Beth Zimmerman – Founder, Executive Director and Chief Executive Officer
Beth is the inspiration behind Pets for Patriots. Growing up, her family home was never without a dog or two, always adopted from local shelters. Seeing so many dogs and cats at risk of death had a profound impact on her, and she always felt saddened that she couldn’t save them all.
As a result of these experiences, Beth developed an abiding passion for animals, particularly those that were neglected, abused and unwanted. She dreamed of one day saving every shelter animal in the country so that they could know the warmth and security of a forever family. At the same time, Beth’s family shared more than a love of animals; patriotism ran deep in the Zimmerman household. Her parents impressed upon all their children an abiding respect for our nation’s history, as well as for its veterans, service members and military families.
Beth brings more than 25 years of corporate and entrepreneurial experience to Pets for Patriots, including a decade as a practicing architect and more than 10 years as a business and branding strategist for companies such as First Data Corporation, Western Union, Pacific Gas & Electric and many others. In founding and leading Pets for Patriots, she is dedicated to healing at both ends of the leash by helping the most vulnerable shelter dogs and cats get a second chance at life with veterans who need a new best friend.
Beth is the proud co-parent of Bunny, a senior Beagle mix, and still dreams of saving every shelter animal in the country – a vision she now hopes to realize through Pets for Patriots, one pet and one veteran at a time.
Marla Dicandia – Director and Treasurer
Marla Dicandia joined Fleishman-Hillard in 2008 as the corporate financial liaison for the Central and Southwest regions and Canada. Currently, she filles the role of chief operating officer for the Central Region, supporting the St. Louis, Chicago, Kansas City and Minneapolis offices.
Marla has worked more than 20 years in finance and accounting. Before joining Fleishman-Hillard, Marla led outsourcing operations for IKON in Missouri and Illinois. She joined IKON after 11 years in CFO and financial leadership roles in not-for-profit, technology and professional services organizations. Marla began her career at Arthur Andersen & Co. in St. Louis, where she gained experience in the audit and tax departments.
Marla is a certified public accountant and her achievements on the May 1987 Uniform CPA examination earned her a national Elijah Watts Sells award and the Silver Medal from the State of Missouri. She graduated from Southern Illinois University at Edwardsville with a Bachelor of Science degree in accountancy and a minor in music.
Frank Chiera – Director and Secretary
Frank Chiera is an innovative and creative marketing thought leader specializing in the creation of strategic online and offline business-building programs for premier consumer and high-tech brands.
In his current role, Frank leads traditional, online, PR and social media marketing initiatives for Flooring America/Flooring Canada, a 550-store specialty retailer with locations across North America and a subsidiary of CCA Global Partners, one of the nation’s largest cooperatives with nearly $9B in sales. Prior to joining Flooring America, Frank was Executive Vice President of Social Media Integration and partner at Kel & Partners, where he was responsible for developing social media initiatives to drive business for franchise and specialty retailers. Throughout his more than 18 years of client-side and agency experience, Frank has created successful marketing programs for many major brands, including Yankee Candle Company, Ace Hardware, Disney Pixar, Carpet One Floor & Home and Zappos.
Frank enjoys spending time with his Boxer, Logan, and until recently was the owner of a special needs Chihuahua named Max, who will always hold a place in his heart. In 2013, Frank was elected to Board Secretary.
Paul Converse – Director
Paul Converse brings a wealth of leadership experience to Pets for Patriots. He has worked for Fortune 100 companies over a 35-year career, across various roles and responsibilities. Paul brings invaluable experience in strategic planning, sales management, training, category management, trade and customer development, and budget responsibility.
After graduating from Princeton University, Paul joined the Procter & Gamble Company, and subsequently worked for PepsiCo prior to joining the pet experts at Nestle Purina. In this last role, he served as the vice president/director of Purina’s Veterinary Division. Paul retired in July 2014 after a successful 29-year career with Purina.
During his long tenure in the pet care industry, Paul found that developing a passion for pets was easy. He credits his commitment to our armed forces to the stories he was told and lessons learned from his father and two uncles, all of whom served in WWII and shared their experiences with Paul when he was a young boy. His dedication to companion pets and our military men and women is a winning combination for Pets for Patriots.
Paul and Margie, his wife of 33 years, reside in Pennsylvania near their three children and “grand puppy” Tinca.
