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2020 Board of Directors

Julie Stokes

Ellevate Louisiana

Former State Representative Julie Stokes gained traction early in the business community as a CPA, a small business owner, and a leader within many organizations, such as the Jefferson Chamber, the LCPA, the YLC, the Regional Transit Authority, the University of New Orleans and various civic and economic development entities.  Over her seven years of service in the Louisiana Legislature, Julie Stokes gained a strong reputation as non-partisan policy advocate and a cancer survivor.  Mrs. Stokes gained significant experience with the Louisiana budget, comparative state tax policy, oversight of legislative audit, Louisiana’s economic development incentives, and Louisiana’s Department of Health policies.  After receiving numerous accolades for her work in the Legislature and then leaving public life behind in 2020, Mrs. Stokes has opened Flame Consulting to continue supporting projects that she is passionate about, like cancer advocacy and helping worthy causes and organizations with fundraising, strategic planning and consulting.

Pilar Eble

University Louisiana Lafayette
Vice Chair

Pilar Blanco Eble is the Director of Principle Gifts and External Relations at University of Louisiana at Lafayette. She works with donors and community partners interested in strategic investments to advance university priorities. Previously, she served as the Associate Director of the International Student Program at the University of Minnesota, Morris, where she was the designated SEVIS representative and worked to expand international partnerships around the globe. Prior to her time in Minnesota, Pilar worked in university advancement at The University of Mississippi and Tulane University. Pilar earned her bachelor’s degree from UL Lafayette in 1997, her master’s degree from the University of Mississippi in 2002 and is current doctoral student at UL Lafayette working on Ed.D. in higher education administration.

Pilar is married to Michael Eble, and has 4 children Ben Michael, Eli, Miles and Oliver. Pilar is a member of Sacred Heart Catholic Church and serves on the Building Campaign Committee, and member of the Falcons Club for the Episcopal School of Acadiana.

Valerie Grubb

Val Grubb & Associates, Ltd.

Valerie Grubb is an innovative, visionary, operations leader with an exceptional ability to zero in on the systems, processes and human capital issues that can hamper a company’s success — and a strong history of solving those problems with maximum buy-in and minimal disruption.

She is particularly adept at helping people acquire the skills they need in areas such as developing existing employees, recruiting new talent, and forming cohesive teams — all critical for long-term organizational growth.

Immediately prior to founding Val Grubb & Associates in 2008, Valerie served as the Vice President of Strategic Operations & Initiatives at NBC Universal, where she oversaw activities from business development to quality initiatives in preparation for the 2008 Olympics in Beijing, China.

Earlier, Valerie was a key figure in the start-up of Oxygen Media. As Vice President of Operations, Val’s responsibilities encompassed all areas of back-office operations including human resources, risk management, training, facilities, security, travel, purchasing and real estate operations for all U.S. Oxygen offices. She was also a key part of the sale and transition process when Oxygen was ultimately purchased by NBC Universal. Val also served as Corporate Director of Operations for Barry Diller during the inception of InterActive, Corp. While with IAC, she was a significant contributor to the company’s aggressive acquisitions strategy, managing the integration of newly acquired companies into the IAC corporate umbrella.

Valerie started her career in engineering, first at Allison Engine Company, an aircraft engine manufacturer and division of General Motors which was later sold to Rolls-Royce, plc. (Val played an instrumental role in the transition.) She spent 11 years in an engineering capacity and ultimately became Director of Public Affairs, traveling the world promoting Rolls Royce products and services.

A sought-after Speaker, Coach and Training Expert, Valerie regularly presents at conferences and company off-site meetings to motivate and engage employees and senior leaders alike. Her expertise and vibrant approach are also in constant demand for corporate training initiatives.

