Rod Sands – Founder/CEO of SimplyFresco, LLC.
Charlie Fletcher – President/CEO of Fletcher Consulting
Robert Avsec – Freelance Writer
Michael Bouchard – Sheriff of Oakland County
Clarence McAllister – Founder/CEO of Fortis
Tom Wheelwright – Founder/CEO of ProVision Wealth
Michelle Divina – Mrs. North America Earth
Luis Moreno – Corporal of Bandera Support Division
Simeon G. Trombitas – Major General
John Lovett – Retired Business Owner
Kyle Lamb – SGM (R), Founder Viking Tactics, Inc
Max Martini – Actor
Jeff Mellinger – Command Sergeant Major (Ret)
Darren Weeks – Entrepreneur, Investor
Chris Stricklin – USAF Colonel, Retired
Nancy Glass – R.N., Ph.D
Elizabeth Higginbotham – R.N., J.D.
Donald C. Bolduc – Former Commander
Chris Sherrell – President/CEO of Fresh Thyme Farmer’s Market
Carlos “Coddy” Pena – Executive Vice President of Allen & Allen Co.
Mat Best – Vice President, Black Rifle Coffee
Rod is currently on the board of Texas Star Nut and Food Company and serves as CEO of SimplyFresco, LLC.
Before retiring, Rod Sands served as the Chief Operating Officer of Silver Ventures, a private investment firm with interests in public market, private equity, and direct investments. He joined Silver Ventures in 1997 after working with Pace Foods for 15 years. At Pace Foods, Mr. Sands held the positions of Vice President of Sales and Marketing, Executive Vice President, Chief Operating Officer, and was named President in 1993. In 1995 Rod was instrumental in negotiating and selling Pace Foods for the highest multiple of EBITDA and the highest multiple of sales ever recorded for a food company of its size or larger.
Prior to joining Pace, Rod worked with Uncle Ben’s Foods in Houston and Anderson Clayton Foods in Dallas.
Rod served on the advisory boards of C&S Wholesale Grocers, Inc., Chase Bank of San Antonio, The Westin Riverwalk Hotel, and The Contessa Hotel. He was previously Chairman of the Board for Desert Glory, Inc. as well as being on the Board of Directors of Nonni’s Food Company, Taco Cabana Restaurants, Discovery Foods, and The Ecce Panis Artisan Bread Company. Additionally Rod was a trustee for The Goldsbury Foundation of San Antonio.
Rod received his Bachelor of Business Administration from Southern Methodist University and was awarded an MBA from North Texas State University. He also completed the Advanced Management Program at Harvard Business School.
President & CEO
Bachelor of Engineering
United States Military Academy
M.S. Systems Management
University of Southern California
M.A. National Military Strategy
National Defense University
Charlie Fletcher is President of Fletcher Consulting. His business experience includes executive positions at Wounded Warrior Project, McLane Advanced Technology, Alion Science & Technology and The Boeing Company. He was the first NATO Logistics Senior Mentor and served in that capability for 8 years. His military career spanned more than 30 years, with nearly a decade as a General Officer. He had eight command tours with his final assignment as the J-3 Director of Operations & Plans, US Transportation Command. He is an Army rotary-wing aviator with over 2,000 flying hours. His assignments including planning and then commanding the Army logistics forces during the 2003 Iraq invasion. His Middle East assignments included Battalion Command in Desert Storm and test pilot instructor in Iran during the 1978/9 Islamic Revolution.
He is married to Dale Anne Fletcher, a retired Army Nurse. They have three children; Charles in Harvard’s Law & Public Policy Master’s Program, Michael an Army LT in Italy, and Marie at Ole Miss.
Batt. Chief Robert Avsec (Ret.) served with the Chesterfield (Va.) Fire & EMS Department for 26 years. He is a NFPA-certified instructor for fire, EMS, and hazardous materials courses at the local, state and federal levels, which included more than 10 years with the National Fire Academy as a contract instructor. Chief Avsec earned his Bachelor’s degree in Fire and Safety Engineering Technology from the University of Cincinnati and his Master’s degree in Executive Fire Service Leadership from Grand Canyon University. He is a 2001 graduate of the National Fire Academy’s EFO Program.
Chief Avsec now works as a freelance writer creating on-line content for a number of clients. He is a regular monthly contributor to FireRescue1.com and EMS1.com. He also publishes his own weekly blog, Talking “Shop” 4 Fire and EMS, where he discusses leadership and management issues affecting the fire service.
