Commissioner Bios

Bryan Barnhouse

Bryan is committed to helping advance his adopted state of Arkansas through the creation of economic development opportunities. As Vice President of the Arkansas Research Alliance, he connects the state’s rich scientific and research communities at Arkansas universities and the state’s only FDA lab, the National Center for Toxicological Research, to foster economic value. Bryan served as Director of Economic Development for the Economic Development Alliance for Jefferson County, where he helped create prosperity in the Arkansas Delta through the recruitment of new industries and the expansion of existing businesses. Prior to that, he was the International Project Manager for Asia at the Arkansas Economic Development Commission (AEDC), the official global business development agency for the State of Arkansas. He oversaw programs on foreign direct investment recruitment and trade opportunities with Asia. He joined AEDC as the Community Development Consultant for Northwest Arkansas. Before relocating to Arkansas, Bryan worked at the International City/County Management Association in Washington, D.C., coordinating federal business development and managing military and technology projects.

As a nine-year member and former Chair of the Little Rock Sister Cities Commission, he helps cultivate relationships and partnerships between Little Rock and cities around the world, particularly with Newcastle Upon Tyne, England, for which he serves as the commission co-liaison.

Bryan holds a Master of Public Administration and Bachelor of Arts in International Relations from the University of Southern California. He resides in downtown Little Rock with his wife, Jennifer, and their two rescue dogs.

Kelley Bass

Kelley serves as Chief Executive Officer at the Museum of Discovery, Arkansas’ premier family museum with a mission to ignite a passion for science, technology, engineering, arts and math in a dynamic, interactive environment. He leads a staff of 35 and is responsible for all operations at the museum.

Under Kelley’s leadership, the Museum of Discovery has had its most successful years in terms of attendance and financial performance in its 91-year history. The museum was named Non-Profit Organization of the Year in the Arkansas Business of the Year Awards in 2014, and Kelley in 2016 was named Non-Profit Executive of the Year in the same competition.

Before coming to the museum in December 2012, Kelley served as assistant dean for external affairs for the Donaghey College of Engineering and Information Technology (EIT) at UALR. Previously, Kelley spent nine years as senior vice president of corporate communications for Acxiom Corporation, working directly for the company’s senior leadership team. Before joining Acxiom in 1999, Kelley spent 18 years in the newspaper business as a multi-award-winning reporter, columnist and editor at the Arkansas Gazette, Springfield News-Leader and Arkansas Times.


Melanie Berman

Melanie Berman works at the University of Arkansas Division of Agriculture, Cooperative Extension Office. She is currently serving as the Program Director of the Arkansas Procurement Assistance Center (APAC), working with local small businesses and partner organizations to ensure the overall economic well-being of the State of Arkansas.

Melanie holds a graduate degree in Public Administration and undergraduate degree in Communications. She has lived in multiple countries, including Spain, Israel, Russia, Mexico, Japan, and Madagascar. Melanie has served as a Peace Corps volunteer and an AmeriCorps volunteer. She has a strong passion for serving her community as displayed by her commitment to public service.

She currently serves as the Vice-Chairperson of the Little Rock Sister Cities Commission and as the co-liaison to Hanam City, South Korea. Melanie chaperoned the Mayor’s Youth Leadership student group to Hanam City, South Korea in 2015 and 2016.


Robert Coon

Robert is the Managing Partner at Impact Management Group (IMG). He is a registered lobbyist, representing clients before the Arkansas General Assembly, Executive Branch, and state agencies.  Robert also develops strategic communications campaigns and oversees grassroots, media, and digital outreach services for IMG’s public policy and issue advocacy clients.  He has advised clients in a variety of industry sectors including energy, healthcare, technology, telecommunications, financial services, labor and agriculture.

Prior to joining IMG, Robert was an Account Manager at the DCI Group, a full-service public and government affairs firm in Washington, D.C. While at DCI, he managed public affairs campaigns for clients of all sizes, including Fortune 500 corporations, small and medium-sized companies, trade associations, and non-profit organizations.

In March of 2008, Robert was appointed to the Arkansas Service Commission by Governor Mike Beebe and was reappointed in 2009 and in 2012.  He served as Chairman of the Commission during the 2010 calendar year.  That same year, Arkansas Business included Robert on its “40 Under 40” list, which highlights up and coming business and political leaders from across Arkansas.  In January of 2011, Robert was appointed to the Little Rock Sister Cities Commission by Mayor Mark Stodola.  He led the Commission as Chairman from 2014 to 2016 and currently serves as a co-liaison to Hanam, South Korea.

In 2016, Robert was appointed to the Governor’s Advisory Commission on National Service and Volunteerism by Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson and was appointed to the Arkansas District Export Council by U.S. Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker.

A native of Greenville, South Carolina, Robert graduated summa cum laude from Presbyterian College (Clinton, SC) with a Bachelor of Science degree with Honors in both Business Administration and Political Science. He and his wife Lindsay are members of Fellowship Bible Church. They live in Little Rock with their two daughters, Lucy and Sally, and one son, Sam.


