Staff & Board

Meet the Council’s staff & board

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Executive Director

Denise Jess photo

Denise Jess
Executive Director

Denise Jess began her tenure as Executive Director of the Wisconsin Council of the Blind & Visually Impaired in 2016. She brings more than 35 years of experience in education, advocacy, public speaking, small business ownership and community volunteering to her position. Fostering positive relationships among staff, board, donors, volunteers, community partners and public officials is critical to her for advancing the Council’s mission.

Serving with honor on multiple national, state and local commissions, committees and boards, Denise brings the perspectives of those living with vision loss into the mainstream. She serves as Vice Chair of the board of Community Shares of Wisconsin, of which the Council is a member, and co-chairs the Wisconsin Non-Driver Advisory Committee, comprised of representatives from state agencies, the legislature, local governments, transit operators and advocates. She is also a member of the Wisconsin Election’s Commission Accessibility Advisory Committee and is active with the Wisconsin Disability Vote Coalition. Denise is involved with Vision Serve Alliance’s National Aging and Vision Loss Coalition and enjoys volunteering at the local level too, serving on the City of Madison’s Transportation Commission and other committees and taskforces.

Denise treasures time with her wife of over 30 years, their two adult daughters, family and friends. Her love of learning leads her to try new recipes, grow tasty food in her garden, sample new restaurants and knit up lovely shawls and other garments.

She is proud to serve as the Council’s executive director and believes this role is truly her calling.


Hannah Mercier

Hannah Mercier
Accounting Manager

Hannah handles the financial accounting for the Council. She also manages payroll and employee benefits, including insurance and retirement plans.

Hannah joined the Council in September 2021. She also currently has a small accounting business, which she has operated for a few years after several years working in corporate environments. Hannah received her Bachelor of Science degree from Upper Iowa University, and after several years of accounting in different industries decided to focus predominantly on the nonprofit sector. Combining her accounting background with her ambition to help others has provided balance in her life.

Hannah is a Wisconsin native but a Madison transplant. When not at the Council, Hannah enjoys cooking, listening to music, and spending time outdoors with friends and family, especially her children.

Mitch Brey photo

Mitch Brey
Operations Manager

Mitch provides project, property, and IT management at the Council. He oversees operations and coordinates front desk staffing and event planning. Mitch’s work varies from website development to helping at the front desk, and he works with volunteers and staff to ensure publications get out the door in multiple accessible formats.

Mitch joined the Council in January 2019. Before working at the Council, Mitch worked for a variety of nonprofit organizations and campaigns including Community Living Connections, Focus on Energy, and RePower Madison.

Mitch attended the University of Wisconsin-Madison where he earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Biochemistry. When he’s not building towers and forts with his children, his hobbies including running, gardening, and playing card games with his wife and friends.

Heather Buggs photo

Heather Buggs
Program Assistant

Heather Buggs works at the front desk, greeting visitors as they come through the door. She helps people find resources, processes product orders and fulfills white cane requests. She also assists customers in the Sharper Vision Store and creates the audio version of the Council’s quarterly newsletter.

Heather joined the Council in August 2007. Through background knowledge, her life with a visual impairment, and working at the Council, she has gained experience for her position. In her free time, she enjoys spending time with her children and family, reading children’s books, and trying new recipes.

Judith Rasmussen photo

Judith Rasmussen
Program Assistant

Judith Rasmussen refers callers to staff members and community resources, gives educational presentations at schools and produces brailled documents for staff, board members and quarterly newsletter subscribers.

She joined the Council in August 2008. She also is a licensed massage therapist and works at her own business that she started in 1999.

Judith has a Bachelor of Arts degrees in French and Spanish and two master’s degrees, one in French and the other in social work. Her hobbies include: reading, knitting, cooking, exercising, growing outdoor plants in the summer and growing house plants year-round.

Kathleen Callen

Kathleen Callen
Program Specialist

Kathleen assists and supports staff with a variety of projects and activities within the Council.

Kathleen joined the Council in February 2020. Prior to working for the Council, she worked in higher education development, as a preschool teacher, and most recently with an education focused AmeriCorps program. She served two years as an AmeriCorps*VISTA with the Schools of Hope Literacy Project.

She earned a Bachelor of Arts from the University of Wisconsin-Madison (Political Science and Integrated Liberal Studies) and a Master of Arts from the University of Manchester (International Development – Social Policy and Social Development). Kathleen loves to travel, listen to podcasts, watch movies, volunteer, and spend time with friends and family.


Bob Jacobson

Bob Jacobson
Communications Director

Bob leads the Council’s communications efforts, from publishing newsletters and social media content to helping frame our public policy issues for maximum impact.

With over 20 years of experience as a professional writer and communicator, Bob has lived the transition from hand-fed fax blasts to tweetstorms.
Bob joined the Council in August of 2021 after a brief stint at the Wisconsin Department of Health Services. Prior to that, he spent most of his career in the nonprofit sector, developing and executing communications strategies for organizations involved in child advocacy, community development, and education philanthropy. In between those roles, he was a freelance writer and communications consultant, with clients ranging from alt weeklies to environmental groups to colleges and universities.

When he isn’t helping the Council spread the word about its services, events and policy priorities, Bob can often be found inflicting his middling trumpet skills on the unsuspecting ears of Madison audiences. Originally from Detroit, Bob holds a degree in sociology from Michigan State University.

Fund Development

Lori Werbeckes photo

Lori Werbeckes
Fund Development Director

Lori builds relationships with clients, store customers and donors to ensure the Council’s work continues, thanks to their generous financial support. A highlight for Lori is hearing the stories of why people give and their delight when they learn how that gift can change lives.

