Conference Speakers

Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency Andrew Wheeler

On February 28, 2019, the U.S. Senate confirmed Andrew Wheeler as the fifteenth Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency.  President Donald J. Trump had announced his appointment as the Acting EPA Administrator on July 5, 2018. Mr. Wheeler had previously been confirmed by the U.S. Senate as the EPA Deputy Administrator on April 12, 2018.

Mr. Wheeler has dedicated his career to advancing sound environmental policies. He began his career during the George H. W. Bush Administration as a Special Assistant in EPA's Pollution Prevention and Toxics office.

He was a Principal and the team leader of the Energy and Environment Practice Group at FaegreBD Consulting, as well as Counsel at Faegre Baker Daniels law firm, where he practiced since 2009. He also served as the Co-chair of the Energy and Natural Resources Industry team across the entire firm.

Prior to his work with the firm, Mr. Wheeler served for six years as the Majority Staff Director and Chief Counsel, as well as the Minority Staff Director, of the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works. Before his time at the full Senate EPW Committee, Mr. Wheeler served in a similar capacity for six years for the Subcommittee on Clean Air, Climate Change, Wetlands and Nuclear Safety.

Mr. Wheeler is the past Chairman of the National Energy Resource Organization (NERO) and a Stennis Fellow. Mr. Wheeler is also an Eagle Scout.

Mr. Wheeler was born in Hamilton, Ohio. He completed his law degree at Washington University in St. Louis, his MBA at George Mason University, and his undergraduate work at Case Western Reserve University in English and Biology.

Adrienne Elrod, Elrod Strategies

Adrienne Elrod is a Democratic political strategist and a Contributor to NBC and MSNBC, providing commentary and analysis informed by her over two decades of experience serving at the highest level of government and campaigns. She also serves as President of Elrod Strategies, a strategic communications firm specializing in influencer engagement that counts a wide range of progressive companies, nonprofits and “resistance” organizations as its clients.

On the 2016 presidential campaign, Elrod served as Hillary for America’s Director of Strategic Communications and Surrogates, overseeing the campaign’s vast surrogate operation, and deploying elected officials, celebrities, and other influencers across the nation and on TV, radio, and digital platforms. Previously, Elrod served as Vice President and Communications Director for American Bridge and Correct the Record, a joint communications and research organization founded in order to defend Hillary Clinton from false and misleading attacks. 

On Hillary Clinton’s 2008 presidential campaign, Elrod served as Regional Press Secretary, Texas Communications Director, and Deputy Director of the Congressional Delegate Selection office. A native of Arkansas, Elrod began her political career in President Clinton’s Administration, serving in both the White House Office of Intergovernmental Affairs and the Department of Housing and Urban Development.

Elrod has also served as Chief of Staff to Congresswoman Loretta Sanchez (D-CA), managing legislative and communications agendas for a senior member of the Armed Services and Homeland Security Committees.

Bret Baier, FOX News Chief Political Anchor and Host of Special Report with Bret Baier

Bret Baier currently serves as FOX News Channel’s (FNC) chief political anchor and anchor of Special Report with Bret Baier (weeknights 6-7PM/ET), the top-rated cable news program in its timeslot and consistently one of the top five shows in cable news. Based in Washington, D.C., Baier joined the network in 1998 as the first reporter in the Atlanta bureau.

During the 2012 political season, he served as co-anchor of FNC’s America’s Election HQ alongside Megyn Kelly. In addition, Baier provided extensive coverage of the 2012 campaign cycle, anchoring Presidential and Vice Presidential debates, as well as the Republican and Democratic conventions. Baier also moderated FOX News Channel’s five Republican presidential primary debates. Baier, Kelly and Chris Wallace anchored three GOP debates for Fox News Channel in 2016 with the debate in Cleveland, OH reaching a record 24 million viewers. He interviewed all of the presidential candidates, including Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders in a Democratic town hall, for Special Report. Baier continues to provide extensive political coverage for FOX News Channel.

