Inside Towers



Meet Our Donors

Meet Our Students and Mentors

Meet Our Staff

Meet Our Board

Matt Landwehr
Board Member

Matt practices in the areas of state and local tax (SALT) controversy, banking and financial services litigation, business litigation, and appellate.

His tax controversy work involves representing taxpayers (from large multi-state companies to individuals) before Missouri and Illinois state and local taxing authorities in corporate income, franchise, sales/use, property, and other tax controversies. He has negotiated and successfully resolved tax controversies at every stage from audits through appeals, and has also successfully prosecuted numerous large refund claims.

Matt’s banking and financial services work includes representing banks in disputes involving lender liability, check collection and check fraud, and other aspects of the Uniform Commercial Code. His business litigation practice covers a wide range of business disputes including medical practice breakups and peer review proceedings, fraud, insurance, real estate, non-compete, officer fiduciary, and company dissolution and accounting.

Matt has experience in all facets of litigation, and has tried cases before the Missouri Administrative Hearing Commission, and state and federal trial courts in Missouri and Illinois. He has also handled appeals at the Missouri State Tax Commission, the Supreme Court of Missouri, the Missouri and Illinois Courts of Appeal, and the United States Courts of Appeal for the Seventh and Eighth Circuits.

Matt is a former law clerk for the Honorable Duane Benton of the Supreme Court of Missouri, a former Missouri Director of Revenue who currently serves as Circuit Judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit.

Eric Davis
Board Member

Eric Davis is currently the Executive Director of the Chicago Baseball and Education Academy at UIC. The academy is the vision of Major League Baseball player Curtis Granderson and funded in part by the Major League Baseball Youth Development Foundation, the academy will have more than 20,000 youth education and athletic visits by the end of 2017.  Mr. Davis is the founder of D&J Entertainment Holdings LLC who are involved with minor league team ownership and the production of sports documentaries, projects such as 30 for 30 “Phi Slama Jama”. Prior to forming DJE Eric Davis was Vice President/COO of Volunteers of America Illinois. Mr. Davis was responsible for the daily operations of three major programs, Veterans Services, Foster Care and Senior and Disabled Housing. He was also the chief liaison for strategic and political relationships. Prior to his time working at Volunteers of America, Mr. Davis was a Chicago Police Officer with over 25 years of police service in the Gang Crimes and Public Housing Units. To counter the threat of gang violence, Mr. Davis worked to negotiate a truce between Chicago gangs such as the Black Gangster Disciples, Latin Kings and ViceLords. At a time when Chicago had the highest homicide rate in the country, his part in the peace process caused the homicide rate in Chicago to plummet.

 

Mr. Davis was elected to the Chicago Police FOP Lodge 7 Board of Directors; he served in that capacity for 4 years representing more than 20,000 active and retired Chicago Police Officers. He is considered by the Chicago Police Department and numerous institutions of Higher Learning as a Youth gang and International Organized Crime Expert and uses his contacts, influence and knowledge to be on the front line of conflict resolution between street gangs, organized crime elements and the community. He has lectured at more than 500 High schools and middle schools across the country, in addition to Harvard, Yale and Princeton. Mr. Davis has discussed topics that include Gang Economics and Community Development. He has been a featured narrator for the TV program “ GangLand”.

 

Mr. Davis created the Slick Boys Youth Foundation to work with at-risk youth in the city of Chicago and across the country. He co-authored “ The Slick Boys” A Ten Point Plan to Rescue your Community( Simon & Schuster). Mr. Davis was the creative consultant for the “ Ricki Lake Show “  “ New York Undercover “ and the “ Judge Hatchet Show “. While assigned to the Cabrini Green Housing Development, he along with the Slick Boys and in partnership with Al Carter and Patricia Hill created the largest inner city little league baseball program in the nation. The league became the inspiration for the movie “ Hard Ball- A Season in the Projects “ which starred Kenanu Reeves.

