Patsy Dowling Davis is the Executive Director of Mountain Projects, an organization that touches more than 7000 lives each month, 97% of which are the working poor, disabled, elderly or handicapped. MPI employs 130 staff members. She has held the position since 1998. Patsy graduated from Western Carolina University.
Melissa Essary is a Professor of Law and Dean Emerita of Campbell University School of Law in Raleigh. She teaches Employment Discrimination Law, Workplace Law, and Client Counseling. Prior to joining Campbell Law School as its dean, Essary was a Professor of Law for 16 years at Baylor University School of Law. Essary also serves as Senior Counsel to the law firm of Everett, Gaskins & Hancock. Essary is active in national roles in legal education, serving on site reaccreditation committees at law schools around the country. In 2017 North Carolina’s Supreme Court Chief Justice appointed her to the NC Commission on Actual Innocence. She has served on the NC Chief Justice’s Professionalism Commission, as a Vice President of the NC Bar Association’s Board of Governors, on the NC Bar Association’s Strategic Planning Committee, and on various Wake County Bar Association committees.
Narendra Ghosh (Secretary) is an attorney with the Patterson Harkavy law firm in Chapel Hill. He graduated from Harvard University, summa cum laude, and from the New York University School of Law, magna cum laude. Before attending law school, Mr. Ghosh was a computer programmer for several companies in Silicon Valley. After graduation, he was a law clerk to the Honorable A. Wallace Tashima of the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit and to the Honorable Emmet G. Sullivan of the United States District Court for the District of Columbia. Mr. Ghosh is active with the North Carolina Advocates for Justice, the North Carolina Bar Association Labor and Employment Section, and the AFL-CIO Lawyers Coordinating Committee. His areas of practice include employment law, labor law, workers’ compensation, civil rights, and appellate advocacy. He worked in with attorneys at the Justice Center on the lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of the State’s private school voucher program.
Frank Goldsmith is a current mediator and retired civil rights lawyer from the Asheville area. He graduated from Davidson College, studied international law and French constitutional law at the Université de Montpellier, France, and received his Juris Doctor degree with honors in 1970 from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, where he was elected to the Order of the Coif, served as an associate editor of the law review, and received awards for his work in promoting law student involvement in legal aid for the poor. During the Vietnam Era he received a commission as an infantry lieutenant and then served on active duty as a captain in the U.S. Army Judge Advocate General’s Corps. His past legal work includes representing Death Row inmates and detainees at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba. He has litigated cases at all levels of the state and federal court system, including the US Supreme Court. He has been named to “Best Lawyers in America,” “Super Lawyers,” and “North Carolina Legal Elite,” among other professional honors, was inducted as a Fellow of the American College of Trial Lawyers, and has served on the boards of directors of a number of legal organizations and nonprofit groups.
Karen Gottovi is the retired Director of the NC Division of Aging and Adult Services, where she served as director from 1997-2006. Prior to working with the Division of Aging, she served in the General Assembly from 1991-1994 and was the New Hanover County Commissioner from 1976-1984. In 2009-2010, Karen served on the Board of Directors of the Women’s Forum of NC and on the Executive Council of AARP. She was awarded Legislator of the Year in 1993. In 1972, Karen became president of the League of Women Voters in New Hanover County, the first one of the provisional chapter. She currently serves as a volunteer for AARP advocacy. Karen graduated from Wells College and earned an MS in Library and Information Science from the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill.
Lisa Grafstein leads the Community Access Team at Disability Rights NC, working on issues related to employment and access to public places. Prior to joining Disability Rights NC, Lisa was in private practice, working primarily in the area of employment law. Since 2007, she has been included in Business North Carolina’s “Legal Elite,” including its employment law Hall of Fame, and has been included in North Carolina Super Lawyers and Best Lawyers in America for employment law. She received the 2012 Gwyneth B. Davis award from the NC Association of Women Attorneys. Lisa has served as Chair of the Labor and Employment Law Section of the NC Bar Association, and as President of the NC Association of Women Attorneys. Lisa received her undergraduate degree from Northwestern University and her law degree from the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill. She has managed several campaigns for appellate seats in NC.
