Benchmarks, President and Chief Executive Officer
Karen McLeod is the President and Chief Executive Officer of Benchmarks. In this role, she directs the strategic initiatives of the association, its' advocacy and lobbying responsibilities, as well as development of collaborative partnerships for Benchmarks and its members.
Karen represents member agencies at the legislature, establishes legislative agendas and grass root legislative advocacy, and is a leader in development of legislation to improve the quality of care of services for children, adults and families. She is responsible for proactive policy development with state leadership as well as on-going assessment of trends, policy issues and fiscal concerns regarding Mental Health, Developmental Disabilities, Substance Abuse, Department of Social Services.
Representation of members on various state legislative and advocacy committees, development of partnerships between state leadership and members, identification of systemic human services problems, and development of recommendations for remedies and advocacy with appropriate state leadership are also core responsibilities that Karen addresses with the support of her staff and members.
Benchmarks, Chief Operating Officer
Tara Fields has been a part of Benchmarks as Chief Operations Officer (COO) since November 2009. In this role, she advocates for the needs of children, adults and families and supportive state policies, legislation and funding for services. Tara's passion is focusing on member needs related to ensuring NC rules/regulations and policy recommendations that ensure quality services. She is also here to help with outstanding receivables, trouble-shooting, funding, and best practices. In addition, she is steadfast in coaching and supporting staff involved in our grant-funded projects, communications, HR, and finance.
Prior to this position, Tara was the Director of Operations for 16 years for American Human Services, Inc. (AHS), an agency that provided services in the community for children, adults and families. Tara began her work in the field working with children and adults in residential settings and expanded her experience leading AHS through the development for new services, national accreditation and licensure.
Benchmarks, Communication & Training Specialist
Paige Wiggs is the Communications and Training Specialist for Benchmarks and joined our team on June 20, 2011. She is responsible for overseeing communications with our members, new applications and processing.
Paige organizes our events, the meeting planning and registrations. She handles all communications with our various partners in and out of our network. She will assist in audit and regulatory compliance as well as management of the the day-to-day operations of our office.
Prior to joining Benchmarks, Paige was the Community Outreach Educator and Advocate for Domestic and Sexual Violence in Durham, NC. She has 7+ years of experience as an internal auditor and has assisted in planning many charitable events, including the Walk for Hope in Raleigh. Paige also has over 20 years of experience in corporate training and compliance, including educational workshops as well as conference and special event planning.
Benchmarks, Partnering for Excellence Project Director
Jenny Cooper serves as Project Director for the Partnering for Excellence Initiative – a new effort to strengthen public-private partnerships in child welfare to enhance the quality of care and significantly improve child functioning and well-being outcomes. Jenny joined the Benchmarks team in November 2013 as Project Coordinator for the Partnering for Excellence Initiative. She has worked in children’s mental health since her graduation from Belmont Abbey College in Charlotte, where she studied psychology and biology. This unique psycho-biological approach has given Jenny the knowledge needed for a holistic approach to understanding trauma and the impact it has on child development. Prior to joining Benchmarks, Jenny has assisted other agencies develop new programs, evolve more evidence based practices, and grow to provide additional services needed in their communities.
Jenny has spent the majority of her career working in therapeutic foster care, but throughout the years she has also served as a foster sister to many foster siblings. Since the 1930s, her family has been invested in child welfare through foster care and adoption. Jenny is excited to bring her personal and professional experiences to Benchmarks to create more integrated services for children in the child welfare system.
Benchmarks, Partnering for Excellence Project Coordinator
Jasmine joined Benchmarks in June 2016. As the Partnering for Excellence Project Coordinator for Cleveland County—the project's first expansion county—she brings her experience in community outreach, collaboration, engagement, and program planning to Benchmarks and the Partnering for Excellence Initiative. Prior to joining Benchmarks, Jasmine worked in various capacities with youth and other vulnerable populations. Her experience includes 7+ years working with the elderly residing in assisted living facilities as well as her work with refugees, uninsured rural populations, those in transitional living, adults and youth struggling with substance use illness, and teens suffering from behavioral health issues and difficult living situations.
Jasmine received her Bachelors in Public Health from The University of North Carolina at Greensboro and continued her pursuit as a public health professional through receiving her Master of Science in Public Health from The University of North Carolina at Charlotte.
As a public health professional she has a true passion for working with communities to achieve equity in health outcomes, create opportunity, and improve access to appropriate health care services.
Benchmarks, Partnering for Excellence Project Coordinator
Keesha is Benchmarks Project Coordinator for both Rowan and Davidson counties for our Partnering for Excellence Project. She has always been interested in working with data, a significant part of Partnering for Excellence. With a background in psychology and pre-medicine, Keesha Corbin worked extensively in Regenerative Medicine before beginning her work in Public Health with Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center. Here, she coauthored a systematic review on the co-occurrence of frailty and depression in the elderly. Keesha went to Wake Forest University where she got her BA in Psychology with a minor in Biology. She will be getting her Master’s degree in Public Health from University of North Carolina Charlotte. Already having a passion for medicine, Keesha found her love for working in Public Health through her participation in community outreach programs including being a leader in Wake Forest University’s Campus Kitchen Program and part of Alpha Phi Omega, a national service fraternity.
Carla A. Whaley
Benchmarks, Partnering for Excellence Project Assistant
Prior to joining Benchmarks, Carla worked in child welfare as an Office Supervisor V in the Social Work Services Division at Rowan County Department of Social Services. Carla has worked with children and youth in many capacities throughout her career. She created and operated a state licensed in-home day care and was a foster parent.
She was the facility manager at Youth Resilience, Inc., group home for teenage girls and also volunteered as a youth mentor through her local church. She has experience organizing large-scale community volunteer events, partnering local organizations with over 1,500 community volunteers.
Benchmarks, Accounting and HR Specialist
Prior to her position as Accounting and HR Specialist for Benchmarks, Ellyn Duvall was Business Manager for the nonprofit organization, National Association of Students Against Violence Everywhere (SAVE), for 13 years. Her previous positions include Community Development Specialist at the Center for the Prevention of School Violence and 4 years of experience in student services with Pitt County Schools in Greenville, NC. She holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Business Administration from the University of Maryland.
Laura Fleming – Consultant
I/DD Specialist & Accreditation Coordinator
Laura Fleming brings a wealth of knowledge to Benchmarks with over thirty-years of experience and dedication serving people with intellectual and developmental disabilities and/or mental illness. Her most recent position was Executive Director of the NC Administrative Services Organization (ASO). After graduating from East Carolina University Laura was an Educational Specialist and QMRP at Caswell Center in Kinston, NC, and a Special Education teacher with the Wake County School System, earning teacher of the year awards at both assignments. She has also held the position of State Mental Health Services Director for EduCare of NC and was co-founder of Carolina Habilitation Services, Inc. and later served as the National Director of Quality Enhancement. Ms. Fleming also has served as a Quality Enhancement Specialist for The Council on Quality and Leadership (CQL) for the past ten years and is owner and President of Quality Approaches, LLC.
James A. Harrell, III – Lobbyist