United Way Suncoast Leadership
Office of the President
Chief Executive Officer
Dawn Stuart, Senior Administrative Services Manager
As the Chief Executive Officer for United Way Suncoast, one of Florida’s largest United Ways, Jessica ensures connections are made that cultivate growth, increase community impact and optimize delivery of the organization’s strategic priorities that fight for the education and financial stability of every person in the community through educational programs that give children the skills to succeed, helping adults achieve long-term financial stability and activating caring individuals through volunteerism.
Prior to joining United Way Suncoast in 2019, Jessica was the CEO for Girl Scouts of West Central Florida. She began her nonprofit career at Frameworks of Tampa Bay, Inc. where she served as CEO for two years; and was previously the organization’s director of marketing and communications. Prior to working in the nonprofit sector, Jessica was manager of account services at Raymond James Financial, Inc., director of marketing at Saks Fifth Avenue, and an account executive at Roberts Communications.
As an active member of the community, Jessica currently serves on the boards of directors for the Nonprofit Leadership Center of Tampa Bay and the Greater Tampa Chamber of Commerce. She is a member of the CEO Council of Tampa Bay, the Athena Society and USF Women in Leadership and Philanthropy. In addition, she has served as a board member for Frameworks of Tampa Bay and is a founding member of Emerge Tampa Bay, a networking and volunteer organization for young professionals, a graduate of Leadership Tampa Class of 2015 and graduate of Leadership Florida Cornerstone Class XXXVI. She has been recognized by the Tampa Bay Business Journal, Greater Tampa Chamber of Commerce and USF for her outstanding leadership in business and community involvement.
Jessica is a graduate of the University of South Florida with a M.A. in Secondary English Education and B.A. in Mass Communications with a minor in International Studies. She lives in Tampa, Florida with her husband Owen LaFave and is the proud mother of two daughters. With a passion for writing, in her free time Jessica runs a parenting blog called The Be Present Project.
Chief Strategy and Operations Officer
Karen Fandrick, Administrative Assistant, Operations
Long-time banking executive, Bemetra Simmons has joined United Way Suncoast as Chief Strategy and Operations Officer. Bemetra brings a strong background in finance, operations, and strategy to the organization.
Bemetra most recently served as Florida Managing Director at Mutual of Omaha Bank. In her position, her primary role has been to grow the Bank’s portfolio as well as to raise the Bank’s profile through community and civic engagement. She has worked in financial services for over 15 years. Prior to Mutual of Omaha, she began her professional career as an Account Manager with WorldCom and served as a Global Account Manager for AT&T Global Services. She attended Christian Brothers University in Memphis, TN on a basketball scholarship and received a B.S. in Business Administration. She then earned her MBA from Wake Forest University.
Bemetra is active in the community, serving on the Board of Commissioners for the Tampa Housing Authority, Community Tampa Bay and as an executive committee member for the Tampa Bay Chamber.. She is a proud member of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc., is a 2013 Leadership Tampa graduate, was named an Up and Comer by the Tampa Bay Business Journal in 2013 and a finalist for Businesswoman of the Year by the Tampa Bay Business Journal in 2017. She is currently a member of Leadership Florida Cornerstone Class XXXVIII. Bemetra is the daughter of an Air Force Chaplain and has lived in ten states and two countries. Bemetra along with her twin sister, Demetra, is a co-founder of Corporate Homie, a career, lifestyle and advice company and podcast dedicated to assisting professionals in navigating the waters of corporate America.
Chief Advancement Officer
Kari Goetz is no stranger to reinvention and change. An actor in professional film, television, and stage productions from the time she was 10 years old, Kari has had a colorful and unique path to leadership.
Most recently, Kari was the Vice President of External Relations and Marketing for The Florida Aquarium. Under her leadership, she raised the profile of the Aquarium and set historic revenue and attendance records for the beloved institution. Previously, she was the first director of marketing for Tampa International Airport and managed extraordinary growth and route expansion.
Kari has been an audience development professional for the Straz Center, and she still performers and directs with Stageworks Theatre and Jobsite Theater. A Second City Hollywood founder, Kari uses her love of improv comedy to build workshops and MBA programs for students and business leaders at USF and Wayne State University.
Leadership Tampa members may know her from their improv session at opening retreat, a tradition she proudly performed from LT’04 until she became a member of LT’18. She is chair of the inaugural Collegiate Leadership Tampa Bay class for the Tampa Bay Chamber.
She is an (almost) Florida native, and proud to be a member of the Athena Society, board member for Stageworks Theatre, the advisory board of Visit Tampa Bay, and the Eric Friedheim Tourism Institute at The University of Florida. She holds an MA in Communication from the University of South Florida and a BFA from the Universtiy of Florida. Kari is a long-time resident and enthusiast of Seminole Heights. She lives in a funky bungalow with her groovy husband, her righteous son, and many animals.
