CJJA Staff
& Board Officers

CJJA Staff Members

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Michael P. Dempsey


Mike is CJJA’s Executive Director. He previously served as Executive Director of the Indiana Department of Corrections, Division of Youth Services from 2009 to 2015. He began his work with the Indiana Department of Corrections as Superintendent of the Pendleton Juvenile Correctional Facility in June 2006.

Prior to moving to Indiana, he served as the Superintendent of the Kansas Juvenile Correctional Complex for approximately two and a half years. He began his career in corrections with the Missouri Department of Corrections, starting as a Corrections Officer at the Missouri State Penitentiary in 1985. Since that time, Mike has held positions as a Correctional Sergeant, Lieutenant, Captain and Major. He has also held positions as Correctional Training Officer, Internal Affairs Investigator, Assistant Superintendent and Associate Superintendent.

He has extensive experience with CJJA and Performance-based Standards (PbS). He has been a member of the CJJA Board of Directors for four years and served for two years (2012-14) as president. Mike was an active member of CJJA while he was director of Indiana DYS.

Mike holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Public Administration and Criminal Justice and has been actively involved with the American Correctional Association as a member and certified auditor. He mostly served as the President/COO of Youth Opportunity Investments and brings a unique experience and perspective in both the public and private sectors in the juvenile justice field.

Mike follows the first Executive Director Edward J. Loughran for CJJA, who founded the national organization of youth correction chief executive officers in 1994.

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Wendi Davis

Assistant Executive Director

Prior to joining the Council of Juvenile Justice Administrators, Wendi served as Deputy Director of the Division of Facility Support for the Ohio Department of Youth Services. She was responsible for security, classification, operations, unit management, treatment and programming within the DYS facilities. The division also included Medical Services and the Buckeye United School District.

Before this role, she served as the Bureau Chief of the Office of Quality Assurance and Improvement for the Ohio Department of Youth Services. She was responsible for agency quality assurance efforts to include policy, research, auditing, and process improvement.

In addition to this considerable responsibility, Wendi also had oversight of the agency’s Office of Information Technology Services which involved networking, telecommunications, desktop computing, application development, project management services, and unified communications such as email and calendaring. Serving as a trusted advisor, Wendi serves as a mentor to those who work under her leadership.

With over 23 years of experience in criminal and juvenile justice, Wendi has served on numerous national and statewide policy committees and councils. During her career, she has presented to various audiences on a wide range of criminal justice and juvenile justice topics. Her breadth and scope of the criminal justice and juvenile justice fields, specifically correctional administration, makes her not only a leader but also a subject matter expert.

Wendi received a Bachelor of Arts degree in Business Administration and a Master of Business Administration with a Leadership concentration from Franklin University.

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Natalie Walker


Prior to joining CJJA, Natalie spent over 20 years with the Indiana Department of Correction (IDOC). Natalie started her career with IDOC as a correctional officer. The last four years of her tenure was spent serving as Assistant Director for IDOC Division of Youth Services. In that role, she aided in overseeing operations, treatment and re-entry at Indiana DYS facilities. Natalie oversaw the implementation of evidence-based programming, monitored compliance with Division’s policies, and provided support to facility and agency heads. During her career, Natalie participated as a panelist for presentations regarding juvenile justice practices.

Natalie has experience with Performance-based Standards (PbS) as a Site Coordinator and State Coordinator. Indiana PbS sites consists of DYS facilities, three detention centers and one community-based program. Natalie supported the sites with the PbS cycle of data collection, reviewing reports and development of facility improvement plans.

Natalie holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in Psychology from DePauw University, Indiana.

Katie Penkoff

Katie Barclay Penkoff


Katie’s passion for working with youth and families who are system involved began nearly three decades ago when she participated in a service-learning internship matching university students in mentoring relationships with youth on parole. This opportunity allowed her to work alongside youth, families, and system stakeholders and to understand the many challenges youth faced as they reentered their home communities. Since that pivotal experience, she has served in a variety of capacities from providing direct services to coordinating training and technical assistance. Common threads throughout her career include assisting youth in transitioning from secure care to the community and engaging in interagency collaboration to reduce duplication and maximize outcomes.

In her previous role at the American Institutes for Research, Katie worked as part of several national training and technical assistance centers supported by the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention and the U.S. Department of Education. She served as Project Director for the Age of Criminal Responsibility Research Training and Technical Assistance Center, Deputy Director for the Center for Coordinated Assistance to States, and as a State Liaison for the National Technical Assistance Center for the Education of Neglected or Delinquent Children and Youth. Across all projects she supported, Katie connected stakeholders with the research, information, and resources they needed to make informed decisions about the justice and educational related policies and practices.

Katie holds a Bachelor of Arts in Sociology, a Master of Arts in Special Education with an Emphasis on Youth in the Juvenile Justice System, and an Interdisciplinary PhD within Special Education with a Concentration on Education, Disability and Juvenile Justice from Arizona State University.

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Kevin Shepherd


Kevin recently retired from the Ohio Department of Youth Services where he spent nearly 28 years serving in a variety of positions. He has worked for more than 30 years in the juvenile justice arena.

