Our Team

John W. Courtney – President

JohnCourtney-head-e13473165641121John W. Courtney is the President of the Institute. As President, John works with state officials and other policy experts to develop solutions to poverty and unemployment issues. He provides support for state projects involving program design, management and performance evaluation. Prior to his current role for the Institute John served as Director of its Unemployment Insurance and Workforce Project.

John holds a B.A. in Economics from Bucknell University and an MBA and a JD from the University of Pittsburgh. He is also an International Association of Workforce Professionals Master. He has taught business planning at the Oregon Institute of Technology and practiced law for 15 years in business and employment law and mergers and acquisitions.

John has served as a member of his local WIA One Stop board and the Performance Accountability subcommittee of Oregon’s State WIA Board. He has also been active in his church missions committee and in his community as a mentor.

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Bill Starks – Unemployment Insurance/Workforce Director


Bill directs the Institute’s projects on Unemployment Insurance and Workforce Investment.​ ​Through an integrated approach of analyzing state performance, policy and procedures, along with identification of best practices in other states, Bill works with states in development and implementation of initiatives to enhance an individual’s ability to quickly obtain suitable employment.

Prior to joining the Institute in April 2015 of 2015, Bill spent over 35 years with the Utah Department of Workforce Services and its predecessor agency and served as Utah’s Unemployment Insurance (UI) Director for his last 10 years.

Bill and his team were instrumental in deploying numerous innovative UI reemployment strategies and unique integrity programs, while maintaining the highest U.S. Department of Labor UI performance standards. Bill and his team launched the first mandated online job search training engagement system for UI claimants in 2012 and expanded the idea to engage all nonexempt claimants in job search learning. The program drove a 6.5% impact on integrity and a 7% impact on duration, saving the state tens of millions while getting claimants back to work more quickly.

The Utah UI Division was recognized with numerous awards, including the U.S. Department of Labor’s (USDOL) Performance Excellence award for an unprecedented four consecutive years (2011 thru 2014) in all UI functions including benefit payments, appeal decisions, and tax operations. USDOL also awarded Utah the 2010 UI Innovation Award for their Electronic Correspondence System. The Division also was recognized by the National Foundation for Unemployment Compensation and Workers Compensation with the 2011 UI Integrity Award.

During his tenure as the Director, the Agency implemented a state of the art UI Benefits Computer System, which was designed, managed, financed and implemented internally on time and within budget, a rare feat in the UI world of modernization projects.

Bill was an active member of the National Association of State Workforce Agencies (NASWA) UI Committee for 10 years with leadership roles on multiple subcommittee assignments. He currently also works part-time for the NSAWA UI Integrity Center as a Subject Matter Expert. Bill holds a Bachelor of Science in Accounting from the University of Utah.

Spencer Clark – Full Employment Consultant

Spencer joined the American Institute for Full Employment (Institute) in July 2023 as an unemployment insurance consultant.

Before joining the Institute in July 2023, Spencer spent 30 years in the daily operations of the Missouri’s Unemployment Insurance agency. During that time he served as deputy director for nearly a decade also served as acting division director at various times, including the Pandemic.

In his leadership roles, Spencer was responsible for the agency’s budget, strategic plan, performance management, workforce planning and legislative initiatives and testimony.

Spencer and his management team oversaw all facets of Missouri’s UI program, including determining employer liability and collecting associated taxes, maintaining wage records for covered employees, assessing claimant eligibility, making benefit payments, facilitating due process through appeal hearings and ensuring UI program integrity.

Under Spencer’s leadership, the agency successfully navigated the historic unemployment crises caused by the great recession and the COVID-19 pandemic, developed and implemented a modernized and fully integrated UI computer system, designed and implemented Missouri’s Reemployment and Eligibility Assessment program and migrated from issuing unemployment payments on paper checks to electronic payment cards.

In 2020, the UI agency received three national unemployment insurance program awards, including two United States Department of Labor’s Performance Excellence awards for benefit payments and program integrity.  In addition, the agency was co-winner of the Institute’s Full Employment Best Practices Award for the administration of its Reemployment Services and Eligibility Assessment program.

Spencer served as a member of the National Association of State Workforce Agencies (NASWA) UI Committee for 11 years.  Additionally, Spencer was elected chair of the NASWA’s UI Integrity Center Steering Committee and served in that capacity for over 2 years.

Spencer and his wife, Christy, have two daughters, Brittany and Shelby. Spencer is a graduate of the University of Missouri with a Bachelor of Science in Finance and Banking.

Don Peitersen – Unemployment Insurance Expert – Emeritus

PeitersenDon Peitersen directed the Institute’s projects on Unemployment Insurance and Workforce Investment from 2007 through 2015 before retiring and becoming an emeritus expert for the Institute.

