Grassroots Campaigns Alumni Staff

Joey Wender

Wesleyan University, 2003
Harvard Law School, 2008

Work with Grassroots:

2004: Canvass Director, Boston and New York City
Lead Organizer, Dearborn, MI

What do you do now?

I’m Congressman Ed Markey’s Legislative Director in Washington, D.C. Rep. Markey serves the 5th District of Massachusetts, which is north and west of Boston. As legislative director, I advise the Congressman on our legislative initiatives and strategies, help develop our policy positions, and keep staff updated on what’s happening on the House floor. I also oversee the team of legislative staff.

Sounds like a great job. What else have you been up to since leaving Grassroots Campaigns?

I went to law school, and have been on Capitol Hill ever since. Before I started with Congressman Markey, I worked as a Counsel for Oversight and Investigations for the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee.

What did you take away from your time here?

When I worked for Grassroots Campaigns, I picked up the ability to comfortably talk to and persuade people from all walks of life. I definitely used that skill in law school and I still use it today. Also, I worked on important issues, most of which are in play in my work on Capitol Hill today.

Anything in particular you look back on fondly from your time in the field?

I loved the camaraderie. I made great friends, and I’m still in touch with a bunch of my former colleagues.

Meg Ahearn

Kenyon College, International Studies, 2008

Work with Grassroots:

2009-2011: Account Executive
2008-2009: Regional Director
2008 Election: Field Organizer (VA, FL, CO)
2007-2008: Canvass Director

What are you doing now?

I started working for the Department of State in Washington, D.C., as a Foreign Service Officer (aka diplomat) in 2011. Foreign Service Officers do 2-3 year tours of duty in U.S. Embassies and consulates around the world. In addition to being geographically flexible (which my time traveling with Grassroots definitely prepared me for), we also change job functions every few tours, doing everything from interacting with foreign governments, helping Americans living overseas, managing budgets and reporting on the local political scene. I currently work on gender issues and religious freedom in a large West African country.

What an exciting job! What else have you been up to since leaving Grassroots?

Well, to prepare for my first overseas assignment, I spent 7 months studying a not-so-widely spoken African language. Before that I learned a little Portuguese while backpacking in Brazil. I am still (and likely always will be) trying to re-teach myself the guitar.

What did you take away from your time at Grassroots Campaigns?

Leadership skills, without a doubt. Having such a great combination of leadership opportunities plus experienced leaders and peers who set great examples was incredibly valuable. I also think GCI helped me develop a problem-solving mindset that has served me well in my professional and personal life. I also really value the time I got to spend crafting campaigns for different (but all excellent) organizations — researching messages and statistics, testing them to see what resonated best with the public, and then analyzing results to run the most effective campaigns possible.

Anything you miss?


Of course. The sense of community that exists within each individual field office, and also between the field offices across the organization as a whole, is really valuable. I made many lifelong friendships at Grassroots Campaigns.

Sara Grimes

Sussex University 1997
Oxford University 2008

Work with Grassroots:

Election 2004, 2006 and 2008: Lead Organizer
Election 2012: Super Volunteer

What do you do now?

I’m Corporate Sustainability Officer for the Bath & North East Somerset Council. For those who don’t know the UK lingo, a Council is a local
government. I’m lucky to work in my beautiful home area, mostly on
climate change issues ranging from supporting a local renewable energy
enterprise to developing a strategic approach to local food.

What else have you been up to since leaving Grassroots Campaigns?

Well, I left Grassroots Campaigns to return home to England. Since then, I got an Environmental Policy masters from Oxford and then made a beeline for my hometown of Bath, which is about 100 miles west of London. I live with my partner in a cozy house overlooking the city with lots of muddy trails nearby. It’s not quite the American West but it has its charm.

What’s the most valuable thing you took away from your time with us? Do still you use the skills you learned?

Grassroots is very good at working out how to hit a daunting goal then making
it happen, come wind or high water (literally, we worked through a
hurricane in 2004). During my time there, I learned to have a sharp focus on outcomes, plus the ability to work
wickedly hard and draw inspiration from my team members. All of which
serves me well today. I’m still organizing for progressive issues, only now it’s from inside local government.

Emily Francis

Work with Grassroots:

2004: Campaign Prep and Support Staff
Lead Organizer, MoveOn PAC’s Leave No Voter Behind campaign in Florida
2006: Lead Organizer, MoveOn PAC’s Call for Change campaign in Northeast cities
2007: Project Organizer, Save Darfur’s campaign in Boston to convince Fidelity to drop investments connected with the Sudanese government.

What are you doing now?

I’m Development Director for the Virginia League of Conservation Voters, based in Richmond, VA. We fight for Virginia’s natural landscape through education, advocacy and electing conservation-minded officials to office. I’m responsible for recruiting, cultivating and engaging our members, major donors and foundation funders.

What have you been up to since leaving Grassroots Campaigns?

