2020 Legislative Staff Achievement Award Recipients

9/2/2020

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Introduction

Beginning in 1997, each of the NCSL staff professional associations were given the opportunity to recognize among their membership up to two legislative staff or agencies who made outstanding contributions to their legislatures and to the staff association. The award was established through the Legislative Staff Coordinating Committee as a means of recognizing excellence in service to state legislatures. In addition to the staff professional association honorees, the staff co-chair(s) of the NCSL Standing Committees may select up to two additional award recipients. The Legislative Education Staff Network also presents an annual staff award. Below is information about the 2020 award recipients. 

Congratulations to the 2020 Legislative Staff Achievement Award recipients! 

Online Democracy Award
Notable Documents Award

American Society of Legislative Clerks and Secretaries (ASLCS)

A photo of Bernadette McNulty, chief assistant secretary for the California Senate.Bernadette McNulty, chief assistant secretary, California Senate
McNulty has long been an integral part of the Senate desk staff in California and is a dedicated, nonpartisan public servant. Since taking the position of chief assistant secretary, she has become even more of an asset to the Senate and Legislature as a whole. Her extensive working knowledge of the rules, the constitution, the legislative process and Mason’s Manual is unparalleled.

McNulty is the immediate past chair of ASLCS and has served in many capacities over her years of participation in the association. She recently served as the vice chair of the 2020 Mason’s Manual Commission, performing a comprehensive 10-year review and revision of the legislative procedure manual.

A photo of Susan W. Kannarr, chief clerk, Kansas House of RepresentativesSusan W. Kannarr, chief clerk, Kansas House of Representatives
Kannarr is open to new ideas and ways to streamline and innovate. Adopting new (useful) trends is helpful to her and her chamber to aid in the accuracy and efficacy of the legislative process, without compromising the process which is of particular importance as she is the only full-time employee of the Kansas House. She has served as elected principal (2013-14), secretary-treasurer (2014-15), president-elect (2015-16), president (2016-17)  and immediate past president (2017-18).  Kannarr also served on the 2020 Mason’s Manual Committee, a multi-year commitment.

Leadership Staff Professional Association (LSPA)

A photo of Mechelle Evans, director, Louisiana House Rural Caucus Mechelle Evans, director, Louisiana House Rural Caucus
Evans has served with LSS/LSPA for more than 30 years, participating in innumerable subcommittee and planning positions and rising through the ranks of directors and officers to become chair of the association in 1999-2000. Evans has been a perpetual presence in the activities of LSS/LSPA and has returned to lead, filling any role when the association needed her. Her presence at the LSPA professional development seminars and her expertise and wealth of experience is highly valued by her peers.

From Speaker of the House Clay Schexnayder: "Mechelle Evans is one of a kind. Her ability to get things done efficiently and effectively was immediately obvious. I have greatly appreciated her dedication and loyalty to any and everything that makes it easier for legislators to serve their constituents. It is an honor to have her as a staff member of the Louisiana House of Representatives."

A photo of Branden Pursinger, legislative director, Oregon Senate Republican OfficeBranden Pursinger, legislative director, Oregon Senate Republican Office
Pursinger has a passion for politics and the legislative process and is a leader among his fellow staff. He wants staff to succeed. He will always take the time out of his day to answer questions from his fellow staff, pointing them in the right direction and explaining the process if questions arise. Every year, Pursinger helps leads a politics 101 course at Eastern Oregon University. He listens to everyone's ideas and has been asked to find agreements and compromises between individuals, legislative members and executive agencies. He is honored for his commitment and service to the Oregon Legislature and his involvement with LSPA.

Legislative Information and Communication Staff (LINCS)

A photo of Betsy Theroux, director, Georgia House Media Services Betsy Theroux, director, Georgia House Media Services Office
Theroux is the director of the Media Services Office for the Georgia House of Representatives. She’s worked in the Georgia House since 2012, starting as a session assistant before serving as deputy member press secretary, member press secretary and interim director of communications before being named director of the Media Services Office. In 2015, she was elected by members of the House of Representatives to serve as the House messenger. She was elected to this position again in 2017 and 2019.  

