Best Board Members 2016

Top business leaders are bursting with passion to improve community, and the most determined of them channel that passion into board members roles. Here are eight of the most capable leaders who use their roles to make a lasting impact in the community.

By Jennifer Adamson | Photos By Kevin O'Riley, Brandon Alms

Jan 2016

Best Board Members 2016

Springfield's top business leaders are bursting with passion to improve their community, and the most determined of them channel that passion into roles as board members. When we set out on a quest to find the best of those board members, we reached out to the community to lift up the hardest workers and greatest change-makers they know. The nominations poured in, and we chose eight of the most capable leaders who use their roles to make a lasting  impact in the community. 



The Kitchen Inc.

President of the Board of Trustees 

Stephanie Ireland isn’t afraid to ask the hard-hitting questions that matter. That’s how she transitioned from sitting on The Kitchen Inc.’s board of trustees to becoming its president. 

“There’s a lot to learn on any board, trying to understand what is done, how it’s done, why it’s done,” she says. “Everyone else assumes everyone else knows what everyone else is talking about. I guess people are embarrassed or don’t care, but it’s a matter of understanding the organization and what it’s trying to accomplish.”

The Kitchen’s mission is to provide permanent housing and stability services to 417-land’s homeless population. Since 2014, Ireland’s first year as president, The Kitchen has provided permanent housing for approximately 700 homeless people, a statistic that reflects the reach of her inquisitive, no-nonsense personality, as well as a personal connection she feels to those who are less fortunate.

Growing up in a low-income family, sometimes receiving only a secondhand coat for Christmas, Ireland, owner of Ireland Architects, felt a connection to The Kitchen’s clientele and volunteered her firm’s services for its 2005 clinic renovation. When she took command of the board, she drew upon that experience and decided on a better way to reach those in need.

First, Ireland established a strategic planning committee to zero in on the organization’s goals and then suggested eliminating several of The Kitchen’s services that were duplicated elsewhere in the community in favor of collaborating with those entities. For instance, prior to closing its thrift store, The Kitchen partnered with other thrift stores in the area that would honor the vouchers it was giving its clients. “We decided we didn’t need to be all things to all people but rather focus our efforts on what is not being done by others,” Ireland says.

Through action came clarity of purpose, and narrowing the organization's focus allowed donor dollars to be funneled toward a collective commitment to permanent housing. Thanks to Ireland, The Kitchen now has a renewed sense of its objectives for now and the future.

“Rather than just saying, ‘This is what I’m doing because it just came along,’ I try to live my life with purpose,” she says. “Know what you want, and know how to get there. Do things smartly and wisely.”


Kippie Kutz, director of development of The Kitchen Inc., nominated Ireland because of her outstanding commitment to breaking the cycle of poverty in our community. “The philosophy and the mission we have now and the way we’re implementing our services, she was very much engaged in the whole process,” Kutz says. “The organization would probably not be as far along with ending homelessness if it hadn’t been for her vision and guidance.”

Big Brothers Big Sisters of the Ozarks

Member of the Board of Directors

When Kevin Dunaway’s two children were growing up, he vowed to make fatherhood his top priority. His pledge is still the same today, but his reach has grown exponentially as a member of the board of directors of Big Brothers Big Sisters of the Ozarks.

For the past two years, Dunaway has been one of the agency’s top fundraisers, giving personally, as well as garnering support from his law firm, Neale & Newman, other local organizations, clients and friends. In 2015, Dunaway independently raised more than $34,000 and also co-chaired Taste of the Ozarks, the agency’s largest annual charity event, which brought in $215,000 of additional revenue, a 25-percent increase over historical average numbers. 

“Big Brothers Big Sisters called out to me because I’ve always been passionate about children,” Dunaway says. “Successful board members, in my opinion, are those that like to serve, are passionate about a cause and work to effectuate the cause.”

Big Brothers Big Sisters pairs kids facing adversity with adult role models in one-to-one mentoring relationships. During his time on the board, Dunaway’s eyes have been opened to the fact that roughly 85 percent of the agency’s average operating budget of $925,000 comes from financial backing from the community.

“I think sometimes people get caught up in their usual routines, and when you get involved with a board, it exposes you to an entirely different world than you would otherwise be exposed to in your daily life,” Dunaway says. “It causes you to stretch and grow.”

For Dunaway, his relationships with his own children, as well as those he meets through Big Brothers Big Sisters, are a constant reminder that his board service is propelling today’s youth toward bright futures as tomorrow’s leaders.



