Renée Gardner with Michael J. Fox at the Morris K. Udall Awards. Washington, DC
Mary Ann Mills with Jacques Cousteau at his 75th birthday celebration. Washington, DC

Renée Kortum Gardner


Renée Gardner specializes in planning and directing events, from seminars and conferences to major benefits and premieres, and developing and implementing comprehensive strategies to raise funds and build new and substantial financial support for a diverse array of public institutions and non-profit organizations.

As Director of External Affairs for the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of American History in the 1980s, she directed all fundraising, special events, and public relations efforts, managing numerous events from intimate dinners to receptions for 5,000 guests. Prior to the Smithsonian, she served as Director of Special Events for WashingtonInc. She also held the positions of Director of the Dwight D. Eisenhower Centennial; Vice President of Italian Aircraft Corporation, a European aviation firm; and, Assistant to the Italian Ambassador of the European Community.

Renée also served as President of The Bancroft Group, Inc. (BGI), a Washington-based company that specialized in museum fundraising and event planning, exhibition design and retail store design and merchandising.

Ms. Gardner earned an M.A. in international affairs from George Washington University and lived in Italy and France for many years. She serves on the Board of Directors of Friends of Florence, and PEN/Faulkner Foundation. Ms. Gardner resides in Washington, DC with her husband and son.


Mary Ann Mills


For twenty years, Mary Ann Mills has built her career in marketing communications with experience in the areas of event management, strategic planning, cause-related marketing, brand building and media relations.

Ms. Mills spent eight years in New York City with McGrath/Power Associates. As Vice President, she managed an account group that included Reebok International, The Body Shop, TRAVEL & LEISURE Magazine, and Yankelovich Clancy Shulman. She developed strategic long-term public-relations plans creating and coordinating events and launching numerous products and national and grass-roots campaigns.

As Vice President of Marketing for Earth Force, a start-up environmental group for young people, Ms. Mills developed and executed the launch strategy and ongoing outreach efforts with an emphasis on hands-on action events for youth.

Ms. Mills served as Director of Special Events and Public Relations at WashingtonInc. She planned and executed all aspects of event production from fundraising to list production to menu selection and protocol.

For eight years, Ms. Mills and her two partners owned and operated five DC-area The Body Shop stores. Ms. Mills’ focus was event planning, communications, and community outreach.

Ms. Mills lives in Arlington, Virginia, with her husband, Dr. Jason Clay, and three children.


Susie O'Brien-Riley

Susie O’Brien-Riley joined the Gardner/Mills Group, LLC team in 2006. Handling on-site logistical and program management support, Susie has worked with a wide range of clients, including the American Academy of Achievement, ICF International, the National Geographic Society, Goldman Environmental Prize, National Portrait Gallery, and more. Susie serves in a staff supervisory capacity and oversees guest registration and seating assistance. She handles program participants and other special guests.

Additional professional experience includes catering with Upstairs/Downstairs Catering, where Susie managed the Green Room for ABC’s “This Week” as well as 20 years as office manager with Joel Specialties, Inc.

An avid cyclist, Susie is an active member of the Washington Area Bicyclist Association and helps organize the annual Arlington Turkey Trot. She is a graduate of University of Arizona.


Suzanne Derby

Suzanne Derby has worked with the Gardner/Mills Group, LLC since its inception in 1998. Providing critical planning and on-site logistical support for a broad range of corporate and not-for-profit clients, Suzanne also provides organizational oversight of the seating and guest registration process. Her projects include Friends of Florence's Gates of Paradise tour events, the Goldman Environmental Prize, Ruder Finn for Johnson & Johnson's The Campaign for Nursing's Future event at Union Station, World Foundation for Environment and Development, National Geographic Society, and more.

Suzanne is a co-founder of the MTH Foundation, a non-profit organization for whom she has developed the business and fundraising plans. Her responsibilities also include organizing visibility and friend-raising events in key markets across the U.S.

Prior to joining the Gardner/Mills Group, LLC, Suzanne served as Administrative Manager for The Mills Group, supervising support staff, coordinating technical support and organizing seminars, client and other special events. She also served as Director/ Education Curator for Gadsby's Tavern Museum.

A graduate of Boston University, Suzanne received her MAT in Museum Education from George Washington University.


