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Who We Are

The MNCDHH Board is comprised of Advisory Council Representatives and At-Large Members. Advisory Council Representatives are selected from the 8 statewide Advisory Councils that advise the Department of Human Services Deaf and Hard of Hearing Services Division. At-large Members can be selected from any area of Minnesota. All MNCDHH Board Members bring the concerns of their communities to MNCDHH and help to communicate the work that MNCDHH is doing back home.

  • DHHSD Advisory Council Members
    • Brenda Ackerson, Vice Chair
    • Lloyd Ballinger
    • Kay Cameron
    • Nancy Diener
    • Roberta Johnson
    • Kathryn Rose
  • At-Large Members
    • Mark DeRuiter
    • Tracy Ivy
    • Emily Smith-Lundberg
    • Jamie Taylor
    • Jason Valentine, Chair
    • John Wodele
  • MNCDHH Staff
    • Mary Hartnett, Executive Director
    • Emory David Dively, Deputy Director
    • Anna Paulson, Coordinator of Educational Advancement & Partnerships
    • Beth Fraser, Government Relations Director
    • Anne Sittner Anderson, Communications Coordinator
  • Contractors/Vendors
    • Emory K. Dively, Outreach and Civic Engagement Specialist
    • Sarah Arana, Outreach and Civic Engagement Specialist
    • Kim Wassenaar, Outreach and Civic Engagement Specialist
    • Jessalyn Akerman-Frank, Outreach and Civic Engagement Specialist
    • Shawn Vriezen, Outreach and Civic Engagement Specialist
    • Fardowsa Ali, Outreach and Civic Engagement Intern
    • AllOut Marketing
    • Digiterp Communications

DHHSD Advisory Council Members

Advisory Council Representatives are selected from the 8 statewide Advisory Councils that advise the Department of Human Services Deaf and Hard of Hearing Services Division.

Brenda Ackerson, Vice Chair


Region: Upper Northwest

Brenda Ackerson is a regional representative from the Upper NW Advisory Committee. She currently works as a Low-Incidence Facilitator and Assistive Technology Coordinator for the Bemidji Regional Inter-District Council and has directly served students who are deaf, deafblind and hard of hearing for 13 years. As an administrator she assists schools in providing licensed consultants for students who are deaf and hard of hearing, provides parent support opportunities and organizes activities for students to interact with peers with hearing loss. She studied at Gallaudet University and served on the Distance Opportunity Interpreter Training National Advisory Board. She has her Administrative License in Special Education, Masters of Education and has a BA in Speech Pathology and Audiology.

Lloyd Ballinger

Lloyd Ballinger portrait

Region: Southeast

Lloyd M. Ballinger is a regional representative from the Southeast Advisory Committee. He is retired. He worked at Gallaudet University in Washington, DC for 27 year as a Senior Network Engineer in Information Technology Services (2001-2011), Networks and Telecommunications Manager in Gallaudet Computer Services (1989-2001) and Networks and Communications Technician in Computer Services. He earned a Computer Mathematics B. A. degree in 1983 from Gallaudet University. Lloyd's primary interests include computers and telecommunication. He has consulted with many professional people and deaf residential schools. He is also an expert in the area of technology assisted for the Deaf and Emergency Team Management. Lloyd married Laurie Leifermann in 2011 and moved to Rochester, MN. He has 1 daughter, 5 grandchildren and 1 great-granddaughter. All live in Wisconsin.

Kay Cameron

Kay Cameron portrait

Region: Upper Northwest

Kay Cameron is a regional representative from the Northwest Advisory Committee. She has lived with a hearing loss much of her life but it was not until she was in her 30s that she was diagnosed with otosclerosis. She now has a severe hearing loss but hears well with the help of hearing aids. She has also served on Sanford Health's Medical Home Advisory Committee to help Sanford get Medical Home Accreditation and advocate for the program to Sanford's administrators, doctors, and nurses. She has been a childcare provider for 25 years. Kay is from Minot, North Dakota but has lived in Moorhead, Minnesota for the last nine years with her husband, Steve. They have two wonderful daughters and four awesome grandchildren.

