Management Team

The Competitive Edge management team consists of individuals who have more than 60 years of expertise in their fields as well as a passion for putting clients in the best position to win.


  • John Nienstedt, Sr.
    President and CEO

  • John Nienstedt, Sr.

    John Nienstedt, Sr.
    President and CEO

    • Questionnaire design and script writing
    • Project development
    • Data analysis
    • Sampling
    • Focus group moderation
    • Dial-testing using Perception Analyzer

     

    Early in his career, John Nienstedt worked in local political campaigns, was an aide to a San Diego County Supervisor and managed a mammoth political phone center. He and a partner founded Competitive Edge Research & Communication, Inc. in 1987. John acquired sole ownership of the firm in 1991 and computerized the operation with predictive dialers in 1992. He expanded calling capacity in 1995 and again in 1998 when he purchased Competitive Edge’s current headquarters.

    John earned his master’s degree in political science with an emphasis in social science research, writing a thesis entitled, “A Practical Strategy for Predicting Voter Turnout in Pre-Election Polling.” In 2003, he launched the KPBS/Competitive Edge Research San Diego County Opinion Assessment, which took the monthly pulse of local residents. In 2007, Competitive Edge partnered with the San Diego Institute for Policy Research to conduct regular surveys of county residents.

    John is a featured speaker at campaign seminars and is frequently called on by the media and other organizations to shed light on political and polling issues. He has written articles for the U-T San Diego and Campaigns & Elections magazine. John is a member of the San Diego Regional Chamber of Commerce, American Association of Political Consultants and American Association for Public Opinion Research. He received the SBA’s Entrepreneurial Success Award for 2000. John and his wife married in 2000 and have a son. He is Mexican on his mother’s side, a native San Diegan and an avid baseball fan.


  • Ronald Zavala
    Director of Operations

  • Ronald Zavala

    Ronald Zavala
    Director of Operations

    • Interviewer scheduling
    • Project management
    • Supervision of support staff
    • Focus group recruitment

    Ronald Zavala began his phone center career as an interviewer in 1996. Since then, he’s acquired a wealth of interviewing, supervisorial and management skills, having worked in qualitative research, medical data, and quantitative research.

    Ronald received his bachelor of arts in Classics (Greek and Latin emphasis) from San Diego State University. He was honored as the Outstanding Graduate in his class, Magna Cum Laude and Phi Beta Kappa. Ronald also earned a teaching credential in the same subject from SDSU. He was raised in Central America, is fluent in Spanish, and served honorably for two enlistments in the U.S. Navy as a Quartermaster (navigator’s assistant). His interests include Christian theology and apologetics, Mexican history and music, Chihuahuas, and Bob Dylan bootleg recordings.


  • Chad Harris
    Director of Programming

  • Chad Harris

    Chad Harris
    Director of Programming

    • Employee management
    • CATI programming and sample management
    • Project direction
    • Client liaison
    • Project scheduling
    • Database development and administration

     

    Chad started his phone center career in 1993, working as a low-level floor supervisor in his hometown of Louisville, KY. Since then, he has acquired a wealth of experience at various research firms (including GfK-NOP and Total Research Corp.) as a programmer, project manager, applications developer, assistant call center manager and call center manager.

    Chad received his bachelor of science in police administration from the University of Louisville. In 2009, he completed the Principles of Market Research Course through the University of Georgia. Golfing and reading are some of Chad’s favorite interests.


  • Libbie Nienstedt
    Accounts Manager

  • Libbie Nienstedt

    Libbie Nienstedt
    Accounts Manager

    Libbie earned her BA in Liberal Arts at Cal State Fullerton in 1990. She has worked for Competitive Edge since 2014 and is responsible for billing, accounts receivable and payroll. Previously she served as an event planner for the San Diego Regional Chamber of Commerce.


  • Lawrence Sherman
    Research Manager

  • Lawrence Sherman

    Lawrence Sherman
    Research Manager

    • Data quality management
    • Data weighting
    • Report production
    • Internet survey programing and administration

    Lawrence has been a part of the CERC team since February, 2006. He started as an audio-visual technician and then began his career as an interviewer shortly thereafter. After two months he became a part-time Floor Support Team member, and in January, 2008, was promoted to full-time Floor Support. His success as an interviewer, excellence as Floor Support, and willingness to learn and help out provided him the opportunity to assist in an unofficial capacity which ultimately lead to his promotion as Assistant Call Center Manager in July, 2010.

