Board of Directors | Staff | Alumni | Community Leadership Award | Annual Report


Board of Directors

Willie Birss, CPA, CA (ISTJ) - Treasurer

Willie BirssWillie is a Principal at Baker Tilly SK LLP, a public accounting firm, where he focuses on audit and assurance engagements. Outside of work, Willie’s favourite thing is to go golfing and spend time with family and friends. Willie believes that leadership is imperative to creating a strong community and that Leadership Saskatoon has had a substantial positive impact in the Saskatoon area.

Julian Demkiw (he/him, ENTP)  |   Leadership Saskatoon Class of 2001

Julian DemkiwJulian is currently the Senior Strategist to the President at the University of Saskatchewan and is responsible for senior management oversight and leadership to institutional-level projects of the president and his executive team. Julian’s superpowers include an ability to see patterns in chaos and an ability to understand the needs of a wide variety of audiences.

Outside of work Julian spends time with his daughters and wife playing cards, watching movies, and having fun. Julian is proud to have been involved with Leadership Saskatoon since its inception 20 years ago and is dedicated to helping the organization achieve its important mandate well into it’s next 20.

Don Ewles (he/him, INTJ)

Don EwlesDon is Grants Manager for Saskatoon Community Foundation. Don’s superpowers are community investment, communications, and, unfortunately, puns. Outside of work, his favourite pastimes are making music and cooking. Don is proud to represent Saskatoon Community Foundation as one of the founding partners of Leadership Saskatoon because he has seen the transformative power of compassionate and thoughtful leadership time and again during his career working with community-based organizations.

Leon Ferguson

Leon FergusonLeon Ferguson is the President and CEO of Stream Business Advisory. Leon’s 20+ years of experience in high level strategy development, leadership, internal/external collaborations, and partnerships developing high performance and strong cultures has an award-winning proven track record providing teams to grow in strength and profitability. Leon’s superpowers are leadership specializing in Workplace Psychological Health and Safety, and Mental Health combined with his unique harmonious approach to overall peak performance. Leon is passionate and proud to be a part of Leadership Saskatoon as he is a big ambassador of Saskatoon and the Community and believes Saskatoon is a beacon of community strength and possibilities.

Kari McCaffery - Chair (she/her, ENFJ) - Ensero Solutions  |   Leadership Saskatoon Class of 2016

Kari McCafferyKari is a Senior Operations Manager for Ensero Solutions, an environmental consulting firm with offices across North America and also a Coach for Seth Godin’s altMBA program. Kari’s superpowers are high level strategy, empathy, and translating complex topics. Outside of work her favourite thing to do is have dinner with her big blended family. Kari is passionate about Leadership Saskatoon because she firmly believes that kind, generous, and skilled leadership is key to making Saskatoon the best place to live.

Ken McCullough   

Ken McCulloughKen McCullough is a retired senior retail professional with over 30+ years experience in the food, petroleum, liquor, pharmacy, general merchandise and travel businesses. During his career in the Co-operative Retailing System, Ken was known for high standards in merchandising, customer service and employee engagement. He received numerous awards and was featured in the May 2008 issue of Canadian Grocer magazine. Ken is proud to currently serve as Promotional Co-ordinator of the Global Leadership Summit hosted by his church. He also continues to offer his leadership expertise as part of a team of coaches that provide mentorship to small group leaders. Ken enjoyed being a mentor for Leadership Saskatoon in 2020.

Masood Rizvi, PhD (he/his, ENTJ)

Masood RizviMasood is Head of the Genomics and Canadian Operation Leader for NRGene Canada Inc. subsidiary of NRGene Ltd, a genomics company that provide turn-key solutions. Masood’s superpower is Diving leadership skills, strategic alliance and team coaching. Outside of work his favourite thing to do is “travelling across world” and explore exotic destinations. Masood is passionate about Leadership Saskatoon because he believes passionate and energetic leadership skill can bring lot of value to toon town and will give an edge over other big Canadian cities.

Alison Robertson

Alison RobertsonAlison Robertson is a Saskatoon-based community leader and social innovator. She is the founder and principal consultant at Systems Bright, a consulting practice specializing in whole systems solutions to complex issues. 

Alison has more than fifteen years’ senior leadership experience within the non-profit sector concentrating on issues related to poverty reduction, food security, education, disability and community health and wellbeing. She has served as the co-chair of the Saskatchewan Advisory Group on Poverty Reduction and acted as spokesperson for Poverty Costs, a collaborative initiative recognized with a Global Citizen Award from the Saskatchewan Council for International Cooperation.  She has been named one of Saskatchewan’s outstanding young leaders by the CBC Future 40 Awards.

Alison graduated with distinction from the post-graduate Executive Leadership in the Non-Profit Sector program at Grant MacEwan University. She is a graduate of the 2011 Leadership Saskatoon program and is proud to serve on its board of directors.

Rhonda Speiss (she/her) - Secretary

Rhonda SpeissRhonda is a Senior Advisor with Western Economic Diversification Canada and past senior leader of a major corporation, leading a best-in-class global corporate Community Investment program. With the ability to combine strategic and entrepreneurial thinking, her superpower is her ability to identify, develop and execute innovation solutions to complex problems with creative flair. Outside the workplace, her favorite thing to do is travel and enjoy new experiences. With 15 years experience funding non-profits, she worked with hundreds of community organizations and gained a true appreciation for great community leadership. She was excited to join Leadership Saskatoon and play a role in developing great leaders who will masterfully lead the way toward a strong, healthy community and economy in Saskatoon.

Colton Wiegers - Greater Saskatoon Chamber of Commerce Board

Colton WiegersColton Wiegers is the representative from the Greater Saskatoon Chamber of Commerce Board where he is currently the 2nd Vice Chair. He has served on the Chamber board for the past few years but has been very involved with the Chamber prior to that as well.

