Staff Leadership Team

  • Jeff_Paterson_1_28_16 retake low (final)


    Chief Executive Officer
    Jeff’s Email | Full Bio (PDF)
    Jeff joined Empower in 2014 as CEO. Jeff is involved in leadership roles with many organizations, including the Developmental Disabilities Alliance of WNY to the Person Centered Services Care Coordination Organization. He helps individuals live their best lives by building Empower’s capacity to do more things, in more places, for more people.

  • baehre-diane-2


    Director of Program Operations and Quality Assurance Administration
    Diane’s Email
    Diane has been working in the developmental disability field since 1979 and joined the Empower team in 1999. She has a BA in Social Work/Human Services along with additional certifications and enjoys outdoor activities with her family. Diane helps individuals live their best lives by ensuring they are safe and free from neglect and abuse.

  • Rita_Tweedie_Low_Res (final)

    Rita Tweedie

    Chief Financial Officer
    Rita’s Email
    Rita has been with Empower since 1989. She is an avid golfer who enjoys reading and spending time with family. Rita helps individuals live their best lives by ensuring the agency’s financial stability so that they have the services they need.

  • Kristin_Minervini_Low_Res (final)

    Kristin Minervini

    Director of Human Resources
    Kristin’s Email
    Kristin helps individuals live their best lives by treating everyone with respect and providing encouragement, support and feedback. Kristin joined Empower in 2009 with an AAS in Office Mgmt & Admin from ECC, BS in Business Administration from UB. She enjoys spending time with family, including her husband, their daughters and their dog.

  • Elizabeth_Cardamone_Low_Res (final)

    Elizabeth Cardamone

    Director of Communication and Development
    Elizabeth’s Email
    New to the team (and Western New York area), Elizabeth began her career at Empower in 2016. Outside of work, she enjoys hanging out with her husband and 3 kids, reading, gardening and shopping. Elizabeth helps individuals live their best lives by raising money and awareness about developmental disabilities.

  • Eric_DesSoye_1_28_16_retake low (final)

    Eric DesSoye

    Director of Managed Care Readiness
    Eric’s Email
    With a BA and a MA in Psychology, Eric has been in the developmental disability field since 1990 and has been with Empower since 1997. He enjoys spending time with his family, biking, traveling, and patronizing local eateries and cultural venues. Eric helps individuals live their best lives by empowering them to be happy, strong and independent.

  • WIlliam_Krayss_Low_Res (final)

    William Krayss

    Director of Community Housing
    William’s Email
    Bill has been with Empower since 2000 and has an AA in Liberal Arts from NCCC and a BA in Human Services Management from SUNY Buffalo State. When not working, Bill likes to spend time with family, including his wife, 2 daughters and lots of pets, coach baseball and soccer, and watch wrestling. He helps individuals live their best lives by modeling a positive outlook and work habits, and always looking out for ways he can be helpful.

  • Km_Kiely_1_28_16 retake low (final)

    Kim Kiely

    Director of Job Training and Day Programs
    Kim’s Email
    Kim helps individuals live their best lives by being kind to everyone, including strangers, through random acts of kindness, and by providing job training and opportunities that help boost their self-esteem and reach their highest potential. She has been with Empower since 1990 and has been in the developmental disability field since 1979. When Kim is not working she enjoys spending time with her two beautiful daughters and two golden retrievers, camping, and taking family trips in the summer.  Kim received her BS in education with a specialization in therapeutic recreation from The Ohio State University and a MS in Rehabilitation Counseling from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

  • Sherri_Kaminski_1_28_16 retake low (final)

    Sherri Kaminski

    Director of Empower Children’s Academy
    Sherri’s Email
    Sherri has been with Empower since 1980 and has a MA in Communicative Disorders & Science and a Certificate in School Administration from SUNY Buffalo. Outside of work, she enjoys spending time with her husband and Ragdoll kitty, Skye. Sherri helps individuals live their best lives by helping them to succeed.

  • Jerla_Brandon

    Brandon Jerla

    Director of Staff Development & Learning
    Brandon’s Email
    Brandon joined Empower in 2016 as quality assurance manager.  He graduated summa cum laude from Buffalo State College and brings more than 13 years of experience in caring for people with intellectual or developmental disabilities.  Brandon is certified to teach SCIP-R, CPR/First Aid/AED from the American Red Cross and the Cerebral Palsy Association of New York’s Training Collaborative.  He enjoys spending time with his dog, Lincoln, playing golf and traveling with his wife.


Empower Board of Directors


Susan Kuznik, President

Director of Special Education
Niagara Falls City School District (Retired)

Patricia Wrobel, First Vice President

Executive Director, Rev. Joseph L. Levesque, CM, Institute for Civic Engagement
Niagara University

Daniel Vitch, Second Vice President

Community Advocate

Stanley Fera, Treasurer

Branch Manager
KeyBank Main Branch

Russell J. Petrozzi, Corresponding Secretary

Capitol Cleaners

Patrice Wells, Recording Secretary

Senior Biopharmaceutical Representative Oncology

Robert DiFrancesco, Immediate Past President

Niagara Catholic and Niagara Falls High Schools (ret.)

Kevin Burgess, LMSW

Clinic Supervisor Outpatient Behavior
Niagara Falls Memorial Medical Center

Thomas J. Caserta, Esq.


Gary Damon

Erie County Director
Center for Employment Opportunities

Alice Kozen, PhD

Associate Professor of Education
Niagara University

Marcus Latham

Niagara Falls City School District

Donald Napoleon

VSCO, Inc.

Ernest C. Palmer

Enrolled Agent/Tax Practitioner
Ernest Palmer, EA

Richard Sawicki, DPM

Doctor of Podiatry


Empower Foundation Board of Directors


Donald Napoleon, Chair
VSCO, Inc.

Eric McGuire
Accounting Manager
Buffalo Sabres

Robert O’Leary
Vice President
Parkview Health Services, LLC