Ed Sivak – Director

Ed Sivak is the founding Director of the Mississippi Economic Policy Center – an initiative of the Hope Enterprise Corporation. As director, Sivak manages the strategic direction, sustainability, research, training and advocacy agenda for the center. 

During his tenure at MEPC, he has supervised the research and writing of numerous publications on the state budget, issues affecting working poor families and high cost lending.  He also has educated the public through guest lectures and presentations and is frequently called upon by both local and national media to address policy issues affecting the state. His work has appeared in the Wall Street Journal, MarketWatch, the Clarion Ledger, Mississippi Public Broadcasting and the Mississippi Business Journal.

He has testified before legislative committees and at joint hearings held by the Federal Reserve Board, the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, the Office of Thrift Supervision and the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency on community development finance in rural areas.

Prior to starting MEPC in 2006, Sivak coordinated major community development projects for the Hope Enterprise Corporation (HEC) – formerly the Enterprise Corporation of the Delta – including the W.K. Kellogg Foundation funded Mid-South Delta Initiative (MSDI) and the Collaborative for Enterprise Development (CED).  HEC’s MSDI activities contributed to $125 million in financing for historically underserved entrepreneurs, homeowners and community health centers and supported the training of over 9,800 individuals and 3,700 jobs in the Delta.  Sivak also served as project manager on the Collaborative for Enterprise Development, a community development project that provided recovery loans and technical assistance to 576 small businesses in post-Katrina New Orleans.

He holds a Master of Public Policy from the Georgetown Public Policy Institute in Washington, DC and a Bachelor of Arts in History and English from Marquette University.  He is a former member of the Federal Reserve Board’s Consumer Advisory Council where he chaired the Community Affairs and Housing Committee.

He currently serves on the advisory committee for the implementation on the Tax Integrated Management System hosted by the Department of Revenue and is member of the State Sector Strategy Team hosted by the Department of Employment Security.  Sivak is a long time member of the BancorpSouth Community Reinvestment Advisory Council and volunteers with the Boy Scouts of America.  Sivak resides in Jackson, MS with his wife and two children.

Francinia McKeithan Henry – Policy Analyst, SFAI Policy Fellow

Francinia McKeithan Henry is currently serving as the 2011-2013 State Fiscal Analysis Initiative Policy Fellow through the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities’ State Policy Fellowship Program. As the Policy Fellow, Henry focuses her efforts within MEPC’s Budget and Tax issue area. In view of that, she researches and monitors budget decisions and legislative actions affecting the Mississippi budget and conducts outreach and training on topics related to state budget issues.

In her time at MEPC, Francinia has taken on several projects, including the revised publication of the Nuts and Bolts of the Mississippi Budget: A Taxpayer’s Guide to the Mississippi Budget, conducting research and analysis in support of numerous coalition efforts, and providing presentations on issues affecting low- and moderate- income families at local, state, and national meetings. She is also serving on the Governor’s Teen Pregnancy Prevention Task Force.

Henry completed both her undergraduate and graduate studies at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. She holds bachelor’s degrees in African and African American Studies and Sociology in addition to master’s degrees in Public Administration and Social Work and certificates in Public Service, Social and Economic Justice, Nonprofit Leadership, and Child Welfare.  Francinia came to MEPC after having worked as a Research Associate for the Office of Research Development in the Vice Chancellor’s Office for Research and Economic Development at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (UNC). 

Sara Miller – Senior Policy Analyst

Sara Miller is Senior Policy Analyst for the Mississippi Economic Policy Center. As a senior policy analyst, Miller primarily focuses her work on Mississippi tax and budget issues. Before working at the Mississippi Economic Policy Center, she served for three years as an Evaluator for the Mississippi Legislature’s Joint Committee on Performance Evaluation and Expenditure Review (PEER). She went to Louisiana State University for her undergraduate degree and was awarded a Master of Public Administration degree from George Washington University. Before and during graduate school, she worked at a nonprofit HIV/AIDS organization in Baton Rouge, Louisiana and at the Health Resources and Services Administration of the US Department of Health and Human Services in Washington, D.C. 

Jessica Shappley - Policy Analyst

Jessica Shappley is a Policy Analyst for the Mississippi Economic Policy Center (MEPC). As a Policy Analyst, Ms. Shappley primarily focuses her work on asset-building, economic development, and housing issues. Before working at the Mississippi Economic Policy Center, she worked as a Research Associate at the Social Science Research Center (SSRC) at Mississippi State University researching in the areas of public safety, immigration, disaster preparedness, and health disparities. She attended Mississippi State University (MSU), where she holds a Master of Public Policy and Administration degree and a Bachelor of Arts in English and Communication with a concentration in journalism. While attending MSU, she worked at the John C. Stennis Institute of Government and the SSRC. Ms. Shappley is a member of the American Society for Public Administration, Phi Kappa Phi Academic Honor Society and Pi Alpha Alpha Academic Honor Society.

Sarah Welker - Policy Analyst

Sarah Welker is a Policy Analyst with the Mississippi Economic Policy Center. Welker focuses her efforts within MEPC’s Income And Working Families issue area. Accordingly, she researches and monitors policies that impact Mississippi’s low-income and working families; conducts outreach and training on issues related to self-sufficiency and economic stability of families; and researches best practices for adult basic education, postsecondary persistence, and workforce training. 

Welker serves as a board member for the Women’s Fund of Mississippi and was a member of Blueprint Mississippi’s 2011 Education Committee and Higher Education Subcommittee. She was a member of the Community College Board’s ABE to Credentials Taskforce and supports the Center’s work with the Delta Workforce Funders Collaborative. During her time at MEPC, Welker has authored several major publications for the Center including: Building Pathways to Credentials and Careers and State of Working Mississippi 2012. 
Before coming to the Center, Welker served as the Data Analyst for KIPP Delta Public Schools in Helena, Arkansas. She holds a B.A. from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill where she graduated summa cum laude with degrees in both Economics and Public Policy Analysis. During her time at UNC, she worked with the Hunger Pilot Research Project examining the provision of emergency food assistance through North Carolina’s food banks.

 Jon Kalahar - Communications Coordinator 

 Jon is the communications coordinator for the Mississippi Economic Policy Center. Jon is responsible for making sure MEPC’s message reaches the public through various outlets whether it’s MEPC’s facebook and twitter pages, television and radio stations or newspapers across the state.

Jon comes to the MEPC with a background in television as well as public affairs. Jon worked in television upon graduation from Mississippi State for 15 years in Jackson, Birmingham, Alabama, and Columbus, Georgia. He also served as the public affairs director for the Mississippi Department of Public Safety for three yeas and as interim communications director at the Mississippi Department of Education in 2012.

Jon coordinates all our interviews and public speaking for our director and policy analysts in the areas of Medicaid, repsonsible and predatory lending, state taxes and budgets, income and workforce support,and self sufficiency.