Board of Directors

Board of Directors

As a mutually owned community bank our board members serve as stewards over assets and capital of the bank. They provide strategic guidance overseeing major policy decisions ensuring the bank operates in a safe and sound manner while meeting the credit needs of the communities it serves. The First Federal Bank board is composed of individuals from our community with various backgrounds, nonprofit service and industry experience who champion the bank’s mission of helping others build a better financial future.

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Clarence Zugelter began his career with First Federal Bank in 1971. He was named President and Chief Executive Officer in 1988, and elected Chairman of the Board in 1999. He retired from active management in 2014. Clarence brings a breadth of experience to the board relating to bank operations and historical perspectives of the banking industry, in addition to the unique culture of a mutual institution represented by its mission, vision and values.

Clarence received his bachelor’s degree from Baker University, his MBA from Avila University, and graduated from the Graduate School of Banking in Norman, Oklahoma.

He and his wife are actively involved in the United Methodist Church of the Resurrection and its ministries.

Other leadership roles:

  • Served on multiple boards, including the Missouri Savings and Loan League and the Heartland Community Bankers Association
  • Elected to America’s Community Bankers board, where he served on the legislative committee
  • Elected board member of the Federal Home Loan Bank of Des Moines and served as the Chairman of the bank’s Affordable Housing Committee
  • Selected to represent the thrift industry on the Federal Reserve Board of Governors under Chairman Alan Greenspan

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Richard Merker held various roles with Inter-State Federal Savings from 1974-2015 including Loan Officer, Vice President and President before merging with First Federal Bank of Kansas City in 2016 and joining the board of directors.

He graduated from the University of Kansas with majors in Political Science and Economics.

Other leadership roles:

  • Previous board member of Kansas City, Kansas Lenders’ Consortium
  • Previous project committee member with Community Housing of Wyandotte County

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John DeStefano held various financial roles with Kansas City Power & Light until 2006, including Treasurer, Vice President of Finance and Chief Financial Officer. John served as a medical specialist in the United States Army Special Forces from 1969-1972.

He earned a bachelor’s degree in Biology and a master of business administration in Finance, both from the University of Missouri-Columbia.

John and his wife live in Kansas City, and have six children and 13 grandchildren.

Other leadership roles:

  • Board member and past board chair of St. Joseph Medical Center
  • Board member and past board chair of the Heartland Center for Behavioral Change
  • Served on the board of trustees for the Kansas City Employees’ Retirement System as member and chairman
  • Served the Catholic Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph as a Finance Council member, member of board of trustees for the Endowment for Catholic Education and past member and chair of the Investment Committee

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Stephen Hilliard served more than 30 years in the financial services, insurance and banking sectors including as a Senior Vice President of State Street, a Fortune 500 company. He also brings to the board leadership experience in human resources, legal, compliance, information technology, data management and property development functions.

Stephen received his bachelor’s degree from the University of Central Missouri and his MBA with an emphasis in Accounting and Control from Rockhurst University.

Other leadership roles:

  • Volunteers with Once City Café, Morning Glory Ministries, Parkville Women’s Clinic and Good Samaritan Home Equity
  • Trustee for Serra Club of Kansas City, North
  • Previous trustee for Mid-Continent Public Library
  • Previous board member and chair of Alphapointe
  • Previous board member and president of Neighborhoods of Hope

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J.R. Buckner is the president and CEO of First Federal Bank of Kansas City, the largest independent depositor-owned community bank headquartered in Missouri. He joined the board in 2014 and leads an executive team focused on helping individuals realize the American dream of home ownership through market-leading financial product and services. With a bachelor’s degree in Accounting and Management from Park University and as a graduate of the Graduate School of Banking at Colorado with over 25 years of community banking experience, J.R. brings a wealth of strategic and operational knowledge to the board.

Prior to joining First Federal Bank of Kansas City in 2012 as Executive Vice-President, J.R. served in leadership roles at Bank of Lee’s Summit and First Community Bank.

Through service to various Kansas City-based nonprofits and leadership roles at The Summit Church in Lee’s Summit where he and his family attend, J.R. actively gives of his time, talents and resources to make Kansas City a better community.

