2015 Speakers


Check out the great lineup of speakers we had in 2015!

Sarah Allin

Sarah Allin has worked with public officials on social and economic advancement for disadvantaged communities in Arkansas, Massachusetts, Mississippi, and North Carolina. In 2015, she received a Masters in Public Policy from the Harvard Kennedy School of Government. Prior to the Kennedy School, Sarah was a senior policy analyst at the Mississippi Economic Policy Center, a nonprofit dedicated to advancing low-income and working poor families in Mississippi. A Southerner by birth and at heart, Sarah is from Winston-Salem, North Carolina. She currently lives in Norwich, Vermont with her husband, Tom, and adorable standard poodle, Charlie.


Melanie Almeder

Melanie Almeder is an award-winning writer, editor, professor, and community arts organizer. She received her M.F.A. in Creative Writing from the University of Massachusetts, and her Ph.D. in Literature from the University of Florida, where she studied Contemporary Narratives of Trauma and Healing. Her writing appears widely in national and international literary and arts publications and her first book of poems, On Dream Street, won two national awards. She teaches contemporary literature and creative writing at Roanoke College, where she was awarded the Dean’s “Exemplary Teacher” Award. In 2011, the State Higher Education Board of Virginia awarded her one of its best professor awards. She is the director of MuseSolutions, an editing and writing resource for business and the arts.

A great believer in community arts, Melanie has developed programs for a range of communities, including the annual poetry festival, “O, Miami,” writing groups at Bethany Hall, a halfway house for women, and, during one residency, at a women’s shelter in Sitka, Alaska.

During the month of April 2015, she was Roanoke City’s first writer for the Transit Residency. She rode public buses for a month, writing a notebook and poems about her experience, and encouraged other community members to join in the Riding/Writing.

Dina Buchbinder Auron

Dina Buchbinder Auron is a social entrepreneur in a quest to change traditional education to form better citizens in a fun, healthy, and engaging way. She has introduced an innovative, action-oriented education model called Deportes para Compartir/Sports for Sharing to education systems that have long struggled with passivity and rigidity. Sports for Sharing empowers teachers from a variety of school settings to foster social and environmental awareness while also teaching values, such as empathy, teamwork, and fair play.

Since its inception in 2007, Sports for Sharing has reached more than 440,000 children, teachers, and families in Mexico, the United States, Guatemala, and Argentina.

Dina´s main drive is catalyzing civic participation in children. She knows that as children grow up, learning about civic participation in action will be a part of who they become. “Children often dream up simple solutions to complex problems. With the right tools, they can become engaged citizens and help to turn their communities into healthier and happier places”

Dina is an Ashoka Fellow since 2011 and a member of the board of directors of the International Youth Foundation. Dina is  also a World Economic Forum Global Shaper. Currently, she is doing a MPA at the Harvard Kennedy School as a Mason Fellow. She is a Hubert Humphrey Fellow in Urban Planning at MIT. She graduated in 2007 with a BA in International Relations from the Technological Institute of Mexico.

Michael Baskin

Michael Baskin serves as the Chief Policy Officer for Chattanooga Mayor Andy Berke. He helps map Administration strategy, implement priority projects, and support best practices throughout the City. Previously, he worked in data analysis, brand marketing, and performance management for Anheuser-Busch Inbev, and in political messaging for Alipes CME. Michael is a native of Boston MA, where he got his start on the Mayor’s Youth Council, and was graduated from Harvard College, where he studied civic engagement. He loves playful street art, exploring new places, and all things outdoors.

William ||Woody|| Crenshaw

Born in New York, raised in North Carolina, William Crenshaw has spent the majority of his adult life in Southwest Virginia, having moved to Giles County in 1976 and to Floyd County in 1989. He managed his family’s chandelier business for nearly 30 years succeeding his father in 1984. He sold Crenshaw Lighting in March 2013.

