2022 Legislative Staff Achievement Award Recipients

7/8/2022

2022 LSCC Award Recipients

Introduction

Beginning in 1997, NCSL’s nine 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 to recognize excellence in service to state legislatures. In addition to the professional staff 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 2022 award recipients.

Congratulations to the Legislative Staff Achievement Award recipients!

Online Democracy Award

Notable Documents Award

American Society of Legislative Clerks and Secretaries (ASLCS)

Jay Braxton, assistant clerk, Virginia House of Delegates

The American Society of Legislative Clerks and Secretaries (ASLCS) is proud to present Jay Braxton with the 2022 Legislative Staff Achievement Award for his dedication, service and leadership to the Virginia House of Delegates and ASLCS.

Jay has spent 25 years at the Virginia House. Appointed assistant clerk in 2011, he is responsible for the Support Services area of the Clerk’s Office and oversees a staff of 70.

Long active in ASLCS, he has chaired several committees and served on the Executive Committee since 2016, including two years as associate vice president.

He serves as a key liaison and coordinator for a number of major program activities and projects within the Virginia House Clerk’s Office, including a large-scale move to a new building, where he has been instrumental in designing a building suited to the unique work done by the legislature. He’s also coordinated a virtual session, an outdoor session, one in a basketball arena and the 2022 gubernatorial inauguration.

He has a deep respect and love for the House of Delegates, its traditions and practices, and the legislative process. His colleagues, who submitted five nominations on his behalf, consider him a mentor and a friendin addition to being an expert on all things legislature. They note that “everyone can rely on him” and “he will go the extra mile – or 10 – to help.” In short, they say, “we wouldn’t be the House Clerk’s Office without Jay Braxton.”

 

Tim Sekerak, chief clerk, Oregon House of Representatives

The American Society of Legislative Clerks and Secretaries (ASLCS) is proud to present its 2022 Legislative Staff Achievement Award to Tim Sekerak for his service to the Oregon House of Representatives, ASLCS and NCSL. Sekerak has worked with the legislative branch of government for 27 years in two states in various capacities, including as a legislative assistant, caucus staff attorney, legislative measure drafter and general in-house counsel for the Washington State House of Representatives.

Chief Clerk in the Oregon House since 2014, he has been unanimously elected to his position three times. According to his colleagues, he has redefined the role, becoming the “steady, transparent and empathetic presence the legislature needed, seamlessly navigating the turbulent waters of the past several years,” which have included significant political division and cultural changes and the pandemic. His staff credits his wisdom, foresight and innovative mind.

He is a “trusted sounding board to legislators of all parties who are confident in his ability to be transparent, ethical and consistently fair. He has embodied the integrity, reliability and values that are so vital in upholding Oregon’s legislative process. His dedication and commitment to the legislature AND his staff are unparalleled.”

Tim is president-elect of ASLCS, has chaired several committees, serves on NCSL’s Legislative Staff Coordinating Committee and will be hosting next year’s ASLCS Professional Development Seminar. His colleagues summed up his nomination with this: “Tim’s approachability, likability and humility make him the epitome of what it means to be an authentic and effective leader in today’s uncertain world.”

Leadership Staff Professional Association (LSPA)

Aaron Goulette, chief of staff, New Hampshire House of Representatives 

Aaron Goulette, is a consummate professional who has steadily steered the staff and lawmakers of the New Hampshire House of Representatives through an unprecedented tenure dealing with COVID-19, litigation, and ever-changing health guidance.

As chief of staff, he had to navigate the delicate balance of grieving the historic loss of a dear friend and mentor seven days after his appointment as Speaker and guiding his newly minted team through the process of leading the 400-member citizen legislature and 106 House and Joint Staff members through this new legislative term.

He organized our "drive-in” session, with members using wireless voting devices, microphones and radio in their vehicles, ensuring every detail was considered. At the historic State House, he prepared for committees to safely meet, including remote options and live stream.