Nancy Diener

Nancy Diener portrait

Region: Northeast

Dr. Nancy McFarlin Diener is an assistant professor in the Deaf Studies Program at the University of Minnesota, Duluth. Her doctorate is in Educational Leadership and her dissertation was titled: "Cultural Themes Across Generations: Exploring Changes in Lived Experiences of Six Deaf Individuals". She holds the CI/CT Sign Language Interpreter Certification from the Registry of Interpreters for the Deaf and has interpreted in a variety of settings including medical, political, education, video-relay, and performing arts. Previously, Nancy worked in the office of Disability Resources as an Academic Adviser for Deaf, Hard of Hearing and DeafBlind students and coordinator of academic support services. Nancy also serves on the Northeast Region Advisory Board. Raised in the Twin Cities, Nancy has lived in Duluth for 26 years, and now calls Duluth home. She and her husband Tom have three grown children.

Roberta Johnson

Region: Southwest

Roberta Johnson is a Placement Specialist with Vocational Rehabilitation Services, Mankato, MN. This agency is within MN Department of Employment and Economic Development. She has performed a variety of positions over her forty year period of employment with this agency. Roberta has provided services to consumers with a variety of disabilities. Over the last twenty five years, she has provided job placement services to consumers who are deaf and hard of hearing. Roberta has served on the SW DHHS Advisory Committee in the past and currently, is serving as their chairperson. In the past, she completed training in Deafness and Rehabilitation at University of Northern Illinois. She also completed training in American Sign Language at South Central College, North Mankato, MN.

Kathryn Rose


Region: Metro

Kathryn is currently a chemical dependency counselor for Minnesota Health Fairview Program Serving Deaf, Hard of Hearing, and deafblind Individuals. She graduated from St. Kate's interpreter training program. She has worked as a program coordinator, program manager, adult foster care and supported living clinical coordinator for 15 years. During this time ,she returned to college and received a degree in psychology with an LADC. Kathryn has been working at Fairview since 2011. She is also the president of Deaf Can, Inc. She, Herman Fuechtmann and Mike Adams opened the first collaborative sober living program with RS Eden for Deaf, Hard of Hearing and DeafBlind in the country with the help of the Commission for DHHS and a grant from the Alcohol and Drug Division of the State of MN. She is also managing Deaf Can, Inc.'s expansion of Deaf Outreach Services (DOS). This program provides ILS/CADI, Homemaker and Companion services under 245D licenses for the State of Minnesota. DOS is licensed in all but 2 counties in Minnesota and hopes to offer mental health therapy in the community soon also. Kathryn can be found most weekends at her cabin in western Minnesota.

At-Large Members

At-large Members can be selected from any area of Minnesota.

Mark DeRuiter


Mark DeRuiter, Ph.D. is Associate Department Director and Director of Graduate Studies and Clinical Programs in the Department of Speech-Language-Hearing Sciences at the University of Minnesota - Twin Cities. Mark is certified as an audiologist and a speech-language pathologist by the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association. He is a Fellow of the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association as well as the American Academy of Audiology. Mark serves on the Audiologist and Speech-Language Pathologist Advisory Council for the State of Minnesota's Department of Health - Health Occupations Program.

Tracy Ivy


Tracy Ivy will serve as an at-large member. She served as a member of the Deaf Health Community committee with the National Center or Deaf Health Research and has taught American Sign Language in secondary settings in both New York and Minnesota. She worked for IBM as a software engineer and was a Deaf Service Coordinator in Illinois. She has two Masters degrees- one in Secondary Deaf Education of Students who are Deaf and Hard of Hearing, and another in Information Technology. Her undergraduate degree is in Criminal Justice and she has an AA degree in Accounting. All of her degrees came from the Rochester Institute for Technology and the National Technical Institute for the Deaf. Tracy is deaf.

