National Officers

Paul L. Mimms – National President
Email: pmimms@bva.org
Phone: (816) 718-2792

Biography

My Biography

Paul Mimms, Missouri Regional Group, was born in Iowa City, Iowa, and moved to Kansas City, Missouri in 1960. He graduated eighth in his class from the city’s Central High School in 1963.

 

Paul briefly attended Antioch College (Yellow Springs, Ohio) before induction into the U.S. Navy on May 16, 1966. He served shore duty in San Diego at the Naval Training Center and the Naval Electronics Laboratory Center. He was aboard the USS Luzerne County in the Mekong Delta. An accident on the ship led to early onset of glaucoma and his medical discharge in 1969.

 

Paul worked in the restaurant industry and in retail management before increasing blindness led to loss of employment in 1983. Following blind rehabilitation training in Kansas City and his enrollment at the Central Blind Rehabilitation Center (Hines, Illinois), Paul returned to college in 1986. He earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Sociology at the University of Missouri Kansas City and Master’s Degree in Social Work in 1991 from the University of Kansas.

 

He began working for the Department of Veterans Affairs in 1992 at the Kansas City Vet Center and later went to work at the West Palm Beach BRC in 2000. In 2004 he was selected as a VIST Coordinator at the West Palm Beach VA Medical Center. He was active in the Florida Regional Group while working at West Palm Beach, serving as a District Director within the group, Vice President, and President.

 

Paul retired in 2009 and returned to Kansas City, where he almost immediately became involved in the rejuvenation of the Missouri Regional Group where he was originally a charter member. Paul served as both Secretary and President of the group until his election to national office on August 23, 2013.

Wade Davis – National Vice President
Email: wdavis@bva.org
Phone: (713) 296-9980

Biography

My Biography

Wade Davis is a U.S. Army Veteran of the Vietnam Era. He served in the Army Security Agency with a top-secret security clearance and was honorably discharged on December 28, 1971 at the rank of Sergeant E-5.

 

Following his discharge from the Army, Wade enrolled in Texas Bible College with a major in Theology. While at the college he met his wife, Brenda. They have two children and five grandchildren.

 

In 1995, Wade began to lose his sight and was referred to the Texas Commission for the Blind. With the Commission’s help he was able to work an additional 13 years. In 2008, his sight loss had reached a point at which he could no longer perform his work duties.

 

Wade joined the Blinded Veterans Association in 2009 as a member of the Greater Houston Regional Group. In 2010, he attended the VA Southwestern Blind Rehabilitation Center in Tucson, Arizona, his first experience at a blind center. In 2012, he became the treasurer for the Greater Houston Regional Group. He was elected President of the Greater Houston Regional Group in January 2018 and served until January 2022.

 

Additionally, in 2012 Wade became a volunteer BVA Veterans Service Officer at the Houston VA Medical Center. One year later, he was named the full-time Veterans Service Officer and continued to be stationed in Houston. In 2015, organizational changes with BVA’s National Service Officers offered both him and Brenda the opportunity to work at BVA National Headquarters as Veterans Service Officers, Wade in the BVA office in Alexandria and Brenda at the VA Appeals Management Center in Washington, DC. In 2016, Wade took on additional responsibilities as the Veterans Care Review Coordinator, doing site inspections of VA’s BRCs and VISOR Clinics. He retired from BVA in January 2022.

 

With the goal of influencing changes in Texas law, Wade has worked with the Texas Governor’s Committee on People with Disabilities in clarifying the definitions of service animals and emotional support animals and how they differ from one another. He has also worked with a work study group to improve guide dog handlers’ experiences with Uber.

 

Wade looks forward to serving on the BVA National Board of Directors and working with the regional groups of District 4.

Tracy Ferro – National Secretary
Email: tferro@bva.org
Phone: (228) 229-5046

Biography

My Biography

Tracy Ferro was born on October 15, 1962, in New City, New York to Ralph and June Ferro. In 1980, he graduated from Clarkstown Senior High School South, located in West Nyack 18 miles north of New York, and joined the United States Air Force at the age of 17.

 

After completing basic training and bypassing technical school, Mr. Ferro was assigned to the 90th Strategic Missile Wing, F.E. Warren Air Force Base, Wyoming. Initially assigned to the General Purpose Vehicle Maintenance Shop, he was later selected to be on the Mobile Maintenance Team due to his mechanical skills and ability to think outside the box and with minimal supervision while he was still junior in rank.

 

In 1982, Mr. Ferro received orders to Ramstein Air Base, Germany, where once again he was put in the Mobile Maintenance position and as supervisor of the Minor Maintenance Shop. He took on a part-time job teaching Vehicle Maintenance for City Colleges of Chicago and worked his way up to Staff Sergeant.