During an era of division and heated debate, he professionally and empathetically handled complaints from legislators and members of the public. In the face of protests, new security measures were put in place, and he coordinated a very well-received civil discourse training for members on both sides of the aisle.

Where there were learning gaps, he took initiative, made connections needed to overcome difficulties, and led by example, always making sure operations ran smoothly. Through this, he  made time to recognize the day-to-day needs of the organizational staff members and always gave freely of his time to assist, manage, mentor and encourage.

His service encompasses what it means for those serving in legislatures across the country, and the importance of our work. He believes in our legislators and their commitment to making New Hampshire a better state. He embodies the true meaning of 'service' and has given of himself selflessly. He has handled every situation with grace, and his calm, assured demeanor has helped the New Hampshire General Court weather the most adversarial moments and lead us into the present time and the end of a very successful and historic two-year term. He is very deserving of this recognition and has made this job his own.

Jake Smeltz, chief of staff to the speaker, Pennsylvania House of Representatives

Over the past 4 years, Jake Smeltz has overseen one of the most productive periods of legislative accomplishments in the Pennsylvania House of Representatives. As chief of staff to the Majority Leader, during the 2019-2020 sessions, Jake ushered a record number of bills through the House of Representatives—with over 95% in a bipartisan fashion. During the pandemic of 2020, his vision and leadership led to the Pennsylvania House of Representatives being one of the first state government bodies able to continue operations with remote participation. The passage of the House remote participation rule served not only as a model for the Pennsylvania Senate, but for many other state legislatures as well.

He has directed significant technological and institutional reforms. Including installation of a touch screen panel on the speaker’s rostrum, new electronic voting boards and a new electronic voting system—>updates to technology that had not changed in six decades. He has also directed updates to the financial record keeping of the House of Representatives and made significant updates to the practices of the Office of the Comptroller.

He has an open-door policy and finds time to nurture and develop staff in ways that make them feel appreciated and fulfilled. He has worked with NCSL on staff training and our professional development plan to make sure we continue excellent work for the people of the Commonwealth. He is determined to pass on his knowledge and develop future stars.

There are few, if any, staffers in the Pennsylvania General Assembly who rival the influence Jake Smeltz has had under the dome - both legislatively and institutionally.

Legislative Information and Communication Staff (LINCS)

Will Tracy, communications specialist/videographer, Arkansas House of Representatives

LINCS is proud to present Will Tracy, communications specialist/videographer for the Arkansas House of Representatives, with a Legislative Staff Achievement Award for his service and leadership to the Legislative Information and Communications (LINCS) staff association and to NCSL.

He currently serves as chair of LINCS and during his tenure he has guided the association in developing online programs for legislative communications staff and focused on outreach to increase participation in the group.

As LINCS chair, he has been a long-serving member of NCSL’s Legislative Staff Coordinating Committee (LSCC) and is currently leading a video project to capture the oral history of NCSL by recording interviews with past NCSL Staff Chairs.

He is recognized for his professionalism and expertise as well as his dedication and leadership given to LINCS and NCSL.

Press and Communications Office, Senate of the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico

LINCS is proud to present the Press and Communications Office of the Senate of the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico with a Legislative Staff Achievement Award for their teamwork, innovation and excellence in ensuring the citizens of Puerto Rico are informed and engaged about the Senate and its proceedings.

The Press Office oversees live streaming operations, video production, website and social media management and serves as a liaison to the media. The office is recognized for their commitment to transparency and public access by operating remotely and ensuring that citizens had daily, real-time access to the Senate during the COVID-19 pandemic.

In addition, the office is responsible for providing communications support to Senators and offers equal time and energy to the 27 Senators representing five different political parties and an independent. Staff in the office have showcased their digital expertise and commitment to innovation by creating a podcast, “Senado Digital,” that showcases members and their policy priorities.

The Press and Communications Office is recognized for promoting and supporting the public’s access to the Puerto Rico Senate and for striving for excellence in ensuring the Senate’s voice is heard. 

