Staff Bios

Katie Whelan

Katie Whelan* is the Acting Executive Director for the Voter Participation Center. She has over 30 years of experience working in public policy and political campaigns, and has provided strategic counsel to clients in corporate and political affairs, designing and implementing electoral and fundraising campaign plans. She served as the Executive Director of the Democratic Governors’ Association (DGA) where she effectively managed a team and budget to support the election/re-election of Democratic gubernatorial candidates. Her work with the DGA has given her vast experience providing strategic insight for elections and campaigns to governors and gubernatorial candidates in all 50 states including former California Republican Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger where she served as Senior Advisor working out of his Washington, DC office.

Currently, Katie serves as an Of Counsel Senior Advisor to the Dewey Square Group, a leading public affairs firm that specializes in public policy, communications and political campaigns with an expertise in multicultural and grassroots outreach.

Ms. Whelan graduated from Ithaca College with a degree in international relations. She speaks fluent French and serves on the Advisory Board of the Pamela Harriman Foreign Service Fellowships at the College of William and Mary which is a U.S. State Department sponsored program and was established in honor of Mrs. Harriman, the late U.S. Ambassador to France. She was a resident fellow at Harvard University’s Institute of Politics where she led a weekly seminar on state and federal elections titled “From the State House to the White House.”

*management consultant

Hal Malchow

Hal Malchow serves as the Chief Operating Officer at the Voter Participation Center. He is the former Chairman of MSHC Partners, a firm that helped pioneer the use of statistical modeling and control group experiments in politics. His landmark work in modeling voter lists for the Democratic National Committee set fundraising records that still stand today. His clients have included the US Olympic Committee, WNET, Planned Parenthood and five Democratic presidential nominees. In 2005 he received the Sisk Award for pioneering vision that has reshaped the direct marketing industry. The two previous recipients were National Geographic and the marketing director at NIKE. His career is chronicled in The Victory Lab by Sasha Issenberg, a book that describes how scientific measurement has transformed the conduct of political campaigns.

Today, he devotes time to non-profit work including serving as Chairman of the Board of the International Dyslexia Association and Co-Chairing the Capital Campaign at the Lab School of Washington. His role at VPC is currently on a consultant basis.

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.

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.

Lisa Phillips

Lisa Phillips serves as the Director of Finance and Administration 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.

Will Yates

Will Yates is the Analytics Manager 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.

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.

Elizabeth Mekonnen

Elizabeth Mekonnen serves as Accounting Manager for The Voter Participation Center, where she manages the day-to-day accounting functions and assists the Director of Finance with financial reporting, annual budget and audits. Ms. Mekonnen has more than 15 years’ experience with prominent non-profit organizations in Washington, DC, where she has held various senior accounting management positions.

Prior to joining VPC, she served with the American Society for Public Administration, the National Academy of Public Administration, the National Parks Conservation Association and the American Chemistry Council. Ms. Mekonnen earned a degree in Business Administration, with a Major in Accounting, from the University of the District of Columbia.

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.

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.