Speakers' Bios

Schedule and speakers are subject to change. The speakers are listed alphabetically.

Kate Bender
Deputy Performance Officer, Office of Performance Management, City Manager's Office, Kansas City, Missouri

Kate Bender is a Deputy Performance Officer with the Office of Performance Management, a division of the City Manager's Office in Kansas City, Missouri. She helped form the Office of Performance Management in 2009, which focuses on improving the efficiency and effectiveness of city services through data-driven decision-making and also oversees public reporting of data through the KCStat program. Kate has a BA in Political Science from Brown University and a Master of Urban Planning degree from the Wagner School of Public Service at New York University.


Lajuana Counts, J.D.
Assistant U.S. Attorney, U.S. Attorney's Office, Western District of Missouri

Lajuana Counts is an Assistant United States Attorney, serving as the Chief of the Appellate Unit at the United States Attorney's Office, Western District of Missouri. She has vast trial experience in a variety of white collar and narcotics cases and has written and/or argued over 400 cases before the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals. Ms. Counts received her Juris Doctorate in 1988 from the University of Missouri - Kansas City School of Law.

Ms. Counts is actively involved in the Missouri Bar Association and has held various leadership positions in local bar associations. She serves on the Missouri Supreme Court Disciplinary Hearing Panel, and Missouri Bar Gender and Justice Committee.

Ms. Counts supports her community by serving on Boards that assist underprivileged and foster/adopted children, and domestic violence victims, and help girls and women develop leadership skills.


Val Demings
Retired Chief of Police, Orlando, FL

Val Demings began her professional life as a social worker in Jacksonville, Florida, working in foster care. She moved to Orlando in 1983 to attend the Police Academy where she was elected class president, and later received the Board of Trustees Award for overall excellence. Ms. Demings worked many assignments for the Orlando Police Department (OPD), including Patrol, Criminal Investigations, Crime Prevention, Internal Affairs, Airport Division, Explorer and Cadet Unit, and Public Information. At the command level she has led Special Operations and served as the Bureau Commander for Patrol Services, where she was responsible for over 300 sworn and civilian personnel.

In addition to her regular job assignments, Ms. Demings served 12 years on the Crisis Negotiation Team, commander of the Critical Incident Stress Debriefing Team, and Executive Vice President of the International Association of Airport and Seaport Police.

Ms. Demings was appointed as Chief of the Orlando Police Department in December 2007, the first woman to hold the position. As Chief, she was credited with reducing violent crime in Orlando. She retired from the position effective June 1, 2011, after serving with the OPD for 27 years. She was the Democratic nominee in 2012 to represent Florida's 10th congressional district in the United States House of Representatives.

Ms. Demings holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Criminology from Florida State University and her Master of Arts degree in Public Administration from Webster University. Her social service activities include Trustee of Saint Mark A.M.E. Church; President of the Women's Missionary Society; Delta Sigma Theta Public Service Sorority; Chaplain; Chairperson of the Social Action Committee; Central Florida Police Athletic League, Chairman; YMCA Achievers Program, Orange County Family Services Program, Advisory Board Member; Valencia Community College, Black Advisory Board Member; United Negro College Fund, Advisory Board Member; Community Education Program, Mentor; Regional Commission on Homelessness. Ms. Demings was part of the the 'Ban Bossy' Campaign of the Girl Scouts and LeanIn.Org.


Alesha Doan
Associate Professor, Department of Political Science, University of Kansas; Chair of Women, Gender & Sexuality Studies

Alesha E. Doan is an Associate Professor in the Political Science Department, and the Chair of the Women, Gender and Sexuality Studies Department at the University of Kansas. Professor Doan uses an interdisciplinary approach to examine the central—but typically covert—role of gender, race, and economic inequality in the creation of reproductive and sexual health policies.

