Board and Staff Leadership

Staff Leadership Team

      • Jeff Head Shot (2)


        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 and 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


        Chief Quality Officer
        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.

      • Eric_DesSoye_1_28_16_retake low (final)

        Eric DesSoye

        Director of Analytics and Special Projects
        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.

      • Mary Hoffman

        Educational Services Supervisor
        Mary’s Email
        With a BA and MS in Education, Mary has spent her career at Empower, and specifically in Empower’s Children’s Academy. She enjoys spending time with her family, especially boating, and looking after her two granddaughters. Mary helps individuals to live the lives they choose by providing superior preschool education.

      • 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.

      • 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.

      • Kim Kiely

        Director of Job Training & 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.


Empower Board of Directors


Thomas J. Caserta, Esq.


Susan Kuznik, Immediate Past President

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

Kevin Burgess, LMSW, First Vice President

Lead Social Worker
Niagara Falls Memorial Medical Center

Daniel Vitch, Second Vice President

Community Advocate

Stanley Fera, Treasurer

Branch Manager

Russell J. Petrozzi, Corresponding Secretary

Capitol Cleaners

Patrice Wells, Recording Secretary

Molecular Oncology Specialist
Caris Life Sciences

Robin Warren, Self-Advocate Board Representative

James D’Angelo

Educator, Educational Administrator and Student Teacher Supervisor (Retired)

Robert DiFrancesco

Niagara Catholic and Niagara Falls High Schools (Retired)

Alice Kozen, PhD

Associate Professor of Education
Niagara University

Olivia Linke

Community Affairs Director
Univera Healthcare

Noelle McCoy

Program Manager
Leadership Niagara

Donald Napoleon

VSCO, Inc.

Richard Sawicki, DPM

Doctor of Podiatry


Empower Foundation Board of Directors


Donald Napoleon, Chair
VSCO, Inc.

Charles Dieteman
Niagara University

Eric McGuire
TM Montante Development

Robert O’Leary
Vice President
Parkview Health Services, LLC