Staff & Board

Staff

Jennifer Butler, CEO

Jennifer is the founding CEO of Faith in Public Life and chair of the White House Council on Faith and Neighborhood Partnerships. Before leading FPL Jennifer spent ten years working in the field of international human rights representing the Presbyterian Church (USA) at the United Nations and is an ordained minister. While mobilizing religious communities to address the AIDS pandemic and advocate for women’s rights she grew passionate about the need to counter religious extremism with a strong religious argument for human rights. Out of that experience she wrote Born Again: The Christian Right Globalized, which was published by University of Michigan Press. Her book calls for a progressive religious response to Religious Right efforts to take the culture wars global. Jennifer served in the Peace Corps from 1989 to 1991 in a Mayan village in Belize, Central America where she discovered she was at heart a community organizer. A graduate of Princeton Theological Seminary, she also studied public policy and community organizing and graduated with a MSW from Rutgers University. She’s a graduate of the College of William and Mary. Jennifer and her husband Glenn together run Iona DC: A Christian Community, a Christian spiritual community in downtown Washington DC. When not dreaming up ways to amplify a social justice faith voice, Jennifer loves camping, hiking and biking with her husband and son.

Myles Duffy, Vice President

After a tenure in political consulting and campaign management, Myles joined Faith in Public Life to work more directly with the faith traditions that propelled him into activism and politics. With seven years of experience consulting for both issue and political campaigns, Myles brings critical skills to FPL’s faith-based advocacy and organizing — strong communications strategy, a firm grasp of the political context of the issues we seek to address, and deep experience with sophisticated voter targeting methods that enable us to mobilize people of faith. The son of two Catholic social justice activists, Myles learned early on in life the importance of going beyond community service to address the structural causes of social problems. From studying theology and philosophy at Boston College to community organizing with Marshall Ganz at the Harvard Kennedy School, Myles has always believed in the untapped potential of every human being to help remake the world around them. Myles lives in DC with his wife, one of the finest banjo players on their block. They enjoy the great outdoors, planning things, and arguing about getting a dog.

John Gehring, Catholic Program Director

Screen Shot 2015-07-13 at 3.59.31 PMJohn Gehring is Catholic Program Director at Faith in Public Life. He is the author of the recently released book, The Francis Effect: A Radical Pope’s Challenge to the American Catholic Church (Rowman & Littlefield), which Publishers Weekly praised as a “well-researched work that features dozens of Catholic voices driving the conversation about Pope Francis.” His commentary and analysis have appeared in the Washington Post, New York Times, USA Today, Los Angeles Times, CNN, and the National Catholic Reporter, among other outlets. He is a former associate director for media relations at the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops and has been a staff writer at The Catholic Review, The Frederick Gazette, and Education Week. John lives in Washington, DC with his wife, Timi, and their children, Sophie and Leo. 

Sara Benitez, Latino Program Director

IMG_2969Sara Benitez directs the Latino outreach program where she works with Latino clergy and lay leaders of all faith traditions on civic engagement and immigration reform advocacy. She is frequently humbled by the many Latino  faith leaders who selflessly serve and mobilize their communities for social justice.  Most recently, Sara served as the Director of Environment Programs at Hispanic Access Foundation, where she had the privilege of working with Latino faith leaders, youth, and families to advocate for public lands and water conservation. Sara cut her teeth in advocacy as a Research Analyst at the National Council of La Raza, where she made the case for policy changes that could increase opportunities for Latino families. Growing up in Idaho and Colorado, Sara was inspired by the the example of local leaders, including her parents, grandmother, and clergy, who dedicated themselves to community service and advocating for the Latino community. She received a thorough education in advocacy and service at Wellesley College and deepened her understanding of the Latina/o diaspora at the University of Texas at Austin where she received a Master’s in Latin American Studies. A Westerner at heart, Sara unwinds by birdwatching and stargazing from her D.C. balcony. She can lose hours in a bookstore, library or museum and feels blessed that her work has given her the opportunity to eat delicious Latino foods, from tacos to arepas, all across the country.