Valerie graduated with a mechanical engineering degree from Kettering University and obtained her MBA from the Indiana University Kelley School of Business. She remains highly involved with the Kelley School as an active member of the Dean’s Advisory Council and the Women’s Philanthropy organization at the IU Foundation. She is also the President of the NY-Chapter of Women in Cable Telecommunications

Melanie Bronfin

Louisiana Policy Institute for Children

Ms. Bronfin has spent the past 25 years as one of Louisiana’s preeminent advocates for young children. She founded the Louisiana Policy Institute for Children and served as its Executive Director for five years before implementing a successful succession plan and becoming its Policy Advisor. She established the organization as the leading independent source of data, research, and policy proposals on issues related to young children in Louisiana, earning more than 250 media stories about the organization and its work. Her efforts played a key role in the comprehensive reform of Louisiana’s early care and education system, and in approximately 10,000 more low-income Louisiana children gaining access to publicly funded, high  quality early care and education. Before founding the Policy Institute, she spent eight years with the Tulane University Institute of Infant and Early Childhood Mental Health as a Policy Analyst and Assistant Director of BrightStart, where she helped design Louisiana’s early childhood Quality Rating and Improvement System and the nationally-recognized package of School Readiness Tax Credits. She is a former attorney with Jones Walker Law Firm in New Orleans and has served on numerous non-profit and state boards focused on improving outcomes for children and engaging women as leaders in our democracy. She is a recipient of the BGR’s 2020 Excellence in Government Award for Citizenship, AVODAH’s 2019 Partner in Justice Award, Kingsley House’s Champion for Children Award, and Agenda for Children’s Voice for Louisiana’s Children Award. A lifelong Louisiana resident, she graduated summa cum laude with a BA from Yale University, and magna cum laude with a J.D. from Tulane University School of Law.

Cassie Alsfeld

Shoreline Strategies, LLC

Cassie founded Shoreline Strategies, LLC in late 2015 after spending over a decade working in national, local and state politics. She has worked at all levels of government – from presidential campaigns to party committees, from City Hall to Capitol Hill. And she has experience in every facet of the political landscape – from digital strategy to copywriting, from political consulting to fundraising, from writing legislation to influencing policy.

Prior to starting her own business, Cassie served as the Senior Digital Marketing Specialist for Email at the Republican National Committee, the Senior Digital Strategist and Speechwriter at the National Republican Congressional Committee, and the Lead Digital Political Copywriter on the Romney for President Campaign. In each of these roles, Cassie led the copywriting production from start to send, helped build the email marketing and online fundraising programs, and set fundraising records. She was the first true political digital copywriter for the GOP.

Before embarking on the national political scene, Cassie served as a consultant and lobbyist. She got her start in national politics on Capitol Hill, while working as a legislative staffer for the Congressman of the New Orleans area on Hurricane Katrina, BP Oil Spill, health care, postal service, veterans affairs, and other issues. Prior to working on Capitol Hill, Cassie worked on city and state campaigns in Louisiana.

Cassie is a proud New Orleans native and alumna of St. Mary’s Dominican High School and Louisiana State University’s Manship School of Mass Communication. She has a B.A. in Mass Communication with a concentration in Political Communication and a minor in Leadership Development. In 2007, Cassie was elected Student Body President of LSU, and she served on the LSU Board of Supervisors and other state-wide boards.

She enjoys helping other businesses succeed, doing pro bono work, volunteering, networking, and mentoring young professionals, particularly women.

Valerie Aymond

Gilchrist Construction Co., LLC

Valerie Aymond is the CRO (Chief Resource Officer) for Gilchrist Construction Company, a Louisiana-based heavy highway contractor. Her oversight includes the company’s resource divisions, including Human Resources, Information Technology, Organizational Development, Safety & Risk Management, Transportation, and Equipment.

Val is a 1995 graduate of Louisiana State University at Alexandria where she majored in Business Administration.  She is a graduate of the ABA National & Graduate School of Human Resources at the University of Colorado in Boulder, Colorado.  Val returned to the classroom and graduated Summa Cum Laude in May 2015 from Louisiana Tech University where she earned a bachelor’s degree in Organizational Leadership with a concentration in Project Team Management.

Valerie holds several Human Resource designations; she is a Certified Senior Professional in Human Resources (SPHR), a SHRM Senior Certified Professional (SCP), and is a Certified DDI (Development Dimensions International) Instructor.

Val served on the Central Louisiana Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors from 2013-2017, and chaired the Chamber Board in 2016.  She is active in the Central Louisiana economic development community and serves as a board member and also on the Executive Committee for (CLEDA) Central Louisiana Economic Development Alliance.  She began service as a Board of Trustees member for the Rapides Foundation in January of 2020.