 

In 1986, he was ordered to Chanute Airforce Base, Illinois to become an instructor for the 3340th Technical Training Group. Having never gone through any type of technical training in the Air Force, Mr. Ferro brought a new perspective to the program and was one of only two instructors to be fully qualified to teach the entire basic course, every advanced course, and both Mobile Training Team courses. During his last year and a half he performed technical training in the field at more than 25 different air bases throughout the world.

 

Mr. Ferro longed to return to Germany and in 1990 was able to do so, having been assigned to the 606th Tactical Control Squadron and later transitioning to an Air Control Squadron. He started out as a Vehicle Mechanic at Basdahl Complex in northern Germany, living on Karl Schurz Kaserne in Bremerhaven. In 1992, he moved with the unit to Bitburg Air Base, Germany, which was soon to close as a result of drawdowns. In 1994, the unit was once again assigned to a new base, Spangdahlem Air Base, 20 miles away. During his tenure at the 606th he was promoted twice and went from being a Vehicle Mechanic to taking charge of the Combat Readiness Branch, which included Vehicle Maintenance and Operations, Security and Armory, Disaster Preparedness, Mobility, and the Independent Duty Medical Technicians. He was responsible for setting up unit level and individual deployments throughout the European Theatre and deployed all or part of the unit to a northern location as far north as Tromso, Norway, and as far south as Lecce, Italy, Zaragoza, Spain, and Poznan, Poland. In his capacity as Combat Readiness Superintendent, he was responsible for more than $350 million in equipment at different times.

 

In 2000, Mr. Ferro retired from the Air Force and moved to Biloxi, Mississippi, where he married Kathy and took on being a father to Matthew. He worked as a mechanic in Biloxi for ten years until his vision became so bad that he could no longer fix vehicles safely and drive, transitioning into a life without sight.

 

Mr. Ferro first attended the Gulf Coast Veterans Health Care System (GCVHCS) Blind Rehabilitation Center (BRC) in December 2015 and has returned on an inpatient basis two additional times. He enjoyed the program so much that he decided to volunteer in any capacity possible. As a BVA member in Mississippi, he was contacted by the Louisiana Regional Group with a proposal to merge the two groups. After working with the Louisiana leadership for a year, he was asked to run for president of the combined regional groups in 2019. He won that election and was re-elected in 2020 and 2021. He was also selected as the BVA representative for the GCVHCS BRC and National Representative for VA Volunteer Services, now known as the Center for Development and Civic Engagement. At the same time, he worked toward his Veteran Service Officer certification.

 

Mr. Ferro has written several articles for the BVA Bulletin and has sat on numerous committees. He believes firmly in helping blinded veterans, regardless of where they live, and enjoys helping veterans who are not blind but who need assistance. He enjoys woodworking, traveling, teaching, and spending as much time as possible with the “love of his life”; his “beautiful bride,” Kathy!

Joe Bogart Image

Joseph “Joe” Bogart – National Treasurer
Email: jbogart@bva.org
Phone: (573) 528-4960

Biography

My Biography

Joseph Bogart is a 1991 high school graduate from Warsaw, Missouri. After which he served in the Missouri Army National Guard as a 12B Combat Engineer while also working as a sheriff’s deputy, 911 dispatcher and firefighter. In 1995, he transitioned to Active Duty in the U.S. Army. During his 28-year Army career, Joe served at Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri and Baumholder, Germany with deployments to Panama, Kosovo and Iraq.


In 2006, as a 2nd Lieutenant Platoon Leader in Iraq, Joe was wounded by an Improvised Explosive Device and awarded the Purple Heart Medal. His wounds caused facial fractures, destroyed his right eye and left his left eye legally blind. After multiple surgeries and with only one partially functioning eye, Joe strove to remain in the Army. In 2008 he succeeded and deployed for another Iraq tour and unknowingly became the first blind U.S. Soldier to deploy to ground combat since the Civil War.


Joe’s military education ranges from Basic Combat Training thru Basic Non-Commissioned Officer Course-12B, Officer Candidate School thru Command and General Staff College. His civilian education includes a B.A. in History and a M.A. in Management and Leadership (both with honors).


Joe’s leadership and staff experience range from Team Leader to Company Commander, Executive Officer to General Staff, and Army Instructor to Doctrine Writer. His commendations include the Bronze Star Medal, Meritorious Service Medal, Purple Heart Medal, and several more awards.


