virginia.

Jeremy Richardson

Jeremy Richardson is a senior energy analyst in the Climate and Energy program at the Union of Concerned Scientists, conducting analytical work on the Environmental Protection Agency’s carbon regulations, and working in other areas of energy research. He is continuing research on economic diversification in his native West Virginia that he began while in his previous position as the program’s Kendall Science Fellow.

Dr. Richardson’s Kendall work examined the economic impacts of projected future coal production on the state’s economy, and looked at the potential of other sectors for creating jobs; his research found strong support for economic diversification. During a two-day forum held in Charleston, West Virginia, Dr. Richardson shared these results with local leaders as they discussed their long-term visions for the state.

Before joining UCS, Dr. Richardson was a senior analyst at New West Technologies. Prior to that, he served as senior fellow for science policy at the Pew Center on Global Climate Change. He was also a science and technology fellow at the American Association for the Advancement of Science, where he analyzed the potential for energy efficiency and renewable energy in the U.S. He served as a postdoctoral fellow at the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, studying the atmospheres of planets around other stars. He received his Ph.D. and M.S. in physics from the University of Colorado Boulder and earned a B.S. in physics from West Virginia University. 

Kent Spellman

Kent Spellman is the founding executive director of the WV Community Development Hub, and has served since November 2008. The Hub strengthens communities across West Virginia by building local community capacity, developing and supporting economic and community development sectors, addressing community-based policy issues, and building an communication infrastructure that is changing the narrative about West Virginia.

For 20 years, he owned and was president of Rooftree, Inc., a design/build construction company based in Harrisville, WV, specializing in high-end residential and light commercial projects.  In 1996, he became editor, publisher and part owner of the Ritchie Gazette, a weekly county newspaper serving Ritchie County. The Ritchie Gazette became the top newspaper in the state in its division under his leadership. His interest in community development led to Kent’s involvement as a volunteer with the Ritchie County Economic Development Authority, and in 2003 he was hired as executive director.  He served in that role until being selected to head the newly formed WV Community Development Hub.

Kent was a founding member, vice-chair and chairman of the North Bend Rail Trail Foundation and helped negotiate the acquisition and development of what is now the North Bend Rail Trail.  He also served as chairman of the WV Statewide Trail Plan Committee, which created the state’s first and only comprehensive plan for trail development and maintenance, and resulted in the creation of the State Trail Coordinator position at the WV Department of Transportation.

Kent currently serves on numerous boards and advisory boards around the state. He is also a member of the Federal Reserve Bank - Richmond’s Community Investment Council.

Kent has been recognized as a Distinguished West Virginian by Gov. Cecil Underwood, and as an Honorary WV State Trooper, at the time only the fourth person in State Police history to receive such recognition.  He lives in Clarksburg with his wife Betsy.

Eugene Trisko

Eugene M. Trisko is an energy economist and attorney who represents labor and industry clients in energy and environmental matters.  

Mr. Trisko has a dual B.A. in economics and politics from New York University (1972) and a J.D. degree from Georgetown University Law Center (1977).  Before entering private practice in 1991, he was an energy economist with Robert Nathan Associates in Washington, DC, (1973-77), an attorney with the U.S. Federal Trade Commission (1977-79), and executive vice president of Stern Bros., Inc., an energy holding company in West Virginia (1986-91). 

He was involved from 1981 until 1990 in the legislative development of the Clean Air Act Amendments of 1990, focusing on the Title IV acid rain program.  Since 1991, Mr. Trisko has represented labor and industry clients in Clean Air Act implementation and global climate change issues. He is the author of more than 30 articles on energy and environmental policy issues published in economic, energy, environmental, and law journals, and has testified before Congress and state legislatures on numerous occasions.

Mr. Trisko has participated as an NGO on behalf of the United Mine Workers of America in all United Nations climate change negotiating sessions subsequent to the 1992 Rio Earth Summit. In 2007, he helped to negotiate the clean coal technology and emission allowance allocation provisions of the bipartisan Bingaman-Specter climate bill. The Hill recognized Mr. Trisko that year as one of Washington’s “Top Grassroots Lobbyists.”  In 2008 and 2009, he helped to negotiate the carbon capture and storage provisions of the Boucher-Rahall and Waxman-Markey climate bills.

Mr. Trisko served for nine years as an appointed member of U.S. EPA's Clean Air Act Advisory Committee.  In 2000 and 2007, he was named by the U.S. Department of State as a non-government representative of U.S. industry and labor in U.S.-Canada air quality negotiations.  He is a Fellow of the American College of Environmental Lawyers. He currently represents labor petitioners in litigation before the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals concerning EPA's Clean Power Plan and NSPS carbon rules.

Jeff Whitehead

Jeff Whitehead is the Executive Director of the Eastern Kentucky Concentrated Employment Program, Inc. (EKCEP) and its Local Workforce Investment Board (WIB), which provide workforce and employer services to 23 rural Appalachian counties in Eastern Kentucky. Whitehead has led various aspects of operations at EKCEP for more than 24 years, including the last seven as Executive Director.

In times of surging unemployment rates and shrinking budgets, Whitehead is working to ensure his agency becomes more relevant than ever to job seekers and employers across its service area by being nimble, creative, and responsive in its approach to delivering its array of services—which operate with the mission to prepare, advance, and expand the workforce of Eastern Kentucky.

To build this relevance, Whitehead is embracing new partnerships and service strategies that better align workforce development with the needs of the region’s employers by addressing recognized skills gaps with targeted, customized training. By doing so, Whitehead believes workforce development can prove itself an invaluable catalyst toward local and regional economic development.

The need for innovative workforce strategies in Eastern Kentucky has scarcely been greater than the present given the loss of more than 9,000 jobs in the region’s coal industry since January 2012.

Jeff is a member of the Advisory Council for the Shaping Our Appalachian Region (SOAR) and serves as chairman of the Education and Retraining Roundtable. He provides leadership to the National Economic Council’s TechHire initiative in Eastern Kentucky and serves on a number of economic development and coordinating boards locally and statewide.