Women's Summit - Speakers

Whitney Austin, Executive Director and Cofounder, Whitney/Strong
Whitney, a survivor of a mass shooting in Cincinnati, founded Whitney/Strong with her husband to end gun violence through responsible gun ownership solutions. Under her leadership, the organization has executed several initiatives such as securing the first hearing on gun safety legislation in Frankfort in over a decade, distributing over 12,000 gun locks, training over 1000 people in neighborhoods impacted by gun violence, and lobbying for the passage of the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act, the first piece of federal gun safety legislation in 28 years. Whitney was previously a VP at Fifth Third Bank for 15 years, where she launched the first omnichannel digital lending application. She resides in Louisville with her family and enjoys traveling, musical theater, and outdoor activities.

Sara Bradley, Owner, Freight House Restaurant
Chef Sara was born and raised in western Kentucky. She grew up loving all the delicacies the region has to offer… the smooth apple butter her grandmother prepared every fall after the apples were plucked...the sweet strawberry pie her mother/kitchen mother/dessert-ress would make from scratch every spring. She learned early on the flavor difference in fresh over frozen. She developed her skill set under the tutelage of Michelin Star chefs John Fraser (Dovetail, New York), David Posey and Paul Kahan (Blackbird, Chicago). After careful consideration, Chef Sara opted to open Freight House to focus on and encourage agricultural sustainability here in her hometown of Paducah. Chef Sara is also involved in many charitable and philanthropic endeavors within the community, including being a founding member of Cartel, a western Kentucky style pit bbq team that raises capital funds for the restoration of historic buildings and numerous other nonprofits throughout the region. Chef Sara was invited to compete on season 16 of the hit TV series Top Chef and took second place after battling it out with other talented chefs from across the country.

Beth Davisson, Senior Vice President, Foundation, Kentucky Chamber
Beth Davisson is a Senior Vice President with the Kentucky Chamber of Commerce. She leads the Kentucky Chamber Foundation, the philanthropic arm of the Kentucky Chamber of Commerce, the state’s largest association advocating on behalf of business. Beth joined the Chamber in 2017 to begin building the Workforce Center as the Foundation’s only fully dedicated employee.  Since then, the Foundation has grown to a team of fifteen and continues to expand its support to employers and efforts in building a stronger workforce. Beth is a lifelong resident of Kentucky, earning her undergraduate degree from the University of Kentucky and MBA from Sullivan University. She has spent the last 10+ years advocating for the workforce in Kentucky and the nation’s capital and aligning talent to the strategic plans of business. Beth was honored as a “Top 40 under 40” and named a “Top 20 People to Know in Human Resources” by Business First Louisville. She serves on the boards of KYSHRM and Goodwill Industries. Beth was appointed by Governor Andy Beshear to the Executive Committee for the Kentucky Workforce Innovation Board, leading the state’s education attainment and employer engagement efforts, and is a Workforce Fellow for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

Colene Elridge, CEO, Be More Consulting
Colene Elridge’s, aka Coach Colene, decade-plus of HR experience led to her being known as “the fixer” – she’s called to help organizations and leaders create better workplaces, productive teams, and aligned results. Her career in government focused on Affirmative Action, EEO, and Diversity. She was a successful investigator of harassment and discrimination complaints and implemented strategies that resulted in more diverse and inclusive workplaces. She is the CEO of Be More Consulting, a boutique agency designed to support organizations in creating cultures of inclusion, and developing women leaders. Her first book, Monday Morning Pep Talks, was named by Success Magazine as a top book for professional women. Colene is the founder of EmpowHer Conference, a women's leadership event that focuses on building women into leaders both at work and in their lives. Colene has a bachelor's degree in Cultural Anthropology from Transylvania University, where she currently serves on the Board of Regents, and an MBA from Sullivan University. She loves yoga, her family, movies, and laughing!