Theroux currently serves as the chair of NCSL’s Legislative Information and Communications Staff (LINCS) association. She previously served as the LINCS secretary and vice chair. She is also a member of NCSL’s Legislative Staff Coordinating Committee. She is recognized for her contributions and service to the Georgia House of Representatives as well as her leadership within LINCS. Theroux is an invaluable resource for LINCS members who are looking to improve their office or media procedures. Her leadership has helped LINCS grow into a thriving staff association.

A photo of Wendy Madsen, special projects manager, Wyoming Legislative Service Office Wendy Madsen, special projects manager, Wyoming Legislative Service Office
Madsen’s 23 years of dedication to the Wyoming Legislature is exhibited by her wide-ranging work and influence. She most recently staffed the Capitol Rehabilitation and Restoration Oversight Group for the $300 million Capitol Square Project, which was comprised of the rehabilitation and restoration of Wyoming’s Capitol; replacement, relocation and expansion of the central utility plant serving five state buildings; the remodel and expansion of an adjacent office building; and the remodel and expansion of the underground building that connects the Capitol to the office building.

Prior to working on the Capitol restoration, Madsen was responsible for legislator training, media relations, and public outreach and civic education about the legislative process. She was responsible for legislative operations, including facility management, information management, emergency preparedness and event planning. During her time at the Legislative Service Office, Madsen was responsible for establishing the Legislature’s general research function and worked as a member of the program evaluation staff.

Legislative Research Librarians (LRL)

A photo of Julia Covington, reference librarian, North Carolina Legislative Library Julia Covington, reference librarian, Legislative Library, North Carolina General Assembly
Covington has had a long, successful career as a reference librarian and recently celebrated her 16-year anniversary with the North Carolina Legislative Library. She has filled many roles in her work, including developing and conducting group classes and one-on-one training programs for new staff; overseeing the North Carolina General Assembly Westlaw program; managing the library and Legislative Analysis Division webpage, including major redesigns in 2008 and in 2019; and creating and maintaining library publications and marketing materials.

Covington has been an active member of the LRL professional staff associations for many years and served on the LRL Executive Committee. As LRL chair, she planned and oversaw a thorough updating of the LRL directory. She is admired by her colleagues for being hardworking, patient and thoughtful. Her commitment to the Legislative Research Librarians professional association continues to make the group stronger.

A photo of Travis Moore, research analyst, Nebraska Legislative Research Office Travis Moore, research analyst, Nebraska Legislative Research Office
Moore manages to juggle the full workload of a research analyst with librarian duties at the Legislative Research Office in the Nebraska Legislature. His colleagues know "there is never a doubt that Travis will know what we have and where it can be located." His co-workers see him as an invaluable asset to the entire Legislature.

Moore was given the task of planning and orchestrating the move of the entire Nebraska Legislature's library collection into a temporary space while still doing his research and running the day-to-day operations at the library. Moore took this daunting task as an opportunity to update the online catalog and the move went off without a hitch. He is recognized for his commitment to the Nebraska Legislature and involvement with LRL.

National Association of Legislative Fiscal Offices (NALFO)

A photo of Don Richards, budget and fiscal administrator, Wyoming Legislative Service Office Don Richards, budget and fiscal administrator, Wyoming Legislative Service Office
NALFO is proud to present Richards with a NALFO Legislative Staff Achievement Award for his long-term commitment to the Wyoming Legislature. Richards is recognized for his outstanding work as the budget/fiscal administrator for the Wyoming Legislative Service Office, and his work as the co-chairman of Wyoming’s Consensus Revenue Estimating Group. He is deeply respected for his non-partisanship and the credibility of his analysis, providing legislators with exceptional information to inform policymaking.

