ERA Staff Directory
Jennifer M. Graft, MBA, SPHR
Jennifer joined ERA as President and CEO in January 2007. Her responsibilities include the day-to day operations and management of the Association, ensuring high quality delivery of services and expert advice to members, and the sales and marketing of our services. She believes the 3 core areas of her responsibility are strategy, sales, and culture. Jennifer leads a team of over 20 staff members, in 2 offices, who provide a breadth of Human Resources services and programs to our diverse membership of over 1,400 organizations in Ohio, Kentucky, and Indiana. Jennifer has over sixteen years working in human resources and business management, in the healthcare, retail and service industries. Prior to joining the Association, Jennifer was the Managing Director for the Cincinnati office of a global career transition and organizational consulting firm.
Jennifer is active in the business community, and has served on the board of directors for the Greater Cincinnati Human Resources Association, Junior Achievement, and Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra. She is an active board member of the Southwest Ohio Workforce Investment Board. She is a certified Senior Professional in Human Resources, has her Bachelor's Degree in Marketing and her MBA from Miami University.
Ralph Neal, SPHR, SHRM-SCP
Ralph is responsible for the development and quality of all educational programs produced or provided by the association and its various instructors. Additionally, he is in great demand as an instructor, coach, and consultant. His primary training areas are employment law for managers, legal liability issues, sexual harassment prevention, and a host of leadership and management development topics, communication skills, and team building.
Before joining the Association, Ralph was Vice President and partner for a consulting firm that delivered training/consulting in career transition areas such as vocational assessment, networking, resume development, interview skills and negotiation of compensation. Before starting his own successful operation he was on staff as a Management Consultant for one of the country's largest seminar companies. There he delivered public and private seminars and training sessions throughout the country on many different topics including management effectiveness, leadership, communication skills, coaching and counseling, and other employee and operational effectiveness topics. Prior to those experiences, he was a General Manager and Training Manager for several years with a nationally recognized food and beverage company and brings from there an extensive background in developing corporate training tools, needs analysis, business operations, supervision, management development and grand openings.
Ralph has been published many times in local and regional publications on a wide variety of training and career related topics and is frequently interviewed by regional media. He is an active member in the national chapter of the American Society of Training and Development. Ralph earned his Bachelor of Science Degree in Public Policy and Management from Indiana University in Bloomington, Indiana.
Gary Mertz, SPHR, SHRM-SCP
A lifelong entrepreneur with over 25 years of expertise in, human resources and business development, Gary earned a BA in Business Administration from Franklin University and certificates in health and wellness counseling from the Institute for Integrative Nutrition. Gary also has earned the designation of Senior Professional in Human Resources (SPHR) and Society for Human Resource Management - Senior Certified Professional (SHRM-SCP).
Gary founded The Palmis Group, LLC an executive, leadership and corporate health coaching, consulting and strategy development firm and also Mertz and Associates, a HR and career consulting firm.
Before forming The Palmis Group, Gary was president of Remedy Intelligent Staffing, and a founding partner of The Kreller Consulting Group and Kreller Business Information Group.
Additionally, Gary served as an adjunct faculty member at Gateway Community College as an Achieve Global Leadership Development training facilitator and instructor.
Susan Sterritt Meyer
Susan Sterritt Meyer, recently returned to the Association with new perspectives following five years teaching and consulting experience in Europe. Susan served our members from 2008-2011 as a Learning and Development Consultant, and held the post of Director of the Educational Services Department from 1993-1999 during which time she developed the Department’s core training materials. She is well versed in the learning needs and preferences of our members.
Considered by many to be “the best facilitator they’ve ever experienced,” Susan has “the rare ability to capture interest and stir emotion while engaging the brain to make continued learning a treat.” She bolsters her exceptional instructional skills with decades of solid business, training and HR expertise gleaned from leadership posts in major corporations in manufacturing, healthcare, broadcasting, and service industries. Susan earned her Master’s degree in Human Resource Development and B.S. degrees in psychology and social sciences. She holds multiple certifications and has been published multiple times. She is also a featured speaker at national and local conventions.
Susan’s presentations are lively with solid examples and inspiring messages, and offer a depth of content unparalleled in other learning venues.
Dawn Hays, Esq., SHRM-SCP
Since 2001, Dawn Hays (formerly Grauel) has advised Fortune 500 companies and middle market clients in all areas of employment law, including restrictive covenants, severance agreements, ADEA, ADA, FLSA, Title VII, FMLA, COBRA, HIPAA, and EPA. Dawn has represented parties before arbitrators, administrative agencies, and is admitted to practice before the Ohio Supreme Court, the Sixth and Eleventh Circuit Courts of Appeal and the Supreme Court of the United States. Additionally, Dawn frequently advises employers on litigation avoidance strategies, presents on a variety of labor and employment law issues, and teaches continuing legal education courses. Among her accomplishments, Dawn was voted an Ohio Super Lawyer Rising Star in the 2005-2012 editions of Law & Politics magazine. She was also awarded the 40 Under Forty award by Business First in 2007 and the Community Award from the Ohio Community Development Finance Fund in 2008. Dawn previously served in the Signal Corps of the US Army and graduated, summa cum laude, from Youngstown State University. She then earned her law degree from the Ohio State University Moritz College of Law in 2001.
