The Bluegrass Institute for Public Policy Solutions (BIPPS) was founded in Bowling Green, Kentucky, by Christopher J. Derry in 2003 to move Kentucky from a state of government dependency to one of opportunity and prosperity for individual Kentuckians by offering free-market solutions to the commonwealth’s greatest challenges.

BIPPS is Kentucky’s first and only free-market think tank and is an affiliate of the State Policy Network (SPN), which was founded by South Carolina entrepreneur Thomas Roe in 1992 at the urging of Ronald Reagan and has grown to a powerful movement of 64 independent state think tanks which are securing lasting social change at the state and local level.

BIPPS is a 501c3 nonprofit, nonpartisan research and education organization committed to engaging, empowering and inspiring Kentuckians to make Kentucky the fastest-growing, most-innovative state in America. All gifts to the Bluegrass Institute are voluntary, tax-deductible and private. We have never accepted a single dollar of funding from any government at any level.



Jim Waters

President and CEO

Jim Waters is president and CEO of the Bluegrass Institute for Public Policy Solutions, Kentucky’s first and only free market think tank.

Waters uses his significant previous media experience as a reporter, editor and broadcaster at newspapers and radio stations in Kentucky, Indiana and Ohio to make the case for free markets, individual liberty and limited – and transparent – government.

An award-winning journalist and radio broadcaster, Waters has written the weekly Bluegrass Beacon column for more than a decade. The popular column appears in newspapers and online publications across Kentucky. He has become known as one of Kentucky’s most influential voices in calling for reform of economic, education and labor reforms.

Waters is a frequent guest – and guest host – on talk radio, including on Louisville’s 84WHAS and is in demand as a guest speaker, moderator of political debates and policy forums. His articles have appeared in national publications, including the Wall Street Journal and USA Today, and he has appeared on CNN television and national radio talk shows, including the Lars Larson radio show.

Waters is in demand as a speaker and panelists. He has appeared as a guest speaker on the same platform with many nationally known figures, including Gov. Matt Bevin, U.S. Sen. Rand Paul, Congressman Thomas Massie and Fox News anchor John Stossel.

Waters frequently speaks in churches and at civic clubs, Chamber of Commerce dinners, Lincoln Day Dinners, Tea Party rallies and FreedomWorks events.


Sarah May Durand


Sarah May Durand formerly served as communications director on the campaigns of Gov. Matt Bevin and Louisville mayoral candidate and Metro Councilwoman Angela Leet.

Durand’s wide range of experience includes serving as Chief of Staff for Kentucky First Lady Glenna Bevin, working with a well-respected public affairs firm, and leading the Louisville Tea Party.

She leads the Bluegrass Institute’s effort to gain policy wins in Frankfort and increase the organization’s presence on social media, effectiveness in connecting Kentuckians with its research, opinion pieces and coalition efforts with other like-minded groups.


Richard G. Innes

Education Analyst

Richard G. Innes brings a uniquely independent viewpoint to public education research, approaching those studies from a parent-oriented perspective. Innes has been investigating Kentucky education since 1994.

In 1999, his research highlighted significant problems with exclusion of learning-disabled students from the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP). Cautions about those problems now are found in recent reports from that testing program, while research continues on ways to correct these issues and improve the accuracy of the data.

Innes’ many reports, papers, blogs and videos about the shortcomings of CATS, a previous Kentucky school-assessment program, played an important role in the General Assembly’s decision in 2009 to discontinue that program. Innes’ recent policy briefs and reports include “School Based Decision Making Policy: A Closer Look,” “Blacks Continue Falling Tthrough the Gaps,” “How Blacks and Whites Perform in Jefferson County” and “Digital Learning Now!: Obstacles to Implementation in Kentucky.”


Dr. William F. Smith

Dr. William F. Smith, a dermatologist with practices in Louisville and Shelbyville, leads the Bluegrass Institute Pension Reform Team.

Dr. Smith, who served on Gov. Bevin’s has created a new paradigm which uses this funding algorithm to offer a defined benefit for new teachers while protecting taxpayers from future mounts of debt such as the commonwealth’s current unfunded pension liabilities which deemed to be between $48 billion and $60 billion. He also offers this innovative approach toward solving the dilemma of dramatic pension contributions faced by Kentucky’s seven regional universities and other quasi-governmental agencies.

