The Tennessee Housing Conference is proud to welcome housing industry experts for our 2020 event.

2020 Speakers:


Don Alexander
A & H Development

A partner in A&H Development. A&H Development specializes if providing development assistance to small nonprofits and public housing authorities. A&H has helped in new constructing projects, acquisition, and acquisition/rehab, projects. Don Alexander served as Executive Director of the Crossville Housing Authority, from 1990 to 2017. Under his leadership the CHA grew from providing housing to 300 clients to more than 1200. This growth was realized using LIHTC, HOME, FHLB AHP, HUD 202, CITC, HUD 811, RD 515 programs and other development tools. While at Crossville Don developed a homeownership program using RD 523 and HCV as well as originating RD direct loans.

While at Crossville he started a childcare center that serves 180 children., and a nonprofit that administers homeless programs over an 18-county area. Don served as President of Tennessee Association of Housing & Redevelopment Authorities. Don served on the Advisory Committee of the Home Loan Bank of Cincinnati. Don helped found the Tennessee Affordable Housing Coalition and was elected to the Affordable Housing Hall of Fame. He serves on numerous non-profit boards in East’Tennessee. He graduated from the Kansas State University and has many years of supervisory experience.

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Damon Allen
Senior Vice President and Community Investment Officer
Federal Home Loan Bank of Cincinnati

Damon v. Allen is a Senior Vice President and the Community Investment Officer for the Federal Home Loan Bank of Cincinnati (the “FHLB”). His responsibilities include oversight and administration of the FHLB’s Housing and Community Investment Department. Damon joined the FHLB in 1999 as the manager of the Credit Financial Analysis division within the FHLB’s Credit Services department. After several years in the Credit Services Department he joined the Housing & Community Investment Department in 2008. Prior to joining the FHLB, Damon worked briefly for FedEx and served four years as a Captain in the U.S. Air Force.Damon holds a B.B.A. in Accounting from Howard University (Washington, DC) and a M.B.A. in International Business and Finance from The University of Miami (Coral Gables, FL).He currently resides in Covington, KY with his wife and three kids. He sits on the boards of Brighton Properties, Inc. (Covington, KY), NextStep, Inc. (Louisville, KY), and the Freestore Foodbank (Cincinnati, OH). Fun facts: He once jumped out of an airplane (yes he had a parachute) and he’s twice played in the World Series of Poker (but didn’t make a dime)!

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Roshun Austin
The Works, Inc.

Ms. Austin is the President/CEO of The Works, Inc, twenty-one, year old community development corporation.  The Works, Inc (TWI) is the developer of single-family and multifamily properties in distressed neighborhoods. TWI is also the sponsor of an elementary charter school; runs a farmers’ market and green grocer; provides nutrition education; operates a mortgage loan fund; and does work around the comprehensive needs of children and families.

She earned her M.A. in Urban Anthropology at the University of Memphis and her undergraduate degree at Middlebury College. She’s the mother of one daughter, Lailah a college freshman at Oglethorpe University pursuing a career in the arts.

Ms. Austin is the Treasurer of the Memphis Fourth Estate (The Daily Memphian). She is also a member of the Board of Directors of the Christian Community Foundation; Blight Authority of Memphis; Methodist Healthcare Foundation; and Urban Renaissance Partners. She serves on the management committee of the Urban Land Institute Memphis Chapter.


Emily Avery
Senior Program Office
Local Initiatives Support Corporation

Emily is currently serving as a Senior Program Officer with the Local Initiatives Support Corporation (LISC), on their Rural team. Her primary responsibility is to work with local communities across the United States to establish Financial Opportunity Centers (FOC) within local organizations. FOCs provide financial and employment coaching to individual and families in more than 90 communities across the country and have more than 15 years of data that shows increases in net income, net worth, credit scores, short-term and long-term savings, higher wages, increased job retention, and more. Prior to LISC Rural, Emily was with the United Way network for 14 years where she served as Vice President of Strategic Partnership and Community Impact. Emily is working on finishing her Masters of Organizational Development degree and has her husband and two daughters to thank for their support of her community-focused career.

