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story.lead_photo.caption Cathee Wolford

Starting May 4, Cathee Wolford will lead the Missouri Commission for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing.

She will be replacing former MCDHH Executive Director Opeoluwa Sotonwa.

MCDHH works to improve opportunities for Missourians with hearing loss.

Wolford has 28 years of experience working with people who are deaf and partially deaf.

A William Woods University graduate, Wolford also received a master's degree in social work from the University of Missouri and is pursuing a Ph.D. through Tulane University.

Wolford is a second-generation member of a deaf family that moved to Missouri in 1992.

Wolford has served as chair of the Board of Certification of Interpreters since 2012. She previously served as assistant director of Deaf/Hard of Hearing and Assistive Technology with Missouri Vocational Rehabilitation.

Sotonwa is now the commissioner for the Massachusetts Commission for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing.

"It has been the greatest honor of my life to have served Missouri for over six and a half years," Sotonwa said in his resignation statement.

Under his leadership, MCDHH helped pass more than 20 pieces of state legislation and established new programs, including the Missouri SSP program, a hearing aid distribution program and recognition of official Deaf and Hard of Hearing Awareness Month and Week.

Other initiatives focused on representing people with disabilities in emergency communications plans and improving relations between the deaf community and law enforcement.

"I am confident that MCDHH is on a solid footing to continue the important work on behalf of Deaf and Hard of Hearing Missourians," Sotonwa wrote.

According to a letter from Shelly Jones, interpreter representative and MCDHH chair, the commission experienced rapid growth and doubled its budget while Sotonwa was executive director.

During the pandemic, Sotonwa's efforts helped provide Missourians with clear masks to help deaf and partially deaf individuals maintain communication while also remaining safe.

"We know that growth and success have been dependent upon having a devoted and capable director," Jones wrote.

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