Board Of Commissioners

RICDHH Board of Commissioners
From left to right First Row: Tim Riker, Betsy Beach, Caroline Obrecht Second Row: Bunmi Osho, David Mullowney, Kimberly Marthers Third Row: Dru Balsley, Tina Nelson, Brett Hayes

Following a Tri-Vision philosophy, the RICDHH Board of Commissioners brings together the varied perspectives of deaf, hard of hearing, and hearing individuals. The Board addresses issues that pertain to employment, healthcare, technology, and education, in addition to many other areas. Together, Commissioners aim to improve the overall quality of life for deaf, hard of hearing, late-deafened, and deaf-blind individuals in Rhode Island.


Roles and Responsibilities

Commissioners shall be responsible for the establishment of agency policies and the appointment of an executive director who shall be in the unclassified service and other staff as needed and for whom appropriations are available. The members appointed by the governor shall include five (5) individuals who are deaf who use American Sign Language, one individual who is deaf who does not use American Sign Language, three (3) who are hard-of-hearing, and two (2) who are hearing. Commission members shall select their own chairperson. Five (5) members shall constitute a quorum.

The Commissioners shall serve staggered two (2) year terms, each member serving until his or her successor is appointed. They shall meet not less than four (4) times per year, and shall not be paid for their services, except for reimbursement of expenses incurred by their service. The Commissioners may elect their own officers.


Current Commissioners

Caroline Obrecht

Caroline Obrecht, (Hard of Hearing)

BIO: Caroline Obrecht is a graduate of the Johns Hopkins University with a major in Romance Languages. She went on to earn her master’s degree in Deafness from New York University. She worked for Mass Rehab Commission as a rehab counselor with Deaf and hard of hearing clients. During that time, she studied ASL and sign language interpreting at Northeastern University and Gallaudet University. She was approved as a state screened interpreter (entry level) by the Mass Commission on the Deaf and Hard of Hearing.

A Rhode Island resident since 1984, her work life returned here in 1990. She freelance interpreted for a brief time and then attained her MSW with a clinical focus from Boston University. She worked in different areas of Butler Hospital and earned a certificate in marriage and family therapy. She completed her time there in the Cultural Psychiatry outpatient program working exclusively with Deaf and hard of hearing clients. She left Butler to open her own office where she has a general practice including hearing, Deaf and hard of hearing people.

David Mullowney

David Mullowney, (Deaf)

BIO: David Mullowney was born and raised in Rhode Island, currently residing in North Kingstown with his wife. He attended the RI School for the Deaf and then the Model Secondary School for the Deaf in Washington DC before heading to Gallaudet University for his undergraduate in Deaf Studies. After Gallaudet, David began working at the RI School for the Deaf as a Teacher’s Aide. During that time, David attended Boston University and graduated in May 2020 with his Master’s Degree in Deaf Education. Upon graduation, he accepted a position at the RI School for the Deaf as one of their ASL Specialists.

Outside of work, David enjoys running, hiking, bird watching, eating at local hidden gems and exploring this beautiful state. He is also a huge supporter of New England sports teams.

Elizabeth Beach

Elizabeth Beach, (Hard of Hearing)

BIO: Betsy has a Bachelor of Arts in Urban Education from Brown University. She has taught adult education with an emphasis on mathematics teaching for the past fifteen years, working at: Dorcas Place, Career Tracks Youth, Westbay CAP, and the RI Indian Council. Betsy has also managed assessment, outreach, enrollment, and student services for these adult education programs.

Betsy was a member of the working group to write RI Adult Education Standards in Mathematics. She participated in the TIAN math research project and also designed the adult secondary to college math curriculum with the RI Adult Education Professional Development Center.

Betsy has presented and taught at the yearly RI Adult Education Conference and at the RI Women’s Institute for Leadership Development. In 1995 she was a representative to the UN NGO Conference on the Status of Women in Beijing, China.

