Steering Committee

The BCVision Steering Committee formal and informal leaders who volunteer their time and talent to ensure the work of BCVision is inclusive and has an equity lens to decrease disparities. Committee members support the mission of BCVision by championing the initiative’s efforts broadly in the community, identifying priorities, forging collaborations and developing a structure for all residents to be engaged.

The Steering Committee also holds BCVision Action Teams accountable for achieving goals and targets. Advisory Team members are indicated by an asterisk (*) below.

B.D. Alexander, Urban Entrepreneur, 1 Exit Only

alexander.jpgB.D. Alexander is the President of Intuitive Creations Media Group, where he creates and produces positive content that is designed to inspire positive change in the hearts and minds of vulnerable youth and incarcerated adults.
B.D. attended Kellogg Community College where he studied Mass Communications and Media Studies.

Ben Damerow, Director, Upjohn Institute/Michigan Works

Damerow_2570.jpgBen Damerow is the director of Michigan Works! Southwest. In his current position, he is responsible for planning, program development, fiscal management, information systems, contracting, and monitoring and evaluation for federal- and state-funded employment and training programs in Branch, Calhoun, Kalamazoo and St. Joseph counties. Damerow has 15 years of experience with the Employment Management Services Division at the W.E. Upjohn Institute for Employment Research.
He currently serves as Vice Chair on the Michigan Works! Directors Council, Treasurer of the Michigan Works! Association, member of the Great Lakes Employment and Training Association (Michigan representative), member of the Southwest Michigan Prosperity Committee, Co-Chair of the Michigan Prisoner Reentry Steering Committee, Steering Committee member of Battle Creek Vision, Steering Committee member of Shared Prosperity Kalamazoo and is a member of the National Association of Workforce Development Professionals.

Chris Sargent*, Director, United Way of Battle Creek & Kalamazoo Region

sargent.jpgChris Sargent is dedicated to helping others as demonstrated by his 15 years of service in the nonprofit sector. Currently, Sargent is the Interim CEO of United Way of the Battle Creek and Kalamazoo Region.

Since 2004, Sargent has held various positions with United Way including resource development consultant, vice president of resource development, and president & CEO. He gained experience in the United Way system through positions with the Heart of West Michigan United Way in Grand Rapids and the Gratiot County United Way in Alma.

In addition to his extensive nonprofit work, Sargent has had a successful career as a realtor with RE/MAX Perrett and Troxel Realty, both in Battle Creek.

Sargent sits on several local and state boards and committees including the Michigan Humane Society, Learning Network of Greater Kalamazoo and Michigan 2-1-1. He was a 2009 graduate of the Battle Creek Leadership Challenge.

Sargeant is married with three children and seven grandchildren who live in the community. He also coaches several local sports teams. Sargent received his bachelor’s degree in biology, environmental science, and business from Alma College in 1997.

David Kemp, Young Professional

kemp.jpgDavid Kemp is the Program Director at Southwest Michigan Community Development Corporation. Kemp is a native of Battle Creek and attended Battle Creek Central High School.

The BC Vision process, has been the work he is most known for where he has been a strong force representing youth, people of Faith and recent college graduates.

Kemp is one of the co-chairs for BC vision’s third pillar Culture of Vitality and a member of BC vision’s steering committee – which governs the process. As a way to show appreciation for Kemp’s efforts, he was featured in the art exhibit “Where Nobody Need Wait” for his drive and work in the city.

Kemp was also the recipient of the Emerging Leader award from the Society of Emerging Local Leaders. He is a young, energized citizen that desires to instill the principles of success to the youth in the Battle Creek community. Now, working with youth in the public schools to provide mentorship he plans to grow young students into success stories in Battle Creek.

He earned his bachelor’s degree in finance with a concentration in nonprofit leadership and later received training in Fundraising at Indiana University Lilly Family School of Philanthropy.

Dean Newsome, Community Member

newsome.jpgDean P. Newsome is a strategic analyst assigned to Defense Logistics Agency Disposition Services, Battle Creek, Michigan. His previous DLA assignments include Site Director, DLA Installation Support; DLA Disposition Services Director of Transformation, Strategy and Workforce Development; DLA Disposition Services Chief of Transformation Initiatives, DLA Information Service Chief of Customer Management, and DLA Disposition Services Chief of Business Modernization for International Operations, and DLA Disposition Services Deputy Director of Corporate Planning.

