October 17, 2023 Jefferson City, Mo. The Department of Economic Development’s (DED) Office of Broadband Development (OBD) announced today that it has formed an Advisory Council to inform planning for the Broadband Equity, Access, and Deployment (BEAD) program and Digital Equity Act (DEA).

“The Connecting All Missourians Advisory Council is an invaluable part of giving citizens a voice as we develop plans to expand internet access,” said Michelle Hataway, Acting Director of the Department of Economic Development. “Broadband is a necessity in today’s economy, and we want our initiatives to reflect the needs of all Missourians.”

Members of the Connecting All Missourians Advisory Council will contribute to the state’s plans for BEAD and DEA funds designed to improve broadband infrastructure and increase access. Responsibilities include advising on policy questions and program design, commenting on draft documents, and identifying connectivity needs across the state. Members will also serve as community ambassadors to encourage participation in efforts while engaging stakeholders statewide.

“We sincerely appreciate the commitment of our Advisory Council members as we continue working toward a fully-connected future,” said BJ Tanksley, Director of the Office of Broadband Development. “Hearing from citizens, stakeholders, and communities is absolutely vital to developing effective plans for broadband expansion. We’re excited to have the guidance of this diverse group of leaders and look forward to the plans their expertise will help create.”

The Connecting All Missourians Advisory Council will support OBD’s efforts throughout the lifetime of Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA) funding. While inaugural members have been asked to serve until at least December 2023, OBD has applied for BEAD funding to support the council through 2028. Council members will meet twice per year to guide OBD’s planning and development of its Five Year Action Plan, Initial Proposal, and Final Proposal for the BEAD program. Members will also support the development of the State Digital Opportunity Plan for the DEA.

OBD’s Connecting All Missourians initiative is aimed at ensuring all Missourians have quality and affordable internet access. The initiative is focused on public participation and feedback to inform planning for federal funds. More information about OBD’s broadband expansion efforts are available on DED’s website.

Connecting All Missourians Advisory Council Inaugural Members
Aaron Deacon, Managing Director, KC Digital Drive
Tracy Graham, Western District Commissioner, Audrain County
Garrett Hawkins, President, Missouri Farm Bureau
Cassie Johnson, Deputy Director of Community Programs, Missouri Housing Development Commission
Crystal Jones, Executive Director, Perry County Economic Development Authority
Dan Mehan, CEO, Missouri Chamber of Commerce and Industry
Rachel Mutrux, Director, Missouri Telehealth Network
Kevin Sandlin, Executive Director, Missouri Association of Rural Education
Richard Sheets, Executive Director, Missouri Municipal League
Kristen Sorth, Director and CEO, St. Louis County Library
Dr. Darius Watson, Executive Director of Academic Initiatives, Lincoln University
State Representative Louis Riggs, District 5
State Representative Jay Mosley, District 68
State Senator Barbara Anne Washington, District 9
State Senator Karla Eslinger, District 33
Chris Chinn, Director, Department of Agriculture
Michelle Hataway, Acting Director, Department of Economic Development