Amy Broadwater
RubinBrownAmy Broadwater is a Partner in RubinBrown’s Real Estate Services and Tax Consulting Services Groups and leads the Nashville, TN Real Estate office. In her role, Amy primarily serves real estate clients that develop or invest in Affordable Housing Tax Credit projects, historic rehabilitation projects, New Markets Tax Credit projects, renewable energy projects and real estate investment funds.


Brooxie Carlton
Deputy Assistant Commissioner of Rural and Community Development
TN Department of Economic and Community Development

Brooxie Carlton serves as the Deputy Assistant Commissioner of Rural and Community Development for the Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development. In this position, Carlton oversees federal grant funding from the Delta Regional Authority, the Appalachian Regional Commission and the Community Development Block Grant program. She works with the Tennessee Main Street, ThreeStar, and SelectTN programs. Previously, Carlton served as director of community programs and as program manager for the Energy Efficiency and Conservation Block Grants (EECBG). Carlton has been involved in the administration of more than 2,000 grants totaling more than $550MM including more than $450MM in federal funding. She assists with project development, application review and award, and grant administration and compliance for hundreds of projects each year. She serves as Governor Bill Lee’s alternate to the boards of the Appalachian Regional Commission and the Delta Regional Authority.Born and raised in Dyersburg, Tenn., Carlton attended Birmingham-Southern College in Birmingham, Ala., majoring in psychology and sociology. She graduated Phi Beta Kappa and with honors. Carlton received her master’s degree in human, organizational and community development from Vanderbilt University.Carlton resides in Nashville.

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Maria Catron
Executive Director
Oak Ridge Housing Authority

Maria Catron joined Oak Ridge Housing Authority in 2019 as Executive Director. Ms. Catron has served in a variety of roles for over 15 years in the public housing/affordable housing industry. Her experience ranges from redevelopment with HOPE VI Community Supportive Services/Choice Neighborhoods to community programs and services with Family Self Sufficiency/Homeownership programs. Maria has served on several local, regional, and state boards focused on affordable housing. Currently, she is serving as Treasurer for the Tennessee Affordable Housing Coalition (TNAHC) and Senior Vice-President for Tennessee Association for Housing & Redevelopment Authorities (THARA). Maria and her husband Darryl reside in Oak Ridge and have five sons and a daughter.


Brian Coffee
Senior Director
Synovus Bank

Brian Coffee currently serves as Senior Director at Synovus Bank. Mr. Coffee has previously worked for Regions Bank, and its predecessor bank, AmSouth, Dexia Bank in Seattle, Barnett Banks in Florida. and the predecessor bank to BofA in Texas. In total, Mr. Coffee has over 30 years of banking experience. Mr. Coffee has an undergraduate degree from Boston University, graduating Magna Cum Laude, and an MBA from the University of Texas. He is currently Vice-President with the Affordable Housing Investors Council. He previously has written several articles for the Journal of Risk Management on real estate topics.

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Marshall E. Crawford, Jr.
President & Chief Executive Officer
The Housing Fund

In 2017, Marshall joined The Housing Fund, a CDFI private nonprofit revolving loan fund located headquarter in Nashville, TN. Previously, he served as President of Housing and Multifamily Development for Community Ventures in Lexington, KY, where he helped developed affordable housing in West Louisville along Cedar Street during his tenure. Also, Marshall provided 13 years of service to NeighborWorks America as senior director in the Southern Region located in Atlanta, GA. He served in several capacities during his tenure, including as a relationship manager brokering resources, and serving as a trusted adviser for building and sustaining nonprofit organizations in Tennessee, Kentucky, and West Virginia. He facilitated and leveraged key relationships between NeighborWorks America and strategic partners, such as state housing finance agencies. After completing his military service at Fort Knox, he attended Western Kentucky University in Bowling Green, where he received a degree in finance. He completed a Master of Public Administration with a concentration in nonprofit management from the University of Nebraska at Omaha. In 2016, Marshall completed an Executive Leadership Certification at Georgetown University in Washington D.C.Marshall has been recently recognized as one of Nashville’s Most Admired CEOs by his peers and the Nashville Business Journal and installed into the Tennessee Affordable Housing Coalition Hall of Fame for his efforts in affordable housing over the last 20 years. He was featured on the cover of the Nashville Post BOOM! Magazine 2018 for helping to establish Nashville’s first community land trust model as a solution to addressing a growing affordable housing issue in the city.

