Matt Priest, President & CEO
Matt Priest is the President & CEO of the Footwear Distributors and Retailers of America (FDRA), the largest and most effective footwear association in the United States. In this role, Matt serves as the executive in charge of FDRA’s day-to-day operations ensuring the association meets and exceeds its advocacy and education goals on behalf of the footwear industry.
Before joining FDRA in February 2009, Matt served as Senior Advisor to Commerce Secretary Carlos Gutierrez and Deputy Assistant Secretary for Textiles and Apparel at the U.S. Department of Commerce. As deputy assistant secretary, he oversaw programs and strategies to improve the domestic and international competitiveness of the U.S. footwear, fiber, textiles, and apparel industries. Matt was also Chairman of the Committee for the Implementation of Textile Agreements (CITA), which determines when market-disrupting factors exist in the domestic fiber, textiles and apparel marketplace. Previously, Matt served as Senior Advisor to the Assistant Secretary for Import Administration at the Commerce Department, where he advised the assistant secretary on textile and trade issues. Prior to his appointment, Matt was Legislative Director for Representative Sue Myrick of North Carolina, where he was an advisor in the areas of textiles, trade and economic development.
In addition to his role as President and CEO of FDRA, Matt is a member of the Board of Directors at Soles4Souls. He also serves on the Industry Advisory Board at the College of Textiles at North Carolina State University in Raleigh. He has also served as an Executive in Residence at the College of Textiles and often guest lectures at the Georgetown University McDonough School of Business. Matt is also an honorary member of the Footwear Youth Leadership Group of the Taiwan Footwear Manufacturers Association. Matt earned his BA in political science from North Carolina State University. He lives with his wife and three daughters in Northern Virginia.
Andy Polk, Senior Vice President
Andy Polk joined FDRA in November 2012. As Vice President, he oversees FDRA’s communications, marketing, reports, newsletters, events and assists with member services and outreach.
Prior to FDRA he earned his Masters in International Relations from the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE). At the LSE, he studied global economics, foreign policy, and social shifts occurring inside states and across borders. He focused more specifically on China’s domestic politics and foreign policy, and received a distinction for his dissertation on how China’s rise is changing the balance of power in the Persian Gulf. Previously, Polk served as U.S. Representative Sue Myrick’s Foreign Policy and National Security Advisor from 2008 to 2011. Polk also served as Myrick’s Director of Communications and Public Affairs from 2003 to 2008 where he developed and directed communications strategies and campaigns, organized press conferences, and wrote speeches and editorials. Polk earned his BA in Business Administration and Political Science from Gardner-Webb University.
Thomas Crockett, Director of Government & Regulatory Affairs
Thomas Crockett joined FDRA in January 2015, after working in the office of Congressman Spencer Bachus (R-AL) from 2010 until 2015, were he served as Legislative Counsel. As Director of Government & Regulatory Affairs, he is responsible for managing FDRA’s advocacy on issues impacting the footwear industry, including U.S. international trade policy, global trade barriers, customs, and product safety.
During his time on the Hill, Thomas oversaw the issues of trade, foreign relations, transportation, government reform and immigration for the Congressman. Before working on Capitol Hill, he served as Deputy District Attorney in Tuscaloosa, Alabama. Thomas received his Bachelor of Arts in English from Auburn University and his Juris Doctor from the University of Alabama, bringing important critical thought and analytical skills to FDRA.
Sue Myrick, Strategic Policy Advisor
Sue Myrick came to Congress in 1995 after building a successful advertising and public relations business, and serving two terms as mayor of Charlotte, NC – the first and only female mayor in Charlotte history. Representative Myrick served in the House from 1995-2013 and had various leadership roles including Freshman Class Liaison, Deputy Majority Whip, and chair of the largest voting block in Congress, the Republican Study Committee (RSC). Sue served on the Rules Committee, the powerful Energy and Commerce Committee, and the House Intelligence Committee during her time in Congress.
Bryan Fratkin, Managing Partner of Whistle Stop Digital
FDRA’s Technology & Online Advocacy Strategist Bryan is head of Whistle Stop Digital, a boutique digital strategy firm specializing in innovative issue advocacy, PAC and grassroots campaigns and makers of the industry-leading advocacy platform, SparkInfluence. In his role, he manages the firm’s largest clients, pushing for greater adoption of mobile and social technology for political, marketing and advocacy purposes. In his role as FDRA’s technology and online advocacy strategist, he will ensure FDRA stays ahead of the curve on new technologies that would benefit the footwear industry as well as work to continue to enhance the organization’s website, social media presence, and online advocacy strategy.