Danny Caudill, Esq.,
Danny Caudill joins ERA's team as a Learning and Compliance Consultant starting November 1, 2016.
Danny's primary focus will be training and education for our members. Danny's resume' is impressive. After graduating with honors from Otterbein College and cum laude from Capital University Law School, he joined the law firm of Hahn, Loeser and Parks LLP. He then went on to join Beggs Caudill as managing partner and ultimately formed the The Caudill firm, where his focus was employment litigation.
He has represented both employers and employees in a variety of litigation matters, including employment law claims, commercial contract disputes, business tort actions and ERISA benefits cases. Prior to practicing law, Danny worked as a Columbus Police Detective and owned two restaurants. He is a veteran of the Ohio National Guard and was named a Rising Star by Ohio Super Lawyers magazines from 2010 to 2013 and an Ohio Super Lawyer in 2014.
Barbara England is a seasoned HR professional with over thirty years of experience in Human Resource Management in both the public and private sectors. With a Bachelors degree in Sociology, Barbara spent almost 20 years directing the human resources function for a regional transit system with responsibility for employment, compensation and benefits, training and employee development, policy and program development, employee and labor relations, safety and workers compensation and strategic planning. Her responsibilities with ERA include fielding a wide variety of HR questions on ERA’s hot line, coordinating and facilitating monthly roundtables and handling special projects for ERA members, including HR audits, handbook reviews and preparation, development of job descriptions and HR procedures. Throughout her career she has been active in the community, serving on the Boards of the Columbus Area American Red Cross, Salvation Army, YWCA, Directions for Youth and the City of Pickerington Personnel Advisory Board. She has been a member of SHRM for 30 years.
As the Association's Training Coordinator, Patti is responsible for the daily operations of the Association's training department, serving as the liaison for all training arrangements between member companies and our training instructors. Patti also handles questions about program content, as well as registration. Additionally, she is highly involved in the preparation and editing of all marketing and training materials for the department. Members may also contact Patti for room rental information.
Kendal is the Training Assistant for the Association’s Cincinnati office. She is responsible for the setup and breakdown of all the training rooms, which includes the compilation of all text materials. Kendal also handles training registrations and questions about program content. She works extensively on the association’s training catalogs and helps edit various marketing materials. Before working for the Association she worked in a variety of restaurants managing, waiting tables, and bartending. Kendal earned her Associate’s degree in Human Resources at Chatfield College and is currently finishing up her Bachelor’s degree in Technical Management with a concentration in law at DeVry University.
Monique Kahkonen, SPHR, SHRM-SCP
Monique Kahkonen, SPHR, SHRM-SCP, Director, Compensation and Benefit Services, is responsible for consulting with members to support their compensation and benefit design programs to support organizational goals. Monique has had extensive experience in compensation and benefit consulting projects for a variety of employers in the private, not-for-profit, and public sectors. This includes the review, analysis, design, development, implementation, communication and administration of executive compensation, employee compensation, sales compensation, performance management, incentives and total rewards.
Monique brings with her over 15 years of human resource. Before joining the Association, Monique was the Human Resource and Training Director for a national franchise system where she provided consultation and training in all aspects of human resources including employment, compensation, leadership development, wage and hour, workers’ compensation and unemployment. Prior to her work with this national company, she held leadership positions within a regional hospital network enhancing her business and human resource background. She began her professional career in the not-for-profit world for a social service agency supporting the underserved.
Monique volunteers her expertise currently as a Board Member for state-wide foster care agency. Previously she served for 10 years as a Board Member of a Credit Union including in the role of Past President. She has written for both local and regional publications on a wide variety of human resource related topics. She is an active member in the national chapter of the Society for Human Resources. Monique graduated summa cum laude from Wright State University with a Bachelor of Science Degree in Rehabilitation Counseling.
Jeff Lucas, PHR, SHRM-CP
Jeff is responsible for conducting, analyzing and compiling more than 20 annual wage, policy, practices and employee benefit surveys for members. He also assists members conducting custom surveys used to benchmark their compensation and/or benefits information to similar organizations within their industry.
His experience working with Fortune 500 companies as well as small to medium sized organizations in the Market Research and Human Resource fields allows him to assist members with the custom survey process, including the creation of insightful and actionable analytical reports connecting data to industry norms and trends that impact the bottom line. Jeff received his master’s degree from Xavier University in Industrial/Organizational Psychology and his bachelor’s degree in Psychology from the University of Kentucky.
