Leadership

Kansas Department of Commerce

Governor Laura Kelly

Laura Kelly is the 48th Governor of Kansas. She has made it her life’s mission to fight for Kansas children and families on the job, in her community, as a four-term state senator and as governor.

Kelly has prioritized fully funding public schools, expanding affordable healthcare, reforming the child welfare system and growing the Kansas economy – especially in rural communities – as Governor.

Kelly is ready to bring people together and lead Kansas into the next chapter.

Lieutenant Governor/Secretary of Commerce David Toland

David Toland is the 52nd Lieutenant Governor of the State of Kansas and also serves as Secretary of the Kansas Department of Commerce.  A seventh-generation Kansan, Toland was appointed Secretary of Commerce by Governor Laura Kelly in January 2019 and Lieutenant Governor in January 2021. 

As Secretary of Commerce, Toland has overseen sweeping changes within the state’s lead economic development agency. Under his leadership, the Department has rebuilt its in-state, domestic and international business recruitment teams; launched the state’s Office of Broadband Development; re-established a Community Development division and the Kansas Main Street Program; and launched the state’s first new economic development strategic planning process since 1986. Toland and his team have been at the forefront of Governor Kelly’s efforts to support the state’s economic recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic, providing technical and financial assistance to thousands of small businesses. He also led negotiations on behalf of Governor Kelly that resulted in the end of the incentives “Border War” that raged between Kansas and Missouri for a decade. These efforts have resulted in over $2.5 billion in new capital investment by businesses in Kansas in 2020, an increase of nearly 80% over the previous year and the highest in state history. 

Prior to joining the team at Commerce, Secretary Toland was the first CEO of Thrive Allen County, a nonprofit coalition that works to improve quality of life and economic conditions in Allen County, Kansas. A seventh-generation Allen Countian, Toland oversaw the organization in its efforts toward improving economic conditions, healthcare access, and quality of life in the small, rural Kansas county.

Prior to his return to his hometown to lead Thrive Allen County, Toland worked as an appointee of Washington, D.C. Mayor Anthony A. Williams, holding key leadership positions in the D.C. economic development and planning offices.  He holds both Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees from the University of Kansas.   

Toland and his wife, Beth, an Early Childhood Education Specialist at Allen Community College, were married in 2001 and have two children.

Paul Hughes

Deputy Secretary for Business Development

Paul Hughes is the Deputy Secretary for Business Development. In this role, Paul directs efforts to drive the growth of existing businesses in Kansas and recruit new businesses into the state, with oversight of the Business, Community and International development divisions at the Department of Commerce. 

Paul previously served as the Executive Vice President at the Arizona Commerce Authority and oversaw Arizona’s business development team including workforce development, business attraction, international trade, and rural markets. Paul also has experience in the start-up world having developed a seed-company into a high-growth, publicly traded company.  He holds an MBA from Arizona State University and an Entrepreneurial Development Program certificate from Massachusetts Institute of Technology Sloan School of Management. He also is a veteran of the U.S. Marine Corps.

Trisha Purdon

Director, Office of Rural Prosperity

Trisha joined Commerce in 2021 as the Director of the Office of Rural Prosperity. Trisha previously held rural economic developer leadership roles in both city and county-levels for over a decade.

She earned a bachelor’s degree in Social Welfare, focusing on public policy, from the University of Kansas (KU). She also earned a master’s degree in Public Administration from KU, concentrating on local government management as a part of the Kansas University City Managers and Trainees Alumni Organization program.  A native of Kansas, she grew up in the small town of Kiowa.

Rachel Willis

Director of Legislative Affairs

Rachel Willis earned a Bachelor of Arts degree from Washburn University, majoring in Political Science with a minor in Communications. She also received a master’s degree in Public Administration with a focus in non-profit leadership from the University of Kansas. Rachel has over a decade of experience in educational nonprofit management and most recently was a lobbyist advocating for a variety of interests at small public affairs firm in Topeka.  

Patrick Lowry

Director of Marketing and Communications

Patrick Lowry joined the Department of Commerce team in June 2022. He helps promote the best Kansas has to offer with the purpose of enticing new businesses into the state and retaining existing businesses.

A long-time newspaper editor and publisher, Lowry also has led marketing/communications efforts at the Kansas Health Institute and the Community Care Network of Kansas. He earned his bachelor’s in Journalism and Political Science from Indiana University and an Executive MBA from Benedictine College.

Ryan Wills

Special Assistant to Lieutenant Governor Toland

Ryan Wills is the Special Assistant to the Lieutenant Governor and Secretary of Commerce, David Toland. Wills previously served as the Manager of Constituent Services and Hospitality Industry Liaison for the Kansas Department of Commerce. He was also a project coordinator on the Back to Business Team where he helped with the administration of Small Business Working Capital Grants. Previous to Commerce, Wills held various management roles within the hospitality, restaurant, and music industries.