Sheriff Bouchard runs one of the nation’s largest Sheriff’s Offices, overseeing 1,300 employees and managing an annual budget of over $141 million dollars. Sheriff Bouchard brings the experience of 30 years of law enforcement and 30 years as an elected official to the position.
On January 11, 1999, Michigan Senator and Majority Floor Leader Michael Bouchard accepted the appointment as successor to John F. Nichols who passed away suddenly. In November of 2017, Sheriff Bouchard was returned to Office for the fifth time with the largest number of votes for any candidate in Oakland County.
Founder and CEO
As Founder and CEO of Fortis, Clarence leads the company’s overall strategic direction. Fortis is provides design build services to the US Federal Government and to the private sector. Fortis also provides engineering and construction of fiber and wireless networks to the telecommunications industry. Clarence started Fortis in 2000 after an engineering career with Lucent Technologies and Verizon Wireless. The company is headquartered in Phoenix, AZ with operations worldwide.
Clarence holds a Bachelor degree Summa Cum Laude and a Master in Electrical Engineering from Arizona State University, and a Master of Business Administration (MBA) degree from Nova Southeastern University.
He is a licensed Professional Engineer and a Registered Communications Distribution Designer. He is also a member of Young Presidents Organization (YPO) and a licensed aircraft pilot.
Founder and CEO
ProVision Wealth Strategists
Tom Wheelwright is a leading wealth and tax expert, Best-Selling Author (Tax-Free Wealth), Entrepreneur Magazine Contributor, and CEO of ProVision (Tempe, Arizona). Tom is best known for making taxes fun, easy and understandable, and specializes in helping entrepreneurs and investors build wealth through practical and strategic ways that permanently reduce taxes. As a Rich Dad Advisor to Robert Kiyosaki (Rich Dad Poor Dad), Tom frequently speaks at conferences worldwide on these topics.
His work has been featured in Forbes, Accounting Today, Investor’s Business Daily, Consumer Reports, ABC News Radio, FOX News, FOX & Friends, CBS 5 News Phoenix, GoBankingRates, Consumer Reports, Money Radio 1510 Business for Breakfast, and many more media. http://taxfreewealthadvisor.com
Corporal, Support Division
Bandera County Sherrif’s Department
Luis “Louie” Moreno was born in La Jolla, California and was raised in Tijuana, Mexico and San Ysidro, California. One of 13 children, Luis grew up in the fast lane and was exposed to gang activity at a very young age. Louie’s parents decided a change was needed. At the age of 18, he and his parents moved to Kerrville, Texas seeking better opportunities. Louie quickly found an interest in becoming an electrician. After about 10 years in the electrical field, Luis was given an opportunity to work in the jail system. He received his jailer’s license and decided law enforcement was a perfect fit for him. He went on and received his Peace Officer license in 2006. Louie enlisted in the Army National Guard 36th Infantry Division in 2007 with the intent of being able to go to college after he served his time. The Army had a different plan. Louie served a combat tour in Iraq in 2009 and served his country until 2016.
Louie has worked for several surrounding law enforcement agencies but has found a home in the Bandera County Sheriff’s Department. He currently works for the Sheriff’s Department as the Corporal in the Support Division. Among many different jobs, one that Louie enjoys the most is courtroom security. Louie is known as the “clown in the courtroom” who helps break the ice with jurors. He helps the jury process in Bandera enjoyable by providing comic relief at no additional cost to taxpayers. He has proudly served the citizens of Bandera County since 2012.
Louie serves his community in many different roles. He coaches for Bandera Little League, Bandera Youth Soccer Assn, and Bandera Boys & Girls Club. He is involved with the planning of National Night Out and is active in most all community events in some aspect.
Luis is married to Christina and they have a beautifully blended family of 5: Paul, Blythe, Taytum, Giovanni, and Maddox Azucena (Maddi Sue in Texan).
Simeon G. Trombitas
Major General (Ret)
Major General Simeon G. Trombitas graduated from the United States Military Academy in 1978 with a Bachelor of Science degree. He was commissioned as a U.S. Army Second Lieutenant in the Infantry Branch. His military education includes: the Infantry Officer Basic Course, the Armor Officer Advanced Course, the Army Command and General Staff College, and the Armed Forces Staff College. He also earned a Master of Science in Security Technologies from the Army War College.