He meets frequently with policymakers and stakeholders, speaks frequently on the issue of public pension reform and has testified before the General Assembly’s Public Pension Oversight Board.

Dr. Smith served in the U.S. Marines and graduated from the University of Louisville School of Medicine and performed a residence at the United States Naval Medical Center.



John Garen, Ph.D.

John Garen is the BB&T Professor of Economics in the Gatton College of Business and Economics at the University of Kentucky and is the founding director and an affiliate of the Institute for the Study of Free Enterprise. He has been a member of the Gatton faculty since 1985.

Dr. Garen received his Ph.D. from Ohio State University in 1982 and has served as a Visiting Professor at the University of Chicago, a Visiting Scholar at the Mercatus Center, at National Sun Yat-Sen University, and at National Taiwan Normal University, and is a member of the Mercatus Center’s Faculty Network and of the Board of Scholars for the Bluegrass Institute for Public Policy Solutions. From 2005-2009 he served as Department Chair and during 2004-2005 he was Co-Director of the Gatton College’s Center for Business and Economic Research.

Dr. Garen’s interests have focused on the economics of organizations, labor and human resource economics, and the role of government in society. He has conducted research on a wide variety of economic issues, leading to over thirty-five publications in many of the foremost academic journals, as well as numerous reports and manuscripts.

Contact Dr. Garen at jgaren@email.uky.edu.


Stephan F. Gohmann, Ph.D.

Steve Gohmann has been a faculty member in the Department of Economics in the College of Business at the University of Louisville since 1988. He became the BB&T Professor of Free Enterprise in 2009 and Director of the Center for Free Enterprise in 2015.

His research focuses on entrepreneurship, health economics, information technology acceptance, and the economics of beer. He typically examines the influence of policies on individual decisions. He has published over 60 academic articles. The results of his work have been quoted in various news outlets and blogs including the Wall Street Journal and the Atlanta Constitution Journal.

His primary teaching responsibilities are managerial economics in the MBA program with emphasis on the economics of strategy. He also teaches a course on capitalism and economic freedom and has previously taught labor economics, health economics, econometrics, mathematical economics, and principles of economics at the undergraduate level and health care economics at the graduate level.

He received his undergraduate degree in Mathematics and Economics from Indiana University in 1978 and his PhD in Economics from North Carolina State University in 1984. He did post-doctoral work at Duke University.

Contact Dr. Gohmann at sfhohm01@louisville.edu.


Gary W. Houchens, Ph.D.

Dr. Houchens is Professor of Educational Administration, Leadership and Research at Western Kentucky University and was appointed to the Kentucky Board of Education by Gov. Matt Bevin in 2016.

He’s a former teacher, principal and school district administrator who served in both public and private school settings. He was named Principal of the Year by FamilyWorks Therapy in Bowling Green, Ky, for work with at-risk students and their families in 2007.

Dr. Houchens earned his Bachelor’s degree in Philosophy, Religion and History and a Master’s in History from Western Kentucky University, a Master of Arts in Teaching from Oakland City University and a doctorate from the University of Louisville in Education Leadership and Organizational Development.

His research interests focus on the inner lives of school leaders, including the intellectual, emotional and spiritual aspects of leadership, and how these dimensions influence the practice of school administration.

Contact Dr. Houchens at Gary.Houchens@wku.edu.


D. Eric Schansberg, Ph.D.

Dr. Schansberg is professor of economics at Indiana University Southeast in the greater Louisville area, author of numerous academic article in applied microeconomics plus two books on public policy, “Poor Policy: How Government Harms the Poor” and “Turn Neither to the Right nor to the Left: A Thinking Christian’s Guide to Politics and Public Policy,” and two-time Libertarian candidate for Congress.

Schansberg earned Bachelor’s degrees in Mathematics and Economics from George Mason University and his Doctorate in Economics (Labor and Applied) from Texas A&M University in 1991. He was chosen in 2003 for membership in FACET — Indiana University’s Faculty Colloquium on Excellence in Teaching and served as Distinguished Visiting Professor at The King’s College in New York City.

Since 1999, Schansberg has served on the board of Brandon’s House, a nonprofit organization that provides masters-level counseling for teens and their parents.

Contact Dr. Schansberg at dschansb@ius.edu.



