Board of Directors

Thomas G. Gates

Chairman

Tom Gates graduated from the University of South Florida and is President of TGGates & Associates, LLC. Mr. Gates is a United States Air Force veteran who served two combat tours in Southeast Asia during Vietnam. His eight years of military service was followed by a career in the FBI, retiring in 1996. Mr. Gates’ experience includes high pressure management roles, implementation of new use of operating systems, program and certified project manager with IT production. He is also recognized as a Subject Matter Expert in Homeland Security matters and Fusion Center development and training.  As a contractor, he managed DOD analysis projects.

Mr. Gates is a member of the Florida Veterans Hall of Fame as well as on the Board of Directors of the Florida Veterans Hall of Fame Society.  He has received honors at the University of South Florida which include: Veteran of the Year; Veteran’s Hall of Honor; recipient of the Donald A. Gifford Alumni Service Award; a consulting member of the Pat Tillman Scholarship Selection Committee.  He is a member of the Executive Board of Directors for the nonprofit ART International Accelerated Resolution Therapy Training and Research.  He also serves on the Board of Directors for the Copperheads Charities located in Clearwater, Florida.  Mr. Gates is a recipient of the Patriot Award, the highest award given by the, United States Special Operations Command Care Coalition.  He is the Chairman Emeritus of the Birdies for the Brave Tampa Bay Foundation which is associated with the PGA Tour.

Patricia Thompson

Vice Chair

Patricia Thompson attended Hillsborough County Public Schools and earned her B.A. and M.Ed. degrees from the University of South Florida in Elementary Education and Educational Leadership, respectively. Mrs. Thompson served as a teacher and school administrator for 15 years with Hillsborough County Schools. Her strong leadership and dedication steered her to many opportunities during this time such as opening a new middle school, presenting at state and national educational conferences and participating in many large projects including the inception of magnet schools.

In April of 2014, Mrs. Thompson was selected to be the Executive Director of the Chris T. Sullivan Foundation where she oversees all policies and procedures of the foundation and works closely with Mr. Sullivan to ensure the mission and vision of the foundation are realized. Aside from her work with the foundation, Mrs. Thompson continues to volunteer with various organizations and is on the Executive Committee and Board of Directors for Veterans Alternative and ART International Accelerated Resolution Therapy Training and Research.

Jerry Custin

Secretary

Jerry Custin attended St. Joseph’s College in Philadelphia earning a degree in Political Science. Mr. Custin pursued an extensive military career, serving in the United States Air Force, where he received advanced training, flew 130 combat missions over Laos and Vietnam, conducted defense analysis, and then finally completed his thirty-year career at the National Security Agency as the Director of the Office of Electronic Intelligence, and the Chairman of the National Electronic Intelligence Group.

After retirement, Mr. Custin served as an outreach counselor for economically disadvantaged youth to recruit them for summer employment under the Pinellas Workforce Development Board. In this capacity, he was responsible for building cooperation and coordination between and among various social services organizations.

Mr. Custin then became the Business Assistance Specialist for the Oldsmar Chamber of Commerce, where he helped expand the footprint into Hillsborough County and renamed it the Upper Tampa Bay Chamber of Commerce. He later served as President/CEO of the chamber and developed the Upper Tampa Manufacturers Association serving Hernando, Hillsborough, Pasco and Pinellas Counties. He currently serves the chamber as the Director of Business, Manufacturing and Education.

Amanda Murphy

Director

Amanda Murphy attended Florida State University, where she earned her Bachelor’s in Political Science. As a Wealth Management Specialist, Ms. Murphy is a leader in the not-for- profit and foundation arena, with extensive familiarity and experience in managing several prominent Tampa Bay Area Foundations. She works with major philanthropists in the region through charitable giving, legacy planning, and private family foundations. Her areas of expertise include 144 equity selling, equity trading, commodities, cashless options, estate planning, defined benefits, and charitable giving.

From 2013 – 2016, Ms. Murphy was elected to public office and served as the State Representative for District 36, West Pasco, Florida. As the State Representative, Amanda represented, not only her constituents in Pasco, but all Floridians. She was the Ranking Member on the Healthcare Appropriation Subcommittee. Her other committees included: Children, Families and Seniors Subcommittee, Joint Legislative Auditing Committee, Local Government Affairs Subcommittee, and The State Affairs Committee. Through this work she gained vast knowledge of our state and the inner workings of our government.

Russell J Gratz

 Director

Raised in Trenton, Michigan Russell J Gratz retired from the Air Force as an MSgt in February 2005.  As a Senior Information Operations (IO) Program Analyst Joint Military Support Element with Joint Information Operations Warfare command in San Antonio, Texas Mr. Gratz Prepared and managed operational proposals, estimates, detailed intelligence assessments, and OPLANS, coordinated with the planning staffs at JCS, Joint Staff J-39; the Office of the Secretary of Defense (OSD), and National Intelligence Agencies in support of USCENTCOM and USSOCOM.  Mr. Gratz has multiple deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan and has nearly 23 years of experience in all aspects of IO ranging from STO planning C4I analysis to integrating IO effects in the targeting process at the combatant command staff level. Awards and Decorations MSgt Gratz has received during his military career include the Defense Meritorious Service Medal with one oak leaf cluster, Joint Meritorious Service Medal with three oak leaf clusters, two Aerial Achievement medals, Joint Service Commendation medal with one oak leaf cluster, Air Force commendation medal with four oak leaf clusters, Joint service achievement medal with one oak leaf cluster, and Air Force achievement medal with two oak leaf clusters. He is also authorized to wear the Senior Aircrew Wings and Sr. Intelligence badge. Mr. Gratz has one son Jeff.

Art Welhoelter

 Director

Art attended Vanderbilt University and Vanderbilt law school. He served in the United States Marine Corps from 1970 – 1978, where he was a Captain and JAG officer and Military Judge. After leaving the Military, Mr. Welhoelter joined Dearborn & Ewing law firm where he became a partner. He joined Systems Management in 2001 where he served as General Counsel and Corporate Secretary. From 2009 – 2017, Art owned and was President and CEO of Q’s Restaurant Group, LLC (dba as Cheddar’s Casual Café).

Our Board of Directors can be contacted at 727-939-8387 or by emailing us at info@veteransalternative.org