She is currently researching the influence of contemporary abortion politics on public policy and American culture by examining organizational innovation, strategy development, and activists' belief systems in the contemporary prolife and prochoice movements. Within the context of these two contentious movements, she is investigating the dynamic interaction across social movements, political institutions, and policy design.


Carol Gonzales
City Manager, City of Shawnee, KS

Carol Gonzales has served as City Manager for the City of Shawnee, Kansas since 2005. She holds a B.A. from Drake University and a M.P.A. from the University of Kansas. Her career in local government includes work for the cities of Olathe, Kansas; Emporia, Kansas; Seal Beach, California; and Lenexa, Kansas. She is a member of the International City Managers Association, has served as the Chairperson of the Kansas Eastern Regional Insurance Trust, chair of the KU MPA alumni organization and as a member of the Creating Sustainable Places Steering Committee. Carol served on the board of United Community Services of Johnson County from 2007 to 2013, serving as Chairman in 2011 and 2012. She currently serves as chairperson of the Johnson County Civil Service Board and is a member of the Shawnee Mission Head Start Board. Carol was named Shawnee Citizen of the Year in 2010 by the Shawnee Chamber of Commerce and in 2012 was awarded the KUCIMAT Edwin O. Stene Award for Managerial Excellence. Carol and her husband Michael have three children, and live in Shawnee.


Laura Howard, J.D.
Director, KU Public Management Center

Laura Howard is the Director of the University of Kansas Public Management Center. She comes to the University of Kansas from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services where she served as the Region VII Regional Administrator for the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

Laura has also served in various leadership positions with the Kansas Department of Social and Rehabilitation Services (SRS). Prior to her service with SRS, Laura served as a principal fiscal policy analyst for the nonpartisan Kansas Legislative Research Department for more than 10 years.

Laura received her Bachelor's degree from Miami University in Oxford Ohio in Public Administration (with an emphasis in public policy analysis) and Economics. She received her law degree from the University of Kansas.


Mary K. Jaeger, P.E.
Director of Public Works, City of Olathe, KS

Mary Jaeger is the Director of Public Works for the City of Olathe, Kansas. Mary has worked in public works for over 20 years starting in Missouri for the Missouri Department of Transportation. She left MoDOT after eight years to begin her career in municipal government at the City of Raymore, MO. Mary served as the Director of Public Works/City Engineer for six years, when she took the position of Transportation Division Manager for the City of Olathe, Kansas. Over the last eight years Mary has served as the city's Transportation Division Manager, City Engineer, and Deputy Director of Public Works, before being named Director in March 2014.

Mary is a graduate of Kansas State University with a Bachelor of Science degree in civil engineering and a registered professional engineer in both Kansas and Missouri. Currently, Mary is working on her Master's of Public Administration from the University of Kansas. She serves on the K-12 Outreach and APWA/ACEC Joint committees for the Kansas City Metro Chapter of the American Public Works Association.


Maggie Mahoney
2015 Conference Chair
Assistant Director, Dole Institute of Politics

Maggie Mahoney is the Assistant Director for Administration at the Dole Institute of Politics at the University of Kansas, where she has been on staff since 2006. She is active in KU governance and is a mentor for the Kansas Women's Leadership Institute. She served on the IWPAC planning committee in 2013, as an IWPAC ambassador in 2014, and is the IWPAC Chair this year.

Maggie's "past work life" includes small business management and survey research/data collection. She is a Montana native and graduated with distinction in 2002 from Iowa State University with a B.S. in Sociology and minor in Psychology. Maggie also earned her Masters of Public Administration at KU in 2012. She resides with her husband and son in Lawrence. When free time is available, she especially enjoys music, sports, travel, and fine dining.


Patricia E. Martel
City Manager, Daly City, CA; President-elect, International City/County Management Association (ICMA)

Pat Martel has served as the City Manager of Daly City, the largest and most diverse full-service community in San Mateo County, CA, since 2005. She also serves as the General Manager of the North San Mateo County Sanitation District.