Andrew McNeill

McNeill served as Senior Policy Advisor and Deputy State Budget and Policy Director for Gov. Matt Bevin from 2015 to 2018. Most recently he was State Director for the Kentucky Chapter of Americans for Prosperity. During the Fletcher Administration, McNeill served as Director of Legislative Policy in the Governor’s Office, the Chief of Staff to Kentucky’s Commerce Secretary and the Executive Director of the Office of Energy Policy.

McNeill has been a member of the University of Kentucky’s Martin School’s Board of Visitors, served on the Kentucky Long Term Policy Research Center’s Board of Directors as well as Kentucky’s High-Speed Internet Access Task Force. He has a Master’s in Public Administration from the Martin School of Public Policy & Administration and undergraduate degrees in History and Government from Centre College.


Vicki E. Alger, Ph.D.

Dr. Alger is a Visiting Fellow with the Bluegrass Institute for Public Policy Solutions a Senior Fellow at the Independent Women’s Forum in Washington, D.C., and a Research Fellow with the Independent Institute in Oakland, California.

Alger received her Ph.D. in political philosophy from the Institute of Philosophic Studies at the University of Dallas, where she was an Earhart Foundation Fellow.

She’s the author of Failure: The Federal “Misedukation” of America’s Children, and holds Senior Fellowships at the Fraser Institute in Vancouver, British Columbia, and the Independent Women’s Forum in Washington, D.C. Alger is also President and CEO of Vicki Murray & Associates LLC in Scottsdale, Arizona.

Alger’s research helped advance school-choice bills in several states and was used as part of the successful legal defense by the Institute for Justice of the country’s first tax-credit scholarship program in the U.S. Supreme Court (Arizona Christian School Tuition Organization v. Winn).

Her research and commentary on education policy have been widely published and cited in national news media outlets, including The Wall Street Journal, USA Today and Investor’s Business Daily. She’s also appeared on the Fox News Channel, local ABC, CBS, NBC and PBS affiliates, as well as news-talk radio programs across the country.

Alger has lectured at numerous American universities, including the U.S. Military Academy, West Point.



Aaron Ammerman

Chair, Financial Advisor

Aaron Ammerman, a Bluegrass Institute board member since 2014 and a member of the Bluegrass Institute Pension Reform Team, has had a long career as an investment consultant advising public pension funds and individuals.

Aaron earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Business Administration from Asbury University in addition to a Master’s Degree in Economics from the University of East London, England.

He currently resides in Lexington, Kentucky.


Christopher E. Anderson


Christopher E. Anderson, CPA, ABV, CFF, AIF, is a former director of business consulting services of Lexington-based Dean Dorton Allen Ford, PLLC, a reputable accounting company with locations in Lexington, Louisville and Raleigh, N.C., and was president of its predecessor firm, Barr Anderson and Roberts, PSC.

Chris is a director of the Unified Trust Company NA, in Lexington, Ky. He’s a member of the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants, Kentucky Society of Certified Public Accountants, FI 360, Inc. and Society of Personal Financial Planners.

Along with volunteering as a board member and Treasurer of the Bluegrass Institute, Chris also serves as a board member and Treasurer of the Kentucky Civil War Roundtable and is a member of the Lexington Rotary Club.

The Kansas City, Missouri, native holds a Bachelor of Arts in Business Administration and Political Science from William Jewell College in Liberty, Missouri, and a Master of Science in Accounting from the University of Kentucky.


Steven J. Megerle


Steve Megerle is a lifelong resident of Northern Kentucky. He is an attorney and has been licensed to practice law in Kentucky since 2005.

He is also admitted to practice law in several federal courts including the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals where just last year he argued a First Amendment case related to the political speech rights of public employees.

Steve has tried several civil jury cases and also argued before the Kentucky Court of Appeals. He represents individuals and small businesses in all types of matters. He currently represents several small businesses and individuals who are challenging the Bullitt County Board’s of Health’s passage of a county-wide smoking ban in the Louisville federal court.

Steve holds a Bachelor’s Degree in English and History with Honors from Canisius College in Buffalo, New York and received his Juris Doctor Degree from the Ohio Northern University in Ada, Ohio.

Support the Bluegrass Institute

The Bluegrass Institute for Public Policy Solutions works with Kentuckians, pro-liberty coalitions, grassroots organizations and business owners to advance freedom and prosperity by promoting free-market capitalism, individual liberty and transparent government.