Staff Leadership

Sam Schaeffer  | Chief Executive Officer / Executive Director


Sam Schaeffer is the Executive Director and Chief Executive Officer of the Center for Employment Opportunities (CEO), a New York-based nonprofit corporation that provides employment services to men and women with criminal convictions. CEO was created by the Vera Institute of Justice in the late 1970s and has been operating as an independent corporation since 1996.  Mr. Schaeffer joined CEO in 2009 to replicate the program in jurisdictions beyond New York City. During his tenure, CEO has expanded to 11 cities across California, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania and New York. Prior to joining CEO, Mr. Schaeffer served as Director of Economic Development for U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer of New York. In that position, he oversaw all job creation and retention efforts, transportation, and infrastructure policy as well as social policy. Sam graduated with a B.A. from Reed College, Phi Beta Kappa.


Brad Dudding  | Chief Impact Officer


Brad Dudding joined CEO in 1994. He oversees CEO’s financial, MIS, transitional job and human resource operations and works closely with the Executive Director on organizational strategy and management operations. Prior to joining CEO, Mr. Dudding worked at the NYC Office of Management and Budget, under the direction of Mindy Tarlow. Mr. Dudding also served as a Municipal Financial Analyst at the New York State Controller’s Office and was responsible for overseeing the budgets of New York City’s uniformed agencies.






Samra Haider | Executive Director, CEO National


Samra Haider is Executive Director of the Center for Employment Opportunities (CEO) National where she oversees all key programmatic, operational, financial and strategic aspects of CEO’s operations outside of New York City; including expansion into new markets. Samra ensures that the CEO National portfolio is not only meeting all programmatic goals and outcomes, but is also positioned to grow capacity and continue achieving scale efficiencies. Prior to CEO, Samra most recently worked for Next Street Financial an advisory firm focused on assisting small businesses and nonprofits in urban markets. At Next Street, Samra oversaw the firm’s brick and mortar technical assistance business unit, where she helped deploy over $6M in financing to small businesses in New York City. Prior to Next Street, Samra was Portfolio Director at REDF, a venture philanthropy fund based in California that invests in employment-focused social enterprises. Samra oversaw REDF’s portfolio investments and led the organization’s expansion and presence in Southern California. Samra was also a strategic management consultant at Oliver Wyman where she primarily focused on client engagements in the healthcare, technology, and aviation sectors. She was also an Investment Banking Analyst at JPMorgan Chase. Samra holds an MBA from the Wharton School, an MSc from the London School of Economics, and a B.A. from Columbia University. Samra serves as a Trustee of the FHI Foundation, which supports FHI 360 (formerly Family Health International), an international NGO with an operating budget of over $673M.



Christopher Watler  | Executive Director of CEO New York


Christopher Watler is the Executive Director of CEO New York. He provides operational and strategic leadership towards the achievement CEO’s mission and growth goals. Prior to joining CEO, Mr. Watler worked for the Center for Court Innovation in several key roles. He served as the Project Director for the Harlem Community Justice Center where he developed nationally recognized, evidence-based reentry programs for youth and adults, as well as diversion programs for juveniles and eviction prevention programs for housing court litigants. Mr. Watler also served as the Deputy Director of National Technical Assistance where he provided information and assistance to justice systems nationally and internationally. He was instrumental in the launch of both the Red Hook Community Justice Center and Crown Heights Community Mediation Center. Mr. Watler has developed and managed youth development programs for high-risk New York City youth as the Operations and Training Manager at the City Volunteer Corps, an NYC demonstration program that was a precursor to the federal AmeriCorps program, and as a Community Center Director for the Union Settlement Association in East Harlem. Mr. Watler currently chairs the board of directors of the Boys & Girls Club of Harlem where he helped to lead the completion of a forty million dollar new Clubhouse and affordable housing at a historic former public school building in Harlem–P.S 186. Mr. Watler holds a B.S in Political Science From the State University of New York at Purchase, and a Masters of Public Administration from John Jay College of the City University of New York.



Will Heaton | Director of Policy and Public Affairs


Will Heaton Headshot For WebWill Heaton serves as the Director of Policy and Public Affairs for the Center for Employment Opportunities. In this capacity he is responsible for managing CEO’s public policy initiatives and working with staff across the organization to engage public officials at all levels of government in support of CEO’s operations. Prior to CEO Will was Vice President of Member Relations at the Council on Foundations, one of the largest philanthropic networks in the United States. He served as a key liaison with foundation leaders across the country working with them on issues affecting philanthropy and the communities they served. Areas included impact investing, global philanthropy, corporate social responsibility, and advocacy. Prior to the Council on Foundations, Will served as a Chief of Staff for an Ohio congressman and a legislative aide in the Office of the Speaker. Will graduated from the College of William and Mary with a double major in history and government. He resides in Alexandria with his wife and two children and spends his free time running, cycling and enjoying the outdoors with his family.



