Arkansas Government Finance Officers Association Since 1978
Arkansas Government Finance Officers Association                                 Since 1978

45th Annual Conference - Speaker Bios

Thank you to our speakers for helping to communicate best practices and for sharing their experiences. We are so appreciative because we would be unable to provide quality CPE to our members without their dedicated time and effort.


                                                                                                         - AGFOA Board





Jared Polk


























Shawn Christian

Jared Polk, Commercial Payments Account Manager, AVP, APSC, has been in the Financial Services

Industry since 2004, working in Retail Banking, Branch Management, Bank Operations, and the Arvest Credit Card Division. Jared was with the Consumer Credit Card team within ACC before joining the Commercial Card team in 2018. Prior to transitioning to a Commercial Payments Account Manager, he

Specialized in automated payment solutions as an Epayables Onboarding Specialist.  In his current role, he works closely with our Fort Smith, Fayetteville, Siloam Springs, Springdale, and surrounding markets, to deliver Purchasing Card and Epayables products to our clients. Jared attended the University of Arkansas at Fort Smith, as well as Christian Life College (Stockton, CA), and is a 2009 graduate of Leadership Arvest. He completed the requirements to become a Licensed Minister with the WPF in

2012 and has also served as a Minister at the Sebastian County Juvenile Detention Center. He lives in Fort Smith, AR with his wife and three children.


Shawn F. Christian is a 30-year-plus-year banking professional who has worked in Operations, Compliance, Information Systems, Audit, Accounting, Investments, and Treasury Management.  Shawn currently manages the Treasury Management Commercial Team made up of Arvest Senior Treasury Management and International Advisors, and is based out of Bentonville AR.  Shawn has led various operations groups, sales, audit, and accounting teams as well as being the point for many large conceptual black box customer builds with Fortune 500’s domestically and for the Federal Government. Shawn holds his Certified Treasury Professional (CTP) designation and was formerly FINRA Series 7 & 63 licensed.  Shawn is the co-founder of the Privileged Status ATM Network, Past President of the Missouri Bankers Association Compliance Committee, and co-designer of the US Treasury Credit Gateway that aggregates data and reports on all US Treasury and US Agency Wire and ACH funds.


Michelle Allgood















John Bryant

Attorney Michele Allgood is a partner with Mitchell Williams Law Firm and splits her time between the Little Rock and Jonesboro offices. She focuses her practice on Municipal and Public Finance Law and has had the opportunity to assist state agencies, cities, counties, facility boards, and commissions throughout the state with municipal, capital improvement, and economic development projects.  Michele grew up in Paris, Arkansas. She earned her law degree from Vanderbilt School of Law and has a bachelor’s degree from Hendrix College. She lives in Sherwood, Arkansas with her husband and a rotating group of daughters, pets, and a son-in-law. 


Attorney John Bryant is a partner with Mitchell Williams Law Firm. He concentrates his practice in Municipal and Public Finance Law including taxable, tax-exempt, public, and private finance transactions. He represents bond issuers including cities, counties, state agencies, public facilities boards, volunteer fire departments and fire districts, water authorities and districts, improvement districts, public and private universities, public school districts, hospitals, and non-profit organizations across Arkansas, assisting with capital improvement projects. John earned his law degree from the University of Arkansas Little Rock William H. Bowen School of Law and holds a bachelor’s degree from the University of Arkansas.  John is a native of Carlisle, Arkansas, and currently lives in Beebe with his wife and two children.










State Legislative Updates

Caran Curry












Blake Gary

CARAN CURRY has been working with grants for over 40 years. She is an attorney and the former director of a state agency where she was the state administrator of several federal grants. She has lectured in over 30 states about grants and for many federal departments including the Department of Justice, Transportation, Health and Human Services, EPA, and National Endowment for the Arts. She is currently the Grants Attorney for the Arkansas Municipal League.


Blake Gary has been with the Arkansas Municipal League since October 2019. A native of Conway, Blake received his undergraduate degree in political science from Harding University and his J.D. from the UA Little Rock William H. Bowen School of Law. Gary found his passion for working on local government policy and drafting and testifying on bills before the Arkansas Legislature while clerking at the Association of Arkansas Counties throughout law school. At the League, he focuses on statewide issues that affect every city and town and provides legal assistance to all of the League’s programs.


