Board of Directors

Board of Directors

Pastor Justin R. Lester, PH.D. – PRESIDENT

Pastor Justin R. Lester is a pretty average guy with an extreme love for people, ministry, and coffee.

Justin has a Doctorate in Ministry from Boston University with a dissertation entitled, Let’s Play #Church: Gamifying New England Black Church Revitalization. Other degrees are a Master’s of Divinity from Vanderbilt University, a Master’s of Arts from Marquette University (Marketing/Advertising), a Bachelor’s of Theology from Marquette University, and a Bachelor’s of Arts from Marquette University (Advertising/Public Relations). Beyond that, he is the Author of, Necessary Endings where he details his journey through mental health and well-being and, Brown Dad, Brown Boy, Brown Basketball a children’s book written to help dads and sons work through their morning routines. 

So what about the local church? Justin loves the local church! Justin was ordained in a Baptist church in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.  He has worked as a Youth Pastor, Assistant Pastor, and “other-duties-assigned”-staff in churches in Wisconsin, Tennessee, and Rhode Island.  All of his engagement has led him to his current assignment as Senior Pastor of Friendship Missionary Baptist Church in Vallejo, California.  His time in ministry has proven fruitful with a track record of debt eradication, Church growth, multi-generational engagement, the establishment of discipleship ministries, engagement in the community, church renovation, and more.

Outside of Pastoring, Justin currently serves on the Board of Trustees for the Black Religious Scholars Group.  Justin has an extreme love for coffee, and all things Marquette Basketball, Milwaukee Bucks, and Green Bay Packers.  Most Importantly, he is working to leave a legacy with the most beautiful woman in the world, his wife, Courtney Lester, and his “little man” Camden. 

Lawrence Barnes – VICE PRESIDENT

Mr. Lawrence Barnes graduated from High School in 1965, at which time he joined the U. S. Air Force. There he served as an Air Traffic Control & Warning System Technician and was Honorably Discharged in 1969. Mr. Barnes graduated from Merritt College in 1976.

Upon leaving the military, he began his career with the USPS as a Distribution Clerk. Due to his exceptional performance and leadership abilities, it did not take long for him to begin moving through the ranks and into management.

In the years that followed, he served in many postal positions. Following his extraordinary service in those positions, he was appointed Postmaster of Oakland, California on December 23, 1995. As Postmaster, he worked tirelessly to not only improve USPS functions for individual customers and employees but also to build a stronger community. As a regular speaker at neighborhood meetings, Mr. Barnes always made the effort to reach out to Oakland residents and to be available to hear their ideas and concerns.

In addition to being a dedicated government servant for over 4 decades, Mr. Barnes is a committed husband, father, grandfather, bowler, and fan of the Oakland Raiders. Furthermore, he is a leader in the Faith-Based Community, serving as an active member (Deacon) of FMBC under the direction of Senior Pastor, Justin R. Lester.

I firmly believe that all citizens should invest in the community in which they reside. I serve as a Mediator in the Small Claims Division, Solano County Superior Court, Commissioner, Juvenile Justice Commission, Solano County, Arbitrator, Juvenile Community Accountability Program, Solano County, and Vice President, Dawson Ridge Homeowners Association, Vallejo Ca.

As Vice President of New Dawn Development Cooperation, he embraces the mission, goals, and objectives to better our community.

Edison Kelly, ED.d. – Secretary

Edison Kelly is a native of Vallejo California, by way of Detroit Michigan. He is married to Lisa Kelly, who is the love of his life, for over 22 years. He has 3 beautiful daughters Nicole Dudley, Kree, and Edye Kelly.

Dr. Kelly has been working with the Vallejo City Unified School District since September 1991. He began at Park Vista preschool as a substitute teacher assistant, then moved to Springstowne Junior High/Middle School where he served for 12 years.