Dr. Eric Mansfield (Co-Chair) previously served in the NC Senate in Cumberland County. He grew up in Columbus, Georgia, and attended Howard University and the Morehouse School of Medicine. He conducted his surgical and otolaryngology residency at Tulane University’s School of Medicine. He served as a medical officer in the US Army and was stationed at Fort Bragg. After his military service, Mansfield stayed in Fayetteville and established his own office, Cape Fear Otolaryngology, an ear, nose and throat practice. He currently lives in Holly Springs in Wake County.
Ann McColl is an attorney who has practiced in the field of education law since 1991. She served as an associate professor of educational leadership at the UNC Charlotte College of Education from 2002 to 2009 and as a visiting and adjunct associate professor of public law and government at the School of Government at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill. McColl has served as legislative director for the State Board of Education and as general counsel for the North Carolina Association of Educators. She is currently an attorney at Everett Gaskins Hancock in Raleigh.
Richard Moore served as the North Carolina State Treasurer from 2001–2009. A former assistant U.S. Attorney, Richard previously served in North Carolina government as a member of the North Carolina House of Representatives and as head of the North Carolina Department of Crime Control and Public Safety under former Governor Jim Hunt, before being elected state treasurer. He is currently chief executive officer of First Bancorp. A native of Oxford, Moore earned both his undergraduate and law degrees from Wake Forest University, and a graduate diploma in accounting and finance from the London School of Economics.
Corey Purdie devotes his life to helping people who have been incarcerated or served in the military to reintegrate into their families and communities through faith-based education, mentorship, and support services. At 16, Corey was convicted as an adult and served eight years in prison. In 2015, he was named Volunteer of the Year in the same prison where he was once a resident, Pamlico Correctional. He currently serves as a reentry liaison for men exiting Pamlico Correctional to communities across North Carolina. With a bucket, borrowed water hose, and some dish detergent from his mother’s sink, Corey opened Miracle Wash Auto Detailing in 2007 and focused on employing people with criminal records. Corey is also the executive director of Wash Away Unemployment, a 501(c)(3) in New Bern that supports justice-involved people with life skills training, housing resources, transportation, and family reconciliation. Corey serves on the Craven/Pamlico Local Reentry Council, which he helped the NC Department of Public Safety, local leaders, and service providers establish in 2012.
Ray Rapp served for 10 years in the NC House of Representatives until 2012. He has served as alderman and mayor of Mars Hill as well as the dean of Adult Access and a professor at Mars Hill College. He graduated from the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill and lives in Mars Hill, Madison County.
Suzanne Reynolds is the Dean of the Wake University School of Law. She received her J.D. from Wake Forest and has been a professor of law with the university since 1981. Suzanne has been on the NC Administrative Office of Courts: Task Force on Domestic Violence since 2010, and the Board of Directors, Center for Urban Ministries, Wake Forest University School of Divinity since 2006. From 2005 to 2007, Suzanne was the co-chair of the United Way of Forsyth County’s Impact Council on Domestic Violence and co-founded the Domestic Violence Advocacy Center of Forsyth County in 1995. Suzanne won Woman of Wisdom from the North Carolina Association of Women Attorneys in 2006, and Women of Achievement given by the General Federation of Women’s Clubs of North Carolina in 2009.
Wayne Riggins has worked as an ophthalmologist and optometrist for over 30 years. A retired Colonel in the U.S. Army Reserve Medical Corps, he completed his medical internship and residency with the Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, D.C. Wayne worked as the Chief of Ophthalmology and Assistant Chief in the Department of Surgery at the Womack Army Medical Center at Fort Bragg. He is a trustee at Fayetteville State University and serves on the Board of Directors at Equality North Carolina. He currently works at Cape Fear Eye Associates in Fayetteville.
Keith Rivers currently serves on Elizabeth City’s City Council and is the president of Pasquotank NAACP, as well as district director with the state NAACP. He is active with local CDCs and affordable housing issues. Keith is a Retired Pharmacy Chief with the U.S. Navy. A graduate of East Carolina University, Keith also runs an adult care facility in Perquimans County.