Emily Smith-Lundberg


Emily Smith-Lundberg is the founder and camp director of Dreams and Inspirations (external link), Deaf and Hard of Hearing Camps and Retreats at Confidence Learning Center (external link) near Brainerd, MN. Emily was raised in rural Minnesota and mainstreamed in the public school system. Her mother advocated to ensure that she received equal education and rights. Emily's mother also brought her to MNCDHH meetings, deaf community events, sent her to camp programs for deaf and hard of hearing youth and made sure that she had the opportunity to meet other deaf peers and role models. Emily attended Rochester Institute of Technology in Rochester, New York and Gallaudet University in Washington, DC. Emily's camp, Dreams and Inspirations, provides retreats for numerous organizations and groups, including Koda (Kids of Deaf adults) Families; Deaf Women with Breast Cancer & Survivors; DeafBlind Camp; families with hearing parents and children who are deaf or hard of hearing; Sibling Camp for deaf, hard of hearing, and hearing siblings; and more! Emily is the vice chair of the Minnesota EHDI (Early Hearing Detection and Intervention) Advisory Committee, which she has been involved since November of 2008. She is also the chair of the Minnesota Deaf and Hard of Hearing Services of Central Minnesota Advisory Committee, since January of 2009. Emily is married to Dr. Daniel Lundberg, who is also deaf. They have two beautiful young children who are hearing and bilingual (ASL and English). 

Jamie Taylor 

Jamie Taylor - Thumbnail Square

Jamie Taylor likes to wear hats.  Currently she  works as the National Deaf-Blind Outreach Consultant for iCanConnect and serves on the DeafBlind Committee at SSB as well as the FCC’s Disability Advisory Committee as a representative of DeafBlind Citizens in Action.   She has a master’s degree in Deaf Education from the University of Minnesota.  In her spare time, she likes to knit. 

Jason Valentine, Chair

Jason Valentine thumbnail

Jason Valentine is the School Social Worker for Pre-K to 12+ students at Metro Deaf School in St. Paul, MN. Jason is Deaf and fluent in American Sign Language. Jason graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Madison with a BA in Psychology ('01), and MA in Social Work ('08). Jason was the chair of the DHHS-D advisory board for the Metro Region for 4 years. Jason was selected as a speaker for the Maternal and Child Health Leadership conference in April of 2015. Jason has presented about his experiences as a Deaf person and how to work with Deaf people in an educational setting at the University of St. Thomas, as well as for the Department of Human Services. Jason is an avid disc golfer, enjoys camping, hiking, fishing, and pretty much anything outdoors. 

John Wodele


John Wodele will serve as an at-large member. He was born and raised in Wabasha and served for three terms as mayor of his home town. While living in Wabasha, Wodele worked for 13 years in the private sector as co-owner and president of Wabasha Transfer, Inc. In 1985 he joined the Ramsey County Attorney's Office as manager of media, criminal justice policy, legislative relations, and eventually, chief of staff. He was appointed by President Clinton to the Federal Home Loan Back on which he served for 6 years. He is best known for his role as Director of Communications and spokesperson for former Minnesota Governor Jesse Ventura and as a talk-radio host on AM 1500, KSTP in St. Paul, MN. Currently Wodele is owner and principal of Wodele Creative, a public relations and communications marketing firm based in St. Paul, MN. He is a graduate of the U of MN, School of Mass Communication . Wodele has had a progressive hearing loss since he was a young child that was not identified until he was in his early 30s. MN Post wrote an article about John's appointment MN Post Article (external link).


Mary Hartnett, Executive Director


For over 40 years Mary Hartnett has worked with the deaf, hard of hearing, and deafblind communities in many different roles. Mary has been an educational and freelance sign language interpreter, a lobbyist, a community organizer and an executive director of three different nonprofit agencies. Mary has received awards from the Minnesota Association of Deaf Citizens, the Minnesota DeafBlind Association, the Ramsey County Bar Association, the Dispute Resolution Center, Lifetrack Resources, the Public Policy Award for Age and Disability from the Minnesota Department of Human Services and the Antonia Branca Award for Excellence in Early Hearing Detection and Intervention from the National Center for Hearing Assessment and Management and the Center for Disease Control.