Other leadership roles:

  • Serves on the Mortgage Advisory Committee and the Mutual Advisory Committee to the American Bankers Association
  • Board member of the Missouri Bankers Association and is currently the Chairman
  • Served two terms on the Mutual Savings Association Advisory Committee to the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency

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Lori Kelleher retired as a member of the executive leadership team and reported to the CEO of Black & Veatch, a $3.9B global employee-owned construction and engineering company. She served as President and Chief Human Resources Officer working in global businesses with project locations in over 100 countries. Lori also had global responsibility for real estate, facilities, construction equipment procurement, fleet and internal communications. Prior to Black & Veatch, she served as the Vice President of Global Human Resources for Hollister Incorporated, the Regional Director for Human Resources for Grant Thornton and various human resource positions at Cincinnati Bell Telephone.

Lori holds a bachelor’s degree in Marketing from Miami University of Ohio.

Other leadership roles:

  • Serves on the Colleton River Architecture Review Board
  • Governance Fellow of the National Association of Corporate Directors
  • Provides consulting and executive coaching services to various clients
  • Previously served as the chair of the Black & Veatch Foundation
  • Served as president-elect of the International Women’s Forum of Kansas
  • Founding member of SOCI of Kansas City

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Angela Hoffman serves as the head of Black & Veatch’s global Finance & Administration team supporting the Water Business. During her 27 years with Black & Veatch, Angela has engaged in various financial leadership roles across the organization in both Corporate (Treasurer, VP of Finance) and other business roles in Power Delivery, Telecom and Water UK (based in London).

Angela received a bachelor’s degree in Business and Accounting from Emporia State University and holds a master of business administration in Finance from Rockhurst University.

Other leadership roles:

  • Cabinet member of United Way and past chair of Women United
  • Board member of Junior Achievement of Greater Kansas City and Black & Veatch Executive Sponsor
  • Foundation trustee for Emporia State University

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Andrea Allison-Putman serves as the Senior Director of Education and Y Relations with the YMCA Retirement Fund where she facilitates retirement educational experiences and builds relationships with key constituents within YMCA’s throughout the United States. Previously, Andrea served the YMCA of Greater Kansas City as the Chief Development and Equity Officer. During Andrea’s 10+ years of leadership in that role, she oversaw staff and volunteer leadership, fund development, payroll, benefits, inclusion and diversity, communication, training, recruitment and the Y-USA regional training and human resources partner efforts. Her background combines human resources management with community relations expertise, bringing extensive operational and organizational administration knowledge to the board.

Andrea holds a master’s degree in Organizational Development and received her BSBA from the University of Missouri. Andrea resides in Kansas City, MO, with her husband Andre’ and they have three children.

Other leadership roles:

  • Volunteers with the International Relations Council, Harvesters – The Community Food Network, LevelUp Kids and Greater KC Hispanic Collaborative
  • Active member of the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce of Greater Kansas City, Urban League of Greater Kansas City and Mizzou Alumni Association.


Debe Gash is currently the Senior Vice President and Chief Digital Officer for Saint Luke's Health System. In this role, she leads a broad range of digital initiatives and solutions across the health system, including developing and implementing IT strategies and fostering a digital culture. She is responsible for updating the necessary standards, infrastructure, and security policies to protect the system’s information assets. Debe also ensures quality IT support for the Health System and provides guidance in cost-effective clinical and business solutions.

Debe began her career in health care managing physician offices and patient accounting. In 1989, she relocated to Kansas City and joined Baird, Kurtz and Dobson, CPA as a health care consultant. During her time there, she conducted operational assessments for hospitals and physician practices and conducted speaking engagements educating health care professionals on compliance and regulatory topics.

Debe joined Saint Luke’s Health System in 1992, where she was responsible for physician services for Saint Luke's Medical Group, and served as project manager and director of application development in Information Services.

Debe is a graduate of the University of Missouri with a bachelor’s degree in Health Services Management and master’s degree in business administration. She is an active member of American College of Healthcare Executives, College of Healthcare Information Management Executives, Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society, and the American College of Medical Practice Executives. Debe is the Treasurer of the board of directors for Velatura HIE and holds the following certifications: FACHE, CHCIO, CDH-E, FHIMSS, and CPHIMS.


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