Speaker Bios

Robin Peppe Sterneck, Founder of Highland Birch Group, is a seasoned executive and board director who brings 35 years of business and leadership experience to keynotes, workshops, roundtables, best practice coaching sessions, corporate training and real life story telling.   The experiences she has garnered running divisions at Shearson Lehman Brothers, GE and Swiss RE, as well as in her own businesses, Highland Birch Group and Sterneck Capital Management, and in the Board room, have taught her the art and science of leadership.  Her work continues to advance leaders toward their personal and professional goals.

Jan Gee is President & CEO of the Washington Food Industry Association, a non-profit trade association of independent grocers, convenience stores and their supply chain.  Her career as a chamber of commerce and association manager began in 1974. She was known as a passionate advocate for the private sector at all levels of government when the state chamber of commerce tapped her as their retail lobbyist at the state capitol. Her love story for the grocery industry began then in 1984. Soon she was named as the founding President & CEO of the Washington Retail Association which still flourishes today. Following a career of nine years as a contract lobbyist for both retail and grocery, she was named President & CEO of the Washington Food Industry Association in 2006.

Jan has served on the Board of Directors of the Food Industry Association Executives (FIAE) sine 2011 and currently holds the position of Vice Chair of the Board. She is also a member of the National Grocers Association (NGA) Board of Directors representing the voice of state associations and our partnership with NGA in advocacy of the independent grocery industry. She is a member of the Food Marketing Institute (FMI) and the National Association of Convenience Stores (NACS).   She has been honored as a recipient of the NGA 2013 Association Leadership Award, 2018 Progressive Grocers Top Women in Grocery Senior Executive Level Award and 2019 Woman of the Year presented by the Women Grocers of America of NGA.

Erin Sigrist is the President of Vermont Retail & Grocers Association and Executive Director of the Vermont Specialty Food Association. She has represented business in Vermont state politics for the past nine years. Previously, she worked as a Government Relations Specialist for Downs Rachlin Martin, PLLC, Vermont’s largest law firm, representing a broad range of clients in the areas of healthcare, energy, employment, and local government. Erin grew up in a family-owned hardware store in the Finger Lakes in New York and received her Bachelor of Science in Business with a concentration in Marketing from Elmira College. Erin is President of the Vermont Society of Association Executives and was recently recognized as a Rising Star by Vermont Business Magazine. Erin lives in Northfield, VT with her husband, Neal, her dog, and two cats.


Beth Ziesenis Author. Speaker. Nerd. Since her first Motorola RAZR flip phone, Beth has made a verb out of the word "nerd." She's here to help you filter through thousands of apps, gadgets, widgets and doodads to find the perfect free and bargain technology tools for work and home. Although the only real trophy she ever won was for making perfect French fries at McDonald's in high school, Beth Z has been featured on Best Speaker lists by several organizations that write best speaker lists.  She has written a whole shelf of books on apps and has spoken to more than 100 thousand audience members just like you. And if you're puzzling over why she goes by "Beth Z"... it's because she only finds about three people a year who can pronounce her last name.

William Pawlucy, CAE, MPA, IOM serves as Founder and President of Association Options, a global management consulting firm which helps nonprofit associations in strategic planning, board development, management assessments & searches and special long-term projects. His clients include the American Epilepsy Society, the American Evaluation Association, the American Association for Cardiovascular & Pulmonary Rehabilitation, the International Positive Psychology Association and many others.  Prior to launching his company, Pawlucy served as Director, Sales Channel Development for TD Ameritrade. His key role was to build a “company within a company” for the organization. He also served as CEO/president of Amedco, a medical certification/accreditation management company; vice president of new client development at SmithBucklin; and second in command of another top-five association management company. For the media giant Viacom, he was a pioneer for the development of the retail entertainment arm in Central Europe and Asia. He holds a master’s degree in public administration (MPA), is a certified association executive (CAE), and a U.S. Chamber of Commerce Institute graduate and faculty (IOM).

Sarah Sladek is a best-selling author, speaker, and CEO. Since 2002, her life's work has been dedicated to helping organizations engage future generations of members and talent. A former business journalist, Sarah started out researching the shift in human capital in great detail, seeking to pinpoint what was causing sharp declines in membership and employee engagement and identify the solutions to each. Within a few years, she became a leading researcher of generational shifts, authoring more books and research papers on the topic than anyone else. Her five books include The End of Membership As We Know It, which has remained a best-seller for 8 years. Her latest book, Talent Generation, is based on several years of research and identifies the core strategies essential to engaging today’s talent. 