Emory David Dively, Deputy Director

Emory David Dively wearing a light blue shirt and a dark blue tie.

Emory David Dively joined the Commission in the summer of 2016. He has an extensive background in budgeting, development of office systems, data archiving, supervision, communications and technology. His unique skill set aids the Commission in managing the scope, timelines and budgets for the many activities and events undertaken by the Commission. Emory David has a B.A. in Deaf Culture Ministries and an M.A. in Communications and Leadership. He is a CODA (Child of Deaf Adults) and personally has a hearing loss. If asked, Emory David would be happy to explain why the Packers are the best football team in the U.S. 

Anna Paulson, Coordinator of Educational Advancement & Partnerships


Anna Paulson, M.Ed is a former instructor and Senior Teaching Specialist at the University of Minnesota for over 18 years. Anna Paulson is a licensed teacher in the areas of Elementary Education and Deaf/Hard of Hearing Education. She has been an instructor in the teacher preparation programs in the areas of Deaf/Hard of Hearing Education and Early Childhood Special Education. She was the Part C coordinator during the inception years in Michigan, and has years of general and special education teaching experience.

Beth Fraser, Government Relations Director

Beth Fraser portrait

Beth Fraser comes to the Commission with 17 years of legislative experience. She collaborated with the Commission on voter outreach efforts during her eight years at the Minnesota Secretary of State's Office under Secretary Mark Ritchie, where she served as Deputy Secretary of State and Director of Governmental Affairs. Beth led the fight against the Photo ID constitutional amendment and won passage of numerous bills to modernize our election system and ensure that all eligible voters could easily cast ballots. Beth oversaw the creation of the Safe at Home address confidentiality program for survivors of domestic violence - the strongest program of its kind in the country. Prior to the Secretary of State's Office, Beth spent 10 years in the nonprofit sector advocating for progressive public policy, working on issues such as voting rights, money in politics, corporate accountability and state budget issues.

Anne Sittner Anderson, Communications Coordinator

Black and white portrait image of Anne Sittner Anderson

Anne Sittner Anderson has a degree in English Writing from Gallaudet University. Anne's past work experience includes indexing and abstracting e-learning databases; interpreter referral and quality assurance; coordinating training workshops; website content development and editing; newsletter releases; and professional writing and transcription services. Anne has volunteered for Minnesota Association of Deaf Citizens (MADC), Registry of Interpreters for the Deaf Region III and Minnesota Registry of Interpreters for the Deaf (MRID) in the past, which helped her get to know Minnesota's signing community very well.


Emory K. Dively, Outreach and Civic Engagement Specialist


Emory Dively is the current co-pastor of Deaf Life Church, serving a Deafblind congregation, and communities in St. Paul, Faribault and Rochester since 1997. He has served as an election judge for Ramsey County since 2012 and also serves as treasurer for the Minnesota DeafBlind Association (MDBA) and for the Minnesota Association of Deaf Citizens (MADC). Emory is a former president of MADC. He is also the president of the World Deaf Assemblies of God Fellowship. Mark Ritchie, then-Minnesota Secretary of State, awarded Emory with the 2009 National Association of Secretaries of State Medallion Award for his enthusiastic work on voting and civic engagement. Emory has traveled internationally to over 27 countries. His favorite things about traveling? Trying international foods, learning different signed languages and making new friends. Emory and his wife have four grandchildren.

Sarah Arana, Outreach and Civic Engagement Specialist

Sarah Arana portrait

Sarah Arana assists with project management in the areas of education, closed captioning, age-related hearing loss and legislation. Sarah obtained her Bachelor's degree in Professional and Technical Communication from Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT) and has had a variety of experiences working in the corporate communications, deaf education, customer service and freelancing arenas. She served as the MinnesotaKODA coordinator for two years and is currently a NTID/RIT Alumni Chapter Co-Coordinator for Minnesota. Sarah is an avid bookworm who must have piles of books at all times and she also loves to travel as much as she can.

