Our Board

Meet the Desk Free Nation Team

Megan Bedford

Chair of the Board

I Grew up in a small ski town in VT where both of my parents were entrepreneurs.  Unlike them, I decided to pursue my career in advertising sales with a large Yellow Page company.  Since most of my clients were small business owners in the trades I began to get a really good understanding of the trades and the shortage that was beginning to happen.  Later, when I started my own digital marketing agency we decided to verticalize it, focusing on the trades. The one common theme that kept playing out through every conversation was that owners could not spend more money on advertising because they could not even keep up with the work they had due to the shortage in techs.  There was a day when I heard that same conversation and I said to myself “enough, someone’s gotta do something about this.” That is where DFN was formulated. I am beyond excited about this initiative and the impact we can have on the future of the trades and young men and women’s lives.

Renee Cardarelle

President and Executive Director

Renee Cardarelle has been working in leadership roles within the non-profit community since 2001, beginning with her role on the board of the Minnesota Association for Volunteer Administration which she chaired in 2006. In 2001 she was also a founder of the Annandale Area Community Team, where she successfully led a team to develop two walking and biking paths. Renee has also served as Executive Staff for the Girl Scouts, where she was Fund Development Director in 2006-2008, and as Executive Director for the Nexstar Legacy Foundation from 2008-2017, a non-profit focused on addressing the shortage of skilled trade workers. She believes that there is a better way to address our workforce shortages and is currently working on her Doctoral Dissertation on this subject.

Julie Wieman

Treasurer

Julie Wieman owns and operates a family plumbing, heating and air conditioning business in Harbor Springs, Michigan. With a degree in psychology from Michigan State University, she has worked in her father’s business since 1991, taking over as president in 2009.  She currently employs 20 people and services the Emmet and Charlevoix areas of Northern Michigan performing service and remodel to residential homes.  She has been very active in promoting the trades and securing scholarships for young people and transitioning military veterans since 2008, previously serving as president of the Nexstar Legacy Foundation for several years.  She is married with three children and resides in Harbor Springs.

Nancy O’Hare-Zika

Marketing Chair

Nancy is the owner of Yellow Dog Creative, formally Swick Media Services, a Michigan based media company, that focuses on the marketing needs of companies in the PHCE industry. Nancy spent 16 years working exclusively in the PHCE industry, both as the Marketing Director and General Manager of Swick Home Services of Marquette, Michigan and the past 7 years as the owner of Swick Media Services now named Yellow Dog Creative.

Simply put, this company was created out of necessity. They were tired of poor quality, low budget “spoof” television commercials, with dancing dogs and terrible jokes. This type of advertising did nothing to represent the company nor did it help them develop their “brand” as a hard working, honest, credible company. Because of this, they decided to create their own style of advertising, and… it worked!

They witnessed tremendous growth at Swick Home Services with the help of this form of marketing and set out to assist other PHCE companies achieve their media goals. They have worked with hundreds of companies, big and small, across the US and Canada with one goal in mind: MAKE. THE. PHONE. RING! Nancy is the married mom of three kids and a two golden retrievers, Boulder and Doppler, that occupy more time than the three kids put together. She enjoys traveling, fishing and gardening.

Todd Gates

Partnerships

Todd has nearly twenty years of experience in the education industry, the majority of which as a partner in a middle-market advisory company leading mergers and acquisition activities for post-secondary school owners and shareholders.  He was also the CEO of a global financial training company and is now a Director of Business Development for HomeServe USA, one of the largest emergency and home repair companies in the country.  His experience from both an education and service contracting perspective provides him with unique insight with respect to the supply and demand challenges with technicians in the industry.  He believes there needs to be a unified front with communicating the opportunity and value proposition of a career in the trades and is excited to work with Desk Free Nation to help promote their mission.   

Kelsey Glass

Education Liaison

Kelsey Glass is the Associate Dean of the College of Trades, Industry, and Professional Studies at Emily Griffith Technical College in Denver, Colorado. She has been working in education for over 15 years, most recently focused on the development of high quality faculty and instructional programming. Kelsey is passionate about building the structure and opportunities for students to engage in relevant, hands-on learning that can lead to a rewarding and high paying career. She is thrilled to be joining the board of Desk Free Nation to help inform students, parents, and educators about the countless education and career paths available in the trades, while simultaneously helping to fill the extensive workforce gap employers are facing.