Home Wisconsin Wisconsin’s 48 Most Influential Black Leaders, Part 3

Wisconsin’s 48 Most Influential Black Leaders, Part 3


This is the third of a five-part series. Part One is here and Part Two is here. Members of The Fam got this list last night — you can join now at Madison365.org/TheFam!

Lawrence A. Williams is senior regional director of human resources at Charter Communications, based on Madison, managing the company’s relationship with the nearly 4,000 Wisconsin-based employees. Before moving to Madison in 2018, Lawrence was director of human resources in the company’s New York office. He has more than 20 years of experience in human resources and labor relations for a number of companies in Chicago, Washington and New York. He earned a degree in political science from Southern Illinois University and a master’s degree in industrial labor relations from Cornell.

Andre Sayles was sworn in as Beloit’s 19th Police Chief on April 19, 2021. Sayles has an extensive background in community policing. He began his career with the Beloit Police Department in January of 2005, where he served as a sergeant, lieutenant, captain and now chief. During Sayles’ tenure in Beloit, he led the Drug and Gang Investigative Unit, Community Outreach Unit, Defensive and Arrest Tactics Instructors (DAAT), Training Cadre, Mobile Field Force Unit, Tactical Operations Unit, Assessment and Recruitment Team (ART), and revitalized the Explorers program. Sayles is a graduate of Wisconsin Command College Class #6, Leadership in Police Organizations, and is the 2nd Vice President of the Wisconsin Law Enforcement Executive Development Association (WLEEDA). Sayles is also an instructor at Madison College, where he teaches Police and Community Relations, Report Writing, and Interview Techniques. He is also a member of the Wisconsin Chiefs of Police Association (WCPA), National Organization of Black Law Enforcement Executives (NOBLE), International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP), and Police Executive Research Forum (PERF). Sayles holds a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice from Iowa Wesleyan University and is currently pursuing a master’s degree in criminal justice, with an emphasis on police leadership. While serving as sergeant of patrol, Sayles was awarded the City of Beloit Hometown Hero award for his efforts in community collaboration. He is a member of the Rock County Criminal Justice Coordinating Council and its Evidence Based Decision Making Team; a board member for Beloit Community Health Systems, Stateline Boys and Girls Clubs, YMCA, and Family Services of Southern Wisconsin & Northern Illinois. Chief Sayles also is a speaker for the annual Male Minority Leadership Conference, which is hosted by Rock Valley College.

Laura Ford-Harris is Chief Development Officer at the Boys and Girls Club of Dane County, a role she began in January of 2020. She has more than 25 years of non-profit experience with expertise in community and corporate relationship management and fundraising, according to a press release from BGCDC and for nearly two years, Ford-Harris helped United Way of Greater Cincinnati reach its $50.5M goal by managing the Business Services Portfolio of legal, design and construction firms as a Relationship Manager. Prior to that, Ford-Harris enjoyed a 23-year career at Girl Scouts of Western Ohio, one of the top ten Girl Scout councils in the country.

Ryan Zerwer was appointed President and CEO of Madison-based Forward Community Investments in September 2021. Ryan previously was partner, CEO & president of Clotho Digital for over a decade. He also brings years of real estate investment and tech industry experience to his role at FCI. He currently serves as a board member at Maydm, Inc.


Everett Cunningham is Chief Commercial Officer at Exact Sciences in Madison. Joining the company earlier this year, he  brings over 25 years of progressive responsibility in pharmaceuticals and medical services and a commitment to leadership excellence.  Prior to joining Exact Sciences, Cunningham served as President & CEO of GE Healthcare’s U.S. & Canada region.  Before joining GE, Cunningham served as the Senior Vice President, Commercial, at Quest Diagnostics, where he was responsible for global commercial sales, marketing, and commercial operations. He also served in numerous senior leadership roles at Pfizer, including Regional President, Established Products for Asia Pacific, Senior Director of Worldwide Learning and Development, Senior Director of Business Operations, Vice President Sales for U.S. Pharmaceuticals, and Vice President of Global Corporate Human Resources. He earned his bachelor’s degree in economics from Northwestern University.

Dr. Damita Brown is co-executive director of Flywheel Skill Share, formerly known as Dane County Timebank, where she previously served as restorative justice coordinator. Dr. Brown is an accomplished community based educator with a history of abolitionist restorative justice work, leadership, anti-racism and allyship workshop development and facilitation, contemplative practice instruction and project development, implementation and management. She earned a bachelor’s degree in political science from the University of Washington, and a doctoral degree from the University of California-Santa Cruz. She served a post-doctoral fellowship in the political science department at UC-Santa Barbara.

Angela Adams is chief communications and chief diversity officer at Goodwill Industries of Southeastern Wisconsin, where she previously served as vice president for community relations and director of community relations. Prior to joining Goodwill in 2016, she held similar roles at Wheaton Franciscan Healthcare, where she led communications and community relations, and chaired the Corporate Services Diversity Strategies Team. She spent 10 years as principal consultant at Mazao Communications, a Milwaukee-based communications and event marketing firm, and two years as executive director of Africa World Festival. She served many years on the board of Professional Dimensions (Women Who Inspire) including a term as board president. She was awarded the 2014 Wisconsin National Guard Partnership Award by Adjutant General Major General Donald P. Dunbar for successfully leading the 1158 Transportation Company Family Readiness Group Program. She earned a bachelor’s degree in business administration from Florida A&M and a master’s degree in strategic communications from Seton Hall.

Dr. O’Rell Williams works as a physician and serves as vice president of medical affairs at Ascension St. Joseph on Milwaukee’s north side. As a former Milwaukee firefighter and physician he uses his skills, courage and compassion to improve the health of the community. When the COVID-19 pandemic hit early and hard, Williams became increasingly concerned about the disproportionate number of minority patients battling the virus. He quickly jumped in – using his voice and his role in the community to dispel disinformation and educate the community that COVID-19 was real and serious.

Dana A. Guthrie is Managing Partner at Gateway Capital. Prior to her current role, Guthrie founded and managed Alchemy Angel Investors, an angel investment network focused on early-stage startups. She founded Alchemy Angel Investors while being employed full-time at a Fortune 500 company and managing a multi-million dollar, global product offering. Guthrie is a two-time patent recipient, holds a B.S. in Computer Engineering from Milwaukee School of Engineering, and a M.S. in Energy Engineering from University of Illinois at Chicago.

Tenia Fischer is an educator at Greater Holy Temple Christian Academy, and Director of Health and Wellness for Social X Milwaukee. She also leads FEAR MKE – Forget Everything and Run, a health and wellness program that’s gotten national attention. She was inducted into the UW-Milwaukee Athletic Hall of Fame in 2019 after earning nine Horizon League track and field championships from 2003-2006: she   claimed the top spot on the podium in the Indoor 800 (2006/2005/2004), Outdoor 400 (2006/2003), Indoor 400 (2006) and Indoor and Outdoor 4x400m relay (2006). She also graduated with five school records and set Klotsche Center standards in the 400 and 600 meters.

Part 4 coming tomorrow!