Val is also a board member for the Rapides Workforce Investment Board and was appointed by the governor to serve as a member of the Louisiana Workforce Investment Council in 2017.  She is a member of the Central Louisiana Technical and Community College Institutional Advisory Committee, a member of the Alexandria Downtown Rotary Club, and serves as a Secretary of the Rapides Symphony Orchestra Board of Trustees.

Laura Badeaux

LA Center for Women in Government and Business

Dr. Laura Badeaux founded the Louisiana Center for Women in Government and Business in 1990 and served its Board as President and Vice President. In 2008, she became Director of the Center and has increased Center programming from two to ten programs, including Louisiana Girls Leadership Academy, Louisiana Women’s Leadership Summit on Small Business Entrepreneurship, Congress to Campus, and Hall of Fame.

Badeaux serves on the Governor’s Policy and Research Commission on the Status of Women, and previously served as chair under three governors.

Badeaux serves Lafourche Parish as Chair of the Commission on Women, a position she has held for more than 25 years under four parish presidents. She has served  the Bylaws Committee of the National Association of Commissions on Women and trains groups on Robert’s Rules of Order, including Louisiana Municipal Association of Cities.

Badeaux has also served as a Board Member for Louisiana League of Women Voters and as organizing chair of the Lafourche Unit. As a community activist, she organized and served as President for the Volunteers for Juvenile Justice, The Lafourche Cancer Society, The Bayou Junior Women’s Club, Lafourche Society, Daughters of the American Revolution, the Louisiana Jaycee Jaynes, The Louisiana Federation of Women’s Club District III, and numerous others.

Dr. Badeaux holds a Ph. D. in Management, Business Communications and Marketing from Louisiana State University and is a full professor in the Department of Petroleum Services at Nicholls State University. She has served Nicholls as President of the Faculty Senate and founded PRO-NSU, a community support organization. Badeaux is a well known speaker on leadership, communication, public relations, power and politics and has authored some 20 publications. She has been honored as one of the 10 Outstanding Young Women in America, as an inductee in the Louisiana Center for Women and Government Hall of Fame, and as one of only three women named as the Outstanding Citizen of Thibodaux by the Veterans of Foreign Wars.

Diane Baum

Baum Environmental Group, Inc

Diane T. Baum is CEO and Environmental Director of Baum Environmental Group based in Baton Rouge. After leaving the Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) in 1995 she founded Baum Environmental Group to assist clients with the maze of new and often changing environmental regulations with lowered costs and better procedures.

Diane is a licensed commercial and residential contractor and provides contracting services with environmental management and compliance to clients throughout the state. Baum is one the first woman to operate and run a future waste tire processing facility in Baton Rouge. This tire processing facility will provide strong end-market uses for problematic scrap tires throughout the state. The company also provides construction and installation of pioneering sewer treatment plants that clean wastewater to meet the strictest state standards.  Baum also focuses on ways to ease the burden of environmental procedures required in the residential and commercial construction industry through the consistent implementation of new ideas. Diane’s continuous passion has been inventing unique innovative methods and products that can make methods better and less expensive for the construction sector.

Diane is the 2020 Chairman for the Greater Baton Rouge Home Builders Association (HBA GBR) and was the Chair for Professional Women in Building (PWB) in New Orleans (HBA GNO).  Diane also serves on the state and national boards for the Home Builders Association. She is an active member in the Louisiana Associated General Contractors (AGC), Concrete and Aggregate Association of Louisiana (CAAL) and the Louisiana Asphalt and Pavement Association (LAPA). Diane studied Forestry/Wildlife at Louisiana Tech University and has credentials in LEED AP, Green Verifier, Certified Professional in Municipal Stormwater Management (CPMSM) and a Third-Party Building Code Inspector.

Sherri Smith Buffington

Charmaine Caccioppi

United Way Southeast LA

Charmaine Caccioppi serves as the Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer of the United Way of Southeast Louisiana and oversees United Way’s Governmental Relations and Community Impact departments. She is responsible for the development and implementation of the government relations strategies related to United Way’s three goal areas, including education, income and health, through the development of relationships with key internal and external constituents.

She currently serves as Chair of the Louisiana Women’s Policy & Research Commission, chair of Education’s Next Horizon, and as a board member for the Bureau of Governmental Research, Louisiana Budget Project, and New Orleans Family Justice Center.