Kim Wassenaar, Outreach and Civic Engagement Specialist

Kim Wassenaar portrait

Kim Wassenaar is originally from Dayton, Ohio. She graduated from Model Secondary School for the Deaf (Washington, DC) in 1978 then moved to St. Paul, MN. Kim was born hearing and later became hard of hearing. Two days after relocating to Minnesota, she became completely deaf. Kim is the founder of St. Paul/Minneapolis Black Deaf Advocates, Chapter #25 (1997) and serves as the current President. In the past, she also served on the board as a Member-at-Large with the Minnesota Association of Deaf Citizens. In her spare time, she loves camping with husband and friends, dancing, reading and enjoys making people laugh.

Jessalyn Akerman-Frank, Outreach and Civic Engagement Specialist

Jessalyn Akerman-Frank portrait

Jessalyn Akerman Frank is a graduate of Gallaudet University with a BA in Communications, a graduate of the University of Minnesota with a Masters in Special Education with a focus in Deaf and hard of hearing, and a recent graduate from the Cross Road Solutions Deaf Life Coaching Program. Jessalyn is currently the Vice President of Minnesota Association of the Deaf, the Chair of ASLBlend, Founder of Deaf LGBTQI Annual Awards, and the sponsor/founder of Minnesota Deaf Self-Empowerment project. She currently teaches ASL at North High School and Family ASL at Gideon Pond. She remains engaged and active in the Deaf Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault field by training advocates, traveling to train and educate in other states and working with Survivors through Life Coaching and Yoga. She was recently awarded the Charlie Smith Award for her work in Human Services, and the Petra F. Howard Award for her work with the Deaf LGBTQI community. "As a community-centric person, it is my responsibility to practice community accountability by supporting, volunteering and enhancing the quality of life for all members in our community". In her free time, she teaches Deaf Yoga, spends time with her family and two dogs. 

Shawn Vriezen, Outreach and Civic Engagement Specialist

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Shawn Vriezen is one of the few Certified Deaf Interpreters (CDIs) in Minnesota. As a CDI and an ASL linguist, Shawn has been hired for a wide range of video, interpreting, and performing arts projects. Most recently, Shawn signed the National Anthem at the Blackhawks/Wild hockey game and was an actor in Ten Thousand Things Theater's production of Dear World. Shawn understands the importance of including all individuals in our diverse community in the political process and uses his versatile ingenuity to do so. 

Fardowsa Ali, Outreach and Civic Engagement Intern

Fardowsa Ali NEW thumbnail

Fardowsa Ali first started to become involved with the voting process in 2016. She plans to become a future voting educator and is especially interested in working with immigrants and Minnesota's deaf Muslim community. Fardowsa was born in Mogadishu, the capital city of Somalia. When war came to her country, Fardowsa's family fled. Her brother picked her up in a boat and brought her to Mombasa, Kenya. After staying in a refugee camp, Fardowsa immigrated to Minnesota where her sister lived. She arrived in December and was greeted by Minnesota's snow and ice. Fardowsa is a founder for the Minnesota Deaf Muslims Community (MDMC), a 501(c)3 nonprofit. MDMC advocates for and provides communication access and learning opportunities for immigrants who are deaf as well as deaf community members with additional disabilities. MDMC serves individuals who are not fluent in American Sign Language (ASL) and English and need additional support. Fardowsa strongly believes that our community should embrace diversity and be inclusive for all people. United we are stronger. 

AllOut Marketing

AllOut Marketing logo

AllOut Marketing is best known for their marketing expertise and implementation through advanced communication technologies and applications, as well as for their in-depth understanding of Deaf culture and the experiences of consumers with varying levels of hearing ability. AllOut Marketing assists the Commission with their migration to a new website.

Digiterp Communications

Digiterp Communications logo

Digiterp Communications strives to create resources, both human and technical, which build bridges across the linguistic and social divides preventing us from reaching our potential as individuals and communities. Digiterp Communications produces weekly legislative vlogs for the Commission.

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