Jay Farrar – Director
Jay C. Farrar is Principal Vice President, government affairs, and manager of the Washington, D.C. Office for Bechtel. In this capacity, Jay is involved in federal government affairs across the Bechtel enterprise. He creates and participates in strategic advocacy at the governmental level and represents Bechtel in policy matters. Along with senior corporate officials, Jay represents Bechtel in the Washington political arena.
Jay joined Bechtel from another engineering and construction company, where he was the senior vice-president for government relations. Prior to that position, Jay worked at the Washington policy-oriented think tank, The Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), where for five years he was the Senior Vice President for External Relations. Before his work at CSIS, he was the Deputy Assistant Secretary for Legislative Affairs at the Department of Defense, Director of Legislative Affairs for the National Security Council at the White House, and Legislative Assistant to the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Jay served 23 years in the U.S. Marine Corps, where he specialized in public affairs and political/military affairs. During his Marine Corps tenure, he taught at the University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA). He is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations and a recipient of the Department of Defense Award for Exceptional Public Service. A native of Milwaukee , he is a graduate of Marquette University and holds a Master’s degree from Central Michigan University.
Laura Hall – Director
Laura Hall, Chief Communications Officer at creative marketing agency Digital Surgeons, has enjoyed a 25 year consumer public relations career helping shape the great stories brands tell to catapult their products, elevate their position, disrupt the status quo, engage consumers in meaningful ways and grow their business. Her passion comes from proven successes helping Fortune 10 companies to start-ups, launching and reinventing brands and products, cultivating conversations and delivering unexpected creative ideas for clients.
A PR agency veteran and convergent marketing expert, Laura brings deep experience in consumer marketing with special concentrations in marketing to women, omni channel strategic thinking and branding. With a strong track record directing marketing efforts and developing programs for some of the world’s mega brands, such as – Procter & Gamble, Kellogg’s, Ford Motor Company, The Walt Disney Company, Unilever, Yahoo!, Marriott and Nike – her experience spans consumer packaged goods, pet care, beauty/fashion, travel/leisure, F&B, hospitality, home, sports and consumer product licensing. As a seasoned media trainer, she’s coached more than 100 spokespeople from a U.S. President to authors, and has led accounts at some of the world’s leading PR agencies and built her own PR business within an integrated marketing communications agency for seven years. In this capacity, she served on the board of directors of the world’s largest consortium of independent PR firms, Worldcom PR Group.
Laura’s strongest passions are learning and discovering, especially exploring world cultures, art history, fashion, the arts and the place she is lucky enough to call home, the city of New York, where walking her rescue Chihuahua “Gia” around town makes her most happy. Laura is the proud daughter of a military family, having spent many of her formative years at West Point, where her father retired as a Colonel after 30 years of service. She holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in Mass Communications with a minor in Art History from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. Follow her @LauraHall.
Keith Weaver – Director
Keith Weaver is a ’76 USNA graduate and served recently as the Senior Vice President, Business Development, Communications, and Capture Management for Force Protection Industries, based in Charleston, South Carolina. From 2008-2009 he served as the Senior Vice President for Government Relations and as the Chief Operating Officer at Enterra Solutions LLC. Prior to this, he served as the Senior Vice President for Operations and the Chief Operating Officer of the United Service Organizations (USO).
Keith’s military career included command of Patrol Squadron 23 in Brunswick, Maine and Patrol Wing 11 in Jacksonville, Florida. He also served as the Special Assistant for Weapons Systems Acquisition on the staff of the Secretary of Defense (Legislative Affairs) from 1998-2000.
From 2002-2008 Keith served on the Board of Directors, Military Officer’s Association of America and is a Life Member of the United States Naval Academy Alumni Association. Keith brings a valued perspective as a lifelong military professional, in addition to his experience as the owner of an Irish setter, Brady. Keith served honorably on the Board from the charity’s founding through 2012, and returned as Director in 2014.
Letitia White – Director
Letitia White served as a key staff member in the House of Representatives with over 21 years of federal service. Having worked in both the House and the Senate, she has a unique and comprehensive understanding of the federal legislative process. As a result, she has long-standing personal relationships with a number of Members of Congress, their staff and professional staff members on many Congressional Committees.
As a principal in Innovative Federal Strategies LLC, she represents before Congress and the Executive Branch a number of major corporations, such as General Dynamics, as well as a significant number of smaller high-technology companies and not-for-profit organizations, including the Battelle Memorial Institute. Letitia has a keen interest in mentoring small businesses, to include both representing their interests and assisting them in networking to achieve synergy on common objectives. Her work in military weapon systems, and R&D and procurement of systems and technologies throughout the Department of Defense has provided her with an in-depth understanding of the inner workings of the Pentagon and other federal agencies. In July 2004, Letitia White was named by The Hill newspaper as one of the top eight defense lobbyists in Washington, D.C. She is a graduate of Stephens College in Columbia, Missouri and attended Richmond College in London, England.