Major General Trombitas began his active duty career in the 2nd Armored Division as an Infantry Platoon Leader, Scout Platoon Leader and Company Commander at Fort Hood, Texas. He was assigned to the Joint Readiness Training Center as a Senior Infantry Company Observer Controller. He served three tours in the 7th Special Forces Group (Airborne) as Operational Detachment “A” Commander, Company Commander, Battalion Operations (S3) Officer, Executive Officer and Battalion Commander. Assigned to USMILGP El Salvador he served as Senior Advisor to the 4th (El Salvadoran) Infantry Brigade. He served as the Assistant Deputy Director for Operations of United States Army Special Operations Command and Commander, US Army Garrison, 7th Infantry Division and Fort Carson, Colorado. His joint assignments include: Deputy Director of Operations (J3) with Special Operations Command in Panama; Commander, U.S. Military Group in Colombia; and Chief Regional Special Operations Division (J3) in Washington, D.C.
Major General Trombitas has served as a general officer in various duty assignments beginning as the Commanding General of Special Operations Command, Korea. Following Korea, he assumed command of the Iraq National Counter-Terrorism Force Transition Team during Operation Iraqi Freedom. He was then assigned as the Special Assistant to the Commanding General, U.S. Army Special Operations Command at Fort Bragg, North Carolina. MG Trombitas commanded United States Army South from 2009 to 2012, and most recently served as Senior Defense Official / Defense Attaché at the U.S. Defense Attaché Office in Mexico.
Retired Business Owner
After receiving a degree in Political Science from the University of Texas in 1974, John went to work for he Greater San Antonio Chamber of Commerce where he served as Military Affairs Manager and later as the Membership Fundraising Manager and on the National Board of Membership Managers for Chambers of Commerce.
In 1982 John Founded River City Builders, Inc in New Braunfels and successfully operated that enterprise along with a Millwork company until it was sold in 2013.
Some highlights of volunteer work during a successful business career would be Founding and helping Fund The 24 Hour Club in New Braunfels, a Building for the express use of Alcoholics Anonymous Groups. Founding and helping Fund the New Braunfels Economic Development Foundation. Serving as Chairman of the New Braunfels Long range Planning Committee, Planning and Zoning Commission, Chamber of Commerce, and Economic Development Foundation and Charter Review Committee and on the Executive Committee of the Edwards Aquifer Authority.
Today, his time is spent with family and friends , golfing, flying and helping others achieve sobriety.
SGM (R), Founder
Viking Tactics, Inc
SGM (R) Kyle Lamb retired after 21 years with the US Army, spending the majority of his time with a Special Mission Unit as well as 5th and 1st Special Forces Groups. Lamb is also the Founder of Viking Tactics, Inc. a respected tactical training and equipment company. Lamb has also written three books including Leadership in the Shadows, has appeared on several network television shows to include his own show, Viking Chronicles.
Lamb has led on the battlefield and continues to lead in the Outdoor Industry as a businessman, consultant, and personality. SGM (R) Lamb has participated in hundreds of operations around the globe to include Operation Desert Storm (Kuwait/Iraq), Operation Gothic Serpent (Mogadishu, Somalia), several deployments to the Balkan Peninsula, and numerous tours in support of the Global War on Terror.
Max Martini’s latest starring roles include the Independent films ‘What The Night Can Do’ and ‘Hellbent’ (2017). Additionally, the Shane Black written and directed pilot for Amazon Studios, ‘Edge’, in which Martini played the title character. Martini also stars in the Legendary Pictures/Universal Studios film ‘Spectral’ currently showing on Netflix.
In 2016 Martini starred in Michael Bay’s ’13 Hours’ for Paramount Pictures. Martini has completed three installments in the Universal Studios trilogy ‘Fifty Shades of Grey’, ‘Fifty Shades Darker’ and ‘Fifty Shades Freed’. Martini was recently seen alongside Tom Hanks in Paul Greengrass’ Golden Globe and Academy Award nominated film ‘Captain Phillips’. In 2013, he starred in Guillermo del Toro’s ‘Pacific Rim’ for Legendary Pictures and Warner Brothers. In April of 2014 Martini appeared in David Ayer’s ‘Sabotage’.