Mr. Newsome is a certified Lean Six Sigma Black Belt, a certified academic instructor and curriculum developer, and a certified program manager through the Defense Acquisition University. He is a graduate of the United States Air Force’s Air Command and Staff College, George Washington University’s National Security Studies Program, Army Material Command’s Depot and Arsenal Executive Leadership Program, and the Federal Executive Institute. Mr. Newsome’s service to the American public spans 35 years, and has included assignments as Chief of Police, Resource Advisor, Chief of Air Base Defense Intelligence Operations, and Chief of Antiterrorism Operations at Prince Sultan Air Base, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. In addition to his career with the Defense Department, Mr. Newsome has been a faculty member at five accredited colleges and universities, to include The Citadel, University of Maryland University College, Ohio Dominican University, Rasmussen College, and the Robert B. Miller College.

Mr. Newsome has also served as a Battle Creek City Commissioner, and is currently on the board of directors of Grace Health community health center. He holds a Bachelor of Arts Degree in sociology from Duquesne University, a Master of Public Administration Troy State University, and is currently pursuing his Doctorate of Health Administration through Capella University.

Elizabeth Lian, Program Manager, Burma Center

lian.jpgElizabeth Lian is a program manager at the Burma Center where she serves a growing Burmese population of more than 2,000 in Calhoun County through education and advocacy services.

Prior to immigrating to Battle Creek in 2006, her family lived in five different countries across Asia. Her diverse upbringing equipped her with the ability to speak five languages and dialects. Lian is the first college graduate in her working class Burmese immigrant family.  She was awarded her first scholarship from BCCF, and her gratitude for the city motivated her to move back in March 2016.

Lian has more than six years of community outreach and engagement experience. Similar to her diverse upbringing, she has a broad professional background, from the legal field to education, and mental health to social services. Her versatile characteristics and relationship building skills enable her to work effectively in a diverse and collective environment.

She hopes to bring diversity to the works of BCVision. She aims to promote an inclusive culture by bridging BCVision to the outside community, particularly to underserved communities. She also hopes to inspire young adults and youth to participate and give back.

Ivan Lee, Pastor and Founder, New Harvest Christian Center

Conway25377.jpgIvan Lee is the Pastor at New Harvest Christian Center in Battle Creek.

John Bryant, President & CEO, Kellogg Company

bryant.jpgJohn Bryant is Chairman of the Board for the Kellogg Company. In this role, he also chairs the Executive Committee of the Board. Bryant was named President and Chief Executive Officer in January 2011. He has been a member of Kellogg Company’s Board of Directors since July 2010.

Bryant joined Kellogg Company in 1998 and has held a variety of roles including Chief Financial Officer; President, North America; President, International; and Chief Operating Officer before becoming Chief Executive Officer.

Bryant is most excited about the collaborative effort with community members, and business and civic leaders who envision a thriving community for all. He believes that through BCVision there is an opportunity to take the very best this community has to offer and build a new Battle Creek for generations to come.

Bryant serves as a Trustee of the W.K. Kellogg Foundation Trust. He also serves on the Board of Directors of Catalyst, The Consumer Goods Forum, and Macy’s, Inc.

Jorge Zeballos*, Executive Director, Center for Diversity & Innovation

Jorge Zeballos was born in Washington, D.C. but grew up in Lima, Peru. Throughout his career, both professionally and as a volunteer, Jorge has worked to empower the Latino community by serving on various boards, committees and organizations. His volunteer work includes serving on the Advisory Board of the Center for Hispanic Policy, Research and Development in New Jersey and the Minority Concerns Committee of the Superior Court of New Jersey. He is also a past board member of the Center for the Study of White Culture and the Institute for Dismantling Racism.

Zeballos is an established equity professional, nationally and internationally. He has facilitated workshops on equity and has been a keynote speaker at various national and international diversity conferences, such as the National Conference on Race and Ethnicity, the White Privilege Conference, the International Conference on Diversity in Organizations, Communities and Nations, and the National Association of Multicultural Educators. He has also worked with various organizations in the non-profit, education and faith communities.

Currently, Zeballos is the executive director for the Center for Diversity and Innovation housed at the Kellogg Community College in Battle Creek, Michigan. The mission of the Center is to build the capacity of institutions across all sectors, in the City of Battle Creek, to implement effective racial equity practices.

Zeballos holds a bachelor’s degree in Political Science from Rutgers University and a Master of Arts degree in Organizational Management and Development from Fielding Graduate University.

Kara Beer, President, Battle Creek Area Chamber of Commerce

Kara Beer has served as president of the Five Star Accredited Battle Creek Area Chamber of Commerce since June 2011. In this position, she is responsible for overall administration, vision and leadership of the over 600 member business and organizations.

Beer is an active on a number of professional boards and committees, including the U.S. Chamber of Commerce – Committee of 100, Battle Creek Unlimited Board of Directors, Calhoun County Visitor Bureau Board of Directors, Downtown Battle Creek Advisory,  Michigan Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors, Michigan Association of Chamber Professionals – Board Chair, the United Way of Greater Battle Creek and Kalamazoo Campaign Cabinet, BC Vision Steering Committee, BC Vision Small Business Action Team Chair, BC Vision Workforce Development Committee, Center for Entrepreneurship Advisory Board, and the Michigan Promise Zone Advisory Committee and a few others.