Legislative Research Librarians (LRL)

Eric Glover, legislative librarian, Idaho Legislative Services Office

Eric Glover has actively been involved with NCSL for over five years. He currently serves as immediate past chair of the Legislative Research Librarians (LRL) staff association.  He served as chair in 2020-2021, as vice chair in 2019-2020, and as secretary in 2018-2019.  During his time as secretary, he provided outstanding and thorough meeting minutes which he shares with newly appointed secretaries.  As vice chair he came up with practical ideas and suggestions.  He was chair at the height of the pandemic and during this time provided optimistic support to other LRL officers and members.  He assisted in presenting the first virtual business meeting and lead the effort to update the LRL bylaws to allow the Officers Committee to conduct its business when no Legislative Summit is held and attended Legislative Staff Coordinating Committee virtual meetings.  He has also served on the Notable Document Awards and Legislative Staff Achievement Awards committees.

In addition to writing for the LRL Newsline newsletter, he has actively been involved in presenting in-person and online trainings for fellow legislative staff and librarians.  At the 2019 Summit in Nashville he participated on a panel for “What I Wish I knew When I Joined the Legislature.”  In February 2021 he assisted in hosting two online information sharing webinars for LRL Members.

“I'm sure Eric is valued by his coworkers in Idaho, but he has been a wonderful resource for LRL, too. His humor and practical approach during our officers' meetings were very much appreciated (and helpful!), especially when we were trying to figure out how to navigate LRL business during the height of the pandemic. It was an honor and a privilege to work with Eric.” – Teresa Wilt, LRL immediate past chair

Teresa Wilt, deputy research director, Nevada Legislative Counsel Bureau

Teresa Wilt is incredibly deserving of this award. She has done considerable work volunteering her time and expertise to NCSL. She has served as both a regional director and officer of the Legislative Research Librarians association (LRL), (2019/2020 chair) as faculty on panels and professional development sessions, written for multiple issues of the LRL Newsline newsletter and is always ready to help her colleagues at home in Nevada and across the nation. Her leadership and guidance have been an unequaled asset for LRL during unprecedented times.

She gives freely of her time and shares her knowledge to assist so many individuals to make the important work they do for their state legislatures easier. Everyone involved in LRL is grateful for her participation and are thrilled to recognize her dedication and service.

National Association of Legislative Fiscal Offices (NALFO)

Melody DeBussey, former director, Senate Budget and Evaluation Office, Georgia

For her dedicated service in the Georgia Senate, the National Association of Legislative Fiscal Offices (NALFO) is pleased to present Melody DeBussey with a 2022 Staff Achievement Award. She was a part of the Georgia Senate Budget and Evaluation Office from 2011 to 2022 and served as the director for nine years.

She displayed extraordinary commitment both to the legislative institution and to her staff. She was a strong voice for professional development opportunities that would enhance the skills of Senate Budget and Evaluation Office staff and legislative fiscal staff around the country. She also displayed this commitment as an involved and conscientious member of NALFO, providing thoughtful guidance as an officer and president of the association.

Known as a calming force in the Georgia legislature, she was consistent and unflappable in the face of pressure, a trait that served the legislature well in 2020 as the COVID-19 pandemic forced a complete rewrite of the state’s budget to prepare for an economic downturn. She also expanded the capabilities of the Senate Budget and Evaluation Office, including the development of off-session projects that helped engage and educate legislators and legislative staff on a variety of topics. She helped legislators prepare for upcoming sessions, and the office became a go-to source for information beyond fiscal topics.

She embodies the spirit of public service, always remembering that taxpayer dollars provide services for the people of Georgia, and she worked to ensure those dollars were maximized and responsibly spent. While she has left the Senate Budget and Evaluation Office, her work and strong leadership will be remembered and will help carry the office forward for many years.

National Association of Legislative Information Technology (NALIT)

Brian Hurst, director of information technology, Georgia General Assembly

NALIT has selected Brian Hurst, director of information technology for the Georgia General Assembly as the recipient of the 2022 Legislative Staff Achievement Award. For 20 years, he has played an integral role in supporting the business of the General Assembly. He continues to reach out to all offices to ensure that IT is engaged and meeting the needs of all offices and members. To that end, he has assembled a team of professionals who keep the General Assembly functioning and moving forward with innovative and secure systems. He has taken the Legislature’s website and IT operations to unimaginable heights. In fact, the Georgia General Assembly website was selected for the 2021 Online Democracy Award.