Colton is a graduate from Edward School of Business with a finance degree. During university, him and another student started the Junior Chamber of Commerce which got both themselves and others involved with the Chamber board and committees at a young age.

During this time at university Colton and a friend founded a company, Bow Home Service, which they ran for a couple years. Shortly after graduating he made the official move to join the family business, Wiegers Financial and Benefits. He is going on to his 5th year with Wiegers and continues to get more involved in the business as COO and now on an ownership level too.

Colton has always had a passion for leadership and is eager to continue learning. Whether that be through formal activities such as personal development courses or just through everyday opportunities with friends and family to be a leader, he's always ready to jump in headfirst.

On a personal note, Colton is a big NFL and Pittsburgh Steelers fan although he hasn't been able to go to any games this year sadly. He's kept busy though by getting in lots of time at Turtle Lake. One thing that he thinks has been a silver lining of the pandemic is the openness to remote working and he is hoping to get in a few more trips out this winter. Colton is also eager to help in the community when he can and has been A Big Brother with Big Brothers Big Sisters Saskatoon for the past 7 years. It's a bit different now but him and his Little Brother keep in touch playing some video games online."

Our Staff

Executive Director, Sheri Hillestad Smith

Sheri Hillestad SmithSheri Hillestad Smith has over twenty years’ experience in the not-for-profit sector, most notably serving as the first Coordinator of Volunteer Saskatoon and the Executive Director of the Kidney Foundation of Canada, Saskatchewan Branch. She is also involved in the corporate sector as a partner at Smith Industries, a manufacturing company here in Saskatoon. Sheri is passionate about her community and the leadership it requires. She enjoys her work as a volunteer with Operation Christmas Child and as a Board member with the Saskatoon Convalescent Home. Sheri feels privileged to work with the talented group of leaders, facilitators and staff who dedicate their time and energy to the Leadership Saskatoon program.

Program Director, Tracy Stephensen

Tracy StephensenTracy Stephensen has over 15 years experience working as a training/program coordinator in Adult Education. She is a certified practitioner in the Myers Briggs Type Indicator® and recently retired from the University of Saskatchewan where she worked as a program coordinator since 2008 in the area of leadership and professional development. Tracy continues to work part-time as the Program Director for Leadership Saskatoon and as a Program Coordinator for Women in Leadership for Life. In her personal life, Tracy is passionate about wellness and yoga. She is a certified yoga instructor and wellness coach.




Mission and Values

Our mission is to develop effective collaborative leaders by building awareness and understanding which inspires involvement in building an inclusive community.

Four values that distinguish Leadership Saskatoon are:

  • Citizen engagement
  • Collaboration
  • Inclusion/diversity
  • Life long learning

Our Founders

Leadership Saskatoon was founded by the University of Saskatchewan, the Greater Saskatoon Chamber of Commerce, and the Saskatoon Community Foundation.

We are grateful for their continuing and unwavering support.

Saskatoon Chamber of Commerce
    Saskatoon Community Foundation      University of Saskatchewan  


Our alumni now number over 500 in total. Here are the photos from each class. Click on each year below to see who they are.

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Don Ravis Leadership Saskatoon Alumni Award

Current Winner : Betty Mutwiri – 2021

Betty Mutwiri

Betty was part of the first cohort of Leadership Saskatoon, and was the first Executive Director the organization hired.

Betty’s drive to serve her community is relentless. All that she does in her personal and professional life is in service to others. She is one of those people who is continuously learning and as such is constantly applying those learnings to her environment. Betty is certified in Cultural Intelligence and is a Certified Leadership coach through Royal Roads University and the International Coaching Federation. Her empathy for others and search for knowledge has directly benefited our community as Betty engages in leadership training across the city, many times free of charge, in the spirit of helping others or advancing Leadership Saskatoon’s mission (an organization she loves). On top of all this Betty is working towards a PhD. in Educational Leadership & Administration.

Thank you to Betty for all she has done for Leadership Saskatoon, and for our community as a whole.

Previous Alumni Award Winners
Bill Brooks

Bill Brooks
2019 Recipient

Kelly Moore

Kelly Moore
2018 Recipient

Jason Aebig

Jason Aebig
2017 Recipient

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Cherry Insurance-Leadership Saskatoon Community Leadership Award

Namarta Kochar - 2017 Recipient

Namarta Kochar Namarta’s participation spans many dimensions of the community – from providing advice to the Saskatoon Environmental Advisory Committee and mentoring through the Saskatchewan Association of Human Resource Professionals to sharing arts, fashions and the culture of India through the India Pavilion at Folkfest. She values the improvement of the quality of life for others in Saskatoon including Dress for Success, Saskatoon Salvation Army, Children's Hospital Foundation, as well as many other organizations.

Namarta is an acknowledged community leader whose achievement and leadership have been recognized as a Woman of Influence from SaskBusiness Magazine, a finalist for the YWCA Women of Distinction Awards, one of CBC Saskatchewan’s Future 40, as well as receiving the Saskatchewan Volunteer Medal and the Champion of Children Award from the Saskatoon Preschool Foundation to name a few.

Previous Leadership Award Winners
Zeba Ahmad

Zeba Ahmad
2016 Recipient

Tom Kishchuk

Tom Kischuk
2015 Recipient

Milton Taylor

Milton Taylor
2014 Recipient

Dave Dutchak

Dave Dutchak
2013 Recipient

Kirby Wirchenko

Kirby Wirchenko
2012 Recipient

Om Kochar

Om Kochar
2011 Recipient

Ayten Archer

Ayten Archer
2010 Recipient