Tara Dowdell is a highly accomplished marketing and communications strategist. She is the founder and President of TDG Speakers and Tara Dowdell Group, a marketing and strategic communications firm. In addition to her consulting practice, Tara is a respected television commentator and speaker. She appears regularly on MSNBC and Fox 5 News New York where she provides progressive insight and analysis on a range of political, government, and business topics.
Tara’s proven expertise, unique insight, and engaging style have also made her a sought-after speaker. She has addressed several major conferences such as the NYU Stern School of Business Women in Business Conference, Big Ideas in Higher Education Conference at Rutgers University, NYU MLK Week Commemoration, Google Solve for X, the Center for American Women and Politics “Ready to Run” conference, the National Urban League conference, and many more.
Tara has an extensive background in government having previously served as the Senior Manager of Government and Community Relations for the international shipping arm of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey. In this capacity, she was responsible for directing the government and public relations strategy for the multi-billion-dollar redevelopment of the Port of New York and New Jersey. Prior to joining the Port Authority, Tara served as Director of Appointments in the Office of the New Jersey Governor. She was the youngest person and the first African American to serve in this high level role. As Director of Appointments, Tara led the office responsible for the selection, nomination, and appointment of individuals to over 550 statewide boards and commissions. She began her career in government serving as a District Representative to Congressman Frank Pallone, Jr.
Aside from her work in government, Tara has a wealth of political experience. She has served in senior positions on several high profile federal, state, and local campaigns. Additionally, she managed an issue-advocacy campaign for Emily’s List, one of the largest Political Action Committees in the nation.
Tara’s accomplishments have not gone unnoticed. In 2010, she was selected by the American Swiss Foundation to attend their prestigious Young Leaders Conference in Basel, Switzerland. Tara was only one of twenty-five Americans chosen to participate in the conference. Notably, in 2005, after being selected out of over a million applicants, she had the distinction of competing for a job on the third season NBC’s hit show, “The Apprentice.” Tara has also been honored by Rutgers Business School, Colorado Black Women for Political Action, the NAACP, and the child advocacy nonprofit organization, Project Re-Direct.
Tara is also very active in her community. She serves on the Steering Committee for the Center for American Women and Politics “Ready to Run” Conference and is a Trustee on Board of the Partnership for a Drug Free New Jersey. She is also a member of Bethany Baptist Church in Newark, New Jersey.
Tara is a graduate of the University of Virginia where she earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in Government.
Dynamic. Bold. Engaging. Jil Littlejohn is a seasoned speaker with over two decades of corporate and non-profit leadership experience. Each speech and presentation is a dynamic mix of intellect, experience and raw honesty. Jil keeps crowds engaged, informed and wanting more.
As the youngest member of Greenville, South Carolina’s City Council and the first female president and CEO of the Urban League of the Upstate, Jil is breaking down barriers, creating paths in the constantly changing political landscape and enriching her community every day. Jil has addressed diverse audiences around the world ranging from CEO’s to teenagers.
Passionate and capable, Jil frequently speaks on the following topics: Women in Leadership: Fem the Future, Women In Government: Creating a Leadership Pipeline, Non-Profit Leadership: So You Want To Be A CEO, Social Justice: Woke vs. Working, Our Kids & Our Schools, Balance…..Is It Possible, and much more. Jil is also the author of Women, Wine, and Politics.
www.JilLittlejohn.com | @JilLittlejohn
Mobile County, Alabama Commissioner Merceria Ludgood has served residents of Commission District One since October,2007. She was elected President of the Association of County Commissions of Alabama in August 2014 and serves as a member of the Boards of Directors of the National Association of Counties, Association of County Commissions of AL and represented 12 southern states on the NACo Board of Directors Executive Committee.
Ludgood is a member of the NACo Community and Economic Workforce Development Steering Committee and the International Economic Development Task Force. She is also actively involved with the Gulf States Counties and Parishes Task Force which formed to address issues arising from the federal response to the Deep Water Horizon event and served as its first Chairperson.
She represents Alabama counties on the State AL Workforce Development Board, and had led efforts to strengthen the manufacturing sector throughout Southwest AL. As co-chair of the Mobile Bay National Estuary Program’s Government Networks committee she brings together elected officials in the region to develop strategies around water quality and other environmental issues. Ludgood participated in the Governing Institute’s 2017 Women in Government Leadership program which includes 25 elected women from throughout the United States
Ms. Ludgood is the recipient of many honors and awards including Leadership Mobile, Leadership Alabama and the prestigious W.K.Kellogg Foundation National Leadership Fellowship, which enabled her to explore leadership among grassroots women leaders in the African diaspora. Ms. Ludgood has been honored for her public service on behalf of many community organizations, including the Mobile Area Education Foundation, Boy Scouts of America, Dearborn YMCA, Zeta Phi Beta, Delta Sigma Theta and Southern Region of Alpha Kappa ,YWCA and NAACP and is a founding member of the Board of Directors of Alabama Appleseed Center for Law and Justice. She was recognized by her peers in 2012 by the Mobile Bar Association Women Lawyers as a Trailblazer, in 2016 by induction into the Alabama Lawyers Association Hall of Fame, and in 2017 named a Living Legend by the Crawford Bay Area Bar Association. She is a Fellow of the AL Law Foundation and serves on the Board of Directors of Legal Services AL. Ludgood was included in the 2016 Class of Alabama Women who shape the State, was 2017 Campaign Chair for the United Way of Southwest AL and 2018 Dean of Leadership Mobile.