During his 26 years in Floyd, William became interested in community development and has been involved in a number of projects including the Jacksonville Center for the Arts, SustainFloyd, The Crooked Road Heritage Music Trail, Round the Mountain Artisan Trail, Riverstone Organic Farm and the Floyd Fund. He has served as President of the Crooked Road Organization, Round the Mountain and SustainFloyd and the FC Chamber of Commerce organizations.

William was part of a group that renovated the town center of Floyd, an effort that resulted in an award of Excellence from the Virginia Mainstreet program in 2010. He and his wife Jackie restored and operated Floyd Country Store for 10 years, selling it in November 2014. William also operates Riverstone Organic Farm, one of the largest certified organic farms in the region, and is an avid photographer with a studio at the Jacksonville Center.

William has a lifelong interest in both science and religion, subjects he explores from his woodland home in Floyd County, a passive solar cabin he built with his wife Jackie 20 years ago.

Afira DeVries

Afira DeVries serves as President & CEO for United Way of Roanoke Valley. Her visionary style and extensive development experience contribute to the strategic direction and credibility of the organization, having generated more than a quarter billion dollars in support of social innovation over the course of her career. Afira’s education is in public policy and political theory and, after a short-lived pursuit of a political career, she realized that her idealistic nature was better suited to the not-for-profit sector. Afira joined United Way Central Massachusetts as a Development Officer in 1998 and has since assumed advancing positions with United Way’s of Greater Los Angeles, Silicon Valley, United Way Suncoast in Tampa Bay and her current organization. Afira serves as an engaged leader within the United Way system and is viewed as an expert resource and mentor to fundraisers across the country. She is a product development trainer for United Way Worldwide, serves on the Executive Resource Development Committee and provides consultative sales trainings for United Way’s seeking to evolve to a more relational fundraising model.

Afira is frequently called upon to serve as a presenter and guest speaker on a wide variety of subjects both locally and nationally, within and beyond the United Way system. She has been featured in San Jose Magazine and was recognized as one of Tampa Bay’s Under 40 “Up and Comers” award recipients by the Tampa Bay Business Journal in 2011. Additionally, Afira was honored by the Tampa Bay Business Journal as a “Business Woman of the Year” finalist in 2014. She earned her educational credentials at Averett University in Danville, VA and Cornell University. She and her husband Jason live with their two daughters, Ava and Amora, and their dog Vito in Roanoke.


Derwin Dubose

Derwin Dubose, co-founder and managing partner of New Community Majority Labs, has raised more than $6.5 million for political campaigns and nonprofits—including a North Carolina gubernatorial campaign, Habitat for Humanity, Ronald McDonald House Charities, and Communities in Schools—and served as policy adviser to North Carolina’s lieutenant governor and state treasurer. Currently, he is a Sheila C. Johnson Fellow at Harvard Kennedy School’s Center for Public Leadership and a columnist for Nonprofit Quarterly. Derwin is a native of Meridian, Mississippi, one of our New Majority Communities, and was named a modern civil rights leader by the AARP.


Ian Fortier

Ian Fortier is the Executive Director of the Grandin Theatre Foundation. Prior to his arrival he served as the Director of Patron Services at the Jefferson Center for nearly 5 years. Ian has been a nonprofit professional for over 20 years. Ian cut his teeth in Washington, DC, working and volunteering for such organizations as the National Geographic Society, the Rails-to-Trails Conservancy, and Earth Share. He is an avid traveler, having visited over 45 countries, living in six of them.

Following his arrival in Roanoke, Ian earned a Master’s Degree in Public Administration with a focus on nonprofit management. In his spare time, Ian is an avid mountain biker, a commissioned stained glass artist, and the emotional and disruptive captain of his two-time defending champion Roanoke City Men’s Ice Hockey Team. He has a 9-year-old black Labrador mix named Livvy and is in love with a single mother who is a daily inspiration of strength.


