( WASHINGTON ) May 9, 2017 — OutServe-SLDN, the nation's leading LGBT Military organization, today announced the doubling of its Board of Directors. With the addition of seven new members, the new Board better reflects both geographic and gender diversity and will help to expand the ability of OutServe-SLDN to engage across the nation on the vital issues facing the LGBT military community under this administration.
"Although the new administration has pledged support for America's military, we have most recently seen with the selection of nominees like Mark Green that they have no respect or honor for the contribution and sacrifices that our LGBT military community make each and every day. Our mission to be a voice for equality and justice for the LGBT military community is more vital now than ever," declared OutServe-SLDN executive director Matt Thorn. "Our dynamic new Board of Directors — which now comprises military veterans, military family advocates and civilians — will help us to meet the challenge of ensuring that America does not backtrack on its commitment to equality and justice for all in our armed forces and veterans communities."
The new Board members are: Shaina Barnes of Baltimore, Maryland; Sharon Bracket of Laurel, Maryland; Ben Finzel of Washington, D.C.; Bryan Hlavinka of Houston, Texas; John Klenert of Washington, D.C.; Lee Reinhart of Manitou Springs, Colorado; and Mica Willis of Washington, D.C.
Editorial note: Reinhart is a Chicago native, the first in Illinois to reenlist following the repeal of Don't Ask, Don't Tell. Read more at www.windycitymediagroup.com/lgbt/Chicago-veteran-of-Dont-Ask-Dont-Tell-reenters-military-in-wake-of-repeal/34349.html .
Each new Board member brings a different set of experiences to the board ( images are available at the end of the press release ):
Shaina Barnes serves as the Director of Local Government Affairs and Strategic Initiatives for the Greater Baltimore Committee, a business advocacy nonprofit organization in Baltimore City. Prior to joining the Greater Baltimore Committee in 2014, Shaina spent four years serving Maryland Governor Martin O'Malley in a number of roles, including Special Assistant to the Governor's Chief of Staff. Shaina was born in New York City and raised in New Jersey. She holds a degree in English with a concentration in Language, Writing and Rhetoric from the University of Maryland, College Park and is currently pursuing a Master's degree in Public Administration from the University of Baltimore. Shaina also sits on the board of the Creative Alliance, a community arts organization in Highlandtown. Shaina and her husband Chris Barnes, a recently retired Navy officer with 22 years of service, reside in Baltimore's Patterson Park neighborhood with their two dogs.
Sharon Bracket is a serial entrepreneur and the President/CEO of Tiresias Technologies. In 2010 she was selected by Washington SmartCEO Magazine as one of Washington's Smart100 CEOs for 2010 and then again, after transition, in 2011. Sharon is a founder of Gender Rights Maryland, a trans civil rights organization, and serves as Board Chair. In 2014 she was selected as Activist of the Year by Baltimore Pride. She served as a co-chair for the NGLTF Creating Change conference in Baltimore for 2012. She is also a board member of the Point Foundation, a national LGBTQ scholarship organization. She frequently writes a column for Baltimore OUTloud, "Rational T-hought", focusing on Trans rights and issues. Sharon is a co-founder of TransParent Day, and is a former board member and volunteer co-moderator of the Gender Identity support group of the GLCCB in Baltimore. She is also board member of MoringaCommunity.org, an NGO charity that has built an education program and school in Ghana, Africa. In her copious spare time she works with youth groups with technical interests such as 3D printing, coding, rocketry, and robotics.
Ben Finzel is president and founder of RENEWPR, an NGLCC-certified communications consulting firm in Washington, D.C. A former Hill staffer and presidential appointee in the Clinton administration, Ben was a leader in five international, national and boutique communications firms before starting his own firm in January 2015. Ben has been active in the LGBT community for nearly 25 years, and his experience with LGBT servicemembers extends nearly that far back: he started the first-ever spring fundraiser ( Serving with Pride ) for SLDN in 1994. Ben is currently serving his fifth term as a member of the Victory Campaign Board of the Gay and Lesbian Victory Fund. He is also a member of the National Gay and Lesbian Journalists Association. He is a graduate of Texas Tech University with a bachelors degree in history. He is married and lives in Washington, D.C.
Bryan Hlavinka is a native Texan and works as an oil and gas engineering consultant. Bryan graduated from Texas A&M University in 1997. He currently serves on the operating and endowment board of the Legacy Community Health, whose mission is to provide affordable healthcare in both the LGBT and underserved Houston community. In 2009, Bryan served on the first finance committee to elect Annise Parker as Mayor of Houston. Shortly after her victory, Bryan joined the board of the Victory Fund and Institute to serve on the Victory Campaign Board. Bryan then served four years as the Southern Caucus chair working to raise money for and elected openly LGBT candidates to office. Bryan also co-hosts a weekly LGBT radio program, "Queer Voices" on a local Houston radio station, KPFT. In 2011, Bryan had the great honor of being named the male grand marshal of the Houston LGBT Pride parade. In 2014, Bryan was named one of the four co-chairs for the 2014 Creating Change conference that was held in Houston. In his spare time, Bryan enjoys traveling and spending time with his partner, David.
John Klenert lives in Washington D.C. He graduated from Catholic University of America with a Masters Degree in constitutional history. He retired from a 25-year career with AT&T where his primary customer was supporting NASA's operational and supporting networks as well as stints in public relations and human resources. He is still active in AT&T's Employee Resource Group, LEAGUE, where he was its national president. Additionally he has served on the Board of Directors for such organizations as GLAAD, DC Vote and the Gay and Lesbian Victory Fund.
Lee Reinhart lives in Colorado Springs, Colorado and is a member of the U.S. Navy Reserves. Lee served in the U.S. Navy from 1995-1999, the last two years of which were spent as a proud, openly gay man to most of his shipmates. After the events of September 11, 2001 Lee re-enlisted in the Coast Guard, only to be quickly discharged under Don't Ask Don't Tell. He spent years in the Chicago area volunteering for groups such as the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network, American Veterans for Equal Rights ( AVER ) Chicago Chapter and the Human Rights Campaign. Lee was able to re enlist, first in Illinois after the repeal, into the Navy Reserves on Oct 24, 2011. In January 2013 he was recalled to active duty and spent the next year deployed to Afghanistan. During his deployment he participated in the first ever Outserve-SLDN pride event in Afghanistan.
Mica Willis is a Senior Consultant with Booz Allen Hamilton, joined the firm in 2015 with the Wargaming and Exercise Team. In her role on the War game and Exercise team at Booz Allen, she has supported the design, logistics and execution of events for clients such as, the Joint Staff, Office of Secretary of Defense, Defense Health Agency, in addition to commercial engagements. Prior to joining Booz Allen, Mica was the Political Associate for the Gay and Lesbian Victory Fund, an organization dedicated to electing LGBT people running for office. Mica was born in Washington D.C. and spent her life traveling the world with her mother as she served with the State Department. Over the course of her life she's lived in 4 different countries and traveled to over 20.
The new board members will each serve a three-year term which is renewable once at the conclusion of the first term.
"We will all benefit from the service of these new colleagues as we expand the reach and impact of OutServe-SLDN," said Board Co-Chair Wes Reynolds. "We welcome their perspective and experience as we face new challenges in protecting and defending the rights of LGBT people who serve our nation in the military." Added Board Co-Chair Jeff Mueller, "As the nation's premiere LGBT military advocacy and legal organization we must continue to stand up for equality and fairness in our nation's military. We salute our new Board colleagues and look forward to working with them to fulfill our mission to preserve and protect the freedom to serve."