During his tenure at the network, Baier has interviewed President Donald Trump, Vice President Mike Pence, former President Barack Obama, former President George W. Bush and former Vice President Dick Cheney. He has also anchored more than thirty political specials on FNC, reported from Iraq 12 times and Afghanistan 13 times, traveled the world with various administrations and military officials and reported from 74 countries. Special Report with Bret Baier was acknowledged by TIME magazine’s Joe Klein as the only “straight newscast” in cable news at 6PM/ET. Bret was also recently awarded the 2017 Sol Taishoff Award for Excellence in Broadcast Journalism.

Prior to his anchor role, Baier was named chief White House correspondent in 2006 and covered the second term of the Bush Administration. Before that, he served as national security correspondent covering military and national security affairs, as well as defense, military policy and the intelligence community from the Pentagon.

CAPTAIN SCOTT L. JOHNSON, Chief, Office of Auxiliary and Boating Safety

Captain Johnson is the Chief of the Coast Guard Office of Auxiliary and Boating Safety where he serves as the Chief Director of the Coast Guard Auxiliary as well as the National Coordinator for the National Recreational Boating Safety Program.

His previous assignment was a Division Chief in the Coast Guard’s Office of Design and Engineering Standards where he led the development of U.S. national maritime safety and environmental protection regulations and policies for complex shipping, oil and gas projects. In his tenure, Captain Johnson produced standards for dynamic positions systems, safety management systems and portable accommodation systems, as well as numerous novel ship designs.

In 2010, Captain Johnson was assigned to Sector Anchorage in Alaska as the Chief of Prevention. In this role, he was responsible for all Marine Safety, Waterways Management, and Port Security missions in Western Alaska. Previous assignments include serving as Division Chief of the Tank Vessel and Offshore Division at the Coast Guard Marine Safety Center in Washington D.C., Executive Officer of Marine Safety Unit Baton Rouge, as a marine inspector and investigating officer at Marine Safety Office New Orleans, and as an engineering officer aboard Coast Guard Cutter ALERT.

Captain Johnson is a graduate of Norwich University and the Naval Postgraduate School. A native of Covington, Louisiana, Captain Johnson and his wife Tamara currently reside on a homestead farm in northern Virginia with their five children.

Congressman Brian Mast

Congressman Brian Mast is in his second term representing the 18th Congressional District of Florida.

Prior to his election to Congress, Brian followed in his father’s footsteps by serving in the U.S. Army for more than 12 years, earning medals including The Bronze Star Medal, The Army Commendation Medal for Valor, The Purple Heart Medal, and The Defense Meritorious Service Medal. While deployed in Afghanistan, he worked as a bomb disposal expert under the elite Joint Special Operations Command. The last improvised explosive device that he found resulted in catastrophic injuries, which included the loss of both of his legs.

While lying in bed recovering at Walter Reed Medical Center, Brian’s father gave him advice that has stuck with him to this day--to ensure the greatest service he gave to our country and the best example he set for his children was still ahead of him. Brian took this advice to heart and dedicated himself to finding new ways to serve our country and his community.

Brian remained on active duty following the injuries and provided expertise to the National Nuclear Security Administration and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco & Firearms during his recovery process. After his retirement from the Army, he continued working in counter-terrorism and national defense as an Explosive Specialist with the Department of Homeland Security. Brian subsequently received a degree from the Harvard Extension School and volunteered to serve alongside the Israel Defense Forces to show support for the freedom Israel represents throughout the Middle East and the world.

In Congress, Brian strives to serve as he did on the battlefield: without regard for personal gain or personal sacrifice. He is a member of two committees:

  • The Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, where his priorities include fixing the pressing water quality issues stemming from Lake Okeechobee;
  • The Foreign Affairs Committee, where he uses his military expertise to help strengthen the safety and security of the United States; and

Brian lives in Palm City, Fla. with his wife Brianna and four children, Magnum, Maverick, Major and Madalyn

Congressman Bruce Westerman (AR-04)

Congressman Bruce Westerman is a Hot Springs native currently serving his third term as representative from the Fourth District of Arkansas, having first been elected in 2014. Westerman serves on the Committee on Natural Resources and the Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, where he is Ranking Member of the Water Resources and Environment Subcommittee.

Prior to serving in Congress, Westerman was elected to two terms in the Arkansas General Assembly, where he was the state’s first Republican House Majority Leader since Reconstruction following the 2013 GOP takeover of the Arkansas House of Representatives.