She joined the Council in Summer 2013. She has a Bachelor of Science in business administration and earned her Certified Fundraising Executive (CFRE) credential in 2011.

Lori and husband Mark enjoy spending time with her adult children and visiting family throughout the U.S. They are both involved with Young Life. Lori recently joined Mount Horeb’s Neighbors Helping Neighbors in helping to keep the food pantry stocked with essential care items.

Ray Cubberly photo

Ray Cubberly
Database Manager

Ray maintains the Council’s donor database. He records all donor gifts in the database and generates thank you letters for the gifts. Ray also produces donor financial reports to support the activities of the Fund Development director and is responsible for generating the mailing lists for Council communications.

Ray joined the Council in February 2007 as a volunteer Program Assistant, and in November 2007 was promoted to Database Manager. Before the Council, Ray worked in the industrial control products industry.

He holds a Bachelor of Science in industrial management, with a minor in electrical engineering technology from Milwaukee School of Engineering. He also holds an associate degree in computer information systems from Piedmont Virginia Community College. In his spare time, Ray enjoys movies, music, outdoor activities, day trips, and is a life-long amateur radio operator.

Vision Services

Amy Wurf photo

Amy Wurf, CVLT
Education & Vision Services Director

Amy provides low vision evaluations at the Council. She works with clients to find ways to maximize their remaining vision, using color, contrast, lighting and magnification. She leads staff in providing hands-on assistance, resources and information to vision services clients.

Amy joined the Council in January 2015. Before the Council, Amy worked for the Veterans Administration with veterans who have visual impairments. She spent 13 years at the Edward Hines Jr. VA Hospital Blind Center in Hines, IL, and 6 years at the William S. Middleton VA Hospital Low Vision Clinic in Madison, WI.

She holds a Master of Science in education, with an emphasis in Rehabilitation Teaching of the Adult Blind, from Northern Illinois University, and a Bachelor of Health Science in speech pathology from Governors State University in Illinois. In her free time, Amy enjoys reading, working on cross-stitch and craft projects, and spending time with her family.

Jim Denham photo

Jim Denham
Access Technology Specialist

Jim conducts technology assessments and provides training on a wide array of tools, such as screen readers, screen magnification software, smart phones and refreshable braille displays. Being blind himself, Jim utilizes much of this technology on a daily basis. He is passionate about helping individuals with disabilities learn to use technology to accomplish tasks that seem impossible.

Jim joined the Council in October 2017. Prior to this position, he spent ten years as the Director of Assistive Technology for the Perkins School for the Blind in Watertown, Massachusetts. He has also worked for the American Foundation for the Blind and Optelec US.

Jim grew up in Southern Wisconsin and has a Bachelor of Science in computer information systems from St. Norbert College in De Pere, Wisconsin. When not at work, Jim can be found watching sports, cooking on the grill or exploring new and interesting brewpubs with his wife.

Brent Perzentka photo

Brent Perzentka, CVRT
Certified Vision Rehabilitation Therapist

Brent Perzentka meets with individuals who have vision loss, assessing needs and teaching them new methods and/or providing them with assistive devices to enable them to accomplish tasks.

Brent joined the Council in 2003, and has worked in different capacities within the organization. Most currently he has served as the Sharper Vision Store Manager for the past 10 years, before becoming a certified vision rehabilitation therapist.

Brent holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in Liberal Studies from the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater, associate degree from Madison College, and a master’s degree in vision rehabilitation therapy from Western Michigan. Brent is married to his beautiful wife, Blair, and together they have one spirited daughter, Brooke. When Brent can get away from his schoolwork and family obligations, he enjoys playing basketball and baseball competitively in the Madison area.

Jean Kalscheur photo

Jean Kalscheur
Education Program Specialist

Jean Kalscheur coordinates speakers for community presentations and speaks on a variety of topics related to changing vision and vision rehabilitation services.

Jean has worked for the Council since 2007. She is a vision rehabilitation teacher and was the Director of Education and Vision Services. Prior to working at the Council, Jean was an associate professor in Eastern Kentucky University’s Occupational Therapy Program.

Jean holds degrees in occupational therapy from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and Washington University in St. Louis. She enjoys reading, beading and needlecrafts.

Greg Schmidt

Greg Schmidt
Store Customer Care Specialist

Greg greets and provides help to clients that come into our storefront as the Sharper Vision Store Customer Service Specialist. He makes sure that customers receive the information they need and helps them obtain the items they are seeking.

He joined the Council in June of 2021. He previously worked for Habitat for Humanity’s Restore and Pre-played a used movie, music and video game store.

Greg attended the Milwaukee Institute of Art and Design focusing on Illustration. He does freelance work, and when he is not playing with his energetic son or working on commissions likes to watch old movies, listen to Brewer game and having board game nights with his wife and friends.

Board of Directors

The Council’s board consists of people who are blind or visually impaired (BVI) with three seats available for sighted allies. Board members are well-educated, involved in local communities and actively employed. Each board member serves as an advocate for the BVI community in their geographical area.


Chris Richmond

Rebecca Arrowood


Rhonda Staats
La Crosse

Nick Sinram


Nurudeen (Deen) Amusa
Stevens Point

Chip Kaufman

Melanie Ramey

Dan Sippl
Eau Claire

Renee Peterson

Patty Slaby

Karen Heesen

Sharon Knauf

Board Committees

Executive Committee
Finance Committee
Nominating Committee
Human Resources Committee