David France

David France is an active performer, innovative educator, and visionary leader. He is a graduate of the New England Conservatory of Music’s prestigious Sistema Fellows Program. The fellowship trains passionate socially minded musicians to become leaders in the movement to bring “Music for Social Change” programs to the United States. David is currently the executive director of Revolution of Hope, a world-class youth orchestra in the underserved Boston neighborhood of Roxbury.

In 2012 he was invited to Venezuela to teach in their world-renowned program affectionately known as El Sistema. In Caracas he worked with a youth orchestra in Montalban and violin students in barrios outside of the city.

David is enthusiastic about seeing El Sistema flourish in the United States. He has taught at El Sistema inspired programs in the United States including Play on Philly in Philadelphia and has been a consultant to the genesis of programs around the country.

Before moving to Boston he taught in Bermuda, where he enthusiastically encouraged over 300 kids to study the violin at the Bermuda School of Music and through partner outreach programs at low income schools on the island. In the fall of 2011 he was invited by the government of Costa Rica to conduct master classes for their newly founded music for social change initiative, SiNEM.

Mr. France has performed with a number of orchestras including the Wichita Symphony, the Minnesota Orchestra, The Ubuntu-Shruti Orchestra, and the Sphinx Symphony. His avantgarde videos are also widely popular on the website and have gained him recognition on many national and international programs including The CBS Early Show, CNN, BBC News, and Al Jazeera English. He has also been featured in Time Magazine, Strings Magazine, and the Wall Street Journal.

His versatility as a performer is seen in his collaborations with some of today’s most popular artists including Kenny Rogers, John Legend, Smokey Robinson, Josh Groban and Grammy award winning producer Quincy Jones.

His work in the film and television industry include an internship with Smooth Feather Productions, The Gayle King Show, and he appears as himself in the documentary “Harmony: The Road to Carnegie Hall” by director Stephen Higgins.

His Bermuda based classical guitar-violin duo, Southwood-France, opened the 2009 Kodai Kanal International Music Festival in Kodai Kanal, India. While in India he conducted master classes, coached chamber groups, and gave pedagogy workshops to the string faculty.

Katherine Fulton

Over more than three decades as a change agent, Katherine Fulton has been a journalist, teacher, entrepreneur, philanthropist, convener, strategist, advisor, leader and citizen. In recent years, she has become well known as an expert on the rapidly shifting terrain of philanthropy. She has written frequently on philanthropy and social change, and given dozens of major speeches, including one at the main TED conference. More importantly, she has worked closely with many of this generation’s leading philanthropists and major foundations, trying to help them make their aspirations braver and their actions wiser.

Katherine’s work draws upon her own life experiences of change, healing and transformation. A native of Roanoke, she graduated Phi Beta Kappa from Harvard. She then returned to the South, where she covered politics for a daily newspaper and co-founded The North Carolina Independent, an award-winning investigative newspaper, which won her both a Nieman Fellowship at Harvard and a foundation prize for community service. After leaving journalism in the early 1990s, she taught at Duke University before working as a strategy consultant at Global Business Network and Monitor Group, working with established business leaders, rising social entrepreneurs and philanthropists.

Katherine is currently on sabbatical from Deloitte Consulting, where she led the social sector advisory practice, and lives in the San Francisco Bay area with her partner of 25 years, Katharine Kunst.

Vedette Gavin

Vedette Gavin is the co-founder of New Majority Community Labs. As a public health practitioner and catalyst for community change, she has focused her career on eliminating health disparities in communities of color through community engagement and systems change. Vedette currently serves as the Director of Research and Partnerships at the Conservation Law Foundation where she researches the relationship between urban development, the built environment and health. Previously, Vedette was a the Director of Community Engagement at the Case Western Reserve Center for Reducing Health Disparities where she launched Healthy Eating Active Living, a community-led partnership that engaged more than 2,200 Cleveland residents in transforming neighborhood conditions to foster better health. Her work is recognized by the American Public Health Association, Centers for Disease Control and Public Health England.

