2021 Speaker Biographies
Governor Ralph Northam - Keynote Speaker
Before he was inaugurated as the 73rd Governor of the Commonwealth of Virginia, Ralph Northam served as an Army doctor, pediatric neurologist, business owner, state Senator and Lieutenant Governor.
A native of Virginia’s Eastern Shore, Governor Northam was educated at the Virginia Military Institute (VMI), where he graduated with distinction.
After graduation, Governor Northam was commissioned as a second lieutenant in the United States Army. He served eight years of active duty and rose to the rank of major.
He attended Eastern Virginia Medical School and then traveled to San Antonio for a pediatric residency, where he met his wife Pamela, a pediatric occupational therapist at the same hospital. Governor Northam did his residencies at the Walter Reed Army Medical Center and served as chief neurological resident at Johns Hopkins Hospital. As an Army doctor, he served in Germany, treating soldiers wounded in Operation Desert Storm.
When Governor Northam and Pamela returned home, they chose to build their life in Hampton Roads. He began practicing pediatric neurology at Children’s Hospital of the King’s Daughters in Norfolk. He established Children’s Specialty Group, his current medical practice, to provide expert pediatric care for patients. Governor Northam also served as assistant professor of neurology at Eastern Virginia Medical School, where he taught medicine and ethics.
Governor Northam volunteered as medical director for the Edmarc Hospice for Children in Portsmouth, where he spent 18 years caring for terminally ill children.
Governor Northam approaches public service with the same passion he brought to his military and medical service. He is committed to working with leaders from both parties to build a Virginia that works better for every family, no matter who they are or where they live.
Governor Northam is the first native of the Eastern Shore to serve as Governor since Governor Henry A. Wise took office 1856. He is also the first VMI Keydet to serve as Governor since Governor Westmoreland Davis took office in 1918.
Governor Northam and First Lady Pamela Northam have two adult children.
Matthew J. Strickler, Secretary of Natural Resources
Matthew Strickler is the Secretary of Natural Resources for the Commonwealth of Virginia. Prior to joining the Administration, he served as Senior Policy Advisor to Democratic members of the House of Representatives Committee on Natural Resources. Originally from Lexington, Va., Matthew graduated from Washington and Lee University and holds master’s degrees in public policy and marine science from the College of William and Mary and the Virginia Institute of Marine Science. He was a Knauss Marine Policy Fellow in NOAA’s Office of International Affairs in 2007, and worked on U.S. Senator Mark Warner’s successful 2008 campaign. Immediately prior to his time on Capitol Hill, Matthew worked in the Virginia General Assembly as a legislative assistant to then-state Senator Ralph Northam.
Bettina Ring, Virginia Secretary of Agriculture and Forestry
Governor Ralph S. Northam appointed Bettina Ring in 2018 to serve as the fourth Secretary of Agriculture and Forestry for the Commonwealth of Virginia. In this capacity, she supports the Governor’s mission of building a strong Virginia economy in agriculture and forestry, two of Virginia’s largest private industries, while also protecting the environment.
Prior to her appointment as Secretary, Ring was appointed by former Governor Terry McAuliffe to serve as the seventh State Forester of the Virginia Department of Forestry (VDOF). During her term leading the agency, Ring secured $27 million in funding for emergency response equipment used to fight forest fires and to assist localities and other state agencies. A Virginia native, Ring began her career with VDOF and held a number of leadership positions, including deputy state forester, during her 18 years with the agency.
Prior to VDOF, Bettina was the senior vice president of family forests at the American Forest Foundation, a position responsible for overseeing the American Tree Farm System – the largest and oldest sustainable woodland program in America. She served on the federal Forest Resource Coordinating Committee, which provides direction within the U.S. Department of Agriculture and with the private sector to effectively address national priorities for private forest management.
Bettina has also served as executive director of the Bay Area Open Space Council in San Francisco and was the executive director of the Colorado Coalition of Land Trusts. She holds a B.S. Degree in Forestry and Wildlife from Virginia Tech and a Masters of Business Administration from James Madison University.
Rear Admiral, Ann C. Phillips, US Navy (Retired) - Plenary Speaker
Ann C. Phillips is the Special Assistant to the Governor for Coastal Adaptation and Protection for the State of Virginia. Prior to joining the administration, she worked to address sea level rise and climate impact on national security at the regional, national and international level, and chaired the Infrastructure Working Group for the Old Dominion University-convened Hampton Roads Sea Level Rise Preparedness and Resilience Intergovernmental Pilot Planning Project.
Preceding her work on climate impact and sea level rise, Ann served nearly 31 years on active duty. She had the honor to commission and command USS MUSTIN (DDG 89) and to command Destroyer Squadron 28. Her final Flag command was as Commander, Expeditionary Strike Group TWO, including all the Amphibious Expeditionary Forces on the East Coast of the United States.
Ann earned a Master of Business Administration, with distinction, from The College of William and Mary - Mason School of Business, in 2016. She is a 1983 graduate of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. In addition, she is a certified Chesapeake Bay Landscape Professional, Level 2.