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Leadership Team

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Joe Gavan

Chief Strategist & Managing Partner

Joe began managing political campaigns nearly 30 years ago, which immersed him in the art and discipline of strategic communications and crisis management. Navigating the intense and turbulent waters of hotly contested campaigns went from hobby to career and ultimately led to Joe achieving executive-level positions in healthcare and life sciences. 

Joe has managed crises within political, healthcare, public school, public transportation, nonprofit housing, and publicly traded organizations. Prior to forming C-Suite Strategic in 2012, Joe served Van Andel Research Institute as Vice President of Communications & External Affairs and Goshen Health System as Vice President of Marketing & Business Development.

He currently chairs the board of the Boys & Girls Club of Grand Rapids, is vice chair of the board of Wellspring Preparatory High School, and sits on the Kent County Officers Compensation Commission. He earned his bachelor’s degree from the University of Michigan and his master of management degree from Aquinas College.  

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Kimberley Downey

Private Investigations & Digital Forensics

Kimberly has been a Professional Investigator for over 25 years and is the founder of Complete Investigations. She has received intensive training and certifications in Reid Techniques of Interviewing & Interrogations, Wifi Router Forensics, Cellular Phone Forensics, Cellular Phone Forensic Extractions & Analysis, Deep Web Internet Investigations, Surveillance, and Social Media Forensics.  Kimberly has also successfully completed the National Insurance Crime Bureau Special Investigations Academy and has received Certificate of Merit for Competitive Intelligence Investigations by the American Management Association.

Kimberly has extensive experience in the pharmaceutical industry and has also investigated national and international patent infringement and intellectual property theft cases. Her portfolio of work includes arson, auto-theft, automobile accidents, financial asset location, background profiling, home invasions, witness interviews, missing persons, wrongful deaths, sexual harassment and internal business investigations. Kimberly is also listed as an Expert Investigator for the United States Public Federal Defender’s Western District of Michigan and has investigated federal cases such as capital murder, money laundering, drug trafficking, kidnapping, bank robberies, child pornography, human trafficking, Ponzi schemes and death sentence appeal cases.  Kimberly has testified in several state and federal courts as an Expert.  She is also a dual-nominee for Grand Rapids Influential Women Award and has been profiled in the Grand Rapids Business Journal.  Kimberly is a recognized public speaker and educator for the International Association of Special Investigation Units, Michigan Adjusters Association and Michigan Self Insured Association.


For more information:

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Jim Scatena

Director of Corporate Restructuring & Brand Strategy

Jim Scatena is passionate about being a part of C-Suite Strategic and sharing his expertise in successful brand building and turn-around leadership. Jim recently retired as CEO and President of FloraCraft Corporation, which is based in Ludington, Michigan. Under Jim's leadership in 2010, FloraCraft was named Supplier of the Year by Walmart Stores. With four manufacturing and fabrication facilities in North America and partnerships in China, FloraCraft was a recognized leader with major retailers like Walmart, Target, Dollar Tree and Michaels Stores and most other major chain stores. 

Jim has been recognized as the Business Leader of the Year by the Ludington Chamber of Commerce and has been awarded the Meritorious Award of Honor by the Hobby Industries Association. He was also recently inducted into the Craft & Hobby Association Hall of Fame. 

Jim serves on the Spectrum Health Governance Task Force and is President of the Ludington Area Catholic school board. During his 40-year career, Jim led the acquisition teams for over a dozen mergers. He was also known as “The Fixer” for bringing those acquisitions into the company culture and returning them to relevance.


Carole Valade

Director of Media Relations

Carole brings more than 33 years of executive leadership to the C-Suite team. She is a veteran journalist and editor with a built network of top business executives. In addition to her role with C-Suite, Carole is the CEO/President of C Valade Consulting. Carole is currently contracting in B2B growth services and with Michigan digital and print publications. These publications include Corp! Magazine, which is headquartered in Warren and Women’s Lifestyle Magazine in Grand Rapids. Her monthly blog on Michigan business is featured on


Carole was inducted into the Michigan Business Hall of Fame in 2018, received the Athena International Award in 2012 and serves on several Grand Rapids boards including the YMCA Metropolitan Board of Governors. She is a sailor, a foodie and hapless with plants.  