In addition to being a renowned thought leader, Sarah is the founder and CEO of Sarah Sladek & Company and its employee training division, XYZ University. Through the delivery of team trainings and the development of membership and employee engagement strategies, Sarah and her team have helped organizations worldwide grow membership and reduce employee turnover. 
Among her other achievements, Sarah co-produced the first interactive course designed to help associations develop a future-focused membership strategy and founded the nation’s first conference focused entirely on bridging talent and leadership gaps in the workforce.
Her expertise has been prominently featured in international media, and she has keynoted events worldwide. Backed by years of experience and supported by solid research, Sarah remains committed to helping organizations engage every generation to thrive and prosper in the new economy.

Kathy Kuzava has been president of the Georgia Food Industry Association since 1989. She began her grocery career as a cashier at 17 and has never left the grocery industry.  She held several positions in retail and wholesale before beginning her career in association management. In her role as president of the GFIA, Kuzava has been passionate about representing the grocery industry at both the state capitol and before regulatory agencies. Over the years, Kuzava has been honored with several awards on the state and national level, recognizing her work on a variety of issues including food safety, reforming Georgia’s WIC program, and the passage of Sunday alcohol sales. Kuzava is thankful that the grocery industry not only financed her education, but also gave her the opportunity to meet her husband, Al. The couple have two adult children and two adorable grandsons.

Ellie Taylor has served as association President of the Alabama Grocers Association since 2007 and has served the members of the association in various roles for over 20 years. She is responsible for the overall management of the association and plays a key role in representing AGA membership and the grocery industry before elected officials and regulatory agencies in the state of Alabama.

In addition, Ellie serves as President of the Alabama Grocers Education Foundation and oversees the Foundation’s education, research, and college scholarship programs.  To date, the AGEF has awarded over $1.28 million dollars in scholarships to deserving students.

Ellie currently serves on the National Grocers Association Governmental Affairs Committee and is Secretary of the Community Food Bank of Central Alabama.  She is a former Chairman of the Food Industry Association Executives, board member of the National Grocers Association, and served on the Food Marketing Institute’s Governmental Affairs Committee.  She has received numerous industry awards including the Donald H. MacManus Executive Leadership Award from the Food Marketing Institute and was a 2017 Women Who Shape the State Recipient.
A graduate of the University of Alabama, Ellie and her husband Ryan have been married for 23 years and have 2 children, Lauren Anne and Jackson.  They currently reside in Vestavia Hills, Alabama.  


Brian Jordan is President of the Illinois Food Retailers Association, a state trade association dedicated to the growth and profitability of locally owned and owner operated retail food stores and the wholesalers and suppliers that service them. Brian grew up in the family grocery business in Chicago and has been with the association for the past 42 years. As association president for the past 26 years, Brian oversees the planning and execution of all association programs and serves on a variety of committees, boards and task forces representing the association and its members. 

Brian and his wife JoAnn reside in Oak Lawn, Illinois. JoAnn is a three year old pre-school teacher in Oak Lawn and their daughter Maggie is an English teacher at Messmer Catholic High School in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Brian enjoys involvement in parish and community events especially programs geared for the elderly, homebound and homeless. For stress release, he runs in annual charitable runs including the Chicago Marathon.


Jamie Pfuhl is president of the Minnesota Grocers Association (MGA).  The Minnesota Grocers Association is the only state trade association representing the common interests of those engaged in all aspects of the Minnesota food industry. The association is committed to raising awareness, through a unified voice, to the significant role industry plays within its communities.  

Pfuhl has been with the organization for 23 years, serving as its president for the past thirteen.  She brings a vast experience of collaborative leadership, organizational management, and political knowledge.  The MGA has experienced many successes under her guidance, from its Bag Hunger Campaign to the innovative Carts to Careers program, and Minnesota’s food industry continues to benefit from Pfuhl’s leadership style.

As an industry leader, Pfuhl sits on a variety of committees, boards, and task forces, raising awareness to the wide variety of issues facing the food industry.

Pfuhl serves in Governor appointed positions on the Food Safety Task Force and Good Food Access Advisory Committee.  Pfuhl has served on the Board of Directors of the Food Industry Association Executives and Food Marketing Institute Government Relations Committee.

Pfuhl and her husband David live in North Oaks. They are both avid bicyclists and enjoy riding through all the Minnesota seasons. Pfuhl delights in cooking (hot dishes are her favorite, dontcha know), and of course, visiting all her local grocery stores.