Carol Reubel, SPHR
Carol is responsible for providing a variety of HR services to member companies, including employee engagment surveys, affirmative action plans, on-site HR assistance and HR training. Carol joined the Association with a solid HR background with over 20 years in corporate retail, manufacturing and service environments and as a self-employed consultant. Carol received her bachelor's degree in business administration from the University of Missouri, Columbia.
Carolyn Potter, J.D.
Carolyn joined ERA in October 2007 as a Human Resources Consultant in our Cincinnati office. She worked in-house as Senior Corporate Counsel and then as a legal consultant with a large corporation for nearly 10 years with experience in a broad range of HR issues including hiring, discipline, firing, discrimination, litigation management, harassment and wage and hour. Carolyn's primary focus with ERA includes affirmative action plans, employee engagement surveys, back-up hotline assistance, handbook review and HR training. Carolyn has a B.A. and J.D. from University of Toledo and is licensed to practice law in Ohio and Kentucky.
Lori Lewellen, SPHR, SHRM-SCP
As manager, HR consulting services, Lori oversees the HR consulting services practice for ERA’s Columbus-based office with over 300 member organizations. With an extensive HR background in senior-level HR roles within manufacturing, healthcare, retail and media, Lori joined ERA from a privately-held HR consulting practice and brings a breadth of experience in HR policy and program development, benefits/compensation planning, employee development, talent management , and strategic HR planning and processes. Lori attended Purdue University and is a graduate of Leadership Columbus and International Business College in Fort Wayne, Indiana, and has her SPHR-certification from the Society of Human Resources Management. Lori is also active in the HR community and serves as a member of the Board of Directors for the Association of Developmentally Disabled.
Brandi is the HR Consulting Services Specialist for the Association’s Cincinnati office. She is responsible for creating, compiling, and preparing employee engagement survey reports and 360 degree reviews for both the Cincinnati and Columbus offices. She also assists ERA members with their organization's Affirmative Action Plans and recruiting. Brandi has also handled various other duties, including member satisfaction surveys, Google analytics, website updates and Social Media reports.
Brandi has served as the Training Coordinator and as the Administrative Assistant at ERA. Brandi has attended multiple ERA training programs. Her experience and knowledge of the Association and her exceptional customer service skills make her a valuable resource to our members. She has an Associate’s degree in Business Administration.
Leslie Vogel is Director, Membership Development and is responsible for the Association’s membership growth and retention in our Cincinnati and Columbus markets. Leslie specializes in developing growth and retention strategies with companies of all sizes. Her professional experience includes more than 20 years of sales, retention and marketing management experience. Prior to joining the Association, Leslie directed numerous functions at American Modern Insurance Group including their company-owned insurance agency, customer retention, consumer sales, and marketing services. She has a license in property and casualty insurance and she earned her Bachelor’s degree in Business Administration and Marketing from Eastern Kentucky University.
Kim McBride is Manager, Membership Development, Cincinnati. Kim is responsible for the Association’s membership growth and retention in our Cincinnati office. Kim specializes in consultative selling and has a successful track record selling pharmaceutical products for Johnson and Johnson and Schering Corporation, as well as voice, data and internet products for Cincinnati Bell. She also held marketing leadership roles for Franklin Savings and Loan, Cheviot Savings Bank, and Our Lord Christ the King Church and Cardinal Pacelli School.
Matt Stein is the Manager of Membership Development based out of the Columbus, Ohio office. He is responsible for service and growth of ERA's member organizations in the region. Matt joined ERA with over 15 years of consulting experience helping HR professionals with benefit selection and communication. He has an MBA from Franklin University.
April is responsible for the accounting, payroll, benefits, financial and office support functions including the management of all administrative functions and supervision of the office support personnel at the Association. She also coordinates and monitors the operational needs of the Cincinnati office.
April has served in a number of capacities at ERA. She joined ERA in 2001 as the receptionist and quickly moved to the position of training assistant. She was then promoted to Administrative Assistant and served as Training Coordinator prior to her current role. These various positions have given April a complete knowledge of the various departments at ERA and thoroughly prepared her for her current position of Director, Administration.
Mary is the Administrative Assistant for the Association’s Cincinnati Office. She is responsible for greeting members and visitors, answering the phones and assists ERA staff with various administrative projects. Mary has over 10 years of office experience and has exceptional customer service skills that will make her a valuable asset to the company and our members.
Lindsay is the Administrative Assistant for the Association’s Columbus Office. She is responsible for greeting members and visitors, assisting in training set up for Columbus, and answering the phone. She also takes on other additional administrative projects. She has several years of work experience in retail, customer service, and office type roles. Lindsay prides herself on her outgoing, contagious personality, dedication, creative mindset, and strong communication skills.
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