Amanda Hoyt, Ohio Communications Strategist

Amanda directs strategic communications at Faith in Public Life’s Ohio office.  Most recently she was the Director of Public Affairs for Finance Fund, a statewide non-profit financial intermediary committed to bridging resources with low to moderate income communities.  At Finance Fund, Hoyt helped facilitate the relationships between the government entities that authorize funding resources such as the New Markets Tax Credit program and the businesses that utilize those resources. Hoyt was also the Minority Chief of Staff at the Ohio Senate for three years where she led her legislative team in policy, communications, strategy and political maneuvering. Hoyt is seen as a high level political strategist in Ohio. In 2007, Hoyt was asked to manage a billion dollar portfolio for the Ohio Treasurers office.  She successfully invested over $170 million into Ohio’s economy in an 18 month period of time specifically assisting small businesses grow. Amanda received her Bachelor of Arts from Ohio State University, is a Green Belt in Lean Six Sigma and is a prior service member in the United States Army Reserves.  She lives in Columbus, Ohio with her husband, an elementary school teacher, and their two daughters.  They attend Xenos Christian Fellowship, a non-denominational, Evangelical church.

Dan Nejfelt, Messaging and Trainings Manager

Dan NejfeltSince joining the FPL team in July 2007, Dan has had at least five job titles and been part of the organization’s most exciting achievements – from organizing a nationally televised Presidential candidate forum to passing the Affordable Care Act to holding Paul Ryan accountable for his immoral federal budget plan. Along the way he has written everything from blog posts to op-eds to sign-on letters, prepped faith leaders for interviews with the most blustery pundits on cable news, designed opinion polls and married one of his former FPL coworkers. He credits his family, his Lutheran upbringing and his study of the civil rights movement for giving him the thirst for justice that led him to this line of work. He will come at you with data, talking points and a red pen. Dan loves school. He taught remedial literacy in rural Arkansas as a Teach For America corps member, then reverted to student life at the Missouri School of Journalism and studied investigative reporting, magazine editing and strategic communications. A long time ago he got a B.A. in history at the College of William & Mary. Dan grew up in Virginia and returns there often to visit loved ones and keep tabs on the state’s burgeoning wine industry. After work you can find him eating chili at Washington Nationals games or slowly jogging short distances on Capitol Hill.

Ria Riesner, Senior Organizer

Ria Riesner is a Washington, DC native. Before coming to FPL, Ria spent several cycles working in the field in the progressive political circles of New Hampshire and Virginia; she really enjoys a good phone bank. Her varied experiences, mostly outside of Washington D.C., have given her a deep appreciation of the importance of working to empower local communities.  Ria volunteered at an orphanage and rehabilitation center for AIDS orphans in Mangochi, Malawi in 1998 which led her to an opportunity to work in the development office at the Harvard School of Public Health.  At Harvard, she wooed donors to find funding for important international public health programs. She has been known to try her hand as a freelance writer on occasion. Ria received a Rotary International Ambassadorial Fellowship which allowed her to complete her MA at the American University of Beirut, and several years of extensive travel in the Middle East/North Africa have given Ria a middling command of the Arabic language and a fine appreciation for a properly turned out falafel. Ria is an ardent community gardener. She enjoys reading snarky adventure stories, running, and spending time with her in-town sisters.

Adrianne Johnson, Director of Development 

IMG_0805Adrianne serves as Faith in Public Life’s Director of Development. She builds and manages relationships with funders and provides strategic fundraising support to senior staff to realize FPL’s fundraising goals. Over the last decade Adrianne has worked in various capacities to build strong grassroots community organizations. Prior to joining the team at FPL, she worked with the Center for Popular Democracy providing fundraising support to base-building organizations across the country. Adrianne has a background  in faith-based organizing, she worked as the Executive Director to TEAM in Tallahassee, FL and TUSA in Toledo, OH, (affiliates of the DART network).  At both organizations Adrianne significantly increased membership, led leadership development and successful issue campaigns. Adrianne holds a double B.A. in Spanish and Community Development from the University of Michigan and at times what feels like a PHD in logistics as a mother to Adelaide, 4 and Elijah, 2.

Graham Younger, Georgia Statewide Coordinator

FPL picGraham is the Georgia Statewide Coordinator for Faith in Public Life. The son of two seminary graduates, he grew up in Baptist churches in Indiana, Kansas and Texas.  He graduated from Davidson College and the University of Georgia School of Law. Graham worked on a campaign against predatory lending, focusing on faith leaders throughout the Southeast, before beginning work as the Georgia Statewide Coordinator. He is excited to help faith leaders become moral voices that transcend party lines. Graham enjoys playing basketball and watching Georgia football, but his true competitive highlight came in his freshman team’s stunning victory in its college quiz bowl tournament.