Beer believes nothing is more powerful for business and our community than people—the perspectives they share, the conversations they spark, and the action they take. She works daily as an ally and change agent on the road to creating a more diverse and inclusive workforce. She also works alongside businesses as they welcome, connect, and engage the talent they need. Kara has an energetic and dynamic personality with a passion for leadership and helping others achieve success in a community setting.

She received her undergraduate degree in public health education and health promotion, her Masters of Public Administration from Central Michigan University and her Institute of Organization Management from University of Arizona in 2016.

Karissa Lee, Young Professional

Karissa Lee is a Talent Acquisition Associate and KAARG Lead at Kellogg Company-GBS Center.

Lee earned her bachelor’s degree from Western Michigan University and master’s of Business Administration in International Business from DeVry University.

Kimberly Carter*, Superintendent, Battle Creek Public Schools

Kim Carter is the Superintendent for Battle Creek Public Schools and has been working in Kalamazoo community public education since 1998.

Kim Carter, Ed.S., began her professional service to the Kalamazoo community in 1998 as a teacher in Kalamazoo Public Schools.  Carter has held positions as a teacher in Kalamazoo Public Schools, principal of Lincoln International Studies School, District Partnership Director with Partners in School Innovation and Assistant Superintendent in Battle Creek Public Schools. Carter has also been involved with Kalamazoo Public School Teacher’s Union, Kalamazoo Education Association, and the YMCA Board of Directors.

As an advocate for worker’s rights and a life-long learner, soon after joining KPS she became involved in the teacher’s union and served as the Employer Relations Director, a bargaining team member, Grievance Chair, And Executive Board member for the Kalamazoo Education Association; all while working to complete her Masters degree in Educational Leadership.

In her current role as Superintendent for Battle Creek Public Schools, Mrs. Carter plans to continue to seek ways to create systems of change that ensure all children have access to, and the benefit of, a high quality, equitable public education.

Mrs. Carter completed her Educational Specialist degree at the University of Michigan-Flint in 2012.

Kyra Wallace, President/CEO, Southwestern Michigan Urban League of Battle Creek

Kyra Wallace is president and CEO for the Urban League of Battle Creek.

Wallace grew up in Benton Harbor, Michigan. She earned a bachelor’s degree in elementary education and a master’s degree in middle school education with a double major in mathematics from Western Michigan University.

Early in her career, Wallace was a teacher with Battle Creek Public Schools and coached basketball, track and the pompom squad. She later served as assistant to the president at the Urban League of Battle Creek, as well as the program coordinator and managing director. She has completed several leadership training programs including: Leader Quest, Battle Creek Area Leadership Academy and the Whitney M. Young Leadership Development Program.

Wallace has served on many leadership boards in the Battle Creek community such as Neighborhoods, Inc., Regional Health Alliance, Inspire Community Credit Union and the NAACP.  She is also an active member of the Battle Creek Alumnae Chapter of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc. and Freedom Faith Worship Center where she is the overseer of the Youth Ministry.

La June Montgomery Tabron, President & CEO, W.K. Kellogg Foundation

La June Montgomery Tabron is the president and CEO of the W.K. Kellogg Foundation (WKKF). Tabron leads the Kellogg Foundation and its work to ensure the optimal development of young children from birth to age 8, heal the profound racial inequities in communities and cultivate community leaders and community-led solutions that support educated kids, healthy kids and economically secure families. Prior to becoming the first African American president and CEO to lead the foundation in its 84 year history, she served in a variety of positions at the Kellogg Foundation after joining the organization as the controller in 1987.

Throughout her more than 29 years in philanthropy, Tabron has participated in numerous sector efforts to enhance philanthropy, including: the policy and annual conference committees for the Council on Foundations and the board development and transparency committees for Independent Sector. Tabron serves on Detroit Workforce Development Board, the Alumni Association of the University of Michigan Board and is a member of the Kalamazoo Chapter of the Links, Incorporated. She also serves on the boards of Battle Creek Community Health Partners, Bronson Healthcare Group and the Kellogg Company.  Tabron is also the chair of the W.K. Kellogg Foundation Trust.

Tabron holds a bachelor’s degree in business administration from the University of Michigan and a master’s degree in business administration from the Kellogg Graduate School of Management at Northwestern University.

Lester Johnson*, Social Entrepreneur

le_johnson.jpgL.E. Johnson II is an Associate Director at Southwestern Michigan Urban League. L.E. leads the community engagement work to ensure that members of our minority communities are engaged, informed, and equipped to advocate for their interests in the broader community. Prior to becoming Associate Director of Community Engagement, L.E. served as a Community Engagement Consultant for United Way Battle Creek Kalamazoo Region.

