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The 2018 Cohort consists of 23 Leaders from North Saint Louis City and sections of North Saint Louis County:





Adam Brown

Saint Louis County – University City         

Mr. Adam Brown graduated from Cornell University with a degree in City and Regional Planning in 2001.  From there, Mr. Brown went on to work in a variety of industries including professional soccer, restaurant service, contracting and landscaping, organic farming, and non-profit volunteer organizing.  In 2016, he moved to Saint Louis and decided he wanted to work in community organizing.  Mr. Brown prides himself on the meaningful work and his drive to make the community a better place to live for everyone. Top

Annessa Blackmun

Saint Louis City – 3rd Ward

Dr. Annessa R. Blackmun is a local podiatrist, diabetic educator and healthcare advocate born and raised in North St. Louis City. She received a B.S. in Biology from Kentucky State University in 2002. She later completed her Doctor of Podiatric Medicine degree at the New York College of Podiatric Medicine in 2007. After completion of her doctorate degree, Dr. Blackmun completed a 3-year Podiatric Medicine and Surgical Residency at Ochsner Medical Center in Kenner, Louisiana.

After returning to St. Louis in 2013, Dr. Blackmun established Blackmun Footcare LLC, a podiatric medical practice in North St. Louis city devoted to advocacy, community health education, risk prevention, decreasing healthcare disparities and wellness. Dr. Blackmun remains committed to creating opportunities for meaningful impact in the area of health and wellness, specifically in the area of diabetes management and prevention. Because of this, Dr. Blackmun has opened Sunflower Podiatry and Wellness,an organization focused on promoting education, training, healthy thinking and living. Top

Carla Reid

Saint Louis City – 1st Ward

Mrs. Carla Reid is a social service professional and entrepreneur.  She has serve in various capacities within the social services field within the last 19 years.  Mrs. Reid has a wealth of knowledge and experience working with low income families and underserved communities.  Currently, she works as a Community Response Project Coordinator with United Way.  Mrs. Carla Reid started her first business in 2011.  She founded Elevated Men’s Salon as a response to the lack of support of Black men.  She believes that if Black men were supported and empowered then so will Black families, neighborhoods, and communities.  Her second business, Empowering Our Peers, LLC, was started in 2017.  This foundation’s goal is to provide relationship based, client directed, goal focused financial coaching to low income families. Top

Deborah Rice-Carter

Saint Louis County – Ferguson

Deborah Rice-Carter retired in 2016, but remains a strong civic leader in her community.  Mrs. Rice-Carter works part-time for EarthDance Organic Farm School as a Community Outreach Coordinator.  Mrs. Rice-Carter has a strong passion for helping vulnerable populations, especially the elderly.  This passion has led her to obtain her Bachelors’ of Science in Gerontology in 2017.  In her free time, Mrs. Rice-Carter enjoys gardening and volunteering in her local community. Top

Deborah Vincent

Saint Louis County – Pagedale

Ms. Deborah Vincent was born and raised in the city of Saint Louis and attended Saint Louis Public School.  Ms. Vincent graduated from Northwest High School in June of 1972.  After graduation, she worked for the United States Postal Service and was employed for 41 years.  Upon retirement, Ms. Vincent began being involved with her local community and she ran for Alderperson in 2016.  She is committed to her community and volunteers to address the food insecurity in Pagedale.  Ms. Deborah Vincent’s goal is to become the Mayor of Pagedale within the next two years and to serve and respect the constituents within her municipality. Top

Edward McFowland

Saint Louis City – 4th Ward

Mr. Edward McFowland has been involved in Saint Louis politics since he was 9 years old, by delivering voter literature from door to door.  He graduated from Sumner High School in May of 1975 and joined the Army shortly after.  After his 3 year enlistment, Mr. McFowland enrolled at Southern Illinois University-Carbondale, where he received his Bachelor’s in Political Science and minor in Public Administration.  Upon return to Saint Louis, Mr. McFowland ran for public office.  In 2012, Mr. McFowland was elected committeeman for the 4th Ward, where he served until 2016. Top

Elwyn Walls

Saint Louis County – Pine Lawn

Mr. Elwyn Walls graduated from Normandy High School in 1973.  In 2004, he retired from the St. Louis Public School system as a maintenance supervisor.  After retiring, he attended St. Louis Community College where he majored in Broadcast Communication and Electronic Media. Mr. Elwyn Walls graduated in 2008 and worked at the college radio station as a weekend supervisor and moved to the position of Assistant Telecommunication Engineer for the media services department at the college.  Currently, Mr. Elwyn Walls is a student at the University of Missouri-St. Louis, obtaining his Bachelors’ of Science in Public Policy Administration.