Letitia is the mother of two four-legged children, a chocolate Labrador named Ranger and a Labradoodle named Pete.
Kathy Brown – Honorary Director
Kathy Brown is synonymous with years of award-winning integrated marketing, communications and public relations campaigns. She is owner and president of Hagan Communications and co-president of Karsh\Hagan, both full-service agencies in Denver, Colorado.
Kathy recently served on the Board of Directors of The Women’s Foundation of Colorado and is a Member of the Advisory Committee for Communications and Marketing for The Denver Foundation. She served as well as Board Member and Chairman of the Board of the Denver Advertising Foundation. In addition to her considerable professional accomplishments and not-for-profit work, Kathy is proud owner of Rudy, a rambunctious golden lab. Kathy served on the Board of Pets for Patriots with distinction from its 2009 inception til October 2011. She continues to provide counsel in her honorary directorship role, and her eponymous firm provides pro bono marketing support as it has done since 2009.
Sean Lashley – Honorary Director
Sean Lashley is Senior Vice President and partner of FleishmanHillard St. Louis, an international public relations firm with offices across the Americas, Asia Pacific, Europe, Middle East and Africa. As the agency’s Global Entertainment Lead, Sean provides expert counsel and execution in the areas of celebrity endorsements, branded entertainment, corporate sponsorships, event activation, and consumer broadcast, lifestyle, and entertainment media.
Over the past decade with the agency, Sean has created and led original programs that effectively leverage entertainment on behalf of leading brands, including AbbVie, AT&T, ConAgra Foods, Electronic Arts, Hallmark, Pampers, Sleep Number and Udi’s Gluten Free Foods. His work in the area of paid media is a key element of the agency’s PESO (Paid, Earned, Shared, and Owned) media model and has been featured on such past and former hit programs as The Oprah Winfrey Show, The Ellen DeGeneres Show, The View, Jimmy Kimmel Live!, The Nate Berkus Show, Rachael Ray, Dr. Phil, Tyra and The Doctors. Sean and his team also maintain the agency’s key relationships with celebrity talent agents, managers, and publicists; studio executives; music labels; and film, music and food festivals.
In addition to his role as a media relations specialist, Sean serves as a Co-Chair of the agency’s global Entertainment practice group, serving clients’ growing interest in incorporating entertainment into their overall marketing mix, including brand integration, celebrity spokespeople, digital strategies, targeted media relations and red carpet events.
Sean graduated summa cum laude from the Lebanon, Ill.-based McKendree University with a Bachelor of Arts degree in communications and public relations.
Jim Nash – Honorary Director
Jim Nash is hospital administrator for Community Pet Hospital in Denver, which during his short tenure he has grown to a multi-site, ten veterinarian, 24-hour general and emergency care pet hospital with prestigious AAHA accreditation. In 2011, Jim acquired Turkey Creek Animal Hospital in Plant City, Florida and launched a veterinary practice management consultancy. Previously, Jim worked in the human healthcare field for HCA in both Florida and Colorado, and in 2010 completed the Certified Veterinary Practice Management program.
An Army veteran, Jim gained the foundation for his leadership and teamwork skills as a Warrant Officer and aviator in Desert Storm, where he flew OH-58 Scout helicopters in an armored cavalry squadron. He lives in Denver with his wife, a practicing veterinarian, his three children and two dogs, Cammie and Finn. Jim served honorably on the Board through early 2013.
Keith Spano – Honorary Director
Keith Spano is the President of Flooring America, a division of CCA Global Partners. CCA is one of the largest retail cooperatives in North America, of which Flooring America is its second largest division with 550 independently owned and operated stores across the United States and Canada. As the son of a third-generation flooring retailer, Keith understands the critical importance independent businesses play in stimulating local economies across the country.
With this perspective, Keith works every day to fight for the underdog, which in part fuels his passion for the Pets for Patriots mission. Keith saw the immense value in what the organization does for animals and veterans in need, and was ready to help answer that call as a Board member.
Keith has a deep connection to military families, having had a grandfather serve as a medic in World War II and another an an Air Force pilot. But it’s his close connection to our four-legged friends that shows his true colors, even encouraging employees to bring their dogs to work on Fridays to enliven the office environment. Keith served honorably on the Board from 2012 through 2014.