A prolific writer and speaker, Bryan leverages a deep understanding of platforms and tools to address the changing issue advocacy and grassroots landscape. Working closely with clients, he helps to craft strategies that educate, engage and equip end users with content and tools year-round, then harness the data generated from stakeholder interaction to track, manage and encourage further engagement. A native of Washington, DC, Bryan graduated from Emory University with degrees in Computer Science and Spanish. He lives in the Adams Morgan neighborhood of the District with his wife and their dog.
Mauricio Flores Aranda, FDRA Latin America Factory Consultant
Mauricio Flores Aranda joins FDRA with an extensive background in product development, sourcing, production, materials, and Quality Assurance. He holds a Master’s Degree in Environmental Engineering, in addition to over 15 years of experience in the footwear industry, including time at Emyco Group, Inditex Group, Vivarte Group, and Wolverine Worldwide. Mauricio will be lending local expertise regarding the growing footwear production in Mexico and Latin America. He is based in Leon, Mexico.
John Pellegrini, McGuire Woods LLC; FDRA Customs Counsel
Considered as THE footwear duties expert by many CEOs, John has 30+ years in dealing with footwear customs duties. his practice is concentrated on the regulatory and commercial aspects of international trade. He represents clients with respect to government regulation of the import-export trade, duty planning, and admissibility requirements to name just a few. His clients include multinationals, general merchandise retailers, importers, exporters, domestic and foreign manufacturers, commission agents, trade associations (United States Fashion Industries and Footwear Distributors and Retailers of America), and international marketing companies.
David M. Spooner, Partner at Barnes & Thornburg LLP; FDRA Intellectual Property Counsel
David Spooner represents governments, trade associations, and corporate clients on international trade matters, including trade remedies, trade policy and customs issues. He uses his past experience as a high-level political appointee in the Executive Branch and on Capitol Hill to assist clients with their advocacy efforts before both branches of government, as well as before foreign governments.
Prior to entering private practice, Mr. Spooner served as the Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Import Administration. In that capacity, Mr. Spooner led U.S. Government enforcement of trade remedy laws, principally the antidumping and anti-subsidy laws. Prior to his Senate confirmation as Assistant Secretary, Mr. Spooner served as the Chief Textile and Apparel Negotiator and Transition Coordinator in the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR). While at USTR, he was a principal negotiator for free trade agreements with Central America, the Dominican Republic, Singapore, Australia, Chile, Panama, Bahrain, United Arab Emirates, Colombia and Peru, principally negotiating customs enforcement, apparel and textile, origin and safeguard provisions. Mr. Spooner earned his J.D. from the College of William & Mary School of Law and his B.A. from the University of Virginia.
Patrick McKeller, Director of Client Services (Asia) at ELEVATE; FDRA Social Responsibility Advisor
Patrick McKeller has spent the past 12 years working in the manufacturing industry in a number of capacities including sourcing, logistics, quality control, operations, information technology, and social responsibility. He has spent the last five years at ELEVATE as the Director of Client Services (Asia). Previous to joining ELEVATE, Patrick spent seven years working in the footwear industry for a major US based footwear organization. During his time there, Patrick oversaw a variety of programs, and focused specifically on sourcing and logistic technologies as well as overseeing all quality control and social responsibility efforts. Patrick spent an extensive amount of time traveling and working in China and Mexico as well as other Asian countries.
At ELEVATE, Patrick has helped to create, develop, and implement many innovative customer/factory programs relating to improving manufacturing efficiencies by strengthening data collection and data analysis to understand relationships between Human Resource functions and overall manufacturing operations. Patrick is also actively involved evaluating new technologies for ELEVATE and its customers, as well as overseeing product management for customized training solutions. Patrick has been spent the last five years living in China and has implemented many programs in other Asian countries.
Mark Feldman, Director of Operations at Valley Lane Industries; FDRA Footwear Traffic, Distribution and Customs Conference (FTDC) Chairman
Mark Feldman brings 28 years of footwear import and management experience to FDRA events and initiatives. Mark directs operations for Valley Lane Industries and offers his consulting services to the import community. He has devoted considerable time to FDRA activities since 2006, specifically the Footwear Traffic Distribution and Customs Conference. In his role as conference chairman, Mark oversees site selection, agenda development, sponsorship solicitation, and a myriad of related duties. Mark encourages conference attendees to engage themselves in FDRA activity, and at the same time, understand and exchange ideas on the movement of goods and services to better serve their corporate efforts.
Vaida Manzano, Special Projects Manager
Vaida has worked with FDRA since 2013. As FDRA’s special projects manager, she oversees the data collection for special reports as well as assists with various touch points of FDRA events. Vaida graduated from Garner-Webb University with B.S. in International Business. She lives in Charlottesville, VA with her husband and two boys.