 

A photo of Chloe Wexler, fiscal data analyst, Vermont Legislative Joint Fiscal Office Chloe Wexler, fiscal data analyst, Vermont Legislative Joint Fiscal Office
NALFO is proud to present Wexler with a NALFO Legislative Staff Achievement Award for her in-depth data analysis for the Vermont Legislature. Wexler has worked with large and cumbersome data sets in a variety of policy areas and has created multi-dimensional analysis that can be used to inform policymaking. She is greatly admired not only for her analytical skills but for her ability to distill and communicate complex issues.

National Association of Legislative Information Technology (NALIT)

A photo of Kevin G. Moore, director, Vermont Office Legislative Information Technology Kevin G. Moore Jr., director of Information Technology, Vermont Office of Legislative Information Technology
Moore has exhibited the highest standards of professionalism, competence and leadership during his service as the director of the legislative information technology division. He brought a vision for the future of IT at the Vermont Legislature and undertook new initiatives in planning, oversight and outreach. He developed strong relationships with legislative leaders and heads of staff departments and secured support and funding for significant expansion of the legislative IT systems and operations. Moore has been a strong supporter of NALIT and NCSL during his tenure with the Legislature and has provided opportunities for Vermont legislative IT staff to participate in meetings and webinars.

A photo of Janet Roberson and Angel Burack, director and deputy director, Legislative Information Systems, Delaware Janet Roberson and Angel Burack, director and deputy director, Legislative Information Systems, Delaware
Roberson and Burack have shown a level of commitment that is unparalleled. They support the legislative process and the mission of the Delaware General Assembly by keeping the centralized drafting and chamber function programs operational and they work to adapt in meeting the General Assembly’s changing needs. An exemplary example of this commitment is that Roberson and Burack developed a continuity of government plan for IT several years ago. As the COVID-19 pandemic started to unfold, their advance work included pre-planning for hardware and systems that resulted in the legislature’s ability to transition quickly to remote work. Over the years, Roberson and Burack have been active participants with  NALIT. They have shared their knowledge and the work they do for the General Assembly with other NALIT members and attended and presented on their work at NALIT conferences.

National Legislative Program Evaluation Society (NLPES)

A photo of John Schaff, auditor general - retired, Office of the Utah Legislative Auditor General John Schaff, retired auditor general, Office of the Utah Legislative Auditor General
The 2020 NLPES Legislative Staff Achievement Award is presented to Schaff for his contributions and service to NLPES, NCSL and the field of legislative program evaluation. Schaff started his audit career with the U.S. General Accounting Office in 1970. In 1977, he brought his skills and knowledge to the Utah Office of Legislative Auditor General (OLAG). He spent his next four decades with OLAG, serving as an audit supervisor for three years, an audit manager for nine years, the deputy auditor general for 15 years and the auditor general for 15 years. Schaff retired from OLAG in 2018. He was an active member of NLPES and NCSL. He served on the NLPES Executive Committee, participated in NLPES peer reviews and twice authorized OLAG to host the NLPES Professional Development Seminar. Schaff also encouraged his staff to be active members in both NLPES and NCSL.

A photo compilation of all members of the Virginia Joint Legislative Audit and Review Commission (JLARC)Virginia Joint Legislative Audit and Review Commission (JLARC)
JLARC’s core principles in conducting research are integrity, rigor, objectivity and nonpartisanship. The Virginia General Assembly relies on JLARC to evaluate and recommend changes to the most important, complex and challenged programs affecting Virginians. JLARC staff have been involved in NLPES for decades, and they actively participate in sharing knowledge and best practices about program evaluation nationally and internationally.