Kimberly Halbauer, Regional President, Fifth Third Bank, Kentucky
Kimberly Halbauer serves as regional president of Fifth Third Bank, N.A. (Kentucky), which covers Kentucky and Southern Indiana and has more than $2.5 billion in assets. She is responsible for the growth and strategic direction of the Bank’s Commercial, Wealth & Asset Management and Consumer businesses to deliver distinctive value to our customers and community impact throughout the region. Kim has more than 30 years of experience with Fifth Third, most recently as managing director of Fifth Third Private Bank in Cincinnati. She was responsible for Wealth & Asset Management businesses, including the customer experience for more than 3,000 clients with $12 billion in assets and 100 wealth professionals. Kim began at Fifth Third Bank as a customer service representative. After working through college, she rose to leadership in the Consumer and then the Commercial divisions, where she worked with government, not-for-profit, small and mid-sized businesses as well as publicly traded companies, focused on customer and employee development, strategy and growth. Kim earned a bachelor’s degree magna cum laude in finance and business from Thomas More College and completed an Executive Leadership program at Yale University. Kim serves on the boards of the Kentucky Chamber, Kentucky Chamber Foundation, One West, One Southern Indiana, Greater Louisville Inc., Leadership Louisville Center, and Fund for the Arts. She has served as chairman of the board for American Heart Association and United Way of Greater Cincinnati’s Tocqueville Society. She was vice chair for the Kentucky Council on Postsecondary Education and on the boards of United Way Greater Cincinnati, Kentucky Educational Television, Northern Kentucky Chamber of Commerce, and Thomas More College Leadership Council. Kim is a Northern Kentucky native. She and her husband, an entrepreneur, have four daughters and live in Louisville, Kentucky.

Jennifer Hancock, President/CEO, Volunteers of America
Jennifer Hancock is President and CEO of Volunteers of America Mid-States. She earned her bachelor’s and master’s degrees in social work from the University of Kentucky, launching a career dedicated to social justice and community building. She has more than 20 years of professional leadership in the nonprofit sector, 15 of those advancing the mission of VOA.

Hon. Keturah Herron, State Representative, Commonwealth of Kentucky
Keturah Herron made history on February 22, 2022, when she became the first openly out LGTBQ person to be elected to the Kentucky General Assembly.  She now serves the urban 42nd House District in Louisville, but notes that she grew up in Richmond, KY., a more rural community.  That twin dynamic, she believes, has significantly helped her build relationships with fellow legislators from across the state. Representative Herron received a master’s degree in corrections and juvenile justice studies from Eastern Kentucky University and has worked extensively with youth and families directly affected by our social service and criminal justice systems. In 2019, she chose to use those experiences to help influence policies affecting Kentuckians by becoming a policy strategist and lobbyist with the ACLU of Kentucky.
In 2020, Herron led the #nomorenoknocks campaign to ban no-knock warrants in Louisville.  Her advocacy and expertise helped secure Metro Council's passage of Breonna’s Law, which became a national model, and she continued that work in 2021 to help the General Assembly enact Senate Bill 4, a similar statewide version. 
Representative Herron is passionate about creating a society where young people can thrive and, just as importantly, be heard.  Her work to help them maximize their talents and leadership is a key reason why, in 2022, Representative Herron was named as the Kentucky honoree for USA Today’s Women of the Year.

Adria Johnson, President, Metro United Way of Louisville
Adria Johnson embodies hope, integrity, humanity and has focused her career on lifting some of society’s most vulnerable populations and being of service to others. Ms. Johnson’s proven ability to lead efforts toward reform and work collaboratively across a wide range of stakeholders have served her well, not only in her current position of Chief Executive Officer for Metro United Way, but also in prior roles held in Kentucky state government and Louisville-Jefferson County Metro Government. Her leadership has been instrumental in bringing about expanded service provision in many areas including neighborhood revitalization supports, preventive services for children and youth at risk of abuse or neglect, comprehensive services for children and youth with greater behavioral and developmental needs, employment opportunities for youth aging out of foster care, and development of workforce opportunities for social services disciplines.