    In September, 2017, Lawrence was promoted to Research Manager.  He is responsible for the data collected by the firm; the production of fast, flawless, and beautiful reports and charting; as well as web survey programming and panel management, an ever-expanding area for Competitive Edge.

    Lawrence’s interests include playing video games and occasionally playing soccer. He is an avid sports enthusiast; enjoying sports of all types, particularly watching “his” Raiders.


  • David Ferree
    Call Center Manager

  • David Ferree

    David Ferree
    Call Center Manager

    David has worked in survey research since 1996 when he managed a call center in Reading, Pennsylvania and was responsible for all personnel management, project management and facility management. During his career he has served as a Director of Site Development, a Director of Training and Development, and a Director of Field Services. He has expertise in research planning and design, questionnaire development, interface with analysts and subject matter experts, project scheduling, training of management/supervisory staff and ensuring on time deliverables. David is a Spanish speaker, developing interviewing capabilities and administrative structure for bilingual research as well as advising on cultural aspects of research design and implementation and questionnaire design.


  • Jenny Holland
    Research Analyst

  • Jenny Holland

    Jenny Holland
    Research Analyst

    Jenny Holland holds a Ph.D. and M.A. in political science from Washington State University (2013, 2009) and a B.A. in political science and English from California State University, Bakersfield (2007). She most recently taught political science at Ohio Wesleyan University. Jenny’s areas of expertise include public opinion, voting and elections, and political communication. She has advanced training in both quantitative and qualitative research, including statistical analysis and evaluation research entailing mixed-methods study designs, as well as survey methodology, including questionnaire design, data analysis, and interpretation of results.

    Jenny is a proud California native.


  • Debra Keel Cooper
    Research Associate

  • Debra Keel Cooper

    Debra Keel Cooper
    Research Associate

    • Qualitative Research Analysis

    Debra’s public affairs and political consulting experience runs deep. She began her career in the fast-paced environment of national politics, providing project management and research analysis for Eddie Mahe, Jr. & Associates; Dresner, Sykes, Jordan & Townsend; and Bush-Quayle ’92. In 1993 she returned to San Diego and the market research department of Stoorza, Ziegaus & Metzger, and in 1997 joined the San Diego Regional Economic Development Corporation to lead the organization’s strategic planning, marketing, and public affairs initiatives.

    In 2001 Debra stepped out of her breakfast, lunch, and dinner meeting job to dedicate herself to her family and community. In addition to raising two sons with her husband, Craig, she became increasingly involved with Poway Unified schools, establishing two school-site foundations and volunteering in numerous capacities for individual schools and PUSD as a whole. In 2016 she obtained first-hand experience as a candidate for political office, finishing third among nine candidates for the two seats open on the Poway Unified School Board.

    Debra reconnected with Competitive Edge in 2013 (having worked with CERC as a client in 1995-96) and has been developing qualitative research analyses for CERC clients for the last four years. She defines her job as thoughtful listener and interpreter, discovering patterns and insights to inform clients’ interests in the areas of advertising effectiveness, message development, and public, community, and media relations.

    A native Southern Californian, Debra holds a bachelor’s degree in Social Science with a minor in Political Science from the University of California, Irvine.


  • Gwen Ramsey
    Administrative Assistant

  • Gwen Ramsey

    Gwen Ramsey
    Administrative Assistant

    Gwen Ramsey is the first person you’ll meet when entering Competitive Edge Research & Communication’s El Paso call center. She is responsible for managing office operations, company events, payroll and personnel matters. Gwen began working at CERC’s San Diego headquarters in May, 2014. Like so many CERC employees, she began as a Telephone Interviewer.  Gwen worked her way up to Quality Assurance Coach and then was promoted to Administrative Assistant.  She moved to El Paso in January, 2017 to prep the new call center.

    Gwen earned a Business Management Certificate in 2007 from Grossmont Adult School. She also studied and earned her diploma in Telecommunications from Associated Technical College in San Diego, becoming a certified Fiber Optic and Premise Cabling Technician. Gwen enjoys activities with her daughter such as hiking, fishing, camping, or curling up with good books, as they both love to read. Both she and her daughter, who aspires to become a veterinarian, are ardent animal lovers.


  • Olivia Perry
    Assistant Call Center Manager

  • Olivia Perry

    Olivia Perry
    Assistant Call Center Manager

    Olivia Perry moved from San Diego to CERC’s beautiful new El Paso call center and has really showed her management stripes in this short amount of time. Moving forward, she will be working with David Ferree to oversee CERC’s call center operations as our Assistant Call Center Manager. She’ll be responsible for the Quality Assurance Coaches, scheduling interviewers and serve as David’s back-up.