Speakers' Bios


Kay Barnes  

Keynote Address: "Having it All: A Dream or Reality?"

Among her many accomplishments, Kay Barnes is perhaps most well known as the first woman mayor of Kansas City, Missouri. She served in this post for two terms, from 1999 to 2007, where she led initiatives that produced more than $4.5 billion in public and private investment in Kansas City, with projects that included the Sprint Center and the Kansas City Power and Light District. Before serving as mayor, Barnes was president of a human resources development firm and served on the Jackson County Legislature and City Council of Kansas City. She also co-authored the book, “About Time! A Woman’s Guide to Time Management.”

Barnes remains active in the community, serving on the Arvest Bank Regional Board, the Arts Council of Greater Kansas City, the Convention and Visitors Association, St. Luke’s College of Health Services Board, and the Mid-America Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce. She is also the founding director and Distinguished Professor for Public Leadership & Founding Director of the Center for Leadership at Park University's Hauptmann School for Public Affairs.

Barnes earned her B.S in Secondary Education from the University of Kansas, followed by both her M.A. in Secondary Education and M.P.A. from the University of Missouri at Kansas City. She has two children, Fritz Waldo and Kelly Dillman.


Bonnie Svrcek  

Keynote Address: "Making the Leap: Timing is Everything"

Bonnie Svrcek is the current president of ICMA, the International City/County Management Association. Previously she has been a regional vice president for ICMA and has served as the president of the Virginia Local Government Management Association.

Bonnie has held the position of deputy city manager for the City of Lynchburg, Virginia since 1999.  In this role, she oversees the departments of the city assessor, communications and marketing, community development, financial services, fleet services, libraries and museums, and information technology.

She began her career in local government as a staff assistant for the City of Los Angeles’ Washington Office.  Bonnie then worked for Fairfax County, VA as a budget analyst. Prior to her current position she served as the assistant town manager for the Town of Blacksburg, Virginia.

Bonnie graduated from the University of Maryland with a B.S. in housing and applied design and received her MPA from the University of Southern California’s Washington Public Affairs Center.  Most recently she completed the State and Local Government Excellence Executive Education Program at the Harvard Kennedy School.

Morning Panel: Having It All


Karin Brownlee
Karin Brownlee was elected to serve Olathe and southwest Johnson County as state senator in 1996 and was re-elected three times. In the Senate, Karin chaired the Senate Commerce committee for nine years and led efforts on several major economic development efforts such as the Kansas Speedway, Kansas Economic Growth Act and the Kansas City Logistics Park in Edgerton. After fourteen years in the Kansas Senate, Karin was named secretary of the Kansas Department of Labor. As head of the labor agency for nearly two years, Karin and her team cut costs by 35% and dramatically improved customer service in the unemployment insurance area.

Karin has been active in Chambers of Commerce, the Republican Party, Rotary, her church, and numerous local and state boards including the Johnson County Education Research Triangle Authority (JCERTA). She was the first K-State appointment when the Authority was launched by voters in November, 2008 and served for two years. She was also part of the Governor’s Council of Economic Advisors, the Technical Education Authority, Small Business Development Centers state board and is a graduate of Leadership Kansas. Karin holds a degree in microbiology from Kansas State University. Her husband Doug and their four grown children are also all graduates of KSU.


Penny Postoak Ferguson
Penny Postoak Ferguson was appointed Deputy County Manager at Johnson County Government in August 2012 after two years of service as assistant county manager.  Penny assists in the management of the 34 departments/offices and five agencies that comprise the County’s operations. The County employs approximately 3,800 staff and has an annual budget of more than $810 million. Prior to her appointment with Johnson County, Penny served as assistant city manager for almost four years in the City of San Antonio. Previously, she worked for the city of Overland Park, Kansas for four years, serving as a deputy city manager and assistant city manager overseeing operations. Her career also includes serving as core manager and executive director of budget and research (2000-2002) for the Unified Government of Wyandotte County/Kansas City, Kansas, and being the assistant city manager (1997-2000) for the city of Hays, Kansas.

A native of Lawrence, Kansas, Penny attended Haskell Indian Nations University located in Lawrence, and is a member of the Choctaw Tribe of Oklahoma. She received her bachelor’s degree in business administration (1992) from the University of Kansas, also in Lawrence, and a master’s degree (1994) in public administration from KU. She and her husband, Dwight, have a daughter, Peyton and live in Johnson County.

Wheeler Linden

Cynthia Wheeler-Linden
Cynthia Wheeler-Linden has worked as a Political Communications Pundit on KMBZ’s 980 Radio show “Kansas City’s Morning News” with EJ & Elaine and 980 Live with Darla Jay Show. She now works as a consultant and a guest Co-host of Kansas City Public Television’s The Local Show.

Wheeler-Linden’s background encompasses years of experience in developing corporate partnership relations that helped companies “give back” to the community through social corporate responsibility. After having launched two successful firms, she developed a passion for urban public education and a desire to elevate the public interest and involvement in the improvement of these systems.

In 2006 Wheeler-Linden accepted the position of Chief Communications Officer for the Kansas City School District. In her tenure, she was not only commended for her abilities to attract positive local and national media attention but also for her ability to stimulate important discussion and generate a consensus among highly varied thought leaders of the community.