Most recently, Kevin served as the Bureau Chief of Unit Management where he oversaw nearly all interaction on the living units to include programming, youth incentives, youth discipline, visitation, recreation, property, sanitation, etc. Kevin previously served as the Deputy Director of Release, Parole, and Reentry, having responsibility for the Release Authority, Bureau of Parole, Office of Reentry, and Office of Victim Services. As the Chief of Parole, he was instrumental in reshaping the bureau to partner with other child-serving agencies and to function as an empirically driven, family-friendly entity.

Kevin has presented on numerous juvenile justice issues at national, state, and local levels. He has a tremendous passion to create, improve, and streamline juvenile justice efforts to do everything possible to ensure youth leave the system at a far better level than when they entered.

Kevin received a Bachelor of Arts degree from Kent State University, with a minor in Sociology.

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Diane McLevedge


Diane is CJJA’s controller and handles all areas of the organization’s financial operations. Diane has a bachelor’s degree in accounting from Newbury College and has worked in non-profit organizations for over 20 years.

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Stacy Browning


Stacy is responsible for assisting with program management, fiscal matters, marketing and development. She previously served as an executive assistant with the Ohio Department of Aging and recently retired from the State of Ohio after working in similar positions for more than three decades in the public sector.

Her tenure included working for three Ohio governors’ cabinet-level agencies specializing in the fields of youth services, aging, and transportation. Throughout her career, Stacy has worked as an assistant to agency directors and leaders in their daily roles, while also assuming leadership responsibilities for key projects, event planning, problem resolution, customer service, human resource, and office manager and business functions.

While at the Department of Aging, Stacy also served as a meeting and event planner for a variety of events, was an office manager for the 100-person agency, and represented the director to a variety of constituencies. While at the Ohio Department of Youth Services, Stacy assisted with a number of special programs, including the GED and High School Diploma programs, conducted audits for the school lunch programs at juvenile correctional facilities, and supervised the director’s office executive secretaries.

She began her state career working at Ohio Department of Transportation where she researched and assisted in investigation of allegations of theft in office, sexual harassment, misuse of state funds, computers and equipment for Investigative Section.

Stacy is a Summa Cum Laude graduate from the Ohio Christian University with both an Associate’s and Bachelor’s degree in Business Administration.


The Officers of the Council of Juvenile Justice Administrators (CJJA) govern
through the leadership of its executive director and serve as a consultative
and advisory body for the direction of the Council’s policies and affairs. The
contact information is presented below.

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Brett Peterson


Brett Peterson is the Director of Juvenile Justice and Youth Services. He is responsible for the operation and management of the continuum of care including early intervention, shelter, detention and long-term secure settings. As Director, Brett is committed to reducing the need for out-of-home placements, correlating the services provided with the leading research related to adolescent brain development and ongoing implementation of significant juvenile justice reforms.

Brett began his career with the Department of Human Services as an in-house Assistant Attorney General, where he worked with youth residential providers and staff to reduce silos and improve access to services. Following this role, Brett was the Director of the Office of Licensing, leading efforts to create an efficient and effective approach to health and safety monitoring, and to drive system wide solutions to achieve better results for youth and families.

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Christine Blessinger

Deputy Commissioner, Indiana Division of Youth Services

Christine Blessinger serves as the Deputy Commissioner for the Division of Youth Services. Chris oversees all areas of the juvenile division to include; operations, case management, programs and re-entry. Chris began her career working for the Department of Correction in 2000 as a Psychiatric Social Service Specialist III at the Pendleton Juvenile Correctional Facility. She served as a Program Director 2 and was promoted to Program Director 1 at Pendleton Juvenile Correctional Facility. Chris was then promoted to Program Director/Assistant Director of the Division in 2008. In that role, she was responsible for program implementation, Comprehensive Case Management and re-entry services before being promoted to the Chief Operations Director of the Division in 2014. Chris is a member of the Council of Juvenile Justice Administrators (CJJA) and a member of the American Correctional Association (ACA). Chris is also a certified PREA auditor for juvenile facilities. Prior to working in corrections, Chris held positions of Youth Care Worker, Youth Manager and Case Manager at the Henry County Youth Center. Chris holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Criminology from Indiana State University.


Felice Upton

Assistant Secretary, Washington Juvenile Rehabilitation

Felice brings more than 20 years of leadership experience and implementation of trauma-informed care to her role at DCYF. Prior to her appointment as Assistant Secretary of Juvenile Rehabilitation, Felice was superintendent of Echo Glen Children’s Center. She also brings experience from the Department of Corrections, where she served various roles over 15 years, from Community Corrections Officer to Associate Superintendent of Programs for the Washington Corrections Center for Women.

Felice is firmly committed to disrupting pathways to eventual adult incarceration and believes in service-oriented leadership and fostering a positive and supportive work environment. She currently serves on the Seattle University Department of Criminal Justice Advisory Board, is the board vice-chair for the University of Washington School of Social Work and Criminal Justice, and is an alum of Just Lead Washington.

Felice is also a University of Washington graduate, Husky fan, and proud mom.


Larome Myrick

Executive Director, Rhode Island Division of Youth Development

Larome Myrick is the Executive Director for the Rhode Island Department of Children, Youth and Families Division of Youth Development.  He began his career as direct-care staff and promoted to leadership positions in parole services and reentry at the Ohio Department of Youth Services. He holds a bachelor’s degree in healthcare administration and social sciences from the University of Toledo and master’s degree in organizational leadership from Lourdes College. Larome recently earned his PhD.