During nearly thirty-five years of service in local government, Ms. Martel has held executive management positions with several California municipalities including the cities of Inglewood, South San Francisco and Daly City where she previously served as the Assistant City Manager from 1995-2001. In 2001, she was appointed by former San Francisco Mayor Willie L. Brown to serve as the General Manager of the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission with responsibility for managing the Hetch Hetchy water delivery system which serves 2.4 million people in the Bay Area and the sanitation and power systems serving the City and County of San Francisco.

Professionally, Ms. Martel currently serves as President-Elect of the International City/County Management Association, the premier local government leadership and management organization. She is also a Board member of the California City Management Foundation, the City Managers Department of the League of California Cities, and the International Hispanic Network. Ms. Martel was also recently elected as a Fellow of the National Academy of Public Administration.

A graduate of the University of Southern California, Martel holds a B.S. degree in Public Affairs and a Master’s degree in Public Administration. She is also an ICMA Credentialed Manager.


Jasmin Moore
Sustainability Program Manager, Johnson County Department of Health & Environment

Jasmin Moore is the Sustainability Program Manager for Johnson County, Kansas Government. Jasmin leads county sustainable initiatives in energy, recycling, waste reduction, water conservation, and more. She also coordinates policies and practices with cities and other local government entities in the metropolitan area.

In previous roles, Jasmin served as a community planner for the Central Arkansas Metropolitan Planning Organization, member of the Little Rock Sustainability Commission, co-chair of the Arkansas Collation for Obesity Prevention Built Environment Committee, co-chair of the American Planning Association Healthy Communities Group, planner for the City of San Antonio, and AmeriCorps member.

Jasmin earned a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Applied Behavioral Science from the University of Kansas and a Master of Science Degree in Regional and Community Planning from the University of Texas at Austin.


Julia D. Novak
President, The Novak Consulting Group

Julia Novak is President of The Novak Consulting Group, a firm she founded in September 2009 when she acquired Public Management Partners. From 2003 to 2009, she served as a Vice President for a local government consulting firm. Julia has more than 25 years of experience working with and for local governments. She is an established consultant, trainer, facilitator, and thought leader who has worked with over 200 different local government and nonprofit organizations across the country. Prior to consulting, Julia worked in the cities of Fort Collins, Colorado; Lexington, Massachusetts; Rockville, Maryland; and was City Manager of Rye, New York. She has worked with elected and appointed officials and nonprofit board members across the country to conduct goal setting, develop strategic plans, and prioritize service delivery.

In 2009, Julia co-authored an article with Dr. John Nalbandian in Public Management Magazine titled "Preparing Councils for Their Work." In 2010, the article she co-authored with City Manager Steve Burkett, "Permission to Manage," was the featured article on the cover of Public Management Magazine, stressing the importance of being intentional in managing organizations and using performance measures as a part of a management system.

Julia earned a bachelor's degree in government and politics from George Mason University and a master's degree in public administration from the University of Kansas. Julia was in the first class of individuals certified by ICMA as Credentialed Local Government Managers and maintains that designation.


Jean Peters Baker
County Prosecutor, Jackson County, MO

Jean Peters Baker has spent more than 15 years in the Jackson County Prosecutor's Office, serving in nearly every unit of the office before she was appointed prosecutor in May 2011 and elected to the position in November 2012. She is only the second woman elected to lead the office; the first, now-U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill, hired Jean as a young assistant prosecutor.

Jean has been described as a tenacious litigator and a compassionate advocate for crime victims who doesn't shrink from difficult cases. Over her career in the prosecutor's office, she has served in Sex Crimes and Child Abuse, Community Justice, Domestic Violence, Drug Enforcement, Family Support, Major Crimes and as Chief Warrant Officer. Baker won the respect and admiration of neighborhood leaders, small business owners and law enforcement when she served as the coordinator of the Drug Abatement Response Team (DART). Jean spearheaded a multi-agency effort to close drug houses and businesses that erode our neighborhoods as well as motels that were known to be hotbeds of illegal drug activity. For her efforts in fighting the drug trade in Kansas City, Jean was honored with the Excellence Award for Advancing COMBAT Objectives given by the County Prosecutor, police agencies and community advocates. During her time in the prosecutor's office, Jean also received honors as Rookie Attorney of the year and Victim Advocate of the Year.