Joe learned of and joined the BVA in 2007. Then, in 2018, after retiring from the Army at the rank of Major, Joe served as BVA’s Executive Director for two years before retiring to Idaho with his wife in 2020.


Beyond his BVA and military experience, Joe has served on several nonprofit boards including Camp Hope INC, Vision Serve Alliance, and Idaho Combat Wounded Veterans. He has also served on the VA Secretary’s Advisory Committee on Prosthetics and Special Disabilities, worked with the VA and Congress to improve care, benefits and accessibility for Blinded Veterans and served on various Veteran Service Organization committees and collaborations.


In addition to serving on the BVA National Board of Directors, Joe enjoys various outdoor activities, cooking, traveling, and quality family time. He and his wife, Christine live in Idaho and have one son, who lives in Florida. Joe was elected to the BVA Board of Directors August, 2023.

District Directors

Claudia Baldwin
Email: cbaldwin@bva.org

Phone: (301) 905-6633

Biography

My Biography

Claudia Baldwin, an immigrant from El Salvador, graduated from high school in 1995 and joined the United States Air Force following graduation. She served as a Staff Sergeant in the field of Medical Laboratory Technology for five and a half years until she was medically retired at age 24 in October 2000 due to sight loss. She first attended the Eastern Blind Rehabilitation Center in West Haven, Connecticut in August 2001, and joined the Blinded Veterans Association in May 2006, where she was hired as a National Field Service Officer.

Claudia has worked in several positions during her 14-plus years with BVA. Her last role prior to retiring was Chief of Veterans Services with a focus on overseeing the operations of the department and the training of personnel. She trained all National Service Officers in the proper development of claims for compensation and pension through the Department of Veterans Affairs. Claudia has an Associate Degree in Medical Laboratory Technology and a Bachelor of Science in Management from the University of Phoenix. She is currently working on a Master of Public Administration.

Claudia resides in the Washington, DC, Metropolitan Area with her husband, James, who is also a disabled blinded veteran. She enjoys reading audio books, traveling, and otherwise living life to the fullest! She is the current Vice President the Baltimore/DC/ Northern Virginia Chapter of BVA’s Mid-Atlantic Regional Group. She is a BVA Ambassador and an advocate for accessibility issues for the Association, a member of the Vispero Advisory Group, and a member of the Audio Description Project Section 508 Subcommittee. She is honored by her recent appointment to further serve BVA and looks forward to advocating for the rights of all blinded veterans.

Joe Link
Email:
jlink@bva.org
Phone: (405) 426-7944

Biography

My Biography

Coming Soon

Doug Ingram Photo

Douglas Ingram
Email:
dingram@bva.org
Phone: (850) 567-8123

Biography

My Biography

Douglas Ingram, Florida Regional Group, has been appointed by the Blinded Veterans Association to serve as the Director of District 3, effective January 25. Accepting the appointment, he will serve out the remainder of the three-year term of office, which began last summer.

 

Doug was born in Corpus Christi, Texas, at the Naval Air Station Hospital. He grew up in Tallahassee, Florida, where he resides still today. He joined the Navy in 1977 immediately out of high school and was trained as an Operations Specialist, stationing him in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and then Charleston, South Carolina, aboard the USS Aylwin, FF-1081, a Knox Class Frigate.

 

After four years of service, Doug transferred to the Reserves and began college. He graduated with an Associate Degree from Tallahassee Community College in 1984 and a Bachelor of Science in Economics from the University of South Florida in 1987 while attaining the rank of E-6, Petty Officer First Class.

 

Doug retired from the Reserves following graduation and began his employment with the State of Florida, reaching the position of Computer Systems Administrator. In 1998, he discovered that he was losing his central vision and was diagnosed with Stargardt Disease. Although he was declared legally blind in 2004 and retired under disability, Doug started a property maintenance company after engaging in some part-time computer consulting.

 

After some ten years of being legally blind, he began looking for ways to serve in the blind community, discovering in the process the resilience of the blind community as he joined BVA in 2018 and began working with the Florida Regional Group. He was soon appointed by the Governor of Florida to the Florida Rehabilitation Council for the Blind to both represent BVA and provide oversight to the State Division of Blind Services. He became the treasurer of the Florida Regional Group in 2022 while accepting invitations to snow ski in Colorado and engage in some ocean kayaking in Key Largo, Florida, with groups now known as Team BVA. He and his wife, Melissa, have been married for 33 years.

Randall “Randy” Lee Cantrell
Email:
rcantrell@bva.org
Phone: (509) 954-4770

Biography

My Biography

Randy Cantrell, Immediate Past President of the Spokane Inland Empire Regional Group (SIERG), was appointed by the BVA National Board of Directors to serve as the Association’s Director of District 4. This district includes fourteen states: Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, Utah, New Mexico, Oregon, Texas, Washington, and Wyoming.

