Who will be speaking at the forum?


Michael L. Parson

57th Governor of Missouri

Michael L. Parson was sworn in as Missouri’s 57th Governor on June 1, 2018 by Missouri Supreme Court Judge Mary R. Russell. He came into the role of governor with a longtime commitment to serving others with over 30 years of experience in public service.

Governor Parson previously served as the 47th Lieutenant Governor of Missouri. He was elected Lieutenant Governor on November 8, 2016 after claiming victory in 110 of Missouri’s 114 counties and receiving the most votes of any Lieutenant Governor in Missouri history.

Governor Parson served the people of the 28th Senatorial District in the Missouri Senate from 2011-2017. He served in the Missouri House of Representatives from 2005-2011. Governor Parson also served as the Sheriff of Polk County from 1993-2005. He also served six years in the U.S. Army.

While in the Missouri Senate, Governor Parson chaired the Small Business, Insurance & Industry Committee and during his first two years served as Majority Whip. While serving in the House of Representatives, he was chair of the House Rules Committee. He sponsored and co-sponsored several landmark pieces of legislation including Missouri’s Castle Doctrine, which strengthened 2nd Amendment rights, and the Missouri Farming Rights Amendment, a piece of legislation that changed the Missouri Constitution to guarantee all Missourians the right to farm and ranch.

During Governor Parson’s first year as Lieutenant Governor, the Office of Lieutenant Governor launched the “Buy Missouri” initiative, spearheaded an investigation at the St. Louis Veterans Home, and has been a strong advocate for agriculture, veterans, seniors, and tourism. He also was inducted into the Missouri Farmers Care Hall of Fame, won the Missouri Grocers Association Capitol Impact Award, and named Ingram’s 50 Missourians You Should Know 2018 list.

Governor Parson has lived in Bolivar with his wife Teresa. Together they have two grown children and five grandchildren. He was raised on a farm in Hickory County, and graduated from Wheatland High School in Wheatland, Missouri. He is a small business owner and is a third generation farmer who currently owns and operates a cow and calf operation near Bolivar.


Gregory Lemos

Gregory Lemos is a former journalist and producer for ABC News. Before leaving ABC News in 2013, Gregory covered Congress and elections as a digital journalist and producer. She worked as a TV producer for ABC’s network broadcasts, wrote for and appeared on-air for ABC News Digital.

The Atlanta-based journalist is currently taking time away from her career to focus, with her husband, on their rapidly growing family of four children (all under five!). She speaks on leadership, faith, and activating the potential of her generation.

Gregory holds a master’s degree from Columbia Journalism School and graduated Phi Beta Kappa and magna cum laude from The University of the South, where she majored in English and art history.


Taisir Yanis

Taisir Yanis is the owner of Yanis Coffee Zone in downtown Jefferson City, he has an incredible story of courage and perseverance which led him to small town Missouri. 

Yanis Coffee Zone, known for its Mediterranean cuisine and Rocket Fuel house blend, is a downtown café that is a multiyear winner of the Jefferson City Small Business of the Year Award. He has the gift of customer service through servant leadership. He is married and lives in Wardsville, Missouri with his wife Christina and their two children.


Mike Kehoe

Lt. Gov. Mike Kehoe was appointed in June 2018. Prior to that, he was senator for the Sixth Senatorial District covering seven mid-Missouri counties: Cole, Gasconade, Maries, Miller, Moniteau, Morgan and Osage. 

First elected in 2010 and re-elected in 2014, he served as the Assistant Majority Floor Leader for two years and the Majority Floor leader for three years. In this leadership role, he served as Chairman of the Senate Rules, Joint Rules, Resolutions and Ethics Committee and Vice-Chairman of the Senate Gubernatorial Appointments Committee, and was a member of the Administration and Agriculture Committees. 

As senator, Kehoe was honored by the Missouri Cattlemen’s Association, the Missouri Association of Electric Cooperatives, and most recently, as the 2016 Missouri Community College Association Distinguished Legislator.

He won numerous awards in business, including the Time Magazine Quality Dealer Award, Ford’s President's Award, and induction into the Automotive Hall of Fame. He is also involved in his community, having served as chairman of the Jefferson City Chamber of Commerce, twice as United Way Fund Drive Chairman, and is a strong supporter of youth development activities from Boy Scouts to 4-H.

Born in St. Louis, Lt. Gov. Kehoe and his wife, Claudia, have called mid-Missouri home for more than 25 years and are the proud parents of four children. As a small businessman, he owned and operated Osage Industries until 1992, and Mike Kehoe Ford – Lincoln until 2011. He continues to dedicate his time to public service and his beef cattle production business located on the family farm in Phelps County.


michael lanahan

Michael Lanahan works for the Missouri Department of Economic Development, where he provides legal and policy guidance for major economic development programs. He is passionate about people and problem-solving. He has dedicated his career to creating economic opportunities for individuals who need them most, enabling them to provide for their families and shape their communities.

