Meet The Team

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The New Growth team is comprised of staff and West Central Missouri Community Action Agency associates, as well as leaders from partner organizations across the region.

Staff and Associates

Kelly Ast

Genuine Living Director, West Central Missouri Community Action Agency

JOURNEY: Kelly comes to New Growth after leading the drive for innovation in rural living and health care at the Vernon County-based Healthy Nevada initiative. Achievements include a Prescription Drugs Monitoring Program in Vernon County, the Seeds of Faith gleaning project, a new multi-use farmers’ market facility, and local beef in local schools with the MO Beef MO Kids initiative.

WHY NEW GROWTH: Through the collaborative efforts of regional partners — their shared ideas and resources — counties will begin to see an example of effective community development.


Patty Cantrell

Chief Community Development Officer, New Growth

JOURNEY: Patty brings a career in community economic development to New Growth, including 12 years developing regional food economy programs in Michigan. Achievements include the now-statewide Taste the Local Difference marketing initiative and Northwest Michigan’s ongoing, 10-county Food and Farming Network.

 WHY NEW GROWTH: New Growth is an opportunity to connect and channel the positive energy and assets of this region so that together we can build a just and joyous future for everyone here.

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Aaron Franklin

Chief Financial Officer, West Central Missouri Community Action Agency

JOURNEY: Aaron puts years of experience as a nonprofit executive director and in private banking and other industries into his job managing West Central’s finances and helping to navigate business opportunities.

WHY NEW GROWTH: New Growth is an opportunity to be innovative with our thinking, and more collaborative than we have ever been, in order to meet the needs of rural communities in West Central’s region.

Katie Nixon

Food Systems Director, West Central Missouri Community Action Agency

JOURNEY: Katie leads West Central’s Food Systems Program building healthy farms and food in the region. Her background includes six years as a Small Farm Specialist at Lincoln University and developing the cooperative KC Food Hub, which markets to the metro area and includes produce from her own Green Gate Family Farm.

WHY NEW GROWTH: It’s a chance to make our rural economies stronger through food and agriculture.

Danielle Park

Program Assistant, West Central Missouri Community Action Agency 

JOURNEY: Dani is a St. Clair County native who made her way to New Growth after learning and working in the title side of real estate, with county parcel mapping and other jobs.

WHY NEW GROWTH: It’s exciting to be part of an organization that thinks and works outside the box.

Chris Thompson

West Central Missouri Community Action Agency and New Growth

JOURNEY: Chris brings a background in both community economic development and law to his executive director and CEO role at West Central and New Growth. Highlights include the innovative business accelerator StartME he helped Atlanta’s Emory University develop and launch and community development support to American Indian communities.

WHY NEW GROWTH: New Growth is a vehicle for real, impactful, innovative transformation in rural communities. And, a great team!

Debbie Vickers

Grant Research and Development Manager, West Central Missouri Community Action Agency 

JOURNEY: Debbie was a classroom teacher and Parents as Teachers (PAT) educator for more than 30 years, including four years as a state PAT trainer. She began her grant-writing, community organizing and communications work at the Missouri Pork Producers Association.

WHY NEW GROWTH: I love watching local connections strengthen and grow as new ideas spark hope and enthusiasm in our communities!

Lisa Zimmerman

Economic Inclusion Director, West Central Missouri Community Action Agency

JOURNEY: Lisa works with New Growth to advance the START HERE Business Acceleration Network, including its micro-enterprise revolving loan fund and credit building work with small businesses, individuals, and families. Her background includes work with the Small Business Administration as Lender Relations Specialist for the region and extensive work as a rural bu

WHY NEW GROWTH: New Growth is bringing regional partners together to do amazing things together in support of communities and small businesses. 


Kelly Asbury

Director, Small Business Development Center at State Fair Community College 

JOURNEY: Kelly provides business training and no-cost confidential one-on-one counseling to entrepreneurs in the region. She is an experienced small business owner and Missouri SBDC’s 2018 Rookie of the Year.

WHY NEW GROWTH: I love the commitment from the people at New Growth, and their desire to help others in their communities from every angle.

Sheridan Garman-Neeman

Executive Director, Kaysinger Basin Regional Planning Commission 

JOURNEY: Sheridan leads this local government member organization serving seven rural counties and 55 cities in west central Missouri.This includes a regional economic develop-ment team working to build local businesses and economic opportunity. Accomplishments include developing the region’s 2017-2022 Stronger Economies Together (SET) plan and launching a regional economic development program.

WHY NEW GROWTH: We learn from each other, we support each other and, through partnership, we are achieving more for our rural communities than was possible with our organizations working alone.

Wayne Prewitt

West Central Region Director, University of Missouri Extension

JOURNEY: Wayne is a Vernon County native who started his career as a regional agricultural business specialist in Carthage and then Nevada, Missouri. He has 34 years of Extension experience, including seven as regional director.

WHY NEW GROWTH: Working together we can grow Missouri’s economy!