Patrick Nonte

Patrick Nonte serves as the Gardner/Mills Group, LLC's Information Technology specialist, Office Manager, and Production Supervisor. Overseeing all office operations, Patrick manages client database efforts for such purposes as fundraising outreach, registration, invitation lists, seating, and supervises production services from outreach mailings, conference materials, seating documents, and more. In addition, he assists in targeted fundraising outreach on behalf of clients, and handles reports and list management.

Prior to joining the Gardner/Mills Group, LLC, Patrick served as an associate at a Fortune 500 consulting firm, handling office information technology needs, production services, and logistical support for local marketing events. Previously, he was Office Manager for the Soapbox Trading Company (dba The Body Shop), liaising with the owners of the six local The Body Shop retail stores, the stores' management teams, and the national headquarters, handling orders, report preparation, inventories, and more.

Patrick is a graduate of the University of Scranton.


Jill Schwartz

Jill Schwartz provides accounting and business support services for the Gardner/Mills Group, LLC. Handling such responsibilities as bookkeeping, preparation of financial statements, payroll, budgeting and more, Jill manages the billing and invoicing process for all clients.

Prior to her work with the Gardner/Mills Group, LLC, Jill served as controller of the Soapbox Trading Company (dba The Body Shop), where she was responsible for the accounting department for six retail locations. Previously, she was associated with McQuade & Capron, Certified Public Accountants, providing accounting, tax, and audit services for closely-held business, non-profit, and individual clients. She also served as Internal Auditor for USLICO Corporation.

Jill received her BS in Business Administration with a concentration in Accounting from Mary Washington College.


Kevin Olivera, Producer

Kevin Olivera has been working in the special events industry for 25 years as an event producer, entertainment manager, and musician and serves as Gardner/Mills Group, LLC’s entertainment coordinator nationally.

Mr. Olivera’s extensive knowledge of the entertainment industry and resources is an invaluable asset to assembling the best possible team for each event. He handles all production logistics including sound, lighting, staging, stage management and more to create a seamless marquis event.

Clients include The Smithsonian Institution, the Democratic National Committee, the Washington Ballet, Mount Vernon, Wolf Trap, and the 2010 Virginia Governor’s Ball. Mr. Olivera produced all the DC based talent for the 2001 and 2005 Inaugurations of George W. Bush and has worked several events for President Obama’s Administration.

Mr. Olivera has produced numerous award-winning events and earned the International Special Events Society ‘Best Entertainment Production’ Capital Award three times, in 2006, 2009, and 2010.


Heather Keith

Heather Keith joined the Gardner/Mills Group, LLC team in 2015. With 25+ years of association experience, Heather brings extensive knowledge in all aspects of volunteer-governed organizations, including operations management, meeting planning, advocacy, marketing, and information technology.

Before joining GMG, Heather served as Director, Programs and Administration at the Association of Oil Pipe Lines, where she was responsible for directing the operations, finance, and meeting planning programs. She planned and executed annual membership meetings; scouted locations, negotiated vendor contracts, developed program materials, managed marketing, developed social media components, and served as on-site coordinator. Heather also managed all aspects of the Association’s $3.5 million budget and office operations.

Heather has a B.A. in Government and International Politics from George Mason University. She is a graduate of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Institute of Organization Management (IOM), which is a senior-level professional development program. She served on the Board of Regents for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce West Institute from 2010 to 2014. She is an active member of the American Society of Association Executives and Professional Conventional Management Association. Heather resides in Washington, DC with her husband and two teenage children.


Paul R. Wind, Graphic Designer

Paul provides graphic and web design consultation and services for the Gardner/Mills Group, LLC. His passion for all things visual and informational is evident throughout his work in branding, invitations, event signage, packaging, web design and development, and information architecture.

Since graduating from James Madison University with a M.F.A in Graphic Design and a M.A. in English, Paul has applied his talents across various industries. As graphic designer for CSCI, a technology company providing both hardware and software solutions for the Defense Department, he applied his visual skills educating clients about challenging and complex subjects. He also provided design work for CSCI’s sister charity, The SemperComm Foundation, which supplies American troops overseas with the comforts of home, including televisions, video games, books, etc.

Through his work as a graphic designer at SmithGifford, a Washington, DC-area advertising agency, Paul creates campaigns and concepts for national brands including Identity Guard; celebrity chef José Andrés’ organization, Think Food Group; and Melwood.