He is also recognized for his work in both David Mamet’s feature ‘Redbelt’ and his CBS series ‘The Unit’. Other feature credits include; Steven Spielberg’s ‘Saving Private Ryan’, John Dahl’s Miramar epic ‘The Great Raid’ and Robert Zemeckis’ feature ‘Contact’.
Command Sergeant Major (Ret)
Jeff Mellinger retired on 31 December 2011 as a Command Sergeant Major, having spent nearly forty years on active duty. Jeff has numerous assignments with the 75th Ranger Regiment, and served in a variety of leadership positions to include machine-gun squad leader, rifle platoon sergeant, weapons platoon leader, drill sergeant, military free fall instructor, reconnaissance detachment team sergeant, ROTC instructor, first sergeant of an airborne infantry company, Senior Army Advisor to the Oregon National Guard, and a command sergeant major for more than 18 years. Her served as a basic training battalion CSM, 1st Ranger Battalion CSM, NCO Academy Commandant, and CSM for the US Army Japan, the First United States Army, the Multi-National Force Iraq (for 34 continuous months), and the CSM for the US Army Materiel Command.
Since retiring, Jeff has worked for QinetiQ (working programs for IED robots and IED-defeat programs) and Bell Helicopter (as a business developer on the Future Vertical Lift Program). Jeff is involved with numerous veteran oriented non-profit and service organizations.
Darren Weeks has always had a passion for investing. In grade six he began investing mutual funds. By junior high school he moved on to penny stocks. In high school, Darren was investing in physical commodities, including silver bars. Using his investment profits, Darren bought his first rental property as a business student at the University of Alberta and he still owns that property today.
In 2001 a friend recommended Darren read a book called Rich Dad Poor Dad by Robert Kiyosaki. The book so perfectly articulated all of his beliefs about money that it reignited the passion for investing he had in his youth. Shortly after reading the book, he made the life-altering decision to start the Fast Track to Cash Flow, a company that would teach Canadians the principles laid out in the book in addition to the lessons Darren had learned about money over the years. Fast forward to the present. Darren has amassed an investment portfolio consisting of over 4,000 rental properties across North America, tens of millions of dollars in energy interests, and hundreds of acres of land. He is also the largest individual shareholder in the world’s largest cruise ship terminal, the Port of Falmouth, which is operated by the Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines. Darren and his team are still providing events and conferences designed to expand the financial contexts of Canadians.
More than 350,000 people have now attended the Fast Track Group events throughout the country. From a simple idea, the company has branched out to include several divisions. The
success of the company has positioned the Fast Track Group amongst Canada’s business elite, having been ranked on the PROFIT 200 list for three consecutive years. Darren was recently named a Rich Dad Advisor for raising capital and is the cofounder of Rich Dad Global Entrepreneurs’ Organization. Darren’s passion to help others remains as strong as ever. Financial literacy makes financial freedom possible for everyone. Get on the Fast Track.
Chris “Elroy” Stricklin is an award-winning leadership author.
He is also a highly sought after motivational keynote speaker and a Combat-Proven Senior Military leader, with unique experiences ranging from Thunderbird Solo Pilot to White House and DARPA fellowships, and culminating with CEO-Level leadership of a 7,000-person strong, $7B worldwide organization before his retirement after 23 years of service.
Dr. Glass grew up in a Gold Star family and learned at a very early age the meaning of patriotism, sacrifice, and courage. Her father served proudly in WWII in the Pacific and was fortunate to return home to his family. Her brother’s father, however, was killed in action in France in 1944. It was that loss plus the loss of a friend, MSG Bob Horrigan who was killed in action in Iraq in 2005, that would influence her dedication to the needs of veterans and their families.
Blessed with a very productive career in nursing and college administration, Dr. Glass has been able to work at Austin Community College in many capacities from Vice President to professor. Additionally, she has been able to work part time in clinical settings. most recently as a nursing supervisor at Texas Neuro Rehab, a neurological rehabilitation hospital. It is there that she has been able to assist active duty service members and veterans from Brooke Army Medical Center with their physical and psychological challenges.
Dr. Glass founded a nonprofit organization, Operation Honor Our Heroes, dedicated to the memory of fallen heroes, and also serves on the Board of Honor Flight Austin as the Director of Medical.