In 2009, Mr. Walls became advocate in his community of Pine Lawn’s by exposing unjust and corrupt activities to the United States Department of Justice. He participated in forming a Citizens Coalition which prevailed in restoring justice and removing corruption from Pine Lawn. In 2016, Mr. Elwyn Walls was elected as an alderman where he continues his work as an advocate for the citizens of Pine Lawn. Top

JoAnn Williams

Saint Louis City – 21st Ward

Ms. JoAnn Williams served as a business representative and executive board member for the Saint Louis Carpenter’s District Council (CDC) for 20 years.  During her distinguished career, she organized and represented the largest group of public employees which includes carpenters, painters, building inspectors, correctional officers, and public health nurses.  Ms. Williams retired from the CDC in December 2013.  Ms. Williams accepted numerous appointments to boards and commissions after retirement and throughout her career.  The most recent boards served are Saint Louis Works Partnership, Employee Retirement System, Sisters in the United Brotherhood of Carpenters, Saint Louis Carpenters’ Credit Union, Saint Louis Jobs Board, Wesley House Association, and Community Mediation Services.  Ms. JoAnn Williams currently is the president of Conflict Resolution Services.  Ms. Williams is a tireless advocate for her community and a knowledgeable mentor to young politicians in the Saint Louis Area. Top

Justin Idleburg

Saint Louis City – 26th Ward

Mr. Justin Idleburg is an innovator and humanitarian at Nehemiah’s Mission STL.  Mr. Idleburg is an equitable strategist who partners with CEOs, executives and government officials to create solutions to various sectors and industries.  After spending over a decade working in Mental Health field and grant funded non-profit organizations, Mr. Idleburg knows what truly drives impactful conversations.  Justin has been interviewed by NowThis and BuzzFeed (digital media organizations that distribute news content on social media platforms) on issues that affect his community.  Currently, Mr. Idleburg serves on several boards including Forward thru Ferguson, Cornerstone LLC, STL Mental Health Board/Systems of Care, and Community Advisory Regional Health Commission as well as serve as Vice President of the West End Neighbors. Top

Kevin Windham

Saint Louis County – Northwoods

Kevin Windham is a public servant with experience working in federal and state government. While studying corporate communication at Southeast Missouri State University, Mr. Windham was active in the President’s Task Force on Diversity Education, Student Government Association, Black Student Union and FOCUS St. Louis’ Impact Fellows.  Mr. Windham was a member of Cigna’s inaugural Ferguson-St. Louis Internship program and was awarded Southeast Missouri State University’s Distinguished Student Award for creating lasting and positive change in the university community in April 2015.  Mr. Windham currently serves as an Education Policy intern with the Scholarship Foundation of St. Louis, Director of Civic Engagement with Young Voices with Action, and Director of Finance with Kiwanis Club-University City. Top

Kimberly Knox

Saint Louis County – Normandy

Mrs. Kimberly Knox was born and raised in Saint Louis, MO and is a lifelong learner and an education enthusiast.  Mrs. Kimberly Knox earned her Bachelor’s in Social Work at the University of Missouri-Columbia campus.  After working with foster and adoptive parents and children, Mrs. Knox began a career in education, teaching at both public and private schools.  Mrs. Knox obtained her Master’s in Elementary Education from the University of Missouri-Saint Louis and is a Teach for America alumna.  Mrs. Kimberly Knox has served as a member of the Normandy City Council since 2015.  Mrs. Knox is married to Dishon Knox and they have one beautiful son.  Her personal philosophy is to work with all thine heart as unto the Lord (Colossians 3:23). Top

