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Mary Katharine Ham is a nationally prominent journalist, author and speaker. As a CNN Political Commentator, she brings conservative perspective mixed with a humorous take on politics and pop culture. In an article about Ham, CNN president Jeff Zucker said, “She’s an honest broker, and she’s got likability and confidence.”
In 2016, she moderated an ABC News 2016 GOP presidential primary debate in New Hampshire, which featured nine candidates. Ham is the co-author of "End of Discussion: How the Left's Outrage Industry Shuts Down Debate, Manipulates Voters, and Makes America Less Free (and Fun)."
She is a popular speaker for young audiences interested in free speech and new media. Ham has over 300,000 followers on social media. She taught a course on free-speech issues as a Harvard Institute of Politics Visiting Fellow in the Kennedy School of Government in 2017.
She is a fourth generation journalist with solid roots in print and new media. Ham has written for USA Today, The Weekly Standard, and appears periodically on NPR’s "All Things Considered."
Ham has also become a powerful speaker on faith and resilience since her 34-year old husband was suddenly killed in a bike accident in 2015. Ham was seven months pregnant at the time and had a 2-year-old. Now a single mother, she talks about her strong faith, optimism and fortitude as tools to get through — and return to living with gratitude and joy —- even in the most tragic circumstances.
Ham is a die hard UGA football fan, an athlete who relishes marathons and mountain-climbing, and a proud Southern gal who is close to her family in North Carolina.
CONNECT WITH MELINDA MAYO
Melinda Mayo is a Pine Bluff native who enjoys delivering the weather for her home state. She is the co-host of "Daybreak" and "Good Morning Arkansas" for KATV. She has been a part of the Little Rock television market since 1987.
Melinda is a member of the American Meteorological Society and National Weather Association. Her weathercasts were awarded the AMS Seal of Approval in 2004. In 2010, Melinda was named an AMS Certified Broadcast Meteorologist.
Melinda began her broadcasting career in news operation. She started as an overnight photographer and later became a news editor, producer, reporter and then weekend and morning anchor.
In October 1995, Mayo was vacationing in Florida when Hurricane Opal hit the Fort Walton/Destin area. She reported live on the evacuation and storm damage from the scene of the hurricane. Since that time, her interest in weather has expanded to become the focus of her television career. Mayo then joined the KATV staff in February of 1996.
After winning the Trinity Foundation Scholarship from Pine Bluff High School, Melinda went on to study communications at Ouachita Baptist University in Arkadelphia and received a BA in Broadcast Journalism from the University of Arkansas at Little Rock. Melinda continued her education at Mississippi State University where she was certified as a Broadcast Meteorologist by the Department of Geosciences.
Mayo received the Associated Press "Spot News Reporting" award in 1990 for her work on the floods that ravaged downtown Hot Springs that spring. The same stories also earned her a first place award in a six-state regional competition by the Radio/Television News Directors Association.
During her spare time, Mayo enjoys spending time with her husband, Mark and her stepson, Derek. She also enjoys playing the piano, golf and boating on Arkansas lakes.
Smart Women Smart Money Arkansas Conference Host
Dennis Milligan was elected to the Office of Treasurer of State in 2014, securing 56% of the vote. As Treasurer, he serves as the State’s banker and is responsible for an investment portfolio of approximately $3.5 billion.
Milligan previously served as Saline County Circuit Clerk from 2011-2015. He is a successful small business owner who started his company, Water Treatment Services (WTS), from scratch in 1985. WTS has expanded from central Arkansas to serving customers in 17 states. Milligan is also a real estate developer and home builder.
As Treasurer of State, Milligan has brought his innovative spirit and mindset to the office, and has not just accepted “that’s the way we’ve always done it.” In his first full fiscal year in office, he doubled the receipted earnings on the State’s investments from an average of $20 million to $48.9 million. He increased that to $57.5 million in fiscal 2017. Since taking office, Milligan has returned more than $154 million back to the State of Arkansas in investment receipts, making good on his pledge to make Arkansans’ tax dollars work harder for them.
Milligan also oversees the Arkansas 529 College Investing Plan, which has seen more than $244 million in growth in total assets since he took office. He also implemented a financial education program under the Arkansas 529 program that increases awareness and financial literacy among Arkansas students. The AR Finance AR Future program, which is free to schools, has impacted 19,200 students in 148 schools, and has brought more than 36,500 hours of financial education to Arkansas students.
Milligan is a lifelong Arkansan and graduated from McClellan High School in Little Rock in 1976. He is married to his junior high school sweetheart, Tina (Summers). They have one daughter and son-in-law, Tiffany and Chad Brown, and three grandchildren.
Special Guest Speaker
In 2014, Andrea Lea was elected the 40th Auditor of State. As Auditor, Andrea is putting her experience to work as the state’s general accountant, administrator of the Arkansas Unclaimed Property Act, and payroll officer for over 600 elected officials and their employees. She is partnering with businesses and using technology to improve the way unclaimed property is reported to the state and returned to the rightful owners through the Great Arkansas Treasure Hunt. She is also working to reduce operating expenses and establish transparency as the foundation of the Auditor’s office.