Elizabeth Higginbotham is a nurse attorney in private practice in San Antonio, Texas. She is the principal of Higginbotham & Associates LLC, formed in 2006. She earned a Diploma from the BMHS School of Professional Nursing in San Antonio in 1984, a B.A. in Psychology, magna cum laude from the University of Texas at San Antonio in 1989 and a J.D. magna cum laude from St. Mary’s University School of Law in 1993. Ms. Higginbotham has been licensed as a Registered Nurse in Texas since 1984. She is a member of the American Association of Nurse Attorneys, has served on its Texas Board of Directors is the 2017 President for the Texas Chapter. She is a member of the National Employment Lawyers Association (Visionary Circle for the Institute 2016-current) and is a member of the Texas State Bar Health Law, Litigation, Military Law, Administrative and Employment Law sections.
She has litigated on both sides of the bar in employment, personal injury, medical malpractice, civil rights litigation, commercial litigation and complex contract matters. She was the Director of Risk Management for the Texas Hospital Association’s captive insurer responsible for risk management activities in over 150 hospitals. She has served as general counsel for several hospitals and consults regularly on nursing and hospital management and policy as well as nursing and physician peer review matters.
She served on the Laws and Regulatory Advisory Committee for the Board of Nurse Examiners for the State of Texas and was the Assistant General Counsel for the Board from 2004-2006. As an Assistant GC she was responsible for all contested case hearings before the State Office of Administrative Hearings involving nurse licensure. She served on RN magazine’s team of legal consultants from 1997-2004 and from 2006 through the present. Ms. Higginbotham’s practice areas include civil rights, medical malpractice, health law, general civil litigation, employment law and representation of health care providers and entities in administrative, disciplinary and licensure matters, including contested case hearings before the State Office of Administrative Hearings. She is active in legislative activities regarding Texas nurses and is a frequent lecturer and has authored articles and textbook chapters on medico-legal issues. Liz is the mother of two very active and challenging teenagers and enjoys hobbies of home repair, remodeling and shooting Cellini weapons.
Mrs. North America Earth
Michelle was raised in Utica, Michigan where she learned to love all styles of dance, but her favorite style was Jazz. She performed in many shows and eventually taught dance and finally choreographed full productions. In her early 20s, Michelle modeled as a spokesperson for the Auto Show Circuit and did print and runway modeling. While maintaining a modeling career, Michelle graduated from Utica High School and went on to earn her Bachelor’s Degree in Management Organizational Development from Spring Arbor University. She graduated Magna Cum Laude. After graduation, Michelle worked in the medical field as Clinical Manager and met Darius Divina, the love of her life for over 21 years. Together they raised three beautiful children; two boys and a girl, Jarren, Justin and MaKenzie. Michelle’s interest in the Pageant world was sparked after her daughter MaKenzie won Miss Teen South Carolina United States 2016 and she learned a great deal about pageant life from a mother’s perspective. Michelle was inspired to volunteer by a friend after her daughter went to her first year of college at Clemson University. She was inspired by another friend to compete in a Mrs. Pageant, and here we are today.
Michelle started working at the age of 15, stopped to have children and rejoined the workforce. But when Michelle’s daughter, Makenzie, mentioned that she wasn’t having fun anymore and that she missed several key events in her daughter’s life, Michelle decided to quit work and dedicate her life to her family. She felt you “don’t get a do over” in life and didn’t want to miss another thing so Michelle ended her medical career and found a new passion in volunteering.
Michelle is a volunteer for the Family Readiness Group Alpha Company 324th which prepares families and soldiers for deployment at a moment’s notice. She also volunteers for the Veterans Affairs Clinic in Anderson, SC where she puts a smile on the faces of the Veterans by talking to them during home visits and acknowledgement of their service and sacrifice for our freedoms. Through the inspiration from our veterans, Michelle has finally found her calling “Giving Back for Our Safety”. She wants to get the message out that as a civilian you can work alongside soldiers and veterans as a support system, to let them know as a nation we care, and that we are working to get the necessities that civilians may take for granted like toiletries, clothes, and food. Michelle has been given a calling to help the military even though she has no military affiliation. She doesn’t want to be a part of the problem, but part of the solution. When Michelle is not volunteering, she loves to travel, work out, and run in 5K’s. Her favorite food is crab and her best buddy is her rottweiler Duke. He is easily the most lovable member of the Divina clan.
