Board of Directors

Board meetings

The UNITE Board of Directors typically meets at 10:00 a.m. on the 3rd Tuesday of each month at 350 CAP Drive in London, KY.

Scheduled 2020 meetings

January 21, February 18, March 17, April 21, May 19, June 16, July 21, August 18, September 15, October 20, November 17, and December 15.

Acting Chairman

Jackie L. Steele, Jr., JD, Commonwealth Attorney, Kentucky 27th Judicial Circuit

Jackie Steele earned his Juris Doctor degree from the Salmon P. Chase College of Law at Northern Kentucky University in 2001. He practiced civil law prior to accepting a full-time position as Assistant Commonwealth Attorney and, in 2008, was appointed Commonwealth Attorney for the 27th Judicial Circuit. He has handled hundreds of felony cases ranging from theft, embezzlement, rape, drug trafficking and murder. Mr. Steele was named “Outstanding Commonwealth’s Attorney” in 2011. In addition, Mr. Steele has been recognized by Drug Court staff for his exceptional support to the Drug Court program, the Kentucky Narcotic Officers’ Association for outstanding support and commitment to drug enforcement efforts in the state and for going above and beyond to support legislative efforts, and received the “Sword of Justice Award” from the Kentucky Commonwealth Attorneys’ Association for ceaseless dedication to the pursuit of justice. Mr. Steele is Past-President of the Kentucky Commonwealth Attorneys’ Association, a member of the Laurel County and Kentucky Bar Associations, the 27th Judicial Circuit Drug Court Team, and the Laurel and Knox County Child Abuse Response Teams. He has served as a Board Member for Operation UNITE since January 2012.

Melynda L. Benjamin, JD, Executive Officer, Department of Specialty Courts, Administrative Office of the Courts

Melynda Benjamin oversees court staff for adult drug court, veterans, DUI, and mental health courts across the Commonwealth of Kentucky. Prior to joining the Kentucky Court of Justice, she served as the adult treatment court technical assistance project director for the National Drug Court Institute where she evaluated and trained courts nationally on the Adult Drug Court Best Practice Standards. She formerly served as Chief of the Specialty Courts Division of the Kane County, Illinois, Public Defender’s Office. She holds a Bachelor of Science from Southern Illinois University and a Juris Doctor degree from Northern Illinois University. Ms. Benjamin was an Assistant Public Defender in the treatment courts of Kane County from 2006-16. She was instrumental in developing the Public Defender’s Office Specialty Courts Division comprised of adult and juvenile drug courts, mental health court and family court. Prior to attending law school, she devoted 18 years to serving military families, both nationally and internationally, through family support and resource groups. Ms. Benjamin has developed and presented treatment court defense attorney and ethics training for the Illinois Association of Problem Solving Courts, the Illinois Public Defender’s Association, the Illinois State Bar Association, and the National Association of Drug Court Professionals. She has served as a Board Member for Operation UNITE since May 2018.


Mary Colvin, CPA, MBA, Vice President of Claims Services, Kentucky Employers’ Mutual Insurance

Mary Colvin is an experienced workers’ compensation professional with extensive background leading the daily operations of a multi-million-dollar insurance company. As Vice President of Claims Services for Kentucky Employers’ Mutual Insurance (KEMI), Ms. Colvin directs the daily operations of the Claims, Legal, Special Investigation, and Cost Containment departments. Ms. Colvin joined KEMI in 1996 and, over the course of her tenure, has held a variety of management-level positions. She received her bachelor’s degree in accounting from the University of Kentucky and obtained her MBA from the University of Phoenix. Ms. Colvin is a Certified Public Accountant, Chartered Property Casualty Underwriter, and a member of the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants and the Kentucky Society of Certified Public Accountants. A native of Campbellsville, she currently resides in Lexington. Ms. Colvin serves on the board of directors for Operation UNITE (since January 2013), Kids’ Chance of Kentucky, and Women Leading Kentucky. She also serves as an Advisory Board Member for the Rx Drug Abuse & Heroin Summit.

Tom Handy, JD, Retired Commonwealth Attorney, Kentucky 27th Judicial Circuit

Tom Handy served as Commonwealth’s Attorney for Kentucky’s 27th Judicial Circuit for 28 years, retiring in 2003 to focus on various boards and organizations – including serving as a founding Board Member for Operation UNITE, and currently serves as Chair. Mr. Handy has also served on the Kentucky Horse Racing Authority, the Kentucky Executive Ethics Commission, the Executive Legislative Committee, and the Kentucky Crime Victim’s Compensation Board. After graduating from the University of Kentucky Law School, Mr. Handy worked as an assistant for Kentucky’s Fifth District U.S. Rep. Tim Lee Carter before opening a private law practice in 1971. He is a charter member of the London-Laurel County (KY) Tourist Commission. Mr. Handy helped organize a mission group called ABLE (Assisted Better Living for Everywhere) that performs construction mission work within KY and internationally. Primary emphasis is on improvements to school, orphanages and senior citizen residences. He and wife Bonnie have two grown children, Dennie Mills and Starr Handy. He has served as a Board Member for Operation UNITE since April 2003.

Cheryl Hickman, RN, BSN, MS, NE-BC, CCMSCP, CJCP, Senior Vice President/Chief Regulatory Officer, Pikeville Medical Center

Cheryl Hickman provides oversight for all certification programs and oversight for compliance with all state and regulatory standards for Pikeville Medical Center. In addition she oversees the Heart Institute at Pikeville Medical Center, and is a member of the Senior Executive Leadership team that oversees standards, policies, personnel, and budgets for the Medical Center. Ms. Hickman has been awarded the 2014 Certified Nurse Executive Award by the American Nurses Credentialing Center. Ms. Hickman earned a bachelor of nursing from Morehead State University and masters in health service management from LaSalle University. She is board certified in nursing administration with the American Nurses Credentialing Center, certified specialist in Joint Commission accreditation. Previously Ms. Hickman served as Pikeville Medical Center’s Chief Nursing Officer, Director of Children’s Services, Unit Manager for the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit and Pediatrics, House Supervisor and Assistant Director of nursing service, and Head Nurse in the Critical Care Unit. In 2005, she was recognized on the floor of the U.S. Senate for leading a medical team to the New Orleans Airport during Hurricane Katrina. In 2004, she was the first nurse in Kentucky to receive the American Organization of Nurse Executive AONE “Community Partnership Award.” She has served as a Board Member for Operation UNITE since July 2013.


Darrell Wages, Parts Manager, Boyd CAT

Darrell Wages is a Parts Manager with Boyd CAT (formerly Whayne Supply Company). He oversees all parts office and warehouse operations at the Corbin, KY, branch. Mr. Wages’ 41 years of service with Boyd CAT includes 34 years in supervision and management. Mr. Wages has an Associate of Applied Science in Business Administration degree from Union College, and a host of corporate trainings, including the Caterpillar Flagship program. Mr. Wages and his wife, Jane, a retired teacher, reside in Corbin. He has served as a Board Member for Operation UNITE since August 2010.