Meet Our Team

Wixted & Company’s communication professionals are all familiar with the media – as Emmy Award-winning television reporters and anchors, newsroom journalists and longtime public relations professionals. We know how the media think, and as importantly, we also have a clear understanding of how communication decisions translate in the court of public opinion. We work to prepare executives, leaders and spokespersons to respond and communicate quickly and effectively in a crisis, and to handle the toughest communication situations with clarity and confidence. We collaborate with leadership to develop strategic communication plans that outline clear and consistent messaging, drive positive business outcomes, and protect your brand and reputation.

Eileen Wixted

As the principal of Wixted & Company—and a founding partner of Wixted Pope Nora Thompson & Associates (WPNT)—Eileen is a nationally recognized expert in strategic communication and crisis management. She actively helps clients effectively manage potentially brand-damaging issues and prepares them to face media interviews, shareholder meetings, presentations and government investigations.

With more than two decades of experience, Eileen has a keen understanding of issues affecting the nuclear, health care, energy and manufacturing industries. In fact, over 50 percent of commercially owned and operated nuclear power plants in North America and several hundred of the nation’s hospitals depend on Eileen for expert counsel, media support, training and drills.

Eileen is a native of Brooklyn, New York. After graduating from Michigan State University with a mass communications degree, she spent a decade as a broadcast journalist and anchor, during which time she received an Emmy Award and her health segments were nationally syndicated. Eileen authored Media Guide to Radiological Issues and was named the 2016 Women Business Owner of the Year. She also served as interim senior vice president of communications and government affairs for Advocate Health Care, Illinois’ largest health care system; and was guest speaker for the Executive Education Programs at Center for Homeland Defense and Security, Naval Postgraduate School.

Kristie Bell
Senior Communication Advisor

With decades of diverse corporate communications and public relations experience in agriculture, retail and financial services, Kristie has spent her career helping companies engage authentically with their stakeholders.

A trusted advisor, Kristie is skilled in issues management and crisis communications, executive and internal communications, message development and philanthropic communications. Using her expertise and ability to connect with people, she helps clients with their communications planning and development needs using a results-driven, collaborative approach.

Looking to her diverse experiences working on world-class corporate communications teams, Kristie believes in the power of effective communications to help companies achieve business goals, boost customer and employee engagement and, when needed, protect reputations. 

Kristie graduated from Iowa State University with a bachelor’s degree in journalism and mass communication, with a minor in sociology.

Jake Brus
Managing Director

For over a decade, Jake has helped Wixted & Company and its clients use communication to build understanding, create trust and drive action. As Managing Director, Jake oversees day-to-day operations at the agency, working with teams to manage clients, timelines and workflows in line with Wixted’s proven processes. He is also responsible for business development and managing new client onboarding. For clients, Jake provides strategic communications counsel and long-range plans, as well as managing issues and crisis communications.     

Jake brings a background in communication strategy, plan development and marketing for diverse clients that include billion-dollar corporations and nationally-recognized nonprofits. He particularly enjoys writing, and using communication to solve problems and manage opportunities.

Jake holds a master’s degree in Public Communication from the American University, and bachelor’s degree from the University of Iowa.

Anthony Caligiuri
Senior Communication Associate

With a strong background in production and technical direction, Anthony has the ability to effectively collaborate with clients to create and deliver memorable, results-driven video and media projects. Awarded the 2019 College News Anchor of the Year by the Iowa Broadcast News Association, Anthony also knows what it’s like to be in front of the camera and what it takes to deliver compelling stories.

Adept in social media marketing, he understands the importance of conveying the right message to the right audience on the right platform.

Prior experience at the University of Iowa, Iowa Public Television and Walt Disney World, gives Anthony a keen insight into effective communication while also delivering exceptional customer service.

Anthony is a graduate of the University of Iowa with a bachelor’s degree in communication studies.

Ryan Curell
Senior Communication Advisor

Ryan brings more than 10 years of retail, consumer public relations, issues management and corporate communications expertise to Wixted and Company. With prior experience at Walmart and Sprint, he has led communications efforts on many public relations and product campaigns.

As Communications Advisor, Ryan helps clients with messaging development and training, strategic communication and media relations. An enthusiastic and collaborative partner, he connects people to missions, ideas and values across all media formats.

Ryan graduated from Iowa State University with a bachelor’s degree in journalism and communication.


Cory Doss
Director of Video Services

With nearly 20 years of experience, Cory brings enthusiasm and expertise to his craft. Driven by the desire to motivate and inspire others through sight and sound, Cory combines technical aptitude with creativity – resulting in attention grabbing productions that emotionally connect to targeted audiences.