Vedette is an Ohio native and holds a BS from the University of Maryland, College Park, an MPH from The Ohio State University, and a MPA from the Harvard Kennedy School of Government where she was an inaugural Sheila C. Johnson Leadership Fellow.


Rachel Hopkins

Rachel Hopkins both envisioned and served as Project Manager for the recently opened and hugely popular Roanoke Pinball Museum, and is now the Vice President of Development for Center in the Square.

Before relocating to Roanoke in 2012, Rachel lived abroad for 10 years, both in Leipzig, Germany and Amsterdam, Netherlands. Why Roanoke? Love at first sight – she was (and is) captivated by Roanoke’s pristine and nostalgic beauty, not to mention the limitless potential.

In Europe, Rachel worked with the European Union Commission for several years before dedicating much of her time to a rewarding career as an academic editor. Her travels have allowed her to study the elements and infrastructure in various communities that promote health, happiness, and well-being. Through strategic thinking, effective fundraising, and a vibrant approach, Rachel is dedicated to not only serving the needs of her organization, but impacting the local economy through creative placemaking.

A native Texan, Rachel graduated from the University of Texas with Honors in 2002. Her interests include pinball (suprise!), midwifery, traveling, visual arts study and curation, philanthropy, though more than anything, watching her children and garden grow.

Doug Jackson

In spite of the vaguely central-committee vibe weighing down the phrase regional planning, Doug Jackson thinks that—as a collaborative, future-focused approach—it’s a platform for stronger civic engagement, greater private investment, and better outcomes in communities.

A graduate of Duke University, UC-Irvine’s School of Social Ecology, and the creative writing program at Hollins University, he’s served as an officer in the U.S. Navy and as a nonprofit program lead on sustainable land use strategies in California’s Central Valley.

Doug has spent the last eight years working at the Virginia Department of Housing and Community Development (DHCD) on cultural heritage and outdoor recreation based community development strategies including the Clinch River Valley Initiative, the Virginia Oyster Trail, and the allied efforts of the Southwest Virginia Cultural Heritage Foundation.


Alex Johnston

Alex Johnston is a Civic Innovation Consultant for the Lynchburg Economic Development Authority and former vice chair of the Lynchburg Planning Commission. She holds a master’s degree in business administration from Liberty University and is a graduate of University of Virginia’s Sorensen Institute for Political Leadership. Alex served as a Family Support Worker with Healthy Families Virginia for several years, serving at-risk mothers and children living in poverty. This work lead her to a career in community wealthbuilding and social innovation.

Robert Kulp

Co-Owner of Black Dog Salvage with a keen eye for historical value and a constant focus on the bottom line, Robert Kulp is the resident architecturologist of Black Dog Salvage. A builder, salvager, Roanoke native and proud Virginia Tech Hokie, this former Naval Officer knows how to run a tight ship. In the office or in the field, Robert is all about “attention to detail” – a source of both great pain and entertainment for the rest of the Back Dog Crew.

With a degree in Building Construction from Virginia Tech, Robert has a passion for architectural details and a great understanding of the value of reclaimed building parts. As a Class A General Contractor, he offers solid advice and services for period restorations, “new” old houses, and “sympathetic” additions. In his spare time, you can find him cheering on the Hokies, kiteboarding or navigating behind the wheel of the “Damn Skippy” (Black Dog’s vintage cabin cruiser).


Samy Lamouille

Samy Lamouille is a Research Assistant Professor at the Virginia Tech Carilion Research Institute in Roanoke, and Head of Discovery at FirstString Research, a biotechnology start-up company located in Charleston, South Carolina. Through his unique position at the interface between Academia and Industry, Samy’s work focuses on translating and developing basic scientific discoveries into therapeutic treatments for cancer patients.