Accounting Presentation & GASB Updates

Kyle Elmore
















Katie Flores


















Becca Kiser

Kyle Elmore, CPA: Kyle is a member of the Public Sector Practice at FORVIS in the Little Rock office. He has more than 13 years of accounting and audit experience at FORVIS/BKD, working primarily in the governmental and nonprofit sectors with entities that receive federal assistance. He has engagement oversight and review responsibilities for numerous governmental and nonprofit organizations subject to Single Audit in accordance with Uniform Guidance. He is a member of the AICPA, Arkansas Society of Certified Public Accountants, and GFOA. He is a graduate of the University of Arkansas, Fayetteville, with a B.S. degree in finance and an M.B.A. degree.


Katie Flores, CPA: Katie has more than five years of experience providing audit services to governmental and nonprofit organizations, including Single Audits. She manages a variety of governmental and nonprofit audit engagements, including municipalities and their component units, utilities, and other service-related entities that receive federal and state assistance. She started her career in FORVIS’ Dallas office, joining the assurance staff immediately after graduating from college, and is a member of the Public Sector Practice. She now is a part of the FORVIS Rogers office and serves numerous municipalities across the state. Katie is a graduate of the University of Central Arkansas, Conway, with a B.B.A. degree in accounting and business administration.


Becca Kiser, CPA: Becca has more than five years of experience providing audit services to governmental and nonprofit organizations, including Single Audits. She has managed a variety of governmental and nonprofit engagements, including municipalities and their component units, and utilities. Currently, she is a practice fellow with the Governmental Accounting Standards Board (GASB) working on a variety of standard-setting projects. She is a member of the AICPA, Arkansas Society of Certified Public Accountants, and GFOA. She is a graduate of Harding University with a B.S. degree in Accounting.

Ask a Director

Joy Black













Tyler Winningham

JOY BLACK has been a member of AGFOA and GFOA since 2007 when she moved back to Arkansas from Texas. In Texas, she graduated from the University of Texas in Austin and received her CPA. She went to work in public accounting/audit for Deloitte. When she moved back to Arkansas she became the Accounting/Purchasing Manager for the City of Hot Springs. In 2014 she accepted the position of Director of Finance for the City of Bryant. She continues in that position today. She also has a husband named Edward, a four-year-old named Camber, and a cat named Bullet.


Tyler Winningham has been the Chief Financial Officer for the City of Conway since 2011.  He graduated from the University of Central Arkansas in 2003 with a bachelor’s in business administration, majoring in Accounting.  He worked for Lindsey & Company in Searcy for 1 ½ years as an Accountant, where he completed monthly and annual accounting duties for approximately 20 housing authorities across the country.  In 2005 he accepted a job with the City of Maumelle as an Accountant and was quickly appointed the Finance Director in January of 2006 after the previous Director left.  He worked there until September of 2011 when he was hired to become the CFO in Conway. 


Leigh Ann Biernat

LEIGH ANN BIERNAT, CPA, Senior Vice President, Public Finance, Stephens, Inc. - Ms. Biernat has worked in public finance and with municipal bonds for almost 25 years. Since joining Stephens in 2015 as a Senior Vice President, she has managed and structured numerous tax-exempt and taxable financings for a variety of issuers, including the State of Arkansas, municipalities, utilities, and higher education institutions. Notably, she initiated the State of Arkansas’s first “cross-over refunding” of Build America Bonds and enjoys working with issuers to develop unique financing transactions to maximize their objectives.


Ms. Biernat came to Stephens after spending more than 15 years working as a bond issuer and as senior management in both state and local government. While serving as Vice President for Finance and Administration at the Arkansas Development Finance Authority, she led the agency’s efforts to be the first statewide issuer to enter the municipal bond market with single family housing bonds after Congress permanently eliminated the alternative minimum tax designation on qualified mortgage revenue bonds in 2008. This action led to the State of Arkansas reducing their overall interest cost when compared to other states. Moreover, she guided the financing team in successfully developing an interim financing tool for the single-family “first-time home buyer” program. This financing mechanism resulted in Arkansas receiving a national award for program excellence from the National Council of State Housing Agencies. Ms. Biernat is a Certified Public Accountant licensed in Arkansas. She is also a member of the Arkansas State Chamber of Commerce Leadership Program, Class IX, serves as Board Treasurer for the Rotary Club of Little Rock (Club 99), and holds various municipal securities licenses.