Prior to serving the State of Missouri, Michael practiced corporate law at a global law firm in St. Louis; served as co-general counsel of the Ferguson Commission; and represented low-income entrepreneurs striving to provide for their families and shape their communities.

Michael is a graduate of the University of Missouri and The University of Chicago Law School. Michael, his wife Maria, and their son live in St. Louis They are devoted to building community across the St. Louis region through organizations such as Young Life and Big Brothers Big Sisters.


Vernon Betts

Vernon Betts was born and raised in St. Louis, Missouri.  He attended St. Louis Public schools and is a graduate of Beaumont High School class of 1971.  Vernon has an A.S. degree from St. Louis Community College and a B.A. from Harris Stowe.  He started his working career as a St. Louis Public School Teacher.  He then worked for 30 years at AmerenUE and retired as an IT Supervisor in 2007.  After retiring from AmernUE, he worked at the St. Louis Sheriff’s Office of City of St. Louis as a Deputy Sheriff.  He was elected Sheriff in 2016 and is currently serving a four year term as the Sheriff for the City of St. Louis.

Vernon Betts has been an active leader in his community for many years. He has been a block captain and President of his neighborhood association.  He is a member of the Urban League, Chaplain and Executive Board member of the 100 Black Men, Executive Board Member of the St. Louis Branch of the NAACP, and a Member of the Missouri Sheriff’s Association. He participates in mentoring programs such as Maleness to Manhood at Matthews Dickey Boys and Girls Club and a mentor to troubled youth at the Juvenile Detention Center.  Vernon is very active member and minister at his church, Shalom Church City of Peace. He is the proud father of 5 children and married to his wife Lori of 25 years.

Sheriff Vernon Betts embodies a lifestyle and believes that education, hard work, determination, family support and Godly worship make life a success.


Linda Slattery

Linda Slattery has been a part of the National Student Leadership Forum in Washington for 25 years. A Kansas native, she graduated from Kansas State University with a bachelors in education and a masters in counseling.

She has spent most of her adult life working as a counselor and consultant with members of Congress, women’s groups and university students, and high school students. She has also been active in the Congressional Club; served on the National Advisory Board for the National Institute for Drug Abuse; a prayer group with members of Congress; and Fear to Freedom (a sexual assault recovery program).

She and her husband, former Kansas Congressman Jim Slattery, live in Washington DC. They have two sons and five grandchildren.


Kevin Windham

Kevin Windham was elected to the Missouri House of Representatives in November 2018. He works as an education policy intern with the Scholarship Foundation of St. Louis, where he is also engaged with the Neighborhood Leadership Fellows and is director of finance for the University City Kiwanis Club.

He studied corporate communications at Southeast Missouri State. Kevin was active in the President’s Task Force on Diversity Education, Student Government Association, Black Student Union, and FOCUS St. Louis’ Impact Fellows. Kevin was also a member of Cigna’s inaugural Ferguson-St. Louis Internship program and was awarded SEMO’s Distinguished Student Award for creating lasting and positive change in April 2015.


Brian williams

Brian Williams was elected State Senator for Missouri District 14 last November. He grew up in a labor union family that instilled the importance of hard work and investing in the community, which led to his interest in public service and community leadership.

He served on the staff of U.S. Rep. William Lacy Clay, gaining experience in strategic planning, coalition building and bringing resources to the community.

Through his position as a Board Director for People’s Health Center, Williams helped develop a quality healthcare center in Ferguson, Missouri. He provided oversight on the roll out of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) Marketplace under President Obama's administration in Missouri as a Congressional ACA Coordinator.


Dave Griffith

Representative Dave Griffith, a Republican, represents Cole County (District 60) in the Missouri House of Representatives. He was elected to his first two-year term in November 2018.

Prior to his legislative duties, Griffith served as the executive director of the American Red Cross for six years. Griffith also served on the city council for Jefferson City. Prior to that, he spent 23 years working for KRCG TV in a variety of roles ranging from production to account executive.

Griffith served in the U.S. Army 8th Special Forces Group as a Green Beret.

Griffith is a member of the Kiwanis Club, Rotary International, American Heart Association, American Cancer Society, Easter Seals Association, Red Cross Board of Directors and the Special Olympics. He has been recognized with the Red Cross Heart of a Hero Award and an American Cancer Society Lifetime Achievement Award. 

Griffith is a graduate of Missouri Southern State University.

Griffith resides in Jefferson City with his wife, Leigh. They have two children and five grandchildren.