Samy is a French native who moved to the U.S. in 2004 after obtaining his Ph.D. in molecular and cell biology from the University of Grenoble. He first undertook his postdoctoral research at University of California San Francisco where he was awarded funding from the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society, in addition to the American Heart Association. Transitioning to biotechnology, Samy joined a diagnostic start-up company in the Bay Area as Principal Scientist in 2012 before moving to Roanoke.

Jeff May

Jeff May is a national motivational speaker and consultant who has presented workshops, seminars and keynote addresses to audiences throughout the U.S. He has been highly requested by countless school districts, higher education institutions and various community organizations. Jeff has crafted programs and workshops that have impacted and changed the lives of many and he is still continuing his mission and efforts to uplift and empower.

Jeff currently serves as the director of The Young Adult Life Enhancement (Y.A.L.E.) Program for Total Action for Progress (TAP). The program provides juvenile justice-involved youth ages 14 to 24 with mentoring, life skills, reintegration services and job training to empower them to take advantage of a second chance and become “cycle breakers.”

Chris Morrill

Chris Morrill was appointed City Manager of the City of Roanoke, March 1, 2010. Previously, he served nine years as Assistant City Manager of the City of Savannah, GA. From 1999 through 2001, he worked for Research Triangle Institute as Senior Municipal Finance Advisor to the South African National Treasury under a U.S.AID funded project. In this position, he assisted the South African government in developing local government finance legislation, municipal budget reforms, and capacity building programs.

From 1992- 1994, Chris served in the first group of U.S. Peace Corps volunteers in the former Soviet Union. Chris completed a three-year fellowship in the Kellogg National Leadership Program, exploring conflict resolution and community building in Peru, China, Northern Ireland, Spain and South Africa.

In 2011 he was chosen “Campaign Leader of the Year” by the United Way of the Roanoke Valley and currently serves as Campaign Chair. He received the 2012 “Gold Star Award” from the Roanoke Valley Convention and Visitors Bureau. In 2013 he was honored with the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, Roanoke Chapter, Martin Luther King, Jr. “Drum Major for Justice Award.”

Morrill received a B.A. degree in political science from the College of the Holy Cross in Worcester, MA, and a master of public administration from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. He is also a graduate of the Gallup Leadership Institute. He lives in Roanoke with his wife and two sons where he enjoys cycling the greenways, hiking the Blue Ridge Mountains, and exploring the historic downtown.

Josh McManus

An innovator in creative organizational development, entrepreneurship, place-making and cultivating emerging leadership, Josh assists foundations, corporations and large non-profits in reimagining post-industrial American cities. He is a constant advocate for using design processes to advance social, cultural and economic progress.

Josh’s current work focuses on the revitalization and entrepreneurial development of Detroit, Michigan and other post-industrial cities. He’s highly approachable and interested, so don’t be shy about connecting with him!

Christine Poarch

Christine Lockhart Poarch is the owner and managing attorney of Poarch Law, an immigration law firm in the Roanoke Valley. She serves on the board of the Federal Bar Association’s Immigration Law Section and frequently speaks at national, regional and local conferences on immigration law.  Christine was named a Fellow of the Virginia Bar Association and is rated AV Preeminent by Martindale-Hubbell.

Ellyn Parker

Ellyn Parker is a self-described “accidental bureaucrat” who works to advance the notion that creativity and the arts are catalysts for creating connection and healing and building  thriving cities and neighborhoods. She is a creative strategist and visionary thinker with a track record of implementing creative solutions to challenging problems.

Ellyn currently serves as the Public Art Coordinator for the City of Richmond, VA. Prior to her return to Virginia, she spent 8 years working as a community and neighborhood development specialist in the Mayor’s Office of Economic Development for the City of San Francisco. Ellyn has worked in the arts in many incarnations, including as a gallery owner and youth arts educator, and is an occasional musician and artist herself. She believes deeply that the arts are a vehicle for cities to tackle tough issues.

