WEDA Leadership

WEDA is managed by economic development professionals from around the state who represent a diverse group of organizations.

The Executive Committee’s objective is to turn WEDA’s mission and goals into reality in partnership with the Executive Director, who manages the day-to-day operations of the organization. Executive Committee meetings are held via video conference on the third Thursday of each month.

Our Board of Directors is comprised of 20 members from public and private organizations from across Washington. Board nominations are sought prior to the Summer Conference and an election is conducted at the annual meeting during the Summer Conference. Board members serve for a term of three years.

Executive Committee of the Board of Directors

The Executive Committee provides strategic guidance to the Executive Director and makes major decisions between the meetings of the Board of Directors. The Executive Committee takes the mission and goals of the Board and works to make it a reality in partnership with the Executive Director.


Alisha Benson

Chief Executive Officer

Greater Spokane Incorporated

Alisha Benson is the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) for Greater Spokane Incorporated (GSI). Alisha has been with GSI for 12 years. During her time at GSI, she has held roles as Chief Strategy & Business Development Officer, COO, VP of Education & Workforce, Executive Director of Spokane STEM, and Membership Director. 

GSI is the regional business development organization in the Spokane region whose mission is to lead transformative business and community initiatives to build a robust regional economy. As CEO, Alisha provides organization wide leadership, strategy, and management. 

Benson serves on the Board of the Association of Washington Business, Washington Economic Development Association, and the Association of Chamber of Commerce Executives. She also serves on the WSU Health Spokane Advisory Council, UW Business Advisory Council, Multicare Community Partnership Fund and Spokane County United Way. She graduated with a BA from Washington State University.  She is married and a mother to 9-year-old daughter and 5-year-old son.  She loves sports, hiking, camping and anything that involves the outdoors.

Immediate Past CHAIR

Gary Ballew

Vice President of Economic Development

Greater Spokane Incorporated

Gary Ballew has more than 25 years of economic development experience and recently took on the role of Vice President of Economic Development for Greater Spokane Incorporated (GSI). Prior to moving to GSI, Gary served as director of economic development and marketing for the Port of Pasco, where he oversaw real estate development of the port’s mixed-use and industrial properties, implemented Somos Pasco, a long-range action plan for Pasco and its economy, promoted economic development legislation and marketed the Tri-Cities Airport.

Ballew also has served as executive director of Washington State University’s Wine Science Center, economic development director for the city of Richland and deputy administrator for Benton County.


Roni Holder-Diefenbach

Executive Director

Economic Alliance Okanogan County


Mandy Wallner

Economic Development Manager

City of Richland


Mandy is the Economic Development Manager at the City of Richland. Growing up in the Tri-Cities she has watched the growth of our area, both in population and development. She has always had an interest in the community, networking, meeting new people, planning events, and working for local business. In her current role, she gets to put that history and experience to work to better her community, a passion of hers since she was young. She is also a proud Coug, graduating WSU with her MBA.

Those who know her know she always has a ‘side-hustle’ or two in the works from small business consulting to wedding officiating, event planning to her Tastefully Simple business and everything in between.

When she is not at work (in its many forms), she enjoys creating, visiting wineries and points of interest throughout our region with her friends and family. She also has a thriving plant collection that she has made into a hobby.

Legislative Committee Chair, Incoming chair

Betty Capestany


Pierce County Economic Development

Vice chair

Chris Green

Assistant Director, Office of Economic Development and Competitiveness

Washington State Department of Commerce

Chris joined the Department of Commerce in 2015 as assistant director for the Office of Economic Development and Competitiveness, which includes the international trade, business recruitment/retention and rural economic development units. Chris previously served for seven years as vice president for business retention and expansion at the Economic Development Board for Tacoma-Pierce County, a private, non-profit organization focused on recruiting and retaining businesses in Pierce County. While at the EDB Chris worked with hundreds of firms helping them to identify tax incentives, workforce training options, financing packages and a variety of other resources to help them grow and create jobs. Chris also served as Co-Chair of the Tacoma-Pierce Aerospace Partners, a group focused on growing and improving the local aerospace industry.

Prior to that, he worked in government relations and was on the staff of several elected officials, including former U.S. Congressman Norm Dicks, Seattle Mayor Ed Murray and U.S. Congressman Derek Kilmer. Chris earned his bachelor’s degree in political science from Pacific Lutheran University and a Master of Business Administration from the University of Washington. He and his wife Shannon live in Tacoma with their three children.

Vice Chair, Conference Planning Committee Chair

Gina Stark

Economic Development Project Manager

Port of Bellingham

Gina spent 16 years working for Washington state government.  Prior to starting her career at the State Legislature she spent a summer working at TVW under the tutelage of former Congressman Denny Heck who helped prepare her for her many years of public service.   In the House of Representative, she started as and an Executive Assistant under James L. McIntire then worked on policy issue such as housing, infrastructure, health care, capital and operating budgets. She then served as the Director of External Affairs at the Washington State Treasurer’s Office for 8 years.  She worked on banking relations, banking policies, financial education and empowerment.  As a representative of the Treasurer, she served on the Washington State Housing Finance Commission.   Gina currently, works at the Port of Bellingham as an Economic Development Project Manager.  The economic development division is the Regional Economic Partner for all of Whatcom County and serves as the designated ADO for the Department of Commerce.  Gina works with the technology, recreation, clean energy, opportunity zones, broadband, supporting BIPOC businesses and workforce housing.   She is also the Project Manager for the Whatcom Country Rural Broadband Project whose goal is to provide affordable, quality broadband access to all of Whatcom County.  She is Board Chair for Habitat for Humanity Whatcom County, Steering Committee Chair of the Whatcom Housing Alliance, serves on the advisory committee for Technology Alliance Whatcom STEM, and the planning committee for the Racial Equity Commission.   Gina has a B.A in Political Science from Western Washington University and a Master’s Degree in public policy from the Evans School of Public Policy at the University of Washington.