During his career, Cory has served in nearly every production role imaginable. Working from the ground up has allowed him to understand how the process works – from managing snacks and soda, to producing and directing large budget television commercials. His producing, directing and writing have gathered regional and national level awards, including projects for Joe DiMaggio Children’s Hospital, Animal Humane Society and Upper Iowa University

Cory proudly served as a broadcast journalist in the U.S. Army, receiving the Humanitarian Service Medal for his efforts in the Great Flood of 1993.

Lauri Freking
Senior Trainer

Lauri combines her wealth of training experience with her journalism background to provide fresh perspectives and customized training for executives in the energy, electric utility, manufacturing, healthcare and retail industries.

A native of Bancroft, Iowa, Lauri has 11 years of experience in television news and video production in the public and private sectors. She spent five years as a television news reporter, photographer and video editor for the NBC affiliate in Sioux City, Iowa, and the CBS affiliate in Madison, Wisconsin, where she ran the station’s news bureau. As a general assignment reporter, Lauri covered a broad range of news events ranging from human interest stories to crime and business news.

During her six years as a producer and writer for Iowa Public Television, Lauri created award-winning educational content for K—12 schools and produced content for the local programs, Student Voices and Zoom Iowa. She also produced and hosted live, interactive field trips using video conferencing technology. A familiar face to Iowans, Lauri is a past host for Festival, IPTV’s fundraising broadcast.

Lauri earned her bachelor’s degree in journalism and mass communications from Iowa State University.

Andy Garman
Communication Advisor & Trainer

As a Communications Advisor and Trainer, Andy Garman brings more than two decades of broadcasting, management and social media experience to the Wixted & Company team. He has a wealth of knowledge about the inner workings of newsrooms today to share at media trainings and strategy sessions, including tips on improving your presentation skills, using social media to your advantage, and finding ways for your story to cut through the clutter and be noticed.

Andy has a relaxed, engaging style of delivery that drew in viewers and listeners. Newsroom colleagues would often marvel at his ability to report stories and call highlights without any notes or scripts.

 He has been honored as Iowa’s Best Sportscaster by the National Sports Media Association (2014), awarded two Midwest Regional Emmy Awards, and earned Iowa AP best sportscast and best sports special awards six times. His broadcast experience includes television (13 years as the Sports Director/Main Sports Anchor at KCCI-TV (Des Moines, IA), six years in the same role at KGAN-TV (Cedar Rapids, IA) and 18 months at KEVN-TV (Rapid City, SD)) and radio (five years as a co-host on 1700 The Champ in Des Moines).

Andy is a graduate of the University of Iowa, where he earned his bachelor’s degree in communication studies.


Meredith Garman
Senior Media Relations Advisor

As a media relations advisor, Meredith helps clients get the media exposure that best suits their business goals. Being in a newsroom for 12 years, Meredith knows the best ways to get your story told. A former reporter, anchor, and director at KCCI in Des Moines, Meredith knows how the media works – both in front of and behind the camera. As a news anchor and reporter, Meredith covered breaking news as well as features, which allowed her to learn and execute many different approaches to telling personal stories. As a newscast director, Meredith has earned three best newscast Emmy awards. She also gained valuable communications experience with a Public Relations firm in Chicago, Illinois.

Meredith graduated from the University of Iowa with a bachelor’s degree in Journalism and Mass Communications.

Tamera Hanson
Senior Director

Tamera brings more than 25 years of communication experience as a writer, marketer and public relations specialist to Wixted & Company clients, for whom she creates and often executes results-driven communication materials and presentations. These range from company announcements to media relations plans that generate press coverage.

In addition to spending more than a decade as a corporate marketing director, Tamera has led a variety of organizations in the areas of branding, graphic design, advertising, media relations, copywriting, event management, web development and strategic marketing planning.

Tamera’s experience also crosses a range of industries including hospitality, real estate, industrial technology, construction, retail and publishing. She is a graduate of Iowa State University and the University of California, Los Angeles.

Jeff Johnson

For the past two decades, Jeff Johnson has worked with Wixted & Company clients across the country, helping leaders develop the crucial communication skills demanded in today’s business environment. Jeff brings the unique ability to be at home both in front of and behind the camera to Wixted clients.

Jeff is a former television reporter and anchor for CBS and ABC affiliates in the Midwest. In those roles, Jeff covered state and national events, including the World Series and the NCAA Basketball Tournament. Having written, produced and edited newscasts daily, Jeff knows the challenges facing today’s media, and how your message can best be delivered to its targeted audience.