JoAnn DePenning
National Trainer
NeighborWorks America

JoAnn DePenning is a national educator and trainer, technical assistance (TA) provider and co-chair and statewide coordinator of the Texas Foreclosure Prevention Task Force. She has been a NeighborWorks America faculty member since 2004, drawing upon her extensive experience in affordable housing finance and homebuyer education program development as well as her state and national experience developing collaborative working relationships to accomplish housing solutions.

Ms. DePenning also has extensive experience providing TA and project management for NeighborWorks America. She is currently leading a team of consultants delivering specialized onsite and remote TA to CDFI organizations across the country. TA provided on behalf of the Texas Homeless Network began the implementation of the Homeless Management Information System (HMIS) in homeless shelters throughout Texas. For Texas’ NFMC sub-grantees, Ms. DePenning provides TA and training services. She also is Co-Chair and Coordinator of the Texas Foreclosure Prevention Task Force, a NeighborWorks initiative.

Most recently, Ms. DePenning was asked to participate in the Senate IGR working group committee reviewing the mortgage settlement. She has served on the Texas Interagency Council for the Homeless for over a decade, is a member of the board of the multi-state non-profit CCCS of Greater Dallas, and is a newly appointed member of the HOPE LoanPort Counselor Advisory Committee.


Stephen Dixon
CRA Officer and Senior Vice President
Bank of Tennessee

Stephen Dixon is the CRA Officer and a Senior Vice President for Bank of Tennessee. Dixon is a member of the Business Journal’s 40 Under Forty and ETSU College of Business & Technology Hall of Fame.  He oversees the banks community reinvestment activities, which includes promoting and enhancing the bank’s CRA efforts in the areas of lending, investments, services and education.  He also works with area agencies as well as the Federal Home Loan Bank of Cincinnati to promote home ownership and community development.Dixon is a 1995 graduate of East Tennessee State University, a 2001 graduate of the Southeastern School of Commercial Lending held at Vanderbilt University, and a 2015 Graduate School of Banking at LSU graduate. He is a member and past president of the Johnson City & Washington County Boys & Girls Club, Chair of Eastern Eight Community Development Corporation, Chair of Centrant Community Capital, and Board member of United Way of Washington County, Public Building Authority (Johnson City), and the Crumley House.  He is also a member and trustee of Jubilee World Outreach Church and resides in Johnson City with his wife Jennifer, and their 3 sons.

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Phil Eide
Senior V.P. Housing and Community Development
Hope Enterprise Corporation

Phil Eide joined Hope Enterprise Corporation in September 2000. He helped to create and manage a mortgage department for the company, coordinated HOPE’s efforts to rebuild the coastal areas devastated by Katrina and works on New Market and Housing Tax Credit developments for Hope.  Phil was a Housing and Urban Development fellow before joining HOPE.  He previously served as Executive Director of Jackson Metro Housing Partnership, the largest nonprofit housing organization in the Jackson, MS metropolitan area.  He obtained an undergraduate degree from the University of Wisconsin and a master’s degree from Jackson State University.  He served on the Federal Home Loan Bank of Dallas Advisory Board and the Governor’s Task Force for Affordable Housing after Hurricane Katrina.  He is a board member Housing Mississippi, Working Together Jackson and NeighborWorks Rural Advisory Committee.  He is the former chair of Fannie Mae’s Affordable Housing Advisory Council and current chair of Mississippi Association of Affordable Housing Providers.