Ellyn is a Virginia native who now resides in Richmond, VA with her teenage daughter after spending 20 years in San Francisco. She has a BS in Organizational Behavior and Leadership Development from the University of San Francisco.

twitter handle @ellyvolution

Robert Reynolds

Robert Reynolds holds a Master’s in Public Policy from the Harvard Kennedy School, where he was a fellow of the Center for Public Leadership. Robert is interested in how public policy rooted in behavioral insights can promote social good. His current projects focus on hand hygiene and healthy eating. While in graduate school, he founded Harvard’s largest student-run organization on behavioral insights and public policy.

Prior to graduate school, Robert taught working children at a Jesuit school in Ecuador. Last summer, he returned to Ecuador to facilitate the production of Trabajar, a mini-film on a day in the life of a working child.

A Montanan, Robert holds a BS in economics from Loyola Marymount University, where he graduated with the Ignatian Award. He’s a former White House intern and EPA fellow.


Jeff Smith

Jeff Smith is the CEO of Voltage Leadership Consulting based in Roanoke, Virginia. Since 2001, he has been an executive coach to management and leadership professionals in both for profit and not-for-profit organizations. Working for Capital One and Carilion Clinic, Jeff brings over 20 years of experience working as an executive in human resources and operations rolls leading: operations, human resources, and merger and acquisition efforts.   He uses a collaborative approach with his clients to help them determine their vision and then identify a plan to help them achieve their full potential in their professional and personal lives.

Jeff graduated cum laude with a BBA from James Madison University in management and history.  He also holds a MA from George Washington University in Human Resource Development.  Additionally, Jeff graduated from Georgetown University with an Executive Coaching and Leadership Certificate and became a Fellow of the Advisory Board in 2006.  He earned his Professional Coach Certification through the International Coaching Federation.

Voltage Leadership has national and international clients: City of Roanoke, Coca Cola, Newport News Shipyard, Cleveland Clinic, Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi, Carilion Clinic, Delta Dental Virginia, Carolinas Healthcare, Interactive Achievement, Novozymes, and many more. Additionally, Voltage Leadership has expanded and now has an executive coach serving the Richmond, Virginia area.

Jeff is married to Beth and they have 4 children: Caroline, Olivia, Phillip, and Henry ranging in ages from 9 to 16 years old. Jeff enjoys time with family, all JMU sports, the Atlanta Braves, and runs marathons in his spare time.

Jamie Smyth

Jamie Smyth is an Assistant Professor at the Virginia Tech Carilion School of Medicine and Research Institute, and the Department of Biological Sciences at Virginia Tech. Since July 2014, his research team is studying molecular mechanisms of heart disease from coronary artery disease to viral infection of the heart, with the aim of identifying new therapeutic targets for the clinic. Jamie is from Ireland originally where he obtained his Ph.D. at Trinity College Dublin before undertaking postdoctoral training at the University of California San Francisco and Cedars Sinai Medical Center, Los Angeles. His work has been previously recognized and funded by the American Federation for Aging Research and the American Heart Association.


Jonathon Stalls

Jonathon Stalls is a passionate community advocate and social enterprise professional working to inspire mission-driven, creative, people-centered initiatives focused on whole health walking programs. He started Walk2Connect in 2012 after completing an 8-month, 3030 mile walk across the United States and the 490 mile pilgrim path, el Camino de Santiago in Spain. Jonathon serves on many local and national committees related to walking behavior and walkable community education. He resides in Denver, Colorado and continues to walk thousands of miles throughout the year helping people connect to others, the places they live, and themselves by foot. He holds a BA in Design & Entrepreneurship from Metro State University.

Charles Thomas

Charles Thomas, an artist, educator and entrepreneur, is the Executive Director of Queen City Forward. As a social innovation accelerator and incubator, Queen City Forward’s mission is to unleash the potential of high growth, high impact social entrepreneurs in Charlotte to create sustained economic and social impact that spurs economic development, improves the lives of citizens and drives a new model for sustainable growth.

