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Commissioners

Mr. Alexander Ansley

Ms. Beth Brinly

Dr. Thomas Evans

Ms. Trish Freeman

Ms. Gerry Gordon-Brown

Ms. Barbie Harris

Ms. Amy Hatzel

Ms. Marva Johnson

Ms. Melissa Kelly

Ms. Michelle Niehaus

Ms. Nancy Perry

Ms. Sarah Roof

Mr. James Edward Runyon

Ms. Edie Ryan

Mr. Jason Smith

Ms. Jeannie Taylor


Executive Board
Mr. Thomas Evans

Chair
Executive Board

Featured in:

KCDHH Spotlight Q&A
(Accessible PDF)

June 2021

Dr. Thomas "Tommy" Evans
Kentucky Speech-Language-Hearing Association
Term expires June 30, 2025

Tommy Evans is a Pediatric Audiologist at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital and Medical Center (CCHMC). He provides various clinical services at the Northern Kentucky outpatient location which includes behavioral diagnostics, auditory brainstem response evaluations, and amplification services. Tommy has been employed at CCHMC 2004 and currently serves as the Hearing Aid Program Coordinator. His primary interests and specialties include pediatric amplification, telehealth, student development, functional outcomes, and process-improvement methodologies. He received his Master’s Degree in 2003 and Clinical Doctorate in 2005 from the University of Tennessee, Knoxville. Tommy is a member of the American Speech Language Association (ASHA) and Kentucky Speech Hearing Association (KSHA). He maintains a Kentucky license in both Audiology and Hearing Instruments Specialist. He currently serves on KSHA board in lieu of his position on the ASHA Advisory Council for Audiologists.

Tommy currently resides in Union, KY, with his wife Tiffany, and their three children, Davey, Addy, and Austin. In his spare time he loves the outdoors, playing basketball, enjoying family time, and watching college sports.

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Ms. Jeannie Taylor

Vice Chair
Executive Board

Featured in:

KCDHH Spotlight Q&A
(Accessible PDF)

June 2025

Ms. Jeannie Taylor
Hearing Loss Association of America
Term expires June 30, 2025

In 2013, Jeannie was initially appointed by Governor Steve Beshear to represent the Hearing Loss Association of America (HLAA) on the Kentucky Commission on the Deaf. After renewal for a further two terms, this appointment is now due to expire on June 30, 2025.

Qualified with a Bachelor of Science in Exceptional Child/Elementary Education from the University of Louisville, and a Master’s degree in Community Agency Counseling from Western Kentucky University, Jeannie also completed an Associate’s Degree with an Emphasis in American Sign Language at Nashville State Community College in Nashville, Tennessee. She was also accepted into a two-year program at Gallaudet University in Washington D.C., receiving certification as a Peer Mentor for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing.

As an educator, Jeannie worked within the Kentucky public school system for 33 years. She co-founded and was co-leader of the HLAA-Bowling Green Chapter, and continues to be an advocate for HLAA in that area. Now semi-retired, she resides in Bowling Green, Kentucky.

Jeannie plans to continue her commitment to provide education, advocacy and support to those who are deaf or hard of hearing. Also to follow her deep passion for sharing Jesus Christ through missionary work at home and abroad.

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Ms. Melissa Kelly

Secretary
Executive Board

Featured in:

KCDHH Spotlight Q&A
(Accessible PDF)

September 2021

Ms. Melissa Kelly
Service Provider Representative
Term expires June 30, 2025

Melissa Kelly currently serves as an adjunct professor teaching American Sign Language for Sinclair Community College. She has previously worked for St. Rita School for the Deaf and Boone County Public Schools working with children using ASL. She received her Bachelor's Degree in Deaf Education from Eastern Kentucky University in 2003. She currently resides in Boone County with her husband and two children.

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Ms. Barbie Harris

Executive Board

Ms. Barbie Harris
Kentucky Association of the Deaf Representative
Term expires June 30, 2023