Beth Kelly, Ph.D., Associate Research and Reporting Director, Kentucky Center for Statistics
Beth Kelly is the Associate Research & Reporting Director at Kentucky Center for Statistics (KYSTATS). Aside from her administrative duties, she focuses her research on critical and timely questions related to the Commonwealth that leverage the breadth of our data sources. She particularly focuses on novel approaches to understanding complex problems. Prior to joining KYSTATS in 2019, Beth was a mathematics professor at Berea College. She holds a Bachelor of Science degree in mathematics from Indiana University and a PhD in mathematics from University of Washington.

Hon. Hilda Legg, Consultant, Legg Strategies
Hilda Legg has dedicated her 40+-year career to rural economic development, with an emphasis on the build out of high-speed broadband and economic opportunities. She has served under four United States presidents in efforts to enhance the economic and educational opportunities for rural communities and to strengthen agriculture-driven economies in efforts to sustain a strong and healthy rural America. Those positions include Kentucky state director, USDA Rural Development; administrator, USDA Rural Utilities; alternate co-chair, Appalachian Regional Commission, and executive director of the National Council on the Handicapped. She also served as the first CEO of The Center for Rural Development in eastern Kentucky, which built a wide area network and promoted distance learning and telemedicine in the mid-1990s. Legg brings vast knowledge and a wide variety of skills from experience in public, nonprofit and private industries. She currently works as a consultant for Legg Strategies in Lexington, Kentucky, where she resides with her husband, Michael.

Elizabeth McCoy, CEO, Planters Bank, Inc.
Elizabeth McCoy is the CEO of Planters Bank in Hopkinsville, Ky. Planters Bank is comprised of locations in Western Kentucky and Montgomery County, Tennessee. She currently serves on the Board of Directors of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis; the University of Kentucky Board of Trustees; Kentucky Economic Development Partnership Board; is a past Chair of the Kentucky Chamber of Commerce; and serves on several other boards and committees including the Hopkinsville Industrial Foundation, Hopkinsville/Christian County Economic Development Council, and the Dean’s Advisory Council for Gatton College of Business. Mrs. McCoy recently received the Martha Layne Collins Leadership Award and the Laurel County Homecoming Out of Towner Award. She is originally from London, Kentucky, and is a graduate of the University of Kentucky and the Gatton School of Business. She holds an MBA and is a Certified Public Accountant. Ms. McCoy is married to Hal McCoy and has one son.

Hon. Rebecca Raymer, State Representative, Kentucky House of Representatives
Representative Rebecca Raymer of Morgantown is currently serving in her first term as State Representative for the 15th House District. She was elected in November 2022 to serve all of Butler and Muhlenburg Counties in the Kentucky House of Representatives. An advocate for improving population health care, Raymer has served her community as a registered nurse for nearly two decades at Greenview Regional Hospital in Bowling Green. Raymer has been involved in various local community organizations, including vice chair of a Butler County nonprofit, former Parent Teacher Association member, and formerly served on her county’s youth baseball board. She is additionally a member of Crossland Community Church. Raymer graduated from Western Kentucky University in 2004. Raymer ran for office to effect change and advocate for families and freedoms across the commonwealth. In Frankfort, she plans to focus on policies that restore parental rights and support moms and dads to make the best decisions concerning their children. Raymer resides in Morgantown with her husband, Jeff, and their son Chandler. In Frankfort, Raymer serves on the Health Services; Local Government; and Veterans, Military Affairs and Public Protection committees.

