Staff Bios

Pete Backof

Pete Backof is VPC’s Director of Analytics and is responsible for experiments, modeling, and data. He uses the latest academic research and data-analysis techniques to identify unregistered members of the RAE and the best ways to engage them. Previously Pete worked in data analysis and research with a variety of non-profits and political campaigns. He graduated from Dickinson College and has an MA in social science from the University of Chicago.

Michelle Finkle

Michelle Finkle is a Data Analyst at The Voter Participation Center.  Previously, she worked on a variety of political campaigns at the state and federal level.  She has a B.A. from the University of Wisconsin, where she studied Political Science and Business.

Crystal King

Crystal King serves as the Executive Vice President of Analytics, Outreach, and Program at the Voter Participation Center, bringing with her more than 20 years of experience in issue advocacy and campaign work. King has worked on campaigns from the presidential to the local level, working on her first campaign while still in college. She has worked with or consulted for non-profit organizations on issues from the environment to women’s rights. She also has extensive experience working on Capitol Hill, including having served as Chief of Staff in both the U.S. House of Representatives and U.S. Senate. King is a native of Dayton, Ohio, and a graduate of Ohio University with a B.S. in Communications. She lives in D.C. with her husband, David, rescue cat, Nugget (named for her favorite hometown breakfast spot), and rescue dog, Trusty (named for where she and her husband had their first date).

LaNita King

LaNita King serves as the Executive Assistant to the President and the Executive Director of the Voter Participation Center. A native of California, LaNita has worked with other millennials on campaigns and Get Out the Vote efforts throughout the state. Upon moving to Washington, D.C., she interned at The Bonner Group fundraising firm, and eventually found her home at VPC. She holds a B.A. in Communications from California State University, Northridge.

Gail Leftwich Kitch

Gail Leftwich Kitch serves as Executive Vice President, Communication and Finance for The Voter Participation Center. She brings years of experience, both as a practicing lawyer and as a successful manager and board member of non-profit organizations active in civic engagement. Most recently, she served as Executive Director of By the People, an initiative founded by MacNeil/Lehrer Productions that uses public television to encourage and support informed non-contentious citizen dialogue around policy issues. Mrs. Kitch was President of the Federation of State Humanities Councils, the national membership organization of the state affiliates of the National Endowment for the Humanities, following service as Director of Cambridge Forum, in Cambridge, Massachusetts. She is a former chair of the Massachusetts Foundation for the Humanities, and was a Radcliffe College Public Policy Fellow in the late 90s. Among other activities, Gail currently serves on the Executive Committee of the Women’s Foreign Policy Group, and is a member of the Board of Directors of the National Conference on Citizenship. She has a B.A. from Bryn Mawr College and a J.D. from the University of Chicago Law School.

Suzanne La Rue

Suzanne La Rue is the Assistant Development Manager for VPC, where she writes, edits, and manages the submission of reports and proposals as well as facilitates donor communications. Before joining VPC in 2011, she was a cast member and writer for a sketch comedy troupe, mentored with Girls Inc., and served as a square supervisor on the 2009 archaeological excavation of the Jalul Islamic Village (part of the Madaba Plains Project). She graduated with honors from the University of North Carolina Wilmington and has a B.A. in History.

Lisa Phillips

Lisa Phillips serves as the Controller for the Voter Participation Center. With more than 15 years in non-profit financial and administrative management, she is responsible for oversight of the finance, accounting, payroll and financial-reporting activities for the organization.   Additionally, she works closely with senior management in developing the organization’s annual budget, monitoring established targets, drafting and recommending policies and procedures, managing internal controls over company assets, and leading the annual audits.  Prior to joining VPC, Lisa held positions with major Washington, DC, based non-profits including the Pew Research Center, Center for the Study of the Presidency and Congress, and the Community Teachers Institute. Lisa received a BS in Business Administration with honors from Washington Adventist University (formerly Columbia Union College) and an MBA from Southern Illinois University.

Angela Ruslander

Angela Ruslander is the Program Director at The Voter Participation Center, where she oversees VPC’s voter registration, vote-by-mail, and Get out the Vote programs.  She brings with her nearly 15 years of experience in issue advocacy, grassroots organization and campaign management. Her interest in campaigns began in her hometown of Buffalo, NY, and enabled her to work on races in Iowa, New Hampshire, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia, Delaware, and Arkansas.  She has successfully helped manage campaigns for U.S. Senate and House candidates, and has experience working on Capitol Hill.  She holds a B.A. in Political Science from the State University of New York and a Masters of Public Administration from Indiana University School of Public and Environmental Affairs.

Taylor Williams

Taylor Williams is Associate Program Director at The Voter Participation Center, where he helps lead the organization’s voter registration, vote-by-mail, Get out the Vote, and advocacy programs. He brings a host of campaign experience, including work on a presidential campaign in New Hampshire, Florida, Texas, North Carolina, Georgia, and South Dakota. In 2010, he was active in a Senate race in Illinois and state house races in North Carolina. Prior to VPC, Taylor studied political data and targeting at the New Organizing Institute and interned at the polling firm Greenberg Quinlan Rosner. He holds a B.A. in Public Policy from Duke University’s Sanford School of Public Policy.

Will Yates

Will Yates is a Data Analyst at VPC, where he prepares data for mailings and evaluates experiments. In a past life he was a Detroit-based rock musician, and continues to write and record music solo and with bands when he has the time. He graduated with high distinction from the University of Michigan, and he holds a Master of Public Policy from the Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy at the University of Michigan.