Julie Miro-Wenger is the Executive Director of the Delaware Food Industry Council since 2005 and the Delaware Association of Chain Drug Stores. The DE Food Industry Council is a statewide trade association for the grocery, convenience, and pharmacies in the state. The association represents nearly 85 percent of the food industry and its 15,000 employees. Julie recently spearheaded the creation of Keep Delaware Beautiful. Currently Julie serves as the Executive Director of Keep Delaware Beautiful which is an affiliate of Keep America Beautiful.

Julie also is a partner in an event management company producing such public events as; the Wilmington Grand Prix, DE Beer Wine and Spirits Festival, Taste of Trolley, City Restaurant Week, River Towns Ride and Festival, Separation Day and a host of other events throughout the state of DE.

Julie is an advocate and volunteer in our community. Currently she is the past Chairman of the Board of the Food Bank of Delaware and Co-Chair of the capital campaign for a bold future for the Food Bank of DE. She is also the Chairman of the Coalition to End Hunger and the past President of the PTA at Holy Angels School. In addition, she was recently the Honorary Troop Commander for Troop 6 of the DE State Police. She is the current chairman of the Recycling Public Advisory Council. Julie is a graduate of St Mark’s and the University of Delaware; she's been married 19 years to Brad Wenger and proud mom to Andrew (age 15) and Sophia (age 14).


Jessica Elliott     Since July, 2018, Jessica Elliott has served as Executive Director for the Louisiana Retailers Association, a statewide trade association representing grocers, food wholesalers and general retailers. Prior to being named Executive Director, Jessica was the LRA’s Director of Governmental Affairs. In addition to managing the day to day affairs of the LRA, Jessica plans and directs government relations strategies and leads efforts to implement the industry’s agenda at the state capitol.

Jessica completed her undergraduate career at LSU where she earned her Political Science degree in 2000. She graduated from LSU's Paul M. Hebert Law Center in 2004 where she earned her Juris Doctor and Bachelor of Civil Law degrees.     Jessica is married and lives with her husband, Derek, and their two miniature pinschers in Denham Springs, Louisiana.


Lorena Holley joined the Florida Retail Federation as General Counsel & Vice President in March of 2018. Prior to joining FRF, Holley served as General Counsel of the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services under Agricultural Commissioner Adam Putnam since January of 2011.  Prior to joining the Department, Ms. Holley spent a number of years with the Florida Public Service Commission (PSC), most recently serving as a Senior Attorney with the Commission’s Office of General Counsel Division of Appeals, Rules and Mediation.  During her years at the PSC, Ms. Holley also served as a Chief Advisor to a Commissioner, advising on legal and policy issues related to the economic regulation of Florida’s electric, gas, telecommunications, and water and wastewater utility industries.  

Holley also spent several years working in private practice for the law firm of Rutledge, Ecenia, Purnell & Hoffman, P.A., where she provided legal representation to local governments and private utility companies. 

Prior to joining the PSC, Ms. Holley was a staff attorney with Legal Services of Greater Miami, Inc. where she worked as an advocate and representative of indigent clients before various forums including the United States Social Security Administration, Citizen and Immigration Services, and the Florida Department of Children and Families. She received her J.D. in 1999 from the Texas Tech School of Law in Lubbock, Texas and is a member of the Florida Bar.  Originally from Chile, Ms. Holley grew up in Austin, Texas, and now resides in Tallahassee, Florida with her two sons.

Michelle Hurd is the president of the Iowa Grocery Industry Association. Michelle has been with the association since March of 2006. Prior to being named the association’s president in 2012 she served in the role as vice president of marketing and membership for six years. 

Michelle has a Bachelor's degree in marketing from Upper Iowa University and over 20 years of experience in association management. In 2011, she earned a Certified Association Executive (CAE) designation.   Hurd currently serves on the board of directors of the Food Industry Association Executives and the National Grocers Association.   She was named the Association Staff Professional of the Year by the Iowa Society of Association Executives in 2012 and named a 2015 and 2017 Progressive Grocer Top Women in Grocery recipient. 

Michelle and her husband Matt have two children, Kale, 13, and Reagan, 11.

Kristin Mullins is the President/CEO of the Ohio Grocers Association.  Mullins has nearly 30 years with OGA and has served in nearly every capacity of association management before fulfilling her current role as President/CEO since January 2016.  As a registered lobbyist, Kristin has formed working relationships with not only the Ohio House and Senate Lawmakers, but also with many of the State agencies – including Health, Agriculture, Commerce, Taxation, JobsOhio, Lottery, Workers’ Compensation and more.  In addition, Kristin is also the Executive Director of three smaller associations: The Mid-States Meat Association, The Midwest Dairy Foods Association and the Youngstown Area Grocers Association.  Mullins has a B.S. in Business Administration from Franklin University and resides in Marysville, Ohio with her husband and 2 boys.