Mental Health in the Workplace

Allison Atkinson

Allison Atkinson Niadj is an LCSW and Certified Employee Assistance Professional (CEAP) with a decade of experience in psychology and social work.  Allison has a passion for organizational development and employee mental health fueled by her experience working in Employee Assistance Programs.  She has provided direct services like individual and family counseling and coaching, and organizational services like leadership consultation, supervisor coaching, employee training, and department evaluations, working with businesses across all industries around the state.  In addition to her work with EAP’s she has been an adjunct instructor and field mentor for the UALR School of Social Work and has had the pleasure of serving her community in her volunteer capacity as President of the UAMS Medical Center Auxiliary Board as well as serving as a volunteer for the ARPG Council Board.  Allison is a native Arkansan, raised in Pine Bluff, she completed her education and began her career in Little Rock and now lives in Northwest Arkansas with her husband and their two rescue puppies.

Local Government Sales & use Taxes

Patti Gilliland

Patti Gilliland graduated with a BSBA in Accounting from Missouri Southern State University in Joplin, Missouri. She has completed 27 years of service with the Arkansas Department of Finance & Administration, Revenue Division – Office of Field Audit, Northwest Audit District where she has audited or supervised the audits of over 50 different tax types.  She began her career as a Tax Auditor Trainee and advanced to Tax Auditor I, Tax Auditor II and was promoted to Tax Auditor Supervisor in September 2000.  She has served as the Manager of the Northwest Audit District since 2019.

5 Super Powers to be Extraordinary

Jean Briese

Motivational Speaker for Phoenix, Arizona

As a native of Phoenix, Arizona, Jean Briese has an affinity for the desert. As she lived and loved in the Sonoran Desert of Phoenix, Jean knew what it was like for her early life to be sparse and dry. Little did Jean know, she would soon experience a life-changing grace. As a young teen, she and her three younger siblings were abandoned by their mother two weeks before Christmas.

Bloom in the Desert with Jean

As with much of our beautiful world, lush and green, Jean went on to build an abundant career in sales and as a leadership speaker despite being homeless and with nothing, but a high school education under her belt. Working her way to make the impossible possible, she created and led award-winning sales teams at one of Fortune’s Top Ten Companies. She also became a motivational speaker in Phoenix and coached countless individuals as an event keynote speaker. As a performance speaker, she helped many become their best selves, redefined great teams, and shattered the supposed limits on success.


As a leadership speaker, Jean has proven that the desert blooms in the most unlikely of places. Being a motivational speaker in Phoenix allowed Jean to show others how they, too, can bloom in the desert — whether through a rock or parched, barren ground, life breaks through and delivers a stunning show of strength as the seedling blooms wherever it finds itself planted.

Finding Fertile Ground

Whether you’re on fertile soil or parched desert ground, if you’re ready to shatter the status quo and redefine greatness, Jean can help you break your limits and achieve the impossible. Contact Jean at 602-625-6071 or to unleash the power in yourself and your team.


911 Board Updates

C.J. Engel

C.J. ENGEL is a native of Saline County, Arkansas, and joins the Arkansas 911 Board as Executive Director. From 2015-2019, C.J. served in progressing roles within Saline County Emergency Management and Emergency Communications. As Director of three years, he was responsible for the county’s 911 Operations, 911 Administration, as well as the Emergency Management Program, and Fire Services. In 2019, he joined Southwest Airlines in Dallas, Texas as Senior Analyst, Preparedness & Business Continuity where he managed several large projects including the growth of the company’s Remote Operations Center and remote work capabilities for nearly 2,000 call center employees due to COVID-19.


C.J. served on the Arkansas 911 Strategic Planning Committee which began in November 2017, and has been an active member of numerous public safety organizations including the National Emergency Number Association (NENA), Association of Public Safety Communications Officials (APCO) where he previously served as the Regional Coordinator for Central Arkansas, Arkansas Emergency Management Association (AEMA) and International Association of Emergency Managers (IAEM).


C.J. holds a BS in Emergency Management and Administration from Arkansas Tech University, a MS in Operations Management from the University of Arkansas, and CEM (Certified Emergency Manager) through the International Association of Emergency Managers (IAEM).


Government I.T. Security

Brad Fulmer

Brad Fulmer is a native of the Searcy Arkansas area but has made his home in the area after graduating from the University of Arkansas. Brad Fulmer started at the City in 2003 as an IT Technician, after a brief stint with PAM Trucking, and has worked in almost every job in the IT department. Brad is currently the Assistant Director of Information Technology and is the chief technical staff member in the City. Brad is well-versed in every aspect of technology from server administration, networking, software support, desktop support, and cyber security. Brad is very active in volunteering with his kid's sports and is a licensed firework professional. If you live in NWA there is a chance you have watched one of his fireworks shows!



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