Kimberly-Ann J. Collins

Saint Louis City – 21st Ward

Kimberly-Ann Collins went to the University of Missouri-Kansas City, where she obtained a Bachelor’s of Science in Chemistry and a Bachelor’s of Science in Public Health Services.  Upon graduation, Ms. Collins returned to Saint Louis and got involved in politics.  She began to work in her community, especially with citizens who are unhoused residents.  Through her service, she realized that she had a passion for helping others and creating more equitable opportunities for residents in her community.  Ms. Kimberly-Ann Collins is now running for State Representative in the 77th District. Top

Lucendia Smith

Saint Louis City – 5th Ward

Ms. Lucendia Smith is an advocate for her local community and she understands the critical need for distressed communities everywhere.  Her critical thinking skills allow her to work through insider/outsider tensions to bring solutions.  Ms. Lucendia Smith has controversial conversations with local politicians to ensure that the inequity in her neighborhood is addressed.  Ms. Smith serves on the Board of Directors for Flace Early Learning Center and she works as a job developer at SLATE.  She is also a participant in the WEPOWER Leadership Program.  In addition, Ms. Smith devotes her free time to town hall meetings and volunteering in her community.  Top

Luther Tyus

Saint Louis County – Bellerive Acres

Luther O. Tyus has delivered Crime Prevention presentations to numerous corporations, including AT&T Ameren UE.  Luther has conducted his Social Unrest seminar for the NAACP, Urban Strategies, Focus St. Louis, and The Urban League.

He has also partnered with Angel House, Urban Strategies, St. Louis Public Schools, and HUD to provide Movie Nights, National Night Out, Back to School Give Backs, Halloween Trick or Trunks, and Christmas giveaways.  Recently, Mr. Luther Tyus has published a national article for CNN entitled, “Why Didn’t I Kill Him?” which is a recount of his experience as a police officer and how the brain works under deadly threats.

Mr. Luther Tyus has been a police officer in the City of St. Louis for 7 years and has won several awards including: NAMI award, APEX award, a Chiefs Letter of Accommodation and has been named officer of the month six times. He was also selected as a Focus St. Louis Leadership participant. His background includes a BA degree from Columbia College in Columbia MO.  Currently, Mr. Luther Tyus is a graduate research assistant at Washington University, where he is also obtaining his Masters’ in Social Work. Top

Marie Oberkirsch

Saint Louis City – 5th Ward

Marie Oberkirsch is an artist and a non-profit arts administrator and director of Central Print, a printmaking studio in Old North Saint Louis.  Ms. Marie Oberkirsch received her Bachelor’s in Fine Art from the University of Kansas and received her Master’s in Fine Art from Cranbrook Academy of Art.  After graduation, Ms. Oberkirsch has worked as a special events manager at Laumeier Sculpture Park for 7 years, as well as served as an interim director for the organization for six months.  She has taught art and design courses at Maryville University, Saint Charles County Community College, and Skidmore College.  Ms. Oberkirsch makes and sells printed textiles at local craft shows and is a member of the Amalgamated Printers Association.  Her interest in preservation and fine craft support both her personal and professional practice. Top

Mary Wheeler – Jones

Saint Louis City – 21st Ward

Mary Wheeler-Jones is the Democrat Director of the Board of Election Commissioners for the City of Saint Louis.  Ms. Wheeler-Jones began her career at the Election Board in 2005.  Ms. Wheeler-Jones was instrumental in helping voters become acquainted and comfortable by directing a community outreach program.  Ms. Wheeler-Jones is very committed to fair elections, voter education and outreach efforts in line with the Board of Elections’ mission statement.  Prior to coming to Board of Elections, Ms. Wheeler-Jones worked for the Missouri Department of Human Services as a manager for the Center for Aging.

Ms. Wheeler-Jones has served on numerous boards and committees and is very committed to the revitalization and sustainability efforts to the North City Neighborhood of which she has been a 30 year resident.  She is current on the boards of Wesley House Association, Conflict Resolution Center, and the O’Fallon YMCA Recreation Center. Top

Octavia Pittman

Saint Louis County – Berkeley

Octavia Pittman is a North County resident and the City Clerk for the City of Ferguson.  She began her career as a City Clerk in 2001 and during her tenure she has been very active in the local and international education associations.  She has earned the designation of Certified Municipal Clerk from the International Institute of Municipal Clerks, the designation of Missouri Professional City Clerk and is being mentored as a parliamentarian with the National Association of Parliamentarians.  She has served as chairman and committee member of many committees of the Missouri City Clerks and Financial Officers Association (MOCCFOA).  She is also a recipient of the North County Incorporated 30 Leaders in their 30s.  Ms. Octavia Pittman has earned a Bachelor of Arts in International Business and Human Resource Management as well as an Associate of Arts in Accounting. Top

Rezhe Connelly

Saint Louis County – University City

Rezhe Connelly is a community development coordinator for Northside Community Housing, Inc. (NCHI).  Prior to her employment at NCHI, Ms. Connelly worked for Justine PETERSEN, where she served as a Credit Building Counselor and Loan Officer.