Barbie Harris was appointed by the Governor to be a representative on the KCDHH board for the Kentucky Association of the Deaf (KAD). Barbie was born in Amarillo, Texas and was a “foreign student” traveling around USA as her father was in the Navy during war times. Barbie graduated from Portsmouth High School in Portsmouth, Ohio and she was the only deaf student in public school with no interpreting services at that time. After graduation she attended Gallaudet University where she first learned American Sign Language and about the Deaf Culture. She transferred to James Madison College in Harrodsburg, Virginia while her husband worked as a teacher at the Virginia School for the Deaf. She obtained a B.S. degree from James Madison College in Virginia and an M.S. in Arts Education from the University of Kentucky. Barbie, a 38 year veteran teacher at Kentucky School for the Deaf, loved teaching deaf and hard of hearing children of all ages in Art Education and ASL/Deaf Studies. She holds a Sign Language Proficiency Interview certification. Barbie is an avid artist who enjoys being involved with the KCDHH’s DeaFestival artist showcases. Not only was Barbie a teacher, but she also served as a Ky Chapter-Jr NAD Advisor, an SBG Advisor and the Miss Deaf Kentucky Ambassador Director. Barbie is also currently a member of the Kentucky Association of the Deaf, the National Association of the Deaf, KSDAA, GUAA, JMUAA and the Mini Deaf Olympics Board. Barbie is also a “history buff” who conducts genealogy research for KSD’s Jacobs Hall Museum. She is married to Archie P. Harris, co-founder of KCDHH, and they have 4 children (1 CODA and 3 Deaf) , 6 grandchildren with a 7th on the way. Her hobbies are traveling, camping, arts/crafts, and stained glass art.

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Ms. Michelle Niehaus

Executive Board

Featured in:

KCDHH Spotlight Q&A
(Accessible PDF)

August 2021

Ms. Michelle Niehaus
Designee for Mr. Eric Friedlander, Secretary, Cabinet for Health and Family Services
Term is based on law and does not expire

Michelle Niehaus, LCSW, is the Program Administrator of Deaf and Hard of Hearing Services for the Kentucky Department for Behavioral Health, Developmental and Intellectual Disabilities. Through collaboration, training, advocacy, and outreach, she strives to create a linguistically and culturally affirmative system of mental health care in the state. Michelle previously worked as a therapist with Seven Counties Services, Inc. coordinating their mental health program and with Deaf Network in Indiana as a clinician. She is currently the chair of the Mental Health Special Interest Section of the American Deafness and Rehabilitation Association (ADARA).

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Commission Board
Mr. Alexander Ansley

Featured in:

KCDHH Spotlight Q&A
(Accessible PDF)

December 2021

Mr. Alexander Ansley
Alexander Graham Bell Association Representative
Term expires June 30, 2024

Alexander Ansley was appointed by Governor Beshear to be the Alexander Graham Bell Association Representative on the Kentucky Commission on the Deaf and Hard of Hearing board. A Kentucky native, born and raised in Lexington graduated from Henry Clay High School in the spring of 2019. Now he attends Western Kentucky University as a Junior studying Accounting, Administration, and Business Economics. His goals and aspirations after college is to start an accounting firm to specialize in helping non-profit organizations achieve their own goals.

Alexander is determined to work with the commissioners on behalf of the Alexander Graham Bell Association as well as to advocate for all constituents of Kentucky who reside in the DHH community.

One of Alexander's favorite sayings that he has is, "A person can wake up and put their glasses on in order to see, I wake up and turn my hearing aids on in order to hear." He wants to create awareness in the DHH community to provide a sense of inclusiveness meanwhile improving the standards of accommodations in the education system to set up our future DHH students for success.

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Ms. Beth Brinly

Ms. Beth Brinly
Deputy Secretary, Education and Labor Cabinet
Term is based on law and does not expire

Louisville native Beth Brinly brings a wide array of government, non-profit, and private-sector experience, and an extensive knowledge of workforce development, economic development and education to the position of deputy secretary of the Kentucky Education and Labor Cabinet.

Dep. Brinly is no stranger to Kentucky state government having served in the Education and Workforce Development Cabinet as the deputy secretary from 2014–2015, commissioner of the Department of Workforce Development from 2010–2014, and the Kentucky Workforce Development Cabinet from 1990–1996. She began her state government career in the Governor’s Office where she worked in policy and budget from 1987–1990. Dep. Brinly comes to the cabinet from the American Institutes for Research (AIR) where she was vice president of the Workforce Program Area in the Human Services Division. Prior to that position, she served as the vice president of Workforce Innovation at consulting firm Maher & Maher.

On the federal level, she worked at the regional office of the U.S. Department of Labor in Philadelphia as chief of the Division of Workforce Investment in the Employment and Training Administration. Dep. Brinly has also served as an Education Program Specialist in the Philadelphia Regional Office of the U.S. Department of Education. She has extensive experience with federal programs including the Workforce Investment and Opportunities Act, Wagner-Peyser and the Trade Act.

Dep. Brinly earned a bachelor’s degree in political science from the University of Louisville in 1986 and a master’s degree in education from Pennsylvania State University in 2004, and she currently lives in Louisville.

