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.
We have a few new opportunities for members, as well as some that we haven’t mentioned in a while, so I wanted to put them all together in one spot for you, and include timelines so you don’t accidentally miss something
Video Series Interviews
We will be working with students from the CAPS Program at Four Rivers Career Center to develop video interviews with our members about the impact of the Chamber in their business, and in the community as a whole. Other videos will focus on educating the community on the Chamber's purpose, history, and outlook.
This is a great way to feature your business as well as your involvement in the Chamber! We will post these to our Facebook and YouTube accounts and tag you on Facebook.
Timeline: Work will begin on these projects later this month, so we appreciate your response by Feb. 20!
To participate, please complete the appropriate form:
Music at the Market, the live music partnership of the Chamber and the Washington Parks Department, kicks off Thursday, May 13 with Garden Party!
Events are held the 2nd Thursday of the month, May, June, July, September, and October at the Washington Farmers' Market. Admission is free, and a featured food vendor is on-site with meals for purchase. Wine, beer, seltzer, soda, and water can be purchased from the on-site bar.
Twenty picnic tables are set up for the event, but patrons are encouraged to bring lawn chairs.
Music at the Market is a designated festival zone, so pets and outside coolers are not allowed. For full details on the 2021 season, view our Series Poster or visit the Music at the Market page on our website.
For more photos and details on Gov. Parson's visit:
School District of Washington article
Photos from Gov. Parson Flickr
Inaugural Class of Youth Registered Apprentices from Four Rivers Career Center - Many Chamber Businesses Participating!
At this time, FRCC offers seven (7) different apprenticeship study programs: Automotive Technology, Machine Tool, Welding, Collision Repair, Carpenter, Engineering, Information Technology. There are currently 24 Premier Business Partners certified to employ apprentices from Four Rivers Career Center. Chamber Members taking advantage of the training program include Modern Auto Company, Riechers Tire and Auto, Straatmann Toyota, School District of Washington, KJ Unnerstall Construction, GH Tool & Mold, Riechers Truck Bodies, and Sahm Welding and Fabrication.
The Signing Day ceremony was the culmination of many efforts and milestones leading up to this ceremony:
- 1998 – Four Rivers Career Center is the first CTE in the nation to establish an Adult Registered Apprenticeship program
- June 28, 2020 – Department of Labor officially approves Four Rivers Career Center Youth Registered Apprenticeship program standards as a nationally recognized intermediary.
- June 2020 – FRCC YRA program is one of six programs chosen by TransPORTS-DOL to partner with, and the only youth program in the nation they chose to help establish.
- 2020 – Subsidiaries of the DOL-Office of Apprenticeship, TransPORTS, IWSI America, and Urban Institute seek out FRCC to help establish Youth Registered Apprenticeship programs across the nation.
Four Rivers Career Center prides itself in authentic experiences for their students, bridging the gap between education and career success. Recognized as a premier Career and Technical Education Center FRCC offers students the ability to connect their passions to their career path. FRCC services ten high schools and spans St. Charles, Gasconade, Warren, Franklin, Crawford, and St. Louis Counties.
"Five years ago, the charge was to change the face of Four Rivers," said FRCC Director Andy Robinson. "Prior to that, we were vo-tech - we were the school students would go to that weren't successful in academic educational areas. I trust my staff, I trust the teachers that are making it happen, I trust what they do every day in the classroom to make it real. They take our students and they find their passions and they push them out into the real world. They understand that their program of study may be to go to a 4 year university, to a 2-year community college, or to a trade school, or just go straight to work and get involved. We find every kid where they're at and we push them along. In order to represent that, we needed an apprenticeship program."
The program has great potential to keep growing, developing an effective pipeline for a highly skilled, sustainable workforce. Four Rivers Career Center is setting a high standard to qualify as Youth Registered Apprentices through aptitude, academic performance, and work ethic. Students must meet a number of requirements to qualify for the program, maintaining a minimum 2.5 GPA and 95 percent attendance rate, and they must be at least 16 years of age. "Today we're celebrating 33 students," Robinson said. "We call them gold standard students because they are our guarantee. We want to push out high quality students.
We've got another 500 kids in the wings - we just couldn't get to them all, but we will. It just takes time and effort, and building more relationships in our community."
Cynthia Walker was hired as the Apprenticeship Coordinator and has been impressed with the way the community has embraced the apprenticeship model. "I'm amazed at the achievements we can make when we all work together as a team. The vision of YRA has been a long held initiative for our administration, school board, employers, and our local/state officials, with a purpose to bolster our economy and fill the needed workforce skills gap. Our FRCC Director, Andy Robinson, has helped put feet to that vision and provided the initiative for the community relationships, the leadership, as well as the many provisions to move this chapter of career and technical education forward."
Governor Mike Parson and Lt. Governor Mike Kehoe, both supporters of apprenticeship and other programs to help narrow the skills gap, were unable to attend the ceremony due to scheduling conflicts. Gov. Parson has plans to visit FRCC for a tour in the future, and Lt. Gov. Kehoe provided a video address for the ceremony, stating, "CTE (Career & Technical Education) students are a vital resource to Missouri's thriving economy today, tomorrow, and the future because our state needs a strong skilled, and highly motivated workforce to compete in the world's marketplace."
His words about the students, however, were a highlight of the day, and proof that Four Rivers Career Center is living and fulfilling its mission to provide a quality education with real life experiences and opportunities to achieve a higher standard of living for a diverse student population using authentic hands-on learning modeled by knowledgeable and caring instructors.
Johnson stated, "I wish I was as confident and talented in high school as what I've seen today. And it's not just the apprentices. The kids that gave us tours... They were very sure of what they wanted to do and how they wanted to prepare themselves for the workforce, for becoming productive, contributing members of society, forging their own path to the middle class. It inspires me, and it gives me hope for the future."
Learn more here, or contact Cynthia Walker, Apprenticeship Coordinator for additional details!
Below are links to the Event Program and to the Facebook and YouTube livestreams.
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