An engineer and forester by trade, Westerman worked for 22 years at Mid-South Engineering in Hot Springs. He was named Engineer of the Year by the Arkansas Society of Professional Engineers in 2013.

Congressman Garret Graves

Congressman Garret Graves is a Republican Member of Congress representing Louisiana’s Sixth Congressional District – 13 parishes stretching north of Baton Rouge through the Capital Region down to Louisiana’s Bayou country. Graves sits on the House Committees on Transportation and Infrastructure and Natural Resources.

For the 116th Congress, Garret is Ranking Member for the House Transportation and Infrastructure Subcommittee on Aviation and is the Ranking Member of the new Select Committee on the Climate Crisis.

Last Congress, Graves chaired the Subcommittee on Water Resources and Environment and was instrumental in the development, passage and enactment of a range of policy wins on rivers, levees, flood protection, coastal issues and Corps of Engineers reforms. He also brought about critical upgrades to federal disaster response and recovery programs, streamlining FEMA operations, creating faster recoveries and helping make communities across the nation more resilient to disaster.

Though he has only been in office a short time, Garret and his team have established a record of advancing Louisiana’s priorities through Congress – making a positive difference here at home.

Garret’s leadership on transportation, infrastructure, energy, maritime, fisheries, coastal restoration, disaster and other issues critical to our state’s economy and way of like are an asset in Congress.

Garret is a native of Baton Rouge, Louisiana, where he still resides with his wife Carissa and their three children.

Congressman Joe Cunningham (SC-01)

Joe Cunningham proudly represents South Carolina’s First Congressional District. The First District encompasses South Carolina’s Lowcountry, including Charleston, Mt. Pleasant, Kiawah, and Hilton Head. Joe is a proud father and husband and is serving his first term in the United States Congress.

Joe currently serves on the House Natural Resources Committee and the House Veterans' Affairs Committee. The Committee on Natural Resources oversees federal conservation programs, establishes renewable energy sources, and critically to the Lowcountry, monitors offshore oil and gas development. Joe is honored to serve on the House Veterans' Affairs Committee and ensure Lowcountry veterans and their families receive the best and most reliable care, services, and benefits.

Prior to his election to Congress, Joe was an attorney and an ocean engineer. In Congress, Joe’s priorities include reinstating the ban on offshore drilling off the Atlantic coast, reducing the cost of healthcare, protecting and creating Lowcountry jobs, combating climate change and investing in renewable resources.

Joe attended the College of Charleston, obtained his B.S. in Ocean Engineering from Florida Atlantic University in 2005, and his J.D. from Northern Kentucky University in 2014. He currently lives in West Ashley with his wife, Amanda, their son, Boone, and their dog, Teddy.

JEFFREY KRAUSE, Chief, Natural Resource Management, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers

Jeff Krause is the Chief of Natural Resources Management (NRM) for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Operations and Regulatory Division in Washington, D.C. He directs Corps programs for the development, management, and conservation of natural resources on 12 million acres of Civil Works lands and waters.

The NRM programs include recreation, environmental compliance, environmental stewardship, partnerships, water safety, land uses, program funding, and strategic planning for over 400 projects and more than 5,000 recreation sites. The Corps of Engineers projects include more than 4 million acres of water, 3,754 boat ramps, 562 marina concessions, 5,000 bass tournaments that provide $11 billion in visitor spending.

Previously, Mr. Krause was the Corps national program manager for the environmental stewardship business line with responsibilities for the the development of budget, policy and guidance on forest, fish, wildife and land mangement resources, issues and challenges across 43 states. Mr. Krause also worked as a wildlife biologist with the Baltimore District.

Mr. Krause is a graduate of California University of Pennsylvania and Hood College. Mr. Krause is an avid fisherman and hunter and enjoys hunting and fishing trips with his son, Keith who lives in Pennsylvania near a Corps of Engineers lake.

Kevin Madden, Hamilton Place Strategies

Kevin Madden is a partner at Hamilton Place Strategies, where he serves as an adviser and counselor to a client roster that includes the nation’s top corporations, business associations, industry coalitions, foundations and non-profits.

With a record of over 20 years of experience operating in some of the most high-profile national debates—from Wall Street to Washington—Kevin leads HPS teams in the design and management of comprehensive, modern, and effective public affairs campaigns, working with CEOs and their executive teams to navigate today’s challenging media environment.