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Don Harris
Housing Program Director
USDA Rural Development

Don Harris is the Housing Program Director for the USDA Rural Development Agency. He is based out of the State Office in Nashville, TN. Mr. Harris is the Administrator for the Single Family Housing loan and grant programs and the Multi-Family Housing rental and subsidy assistance programs. The USDA Rural Development Housing programs are delivered through eight Area Offices across Tennessee. Tennessee consistently leads the nation in our loan and grant programs serving Rural Tennessee. During 2009-10, he was assigned to the National Office in Washington D.C. as the Team Leader for the National Outreach Initiative Pilot Program that provided specialized outreach and loan packaging services for persistent poverty counties located across the nation. In 2010, he was awarded, by the Council for Affordable and Rural Housing (CARH), the Harry L. Tomlinson Award for outstanding achievement and leadership in the affordable multifamily housing industry. Mr. Harris previously served as the National Director of the Single Family Housing Direct program in Washington D.C.; Deputy Executive Director for the Tennessee Housing Development Agency and the State Director of Adult Probation for the Tennessee Department of Correction. He holds a B.S. Degree and a M.Ed. Degree in Counseling from East Tennessee State University. He serves on various housing and community organizations both locally and nationally.

Brandon Hughey

Brandon Hughey
Partner, Tax Practice Group
Jones Walker

While he has advised clients in many aspects of federal and state taxation, Brandon’s practice currently focuses on partnership taxation and the representation of lenders and investors in connection with affordable housing transactions using tax credits under Section 42 and 47 of the Internal Revenue Code and housing and historic state tax credits, tax-exempt bonds, tax-exempt loans, MTEBs, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac debt, HOME loans, HUD, RAD, AHP grants or loans, USDA/RD loans, and other financing sources.Brandon has also represented clients in matters before the Internal Revenue Service and the Alabama Department of Revenue. He has represented clients in tax and real estate cases in the US District Court, Alabama state courts and the Alabama Supreme Court. He has also advised businesses on tax and corporate business formation, acquisitions, mergers and dispositions.Prior to joining Jones Walker, Brandon was a partner at the Birmingham, Alabama, law firm Liles & Rushin, a boutique law firm focused on representing lenders and investors in affordable housing transactions around the country. Before joining Liles & Rushin, Brandon practiced at the Mobile, Alabama law firm Armbrecht Jackson focusing on taxation, real estate, oil and gas, business organizations, estate planning, and trust and estate administration. He also served as an adjunct professor at the University of Mobile in 2012, teaching Advanced Federal Taxation.

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Jim King
CEO & President

For thirty years, Jim King has worked to advance opportunity for the people and communities of Appalachia. In 1990 he moved to Appalachia to become one of the first staff members at Fahe. Since becoming President in 2000, Mr. King has led Fahe through a period of unprecedented growth in impact, lending, and territory. He pioneered a collaborative model, bringing scale and performance driven change to nonprofits serving rural and remote communities. He established Fahe’s reputation as a national authority on Appalachia, rural issues, persistent poverty and collaborative impact. Under Mr. King’s leadership, Fahe received numerous awards, including the Wachovia Wells Fargo NEXT Award for Opportunity Finance, and has been highlighted in multiple books and publications including “Forces For Good”. Mr. King is a 2006 alumnus of the Harvard University’s John F. Kennedy School of Government’s Achieving Excellence program and 2014 alumnus of the Harvard Business School’s three-year owner/president management (OPM) program. He holds an MBA degree from Eastern University, and a BA from Bluffton University. Mr. King serves on many national boards of directors and is currently the board chair of the Opportunity Finance Network.


Daryl Lewis
Interim President 
National Association of Real Estate Brokers – United Developers Council

Daryl Lewis is a Native Memphian, graduate of Whitehaven High School and the University of Memphis where he majored in Architectural Engineering & Technology.Daryl is the Interim President for the National Association of Real Estate Brokers – United Developers Council (Memphis Chapter). Currently he is a certified Lean Six Sigma Greenbelt and Senior Project Manager with Allworld Project Management, LLC.; leading the Memphis – Shelby County Community Redevelopment Agency program (CRA) Single Family Housing and Commercial Redevelopment Programs.Additionally, Daryl has an extensive background in Real Estate and Community Development; having served in various capacities for the City of Memphis as the Inspectors Manager, Division of Housing and Community Development, Real Estate Supervisor, Division of General Services, and Housing Inspector, Division of Public Works. He is also the principal broker and owner of Infinity Group Realtors, Inc., and 2nd Vice President of the National Association of Real Estate Brokers – Memphis Chapter.