Rezhe is a recent graduate of Lindenwood University and holds a MA in Nonprofit Management and a Bachelor of Social Work from the University of Missouri in Saint Louis. As a graduate student, Rezhe provided consultation services to an organization which provided water well drilling and hand pumps to the people of Haiti to provide safe drinking water. 

In her free time Rezhe volunteers as a tax preparer and financial coach and is passionate about personal finance, public speaking, and community development. Top

Ronald L. Jones

Saint Louis City – 4th Ward

Mr. Ronald L. Jones is a specialized landscaper and dorm supervisor for the Saint Louis Job Corps.  Mr. Jones manages three staff members as well as counsels 60 male students for the Saint Louis Job Corps.  Encouraging young adults and beautifying the community has always been his passion and he has been committed to enhancing his local community due to the disparities he has noticed since he was a child.  Mr. Jones acknowledges the differences and allows it to motivate his civic duties. Top

Roslyn Brown

Saint Louis County – Pine Lawn

Roslyn Brown is a proud mother determined to take back her city by giving a voice to the defenseless and oppressed. As a social justice advocate, she inherited the duties of researching, organizing and facilitating progressive political action committees to remove corrupt leadership with a hold on her community. She now serves as the Board President for the City of Pine Lawn Board of Aldermen. She holds degrees in Education and Public Policy and Social Science.  Ms. Brown is an active member of Missourians Organizing for Reform and Empowerment, Organization for Black Struggle and is the Co-Founder and Executive Director of the Pine Lawn Coalition. Top

T. Christopher Peoples

Saint Louis County – Bridgeton

T. Christopher Peoples is the 8th President and CEO of Pitzman’s Co. of Surveyors. Mr. T. Christopher Peoples has over 16 years land surveying and 10 years of civil engineering experience and with him at the helm, Pitzman’s Co. continues to establish itself as one of the region’s premiere Land Development Service providers, with a client list that includes some of the region’s major institutions, corporates and real estate developers.

Mr. Peoples serves on a number of boards including the University of Missouri System – Leadership Council, UM-St. Louis Alumni Association, City of St. Louis – Local Development Company, St. Louis Economic Development Partnership - Business Retention & Expansion Committee, Salvation Army – Maplewood Corp Advisory Board, St. Louis Zoo Association Board, City of Maplewood – Special Business District Commission and Maplewood-Richmond Heights (Mid-County) Chamber of Commerce where he currently serves as the Vice President. In addition, Mr. Peoples is a proud and active member of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity – Epsilon Lambda Chapter. Top

Teyuna Darris

Saint Louis County – Ferguson

Ms. Teyuna Darris is a native of Saint Louis County where she has earned her primary, secondary, and postsecondary education.  She has served as a long-term substitute teacher and worked with youth in a variety of academic and religious capacities.  Ms. Darris devotes much of her free time volunteering in Ferguson and other surrounding communities through using her knowledge of communications and media to help individuals and organizations accomplish their strategic goals.  She is also an AmeriCorps alumna and a small business owner by freelancing media projects for other small business owners.  Currently, Ms. Darris serves on the Board of Trustees for the Ferguson Municipal Library. Top

Umeme Houston

Saint Louis City – 3rd Ward

Mrs. Umeme Houston was born, raised, and currently resides in Saint Louis, Missouri.  She has a natural love and passion for the people in her community.  Mrs. Houston has dedicated herself to those in the African Diaspora by adoping the following mission:  to make a positive everlasting contribution to Black empowerment and liberation by educating, promoting, and living by the values of independence, balance, unity, courage, and knowledge.  With arts and culture being her focus, Umeme spends much of her time creating art that celebrate and embrace African culture. Top