Ellen Gray


Julleah Johnson

Julleah is a Senior Medical Science Liaison at Otsuka America Pharmaceutical Inc., part of the Otsuka business group with global headquarters in Tokushima, Japan and US headquarters in Princeton, New Jersey.

As a field scientific expert in neuroscience, Julleah’s role is to develop collaborative relationships with key opinion leaders in psychiatry, serve as a strategic interface for Otsuka to identify business and scientific opportunities, and communicate the science of Otsuka medicines to the healthcare community.  She held a similar role as Regional Scientific Manager with AstraZeneca Pharmaceuticals for several years prior to taking the position at Otsuka.

After receiving a doctorate in clinical psychology in 1998 from the University of Arkansas in/at Fayetteville, Julleah completed a postdoctoral fellowship in clinical neuropsychology in 1999.  She then held clinical and research positions, and was an adjunct faculty instructor at the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville where she taught undergraduate courses in the Department of Psychology.

Before transitioning into the pharmaceutical industry she was a faculty instructor at the Department of Psychiatry at UAMS. Julleah was born in Cebu City, Philippines, where she spent her early childhood years.  She grew up in California and has traveled extensively throughout the US, Mexico, the South Pacific, and the Philippines.

She was appointed to the Little Rock Sister Cities Commission in ___.  She was also a commissioner in 2011 and part of 2012 for the Little Rock City Beautiful Commission and is involved in various volunteer organizations.  Julleah is interested in expanding Little Rock residents’ understanding of and appreciation for cultural diversity.  She believes that having a broad scope of knowledge of a range of cultures leads to greater achievements, innovation, and individual contentment.   She is married to native Arkansan, Jason Johnson, and has two stepchildren, Reese and Brooks.


Jill McIlroy


Chris Morgan

Chris is Associate Counsel at Heifer International, an international nongovernmental organization that is working with communities to end world hunger and poverty and to care for the Earth. At Heifer, Chris provides a full range of legal services with emphasis on review, negotiation, and drafting of international grants and contracts. He also assists in-house counsel with charitable registrations and maintenance, registration and formation of international offices, provides assistance in managing external legal counsel in over 30 countries, and monitors and provides updates on international law including local laws of countries in which Heifer operates as well as international treaties and other international agreements between countries that affect Heifer’s programmatic work.

Previously, Chris worked as a law clerk for in-house counsel as well as a graduate consultant for executive offices at Heifer. Chris has also held various other positions such as Commissioner on the Little Rock City Beautiful Commission, Committee Member on the Riverfest Committee, In-School Enrichment Coordinator for AmeriCorps in the Little Rock School District, graduate consultant on re-entry court systems for the Federal Public Defender’s Office in the Eastern District of Arkansas, and has contributed to the work of Club de Madrid, Quapaw Quarter Association, Arkansas Literary Festival, and Arkansas Children’s Hospital. He has worked or studied in Washington, D.C., Spain, Mexico, and China.

Chris sought appointment to the Sister Cities Commission from the perspective of an Arkansas native who has benefitted from the good fortune of having access to worldwide perspectives early in his career and has a vested interest in expanding access to differing cultural viewpoints to fellow citizens of Little Rock and further developing cultural, historical, and economic exchange with cities around the globe.

Chris is a licensed attorney and received his Juris Doctor from the Bowen School of Law while attending the University of Arkansas Clinton School of Public Service concurrently, where he received his Master of Public Service degree. Originally from El Dorado, Arkansas, Chris graduated summa cum laude from the University of Arkansas at Little Rock with a Bachelor of Business Administration in International Business and a Bachelor of Arts in Spanish.


Brandon Morris

Brandon Morris serves as director - public affairs at Union Pacific Railroad. He is responsible for the development and implementation of Union Pacific's strategy and policy for state government affairs, community relations, public partnerships and philanthropic programs in Arkansas, Oklahoma and Tennessee. Morris serves as the chairman of the Arkansas Railroad Association and the Oklahoma Railroad Association.

Prior to joining Union Pacific in 2014, Morris served as public information officer at the Arkansas Department of Emergency Management (ADEM). From 2008 to 2013, he worked for SAIC and served as the public affairs and outreach liaison for the Pine Bluff Chemical Agent Disposal Facility on the U.S. Army Pine Bluff Arsenal.

Morris holds a Bachelor of Science - Journalism from Arkansas State University - Jonesboro and a Masters of Public Administration from Webster University. He serves on the Arkansas State University Alumni Association board of directors and is involved with the Arkansas Chapter of Public Relations Society of America. Morris is also Accredited in Public Relations and Military Communication (APR+M). In 2016, he was recognized by Arkansas Business on their 20 in their 20s: New Influentials list.


Denver Peacock

Denver brings nearly 20 years of professional experience to every account and project he supports at The Peacock Group (TPG), a Little Rock-based strategic communications firm he launched in 2014. Prior to TPG, he worked a dozen years at Cranford Johnson Robinson Woods (CJRW).