Her many accomplishments, include, but are not limited to, securing a $90,000 United Way Worldwide grant for the purpose of establishing a United Ways of the Gulf Coast and championing state legislation that ensured High Quality Childcare Standards, School Readiness Tax Credits, the establishment of the Child Poverty Prevention Council and the first refundable Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) in the South.

Mrs. Caccioppi advocated for the successful historical passage of Domestic Violence bills signed into Louisiana law aimed at stopping domestic abuse and in 2016 is featured in the award winning Five Awake –Domestic Violence documentary film. Historical passage of domestic violence bills was made again in 2017 and in 2018 including gun divesture!

Mrs. Caccioppi was inducted into the Louisiana Center for Women in Government and Business Hall of Fame in 2014.  She received the Libby Milton Champion for Children Award in 2016 and Crimestoppers’ George Loker Community Service Award in 2017. 

During her 20 years of service with the United States Senate, Mrs. Caccioppi served Senators J. Bennett Johnston then Mary Landrieu, working on major economic development projects throughout Louisiana and Nationwide, including: transportation infrastructure development for ports, airport, highways and railroads; defense and university research projects; flood control and hurricane protection projects; natural resources research; major federal procurement for several federal agencies.

Lisa Condrey Ward

Ward and Condrey, LLC/Southern Hotel

Lisa Condrey Ward is an attorney, real estate developer and hotelier (The Southern hotel in Covington) . She is Vice President of the La. Trust for Historic Preservation board and serve as a Historic District Commissioner in Covington. Party affiliation -Independent. (i.e. no party).

Julie Harris

Legislative Agenda for Women

Julie Schwam Harris is a New Orleans native, educated in New Orleans Public Schools and a Summa Cum Laude graduate from Newcomb College of Tulane University.  She worked in City Government for 16 years, including the first five post Katrina recovery years, and has led and participated in numerous political campaigns.  She does part-time consulting and is a volunteer advocate on women’s and human rights issues. 

Julie believes that grass roots action and advocacy matter, and that individuals should not only work to elect candidates who support their issues but also communicate with elected officials after they take office.  She helped organize the Legislative Agenda for Women (LAW) coalition, which advocates on issues related to women and families predominantly at the state Legislature.  Issues include access to health care; economic security policies regarding equal pay for women, raising the minimum wage, affordable quality child care, paid sick and family leave and sexual harassment; comprehensive sex education and solutions to violence against women. 

Governor John Bel Edwards appointed Julie to the Louisiana Women’s Policy and Research Commission in 2016.Julie is a member and supporter of numerous local, state and national civic, rights and advocacy organizations.

In honor of her work in government and with organizations that seek to ensure equal rights and opportunities for all, Julie was named the 2015 recipient of the National Council of Jewish Women’s Hannah G. Solomon Award and the 2016 recipient of the ACLU Ben Smith Civil Liberties Award.  She has also received the Newcomb Alumnae Association Community Service Award and was an honoree of the New Orleans Family Justice Center and the Sigma Gamma Rho Sorority, Inc. – Epsilon Sigma Chapter.

Kathy Kliebert

Louisiana Medicaid MCO Association

Kathy Kliebert currently serves as the representative of the Louisiana Medicaid Managed Care Organization Association providing legislative and consulting services for the five Medicaid health plans in Louisiana.  Prior to this role she served as Secretary of the state’s Department of Health and Hospitals from March 2013 to January 2016 after a long-term career in public service in Louisiana. She was been a leader in the Department for more than 28 years, where she led efforts to promote independent living for individuals with developmental disabilities and transform behavioral health care services for hundreds of thousands of Louisiana residents. Prior to her appointment as Secretary, Kliebert served as the Department’s Deputy Secretary, where she provided leadership to the agency’s program offices, including the Offices for Citizens with Developmental Disabilities, Behavioral Health, Public Health, and Aging and Adult Services.

She has over 26 years of experience as a licensed clinical social worker and has a master's degree in social work. She  currently serves as  chair of the Bridge Center for Hope, serves as  past chair of the Louisiana Educational Television Board.

Ms. Kliebert has been married for 41 years, has three children and seven grandchildren.