 

Mr. Davis attended the University of Houston and was team captain of the 1982 Final Four Basketball team, playing with NBA Hall of Famers Hakeem Olajuwon and Clyde Drexler. After college Mr. Davis signed a free agent NFL contract with the Houston Oilers (Tennessee Titans), Mr. Davis also played professional basketball in the European League playing for the Killester Cats in Dublin Ireland. He is a Summa Cum Laude graduate with a degree in Sociology. Mr. Davis is a member of  Omega Psi Phi Fraternity Inc. Mr. Davis is also active as a board member on the following boards: DePaul University School of Liberal Arts Advisory Member, Delaware Place Bank and Pitch In for Baseball.

David L. Wendel, CPA, CFA
Board Member

Mr. Wendel has more than 20 years experience in the Banking industry. Prior to joining US Bank in November of 2015, he spent 17 years at CitiMortgage, where he served as an executive in a wide variety of areas – including Operations, Sales and Originations, Capital Markets and Finance. He holds a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration from the University of Missouri ‐ Columbia. In addition, David is a Certified Public Accountant (CPA) and has earned the Chartered Financial Analysts (CFA) designation. Mr. Wendel is based in St. Louis, MO.

Joe Smith
Co-Board Chair

Mr. Smith has served as one of the key principals and CFO of Watchtower Security since its inception in 2004. Mr. Smith holds a Masters of Business and Administration and a Master’s degree in Accounting from the University of Missouri – Columbia. Prior to Watchtower Security, Mr. Smith served as a manager for the “auditing/accounting” department at The Boeing Company. Mr. Smith currently serves on several boards and organizations (Towers of Excellence, Washington University Entrepreneurship Association, EO St. Louis, Olin Business School Start-Up Symposium) in which entrepreneurship and positive ethical business practices are the core values. Mr. Smith is currently a faculty member at Columbia College where he teaches both Financial and Managerial Accounting.

Nathan Burnett
Co-Board Chair

Nathan Burnett has worked as a principal of Watchtower Security Inc. for 12 years serving the security needs of the multi-family housing industry. He spent the first six years of his professional career as manager for an information technology company. Prior to moving to St. Louis, he completed his undergrad in Political Science at the University of MO-Columbia. Shortly after his move to St. Louis, he completed his Master of Business from Lindenwood University. His company, Watchtower Security Inc provides a completely managed video surveillance service working exclusively with multi-family housing properties, law enforcement and municipalities around the country to better our communities. Watchtower Security has been awarded multiple industry awards for its value and unique managed video surveillance services within the Apartment Industry. Nathan sits on numerous association boards and legislative committees including Towers of Excellence, the National/Missouri/St. Louis Apartment Associations, Community Association Institute, Association of General Contractors, St. Louis Downtown Resident’s Crime Prevention Council, Towers of Excellence Charitable Foundation, and Float STL. These volunteer passions are secondary only to his love and commitment for his family and friends.

Sala Sims
Academic Board Chair

“Each time a man stands up for an ideal, or acts to improve the lot of others, or strikes out against injustice, he sends forth a tiny ripple of hope, ...” Robert F. Kennedy

Sala Sims believes that as educators it is our mission to improve the lives of children and the adults who serve them. Sala began her career as a primary grades teacher in 1996. She went on to achieve National Board Certification- Early Childhood Generalist in 2004. Since that time, she has founded and led charter schools on the west and south sides of Chicago.

As an education consultant, Sala is passionate about building the capacity of teachers and principals to lead great classrooms and schools. Sala has served as a leadership coach with Teach for America and Knowledge Delivery Systems. Sala worked with aspiring and sitting school principals to develop their leadership competencies, including instructional leadership, teacher development, school culture, and family involvement.

Sala also has experience in creating and leading professional development. She has presented and served on expert panels at events including the Illinois Statewide No Child Left Behind Conference, Village Leadership Academy, TEAM (Tennessee Educator Accelerator Model) Evaluator Professional Development, Erickson Institute’s The American Teacher panel discussion, and the National Institute for Excellence in Teaching’s National TAP Conference.

Currently, a Lead Faculty member with Atlantic Research Partners, Sala leads instructional transformation at a School Improvement Grant (SIG) elementary school in Chicago, Illinois.