All too often, the supporting role of IT is only noted when systems go down or problems occur, but he is known to all offices across both chambers as a proactive problem solver who delivers the best technology and services to the legislature. He makes certain that each office is able to perform at their peak function.  

Becky King, systems analyst, Office of Computing and Information Technology, Legislative Research Commission, Kentucky

Becky King, systems analyst in the Office of Computing and Information Technology, Legislative Research Commission, Kentucky has been selected to receive the 2022 NALIT Legislative Staff Achievement Award for her outstanding service to the Kentucky General Assembly.

The purpose of the Office of Computing and Information Technology is to provide for the technology needs of the Kentucky General Assembly and the staff of the Legislative Research Commission. King plays an integral part in improving the effectiveness of the legislative process by acting as a liaison between the Software Engineers and the members and legislative staff who use the systems. She is skilled at managing those relationships and helping organize the OCIT workflow. During legislative session, she is front line support on the floor of the Senate where she keeps the process running smoothly, even during past two years, which have included a lot of changes to the process.

She is an active member of both NALIT and ASLCS both attending meetings and serving on committees.

National Legislative Program Evaluation Society (NLPES)

James Barber, executive director, Mississippi Joint Committee on Performance Evaluation and Expenditure Review (retired)

James Barber is NLPES’s 2022 Outstanding Achievement Award recipient, because he exemplifies the spirit and selection criteria for the award. He was a valued co-worker, tireless leader and exceptional public servant who served Mississippi and its legislature with dignity and integrity. He was Mississippi PEER’s longest serving staffer to date, and his 43-year tenure at PEER illustrates his long-standing involvement in the field of program evaluation. He actively participated in NLPES, serving on the NLPES Committee for two terms and holding each NLPES officer position twice. He was the NLPES newsletter editor for nine years.  With his encouragement, his staff also have been active members in both NLPES and NCSL.

Michigan Office of the Auditor General

The Michigan Office of the Auditor General (OAG) is the 2022 NLPES Excellence in Evaluation Award recipient.

OAG’s performance audits provide a positive impact on state of Michigan operations and policies and help improve the safety and welfare of the state's citizens.  During the four-year award period, the OAG issued 100 performance audit reports. These audits identified more than $4.2 billion in actual and potential cost savings. The Fraud Investigative Services Team also conducted numerous investigations into complaints and allegations received through the new fraud hotline. To improve its operations, OAG’s unique mentoring program successfully mentored 67 new auditors and 22 new audit supervisors in the past four years. The OAG actively participates in numerous national and local audit organizations, including NLPES. OAG staff have served on the NLPES Executive Committee and have spoken during several NLPES programs. Finally, the OAG served on the TeamMate Client Advisory Board for 24 years, providing input on future software features and various auditing issues.

National Legislative Services and Security Association (NLSSA)

Adam Elias, director of State House security, Massachusetts Bureau of the State House

NLSSA selects Adam Elias to receive one of its 2022 Legislative Staff Achievement Awards. Adam has an extensive background in public safety. He became director of State House Security in August 2017. He is responsible for coordinating the overall safety and security for the Massachusetts State House, its employees and visitors. He acts as the State House’s liaison with federal, state and local law enforcement and public safety agencies. He is a member of the NLSSA Executive Board, and he will be hosting the 2022 NLSSA Annual Training Conference. Although he has not been a member of NLSSA for very long, his presence already is being felt.