Michelle has found the Mrs. Earth pageant system to be an amazing organization that promotes strong, empowered women who care about saving Mother Earth; someone who is willing to put themselves out there to make a difference in the world one person at a time; one cause at a time. She cannot say enough how this system allows you to be you and realizes not everyone fits in a box. The Earth Pageant system encourages the development of very diverse women, out of the box thinking women, and role models for future queens. Michelle is excited to promote her platform on a bigger scale and to continue to volunteer and fundraise for our army reservists and veterans. Awareness is key to resolving this problem facing our nation’s veterans, so Michelle advocates civilians to educate and donate to eradicate the problem.
Donald C. Bolduc
After 32 years of active duty service to his country in which he received 2 awards for valor, 5 Bronze Star medals, 2 Purple Hearts, led ten deployments, and survived both a bomb blast, numerous fire fights, and a helicopter crash, General Donald C. Bolduc, former Commander, Special Operations Command Africa, is hanging up his fatigues to take on perhaps his most important and challenging mission of advocating for the treatment and shedding the stigma of PTSD and mental health problems, both from within the US military as well as the general public.
The general started his career as Private Bolduc on June 29, 1981, exactly 36 years before his final change of command. After the terrorist attacks of 9/11, then-Major Bolduc led one of the first groups into Afghanistan, riding on horseback to take control of the southern Afghanistan region from Taliban rule. One of the few survivors of a 2,000-pound bomb that was inadvertently targeted on their own position by friendly fire in December 2001, Bolduc refused to leave the battlefield and continued to take on his next objective. He was later awarded his first of several combat valor awards and a Purple Heart for his injuries.
From 2011 through 2012 as Combined Joint Special Operations Task Force commander, he was credited with the creation of the “Village Stability Operations” concept, a bottom-up stability effort in rural areas and villages in Afghanistan which undermined insurgent influence and control by the Taliban and ensured the stabilization of large areas of the war-torn country through Afghan Local Police.
In his role as Brigadier General, Bolduc was responsible for the full spectrum of Special Operations activities across the African continent and the more than 1,500 U.S. military, interagency and international military personnel operating in 28 countries throughout Africa and Europe. SOCAFRICA is designated as U.S. Africa Command’s lead counter-Violent Extremist Organizations (VEO) operations component. Prior to this, he served on the Joint Staff in the Office of Secretary of Defense and as the Aide to the Secretary of the Army at the Pentagon.
His other awards and decorations include the Defense Service Medal, Defense Superior Service Medal, Legion of Merit, Bronze Star Medal with Valor Device, Army Commendation Medal with Valor Device, numerous foreign awards, Combat Infantryman Badge, Expert Infantryman Badge, Master Parachutist Badge, Air Assault Badge, Special Forces Tab, and Ranger Tab.
Beyond his various positions and awards, nothing brings more meaning to Bolduc’s service than his latest mission to combat the stigmas around post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). As one of the few military officers, and, at the time, the only active duty general officer on record, to openly discuss his own struggles with PTS, Bolduc has used his leadership position to change the conversation to one of understanding and acceptance through his own experiences. Dubbed “Captain America” and “Everyone’s General” by his fellow officers and soldiers, Bolduc always put country first, and now looks to continue his service off the battlefield sharing his leadership mantra of “Mission, People, Family” and his personal experiences with mental health to educate others.
He has been married to Sharon M. Bolduc for 29 years and they have three sons Joshua, Zachary, and Matthew, as well as, two grandchildren Little “J “and Hadley.
Fresh Thyme Farmer’s Market
Chris Sherrell, President and Chief Executive Officer, founded Fresh Thyme Farmers Markets in 2012 with a mission to offer the Midwest a new, fresh, and healthy grocery shopping experience with value-priced offerings.
Fresh Thyme Farmers Markets is headquartered in Downers Grove, IL, a suburb of Chicago, has over 65 stores located through 9 states and employs over 4,500 team members. The company’s aggressive growth goal includes more than 100 stores by 2020.
Chris began his grocery career as a teenager at Wild Oats Markets and has spent over 20 years in the natural food and farmers market segments of retail. Prior to Fresh Thyme, Chris led Sunflower Farmers Markets as President, Chief Executive Officer, and Board Member. Under Chris’ leadership Sunflower employed over 3,000 team members, grew from 1 store to 44 stores throughout 8 Southwestern states and then went on to merge with Sprouts Farmers Market.
As a result, Chris has in-depth experience in virtually every facet of the natural and farmers-market grocery business. Chris is known for developing a positive and passionate company culture and building strong teams with similar values.