National Legislative Services and Security Association (NLSSA)

A photo of Derek E. Hamilton, sergeant at arms and chief, Alabama House Security ForceDerek E. Hamilton, sergeant-at-arms and chief, Alabama House Security Force
Hamilton is the sergeant-at-arms for the Alabama House of Representatives and chief of the House Security Force. He is responsible for the security for the 105 members and approximately 80 full- and part-time staff in the Alabama House, where he has worked since 1994. Hamilton represents the best of law enforcement by setting high expectations for his officers and demonstrating good judgment during high-stress situations. During the past few years, Hamilton has successfully organized security for high-profile events, including protests, impeachment proceedings and state-of-the-state addresses. Finally, Hamilton ensured the House is both secure and safe during the COVID-19 pandemic. He’s coordinate sanitizing and cleaning efforts while also managing public access to ensure social distancing protocols are followed. He’s admired by his colleagues and fellow NLSSA members for his professionalism and dedication to the legislative institution. Hamilton is recognized for his contributions to NLSSA and his leadership and service to the Alabama House of Representatives.     

A photo of Matthew Romei, chief of police, Capitol Police Department, VermontMatthew Romei, chief of police, Capitol Police Department, Vermont 
Romei serves as the chief of the Vermont Capitol Police, a position he has held since 2017. In this role, he is responsible for the security of the Vermont Capitol and the members and staff serving in the Vermont General Assembly. Romei is an active member of the National Legislative Services and Security Association (NLSSA). During his tenure, and well before the COVID-19 pandemic, Romei took anticipatory steps to improve the legislature’s response to an emergency. With an extensive background in emergency management, Romei helped to increase communication among key decision-makers in the legislature and provide expertise in the beginning days of the pandemic. One such example is his knowledge of an alert system that was modified to allow for secure voting and is now being used by the Vermont House of Representatives for remote voting. Romei is recognized for his contributions to NLSSA and his leadership and service to the Vermont General Assembly.  

Research, Editorial, Legal and Committee Staff Association (RELACS)

A photo of Mark Andrews, policy analyst, Utah Office of Legislative Research and General Counsel Mark Andrews, policy analyst, Utah Office of Legislative Research and General Counsel
Andrews is the go-to for both subject area expertise in health and human services and improving the legislative process. He was a key staffer in coordinating public hearings on the politically sensitive topics of medical cannabis and Medicaid expansion. Andrews constantly seeks to improve the legislative processes by making information available to members and always asking how legislative staff can support the democratic process. He has provided rigorous, neutral and nonpartisan information and options for consideration when lawmakers are tacking complex legislation related to health care price transparency and pharmacy benefit managers, and so much more.

Andrews’ professionalism, integrity and commitment to serve the Legislature and its constituents make him a model for his peers. Not only is he dedicated to the Utah Legislature and his team, but also to NCSL as evidenced by his long-time participation in the former Legislative Health Staff Network and continued participation in RELACS.

A photo of Tanya Lieberman, chief consultant, California Assembly Committee on Education Tanya Lieberman, chief consultant, California Assembly Committee on Education
Lieberman’s work bringing together researchers, practitioners and policymakers to improve each group’s work is a testament to her professionalism, competence and integrity. Lieberman creates connections between these groups and creates an environment for her staff to do the same. She identified a need to improve the policy proposals from member offices. Her multi-pronged approach included ways to support junior staff via mentoring, committee open houses, time with committee consultants, best practices workshops and ways to officially recognize outstanding staff work. These initiatives have proven highly successful and have been adopted by other committees in the Legislature.

Lieberman’s commitment to quality work, professionalism, and other’s learning and professional development is unparalleled. Lieberman contributes to the work of NCSL as Education Commission of the States co-chair of the Legislative Education Staff Network, where she not only shares California’s experience and lessons but also brings fresh innovative ideas back to the Assembly.

NCSL Standing Committees

The 2020 Standing Committee Legislative Staff Achievement Award is awarded to James “Ted” Booth (Miss.), Michelle Davis (Md.), Frank Strigari (Ohio) and Jeff Wice (N.Y.) for their remarkable commitment to producing “Redistricting Law 2020” (aka the red book), the fourth edition of the nation’s best legal resource on redistricting. Doing this detailed analytical work over the course of three years, on top of their day jobs, is quite an achievement. Each person shared his or her deep and often decades-long knowledge generously and graciously. All are current or former co-chairs of the NCSL Standing Committee on Redistricting and Elections.