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Christy McMakin
Employment and Career Specialist Coach
Fresh Start Foundation Financial Opportunity Center

Christy McMakin is the Employment and Career Specialist Coach for the Fresh Start Foundation Financial Opportunity Center located in Kingsport Tennessee. In August 2018, Christy joined the Life BRIDGE Program of Kingsport as their Life Coach. Life BRIDGE is a comprehensive coaching program that assists individuals to develop the needed life skills to become self-sufficient through training, education, supportive service, and providing appropriate resources. She has over 20 years’ experience in working with communities, providing services to individuals and families struggling with homelessness, hunger, unemployment and underemployment. Her passion is to inspire every individual to discover their potential, connect them to available resources and services as they set goals to overcome their barriers, move into a career path, become financially stable and support them along their journey as they work to achieve their goals.Christy earned a Bachelor’s of Science degree in Business Administration from Milligan College and an Associate’s of Science degree in Social Work from Northeast State Community College. She is the proud mother of 4 children and ‘Momsy’ to two precious grandchildren. She is an avid outdoorsmen, hiker, rock climber, adventurer, and breast cancer survivor.

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Laura Meadows
Sr. Vice President of Lending

Laura Meadows has enjoyed a career with Fahe since March 2007 and is currently serving as Sr. Vice President of Lending, working with the Single Family Mortgage division, as well as Fahe’s Community Lending division. Laura is a licensed originator in 17 states, and holds her 502 Direct Loan Packager Certification. Laura Meadows is a nationally-recognized expert in USDA 502 loan products, which have been the backbone of affordable housing finance in rural America for decades. She advises nonprofits across the nation on how to administer the USDA 502 Direct program, resulting in earned income opportunities and access to mortgage dollars for the low-income households they serve. Laura enjoys working with Fahe because as a nonprofit, she gets to see the impact a group of people with a heart for a region can make in Appalachia. She also enjoys getting to know our clients and sharing in their excitement when they become homeowners. Mrs. Meadows is a 2016 graduate of the Kentucky Transformative Leadership program. She holds a BA from Eastern Kentucky University.

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Nick Mitchell-Bennett
Executive Director
cdcb- come dream. come build.

Nick Mitchell-Bennett is the Executive Director of the cdcb- come dream. come build. headquartered in Brownsville, Texas where he has served as the ED since 2008.  Prior to taking the position of ED Nick served in multiple positions within the CDCB organization. During his tenure with CDCB he has assisted and/or led the cdcb team, in the development and preservation of over 3,500 affordable homes, raise over $100 million in public and private grant funds and deployed over $300 million in private lending capital and equity.Nick also serves as the Administrator of the Rio Grande Valley Multibank (RGVMB) CDFI. In his role as Administrator, Nick led the RGVMB to be the first CDFI to join the Federal Home Loan Bank of Dallas. In 2011, the RGVMB launched the Community Loan Center (CLC), a small dollar alternative to payday lending product.  With its partner, Texas Community Capital, the RGVMB has franchised the CLC model into twenty-two (22) markets around the nation allowing the entire CLC franchise network of lenders to originate over $60 million and conduct over 59,000 transaction.Nick has a BA from Tabor College in Political Science and International Studies and MS Degree from Eastern University in Community and Economic Development.  He is a certified Housing Development Finance Professional and has completed the NeighborWorks America Achieving Excellence program at Harvard JFK School. In 2015 Nick was recognized by Texas Low Income Housing Information Service with the Texas Houser of the Year Award.