Jean's focus as prosecutor has been to make Jackson County a safer and better place to live, work and raise a family. The office works hard every day for just outcomes. But Jean has also set an office goal to more closely connect the prosecutor's office to the community and more smartly address and reduce crime, especially violent crime.


Shannon Portillo
Associate Professor & Undergraduate Program Coordinator, School of Public Affairs & Administration, University of Kansas

Shannon Portillo, Ph.D. is an Associate Professor and Undergraduate Program Coordinator at the University of Kansas School of Public Affairs and Administration. Dr. Portillo takes an interdisciplinary approach to her work pulling on organizational theories rooted in Public Administration and Law and Society to explore how rules and policies are carried out within public organizations. To date she has done work in a broad array of organizations including the military, problem-solving courts, probation, restorative justice programs, administrative hearings, policing, higher education and city management. Using a variety of methods, she collects empirical data to assess how social, cultural and legal factors influence the day-to-day operations in these organizations. Teaching and research interests include social equity, social justice, organizational theory, and law and public management. Her work has appeared in Law & Policy, Administration & Society, Law & Social Inquiry, Journal of Public Administration Research & Theory and Public Administration Review.


Sara Singer
Deputy City Manager, Tualatin, OR

Sara Singer is the Deputy City Manager for the City of Tualatin, Oregon, a suburb in the Portland metropolitan area. She graduated from the University of Kansas Master of Public Administration program in 2006 and has been working in local government ever since in Kansas, California and Oregon. Her experience has been centered in communities ranging in populations from 3,000 to 60,000.

Sara grew up in St. Louis, Missouri and completed her undergraduate degree at Benedictine College in Atchison, Kansas. During the summers while in college, she began interning for a small City in the St. Louis area where she developed a passion for working in local government. This interest led her to KU's MPA program to foster this passion through academic and professional growth. She has made many leaps in her career as the Assistant to the City Manager in Shawnee, Kansas, a Senior Administrative Analyst in the Finance & IT Department and later in the City Manager's Office in Rancho Palos Verdes, California, and as the Assistant to the City Manager and most recently the Deputy City Manager in the City of Tualatin, Oregon.

Sara is involved in many professional organizations including the Oregon City/County Managers Association (OCCMA), the International City/County Management Association (ICMA), and the International Association for Public Participation (IAP2). She enjoys exploring the Pacific Northwest via running, hiking, spending time at the coast or in the mountains. She also spends time discovering some of the Portland's best restaurants and the Willamette Valley's great Pinot Noirs.


Annie Trotta
Owner, Surya Yoga, Olathe, KS

My name is Annie Trotta, owner and yoga teacher of Surya Yoga. I began my yoga journey in 1997 while at K-State. I realized during my second year of college that I was never going to be a gymnast or cheerleader (like in my earlier days), so I started doing yoga. I had to rent VHS tapes from the local video store to practice, since there were no studios or classes offered in Manhattan, KS. I practiced in my room and my roommates thought I was a little strange (but now they get it!). After graduation, I moved to Overland Park and started practicing at a local gym, then a yoga studio.

After my second son was born, I found my "yoga home" and my favorite yoga teachers and got really serious. I decided to open my own yoga studio and here we are in Olathe, KS. Yoga has been an eye opening experience for me, physically and mentally. I hope you join me and my teachers for a yoga class sometime, I think you'll like it!

My favorite quote and motto: "Honor your body, but don't be lazy." - K. Kastner


Schedule and speakers are subject to change.

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