     

Elizabeth Garzone, visitor services assistant director, Texas State Preservation Board

NLSSA selects Elizabeth Garzone to receive one of its 2022 Legislative Staff Achievement Awards. Elizabeth has worked for the Texas State Preservation Board for 15 years and currently is the visitor services assistant director.  She is an integral part of the tour program at the Texas State Capitol, which hosts tens of thousands of visitors each year. She is an active member of NLSSA. She has been a member of the NLSSA Executive Board since 2017, serving as Region 2 chair, 3rd trustee and currently, 2nd trustee.  Her dedication to Texas and NLSSA set a great example for NLSSA members.

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

Julie Pelegrin, deputy director, Office of Legislative Legal Services, Colorado General Assembly

RELACS has selected Julie Pelegrin, deputy director of the Office of Legislative Legal Services (OLLS) in the Colorado General Assembly, as the recipient of the 2022 Legislative Staff Achievement Award.

She has championed the core values of nonpartisanship and personal integrity while maintaining her signature sense of humor and unflappable grace. Through her dedication, high standards, hard work and complete selflessness, Julie inspires her team every day to be better nonpartisan legislative staffers.

Some of the initiatives she has taken for Colorado include starting a "buddy" program for newly elected legislators, drafting critical House and Senate rules and legislation to facilitate remote participation in the legislative process by legislators, staff and members of the public. She deftly drafted a 500-page bill introduced this session that created a state department of early childhood. She worked tirelessly for over a year on the bill, participating in numerous stakeholder meetings and drafting multiple versions and amendments to reach the version, which passed just weeks ago.

Her long-standing contribution to NCSL has included serving on the NCSL Education Committee, the Education Staff Network, and two terms on NCSL’s Executive Committee.

She is a co-founder of the Research, Editorial, Legal and Committee Staff association (RELACS), and worked with that team to draft the bylaws and design the initial leadership team. She has taught countless continuing legal education classes for RELACS and NCSL.

Wendy Jackson, administrative services manager, Wisconsin Legislative Reference Bureau

Wendy Jackson, administrative services manager, Wisconsin Legislative Reference Bureau (LRB), was selected as the RELACS recipient of the Legislative Staff Achievement Award. Her contribution to the work of her legislature and to RELACS have been outstanding.

She supervises more than a dozen staff and serves as the principal editor for all legislative documents produced by the LRB, from bill drafts to legislative enactments to research documents to the Wisconsin Statutes and Administrative Code. With Wendy in charge, editing tasks were consolidated and streamlined—the editing staff was expanded and professionalized, staff morale increased, quality control mechanisms were established, and legislative documents production moved entirely to a digital format. During the pandemic, her innovations in revamping the LRB editing and publishing processes were key to LRB’s success when virtually all LRB attorneys, analysts, and editors worked remotely from home. High quality and timeliness are essential to success in the legislative environment, and she exemplifies those traits. LRB editors now see themselves not simply as legislative employees, but rather as part of a larger vocation that is practiced across all state legislatures.

She is one of the founders of the Research, Editorial, Legal and Committee Staff association (RELACS), and worked to draft the bylaws and design the initial leadership team. She has also been active in designing webinars and guiding work on the staff association newsletter. As a member of LSCC, Wendy’s work as the editor of “State Legislatures and Litigation: A Toolkit” was critical to the success of the project.

2022 RELACS Special Commendation Award

John Fellows, general counsel, Office of Legislative Research, and general counsel, Utah Legislature

The Research, Editorial, Legal and Committee Staff Association selects John Fellows, general counsel, Office of Legislative Research and general counsel, Utah Legislature to receive the RELACS Special Commendation Award.

He has been a driving force behind the professionalization of the Office of Legislative Research and General Counsel. His efforts have included improving the quality and expanded scope of legal services, the creation of a career track for legal staff, and the development of a positive staff culture. He is known as a practical problem solver who combines top notch legal acumen with common sense and a keen political mind to find ways forward on difficult legal and policy issues. He has had a deep dedication to and respect for the legislature as an institution. He has a keen ability to proactively prepare and plan for any challenges that it may face.

He is recognized as an expert in election law, legislative process, legislative rule, and a variety of other subject areas and is  highly respected by legislators and his colleagues not just for his legal mind, but for his kindness and sincerity.