John "Jiggs" Dyste is President of the North Dakota Grocers Association.   John was born and raised in a rural North Dakota town - population six hundred. His great grandfather immigrated from Norway in 1884 and established a general store that remained in the family until 2015. After graduation from Concordia College in Moorhead, MN with degrees in Hospital Administration and Political Science, John became employed by the North Dakota Department of Health. He became an assistant administrator of a rural 160 bed hospital and nursing home in rural ND in 1977.

The opportunity to enter the family grocery business brought John back home to manage and eventually own the company. Under John’s tenure the family business grew from one store to four. In 2009 Dyste’s celebrated 125 years of business and was recognized as one of the longest continually family owned businesses in North Dakota. In 2017 he was appointed to the position of President of the North Dakota Grocers Association, a position he currently holds.
John served on the Board of Directors of the North Dakota Grocers Association for many years as well as being appointed by the Governor of North Dakota to serve on the Board of Directors of the North Dakota Workforce Safety and Insurance Agency. He also was active in numerous civic, religious and governmental boards.

John, married to Julie for 34 years, has two daughters - Ashley (Zach) and Clare (Dexter) - and 5 grandchildren.

Doug Troutman is General Counsel, Corporate Secretary & Senior Vice President, Government Affairs, for the American Cleaning Institute.   Doug is responsible for the overall leadership of the legal and government affairs functions for the Institute including engagement and advocacy on ingredient communication, chemical management, product safety, environmental and energy policy issues important to the cleaning products industry.  He joined ACI (then the Soap and Detergent Association) in 2007. He previously held senior positions at Underwriters Laboratories (UL), and the National Electrical Manufacturers Association (NEMA). He was on the legislative staff to U.S. Senator Arlen Specter (R-PA) from 1992 to 1996. Doug earned his J.D. from the Villanova University School of Law, and his B.A. in International Affairs and Russian studies from The George Washington University in Washington, D.C.  He is admitted to practice in the District of Columbia and New Jersey, and serves in a variety of industry leadership capacities.


Lindsey Kueffner serves as executive director of the Carolinas Food Industry Council, a division of the North Carolina Retail Merchants Association. Prior joining NCRMA in 2007, Lindsey was the Director of Research and Education at the North Carolina Forum for Research and Economic Education (NCFREE), where she analyzed financial data, election results, and district information to predict the outcome of statewide and state legislative races. Born and raised in San Diego, California, Lindsey came to North Carolina to attend Wake Forest University, where she earned her degree in Political Science with a minor in Latin American Studies. She now resides in Raleigh with her husband Chris and two sons.


Rodney C. Antolock was promoted to President of Harris Teeter LLC, in June, 2015.   Mr. Antolock was previously Executive Vice President since April 2012, and served as Executive Vice President, Operations & Merchandising of Harris Teeter, Inc. since October 2007. He has served in various executive management positions at Harris Teeter, Inc. since he joined the company in January 2000 including Senior Vice President Operations and Senior Vice President Operations and Merchandising from July 2000 to March 2012.

In addition to his executive experience with Harris Teeter, Inc., Mr. Antolock has 22 years of retailing experience with Albertsons from 1978 – 2000, serving as Vice President South Texas, Director Retail Operations, District Manager, Grocery Sales Manager and Store Manager. He has considerable board committee experience and has served on the Board of Directors for both Second Harvest Food Bank of Metrolina and Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation and currently sits on Food Marketing Institute’s Collaboration Council. He is also serving as Chairman for the Coca Cola Retailing Research Council.  Mr. Antolock attended the Darden School of Business Executive Program at the University of Virginia in 2002.
Rod has lived in Charlotte, N.C. for 19 years. He has two children and has been married 38 years.


Rob Ikard      Although he is technically “from” Jan Gee’s neck of the woods (where he was born), Rob Ikard is a lifelong resident of the Nashville area. Now in his sixth year as President and CEO of the Tennessee Grocers & Convenience Store Association, he has a professional background in fundraising, political campaign finance, government, government relations and association management.  Rob is former Tennessee State Director for the National Federation of Independent Business.  He and his wife Meg have three children, ages 13, 11 and 9.


Food Industry Association Executives
Beverly J. Lynch, President                                   215.499.6284

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