Prior to his leadership role as a partner at HPS, Kevin served as a senior adviser, strategist and spokesman on three presidential campaigns from 2004 to 2016. In addition to his national campaign experience, Kevin was a top congressional leadership staffer in the U.S. House of Representatives, serving as spokesman and communications strategist in the Office of the House Majority Leader. Kevin also served as Deputy Director of Public Affairs and national spokesman for the Department of Justice.

Kevin’s experience with today’s modern media, as a frequent guest on national and international cable and broadcast news outlets, has earned him a reputation as a sought-after media strategist and crisis communications manager. Kevin also currently serves on the advisory board of the Bipartisan Policy Center Action Network.

Rep. Chellie Pingree

Chellie Pingree represents the First District of Maine in the U.S. House of Representatives. She is a member of the Appropriations Committee, serving on three subcommittees: Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration; Interior, Environment; and Military Construction, Veterans Administration. In addition, this year she rejoins the House Agriculture Committee. Chellie is an advocate for reforming federal policy to better support the diverse range of American agriculture-including sustainable, organic, and locally focused farming.

Senator Rick Scott (FL)

Rick Scott was elected to the U.S. Senate in 2018 and is currently serving his first term representing the state of Florida. Prior to his election to the U.S. Senate, Rick Scott served two terms as the 45th Governor of Florida, working every day to turn around Florida’s economy and secure the state’s future as the best place for families and businesses to succeed.

Scott grew up in public housing in the Midwest as his adoptive father, a World War II veteran and truck driver, and his mother, a store clerk, struggled to financially support their family. After marrying his high school sweetheart, Ann, Scott joined the Navy, where he served active duty as a radar man aboard the USS Glover. He used the G.I. Bill to attend the University of Missouri, Kansas City, and eventually opened his first business – a donut shop. Scott went on to run the world’s largest healthcare company and continues to fight every day so families across the state can have the same opportunities he had to live the American dream.

Rick Scott and his wife, Ann, have been married for 46 years and have two daughters, Allison and Jordan, and six grandsons, Auguste, Quinton, Sebastian, Eli, Louie and Jude.

United States Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross

Wilbur Ross was sworn in by Vice President Mike Pence as the 39th Secretary of Commerce on February 28, 2017. Secretary Ross is the principal voice of business in the Trump Administration, ensuring that U.S. entrepreneurs and businesses have the tools they need to create jobs and economic opportunity.

Secretary Ross is the former Chairman and Chief Strategy Officer of WL Ross & Co. LLC and has over 55 years of investment banking and private equity experience. He has restructured over $400 billion of assets in the airline, apparel, auto parts, banking, beverage, chemical, credit card, electric utility, food service, furniture, gypsum, homebuilding, insurance, marine transport, mortgage origination and servicing, oil and gas, railcar manufacturing and leasing, real estate, restaurant, shipyard, steel, textile and trucking industries. Secretary Ross has been chairman or lead director of more than 100 companies operating in more than 20 different countries.

Named by Bloomberg Markets as one of the 50 most influential people in global finance, Secretary Ross is the only person elected to both the Private Equity Hall of Fame and the Turnaround Management Hall of Fame. He previously served as privatization adviser to New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani and was appointed by President Bill Clinton to the board of the U.S.-Russia Investment Fund. President Kim Dae-jung awarded Secretary Ross a medal for helping South Korea during its financial crisis and, in November 2014, the Emperor of Japan awarded him the Order of the Rising Sun, Gold and Silver Star.

As a philanthropist, Secretary Ross has served as Chairman of the Japan Society, Trustee of the Brookings Institution and Chairman of its Economic Studies Council, International Counsel Member of the Musée des Arts Décoratifs in Paris, Trustee of the Blenheim Foundation, President of the American Friends of the Rene Magritte Museum in Brussels and Director of the Palm Beach Civic Association. He also was an Advisory Board Member of Yale University School of Management.

Secretary Ross is a graduate of Yale University and Harvard Business School (with distinction). He and his wife Hilary Geary Ross have four children, Jessica Ross, Amanda Ross, Ted Geary and Jack Geary.