Board of Directors
Jim Estepp is the President and CEO of the Greater Prince George’s Business Roundtable and the Andrews Business & Community Alliance. Jim became a CFSI board member in 1994. Prior to joining the board, he served as Chair of the CFSI National Advisory Committee, which is composed of national fire service organizations that guide CFSI in establishing positions on national fire service issues.
Jim is formerly Chair of the Prince George’s County Council where he served two elected terms; President Pro Tempore of the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments (COG); Chairman of the Board of the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments; President of the International Association of Fire Chiefs; Director of the Maryland Security Council, Office of the Governor; Fire & EMS Chief of Prince George’s County and Director of Public Safety for Prince George’s County.
Peggy Echols is Vice President of Operations for State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Companies. Her role as Vice President of Operations includes enterprise responsibility for Personal Lines Auto and Fire Underwriting. She joined State Farm ® in 1988 and has served in a variety of leadership positions including positions in Corporate Law, Public Affairs, Claims, and Underwriting. She currently serves as the Executive Sponsor of the Brookings Institution Global Perspective and Public Policy Program that develops State Farm leaders.
Peggy is a member of the Insurance Institute for Business & Home Safety’s Board of Directors, and has served on the boards of numerous community organizations since moving to Charlottesville, Virginia in 2005, currently serving on the board of the United Way – Thomas Jefferson Area. She received a bachelor’s degree in business administration from Bowling Green State University, Bowling Green, OH, and a juris doctor degree from the University of Toledo College of Law, Toledo, OH. She is also a member of the Ohio Bar and Illinois Bar, and holds the Chartered Property Casualty Underwriter (CPCU) and Chartered Life Underwriter (CLU) designations.
Secretary and Treasurer
Chris Neal serves as Regional Disaster Officer for the American Red Cross. Prior to his appointment he served at Oklahoma State University (OSU) as Director of Fire Protection Publications (FPP) and Executive Director of the International Fire Service Training Association (IFSTA) after four years as Program Coordinator for the Fire and Emergency Management Program (FEMP) in the Department of Political Science.
Mr. Neal retired from the fire service in 1998 after serving the previous ten years of his career as Fire Chief with the Claremore and Stillwater (OK) Fire Departments. He holds a master’s degree in political science, a bachelor’s in organizational administration, and an associate’s in fire protection technology and safety engineering from OSU, and is a graduate of the National Fire Academy Executive Fire Officer program and a Fellow with the Institution of Fire Engineers. Over his career Chris has served on boards and working committees including for the National Fire Academy, IFSTA, NFPA, U.S. Fire Corps, Oklahoma Fire Chiefs Association, and the Oklahoma State Fire Marshal Commission, and as an instructor at OSU in the Fire Protection and Safety Engineering Technology undergraduate and Fire & Emergency Management graduate degree programs. The joy of his life is his family – his wife Rose Ann; daughters Erin and Jessica, and sons Travis, Brett, and Michael.
Steve Austin is a 55-year veteran of the volunteer fire service. A life member of the Aetna Hose, Hook, and Ladder Company of Newark, DE, Steve served as President of the Delaware Volunteer Firefighter’s Association between 1999 and 2000 and is the current chair of the DVFA Foundation.
On the national level, he holds a number of positions, including Chairman of the NFPA 1091 Technical Committee on Traffic Control Incident Management Professional Qualifications; Chairman of the First Responder Center of Excellence (a nonprofit affiliate of the National Fallen Firefighters Foundation; Project Manager of the Cumberland Valley Volunteer Firemen’s Associations’ Emergency Responder Safety Institute; member of the International Fire Service Training Association Executive Board; and liaison to the IAFC Safety Health and Survival Section Board. Active within CFSI before joining the Board, Steve holds the distinction as being the only Chair of the CFSI National Advisory Committee to have served four terms. Steve served as a public policy analyst for State Farm Insurance before retiring following a 37-year career with the company.
R. Keith Brandstedter is President of Glatfelter Specialty Benefits a Division of Glatfelter Insurance Group and affiliate Division to VFIS. Joining the Agency in 2014, Mr. Brandstedter leads an experienced team of 22 associates in providing customized benefit solutions to our clients. Recently, Mr. Brandstedter was successful in developing two state-wide cancer programs in North Carolina and Delaware respectively. These new programs provide cancer benefits to over 60,000 emergency service personnel to help protect them as they serve their communities.
In 2021, Mr. Brandstedter expanded his role with Glatfelter Insurance Group and took on additional responsibility in VFIS Property & Casualty as the Regional Vice President of VFIS. In this role, Mr. Brandstedter assists our Western Regional Director distribution network meet the varied property, casualty, accident & sickness insurance needs of our emergency service organization clients throughout the Western United States. Overall, Mr. Brandstedter has over twenty-five years of experience in the insurance & financial services industry. Previous to joining Glatfelter Specialty Benefits and VFIS, Mr. Brandstedter served as the Vice President and Sr. Private Banker for the Wealth Advisory of Wilmington Trust Company. Mr. Brandstedter currently holds his FINRA Series 7 and Series 63 securities licenses and his Life, Accident and Health insurance licenses. He is a graduate of Washington and Lee University and currently sits on the Board of Directors for the Joyful Noise School.
Nicole Forziati (she/her/hers) is Vice President of Operations for State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Companies. Her role as Vice President of Operations includes enterprise responsibility for Personal Lines Auto and Fire Underwriting. She joined State Farm ® in 1995 and has served in a variety of leadership positions.
Nicole is a member of the Insurance Institute for Business & Home Safety’s Board of Directors, the California FAIR Plan Association’s Governing Committee and has served on the boards of other community organizations. She received a bachelor’s degree in Political Science from Kenyon College and a Master of Science in Management (MSM) degree with a specialization in leadership from the American College. She earned the Chartered Property Casualty Underwriter (CPCU) designation in 2004 and the Chartered Life Underwriter (CLU) designation in 2009.
Shane Ray began his fire service career in 1984 and worked through the ranks of career and volunteer organizations serving from firefighter to chief. He served 13 years as Fire Chief of the Pleasant View Fire Department in Tennessee. After serving as fire chief, he became Superintendent of the South Carolina Fire Academy and later was appointed by Governor Nikki Haley as South Carolina State Fire Marshal. Shane currently serves as President of the National Fire Sprinkler Association, a role he has held since 2015.
Chief Ray is a graduate of Eastern Kentucky University, Harvard’s John F. Kennedy School of Government, the University of Maryland’s Leadership Development Program, and the National Fire Academy’s Executive Fire Officer Program. Shane’s education not only comes from universities and institutions but from practical experience as well. He spent many years as the 1st Vice President of the International Society of Fire Service Instructors and served on the Board of Directors for the International Association of Fire Chiefs. Shane does not shy away from politics, he was the state legislative representative for the fire service in Tennessee and also served six years as the mayor of the Town of Pleasant View in Tennessee.
Shane was selected as Fire Chief Magazine’s Volunteer Fire Chief of the Year for 2005 and Eastern Kentucky University’s Distinguished Alumnus of the Year award for 2006. He was also selected as Tennessee Fire Chief of the Year in 2011. He was awarded the Order of the Palmetto by Governor Nikki Haley in June of 2014. Shane is honored to be a life member of the Pleasant View Volunteer Fire Department, the Berea, Kentucky Volunteer Rescue Squad, the South Carolina Firefighters Association, and most recently in 2019 to the Tennessee Fire Chief’s Association.