James F. “Ted” Booth, general counsel, Mississippi Joint Legislative Committee on Performance Evaluation and Expenditure Review (PEER)
Booth serves as general counsel to the Mississippi Joint Legislative Committee on Performance and Evaluation and Expenditure Review (PEER) and is also counsel to the Standing Joint Legislative Committee on Reapportionment.  He has been an employee of the Mississippi Legislature since 1984.   He holds a bachelor’s degree in history, a J.D. from Tulane University and a master’s degree in management from Northwestern University. 

Michelle Davis, senior policy analyst, Maryland Department of Legislative Services
Davis is a nationally recognized expert on redistricting and a senior policy analyst for the Maryland Department of Legislative Services, the professional staff agency for the Maryland General Assembly. She has over 19 years’ experience as a legislative analyst and has played a key role in Maryland redistricting beginning with the 2000 round of redistricting. Michelle holds a J.D. from the University Of Maryland School Of Law and an M.B.A from the University of Baltimore. While at law school, she served as managing editor of the Federal Circuit Bar Journal and has taught as an adjunct professor at the University of Maryland at Baltimore County.  Her “Race and the Law” course focused on the legal development of affirmative action, voting rights, housing discrimination, and other civil rights law.  She is an experienced public speaker and published author, having been published in the American Bar Association’s The Public Lawyer, The University of Baltimore Law Forum, The Maryland Bar Bulletin, and The Maryland Bar Journal.

Frank Strigari, chief legal counsel, Ohio Senate
Strigari is an experienced attorney in state legislative and executive branch matters, He has served as legal counsel to a number of Ohio’s statewide elected officials, including three Senate presidents, the governor of Ohio, auditor of State, and two attorneys general.  He is the longest serving legal counsel to have worked in the Ohio Senate, and in that capacity he supervises the legal affairs of the Senate, and directly advises the Senate president and majority caucus members on a number of legal and policy-related matters. He Strigari has had a direct hand in the drafting of various elections bills enacted into law in Ohio and was the main drafter for the state’s recent constitutional amendments reforming its redistricting processes. He Strigari received his undergraduate degree from Indiana University, and later received his law degree from the Chicago-Kent College of Law. 

Jeffrey M. Wice, special counsel, New York Assembly
Wice is a longtime veteran special counsel in the New York Legislature. Over the years, he has served as director of the assembly’s former Washington, D.C. Office and as redistricting counsel to several Assembly Speakers and   Senate Democratic leaders. He is also an adjunct professor and senior fellow at New York Law School where he directs the New York Census and Redistricting Institute and serves as an advisor to the New York Counts 2020 census coalition.  He is also a fellow at SUNY Buffalo Law School. Long dedicated to working with state legislators across the nation, he is director of the National Association of Jewish Legislators (NAJL) and has assisted legislators on redistricting as “of counsel” to Sandler, Reiff, Lamb, Rosenstein, and Birkenstock, P.C. 

Legislative Education Staff Network (LESN)

A photo of Mary Kenfield, policy director, Washington House Democratic Caucus Mary Kenfield, policy director, Washington House Democratic Caucus
In addition to being the educational expert for the House Democratic Caucus (HDC), Kenfield also serves as its policy director and provides leadership and mentorship for other caucus staff. Her thoughtful attention to the professional growth of legislative staff has not only benefitted Washington staff, but also staff in other states. Specifically, the individualized professional development system and hiring practices she designed have served as models for other state legislatures. The legislative members that Kenfield has worked with speak glowingly of her and she is viewed as a trusted advisor by many. Kenfield is retiring this year and there is no better way to honor her hard work and commitment than receiving the 2020 LESN Recognition Award.