Community Impact Officers
Chief Impact Officer – Southern Region
Jennifer Giresi, Manager, Special Projects and Operations, Sarasota/Manatee/DeSoto
As Chief Impact Officer for United Way Suncoast, serving Manatee, Sarasota, DeSoto, Hillsborough and Pinellas, Bronwyn provides vision, thought leadership, direction and oversight for United Way Suncoast initiatives and team in Manatee County. A resident of Manatee County for 14 years, Bronwyn has spent more than two decades in the social impact sector leading innovative, community-level change initiatives to advance the common good. In the public sector, Bronwyn had a more than 10-year career working in publishing with Sterling Southeast, the Greater Miami Convention and Visitor’s Bureau and the New York Times locally at the Herald-Tribune.
Since establishing the national Campaign for Grade-Level Reading movement in Manatee County, now a regional effort in partnership with The Patterson Foundation, SCGLR works to ensure that children are reading on grade level by the time they leave third grade. Currently, through established and emerging partnerships, Bronwyn and her team are leading and developing The Big Plan, Community United for our children’s success, the latest evolution of United Way Suncoast’s impact in Manatee County.
For the past two years, Bronwyn has been working to establish the national Campaign for Grade-Level Reading movement in Manatee County. Now a regional effort including Manatee and Sarasota Counties led by The Patterson Foundation, the Community Foundation of Sarasota County and the United Way of Manatee County, the Suncoast Campaign for Grade-Level Reading works to ensure that children are reading on grade level by the time they leave third grade.
Chief Impact Officer – Northern Region
Dawn Stuart, Senior Administrative Services Manager, Tampa Bay
As the Chief Impact Officer for United Way Suncoast, Emery Ivery provides regional leadership in developing strategies to address the root causes of community issues, thereby creating lasting community change in the Tampa Bay region. Emery has nearly 30 years of experience working at United Way, including senior-level management positions in Tacoma, Wash., Orlando, Fla., and his hometown of Cleveland.
In March 2006, Emery brought his talents to United Way Suncoast as the Vice President of Community & Partnership Development, becoming Sr. Vice President in 2009. Emery holds a master’s degree in Social Administration from Case Western Reserve University and a bachelor’s degree from Cleveland State University. Emery is an avid reader and runner who lives in Apollo Beach with his wife, Annette.
James C. Gillen
Senior Vice President, Communications & Marketing
Ana Balius, Administrative Assistant, Marketing
As Senior Vice President, Communications & Marketing for United Way Suncoast, Jim provides vision, leadership, and direction for all United Way Suncoast’s (UWS) communications. He is responsible for leading the development and execution of comprehensive, multi-faceted communications and marketing programs that maintain and augment UWS’s position as a leading Non-Profit in the Suncoast Region and steward the organization’s brand, strengthen the public profile of UWS and engage the public.
Prior to joining United Way Suncoast, Jim most recently served as Chief Executive Officer of a multi-channel media and public relations firm that worked with Fortune 1000 clients across the United States. Jim has held senior marketing leadership positions with organizations in the manufacturing, advertising, non-profit and financial industries throughout his career.
He earned a B.S. in Business Administration from East Tennessee State University, as well as his MBA from the University of South Florida.
Jim is active in the community, having previously served on the Florida Board of Directors for Mothers Against Drunk Driving as their Chairman of Communications and Public Relations, Founding and Co-Chairing “The Week of the Family Tampa Bay”, a public private partnership that brought government, business and community leaders together to highlight the importance of Families of all types across Tampa Bay, serving as a volunteer leader with the Boys Scouts of America, as well as providing service in the community in various ways alongside his family. In addition, he is also an Army veteran.
James lives in Tampa with his wife Katherine and they are the proud parents of four children; two girls and two boys.
Vice President, Talent and Organization Development
Karen Fandrick, Administrative Assistant, Operations
Her personal mission is to help individuals and organizations learn, grow and succeed. This has been demonstrated throughout her career as she began work as a Special Education teacher, moving into corporate training and leadership development and expanding into assignments of strategic HR business partnering within insurance, IT, consumer goods and pharmaceutical industries.
Tracie holds a Master’s Degree in Organization Development from Montclair State University, a Bachelor’s degree in Special Education from Syracuse University and has completed course work towards a Doctorate in Executive Leadership at The George Washington University. She also maintains the certifications of Senior Professional Human Resources (SPHR) and SHRM – Senior Certified Professional (SCP).
Initially having a second home in Dunedin, Tracie and her husband Charlie relocated from the northeast to Florida fulltime in 2015 and moved to Clearwater in 2016.