The Washington Area Chamber of Commerce has three Board of Directors position to fill for 2024.
The following six nominees were selected from a highly qualified field of candidates: Nicole Desmond, Brian Feltmann, Deb Giffin, Brian Gildehaus, Phillip James, and Dr. Jennifer Kephart.
Ballots will be mailed to members by November 15 and are due back to the Chamber Office by December 1.
Nicole Desmond is a lifelong Washington resident. Nicole is employed at Deppe Farms, a family-owned business established right here in Washington in 1950. She is a graduate of Washington High School and earned her Bachelor of Science degree in Agriculture Economics from the University of Missouri.
Nicole served 9 years on the Washington Town & Country Fair Board and still loves volunteering her time whenever needed. Nicole is serving on the board from the FFA Foundation, which helps all our surrounding High School FFA chapters. She also love coaching girls basketball and is currently the assistant coach at Washington High School.
Nicole is married to JJ Desmond. They reside on the family farm with their 5 kids. Nicole enjoys spending time with her family and friends. Her hobbies include gardening, spending time outdoors, and cycling.
Brian Feltmann was was born and raised in Washington. He attended St Francis Borgia Grade School and High School. After high school, he attended Missouri State University in Springfield and then started working full time at his family's business, Modern Auto. He started on the sales floor and eventually became the sales manager. In 2021, Brian and his cousin, Matt, had the opportunity to take over ownership of Modern Auto, and he currently serves as Co-Owner and Vice President. In 2008, he joined the Washington Lions Club where and served as president from 2015-2016. In his free time, Brian enjoys spending time with his family at Lake of the Ozarks or in the woods hunting.
Deb Giffin has lived and raised her family in Washington since 2002. She has been a prominent developer of affordable rental housing across the Midwest for over 35 years and currently serves on the executive board of the Missouri Workforce Housing Association and Missouri Council of Affordable Rental Housing. Ms Giffin operated her business outside of the Washington community until 2019 when she invested in downtown Washington. Ms. Giffin purchased the former Neiberg & Vitt building at the corner of 4th and Elm where she operates her real estate firm on the 2nd floor while customers enjoy her eclectic boutique and lunch café, Swallows Nest Boutique Café, on the first floor. After completing the Swallows Nest building, Ms. Giffin purchased the tri-plex home across 4th Street next to the Swallows next parking lot where she is awaiting demolition for future development. In 2022, Ms. Giffin turned her interests to the former Knights of Columbus Hall, located at 2nd and Jefferson, where she has been actively renovating the 9,000 sq ft building with plans to open by year end.
Ms. Giffin is dedicated to the success of our downtown district. She has been serving on various committees since her initial investment in 2019. Her active participation includes the city’s Comprehensive Plan review committee, CORE, and Tourism committee. Ms. Giffin enjoys contributing her time to our amazing community and reserves a special place in her heart for our downtown district.
Brian Gildehaus is the Manager of Project Services at Bayer Cropscience. In his current role at Bayer, Brian specializes in supporting the execution of engineering and construction projects that facilitate capital investment. Throughout his career he has focused on delivering project solutions to key stakeholders. He has developed a background in cost control, capital budgeting, accounting, contract management, cost/schedule management. Brian’s responsibilities also include financial analysis and reporting that drive key decision making. In addition to his role at Bayer, Brian has been a member of various area industry organizations ranging from the St. Louis Construction Consumer Council to the St. Louis Agri-Business Club. He served on the Washington Town and Country Fair Board for 11 years. He was the Chairman in 2018. Brian enjoys volunteering in the community, attending and coaching youth sports. He resides in Washington with his wife Angie and his children Charlie, Valerie and Beverly.
Phillip James is the General Manager of WEG Transformers USA in Washington. He has P&L responsibility for all three WEG factories including Operations, Finance, Supply Chain, Engineering, Quality, Strategic Planning and Information Systems. Phillip has worked at WEG since March 2016 and he has spent his entire 35-year business career in manufacturing with four different companies, in three different states.
Phillip joined WEG Transformers in 2016, one year before the acquisition of the business by WEG and has been instrumental in planning and executing the purchase of the old Melton factory and starting up WEG’s Distribution Transformer business on Bluff Road in that building. Phillip has also led the WEG team in their recent major expansion of WEG’s Power Transformers business on Avantha Drive, over the past two years.
Phillip and his wife Melissa have been married for 35 years, moved to Washington in 2021 and live in the downtown area. They have two adult children and one granddaughter.
Phillip and Melissa own Vintage Trader, a vintage and antique business, located in Downtown Washington. They are active members of Downtown Washington Inc. Phillip and Melissa are members of First Christian Church (FCC) in Washington. Phillip is also an active leader at WEG with their annual United Way campaign where WEG has been the 2nd largest contributor to the Franklin County United Way for the past two years.
Dr. Jennifer Kephart, an accomplished educational leader with a Doctorate in Educational Leadership from Saint Louis University, serves as the proud Superintendent of the School District of Washington. Throughout her career, she has held diverse leadership positions, including roles as a teacher, Elementary Principal, Director of Curriculum, Executive Director of Elementary Education, and Associate Superintendent of Academic Services. Since assuming her role as Superintendent in July 2021, Dr. Kephart has focused on facilitating a smooth transition while building strong relationships with the Board of Education, the community, district staff, and students. Her leadership emphasizes collaboration, transparency, and excellence, reflecting her unwavering commitment to providing every student in the District with a top-tier education. Dr. Kephart has been instrumental in leading the Connect Washington and Washington SOAR Into STEM initiatives to connect students with their workforce passions and interests while building a stronger community impact. Beyond her professional achievements, Dr. Kephart actively engages in educational committees and boards, further demonstrating her dedication to enhancing educational collaboration and stakeholder conversations. Dr. Kephart and her husband, Pete, love living in Washington. Pete is a professional pilot and a Lieutenant Colonel (Ret.) Army helicopter pilot. Pete and Jennifer have two children who live in Colorado and Illinois. When they are not attending events in the community, they enjoy spending time with their kids, flying out of the Washington Regional Airport, boating at the Lake of the Ozarks, and traveling with friends.
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