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George Franklin

Director of Government Affairs

George Franklin brings many areas of expertise to C-Suite Strategic. George is a lawyer and former Vice President of Worldwide Government Relations for Kellogg Company. He has held numerous positions in and out of government, including Member of the Industry Sector Advisory Committee on Consumer Goods of the U.S. Department of Commerce, Member of the U.S. Department of Agriculture Human Nutrition Advisory Committee, Chairman of both the State Affairs Committee and the Washington Representatives Group of the Grocery Manufacturers of America and Chairman of the American Frozen Food Institute. 

In addition to testifying before Congress as the representative of the food industry, George has served as Chairman of the Board of Trustees of Western Michigan University. He has his own weekly radio segment called, “Ask the Lobbyist.” George is also proud to serve as President of Franklin Public Affairs LLC in Kalamazoo, Michigan.

George Franklin is the author of the acclaimed book on corporate lobbying, Raisin Bran and Other Cereal Wars. He was a Democratic candidate for Michigan’s 6th Congressional District in 2018. While he lost the primary, he survived to write about it with humor and insight in his latest tell-all book, So You Think You Want to Run for Congress, to be published in 2019.

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Kim Bode

Director of Digital Media & Public Relations

In addition to her role with C-Suite, Kim Bode is the Principal of 8THIRTYFOUR, which is an award-winning Communication Strategy, Event Planning, Social Media, Media Relations and Design firm located in Grand Rapids, Michigan. This business was inspired by Kim’s passion for communications and over a decade of experience in strategic planning, marketing communications, public relations, event planning, and community outreach.  

Bode is a two-time Grand Rapids Business Journal “Forty under 40” nominee and was profiled as one of Grand Rapids Magazine’s Influential Women. In addition, she is a graduate of the Center of Community Leadership’s “Inside Grand Rapids” program and a 2009 and 2013 Athena Award nominee. An in-demand speaker, Bode has presented on social media strategy, engagement, measurement and policy for organizations, including the Michigan Association of CPAs, Alliance of Women Entrepreneurs, Grand Rapids Chamber of Commerce, Kalamazoo Chamber and more.  Kim also co-hosts the monthly radio show “Your Biz, Your Town” with WGVU’s Shelley Irwin on 88.5 FM.

For more information:


Karen Johnson

Senior Advisor & Chief Political Strategist

The Honorable Karen A. Johnson served as Assistant Secretary of Education for Legislation and Congressional Affairs. In this Senate confirmed position Ms. Johnson was the Department’s primary
contact with Capitol Hill, overseeing the direction, planning and development for the implementation of the Administration’s legislative goals and priorities. As Assistant Secretary, she often joined Members of
Congress in their districts addressing the landmark and controversial No Child Left Behind Act. A senior member of the Department’s staff, Ms. Johnson was a key advisor to Secretary of Education Rod Paige,
providing strategic counsel on legislative, political and communications issues.


Before working as Assistant Secretary of Education, Ms. Johnson was vice president of social marketing and public affairs at Porter Novelli, where she managed not-for-profit and foundation clients including Catholic Charities and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.


In 2009, she founded 2KConsulting providing government affairs and communications for not –for-profit and education clients. She is also a principal with Potomac Strategic, LLC providing similar counsel.


Ms. Johnson is a veteran of numerous campaigns and large scale political management efforts, including the 2000 Republican National Convention in Philadelphia, where she served as a convention manager. Additionally, she managed U.S. House Budget Committee Chairman John Kasich’s presidential primary campaign (1998-1999) and leadership political action committee -- Pioneer PAC.


Ms. Johnson continues to be called up to lend her expertise in the political field. In 2015 and 2016, she served on the board of New Day for America a PAC in support of John Kasich.


Her campaign work is recognized internationally as well. Ms. Johnson traveled to Istanbul on behalf of the International Republican Institute (IRI) to work with emerging Iraqi women leaders and served as a mentor to women leaders in Jordan and Egypt through CLIME (Center for Liberty in the Middle East). She has traveled to Albania to work with a variety of coalition groups on the topics of advocacy, leadership and organization; to Kabul, Afghanistan to advise newly elected women Members of Parliament on their legislative activity and to Amman, Jordan to work with women leaders of Civil Society organizations. Ms. Johnson currently serves on the advisory board for IRI’s Women’s Democracy Network.