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Eileen Neely
Director of Lending
Housing Assistance Council

Eileen Neely has over 30 years of experience in housing finance and impact investment. Eileen is the Director of lending at the Housing Assistance Council (HAC). Eileen manages the day-to-day operations of the HAC loan fund, an almost $40 million capital pool focused exclusively on developing and preserving affordable housing in rural America. Eileen joined HAC in February 2019.Prior to joining HAC, Eileen provided consulting services to housing and impact investment organizations across the country. Prior to that she served as the Director of Capital Innovation at Living Cities, the Director of Strategy for the District of Columbia Housing Authority, the COO of the Fresno Housing Authority, and Director of Public Entity Lending at Fannie Mae.An economist by training, Eileen has her Master’s Degree in Economics from Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, PA, and her Bachelor’s Degree in Mathematics and Economics from Hiram College in Hiram, OH.

Sam Noel
Sam Noel
Lender Engagement Manager, HFA Engagement Team

Freddie Mac

Sam Noel is with Freddie Mac as the Lender Engagement Manager for the HFA Engagement Team.  Sam joined Freddie Mac in June 2019. Prior to coming to Freddie, Sam was with Wells Fargo Home Mortgage as a market leader for Diverse Segments.  Prior to Wells, he was with the Georgia Housing Finance Authority as the Business Development Leader for over 10 years.

Sam has been in financial services for over 20 years with experience and expertise in mortgage sales, affordable housing, business development and sales leadership.  He is passionate about making home possible and contributing to helping families achieve their dreams of homeownership.

Sam has BBA in Marketing & Management from Temple University and an MBA in Sales Leadership from Kennesaw State University.

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Cynthia Peraza
Director of Community Programs
TN Housing Development Agency

Cynthia Peraza is the Director of Community Programs. She has been with Tennessee Housing Development Agency (THDA) since 2011. Cynthia has played an instrumental role in the creation and development of programs that help prevent foreclosures, stabilize communities, and preserve homeownership. Some of the programs she has developed include THDA’s Blight Elimination Program, Appalachian Renovation Loan Program, Tennessee Renovation Loan Program, Attorney General’s Foreclosure Prevention Counseling Program, and numerous mortgage assistance programs administered under the Hardest Hit Fund’s Keep My Tennessee Home Program. Cynthia is active in the Tennessee Government Leadership programs offered through the state. She graduated from LEAD Tennessee in 2014, Tennessee Government Management Institute in June 2017, and the Tennessee Government Executive Institute in 2018.  Most recently, Cynthia completed NCSHA’s Leading in an Era of Complexity Executive Management Program at the University of Notre Dame in 2019.Cynthia has more than 20 years of mortgage related experience, marketing with an emphasis on customer experience, and relationship management. She holds an active Mortgage Loan Originator license and is NCHEC Certified under Foreclosure Intervention and Default Counseling. Cynthia is originally from San Diego, California but is happy to call Tennessee home today.  She lives outside of Nashville, Tennessee with her daughter, son, and two dogs.


Frank Rapley
Senior Manager, EnergyRight Solutions for the Home
Tennessee Valley Authority

Frank Rapley has 30 years’ experience in the electric utility industry. He currently leads the EnergyRight Solutions for the Home group in the Tennessee Valley Authority’s EnergyRight Solutions organization.  Previously he led TVA’s energy efficiency program design group and also served as communications manager for TVA’s Customer Resources organization. His utility experience includes four years at NRG Energy, Inc., where he was director of communications and later NRG’s market representative at the New York Independent System Operator. Frank began his utility career at Entergy Corporation, where he held positions in communications, customer service, and consumer and small business marketing. Frank is a graduate of the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville. He lives in Brentwood, Tennessee, with his wife Tammy. Their son David lives in Nashville.

Marietta Rodriguez

Marietta Rodriguez
President and CEO

As president and chief executive officer of NeighborWorks, Rodriguez works with senior executives and nationally renowned experts to leverage the power of public-private partnerships. She has a proven record of leadership and accomplishment, creating and executing strategic initiatives that address some of the toughest challenges facing low-income families: homeownership, foreclosure prevention, community building, and engagement.Rodriguez is responsible for leading NeighborWorks America’s programmatic support to its 245 member organizations and nonprofit partners. Whether capacity building, technical assistance, grant management or relationship management, she has met or exceeded metrics for success while developing and mentoring her staff at all levels.A strong communicator and subject matter expert, Rodriguez was named an expert witness by the Federal Trade Commission in three areas of specialty: mortgage finance, credit repair and loan modification. Rodriguez is an established national spokesperson whose media credentials include CNN Money, Fox Business, CBS Evening News, ABC Nightly News, New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, National Mortgage News, Market Watch- National Public Radio, American Banker and Stanford Social Innovation Review.