Bill Heiser | Senior Director, California and Strategic Initiatives


Bill Heiser oversees CEO’s operations in California.Bill joined CEO in 2010 to establish CEO’s presence in California, beginning with the Golden State Works Project in Oakland. He has over 7 years of experience in the reentry field. Prior to joining CEO, Bill served as the Coordinator of the Community Safety and Justice Program at the Urban Strategies Council in Oakland where he managed a number of county-wide reentry and violence prevention initiatives. Bill also has an extensive background in reentry research and policy analysis and has focused on this issue while serving as a research associate at both the Illinois Division of Mental Health and the Columbus Children’s Research Institute in Columbus, Ohio. He holds an M.A. from the University of Chicago and a B.A. from Hampshire College.



Johanna King-Vespe  | Director of CEO National


Johanna VespeJohanna King-Vespe currently serves as the Director of CEO National and oversees program performance and contract management for all of CEO’s National offices. Her key responsibilities include developing and managing a scalable system for performance management across National offices, ensuring fidelity with the CEO model and providing support on fiscal matters. She plays an integral role in the expansion efforts of the organization which include the launch of new offices, training new or existing staff and creating an environment to cultivate and grow high performing staff. Johanna joined CEO in 2007 in a direct service capacity and has held positions within program management, administration, and organizational compliance. She holds a B.A in Deviant Behavior and Social Control and an M.A in Criminal Justice from John Jay College of Criminal Justice, CUNY.



Kelly Doyle  | Director, Midwest Region and National Implementation


Kelly DoyleKelly Doyle oversees CEO’s Oklahoma operation.  She assisted CEO in launching in Tulsa in 2011 and subsequently in Oklahoma City in 2013.  Kelly will also be assisting CEO in expansion efforts, improving young adult engagement, and policy initiatives aimed at helping CEO’s participants overcome barriers to work. She has been working in the employment reentry field for over seven years.  Prior to coming to CEO, Kelly managed the Department of Labor’s Prisoner Reentry Initiative through the Community Service Council.  She began her career in finance and administration for an international aid agency completing tours in Darfur, South Sudan, and the hurricane-affected areas of Louisiana and Mississippi.  Kelly holds an M.A. from the University of Chicago and a B.S. from the University of Montana.



Mary Bedeau  | Deputy Executive Director of CEO NYC


With 21 years of experience in youth development within the employment and training field, Mary Bedeau began her career in workforce development at Vocational Foundation Inc in 1998. Prior to her current position, she was the Director of Replication Services for the WAY Program for Children’s Village in Dobbs Ferry, New York.  Previously, she successfully managed a long-term follow-up and sustained labor-force management program for disadvantaged youth, that earned a PepNet award. Ms. Bedeau has good consensus-building skills and a strong belief in staff development and training. She believes in giving front-line staff the access to information necessary to improve their caseload management skills and in using program evaluation to ensure continuous improvement.



Thailia Elcock-Bowen  | Director of Human Resources


Responsible for administering compensation, benefits, and performance evaluation programs, managing the orientation process for new CEO employees.  Ms. Elcock-Bowen practiced law from 1992 to 1996, providing legal counsel to indigent clients. She began her career with CEO in February 1997 as a Life Skills Educator where she conducted orientation and the Life Skills training course. In September of that year, she became the Assistant to the Executive Director and eventually served as a Program Coordinator where she helped to bring new programs online. Ms. Elcock-Bowen earned her undergraduate degree in Africana Studies from Cornell University and received her law degree from Vermont Law School.




Tim Williams  | Senior Director of Operations, CEO NYC


Tim Williams began his career with CEO in 2003 with the launch of a large-scale multi-agency initiative on Rikers Island, and then as the Director of Transitional Employment Services.  Presently Mr. Williams serves as the Senior Director of Operations in NYC where he oversees participant scheduling, employment verification, facilities/office management, and IT/help desk. Tim will also play a large role in several functional areas such as managing the logistics of new office openings, providing training for Work Crew operations, and developing mobile technology for our participants and Site Supervisors.  Prior to joining CEO, he worked with the Vera Institute of Justice on a prisoner reentry demonstration project. Mr. Williams also developed and managed several programs concerning intimate personal violence in both community and jail settings. Mr. Williams has a research background, both as the MacClure Fellow for the Study of International Affairs based in Mexico, and at the Highlander Center in Tennessee. Mr. Williams received a Masters of Science in Social Work from the University of Tennessee.


Derick Bowers | Director of Crew Works, CEO NYC


Derick Bowers oversees CEO’s Crew Works in NYC — a social enterprise that provides transitional work to people returning from incarceration. Prior to joining CEO, Derick was the Director of NYCEDC Partnerships at The Doe Fund — a non-profit organization providing a hand up to people with histories of homelessness, incarceration and substance abuse. During this role, he employed over 100 contracted workers to provide maintenance for NYCEDC portfolio properties and graffiti removal services citywide. Prior to that, Derick managed contracts and developed new business growth for the Community Improvement Project, The Doe Fund’s flagship social enterprise, which cleaned and maintained 170 miles of New York City’s streets while also creating transitional jobs for hundreds of men. Derick earned his undergraduate degree in Communications from Howard University in Washington, D.C. He is also an alumnus of Coro New York Leadership Center’s Leadership New York Program.