Ms. Ludgood is especially proud of her service as a member of the Alabama Commission on the Status of Women and Girls in the Criminal Justice System. She launched Engaging the Next Generation which promotes volunteerism among the age 22-40 demographic and was recognized in 2016 as a Young Professional Hero by al.com for her role as a mentor to young adults interested in social justice. She volunteers with Big Brother Big Sister as Big for her Little, Breanna.
Deb Sofield is a Keynote Speaker, Author of the book, Speak without Fear – Rock Star Presentation Skills to get People to Hear What You Say, Radio Talk Show Host in the Salem Network, Podcaster and President of her own Executive Speech Coaching Co., which trains women and men for success in speaking, crisis communications, presentation skills, media and message development in the U.S. and abroad.
Recognized for her work for improving the lives of others Sofield was awarded the Order of the Palmetto – the State of South Carolina’s highest honor.
Deb Sofield is a visiting professor, teaching public speaking at Harvard University, John F. Kennedy School of Government, and on the faculty of the Woman’s Campaign School at Yale University, she is on the board for the Women’s Democracy Network of Washington, DC. Sofield teachings Communications and Media Training for Civil Society around the world and she served as a mentor and trainer for The Center for Liberty in the Middle East.
Sofield represents the City of Greenville as a Commissioner of Public Works for the Greenville Water System and is the first woman to hold this position since its inception in 1918. Sofield was formerly a two-term member of Greenville City Council.
To learn more about Deb visit: www.debsofield.com
Amy Tate manages the Tennessee Valley Authority’s (TVA) relationships with Mississippi’s public officials in the utility’s 36-county footprint. She maintains bipartisan working relationships with congressional staff, the state legislature, county supervisors and mayors. She also works with energy interest organizations and economic development associations. Tate served on TVA’s Media Relations staff and also worked in TVA’s Washington, DC office prior to joining the State and Local Government Relations team in 2005. Prior to TVA, Tate served as Special Assistant to Tupelo Mayor Glenn McCullough, Jr.
Amy was recently named one of Y’all Politics “Top 50 Most Influential People in Government” and has also been honored by the Mississippi Business Journal as one of their “Top 40 Under 40” in 2006 and “Top 50 Leading Business Women” in 2016. She is a graduate of Leadership Mississippi and the Community Leadership Institute. She serves on the boards of the Tupelo Redevelopment Agency, Association for Excellence in Education, and the CREATE Foundation’s Commission on the Future of Northeast Mississippi.
Tate graduated from Mississippi University for Women with a degree in Journalism/Public Relations. She was named “Outstanding Recent Graduate” by her alma mater in 2012 and is a recent Past President of the Mississippi University for Women Alumni Association. She is a 2012 graduate of Vanderbilt University’s Leadership for Accelerated Management Performance through the Owen Graduate School of Management.
She resides in Tupelo with her husband, Kevin and children Avery and Walker. They are members of Tupelo First United Methodist Church and are active in the Tupelo Public Schools.
Gwen Wisler graduated from Ohio State University in 1981 with a BSBA (summa cum laude).
Wisler worked for Price Waterhouse from 1981 through 1993 in the Auditing Department; she served numerous publicly-held and privately-held clients including Turner Broadcasting Company and Carnival Cruise Lines. From 1993 through 1999, Gwen had various senior financial roles at Cobb Partners, New World Communications and Sunbeam (later American Household).
In 1999, Wisler moved into operational roles as the President and CEO of Eastpak, First Alert and Coleman Powermate. She served as the CEO of The Coleman Company, an $800 million outdoor recreation company. Gwen worked as an operational consultant for several private companies including The Sharper Image and Cott Beverages.
Currently, Gwen owns Asheville Profits LLC; in return for operational consulting work, clients of Asheville Profits give time to local non-profits. She serves on numerous non-profits boards and one for-profit Board of Directors.
In 2013, she was elected to the Asheville City Council. In 2015, her fellow Council members elected her Vice Mayor. Gwen was re-elected to City Council and as Vice Mayor in 2017.