Michelle Nealy, Communications Director

12247735_10100974286488950_719952184370320671_oA proven writer, videographer and communications strategist, Michelle Nealy serves as Director of Communications at Faith in Public Life. Formerly a senior communications associate for the NAACP, Michelle has worked tirelessly to advance the cause of freedom, justice and equality in the areas of voting rights, health, criminal justice reform, and education in underserved communities throughout the United States. Previously a reporter for the Associated Press, Michelle has written stories chronicling some of the most important issues of the 21st century, including immigration, gun violence, gun control, death penalty disparities and education inequality. Her work has been featured in newspapers such as The Washington Post and The Times Picayune. In her spare time, Michelle works to ensure that all students, especially those from low-income communities, have access to a high-quality college education. She believes that household incomes should not dictate academic outcomes.

Allison Walter, Press Secretary 

10847716_10152765766237303_6720985179227801618_oAllison is the press secretary at Faith in Public Life and a regular contributor to the National Catholic Reporter, where she uses her millennial voice to lift up the the role of faith in transforming society. She never underestimates the impact of a good story. Previously, Allison worked as a policy education associate for NETWORK, the Catholic social justice lobby that created the Nuns on the Bus campaign. Allison was drawn to the intersection of faith and politics while living and working in Nicaragua. She was also inspired by her work with Catholic Charities Advocacy Council in St. Louis. Allison studied theology and communication at Saint Louis University, where she was part of the Micah service learning community and a member of the track team. A native of Kansas City, Allison loves good barbecue, her older brothers, and white chocolate raspberry truffle ice cream.

Anna Tahtamouni, Operations Manager 

1003739_10200218986338838_1696849553_n (1)Änna is the Operations Manager at Faith in Public Life, where she builds, implements and manages systems that help support FPL staff and their work. Before coming to FPL, Änna ran the volunteer program at Bread for the City, a local service organization that provides comprehensive services to D.C.’s most vulnerable residents. Änna came to D.C. as a member of the Lutheran Volunteer Corps and is passionate about the intersection of faith, politics and social justice.  She also gets pretty excited about planting trees. A Minnesota native, she attended Hamline University where she received a B.A. in Middle Eastern Studies. After a year living in Jerusalem she has developed deep understanding of 12-27 Arabic and Hebrew vocabulary words and a constant hankering for shakshuka. When she isn’t meandering the city streets you can find her temporarily adopting other people’s hobbies, experimenting with lentils and mulling over future travel plans.

Board

David Baron

Dave is a constitutional litigator in the City of Chicago’s Law Department and a former associate at the law firm of Sidley Austin LLP. He serves as chair of the Board of Advisors at Old St. Patrick’s Church in Chicago and has authored “Pembroke: A Rural, Black Community on the Illinois Dunes” (scheduled for publication in August 2016), which chronicles the history of an impoverished but resilient community. Dave, a former Faith in Public Life intern, believes that the arc of the moral universe bends towards justice, and that people of faith always have helped and will help to get it there.

Linnea Hegarty

Linnea is the Executive Director of the DC Public Library Foundation. She previously served as the Director of Development at Alliance for Climate Protection, People for the American Way and on the development team at the Center for American Progress (CAP). At CAP, she was a founding member of the Faith and Progressive Policy team, which worked to articulate the moral values and history underpinning policy solutions. With her husband and son, she attends the Shrine of the Sacred Heart parish in Washington, D.C., a progressive, diverse community in her beloved neighborhood of Mt Pleasant, DC.

Rev. Larry Hollon

Larry is the former General Secretary of United Methodist Communications, the communications agency of the United Methodist Church. Before joining United Methodist Communications, Hollon was an award-winning producer whose primary focus was telling the stories of persons affected by poverty.

Margarida Jorge

Margarida is the National Director of the Women’s Equality Center & Women’s Equality Center Action Fund. For over twenty years, Margarita has led political, legislative and union organizing campaigns in the states and nationally, including designing and leading the 44-state advocacy field effort for Health Care for America Now (HCAN), which was instrumental in passing the landmark Affordable Care Act. While in DC, Margarita has served in many leadership roles including at Americans for Tax Fairness (ATF), Americans for Healthcare (SEIU), Retirement Security for All, and Faith in Public Life. Margarita came to DC from Missouri where she served as Organizing Director for Missouri Progressive Vote Coalition (Pro-Vote), responsible for leading candidate campaigns, civic engagement and statewide advocacy on state and national issues. Margarita also spent ten years organizing local unions and engaging union members on issues like Medicaid and Medicare, Social Security, minimum wage, education and workplace rights in over twenty other states.