He has been an active participant in and supporter of NCSL over many years, both with the Legal Services Staff Section (LSSS) and later with the Research, Editorial, Legal and Committee Staff (RELACS). His bill drafting courses and a very successful session on legislative investigations are highlights of RELACS meetings. He served as a member of the LSSS executive board for two nonconsecutive terms and taught the bill drafting course of the NCSL Skills Development Seminar for many years.

NCSL Standing Committees

Eric L. Nauman, principal fiscal analyst, Minnesota State Senate

Eric Nauman has served as a fiscal analyst for the Minnesota Senate for over 25 years. In that nonpartisan role he serves as the Senate’s principal fiscal analyst, directing a staff of 11 analysts who support the fiscal committees of the Senate. For 15 years, he served the Senate as its education finance fiscal analyst, drafting, modeling and analyzing all education finance legislation considered by the body. In 2019-21, he served as president of the National Association of Legislative Fiscal Officers. In that capacity he was instrumental to the federal COVID relief efforts of NCSL’s Budgets and Revenue Committee.

Before coming to Minnesota, he served for five years as a tax analyst for the New Jersey Office of Legislative Services, where he specialized in the state economy and revenue estimating. 

He is a guest speaker for university courses on the Minnesota budget, K-12 finance and the legislative process. He a native Californian and holds a master's degree in public policy from Rutgers University and a bachelor's in political science from the University of California, Davis. He is a competitive road cyclist and serves on the board of the Saint Paul Bicycle Racing Club. He and his spouse, Patricia, live in Minneapolis, where the search for a perfect cup of espresso is ongoing.

Drew Murray, senior legislative analyst, Legislative Services Office, Louisiana House of Representatives

Drew Murray is a senior legislative analyst with the Louisiana Legislative Services Office, the nonpartisan research, drafting and committee staff division of the House of Representatives. He has staffed the House Committee on Health and Welfare since his tenure with the Legislature began in 2010 and has been active throughout his career with NCSL’s Standing Committee on Health and Human Services, serving as an officer of that committee from 2017 to 2022. In his service to the Louisiana House through 25 legislative sessions, Drew has drafted over 850 bills and resolutions covering the entirety of his committee’s extensive subject matter. Additionally, since 2019, he has staffed the House Select Committee on Homeland Security and currently serves as the House staff liaison to Louisiana’s homeland security and emergency preparedness agency. He also served as senior staff with the Legislature’s Joint Medicaid Oversight Committee in that committee’s first two years of existence (2020-22).

He is a native of Baton Rouge, La., and a product of that city’s public schools. He earned a bachelor’s degree in urban studies from Trinity University in San Antonio, Texas, where he was a letterman on the school’s 1995 conference championship baseball team, and a master’s degree from the University of Texas at Austin’s Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs. He is passionate about literacy, baseball and traveling in the U.S. and abroad.

Legislative Education Staff Network (LESN)

Ailey Kato, staff coordinator and counsel, Committee on Early Learning and K-12 Education, Washington Senate

Ailey Kato is the staff coordinator and counsel to the Washington Senate Committee on Early Learning and K-12 Education. Since she was first hired as an intern in 2011 and again as full-time staff in 2014, she has embodied excellent service to legislators, expertise in education issues, and collegiality and leadership to her fellow legislative staff.

Committee members describe her as “professional,” “trustworthy,” “proactive,” and “invaluable”. She seamlessly staffs a committee that covers two expansive topics, and her knowledge of both early learning and K-12 education subjects and stakeholders is nothing short of impressive. She took on supervisory responsibilities for the staff team that covers education in 2018.

Her leadership goes beyond her role as a manger. She participates as a trainer for new Senate Committee Services (SCS) staff members and contributes to the internship program that she once participated in as a law student. She also coordinates the SCS Staff Forum program, which provides an opportunity for legislative staff to share experiences, develop skills, and connect with one another.

She has been a member of LESN since 2015 and served on the steering committee in 2020. We are thrilled to recognize and celebrate her contributions to the legislature and to fellow staff with this well-deserved award.