 

Randy was born in Arkansas; shortly after, his family moved to California where he met his wife, Sue, also a native of Arkansas. They dated during his military service and married shortly before he was discharged.

 

Approximately four years after retiring, Randy’s low vision was deteriorating rapidly. He did not know where to turn for help at first. He would say “I can see but I cannot see”. He enrolled in the Mannsfield-Graff VA Health Center in Spokane, Washington, and began receiving care from the VA Eye Clinic. The Visual Impairment Services Team Coordinator contacted him and introduced him to BVA. He had never heard of BVA and immediately joined as a member of SIERG. Later, he was elected SIERG President and has held positions as Interim Treasurer, District 4 Assistant Director, and now District 4 Director. He graduated from the BVA Ambassador training program and is presently functioning in that role as well.

 

After graduating from high school, Randy joined the U.S. Navy. He attended training programs for the hydraulic systems of jet aircraft. After training, he was assigned to Fighter Squadron 141 at Miramar Naval Air Station in San Diego, California, where he was based for the duration of his enlistment. He deployed on the U.S.S. Oriskany and U.S.S. Ranger, where he was a troubleshooter on jet aircraft. 

 

His education consisted of Gavilan College Police Academy, Fresno Junior College (law enforcement major) Fresno State University (criminology/psychology major) and College of San Francisco (psychology major). He received Certificates of Study for Tactical Verbal Skills, Instructor Training of new employees on policies and procedures, National Association of Investigative Specialist, Moral Reconation, and the Work Ethics Program.

 

After the Navy, he began a career in the criminal justice system as a Police Officer, Undercover Narcotics Agent, and the owner of a security guard business.  He retired from the Washington State Department of Corrections McNeil Island Correctional Center as an Instructor and Correctional Counselor.  He served on the Governors Oversight Committee for review of possible hazards of releasing sexual predators into society. 

 

As a Police Officer, Randy was awarded a Certificate of Valor for returning into a burning building to rescue a victim. He received the McNeill Island Prison Counselor of the Year Award, which was voted on by the inmates.

 

Volunteer service has been a part of Randy’s life since serving as a Volunteer Fireman to an international nonprofit organization. He also served on a nonprofit College Scholarship Committee for foster children. He participates in an afterschool program for at-risk youths and Presents workshops on setting personal boundaries and healing relationships. He is skilled in recruiting volunteers and insistence that every voice be heard in business meetings.

Board Members

Stephen Butler – Judge Advocate
Email: sbutler@bva.org
Phone: (800) 588-9564

Biography

My Biography

Stephen, a native Texan, is a veteran of the U. S. Navy trained in threat assessment and counterintelligence.

 

Stephen and his wife of 47 years, Pamela, reside in Temple, Texas.

 

As a Life Member of the Blinded Veterans Association, Stephen currently serves as their Judge Advocate and Parliamentarian. Stephen has been a member of Lions International since 1970 and is currently affiliated with the Temple Texas Lions Breakfast Club, the Military Officers Association of America, the American Legion, the Blinded Veterans Association, and the Delta Theta Pi Law Fraternity.

 

Stephen has served as a Planning Commissioner for La Jolla, California, and Gresham, Oregon.

 

Stephen has worked within the Judicial system since 1975. He has been a seated Judge for the State of California and the State of Oregon with experience in Legal Ethics, First Amendment Rights, Criminal Law, and the Federal RICO Act.

 

Currently retired, Stephen remains active in the community and as the CEO of the Butler Family Foundation.

Joseph D. McNeil, Sr. – Immediate Past President
Email: jmcneil@bva.org
Phone: (706) 570-1210
Term: 2021 – 2023

Biography

My Biography

Joseph D. McNeil, Sr., Georgia Regional Group, was born in 1958 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania-Westside. He was the oldest of seven brothers and sisters and the first in his family to graduate from college with a Bachelor of Science degree in Business and a Master’s Degree in Human Resources.

 

After graduating from high school, Mr. McNeil joined the Army National Guard and worked his way through college, joining the Army ROTC program. Upon graduation, he received his commission as a 2nd Lieutenant, U.S. Army, Field Artillery. His duty assignments included 2nd Infantry Division Korea, 42nd FA Brigade, V Corps G3 Operations Germany, 197th Infantry Brigade Fort Benning and 18th Airborne Corps Fort Bragg. He held numerous staff jobs during his tenure. Upon his diagnosis in October 1989 of Retinitis Pigmentosa, he was processed off of active duty as a Captain after which he re-enlisted in the Georgia Army National Guard and served for four years before his vision prevented him from doing his assigned duties as Personnel Staff Noncommissioned Officer.