Black Rifle Coffee
Mat Best joined the Army at the age of 17 and deployed five times to Iraq and Afghanistan with the 2nd Ranger Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment. After leaving military service, Mat deployed to a variety of overseas locations as a contractor during his five years with the CIA.
After graduating college with a Bachelors Degree in Liberal Arts, he began creating satirical videos and building brands. With hundreds of millions of organic views on multiple social media platforms, Mat also helped build brands like Article 15 Clothing, Leadslingers Spirits, the Drinkin’ Bros Podcast, and Black Rifle Coffee Company. Along with these businesses, Mat also is involved in the entertainment industry, starring in movies such as “Range 15” and creating top 100 songs on the billboards. Currently, Mat is the Vice President and Chief Branding Officer of Black Rifle Coffee and focuses on giving back to the Veteran Community.
Carlos “Coddy” Pena
Executive Vice President
Allen & Allen Co.
Carlos “Coddy” Pena was born and raised in San Antonio, Texas. A graduate of Robert E. Lee High School, Coddy followed his Dad’s footsteps and graduated from Texas A&M in 1974 with a degree in Finance. He started working at Allen & Allen Co. while in high school. Upon graduation from Texas A&M, he began his professional career there too. What began as a summer job evolved into a lasting passion for construction, design and architectural style. Now part-owner, he helps to carry on the legacy of this unique, 87 year-old, family business.
Coddy is a past member of the Downtown Rotary Club and is currently a member of the Texas A&M Former Students Association as well as the 12th Man Foundation. His professional affiliations include Associate memberships with the American Institute of Architects and the American Society of Interior Design organizations.
Coddy was fortunate to have met the love of his life, Dara, while in high school and they have been married for 43 years. They are blessed with two married children and two grandchildren. Coddy’s hobbies include hunting, fishing and golf – and most of all enjoying time with his incredible family.
Christian Bagge was born and raised in the beautiful Cascade mountains of Northern Oregon. Seeking adventure and college money, he was led to enlist in the Oregon Army National Guard at the age of 17. Christian attended Lane Community College and Western Oregon University and studied Criminal Justice and Business.
In June of 2004, his unit was called to serve in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom. Christian served seven months in combat before losing both legs to an improvised explosive device in June of 2005. He spent the next year at Brooke Army Medical Center in San Antonio, Texas learning to walk and run with the aid of prosthetic devices and re-enlisted to active duty. After eight years of service, he medically retired as a Staff Sergeant.
Since retirement Christian has traveled the country speaking on behalf of disabled veterans, raising capital for veterans’ memorials, and served nearly eight years as a reserve police officer and reserve Deputy in the great state of Oregon.
Jason D. Pistillo is one of the youngest seasoned veterans of Higher Ed you’ll ever meet. With nearly 25 years of experience, Jason is a second-generation educator steeped in the values of creating higher education opportunities that harness real change and innovation. Jason’s foresight has been hardened in the trenches of operations, as well as tradition, which has empowered him to become a visionary for the next generation.
Jason has implemented innovative educational models and systems, designed real-time curriculum information structures and best-of-class intake systems, developed innovative curriculums, proved new learning theories and developed more young technology leaders along the way than most with twice his seniority. His commitment to lifelong learning, personal growth and development of his stakeholders culminates in his joy of educating future leaders in the fields of advancing technology.
Inspired by his students and long-term work in the industry, Jason also founded Gimrari, a consulting company that creates novel and brazen solutions for industries in need. Edgy, contemporary, fast paced and forward looking, Gimrari has the ability to help companies in any industry cut through their own Gordian Knots.
Jason currently holds a Bachelor of Science in Software Engineering and is a graduate of the Ken Blanchard Executive EMBA program at Grand Canyon University.
A Valley Leadership alumnus, Phoenix Business Journal’s 40 Under 40 award recipient, Top Tech Exec Community Hero, Chairman Emeritus of the Arizona State Board of Private Post-Secondary Education, Chairman Emeritus of the Leonardo da Vinci Society for the Study of Thinking, member of the Private Education Research Council and Career College Idea Exchange Group, and current Director for the Association of Private Sector Colleges and Universities, Jason has been a noteworthy leader in the industry for more than two decades. In his tenure, University of Advancing Technology (UAT) has been transformed into a one-of-a-kind, elite, private university that features world-class degree programs in a technology-rich campus environment.