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.

Keegan Brown
Communications Coordinator

As a communications coordinator, Keegan specializes in new business development and strategic messaging for existing clients.

Throughout his career, Keegan has worked in institutional marketing for the nation’s largest independent RIA, coordinated debate preparation and public outreach on political campaigns, served as an investigator for the Iowa Attorney General’s Office – Consumer Protection Division, and assisted with research for the Center for American Progress’ “Middle-Out Economics” campaign.

Keegan graduated from the University of Utah with a BS in Economics and Political Science with an emphasis in Public Policy.

Jake Brus
Communications Advisor

When it comes to helping clients develop communication plans with compelling messages, Jake’s track record demonstrates that he knows how to share information effectively. Whether writing long-term strategic plans, handling crisis communication development or creating strategies and collateral, Jake works closely with clients to ensure their key messages are communicated accurately, clearly and consistently.

Jake brings a background in communication plan development and marketing for diverse clients that include multi-million-dollar corporations and nationally recognized nonprofits. He is experienced in writing, marketing and enterprise communication management.

Jake is a graduate of the University of Iowa and earned his master’s degree in public communication from the American University.

Cory Doss
Video Production

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
Communications Advisor & Trainer

As a Communications Advisor and Trainer, Andy brings more than two decades of broadcast television experience to the Wixted & Company team. Andy was honored as Iowa’s Best Sportscaster by the National Sports Media Association in 2014 and won two Midwest Regional Emmy awards during his 13 years at KCCI-TV (CBS) in Des Moines, Iowa. He was previously an award-winning sports anchor at KGAN-TV in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, and KEVN-TV in Rapid City, S.D.

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

Meredith Garman
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 Communications Advisor

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

With over 25 years of broadcast experience as a television news anchor, reporter and producer, Jeff understands every facet of news—including what makes news and how news is made. Comfortable on both sides of the camera, Jeff delivers realistic communication training, which helps participants develop highly effective communication skills.

During his years working for CBS and ABC affiliates in the Midwest, Jeff covered state and national events—including the World Series and the NCAA Basketball Tournament—and interviewed former California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, football great Walter Payton and baseball legend Bob Feller. Having experience in writing, producing and editing newscasts on a daily basis gives Jeff an intimate knowledge of the news media and how to best tailor messages for their audiences.

Jeff earned his bachelor’s degree in journalism and mass communication from Iowa State University with a minor in psychology. In 2010, Jeff was honored with a regional Emmy Award for his directing work with Mediacom Communications.

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.

Jordan Rose
Communications Advisor

As Communications Advisor, Jordan specializes in writing communications including, strategy, crisis communication, media relations, corporate communications, and more. From strategic communication writing to implementation, Jordan works closely with clients to ensure key messages are communicated effectively and reflect the organization’s brand and image.

Over the past decade, she has gained diverse communications experience in the fields of health care, manufacturing, agriculture and association management, bringing a unique outlook to the Wixted team.

A graduate of Central College, Jordan earned her bachelor of arts degree in English and minor in Spanish

Al Setka
Communications Advisor & Trainer

As a consultant and trainer with Wixted & Company, Al helps clients succeed on camera and off by utilizing more than three decades of experience in broadcast journalism, media relations and marketing.

His 20-year career in television and radio includes serving as news director at WHO-TV in Des Moines. Under Al’s leadership, WHO-TV ranked among the top-rated NBC affiliates nationwide, earned three Emmy Awards and was recognized six consecutive years as Iowa’s best television news department. His broadcast news experience also includes WHO-AM and radio stations in Omaha, Neb., North Dakota and Montana.

Al garnered extensive media relations experience as communications director for a world-class scientific research center and as the public relations director at a full-service marketing agency. He coordinated coverage from such notable media outlets as TIME magazine, National Public Radio, The New York Times and CNN’s Anderson Cooper 360.

Al is a military veteran who served six years in the U.S. Army including a four-year tour with Allied military intelligence in Berlin. He attended the University of Maryland-University College Europe and Brown College in Minneapolis.

Amy Smith
Communications Advisor

Amy Smith is a communication and public relations professional with nearly 25 years of experience in the field as a communication strategist, writer and graphic designer. Amy works with clients to ensure they have a thorough understanding of the communication options available to them based on their situation, and provides them with the strategy and deliverables tailored to meet their need and produce positive outcomes – no matter the issue.

Amy founded WordSmith Communications, a full-service communication solutions company, which she operated for more than a decade. In addition, Amy held communication and PR leadership positions at the U.S. Department of Agriculture in three states, as well as at several respected non-profit organizations and private businesses in the Des Moines community. Amy’s collective, diverse experience provides her clients with access to a multi-talented communications expert, skilled collaborator and trusted colleague who puts people first and gets results.

Amy graduated from Central College in Pella, Iowa with a BA in communications.

Katie Ward

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
Communications Advisor

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.