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Ms. Gerry Gordon-Brown

Featured in:

KCDHH Spotlight Q&A
(Accessible PDF)

May 2021

Ms. Gerry Gordon-Brown
Kentucky Association of the Deaf Representative
Term expires June 30, 2024

The Office of Governor Beshear recently appointed Ms. Gordon-Brown to the board at the Kentucky Commission on the Deaf and Hard of Hearing. Since graduating from Kentucky State University and receiving a Master’s Degree from Webster University in St. Louis, Missouri, she has worked in three different states (Ohio, Indiana, and Kentucky) with Vocational Rehabilitation agencies. Prior to her retirement on July 31, 2015 as director of the Kentucky Client Assistance Program she was very active in many organizations on the local, state and national levels. Being an advocate has always been a part of her participation in the activities of various organizations. In 2014 she completed the two-year on line program at Gallaudet University to become a certified Peer Mentor for persons who are deaf and hard of hearing. She was a former member of the Kentucky Licensing Board for Specialists in Hearing Instruments representing consumer interests. Presently, she is serving as an active member of the Kentuckiana Chapter for the Hearing Loss Association of America (HLAA) and she is also a member of the Brain Injury Alliance of Kentucky. On a personal note, Gerry lives in Louisville and she has one daughter Carla who is married to Kevin Cooper. She has 3 grandsons, one granddaughter and one great-grandson. Her hobbies are spending time with family and friends, reading, writing and traveling. She has traveled to Europe and West Africa.

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Ms. Marva Johnson

Ms. Marva Johnson
President of KyRID
Term is based on law and does not expire

Marva Johnson, NIC, is a nationally certified sign language interpreter. She currently serves as President of Kentucky Registry of Interpreters for the Deaf (KyRID) and Chair of Kentucky Board of Interpreters (KBI). Marva’s professional interpreting career began in 1999. As a heritage language learner, Marva trained by attending workshops and networking with experienced colleagues. After earning the NIC in 2008, Marva completed an Associates of Applied Science/Criminal Justice at Harrison College in Evansville, IN. She went on to train as a facilitator with Project CLIMB (Cultivating Legal Interpreters from Minority Backgrounds) which led to several opportunities to facilitate communities of learning. In addition, Project CLIMB provided the opportunity for her to participate in an ad hoc national advisory body tasked with identifying Knowledge, Skills, and Abilities (KSA) essential for legal interpreting. Marva works as a private practitioner in Indiana, Ohio, and Kentucky in a variety of settings. She is most invested in interpreting work within legal and social justice settings. One of her passions is community service which has led her to serve in multiple leadership roles at the local, state, and national levels. Currently, she is immersed in training to become an Integrated Model of Interpreting (IMI) practitioner. She prides herself on being a life-long learner and sharing knowledge with colleagues in the interpreting field by presenting on various topics. In her free time, Marva enjoys spending time with her granddaughter, Juliona, and running marathons across the U.S.A.

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Ms. Nancy Perry

Featured in:

KCDHH Spotlight Q&A
(Accessible PDF)

July 2021

Ms. Nancy Perry
KAD Representative
Term expires June 30, 2025

Nancy J. Perry’s hometown is Franklin, KY. She graduated from the Kentucky School for the Deaf at Danville, KY. She went to Gallaudet College for a few years and then transferred to NTID, National Technical Institute for the Deaf, Rochester, NY with a major in Applied Arts (AA). She also earned a Bachelor of Fine Arts (BFA). Her current occupations are Freelance Arts & Graphic Design, Deaf interpreter for more than 20 years, teaching ASL in the Bowling Green, KY community college for more than 25 years, and ASL tutoring. Nancy has been a Kentucky Association of the Deaf (KAD) representative with KCDHH since 2017.

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Ms. Sarah Roof

Ms. Sarah Roof
Parent Representative
Term expires June 30, 2026

Sarah Roof has served as the executive director of Kentucky Hands & Voices since 2017. She earned her Bachelor's of Science degree in psychology from the University of Evansville and attended University of Kentucky for graduate school. In 2022, she earned a graduate certificate in the Deaf and Hard of Hearing Infants, Toddlers, and their Families program from Gallaudet University. She is currently an executive board member on Kentucky's Early Hearing Detection & Intervention (EHDI) Advisory Board and is also a member of the Family Advisory Committee for the National Center for Hearing Assessment & Management (NCHAM). In 2022, she led efforts to successfully pass legislation related to cytomegalovirus (CMV) screening and education in Kentucky. She is a recipient of the Hands & Voices Seaver Vision Award (2021) and the Dr. Deborah Haydon Leadership Award (2019).

Sarah and her husband, Steve, reside in Richmond with their three children, Hannah, J.D. and Isaac, and two dogs, Slugger and Holly. Isaac has bilateral sensorineural deafness caused by Pendred Syndrome and EVA. Sarah is passionate about connecting with families and supporting them in their journey, providing opportunities for DHH children to be around other DHH kids "like them," and advocating for strong early intervention services for Kentucky's DHH children. In her free time, you'll likely find her on a ball field or enjoying the outdoors.