Board of Directors


Tiffany Alviso



Jennifer Baker



Michael Bomar

Director of Economic Development


Michael Cade

Executive Director


Garry Clark

President & CEO


Karl Dye



Dru Garson

Director of Strategic Engagement


Jennifer Hackman

Economic Development Manager


Bruce Kendall

President & CEO


Jeff Marcell

Senior Partner


Stephen McFadden

Director of Economic Development & Marketing


Jonathan Smith

Executive Director


John Sternlicht


Economic Development Manager


WEDA Executive director

Suzanne Dale Estey

Suzanne Dale Estey has over three decades of experience delivering results in economic development, intergovernmental relations, strategic communications and non-profit leadership. Suzanne is Principal of Dale Estey Partnerships, Strategy & Results, a public affairs consulting firm and among other clients, serves as the Executive Director of the Washington Economic Development Association (WEDA).

Suzanne previously served as the President & CEO of the Economic Development Council of Seattle & King County, the only public-private partnership focused on expanding and diversifying the economy across King County and its 39 cities. Suzanne also served as the Economic Development Director for the City of Renton; Vice President of Government and Industry Relations for Washington Mutual; State & Federal Government Relations Manager for the King County Executive; State Lobbyist for the City of Seattle; Federal Legislative Analyst for the Governor of Washington; Associate Director of Intergovernmental Affairs at The White House and Pacific Northwest & Texas Program Director for Junior Statesmen, a civics education program for high school students.

Suzanne serves on multiple boards including The Junior Statesmen Foundation, the Community Center for Education Results/Road Map Project, the Seattle Colleges Advisory Council and the Renton Technical College Advisory Council, which she chairs, Seattle United Soccer Club and she is a Past President of the University of Washington Alumni Association board. Suzanne is also a member of the International Women’s Forum. She previously served on the boards of the Aerospace Futures Alliance, the Workforce Development Council of Seattle-King County, the Washington Technology Industry Association, the Seattle and Renton Chambers of Commerce, the regional PSRC/Economic Development District, the Community Center for Education Results/Road Map Project and CityClub of Seattle.

Suzanne received a bachelor’s degree in Sociology & Politics from Whitman College, and a Master’s in Public Administration from the Evans School at the University of Washington. A native of Seattle and K-12 graduate of Seattle Public Schools, Suzanne is an avid hiker, skier and traveler and she and her husband, Mike, are the parents of two young and active boys.

Legislative Advocacy

Jim Justin

Jim is President of Jim Justin Government Relations Consulting INC.  He started his consulting business in December of 2012 and currently serves a number of clients focused on education, health care, energy, and technology issues.  He also represents clients on finance, transportation, and economic development issues.   

Jim served as Governor Gregoire’s Legislative Director from June of 2010 – November of 2012. He was the Governor’s liaison with the Legislature responsible for advancing her legislative agenda and providing oversight on state agencies’ legislative activities.  He was also tasked with regularly communicating with outside partners and stakeholders to insure timely distribution of information and coordination of legislative proposals.    

He was previously employed by the Association of Washington Cities (AWC) serving in a number of capacities from 1985 – 2010.  He concluded his service with AWC as their Director of State and Federal Relations.  He held that position since 2002.  Jim’s previous responsibilities with AWC included the Assistant Director for Operations and Services when he was responsible for day-to-day office operations; management of the training, communications, and technology services; planning; budget development; and Board relations.  Jim also managed AWC’s Insurance Services programs.

Prior to AWC  Jim worked for Washington’s Planning and Community Affairs Agency (the predecessor to the Department of Commerce) where he assisted with the first local government infrastructure study and subsequent creation of the Public Works Trust Fund.

Jim is a Washington State University graduate with a degree in Political Science. 

Operations & Events

Carey Sheffield

Carey Sheffield has over 20 years of experience in constituent engagement, volunteer management, non-profit development, and event production. Carey is Founder and Principal of Sheffield & Burtch, a consulting firm specializing in operations, finance, and a full range of events for non-profit organizations. Recent clients include Dale Estey Partnerships, Strategy & Results, Economic Alliance Snohomish County, and the Washington Economic Development Association.

Carey has worked for globally recognized organizations including Stanford University, The Pebble Beach Company, Stanford Law School, Lincoln Financial Advisors, the US Navy and more. Carey has organized multi-million-dollar international roadshows for thousands of attendees and crafted programming for discerning and diverse audiences. She has overseen the strategic, creative, and operational processes for events ranging in scale from two attendees to 10,000.  Most recently, Carey successfully managed the technical operations for a quick pivot from a two-day, in-person conference to a 100% virtual event.  Carey has a passion for crafting engaging and strategic programming and helping non-profits build inclusive communities.

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