Sabrina Seamon
Deputy Executive Director
Clinch-Powell RC&D Council

Sabrina Seamon is the Deputy Executive Director of Clinch-Powell RC&D Council, a nonprofit serving the rural areas between Knoxville and the Tri Cities for 30 years in affordable housing, environmental conservation, and community development efforts.  Sabrina has been with Clinch-Powell since 2012. She provides supervision to the various departments of the non-profit, serving as the second-in-command. She oversees program compliance, grant writing, and plays a key role in community and partner relations. Sabrina is on the Homebuyer Educator Advisory Board for THDA and the Governing Council of the Tennessee Valley Coalition on Homelessness, as well as, an Ambassador for the Morristown-Hamblen Chamber of Commerce and serves on the Board of the Chamber’s young professionals group [HYPE]. Sabrina has an MSSW from the University of Tennessee, and Bachelor degrees in Government and Sociology from McNesse State University in Lake Charles, LA.

Thomas Simons - Senior Vice President

Thomas Simons
Senior Vice President 
Woda Cooper Companies, Inc.

Thomas Simons serves as Senior Vice President for Woda Cooper Companies, Inc., and is responsible for site acquisition, housing and land development, funding applications and project management in multiple states. Mr. Simons joined Woda in 2001 and has over 18 years of successful real estate experience developing over $600 million in projects, consisting of over 6,500 affordable housing units. Mr. Simons has been successfully developing affordable housing in Tennessee since 2010.  Mr. Simons currently serves as a board member of the Coalition on Homelessness and Housing in Ohio (COHHIO) and Mr. Simons is a former board member of the Council for Rural Housing & Development of Ohio. Mr. Simons received his B.S. in Business Administration from the Mount Vernon Nazarene University.

Rusty Smith

Rusty Smith
Associate Director of Rural Studio
Auburn University

Rusty Smith is the Associate Director of Rural Studio, Auburn University’s internationally recognized design-build program. Established in 1993 Rural Studio gives architecture students a hands-on educational experience while assisting the underserved communities of Alabama’s rural Black Belt region. The students work in partnership with their neighbors in the local community to define solutions, fundraise, design and ultimately build remarkable projects. In its initial years, the Studio first became known for establishing an ethos of recycling, reusing and remaking. Over the past decade Rural Studio has expanded the scope and complexity of its projects to include the design and construction of community-oriented infrastructure, the development of more broadly-attainable small home affordability solutions, and a comprehensive approach to addressing insecurity issues relative to income, energy, food, health, and education resources. All together, the Studio continually questions what should be built, rather than simply what can be built.

Rural Studio has earned a world-renowned reputation not only because of its one-of-a-kind hands-on approach to architectural education, but also in recognition of now more than 200 beautifully designed and constructed projects. Located in the small town of Newbern, Alabama (population: 186), Rural Studio has worked with a broad variety of community partners who together are committed to investing in and reinforcing the collective value of Place. The overarching philosophy of Rural Studio is quite simple: everyone, both rich and poor, deserves the benefit of good, dignified design, or what founder Sambo Mockbee often referred to as “Shelter for the Soul.”

To date, Rural Studio has educated more than 900 Citizen Architects. Educated first at Auburn University and then at The School of the Art Institute of Chicago, Rusty is a nationally recognized teacher and scholar. His honors include the receipt of the American Institute of Architects National Teaching Honor Award, the American Institute of Architecture Students National Teaching Honor Award, and Auburn University’s Creative Research and Scholarship Award. Collectively, Rural Studio has garnered numerous recognitions for both teaching and design, including The American Institute of Architects Presidential Citation, The Whitney M. Young Jr. Award for Social Responsibility, and the UNESCO Global Award for Sustainable Architecture.