Leisa Shepherd

Executive Assistant to Lieutenant Governor/Secretary of Commerce David Toland

Kayla Savage

Director, Community Development Division

Kayla Savage is Director of the Community Development Division at the Kansas Department of Commerce. She provides direction for the following Community Development programs: Kansas Main Street, Kansas Creative Arts Industries Commission, Rural Opportunity Zones, Kansas Angels, Community Service Tax Credits and Community Development Block Grants. She represents Commerce on the Kansas Water Authority and Kansas State Fair Board.

Before coming to Commerce, Kayla spent 14 years in nonprofit management and community development. She earned her BFA in Communications-Public Relations from Emporia State University and Master of Science in Community Development from Kansas State University.

Abby Works

Chief of Staff Lieutenant Governor/Secretary of Commerce David Toland

Works earned a Bachelor of Science in Agriculture from Kansas State University, majoring in Food Science and Industry with a minor in Business Administration. She also received a master’s degree in Advanced European and International Studies from Centre International de Formation Européenne. Prior to beginning work at the Department of Commerce, Works was an Agribusiness Development Coordinator at the Kansas Department of Agriculture.

Jim Haugh

Chief Information Officer

Jim Haugh joined Commerce in December of 2016 as the Chief Information Officer. Prior to Commerce, Haugh was a Cloud Services Architect for the State of Kansas.

Haugh spent more than seven years at the Kansas Department of Transportation beginning as a System Software Analyst and leaving KDOT as the Enterprise Platform Support Supervisor. In 1992, Haugh earned his B.S. in Computer Information Systems from Missouri Western University.

Trent Armbrust

Chief Strategy Officer

Trent Armbrust joined Commerce following seven years in Economic Development for the Manhattan Area Chamber of Commerce. Armbrust is leading efforts to develop the Kansas Framework for Growth, the first comprehensive economic development plan for the state since the Redwood-Krider Report in 1986. 

An active member of several economic development, bioscience and community organizations, Armbrust earned his bachelor’s degree in Biology and master’s degree in Plant Physiology from Kansas State University and is a graduate from the Economic Development Institute at the University of Oklahoma.

Jeff Willis

International Division Director

Jeff Willis serves as the Director of the International Division for the Kansas Department of Commerce. As director, Willis is leading efforts to grow Kansas exports and attract more foreign direct investment into Kansas.

Willis is a former commercial officer with the U.S. Commercial Service and held positions at the U.S. Embassies in Kuala Lumpur and Beijing as well as the U.S. Consulate in Shanghai. He left the diplomatic service in 1992 to return to the U.S. where he directed the Asian international marketing program for the State of Kansas. In addition to public service, Willis has a wide array of private sector experience, especially as it relates to strategic planning, partner selection, problem resolution and many other aspects of Asia-related business. Willis is a current and long-standing member of the Kansas International Trade Coordinating Council, a past president of the International Trade Council of Greater Kansas City and past Chair of the U.S. Department of Commerce Mid-America District Export Council.

Willis graduated from the University of Kansas with bachelor’s degrees in both French and philosophy and also earned his Master of Arts in East Asian languages and cultures from KU.

Bob North

Chief Counsel

Bob North serves as Chief Counsel for the Kansas Department of Commerce. Bob is responsible for Commerce operations and has served as Chief Counsel for Commerce since 2004. He has extensive experience in public financing, bond-funded economic development programs and other economic development incentives. Prior to joining Commerce, he was in private practice.

Sherry Rentfro

Chief Fiscal Officer

Sherry Rentfro joined Commerce in June of 2014 as Fiscal Analyst and became the Chief Fiscal Officer in February 2018.

Prior to Commerce, she worked for over 10 years managing the accounting and finances of a non-profit association that serves the telecommunications industry in Kansas. She earned a BBA in Finance from Washburn University and MBA from Baker University.

Bridgette Jobe

Director

Bridgette Jobe is the Director of the Kansas Tourism Division at the Kansas Department of Commerce where she leads a dedicated staff of tourism professionals whose mission is to inspire travel to and throughout Kansas. As Director, she oversees the state’s marketing to visitors, the publication of KANSAS! Magazine, the Kansas Agritourism program, and the Kansas Byways program. 

Bridgette joined Kansas Tourism in 2019.  Previously, she spent over twenty-one years with the Kansas City Kansas Convention & Visitors Bureau. She is a past president of the Travel Industry Association of Kansas and served as chairman of the Kansas Governor’s Council on Travel and Tourism.  Bridgette is a life-long Kansan and an Original Dotte. 

Mike Beene

Employment Services Director

Mike Beene currently serves as the Director of Employment Services for the Kansas Department of Commerce, Workforce Services. Beene started with the agency in January 2007 as a Regional Director in Southeast Kansas (Workforce Services Division). His duties include oversight of all federal workforce programs and grants, in addition to the 23 workforce centers located across the state.

Beene received a Master’s degree in Education from Kansas State University. Prior to his career with the Department of Commerce, he was an educator and administrator in both secondary and postsecondary institutions in Kansas.

Sandy Brown

Director of Human Resources

Sandy Brown joined the Department of Commerce in 2004 as a Human Resource Professional.

Before joining Kansas Commerce, she served as a Human Resource Professional with Kansas Department of Human Resources. Previously, she served as JTPA Case Manager in Emporia. She studied business at Wichita State University.