Kimberly Marthers

Kimberly Marthers, (Hard of Hearing)

BIO: Kimberly Marthers is a licensed Funeral Director and Embalmer in the state of Massachusetts. Kimberly graduated from Fine Mortuary College in 2018 and is part of a Death Positive Movement. She is continually advocating for change in the funeral industry.

Kimberly is Hard of Hearing and utilizes hearing aids to function in the hearing world. She is fluent in American Sign Language (ASL) and communicates bilingually through ASL and English in her home. Kimberly grew up in Rhode Island and later attended Berklee College of Music in Boston. She was scouted for an all-girl rock band in Los Angeles, and lived in California for seven years. Kimberly noticed hearing loss in her late twenties, and moved back to Rhode Island to be with her family. She studied ASL at Perspectives, and fully immersed herself into the Deaf Community in Rhode Island.

Kimberly is passionate about her work in the Funeral Industry serving families from diverse backgrounds and cultures, and advocating for accessibility. She is a supported living companion, supporting a special needs individual in her home. Kimberly is a proud supporter of LGBTQ rights and lives in Cranston with her partner Nicole, their son Xavier, and their best-friend and roommate Juliann.

Olubunmi Osho

Olubunmi Osho, (Hearing)


BIO: Olubunmi Osho loves to volunteer and has volunteered in many places including the Amos House at Providence and the annual Gloria Gemma Breast Cancer Awareness "Flames of Hope". Also, she has Worked and been around the deaf community for over 20 years.

Coming Soon

Timothy Riker

Timothy Riker, (Deaf)

BIO: Tim is Deaf and fluent in American Sign Language (ASL) and English. He was born in Maryland, where he and his brother were raised by Deaf parents who communicated through ASL in the home. Tim attended the Maryland School for the Deaf where he received an ASL/English bilingual education. He went on to earn a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration and Executive Financial Planning Certificate from Georgetown University. In addition to completing more than a year of graduate public policy coursework at California State University, Northridge (CSUN), Tim earned his Masters in Sign Language Education (MA-SLED) at Gallaudet University.

Tim is currently a Lecturer of Language Studies at the Brown University Center for Language Studies, where he teaches a series of American Sign Language courses and independent studies. He is also a freelance Certified Deaf Interpreter (CDI) and provides mentoring and training.


Present and Former Chairpersons

  • Caroline Obrecht 2023-Present
  • Kimberly Marthers 2022-2023​
  • Tim Riker 2015-2022
  • Heather Niedbala 2015
  • Jordan Sack 2012-2014
  • Christine Thompson 2011-2012
  • Travis Zellner 2004-2011
  • Wayne Cook, Jr. 2002-2004
  • Jan Luby (Acting) 2001-2002
  • Beth Wilson 2000-2001
  • Dinaz Adenwalla 1993-2000
  • Bruce Bucci 1991-1993
  • Jeanne Panarace (Acting) 1991
  • Aristotle Ogoke 1990-1991
  • Ray Filippo (Acting) 1990
  • Beth Wilson 1984-1990
  • Jodi Glass 1984-1985
  • Helen Novsam 1982-1984
  • Peter Blackwell (Temporary) 1981


Become a Commissioner

If you would like to serve on the RICDHH Board of Commissioners, please follow the steps outlined below:​

​Steps to Become a Commissioner​​

  1. Call or email RICDHH Program Manager to confirm the current Board seat vacancies. ​

  2. If confirmed yes, complete the application (See below. Click and download the application.)​

  3. Forward your application to RICDHH Program Manager. The Program Manager will call you to schedule an interview.​

  4. Interview with the Board of Commissioners.​

  5. If the Board of Commissioners selects you, the RICDHH Program Manager will recommend your name to the Governor’s Office.​

  6. Finalize the appointment by the Governor’s Office. ​

  7. Attend the next Board of Commissioners meeting.​​

Please note that the Governor’s Office has the authority to appoint Commissioners to serve on the Board without a recommendation from the Board. ​​

For additional questions or more information regarding becoming a Commissioner, please contact RICDHH Program Manager at ​

(401) 256-5511 (V/VP) or email​