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Mr. James Edward "Eddie" Runyon

Featured in:

KCDHH Spotlight Q&A
(Accessible PDF)

October 2021

Mr. James Edward "Eddie" Runyon
AARP Representative
Term expires June 30, 2023

James Edward “Eddie” Runyon was appointed by Governor Matt Bevin in 2018 to serve on the Kentucky Commission on the Deaf and Hard of Hearing as a representative of AARP.

Eddie is a resident of Richmond, Ky., where he resides with his wife Yvette.

Eddie is an Occupational Safety and Health (OSH) Discrimination Investigator and a 1993 and 1994 graduate of Eastern Kentucky University, holding degrees in Loss Prevention Management and Business and Industrial Security, as well as the LPC (Loss Prevention Certified) designation. Eddie also attended Gallaudet University in Washington, DC, arriving just after the DPN (Deaf President Now) movement. It was here that he was first exposed to the power of advocacy for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing, and he has continued advocating since, serving as a past member of the TRS (Telephone Relay Service) Advisory Board, Captioned Movies Study Group, and State Outreach Coordinator and State Account Manager for Hamilton Relay Services. Eddie was also instrumental in bringing the first captioned movies to the theater in Pikeville.

In his spare time, Eddie enjoys spending time with his family, attending sporting events, and conducting genealogy research.

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Ms. Edie Ryan

Featured in:

KCDHH Spotlight Q&A
(Accessible PDF)

November 2022

Ms. Edie Ryan
Member At-Large
Term expires June 30, 2024

Chicago native Edie Ryan is a licensed interpreter certified by the National Association of the Deaf and National Interpreter Certification. She has worked as an educational interpreter for the past 31 years. She also does private practice interpreting in Western Kentucky and is active in the deaf community. Ms. Ryan, who lives in Paducah, has served on the West Kentucky Deaf Alumni Board. She is a past president of the Kentucky Registry of Interpreters for the Deaf and currently serves as director.

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Mr. Jason Smith

Mr. Jason Smith
President of Kentucky Association of the Deaf
Term is based on law and does not expire

Jason Smith lives in Danville, KY. He is a proud alumni of Kentucky School for the Deaf, he was a student there during the 175th anniversary of Kentucky School for the Deaf in 1998. Jason is the founder of Deaf Night Out in Danville. He is involved with several other deaf organizations including; secretary of the Kentucky Home Fund for Aged and Infirm Deaf, treasurer of the Catholic Order of Forester (known as National Fraternal Society for the Deaf), former president of Kentucky School for the Deaf Alumni Association, and he is also a member of Grace Deaf Presbyterian Church.

Jason was raised in Russell Springs, KY. He is a proud father of a CODA (Child of Deaf Adult).

As president of the Kentucky Association of the Deaf, his motto is "Let us work with you to ensure your rights are protected and your voice is heard."

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Emeritus Members
Ms. Amy Hatzel

Featured in:

KCDHH Spotlight Q&A
(Accessible PDF)

November 2021

Ms. Amy Hatzel
Emeritus Member
Term expires June 30, 2024

Amy Hatzel has been an interpreter since 1991. During her career, she has served the deaf and hard of hearing community in a variety of settings. Experience includes an internship with KCDHH, an appointment to the Kentucky Licensure Board for Interpreters, KYRID Representative to the Kentucky Board of Interpreters Policy Committee and staff interpreter for the Central Intelligence Agency. She served two terms as KYRID vice president before being elected president in spring 2010. She holds NAD-V certification, a Bachelor's degree in Interpreting from Eastern Kentucky University and a Master's degree in Special Education from Georgetown College. She is currently employed as a special education teacher and teacher of the Deaf and Hard of Hearing in Carter County, but also maintains an independent sign language practice. She resides near Ashland with her husband, Gerry and their three daughters.

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Dr. Trish Freeman

Dr. Trish Freeman
Emeritus Member
Term expires June 30, 2024

Dr. Trish Freeman is the Earl Platt Slone Endowed Professor at the University of Kentucky College of Pharmacy. Trish has a long history of service to KCDHH and the deaf and hard of hearing community, having served on the Commission from 2000 to 2013, including serving as Secretary, Vice Chair and Chairman of the Board. During her years of service to KCDHH, Trish led advocacy efforts to secure passage in 2002 of Kentucky’s hearing aid mandate (Kentucky Rev. Stat. Ann. § 304.17A-132) that requires health benefit plans to provide coverage for hearing aids and related services for individuals under 18 years of age. As the mother of two deaf sons, Kenneth (age 29) and Edward (age 26), who hear with cochlear implants, Trish has navigated or helped them navigate countless situations -from diagnosis, fitting of hearing aids, speech therapy, cochlear implant surgery, individual education plans (IEPs), assistive technology, vocational rehabilitation and accommodations during college.

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