Behind the camera, Jeff is an experienced producer and award-winning director, who has been honored with a regional Emmy award for his directing work with Mediacom Communications.

Jeff earned his Bachelor of Arts degree in Journalism and Mass Communication from Iowa State University.



Jill Johnson
Senior Communication Advisor

With more than 30 years of experience in communications, marketing, brand development and client service, Jill understands how to create and deliver messages that are strategic and on-point. In her role as Communications Advisor, she assists clients with the development of internal and external messaging.

 At the heart of any productive client relationship is the ability to listen. Jill’s background in market research prepared her to ask questions that deliver answers necessary to guide the path forward. She also has in-depth experience in marketing and communication, including work for higher education and non-profit organizations.

 Jill earned her Bachelor of Arts degree from Simpson College in Communications and Public Relations.

Jordan Miller
Communication Advisor

Jordan is a strong and empathetic communicator, with more than 5 years of experience collaborating with organizations to help build and share their stories and mission. Given his extensive background in training, sales and communication, he understands the importance of active listening to better integrate himself within each organization to create an impactful message that resonates with both internal and external stakeholders. 

Throughout his career, Jordan had the opportunity to partner with numerous Fortune 500 companies in a wide variety of industries, including but limited to; financial services, retail, automotive, travel, and gaming. He's managed to create effective and meaningful communications to showcase products, regulation changes, and training needs/purposes. Jordan emphasizes in relationship management as he believes trust is the necessary glue to every successful partnership.

Jordan is a graduate of the University of Northern Iowa with a bachelor’s degree in communication studies and later earned his master’s degree in business administration from Midland University.

Crystal Peters
Office & Training Program Manager

Crystal is the key coordinator for all Wixted & Company training programs. She supports clients and team members through the production of pre-training and training materials, oversight of training logistics and organization of schedules. Crystal also handles Wixted & Company’s account management and office coordination—and everything in between.

Prior to joining Wixted & Company, Crystal was the Director of Business Relations & Marketing for the Iowa Hospital Association where she managed sponsorships and trade shows and served as the liaison to Associate Members and other external constituencies.

Crystal graduated from Iowa State University with a degree in Child and Family Services.

Erika Schrader
Senior Communication Advisor

Erika is a lively and empathetic communicator, with more than 10 years of experience helping companies tell their stories in strategic, meaningful ways. She takes her role as a client partner very seriously, and relationship-building is at the heart of Erika’s work.  

Over the course of her career, Erika has garnered public relations, media relations, digital marketing and content strategy experience across multiple industries, including financial services, real estate, agriculture, manufacturing and insurance. Her favorite part of her job is helping clients make their communications goals a reality, and seeing the positive impact it makes on their audiences. 

Originally from Milwaukee, Wisconsin, Erika graduated from Drake University with dual bachelor’s degrees in Mass Communication and History and has been proud to call Des Moines home ever since.

Katie Ward
Communication Advisor & Trainer

Katie knows today’s ever-changing media landscape from the inside out. She’s done just about every job in a newsroom including photojournalist, editor, reporter, online news writer and anchor. She began her career as a reporter and weekend anchor at KOMU-TV in Columbia, Missouri; was recognized in 2004 as a top journalist at the Hearst National Broadcast Championship in San Francisco, California; and received an Emmy nomination for her work as a breaking news reporter at KCCI. Her expertise and commitment to excellence help our clients prepare for high stake interviews, meetings and presentations.

Mark Yontz

With more than 25 years of professional experience, Mark has worked in a variety of communications and marketing-related positions during his career, including roles in the senior living, agriculture, manufacturing, insurance, health and wellness, and travel/tourism industries.  He has also done consulting work for clients on matters related to public relations, media relations, marketing communications, strategic communications, government affairs, and more.

Mark also offers an extensive background as a freelance writer.  Besides experience developing content for annual reports, white papers, brochures, and other marketing collateral, he has written more than 600 articles for a variety of local, statewide, regional, and national publications.  For example, his work has appeared in Family Living, The Spokesman, Teach & Travel, Groups Today, Service Truck Magazine, Farm Futures, Farm Industry News, Corridor Business Journal, dsm, Iowa History Journal, AAA Home & Away, Michigan Living, Cosmopolitan Home – Grand Rapids, and many more.  Additionally, he has ghostwritten three books and also served as an editor on three other business books.

An Iowa native, Mark has a B.A. degree in Radio-TV Communications – Business from the University of Northern Iowa.