Andrea Lea has nearly two decades of leadership experience in Arkansas. She served on the Pope County Quorum Court, the Russellville City Council, and three terms in the Arkansas General Assembly before being elected Auditor of State.
Andrea graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Emergency Administration and Management from Arkansas Tech University at the age of 47 and continues to advocate for non-traditional students to return to school and complete a degree.
She is a proud daughter, wife, and mother to U.S. Veterans. With family ties to Arkansas, she and her husband Phillip returned in 1982. They have three grown children and three grandchildren.
Smart Women Smart Money Conference Liaison and founding President of SFOF
As President of SFOF he is charged with leading the national organization and collaborating with like-minded state officials to promote fiscally responsible, free market principles to better impact state and federal financial policy. Kreifels is charged with ensuring that SFOF’s fiscal, operational, fundraising, marketing, and communication strategies are effectively implemented.
Kreifels spent five years as Assistant State Treasurer of Kansas. As Assistant State Treasurer he also served as chief of staff - an agency head and deputy to a statewide elected official. He managed all aspects of the Treasurer’s office including scheduling, policy development, legislative, budgeting and personnel.
Kreifels was accountable for an office which processed over $21B annually which is comprised of 42 employees with an annual budget of over $3.5M. He worked with the State Treasurer to create new programs and modernize existing ones to reach out to a diverse set of Kansans with a wide variety of financial education initiatives. He was responsible for identifying innovative ways to help return unclaimed property to Kansans.
Kreifels played an integral role in working with the Kansas 529 Learning Quest program and program manager to develop annual marketing plan which includes television, radio, newsprint, collateral material and other borderless marketing initiatives.
Kreifels continuously sought out ways to increase the use of technology in the office to reduce costs. He directed Emergency Preparedness Operations planning and training for the agency with exposure to FEMA, the Department of Homeland Security as well as the Kansas Department of Emergency Management.
Kreifels has spent the last 25 years encouraging, advising and working along side various federal, state, and local leaders. Before working for the public sector, Kreifels spent several years in banking.
He attended Kansas State University, received his undergraduate degree from Wichita State University, and his Masters from Friends University in Wichita, Kansas. He lends his leadership to several boards and non-profits. He and his wife Melanie recently traveled to a remote part of Ghana, Africa, on a mission trip to attend the grand opening of a school. He and Melanie live in the Kansas City area.
Smart Women Smart Money Conference Emcee
Idaho Breakout Session 3D - Building Your Brand
Carolyn Holly comes to the Smart Women Smart Money team from the Treasure Valley of Idaho after being involved with Smart Women Smart Money as its conference emcee for the past 15 years. Holly currently serves as Vice President of Idaho Business for Education. In her role, she is an instrumental part of developing meaningful relationships with business leaders to create a highly educated and skilled workforce.
Carolyn enjoyed a 33 year career at KTVB Channel 7 television in Boise, where she became one of Idaho's most experienced and best known television personalities.
Carolyn has acted as an important representative and volunteer for many Treasurer Valley organizations including Smart Women Smart Money, Boise Public Schools Foundation, Idaho Youth Sports Commission, the Saint Alphonsus Foundation, FUNDSY, the Boise Police Chiefs Citizen Advisory panel and the President of the FACES Foundation.
Panel of Experts
Amy H. Michaliszyn, Senior Vice President, Director of Institutional Business Development, Federated Securities Corp. Amy leads Federated’s business development and relationship building efforts with endowments, foundations, defined benefit and defined contribution plans along with local government investment pools and associated public funds. In addition, Amy is responsible for working with public entities to develop innovative investment and Treasury service solutions.
Amy received a B.A. in journalism from The Pennsylvania State University, and an MBA with a concentration in finance from the University of Pittsburgh. She has completed the Public Finance Institute Program sponsored by the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University and the National Association of State Treasurer’s Pepperdine University Program, where she served as a guest lecturer.
Amy serves on the boards of the Pittsburgh Opera and Little Sisters of the Poor. She and her husband actively volunteer for Going Home Greyhounds.
Heather Nelson is co-founder, president and chief operating officer of Seal Solar, a solar energy solutions firm she co-founded with Josh Davenport in 2012. A corporate lender for some of the nation’s largest banks for nearly two decades, she has helped Seal Solar become one of Arkansas’s leading solar businesses. Under her leadership, the firm has completed more than 300, or approximately one in five, solar projects in the state. Today, its team of 27 certified professionals offers turnkey solutions to homeowners, businesses, government entities and farmers across Arkansas.
Heather is on the Arkansas Advanced Energy Association Board of Directors, UA Little Rock Foundation Fund Board, Restored & Renewed Ministry Board of Directors, The Excel Center at Goodwill School Advisory Council and Arkansas Advanced Energy Association Distributed Generation Task Force. She regularly travels to Haiti with the Global Orphan Project of Kansas City, Missouri. She previously served two terms on the National Board of Directors for the Arkansas Alumni Association and as president of the Sam M. Walton College of Business Alumni Society. Heather was also named by Arkansas Business to its Arkansas 250 Most Influential Leaders in 2018 and 2019.
An Arkansas native, Heather holds a bachelor’s degree from the University of Arkansas Sam M. Walton College of Business and an MBA from the University of Arkansas at Little Rock.