As a Social Entrepreneur and Field Missiologist, L.E. has served in various capacities within the international community advocating for marginalized and disenfranchised community members. As a community volunteer, L.E. spends his time creating strategies for transformation for these communities. He currently serves as Director of Missions for the Church of God in Christ in the Andean Region of South America (Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, Venezuela, Uruguay, Paraguay, and Bolivia). He also serves the Church of God in Christ as Director of Missions for Western Michigan Jurisdiction and secretary of COGIC World Missions Midwest Region (Illinois, Indiana, and Michigan). In 2018, L.E. was nominated and selected to serve on the Board of Directors for Southwestern Michigan Community Development Corporation (Neighborhoods, Inc.).

L.E. holds a bachelor’s degree in Music Performance from the University of Michigan and a master’s degree in International Relations from Harvard University. Currently, L.E. is a doctoral student at Fielding Graduate University in their EdD – Leadership for Change program.

Mark O’Connell, President, Kellogg Community College

Mark O’Connell is President of Kellogg Community College and has served in several key administrative positions over his 26 years of service to KCC.

O’Connell is active in the Marshall community where he resides. He serves on the Oaklawn Hospital Board Directors and is chairman of the Cronin Foundation. O’Connell also serves the Battle Creek area through committees and community initiatives including the Workforce Development Board, Battle Creek CAN/Legacy Scholars, Battle Creek Unlimited and several others.

O’Connell has taught business classes for KCC, Siena Heights University, Western Michigan University and Wayne State University.

Mark received a business counselor certification from the Wayne State University School of Business and holds a master’s degree in education administration from Western Michigan University.

Rebecca Fleury*, City Manager, City of Battle Creek

Rebecca Fleury is the city manager of Battle Creek where she is tasked regularly with program management, strategic planning and communication. She has been in local government management for 17 years, specializing in the areas of public finance, community development and public safety. She began her role as city manager in October 2014.

Currently, she serves on the Board of Directors of the Michigan Municipal League, Battle Creek Unlimited, Battle Creek Area Chamber of Commerce and a member of the Calhoun County Board of Health and Firekeepers Local Revenue Sharing Board. She is a member of the International City/County Management Association, is an adjunct professor for the School of Public Affairs and Administration at Western Michigan University and a member of the Battle Creek Rotary Club.

She is aware of the work that is needed around the issues of racial equity in the community, and she is committed to continuing the dialogue and finding action steps to support change.

Fleury attended Western Michigan University where she earned both her B.A. in Education and M.P.A.

Susan Clark, Director of Early Childhood Services, Great Start Collaborative of Calhoun County

Susan Clark is the Director of Early Childhood Services for the Calhoun Intermediate School District. Clark has been working in the early childhood field for more than 25 years. Her work now includes leading the team and coordinating the work of the Calhoun Great Start Collaborative.

As a thirty-year resident of Battle Creek, Susan raised her three children to believe that Battle Creek is a place of possibility. Completing her M. Ed in Curriculum and Instruction: Early Childhood while working and raising children, she always believed that commitment and determination drive success. Susan’s commitment to children and families has provided her with over 25 years of diverse experience in the Early Childhood field.  As the Director of Early Childhood Services at Calhoun ISD, her role includes leading a team of 15 Early Childhood Connections Family Coaches and coordinating the work of the Calhoun Great Start Collaborative. Susan’s lifelong professional goal has been to create opportunities for all children in our community to succeed by empowering families and building a coordinated, responsive, and most importantly — equitable — early childhood system.

Her personal commitment to BC Vision mirrors her commitment to the children and families of this community: “We cannot stop until every child in this community gets what he or she needs to succeed!” That success begins with supporting the child’s family.  From day one, she has been excited about BCVision and the opportunity to engage folks from all sectors in creating a family focused community .The goal is to get strategic and work more efficiently and effectively TOGETHER!

Valerie Whitney, Program Coordinator, Women’s Co-Op

Valerie Whitney is the program coordinator of the Women’s Co-Op where she helps maintain the organization’s vision and mission.  Prior to that, she served as a committee member for Innovation Atrium and worked with the Kellogg Foundation for the research and development team of Gravity Tank.

Currently, Whitney serves on the board of the local Community Action Agency as the vice chair.  Previously, she served as the President of the Board for the United Way Directors Association.

In 2011, she graduated from the Battle Creek Chamber Foundation Leadership Challenge Academy, during which her project team developed and conducted financial literacy class for at risk youth at a local alternative school in Battle Creek. Whitney is certified by the State of Michigan as an Employment and Training Specialist.

Whitney has 15 years of human resource experience in both union and non union settings.  In addition, she previously worked in allied health, spending two years as a Hospice volunteer.  Whitney is also certified as a notary public for Calhoun County.