While at Springstowne he served as Para Educator/Campus Supervisor while attending school himself. He then went on to teach 6th grade Language Arts/Social Studies, and eventually Special Education. Dr. Kelly moved on to Hogan Senior High School where he taught Modern World History/Geography.

In 2005 Dr. Kelly left the classroom and began a career in administration.
He served as Vice-Principal at Solano Middle School, Assistant Principal at Vallejo High School, and the Principal of Alternative Education.

He is currently the Coordinator of School Management and Support at the Vallejo City Unified School District office.

Dr. Kelly has been a member of the Association of California School Administrators (ACSA) for approximately 11 years. He has served on state committees, currently the Equity, Achievement, and Diversity for Success
committee and President of ACSA’s local Vallejo chapter. He has served as Co-Chair for the Solano County Educational Initiative (SCEI) a county-wide program developing programs to address the underachievement of African-American Males. He also sits on the board of trustees for Fighting Back Partnership.

Dr. Kelly currently serves as an ordained Deacon at Friendship Missionary Baptist Church where he has been serving for approximately 18 years. He is also the Servant Leader for the FMBC Sunday School Department. Dr. Kelly has also worked with the youth ministry teaching Bible study and has served as a choir member and piano player. Those who know him will tell you that he is very dedicated to his spiritual relationship with God, and demonstrates this in his lifestyle.

Dr. Kelly has volunteered with programs such as the Willie B. Adkins Project, and The Continentals of Omega Boys and Girls Club, amongst other programs. He re-started the Emerging Gentlemen and Ladies-in-Training program which is centered on mentoring at-risk students. This program is now district-wide and serves three schools. He has also worked on political campaigns here in Vallejo.

Dr. Kelly’s main work in the community was the Keystone Leadership Program at the Continentals of Omega Boys and Girls Club. This program has now merged with the Willie B. Adkins program. The program meets every Monday, mentoring and preparing students for adulthood and college.

Every Spring break for the past 18 years Dr. Kelly has taken students to the Southern States and East Coast to visit Historically Black Colleges and Universities as a part of the Willie B. Adkins Scholars Program where many students receive on-the-spot admission during these trips.

In October 2004 Dr. Kelly was initiated in the Omega Psi Phi Fraternity Incorporated where he serves as Assistant Chaplain and works with the Omega Gentlemen program.

Dr. Kelly received his Associate Degree in Liberal Arts from Solano Community College, his Bachelor of Arts Degree and Teaching Credential in Social Science from Chapman University, and his Master of Arts Degree in Teaching and Administrative Credential from Chapman University. Dr. Kelly received his Ed.D. in Organizational Leadership at Bandman University.

Joseph Knighten – TREASURER

Joseph P. Knighten is an entrepreneur. He is the owner of JBK Executive Business and Corporate Transportation since 2010.

Mr. Knighten has worked as Director of Facilities and Maintenance Operations for the Tamalpais Union High School District from 1976 until his retirement in April 2010.

His education includes:
San Francisco State University, San Francisco, CA
Bachelor of Arts Political Certification in Project Management

University of Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo, CA
Certification in Construction Management.

He is gifted in finance and performed numerous duties in his years working with the School District. His work included but is not limited to:

  • Research, Plan and implement operational policies and procedures designed to comply with all state, county, and city laws, ordinances, and regulations, and ensure the physical health, well-being, and safety of all students and staff in all six high school buildings and related physical facilities
  • Managed two Facilities Modernization Bonds to modernize the six high schools. The 2001 Bond was $121,000,000.00. The 2006 Bond was $79,920,000.00. Plus State funds $15,626,128.00. Federal Funds
  • $149,584.00. Local Revenue $1,004,577.00. Interest earned $11,676,546.00 for a total of $229,376,833.00.
  • Supervised the School District’s Maintenance and Operations staff of 52 employees and a department budget of 3.2 million.

His strong financial and administrative skills are added value to the New Dawn Vallejo Corporation where he proudly serves as the Treasurer for the Board of Directors.

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