National Peanut Board Announces Staffing Updates

National Peanut Board Announces Staffing UpdatesFeb 26, 2024

February 26, 2024 – ATLANTA – The National Peanut Board (NPB) is pleased to announce changes to the executive team, including the promotion of Maria Mehok to senior vice president of finance and compliance and chief operating officer (COO) and the hiring of Dena Malsom as vice president of marketing and communications and chief marketing officer (CMO). NPB team member Markita Lewis, MS, RD, has also earned a promotion to marketing and communications manager.

Maria Mehok

Effective Feb. 1, NPB’s Maria Mehok is senior vice president of finance and compliance and chief operating officer (COO). Mehok joined NPB in January 2007 as director of finance and compliance. Her role encompasses maintaining and monitoring operational compliance with Peanut Order, NPB by-laws and policies and USDA guidelines as well as oversight of the financial operations of the NPB.

“Maria’s tenure and commitment to the Board and our team set her apart,” said Ryan Lepicier, NPB president and CEO. “I know we can count on Maria’s high-quality work and positive outlook every day and I look forward to working alongside her in the years ahead.”
“It’s an honor working for America’s peanut farmers and in this new role I plan to look for opportunities to maximize operational efficiencies and effectiveness to build on the value our program provides the growers who fund it,” Mehok said.

Originally from Mississippi, Mehok is a graduate of University of Alabama and earned a master’s degree from Mercer University. She resides in Douglasville, Georgia with her family.

Dena Malsom

Starting Feb. 26, Dena Malsom joins NPB as the new vice president of marketing and communications and chief marketing officer (CMO). Malsom is a seasoned marketing professional with both agency and corporate experience spanning more than 20 years. She arrives at NPB after an extensive tenure at Cox, including Cox Communications and Cox Automotive, known for brands like AutoTrader and Kelly Blue Book. Her work played a pivotal role in supporting the company's evolving portfolio of brands and solutions, earning her multiple accolades for creative and marketing excellence. Beginning her career at The Ritz Carlton, Malsom has broad experience managing agency relationships and corporate teams in developing and executing marketing strategies, digital marketing, content strategies and consumer insights. Her portfolio has included Delta Airlines, Carls Jr/Hardees, ADT, Georgia Natural Gas and Dodge. Malsom is a graduate of Georgia State University.

NPB President and CEO Ryan Lepicier said, “Our extensive search yielded many qualified candidates, and Dena rose to the top. We were especially impressed with her team leadership skills, her experience with sustainability and her tenure at Cox. We believe Dena will be an excellent fit for NPB and an outstanding vice president of marketing and communications.”
“It is a great honor to support our American farmers and their families that grow peanuts,” said Malsom. “I’m thrilled to be fueling people’s love for peanut products, educating parents on the latest scientific research to end peanut allergies and being on the forefront of innovation of new uses for peanuts and the future of sustainable farming.” Beyond her professional pursuits, Dena enjoys spending time with her husband, watching their three kids play sports and trail running with her dog along the Chattahoochee River.
Markita Lewis, MD, RD

NPB’s Markita Lewis, MS, RD, is marketing and communications manager effective Feb. 1. Lewis joined NPB in October 2022 as marketing and communications associate and works to promote peanuts’ nutritional benefits, affordability and versatility to multiple audiences. As a registered dietitian, Lewis will increase her role in providing education about peanut and other food allergies.

“Markita is an outstanding member of the NPB team,” said Lauren Highfill Williams, director of communications. “Her intelligence, curiosity, drive and commitment to health equity and access are evident in all that she does. Markita is highly skilled at relationship building, from fellow RDs to foodservice professionals, and will continue to help NPB advance our mission.”
“As NPB’s new marketing and communications manager, I am most excited about being able to learn more about and contribute to advancements in food allergy prevention and management,” Lewis said. “This is a relatively new area for me, so I look forward to the professional growth and knowledge that will come from it. Combined with the other projects for NPB that I am currently involved with, this next step continues to make working for NPB a dynamic and exciting experience.”

Lewis resides in Atlanta, graduated from Louisiana State University, earned a master’s degree from University of Georgia and previously did clinical inpatient and outpatient work at LAC+USC Medical Center in Los Angeles, California.


About the National Peanut Board

The National Peanut Board represents USA peanut farmers and their families. Through research and marketing initiatives the Board is finding new ways to enhance production and increase consumer demand by promoting the great taste, nutrition and culinary versatility of USA-grown peanuts. For more information about the Board, visit

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