Prior to joining the Institute in 2007, Don spent 35 years with the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment, including 13 years as Unemployment Insurance Director and 4 years as Director of the Division of Employment and Training with responsibility for the states Unemployment Insurance, Workforce Development (both Wagner-Peyser and WIA) and Labor Market Information. During his tenure in Colorado, Don led the development and implementation (in 1991) of the first unemployment insurance call center in the United States. This dramatic change in the delivery of unemployment insurance resulted in several awards for the Colorado program including USDOL’s “Architect of Change: Innovations in Customer Service”, Vice President Gore’s “Hammer Award for Innovation”, and the Colorado Governor’s special award for “Outstanding Achievement for Innovations in Customer Service”.

In 2010, Don was a member of the first class of individuals inducted into the USDOL’s Unemployment Insurance Hall of Fame. Don was inducted for “Development and implementation in April 1991 for the first unemployment insurance call center in the United States.” Don has held several national leadership positions including chairman, and vice-chairman, of the NASWA Information Technology Committee, co-chairman of the USDOL/State Committee for development of the Resource Justification Model, and a member of the USDOL/State Committee for development of UI Performance Measures. In addition, Don served two terms on USDOL’s Board for the Information Technology Support Center, thirteen years as a member of the NASWA UI Committee and two years as a member of the NASWA Employment Services committee.. Don holds a B.A in Business Administration from the University of Colorado and is a graduate of the Manpower Administration program, Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University.

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Ted Abram – Executive Director

AbramTed acts as Executive Director for the Institute. Before joining the Institute, Ted served in the U.S. Army Reserves and then practiced law in Bend, Oregon before serving in the Peace Corps in Guatemala and Liberia. Upon his return, he served as a Circuit Court Judge for State of Oregon for 16 years, including ten years as Presiding Circuit Judge for Klamath & Lake Counties and six years on the Commission for Judicial Fitness for six years.

Mr. Abram served on the Board of Directors for: Oregon Historical Society-Present; The Nature Conservancy of Oregon-1996-1999; Oregon Tech Foundation-1995-Present; Oregon Advocates for the Arts-1993-95; Klamath & Lake County Child Abuse Response & Evaluation Services-1991-94; Associated Oregon Industries-1990-96; Klamath Alcohol and Drug Abuse-1974-79; United Good Neighbors-1976-79; and The Oregon Shakespeare Festival-1987-93.

Mr. Abram received the following awards: Toll Fellow-1989 (one of 32 Americans selected for Public Policy discussions by the Council of State Governments); Oregon Judge of the Year-1986 presented by the Oregon Trial Lawyer Association and the Doyle Higdon Award in 1962 for Outstanding Sophomore Student/Athlete at University of Oregon. Mr. Abram is married with two grown daughters.

His education consists of BS in Economics; Graduate work in Economics in Stockholm, Sweden; and JD at Willamette Law School.

Past Staff

Larry Temple

TempleLarry Temple passed away January 5, 2019. He served as a consultant for the American Institute for over 15 years and helped shape a wide variety of our best practice insights and analysis that continue in our work today. He’s left a significant legacy in his work across the US and in our work. Larry won our first Full Employment Lifetime Achievement Award which you can read about here.

Larry Temple was a consultant for the American Institute for Full Employment with expertise in unemployment insurance, welfare and workforce programs.

Larry was also currently the Executive Director of the Texas Workforce Commission (TWC), a state agency with an operating budget of nearly $1.1 billion and the responsibility of issuing approximately $2 billion in unemployment insurance benefits annually. TWC has oversight over all of the state’s employment, training, welfare reform, childcare, and unemployment insurance programs and delivers these services to its 254 counties through a network of 28 local workforce development boards.

Larry began his public-sector career in 1992, when he was named deputy director of the Mississippi Department of Human Services. Larry’s successes in Mississippi led him to Texas in 1997, where he was named director of TWC’s Office of Welfare Reform and later deputy executive director.

Larry’s duties included the administration, design and implementation of Texas’ welfare reform initiative. A significant portion of this initiative involved the transition of administrating the welfare reform and childcare services via block granting to local workforce development boards. Larry, also, had the responsibility of producing employer-driven workforce solutions through the coordination of assets represented in the Unemployment Insurance and Workforce Development divisions.

These initiatives have also generated unprecedented welfare caseload reduction through employment and Texas has received national recognition as one of the top 10 programs in the nation for putting welfare recipients to work. This national acclaim has earned Texas more than $72 million in federal bonuses, in addition to $12 million dollars in WIA incentive bonuses over the last 4 years.

Larry brought to the public sector over 20 years of private-sector management experience in the energy, retail and real estate development sectors. Larry held a Bachelor of Arts degree in History from St. Edward’s University.

2018 Best Practices Winner – Lifetime Achievement Hand Up Award – Larry Temple

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