Ms. Johnson’s unique political resume earned her a fellowship at the University of Pennsylvania's Annenberg School for Communications and a speaker at the Fels Institute of Government.


An active member of her community, she has served on the Board of the Washington Mathematics Science Technology Public Charter High School in the District of Columbia; her local business association; on the national advisory board member of Lions Quest, Lions Clubs International’s social and emotional learning in school program and state leadership of Australian Shepherd Rescue (she happily is owned by two).


Ms. Johnson began her career as a staff assistant for Congressman Duncan Hunter (R- CA). She is a graduate of Appalachian State University in North Carolina, where she earned a bachelor's degree in communications. She is the veteran of over a half a dozen marathons and has hiked to the summit of Mt. Kilimanjaro.

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Michael Frederick

Director, State Advocacy & Legislative Affairs

In addition to his role with C-Suite Strategic, Mike is the President & CEO of the Frederick Group, a Lansing, Michigan based government affair consulting firm.  Frederick has been recognized as one of the most effective lobbyists by the political trade publication, MIRS, on several occasions. He has acted as a consultant for national clients advising each of them on state strategies covering all 50 states.


Frederick’s background situated him in the multifaceted political realm that’s made the Frederick Group successful today. He graduated from MSU with a Bachelor of Arts degree from James Madison College and received his Juris Doctorate from the Thomas M. Cooley Law School, subsequently being sworn in by a sitting Justice of the Supreme Court of Michigan.  Mike has run campaigns and served as an aid to numerous legislators in both the House of Representatives and the State Senate, including the Speaker of the House. Prior to forming the Frederick Group in 2008, he was a lobbyist for the Michigan Concrete Paving Association, the present-day Michigan Concrete Association.


He is also very active in the community currently serving as a member of the Clinton County Road Commission. Mike has previously served as Vice Chairman of the Lansing Charter Township Planning Commission, a member of the Lansing Charter Township Brownfield Redevelopment Authority, the Ingham County Economic Development Corporation’s Board of Directors and the Ingham County Brownfield Redevelopment Authority. Lastly, he served as treasurer for the Women’s Center of Greater Lansing, a non-profit organization dedicated to helping women realize their potential.

For more information:


Gabriel Schneider

C-Suite Strategic Affiliate and Northern Strategies 360 Principal

Gabe and his team have affiliated with C-Suite Strategic as we expand our statewide network of professionals.  Headquartered in Traverse City, Gabe brings an intimate knowledge of Northern Michigan and a range of professional expertise to the C-Suite team.


In founding Northern Strategies 360, Gabe believed that there was a niche to be filled for an organization that simultaneously brought a broad macro level perspective coupled with an intimate understanding of Northern Michigan to businesses, non-profits, associations and governmental units.  Gabe’s over 11 years of experience working for U.S. Senator Carl Levin brings strong relationships, connections and a strong knowledge of the issues facing business in Northern Michigan.  Over the course of his professional career, Gabe has worked on issues as diverse as economic development, land and historic preservation, infrastructure development and maintenance, and agricultural and manufacturing job growth and retention strategies.  Gabe is recognized as a leader, listener, collaborator and decision maker in the region, state and nationally.  He is passionate about Northern Michigan and ensuring a good quality of life for all who choose to Work. Play. Live in this area. 


Gabe holds a degree from Michigan State University’s James Madison College in International Relations with a specialization in Environmental Economics.


Rick Chapla

Director, Strategic Planning & Business Development

For 16 years, Rick directed economic development and land use planning initiatives for the City of Muskegon.  After a short stint with Williams & Works, Rick joined The Right Place, Inc., a regional economic development organization where he utilized his experience, skills, and contacts to advance multi-governmental collaborations, infrastructure improvements, and strategic thinking, planning and execution.


In 2018, Rick formed Rick Chapla Consulting, which focuses on grant writing, strategic planning and government relations.  He affiliated with C-Suite Strategic in August of 2019 to assist C-Suite clients with strategic planning, land-use matters, and business development.  


Rick Earned his Master’s Degree in Urban Planning from the University of Michigan and serves on the boards of the Ottawa County Economic Development Corporation and the Brownfield Redevelopment Authority.

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