Dwayne Spencer
President and CEO
Habitat for Humanity of Greater Memphis

Dwayne Spencer has worked in nonprofit management for 25 years and led Memphis Habitat since 2001. He has guided the agency through a period of significant growth and change, while maintaining and improving organizational practices, policies and strategies, which have effectively contributed to ongoing organizational effectiveness and client impact. Spencer has extensive experience working with a wide range of community constituencies to create strategic partnerships and impactful collaborations.Since joining Memphis Habitat in 2001, he has grown the organization from a 9-member staff to more than 45 employees and from a $1 million budget to more than $12 million. In the last several years, Memphis Habitat’s programs have expanded from serving 15-20 families a year to approximately 250-plus annually through the launch of Aging in Place, a program that serves seniors via mobility modifications and critical repairs. Today, Memphis Habitat ranks in the “top 10” out of more than 1,200 Habitat affiliates in North America—based on families served.Spencer holds a master’s in public administration from The University of Memphis.


Miguel Vega
Chief Diversity Officer, Sr. VP of Business Development and Community Outreach
First Community Mortgage

Miguel Vega is First Community Mortgage’s Chief Diversity Officer, Senior Vice President of Business Development and Community Outreach. He leads the company’s planning and execution of Multi-Cultural and Affordable Lending Strategies to increase market share and company growth. Miguel joined FCM in 2016 as Associate Vice President of Business Development, focusing on the Hispanic market. Under his direction, First Community Mortgage won the Mortgage Bankers Association National Diversity and Inclusion Residential Leadership Award for Market Outreach Strategies.Miguel is a Marketing graduate of California State University – Los Angeles. He has also earned degrees and certifications in Business and Marketing Strategy from Cornell University in NY, and Economics and International Trade from ITAM and ITESM in Mexico. Miguel’s past positions include Trade Commissioner of Mexico and Director of Business Development for the Trade and Investment Office of Mexico in Los Angeles, responsible for the California, Arizona, Utah and Nevada Region. Corporate Category Manager for the Top Consumer Electronics Retail Chain in Southern California and Arizona; and Vice President of Business Development of Electronic Express, the Top Regional Consumer Electronics Retailer in Middle Tennessee and Alabama.Miguel has an active role with community outreach and strategic partnership projects. He is a founding member of the National Association of Hispanic Real Estate Professionals (NAHREP) in Nashville where he serves as 2019-2020 Chapter President. He is a member of the Mortgage Bankers Association’s National Advisory Council on Affordable Homeownership, the THDA Housing Industry Advisory Board, and The Housing Fund of Tennessee Board of Directors. Also serves as Director of Strategic Alliances of the Tennessee Latin American Chamber of Commerce and an officer of the Rutherford County Chamber of Commerce.Miguel is a keynote speaker of the National Hispanic Corporate Council, a frequent lecturer at MTSU on topics regarding US Hispanic Market trends, leadership and organizational innovation, and mentor for high school seniors in the Tennessee Achieves Program.

Don Watt
Don Watt
Chief Program Officer
TN Housing Development AgencyDon is the Chief Program Officer with the Tennessee Housing Development Agency where he oversees implementation of programs across Tennessee that create or preserve rental and homeownership housing, offer tenant-based rental assistance, or support organizations serving the homeless, those with disabilities, or households with high-energy cost burdens. Prior to joining THDA in 2015, Don worked for more than 20 years with the Georgia Department of Community Affairs/Georgia Housing and Finance Authority managing a variety of grant and loan programs serving the homeless, individuals with special needs, and low income families.  He possesses a Masters of City and Regional Planning from The Ohio State University.

Blake Worthington
Housing Program Manager for Energy Programs
Tennessee Housing Development Agency

Blake Worthington is the Housing Program Manager for Energy Programs at the Tennessee Housing Development Agency. He manages the implementation of the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program and the Weatherization Assistance Program for the State of Tennessee. He has been working in WAP and LIHEAP at the state office for the past 6 years. He previously worked with various State and Federal housing programs focused on serving low-income individuals and families. He is also a certified BPI, Home Energy Professional Energy Auditor and Quality Control Inspector.