Sandra Lindquist

New Orleans Chamber of Commerce

Sandra Lombana Lindquist has over 25 years of experience in economic and community development in the New Orleans region.  She earned her B.A. in Business & Latin American Affairs from the University of Texas and has a master’s degree from Tulane University. She is currently the Executive Vice President – Chief Operating Officer at the New Orleans Chamber of Commerce. 

Sandra has a passion for promoting women’s networking in the workforce.  She is the creator of the first women’s collaborative conference, a full day professional development conference for women, which is launching this year in New Orleans. She is the co-creator of the Chamber’s Women’s Business Alliance; a co-founder of the original Women & Wine on Wednesday in which she & her colleagues were recognized as “People to Watch - 2007” by New Orleans Magazine; and, an invited member of Power of Women whose mission is to bring women together in a trusting environment to share ideas and best practices. 

In 2015, Sandra was chosen as one of five locals to represent the New Orleans business community to visit Japan and discuss the importance of resiliency post disasters like Hurricane Katrina, and she was nominated as one of 50 women for New Orleans CityBusiness’ Women of the Year.  In 2016, she represented the New Orleans Chamber in Leadership Louisiana and graduated from Delgado’s Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses Program, an intensive educational program which teaches techniques for running a successful business.  Sandra completed her accreditation as a Certified Chamber Executive (CCE) in 2018 making her the only practicing chamber executive in the State of Louisiana with this accreditation.

Sandra is a graduate of the inaugural class of the New Orleans Regional Institute (NORLI) and the Jefferson Chamber Leadership Institute. She has sat on various boards and committees including the Louisiana Industrial Development Executive Association (LIDEA), the New Orleans Regional Chamber of Commerce, and is currently the Incoming President for the Louisiana Chamber of Commerce Executives (LACCE).

She is married to Eric Lindquist and has a seven-year-old son named Colt.

Johnette Magner

LA Tech

Dr. Johnette Magner is a communications professional with more than 30 years of experience in broadcast and print journalism, public relations, politics, governmental affairs, and higher education. She is currently the Executive Director of External Affairs for Louisiana Tech University and has a gratis faculty appointment as an Assistant Professor of Psychiatry and Behavioral Medicine at LSU Health Shreveport. In addition to her work in government affairs and alumni relations, Dr. Magner hosts a weekly radio show on happiness and is a frequent speaker and lecturer on Digital Well-Being. She received a Bachelor of Journalism from the University of Texas, a Master of Arts from Louisiana State University at Shreveport, and a Ph.D. in Mass Communication from the University of Maryland at College Park.

Willie Mount

A Lake Charles native, Willie Landry Mount is proud to call Southwest Louisiana home. She is a graduate of McNeese State University, where she earned a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration. In 2016 she was awarded a Honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters by McNeese State University.

In 1993, Willie was elected the first female Mayor of Lake Charles. After serving over 6 and a half years as Mayor, Willie became the first woman elected as a Louisiana State Senator from District 27 in 1999.

Willie currently serves on the Library Board of Control for the Calcasieu Parish Public Library, Lakeside Bank Board of Directors, Louisiana Community and Technical College System Board of Supervisors, Community Foundation of Southwest Louisiana Board of Directors, Southwest Louisiana Convention and Visitors Board of Directors, McNeese State University Foundation Board of Directors, President of the Boy Scouts of America-Calcasieu Area Council and Chair of the Louisiana Endowment for the Humanities Board of Directors.

Markey Pierre

For the past 13 years, Dr. Markey Pierre’ championed the interests of her clients as the President and Managing Partner of Southern Strategy Group of North Louisiana, a full-service consulting firm based in Shreveport, Louisiana. Her clients range from Fortune 500 corporations to gaming venues to municipal entities and professional associations. As an advocate for good public policy and meaningful change, Dr. Markey Pierre’s groundbreaking work has led to substantive progress in the areas of public education, higher education, construction, health care, maritime law, and municipal government. During her 20 plus year career as a successful business owner and executive, author, motivational speaker, lobbyist, and adjunct professor, Dr. Pierre’s philosophy of inclusive leadership resulted in pioneering legislation that has had far-reaching positive consequences for generations to come.