Julienne Smrcka is the former Executive Director of the New Mexico Children’s Cabinet. As director, she coordinated 16 Cabinet Secretaries in developing policy and legislation to increase efficiency of children services, and improve outcomes for children and their families. In her role, Ms. Smrcka successfully courted national philanthropy to increase their investment in New Mexico. She is published in the areas of research ethics, multicultural issues, and behavioral health services; and has presented at professional conferences both nationally and internationally. She is currently working with for profit businesses and non-profit educational agencies to address the intersection between education, justice, and student wellbeing. A licensed Behavioral Health Clinician, Ms. Smrcka has practiced in multiple settings for the past 20 years. She received her master’s degree in clinical psychology from the California School of Professional Psychology and has a bachelor’s of science in natural science from the University of Albuquerque.
Chandra Taylor serves as a senior attorney with the Southern Environmental Law Center where she specializes in transportation and land use issues. She previously worked for the Center for Responsible Lending in Durham and the Financial Protection Law Center in Wilmington. Chandra has undergraduate and law degrees from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
Greg Weeks (Treasurer) is a former judge for the Fourth Division of the Superior Court of North Carolina. He served the court from January 1989 until his retirement on December 31, 2012. In the mid-1990s, he presided over the court proceedings in Robeson County against the two men accused of killing James Jordan, father of retired basketball star Michael Jordan. One of the men pleaded guilty; the other was found guilty at trial. Weeks held some of the state’s first hearings on whether racism put convicted killers on death row unfairly and as a result converted the sentences of three to life in prison without parole. Weeks worked several years in private practice and served as an assistant Cumberland County public defender for ten years. He received his law degree from the University of North Carolina School of Law.
Dr. Jesse White is the retired Director of the Office of Economic and Business Development at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill, and also is an Adjunct Professor in the School of Government. Prior to coming to UNC in 2003, he served for almost nine years as Federal Co-Chairman of the Appalachian Regional Commission, the longest tenure in the history of the agency. White is also a nationally recognized authority on regional economic development. He is a Fellow of the National Academy of Public Administration, recipient of the Phillips Medal for Public Service from Ohio University, and a member of the Cosmos Club of Washington, DC. He serves or has served on the boards of Regional Technology Strategies, and Equality North Carolina, and on the advisory boards of Rural LISC, the Appalachian College Association, the Institute for Rural Journalism and Community Issues, the Rural Poverty Research Center, and the William F. Winter Institute for Racial Reconciliation. He has an undergraduate degree from the University of Mississippi and a doctoral degree in political science from MIT.
John I. Wilson is the former Executive Director of the National Education Association. While at NEA, he championed a minimum salary of $40,000 for every teacher and a living wage for Education Support Professionals. He also launched an NEA initiative to engage the best teachers in sharing ideas on staffing high-poverty, low achieving schools with the most accomplished teachers. He is currently a Fellow at the Pearson Foundation. Prior to NEA, Wilson served as President and later as Executive Director of the NC Association of Educators (NCAE). During his leadership at NCAE, the state saw strengthened teacher training and professional development programs, higher teacher compensation, and increased teacher recruitment. His accomplishments include the development of new support systems for teachers pursuing certification by the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards. As a result, today NC has more National Board-certified teachers and candidates than any other state. Wilson has been an NEA activist since his days at Western Carolina University, where he served as president of the NEA student chapter. As a middle school teacher of special needs students, he was an active Association leader throughout his 20-year teaching career. He served as president of the Raleigh Association of Classroom Teachers and the Wake County Association of Classroom Teachers, and also served on the NEA Board of Directors and the NEA Executive Committee. He was born in Burlington and graduated with a B.S. degree in education and received a Master’s degree in education from the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill.
Leslie Winner (Co-Chair) is retired previously serving as a North Carolina State Senator, Vice-President of and General Counsel for the University of North Carolina, and Executive Director of the Z. Smith Reynolds Foundation. Early in her career, Leslie was General Counsel for the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Board of Education and a public interest trial lawyer. She is the recipient of the Order of the Long Leaf Pine and currently serves as a convener and leader of the NC Leadership Forum. She received the 2016 Justice Center Lifetime Champion Award. She received the A.B. degree from Brown University and the J.D. degree from Northeastern University School of Law.