As CEO of Big Brothers Big Sisters of the Ozarks, Katie Davis experiences daily Dunaway's dedication and willingness to go the extra mile for the organization, which is why she nominated him. "When talking about why he gives, he's a big believer in the idea that you don't have to give back, and you don't have to donate, but he feels like he has to because Springfield is where he gets all of his clients, and he feels like he has to give back to the community that's given so much to him," she says.


Jordan Valley Community Health Center

Vice Chairman of the Board of Directors

In 2002 when Jordan Valley Community Health Center (JVCHC) was nothing more than a vision, Bob Hammerschmidt stepped in as the organization’s key financial advisor and banker. Today, JVCHC is meeting the healthcare needs of thousands of uninsured and underinsured people across the Ozarks, with Hammerschmidt steering its operations as vice chairman of the board of directors.

Since Hammerschmidt joined the board in 2006, JVCHC has expanded its medical, vision, dental and behavioral services from Springfield to Hollister, Forsyth, Marshfield and Republic. The availability of such services has helped eliminate obstacles to healthcare access as a red flag in the community. Hammerschmidt’s goal is for JVCHC to help the underserved population improve measurable health factors, such as smoking, obesity and teen births.

“The thought behind Jordan Valley is to help people that are less fortunate or uneducated learn how to take care of themselves,” he says. “We have to change these generational cycles of ignorance.”

Partly because of Hammerschmidt’s dedication to such a mission, all five clinics combined have recorded more than 10,000 visits monthly since March of 2015. This growth rate is beyond projection, growing steadily and a driving force in the center’s continued collaboration with a number of community organizations, including Mercy, CoxHealth and Burrell Behavioral Health. 

“One thing that scares any board member is growing too fast because you can outstrip your resources, but part of my business is being a good steward of the resources we have,” he says. “All of us working together can help those most in need in our community.”



Brooks Miller, president and CEO of Jordan Valley Community Health Center, has seen firsthand the passion that Hammerschmidt holds for the community’s health. He invests his time and research to better understand the complexity of healthcare and its future, Miller says. “I would go beyond the Board and say that he has a sincere desire to make our community better,” Miller says. “He sincerely has a great passion for service, and he reflects that in the amount of time he dedicates to his service.” 


Springfield First Community Bank

Founding Member of the Board of Directors

According to Charlie O’Reilly, the success of any business is tied up in three things: respect, teamwork and customer service. The same three building blocks translate well to board service, a lesson he’s learned during his seven years with Springfield First Community Bank. 

In 2008, financial gurus in the Queen City saw a need for an independent, local bank. With extensive history working for his family’s company, Springfield-based O’Reilly Auto Parts, as well as other start-ups, O’Reilly’s expertise was sought to found the bank’s board of directors. 

“Every board member has to have valuable input,” O’Reilly says. “I think I helped maybe with the process the bank has developed of making those things an important part of the business plan.”

His corporate experience offered a welcome point of view from outside the banking industry, and he recommends others look for diversity when choosing their board members. “I brought a business perspective, but I’ve learned a whole lot related to the nuts and bolts of the banking industry,” he says. “It’s a mutually beneficial relationship.”

As a director, O’Reilly helps create rules by which the bank’s executive staff performs its day-to-day tasks and monitors its long-term fiscal decisions, tasks he does all while keeping the bank a profitable front-runner in today’s competitive economic market and balancing those building blocks of success.

“One of my old business policies is every business has to have a compelling advantage,” he says. Thanks to O’Reilly’s voice, Springfield First Community Bank does.



Robert Fulp, Chairman of the Board and CEO of SFC Bank, knew the O'Reilly family decades before the company was formed and decided immediately to have O'Reilly on his board of directors. "He's been an integral part of helping us grow the bank," Fulp says. "Due to his leadership, we would not be where we are today without him." Fulp says O'Reilly brought a team-member culture to the bank, and he displays that personally when he comes into the bank and makes a point to greet every team member. 


Logan-Rogersville Educational Foundation

Founding Member of the Board of Directors

Architecture and board service have one thing in common: They require problem solving, a fact Chris Ball knows well. After graduating from Logan-Rogersville High School in 1988, he went on to become an architect and was later summoned to help establish the board of directors of the Logan-Rogersville Educational Foundation. “When we formed, we knew what we wanted to do but didn’t know what we wanted to work on,” he says. With no clear vision, Ball had to immediately put his analytical skills to the test. 