Rev. William H. Lamar IV

The Rev. William H. Lamar IV is pastor of Metropolitan African Methodist Episcopal Church in Washington, D.C. He previously served Turner Memorial AME Church in Maryland and three churches in Florida: Monticello, Orlando and Jacksonville. He is a former managing director at Leadership Education at Duke Divinity. Lamar is a graduate of Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University and Duke Divinity School.

Steve Newcom

Rev. Steven Newcom is the Founding Director of the Kaleo Center for Faith, Justice and Social Transformation and faculty at United Theological Seminary of the Twin Cities. Newcom was awarded an Archibald Bush Foundation Leadership Fellowship in 2007-2009 to research the intersection of theological education and social justice ministry. The research identified a fundamental gap within theological education around the applied competencies of social transformation and effective public witness. The Kaleo Center was launched in 2010 to address this gap by developing curricular and degree offerings in social transformation, engaging and mobilizing faith communities in critical community issues and organizing nationally to advance social transformation as a practical theological discipline and core ministerial competency. Prior to founding Kaleo Center, Newcom served the Headwaters Foundation for Justice as the Executive Director for 18 years and prior to that worked for the Greater Minneapolis Council of Churches.

Scott Nielsen 

Scott is founder and principal of the Alexander Nielsen Consulting.  ANC partners with individual and institutional donors to create and implement pragmatic grantmaking strategies that promote social change.  Prior to forming Alexander Nielsen Consulting, Nielsen was a program officer for 13 years at the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation in Chicago, including seven years in the MacArthur Fellows Program (“Genius Grants”). Nielsen’s primary fields of grant making expertise include issue advocacy, voter engagement,public policy, public interest law and journalism, the arts, and academic social science and humanities disciplines. Nielsen holds M.A. and Ph.D. degrees from the University of Chicago Divinity School, and a B.A. from Macalester College in St. Paul, Minnesota.

Jennifer Owens

Jennifer Owens is the Deputy Director of External Affairs and Operations for the Georgia Budget and Policy Institute, a nonpartisan think tank that promotes research to ensure opportunity for all Georgians. Jennifer joined the GBPI in March of 2013 to assist the organization with fund development to support and strengthen GBPI’s impact, and to conduct outreach to key policy influencers at the local and state levels. Jennifer has experience in policy research and advocacy, community organizing, strategic communication and grassroots mobilization, and fundraising. Prior to GBPI, Jennifer served in development and policy advocacy roles for Georgia Organics, is a former director of The League of Women Voters of Georgia, and a program coordinator for The Clean Air Campaign. Jennifer has been honored as one of the youngest recipients to be awarded the Atlanta Business Chronicle’s “40 Under 40″ and a 2012 recipient of The Georgia Conservancy’s Longleaf Award for Excellence in Environmental Advocacy.

Kelly Schwinghammer

Kelly is the Vice President of Communications for the BlueGreen Alliance, which unites some of the nation’s largest labor unions and environmental organizations working to create good jobs, a clean environment and a fair economy. Schwinghammer also recently served as Deputy Campaign Manager for Communications & Research for Minnesotans United for All Families — the first successful statewide campaign to defeat a constitutional amendment to ban marriage for same-sex couples. In that role, she worked closely with people of faith and faith organizers to spearhead a media campaign that highlighted people of faith and clergy who opposed the constitutional amendment. Prior to her experience with MN United and the BlueGreen Alliance, Schwinghammer directed communications for a variety of issue advocacy and electoral campaigns, including the Minnesota Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party, SEIU, Minnesota America Coming Together (ACT), and Families USA.

Bryan Whitaker

Bryan is the Chief Innovation Officer of TargetSmart Communications where he helps progressive organizations increase their effectiveness with data-driven decisions.  Formerly, Bryan was the Chief Technology Officer at the Democratic National Committee.  Before joining the DNC, he was the founding Director of Field Information Services at the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), where he managed an organization-wide data services department. Bryan grew up in a progressive Presbyterian family, learning that public service is noble and life’s greatest pursuit is justice for all. Bryan graduated from the University of Dayton, a Marianist Catholic institution in his hometown, Dayton, Ohio.