Dr. Pierre’s lifetime of work earned her the prestigious 2019 Virginia K. Shehee Most Influential Woman Award and the Lifetime Achievement Award and the Business Woman of the Year Award from the Shreveport-Bossier African American Chamber of Commerce. She was the first African American woman and the youngest to chair the Greater Shreveport-Bossier Chamber of Commerce and the Independence Bowl in Shreveport. Markey wrote about her principles for success in a collaboration book, WIN from the Beginning.

She earned a Doctorate in Business Administration from Walden University, a MBA from Nova Southeastern University in Fort Lauderdale, FL and a B.S. in Business Administration from Louisiana Tech University in Ruston, LA. Markey is active in her sorority, Alpha Kappa Alpha, and funds two college scholarships. She is devoted mother to daughter, Chelsea.

Susannah Poljak


Susannah Walter Poljak is an attorney with more than 20 years of experience in a wide range of practice areas from complex contract litigation to intellectual property. She has been admitted to practice in three states—California, New York, and Louisiana. She is currently an early childhood consultant with Step Forward of North Louisiana, which has created a community-wide leadership group that is working to foster and promote healthy early childhood development. In addition. Ms. Poljak is a member of the Leadership Louisiana 2020 class and serves on boards supporting the arts and education in Caddo Parish. She received a Bachelor of Arts from Vanderbilt University and a Juris Doctorate from Fordham University.

Deborah Randolph

Central LA Regional Chamber of Commerce

Deborah Randolph, IOM is the President of the Central Louisiana Regional Chamber of Commerce, a position she has held since August of 2011.  During her tenure, the 1,200-member organization based in Alexandria, earned accreditation by the U.S. Chamber at the highest level, with 5 Star Distinction. Deborah serves on the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Committee of 100, Louisiana Military Advisory Council, Louisiana Policy Institute for Children Board, LA State University of Alexandria Foundation Board, Rapides Regional Medical Center Board and is the Past President of the LA Association of Chamber of Commerce Executives. She is a member of the Alexandria Rotary Club and is a Paul Harris Fellow.

Traci Thompson


Based in Baton Rouge, Traci Thompson is the System Director of Advocacy and Public Policy for CHRISTUS Health, an international Catholic, not-for-profit health system comprised of almost 350 services and facilities, including more than 60 hospitals and long-term care facilities, 175 clinics and outpatient centers and dozens of other health ministries and ventures. In her role, she works to develop and implement a strategic, comprehensive effort to advance CHRISTUS Health’s state and federal policy and advocacy priorities, with an emphasis on the Louisiana region. Prior to joining CHRISTUS Health, Traci worked as a health care attorney for over ten years with a focus on transactional and regulatory health law. In addition, Traci has given a significant amount of her time to serving on boards and charities including Women’s Hospital, the Emerge Center, and the Baton Rouge Ballet Theatre. Traci is a graduate of the Paul M. Hebert LSU School of Law and obtained her undergraduate degree from the University of Virginia.

Sharonda Williams

FishmanHaygood LLP

Sharonda Williams joined Fishman Haygood, LLP in New Orleans as Special Counsel in December 2015 following a distinguished career in public service and private practice.  Sharonda served as City Attorney for the City of New Orleans from May 2013-November 2015. As City Attorney, Sharonda was the lead attorney handling the most comprehensive police consent decree in the history of the United States.  At the same time, she represented the City in another consent decree aimed at reforming the Orleans Parish Jail, which was then-recognized as one of the worst prisons in America.   Both of those consent decrees required Sharonda to engage in negotiations with the United States Department of Justice on a near daily basis.  Sharonda also was the lead attorney representing the City in settling a more than 30-year dispute relating to back pay and pension issues for the New Orleans Firefighters. Sharonda had served as Chief Deputy City Attorney from October 2011 until May 2013.  Prior to joining the City of New Orleans, Sharonda was a partner in the general litigation section at Sher Garner, where she handled cases ranging from construction disputes, medical malpractice, insurance coverage disputes, entertainment law contract negotiations, intellectual property licensing issues, and bankruptcy adversary proceedings. She has served as the Chair of the Board of Commissioners of the Regional Transit Authority as well as being involved in numerous other professional and civic organizations, including currently serving as President of the Independent Women’s Organization.

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