Prior to leading Queen City Forward, Charles served as the Director of Education of The Light Factory Contemporary Museum of Photography and Film.

Charles is a professional photographer and recently co-published a book of photography and stories with author Valaida Fullwood called GIVING BACK: A Tribute to Generations of African American Philanthropists . In addition to winning the 2012 Terry McAdam Book Award, Charles & Valaida partnered with Johnson C. Smith University to create & launch a traveling exhibition titled the Soul of Philanthropy: Reframed and Exhibited. The exhibition just closed at Johnson C. Smith University and will be traveling to 10 sites over the next two years courtesy of a grant from the Institute of Museums and Library Services.

Jen Tutak

As a management consultant within Deloitte Consulting’s Social Impact practice, Jen focuses on the ways that business, government, and education can intersect to enable all individuals to be set up for success. Jen’s current projects are primarily with clients in higher education on issues related to education access and completion.

Jen holds graduate degrees in public administration, business, and education from the Harvard Kennedy School, the MIT Sloan School of Management, and the Harvard Graduate School of Education. She received her undergraduate degree from Dartmouth College. Jen resides in Cambridge, which has been an ideal home to pursue her passion for education, leadership development, and community building, all three of which she see as ideal means for bringing together the world’s innovative change agents to achieve the interdisciplinary problem-solving that our society needs.

Sara Wohlford

Sara Wohlford is the Efficiency and Sustainability Officer for Carilion Clinic in Virginia, where she facilitates and coordinates programs for the health care system that reduce inefficiencies and waste, and promote environmental sustainability. After receiving a Master’s Degree in Public Health, Sara conceptualized and proposed her current position, created a work structure for

sustainability for Carilion’s seven hospitals, developed the Carilion Clinic Environmental Stewardship Council, and is currently developing a program to donate thousands of pounds of excess medical supplies to support medical education as well as local and international missions.

Sara mobilized dozens of sustainability champions, green teams, and workgroups from multiple nursing units and departments within the system to help actualize the projects and goals for sustainability. Her projects will increase recycling, decrease energy utilization, decrease natural resource consumption, and divert tens of thousands of pounds of waste from Virginia landfills annually…and she’s just getting started.


Mike Whiteside

Co-Owner of Black Dog Salvage famous for saying, “go big, go hard, go fast, or go home,” Mike Whiteside, the resident optimist of Black Dog Salvage, has yet to meet an impossible task – but knows his limits. As a former Navy parachute rigger, he traveled the world serving our country. Mike’s love of travel and the sea led him to a 15- year career as a professional sailor and yacht captain. Some of his other offbeat jobs include ski lift operator and chair seat weaver. His skill set today involves custom fabrication, ad hoc artistry, and creative salvaging. He may have seen a lot, but is always looking for a way to see it all over again.

Easily mistaken for a “bull in a china shop,” he enthusiastically barrels headfirst into each job, leaving no stone unturned in the pursuit of all things salvageable. Always looking for a deal, you’ll find Mike calling the shots on the front lines of Black Dog bartering. An architectural visionary, Mike loves to tackle design challenges and help customers create their own unique treasures. On a rare day off, you can find him with a line in the water or riding his Harley through the Virginia countryside looking for the next salvage conquest.

Kevin Wright

Kevin Wright is a leader in commercial district revitalization, real estate development and creative placemaking. He uses his diverse background to regenerate communities and cities through small-scale activation strategies and physical transformation. Currently Kevin serves as Executive Director of the nonprofit Walnut Hills Redevelopment Foundation in Cincinnati, Ohio.

Kevin has led teams in the creation and implementation of dozens of projects ranging from small creative placemaking activities to multi-million dollar real estate deals. His work at the Walnut Hills Redevelopment Foundation has received many honors and has been featured in national publications such as The Huffington Post.

Kevin earned a Bachelor’s degree in journalism from Missouri State University and received a Master’s Degree in Community Planning from the University of Cincinnati with a specialization in urban real estate and neighborhood development.