While at CJRW, he served as senior vice president and vice president in a number of leadership posts including director of public relations and director of public affairs, and as a member of the board of directors. While there, he provided communications counsel to Razorback Foundation, The Peabody Hotel Group, Centennial Bank, Clinton Foundation, Pollo Campero, Kum & Go, Walton Family Foundation, and many others.

Prior to joining CJRW, Denver provided political, communications, and logistical support for The Prince of Wales Foundation, Clinton Presidential Foundation, FedEx, Airbus, Napster, and others. Denver managed most of these projects on an international scale. He also worked on two presidential campaigns and served in The White House during the Clinton Administration. In total, he has traveled to more than 85 countries, including extensive travel in the United States and his home state of Arkansas.

A licensed attorney, Denver earned his undergraduate degree at Ouachita Baptist University with honors and his law degree from the University of Arkansas School of Law, where he graduated with honors and served on law review. Originally from McCrory, Arkansas, he is married to Melissa Bragg Peacock, and they have two children, Presley Grace Peacock and Hudson Reed Peacock.


Melanie Scott

 Professor Melanie Scott was recently appointed to the Little Rock Sister Cities Commission. Professor Scott is a native of Kansas City, Missouri and relocated to Little Rock, Arkansas with her husband (Lester Scott) in the Spring of 2017.

Professor Scott spent 32 years at Kansas City Kansas Community College (KCKCC) in academic teaching and institutional leadership before retiring in 2014. Professor Scott was Inducted into the Mid America Education Hall of Fame in 2016.

Professor Scott was the Co-Founder and Director of the Intercultural Center and a Professor in the Social and Behavioral Science Division. During her tenure at KCKCC, Professor Scott contributed to the academic institution and the local communities in a myriad of capacities. Professor Scott spearheaded programs and guidelines to promote and enhance diversity education among administration, faculty, staff, students and the community of Wyandotte County. In addition, Professor Scott coordinated programs in civil rights, affirmative hiring practices, multicultural education, and Service Learning with ESL and International students.

Professor Scott engaged in international travel to West Africa (Senegal & Gambia), North Africa (Cairo & Alexandria), Middle East (Israel & Jordan), India (New Delhi & Punjab), China (Beijing), Brazil (Fortaleza), Mexico and the Caribbean. She also hosted and mentored exchange teachers and students from Japan, Hong Kong, Korea, Colombia, Brazil, Ethiopia, and Kenya.

Professor Scott has worked to improve the quality of life for all members of society through education, particularly by dispelling biases against often marginalized populations.


Ashvin Vibhakar

Dr. Ashvin P. Vibhakar, CFA, has been an Executive Sponsor and a Senior Advisor of the Future of Finance initiative since September 2012 at CFA Institute. The Future of Finance initiative is a long-term global effort to shape a trustworthy, forward-thinking financial industry that better serves society. The initiative aims to provide the tools to motivate and empower the world of finance to commit to fairness, improved understanding, and personal integrity.

Dr. Vibhakar joined CFA Institute in 2007 as managing director, Asia-Pacific Operations. He was based in Hong Kong and was responsible for developing and implementing various operating strategies in the Asia Pacific region, including society relations, employer and university outreach candidate recruitment and support, and member services.

Previously, Dr. Vibhakar was director of the Institute for Economic Advancement in the College of Business Administration at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock (UALR). His distinguished career included numerous academic roles, including Dean of the College of Business Administration at UALR. He has held several board positions.

To assume his position working with CFA Institute, Dr. Vibhakar resigned from his role as an elected member of the Board of Governors of CFA Institute, a role in which he also served on committees for Audit and Risk and External Relations and Volunteer Involvement. He also served in a number of other volunteer capacities including Governors Economic Advisory Council, Board member of various non-profits and taking the lead role for the strategic economic development plan for the city of Little Rock under Mayor Jim Daily. He was a member of Little Rock Arvest Bank board prior to leaving for his role in Hong Kong.

Dr. Vibhakar received his PhD in finance from the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville, his M.B.A from Central Missouri State University, and his Bachelor of Electrical Engineering from M.S. University of Baroda, India.


Robert Zeiler

Robert received his Bachelor of Science in Mechanical Engineering in 1994 from Christian Brothers University in Memphis, Tennessee.  He was employed for 5+ years by Andersen Consulting (now Accenture) as a technology and management consultant.

In 1999, he formed UtiliComm, Inc., a Birmingham, Alabama, based company that provided engineering consulting and specialized horizontal directional drilling services to customers in the utility and communications industries.  After selling UtiliComm, Inc. in 2006, Robert attended the University of Arkansas, where he obtained an M.B.A. with emphasis in Finance.

In 2008, he joined Chesapeake Energy’s Little Rock Corporate Development team where he assisted with Government Affairs and Public Relations initiatives.  Following Chesapeake’s sale in 2011 of the Fayetteville Shale assets, Robert transitioned to BHP Billiton.  He joined New Prospect Company in April 2013, which is based in Little Rock, Arkansas, and focuses on maintaining and growing relationships with oil & gas exploration & production customers in the Mid-Continent region of the United States.