At that time, a new high school was under construction and needed tennis courts, so the group worked to secure a $30,000 matching grant. Ball volunteered his firm, Ball Architects PC, to provide architectural and engineering services as a gift-in-kind, and the grant was awarded. 

By 2004, the directors had collectively committed to be the single largest private contributor of funds to the district, but their framework was still shaky. To overcome that obstacle, Ball asked Community Foundation of the Ozarks to step in with some organization tips, out of which came a plan to host an annual fundraiser. Proceeds are divided equally between scholarships and grants and an endowment that will later be used to fund those awards. “We’re having an immediate impact but also setting aside money for long term,” he says.

Ball is always brainstorming the most responsible ways to meet the district’s needs and keep the board moving forward auspiciously. “Some organizations benefit from turnover and new blood, but stability is more important for us,” he says. “A lot of our success is determined by the fact that the community knows who’s involved. We’re completely different in that we’re an educational foundation relying on parents, so we have to explain and show that we’re going to be responsible with their funds and use that money wisely.”



After years of working with nonprofit boards and organizations in her business, Club Management Services, Jean Harmison recognizes outstanding board members when she sees them. She nominated Ball because he will do whatever it takes to get the job done and has a tireless hardworking nature. "When you look at the community, he's always stepping up to the plate," she says. "If I'm going to start a project, I want Chris Ball on my board."


Springfield Regional Arts Council

President of the Board of Directors

Kristy Chastain grew up playing piano, but by the time her son was born, she had forgotten how. Wanting to play for him, she re-taught herself using math. That’s when she realized the correlation between music and learning and understood why having music in school is important. This is the main reason she chose to get involved with Springfield Regional Arts Council (SRAC).

As president of the board of directors, Chastain manages the council’s efforts to connect people and the arts, which she does through committee work. She made her mark early on when she completely revamped the Ozzie Awards, SRAC’s largest annual fundraiser. That job required organization, forethought, ingenuity and conversation, skills any board member should master, Chastain says. “Communicate about things that are happening or changing,” she says. “Understand there are different personalities, but everybody is advocating for that organization and needs to be informed.” In large part due to Chastain’s efforts, 300 guests attended the Ozzie Awards in 2013, selling out the event for the first time.

Chastain also spearheaded a new initiative called Create and Celebrate, a series of smaller-scale fundraising events that take place throughout the year with the goal of involving locals in the arts scene. 

“It’s easy to get bogged down in the details of the day to day and forget there’s an actual agenda of where we’re trying to go,” Chastain says. “You can’t forget your ultimate goal is to help our community."



Chastain’s ability to think outside the box is what prompted Vice President of the Board of Trustees of SRAC Meganne Rosen O’Neal to nominate her. “One of the things a lot of really good people who are philanthropists have trouble with is being direct and problem solving,” Rosen O’Neal says. “Every once in a while, you have to say, ‘This isn’t working. Let’s change it.’ Kristy’s very good at taking care of business in a way that gets things done but without hurting anyone’s feelings.”


GYN Cancers Alliance

Member of the Board of Directors

Mary Burmeister never thought she’d be part of a cancer organization, but when she was diagnosed with ovarian cancer in 2010, she felt compelled to share her story. Within a year after signing on to be a mentor with GYN Cancers Alliance (GYNCA), she was on its board of directors. 

“Sometimes, maybe life hands you something, and that’s what opens the door to an opportunity to serve,” she says. “I saw it as a platform for something I could do to get the word out about the signs and symptoms and what not to ignore if it persists.”

For that reason, Burmeister is relatable to many and a perfect ambassador for raising awareness, her primary focus as a board member. Bringing the Teal Toes campaign, in which painting your toenails teal represents a willingness to discuss the disease, to the Ozarks was one of her first substantial efforts. Since 2011, GYNCA representatives have distributed thousands of satin gift bags containing teal polish, a teal wristband and a symptom card.

Through her advocacy, Burmeister has come to realize how widespread gynecologic cancers are and what a burden the disease places on these women and their families. Because of her personal connection, she is an ideal champion for other survivors who may not have the knowledge or resources to handle the lifestyle change that comes with a cancer diagnosis. Her self-described funny, caring and loyal nature, all qualities of successful board members, in her opinion, reflects the positivity that is sometimes elusive in these cases and reminds others they're not alone in the fight.

"Humor gives hope to some survivors, and you have to have compassion and empathy to wrap your head around what the people we serve are going through," she says.