 

Mr. McNeil is a multi-graduate of three different blind centers. He joined the Blinded Veterans Association in 2005 and has held the position of Georgia Regional Group vice president. He was president of the Columbus Chapter of the group from 2005 to 2007 and simultaneously the Georgia Regional Group secretary. He was the Georgia Regional Group President from 2007 until 2015. In 2015 he was elected BVA National Treasurer, serving until 2017. He then served a term as Secretary during 2017-19 and will now serve as the organization’s National Vice President until 2021.

 

Since his professional retirement, Mr. McNeil has become an accomplished entrepreneur, father of six, and grandfather of four. He serves his community by sitting on numerous boards representing the blind community as an ambassador, especially for blinded veterans and their capabilities. He has membership in multiple service and civic organizations and is a certified National Veterans Service Officer (NVSO) for BVA.

 

Some favorite mottoes one may hear from Mr. McNeil include: “Information is Knowledge, Knowledge is Power, and Power Wielded properly is an awesome Weapon,” and “Perception is not Reality.” You can find him speaking to civic groups and churches about blindness and the help that is available to those with vision loss.

Picture of Male Silhouette

Vacant – National Chaplain
Email: bva@bva.org
Phone: (800) 669-7079

Biography

Brian O’Connell – Sergeant-at-Arms
Email: boconnell15@yahoo.com
Phone: (336) 466-2120

Biography

My Biography

Brian O’Connell grew up near Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, graduated from Norwich University in Vermont, and entered the Air Force as a second lieutenant in 1976. He served three tours as a B-52 electronic warfare officer and performed additional duties as an academic and flight instructor, operations staff officer, air liaison officer, program manager, and squadron commander.


During his 26 years of active-duty service, Brian served in several combat theaters. These included Operations Just Cause in Panama, Desert Storm, Southern Watch, Uphold Democracy in Haiti, Joint Guard in Bosnia, Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan, and Operation Iraqi Freedom. After retiring from the Air Force in 1998, he worked in the defense industry before being recalled to active duty in 2002. After reverting to retirement in 2006, he rejoined the defense industry for a couple of years before finally deciding to teach high school kids in rural North Carolina. For the next eight years, he taught Air Force Junior ROTC and enjoyed every minute of it. His visual impairment, caused by glaucoma, forced him to retire in 2016. He now lives in Greenville, South Carolina.


Brian joined BVA in 2020 after attending a residential VA blind rehabilitation program. He has also become involved in adaptive sports since 2020 with fellow BVA members and has taken advantage of opportunities to ski and hike. He looks forward to participating in many similar activities in the future. He and his wife, Sue, have three adult children and three grandchildren.

Tonora Lyn Shannon – Ombudsman
Email: teeshannon1103@gmail.com
Phone: (313) 739-0139

Biography

My Biography

Tonora Lyn Shannon is a U.S. Navy Veteran, having served seven years on active duty during the Persian Gulf War era. She was a Data Processor Technician aboard two Submarine Tenders, the USS L.Y. Spear AS-36 (Norfolk, Virginia) and the USS Frank Cable AS-40 (Charleston, South Carolina).


Tonora was also stationed at the Ship Intermediate Maintenance Command in Norfolk. Following her military service, she worked as an employee of the Department of Veterans Affairs at the John D. Dingell (Detroit) VA Medical Center, the Ann Arbor VA Medical Center, the Palo Alto VA Medical Center, and the North Las Vegas VA Medical Center.


As a now retired VA employee, Tonora has most recently served simultaneously in the Vice President and Secretary positions within BVA’s Michigan Regional Group.

2023 - 2024 BoD Minutes

August 2023

August 16 (Convention) – (PDF) (DOC)

August 18 – (PDF) (DOC)

September 2023

September 12 – (PDF) (DOC)

October 2023

October 19 – (PDF) (DOC)

November 2023

November 16 – (PDF) (DOC)

December 2023

December 21 – (PDF) (DOC)

January 2024

January 18 – (PDF) (DOC)

February 2024

February 15 – (PDF) (DOC)

March 2024

March 11 – (PDF) (DOC)

Mid-Winter – (PDF) (DOC)

April 2024

April 18 – (PDF) (DOC)

May 2024

May 16 – (PDF) (DOC)

Forms

Board of Directors Volunteer Reporting Form

Board of Directors Volunteer Reporting Form (WEB)