This summer has been a time of transformation for the U.S. AbilityOne Commission®, as several veteran leaders retired and staff members stepped up to carry the torch while the Commission conducts searches for permanent replacements. The AbilityOne Commission administers the AbilityOne® Program, one of the nation’s largest employment resources for people who are blind or have significant disabilities. People working in AbilityOne authorized agencies provide SKILCRAFT® products and professional services to federal and military customers while building rewarding careers.
In addition to staff changes, there have been changes to the presidential appointees serving on the Commission. On August 13, the White House announced President Biden had appointed four new private sector members to the AbilityOne Commission, including Bryan Bashin, CEO of NIB associated nonprofit agency LightHouse for the Blind and Visually Impaired in San Francisco.
Also appointed to the AbilityOne Commission were Christina Brandt, CEO of SourceAmerica associated agency AtWork!; noted disability rights advocate Chai Feldblum, who was the lead attorney on the team drafting the Americans with Disabilities Act; and policy expert Gabe Cazares, who is blind and serves as director of the Mayor’s Office for People with Disabilities for the City of Houston, Texas.
Past Commission presidents Jim Kesteloot and Robert Kelly left the AbilityOne Commission, each having provided more than 10 years of distinguished service to people who are blind or have significant disabilities.
Earlier in August, the AbilityOne Commission announced Kimberly M. Zeich will serve as acting executive director following the retirement of Executive Director Tina Ballard on July 31, 2021. Ballard led the staff at the independent federal agency, which is responsible for directing and managing the AbilityOne® Program, since March 2008.
Zeich, who previously served as the Commission’s deputy executive director, has more than 25 years of Commission experience in a range of staff roles including director, program operations; and director, business development. She holds a master’s degree in national resource strategy from the Dwight D. Eisenhower School at National Defense University; an MBA from the University of Maryland Global Campus; and graduated summa cum laude from the College of Journalism at the University of Maryland College Park.
Stefania Pozzi Porter, former deputy inspector general in the AbilityOne Commission Office of Inspector General (OIG), was designated acting inspector general in July following the departure of the Commission’s first permanent inspector general, Thomas K. Lehrich, who was appointed in May 2017. The Office of Inspector General is responsible for conducting audits and investigations, and recommending policies and procedures that promote economy, efficiency, and effectiveness of agency resources and programs, among other activities.
Porter held leadership positions in the AbilityOne Commission Office of Inspector General since joining the Commission in 2017. Her responsibilities in her previous roles as general counsel and deputy inspector general included enhancing management of OIG business units and developing and overseeing the OIG operations of audit and investigations.