As executive director of the Board of Directors of GYNCA, Jan Robbins feels Burmeister is deserving of this recognition because of how much she has impacted others as a cancer survivor. “She’s a ray of hope, strength and determination,” Robbins says. “Mary is a positive reminder that you keep putting one foot in front of the other. She’s walking proof that there is a way through it.”


Ozark Electric Cooperative Inc.

Member of the Board of Directors

In 1972, David Trogdon had just built a new home on his farm in Ash Grove when the entity supplying its power, Ozark Electric Cooperative, closed its Ash Grove office. Fearing they wouldn’t have anyone to represent them, the small town community encouraged him to run for a seat on the board of directors. 

“I was a cooperative person to begin with, and my desire was to do what’s best for the co-op but also for my neighbors and friends,” he says.

Since Trogdon was elected 38 years ago, the cooperative has tripled its clientele and improved service in numerous ways, including enhancing radio communications with fiber-optic cables, converting more than 30,000 meters to digital meters and making sure all linemen have iPads to instantly access maps of the cooperative’s entire electrical system, decreasing outage time. Today, Trogdon still governs with the same forward-thinking and strategic leadership that put him on the board and helped turned it into a success. 

“My work ethic on the farm, it carries over in the boardroom because I make that extra effort it takes to deal with whatever problems come up,” he says. “I’m not afraid of challenges.”

Currently, the board is facing one of its biggest challenges in history—figuring out how to meet federal regulations requiring all coal-fired power plants to reduce emissions to what they were prior to 1990. Being in compliance would mean having to replace that energy with alternative sources, which would increase rates for customers by as much as 50 percent.

“The last thing I want as a board member is for elderly people to have to decide if they want to eat, get their medicines or have electricity,” Trogdon says. “Our mission has always been adequate power at an affordable price, and we don’t want to change that.”



General Manager Patrick Oehlschlager has been with Ozark Electric for more than 20 years and says he’s seen Trogdon “go to bat” for the members time and time again, and that his honest and open communication has made the biggest impact over his 38 years of service. “The greatest single thing he can give us is his institutional knowledge and history of what the board has done to give insight on what was good and what was met with more resistance,” he says.

Words of Wisdom

What qualities make a great board member? 

“Board members must have both a willingness and a heart for service. They have to be unselfish, always keeping in mind what’s in the best interest of the organization and the people it serves. Board members must speak up, even if their point of view may not be popular.”—Bob Hammerschmidt, Jordan Valley Community Health Center


How do you run an efficient board meeting?

“Make sure the right people are there and know enough about why they’re at the meeting to be prepared to discuss the subject. Send out information that will be discussed. At the meeting shouldn’t be the first time they’ve thought about it. Board members are more involved when there’s organization.”—Stephanie Ireland, The Kitchen Inc.


What strategies helped you transition from a volunteer position to a leadership one?

“Mentoring gave me the confidence to get in front of a crowd and share my story at the GYNCA events and participate in our awareness videos, both of which are crucial in portraying the impact these cancers have on women and their families.”—Mary Burmeister, GYN Cancers Alliance


I’m starting our board from scratch. Where should I start?

“You would want to look for successful business people that are running good companies and have good business-management experience. You would want to be sure the board members believe in your business as far as feeling like it has a good image in the community and that it is well-respected.”—Charlie O'Reilly, Springfield First Community Bank


What’s the secret to maintaining longevity as a board member?

“I would attribute that to always being available to do whatever I can to take care of people’s concerns or problems. Also, I try my best to keep fulfilling the cooperative’s mission.” —David Trogdon, Ozark Electric Cooperative Inc.


How do you find a cause you’re passionate about?

“I think you have to search your soul. Every person has to be reflective, to find what’s important to them. If your heart’s into something, you’ll do well, because that’s the fire that feeds the effort.”—Kevin Dunaway, Big Brothers Big Sisters of the Ozarks


Is it okay if I realize I’m not really enthusiastic about my organization’s cause? What should I do?

“Absolutely. Most organizations appreciate help in any form. If you want it to work, do your front-end diligence about the organization; talk to current board members and volunteers. If it is not a good fit, find a way to participate, then move on.”—Chris Ball, Logan-Rogersville Educational Foundation


What single piece of advice do you have for board members?

“Appreciate the executive director and staff of your organization. They do a lot more than you know, especially behind the scenes.”—Kristy Chastain, Springfield Regional Arts Council