Ashlee Rich Stephenson, Senior Political Strategist and Consultant, Political Affairs and Issue Advocacy, U.S. Chamber of Commerce
Ashlee Rich Stephenson, is a senior political strategist and consultant for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. Stephenson advises the Chamber’s political programming, which includes voter education and advocacy, candidate endorsements, and the U.S. Chamber PAC. She also helps develop and execute external issue advocacy campaigns to support the Chamber’s policy and legislative priorities. Stephenson is a nationally respected and highly experienced political strategist and pollster, with over 15 years of experience working on high-level candidate campaigns, independent expenditures, and on behalf of public affairs and corporate interests across the U.S. She has worked on several U.S. presidential campaigns, including serving as the polling director for then-Mayor Rudy Giuliani’s 2008 campaign and as an adviser for then-Gov. Scott Walker’s 2016 effort. Stephenson was president of Just Win Strategies, a national political strategy firm, and principal and chief strategy officer at the polling and analytics company WPA Intelligence. She started her career in the Strategy Department at the Republican National Committee. A graduate of Allegheny College and native of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, Stephenson resides in Alexandria, Virginia, with her husband and their two children.

Kate Shanks, Senior Vice President, Public Affairs, Kentucky Chamber
Kate Shanks is Senior Vice President of Public Affairs for the Kentucky Chamber. She has been with the Chamber for more than six years and focuses her work on energy, environment, small business, and competitiveness issues. She is a lifelong resident of Kentucky and earned both a Bachelor of Science in Natural Resource Conservation and Management and a Master of Public Administration from the University of Kentucky. Prior to joining the Chamber, Kate spent nearly 12 years working for state agencies focused on energy and environmental policy and regulation and has held multiple positions relating to communications, outreach, policy analysis and design, and legislative affairs.

Renee Shaw, Director of Public Affairs and Moderator, Kentucky Educational Television (KET)
Renee Shaw is the Director of Public Affairs and Moderator for Kentucky Educational Television, currently serving as moderator of KET’s Kentucky Tonight, Connections, Election coverage, Legislative Update and KET Forums. Since 2001, Renee has been the producing force behind KET’s legislative coverage that has been recognized by the Kentucky Associated Press and the National Educational Telecommunications Association. Under her leadership, KET has expanded its portfolio of public affairs content to include Kentucky Supreme Court coverage, townhall-style forums, and multi-platform program initiatives. As an award-winning journalist, Renee has earned many top awards, including being named as one of the 50 most notable women in Kentucky politics and government by The Kentucky Gazette. Renee is a sought-after speaker on media, diversity/inclusion, public policy, and political issues.

Ashli Watts, President & CEO, Kentucky Chamber
Ashli Watts was named the President and CEO for the Kentucky Chamber, the state’s largest business association, in November 2019. Ashli joined the Kentucky Chamber of Commerce in November of 2012, and during her tenure as Senior Vice President of Public Affairs at the Chamber, she has led efforts in passing significant pieces of legislation such as felony expungement in 2016, right to work legislation in 2017, workers’ compensation reform in 2018 and reinstating arbitration agreements in 2019. As part of the Chamber’s leadership team, the Kentucky Chamber was named National State Chamber of the Year in 2017. Prior to joining the Chamber, she worked at the Kentucky Bar Association and the Legislative Research Commission.

Sandra Wilson, President & CEO, Paducah Chamber of Commerce
As the President/CEO of the Paducah Area Chamber of Commerce and Mayor Pro Tem for the city of Paducah, Sandra Wilson is excited to be here today to introduce one of the city’s best ambassadors!  Sandra joined the Chamber in 2013 after working for 26 years as Public Affairs Manager for a local manufacturer. As a community volunteer, she was the first woman to serve as Chairman of the Board of the Paducah Area Chamber of Commerce in 1996 and later also as the first woman chair of the Greater Paducah Economic Development Board.  She currently serves on the Local Chamber Advisory Board of the Kentucky Chamber after having previously served on the Board. She is a graduate of Murray State University and Leadership Kentucky. In 2017, the Paducah Chamber was named as Chamber of the Year, Category 2, from ACCE and is a 5-Star accredited Chamber by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.