She attended St. Bonaventure University and Almeda University, where she received her B.S in Business Administration with a major in Business Management.

She credits her parents’ lifelong love of education and community involvement with instilling in her a desire to work for her community. Along with raising her daughters, Haley, Helena, Alia and Jasmine, Wheeler-Linden will soon be adding filmmaker and author to her list as she is working on a documentary and a Children’s book - What Makes Her Special.
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Moderator: Hannah Sitz
Hannah is a junior at the University of Kansas, double-majoring in Psychology and Journalism with a Strategic Communication emphasis. She is from Andover, Kansas, and has lived in Douthart Scholarship Hall during her three years at KU. As a Coordinator and current Co-Director of the Alternative Breaks service learning group, a Student Ambassador for the University Honors Program, and a past leader in Lambda Sigma and the Board of Class Officers, she has a passion for service. She attended the 2012 conference through the Coro KC Internship in Public Affairs and serves on this year's planning committee. Now a Truman Scholar», she hopes to pursue a graduate degree in Public Administration and eventually work in the nonprofit sector.

Afternoon Panel: Making the Leap

Patty Hilderbrand  

Patty Hilderbrand
Patty Hilderbrand (PE, MPA) serves as the Division Manager for Program Management & Development in the Kansas City, Missouri Public Works Department. In her fifteen years with Kansas City, her duties have included project management of major flood mitigation projects with the U.S. Corps of Engineers; directing the department’s $500 million, five-year Capital Improvements Program; directing and implementing a city-wide, Internet-based, comprehensive program and project management system; managing the City’s transit contracts; and serving as the City’s primary liaison to the local Metropolitan Planning Organization, MoDOT and other local jurisdictions.

Patty is an active member of the American Public Works Association and has served in many leadership roles at the chapter and national levels. At the national level she is a former member of the Leadership and Management Committee and the Government Affairs Committee. She currently serves on the Finance Committee and is the Director-at Large for Engineering & Technology on the National Board of Directors. In 2003 she received APWA’s Young Leader of the Year Award.

Patty holds a B.S. in civil engineering and an MPA from the University of Kansas.


Sandy Praeger
Commissioner Sandy Praeger was elected Kansas’ 24th Commissioner of Insurance in 2002 and began serving on January 13, 2003. She was re-elected in 2006 and again in 2010. Commissioner Praeger is responsible for regulating all insurance sold in Kansas and overseeing the nearly 1,700 insurance companies and 101,000 agents licensed to do business in the state. Commissioner Praeger serves as Chair of the Health Insurance and Managed Care Committee for the National Association of Insurance Commissioners and NAIC past president.  She is frequently called upon by media and called to testify before Congress on health reform. She is a two-time recipient of the prestigious Dr. Nathan B. Davis Award, bestowed annually by the American Medical Association to individuals who have made a significant contribution to the public health through elected and career government service. Prior to her current role, she was elected to the Kansas Senate in 1992, 1996, and 2000, and before that served one term in the Kansas House of Representatives.

Commissioner Praeger is a graduate of the University of Kansas and lives in Lawrence, KS, with her husband, Dr. Mark Praeger. They have two married children and three grandchildren.

Sara Singer  

Sara Singer
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 passion led her to KU’s MPA program to continue fostering 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.


Moderator: Kimiko Gilmore

Kimiko Black Gilmore serves as Assistant City Manager for the City of Kansas City, Missouri. She has over 20 years of experience in the non-profit and government sectors.  She spent the early years of her career in social services, providing short term and crisis counseling management for agencies that included Metropolitan Organization to Counter Sexual Assault (MOCSA) and Swope Health Services/Imani House.


Shortly before graduating from Troy State University with a Master of Public Administration she simultaneously worked with the Missouri Democratic Coordinated Campaign for the 2000 presidential election and with then-State Representative Terry Riley on a special city council election to fill an unexpired term. Ultimately Councilman Riley appointed her as his council aide. Later U.S. Senator Claire McCaskill appointed her as Deputy Regional Director to represent her interests in northeast Missouri.

As Community Relations Director with Swope Community Builders (SCB), Kimiko led the development and implementation of programming that best served the needs of priority neighborhoods and ensured that SCB was endeared to the communities it served. Activities under her purview included community organizing, advocacy and youth development.

During Kimiko’s tenure with the City of Kansas City she has provided oversight in the areas of Housing, Health, Human Relations and Neighborhood & Community Services and now serves as Assistant City Manager – Special Projects. Past projects include coordination of the City’s efforts during the 2010 Census and providing leadership to complete the City’s housing asset transfer plan,  ReBuild KC, which was looked upon favorably by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and approved by the federal court. She was the staff lead during the 2012 Major League Baseball All-Star Week. She administers a $3.5 million contract with the Green Impact Zone, Congressman Emanuel Cleaver’s signature project; a place-based investment model within the urban core. She played a defining role in changing the urban agriculture conversation in Kansas City, Missouri by attracting BrightFarms, Inc. to the Kansas City market; the 100,000 sq. ft. greenhouse to be built in downtown Kansas City will generate one million pounds of lettuces, tomatoes and herbs annually which will be sold locally. 

Schedule and speakers are subject to change.

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