Lots! Since moving to Richmond in 2007 (I can’t believe I’ve lived in the same city for 6 years!), I’ve bought a house, helped start two community gardens, eaten a lot of Virginia Blue Crabs, and convinced two local nonprofits to knock on doors for the first time. Each group raised tens of thousands of dollars and identified thousands of environmental supporters—which shouldn’t be a surprise to any GC staff or alums. Canvassing works!

What’s your favorite memory from your time with Grassroots Campaigns?

Arriving in West Palm Beach, Florida with a team of 15 organizers in the middle of hurricane season for MoveOn PAC’s Leave No Voter Behind Campaign in 2004. Our office flooded, we lost phones for over a week and our electricity was spotty. But the team handled it all with focus, determination and a great sense of humor. They worked their butts off and the office was really successful. I wouldn’t trade that experience for anything.

Kaitlin Gaffney

Work with Grassroots:
2005-2006:           Assistant Canvass Director, Berkeley, CA
Election 2006:      Organizer, MoveOn.org’s Call for Change, St. Louis, MO
2006-2008:           Oregon Organizer, Progressive Voter Network

Currently: Constituent Services Representative for U.S. Senator Jeff Merkley in Portland, OR. I assist constituents who contact the Senator with personal issues specificially related to housing and the mortgage crisis, the IRS, and environmental or agricultural concerns. This can mean anything from answering basic questions to acting as a liaison to federal agencies on behalf of the Senator and his constituents.

What’s new since you left Grassroots?
“I decided to stay in Portland and I was lucky enough that my partner (Grassroots Campaigns alum Kyle White) wanted to move here from California. Kyle and I bought a house last year and got married this July. Life has been good.”

 Amaya Henry

Work with Grassroots:
2007-2009: Assistant Canvass Director, Washington, DC

Currently: Union Organizer with Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Local 32BJ. SEIU has over 2.2. million members across the country and is one of the most progressive unions. 14.000 SEIU members and staff mobilized to elect Obama in 2008. I think it’s an important job because the median weekly ea

What’s new since you left Grassroots? I’m living and working in the DC area, currently working on two campaigns. The first is helping to organize the security officers in all DC public schools and bargain them a contract. The other is against food service giant Sodexo (think the WAL-MART of the food service industry) who has contracts at most universities across the country including Lafayette. Earnings of union workers are 28 percent more than non-union workers. This helps raise standards for both union and non-union workers alike.

Matt Dundas

University of Washington, BA History, 2008

Work with Grassroots:

2004: Regional Canvass Director

What do you do now?

I’m Campaign Manager for Oceana in Washington, D.C. Oceana is the largest international organization focused solely on ocean conservation. I work on our Climate and Energy campaigns, so I oversee Oceana’s field organizing team to ban offshore drilling and build more offshore wind energy.

Very cool. What else have you been up to since leaving Grassroots Campaigns?

Let’s see, I went back and finished college. I got a bachelor’s in history from University of Washington. Then I campaigned on a bunch of progressive causes before landing with Oceana. Oh, and along the way, I moved to DC and got married.

Any particularly fond memories from your time working with us?

I will always take a lot of pride in the memory of running a region that raised millions of dollars for progressive causes. I also oversaw the office that had the highest fundraising performance of all the GC offices in my year. Yup, pretty awesome. I also miss some of the crazy experiences I had working in canvass offices. Like the time this New York real estate mastermind tried to offer me a job, or the time I canvassed The Simpson’s creator Matt Groening’s mother, Margaret, who couldn’t have been nicer or more supportive.

I also feel really fortunate to have been trained by such experienced senior staff. With literally centuries of combined experience working on progressive causes, it’s no wonder Grassroots Campaigns is so successful.

Wilson Karaman

New York University, BA Politics and Religious Studies, 2003

University of Massachusetts Boston, MA American History, 2006

The New School, PhD Political Science

Work with Grassroots:

2005- 2006:  World Headquarters in Boston, MA
Election 2006:       Lead Director, NYC Canvass Offices
Election 2008:       Regional Director – WI, IA, PA, OH

Currently: Eberstadt Fellow of Political Science, The New School for Social Research. B-to-tha-R-tha-O-tha-OK/L-Y-N is the place where I stay. I also work as a bookkeeper for a non-profit legal defense firm called the Children’s Law Center. Our lawyers and social workers serve as legal guardians for children in custody, visitation and abuse cases. In 2009, I ran Doug Biviano’s campaign for NYC City Council, 33rd District.

What’s new since you left Grassroots? Well, let’s see…I done got married (sorry ladies) and finished my PhD coursework. I’m now working on my dissertation about incumbency rates in state legislative elections.

Josh Downey

Drake University

Work with Grassroots:
2005-2008:           Lead Organizer, MoveOn.org’s Operation Democracy
Election 2006:      Lead Organizer, MoveOn.org’s Call for Change Campaign
2008-2009:           Organizing Director, MoveOn.org’s Council Network

Currently: Research, Communications and Policy Strategist, SEIU Local 105, Denver. I am researching corporate targets, crafting the message for our internal and external campaigns, designing earned and paid media campaigns, and running a policy campaign to win state-wide regulation for the security industry.

What’s new since you left Grassroots? Since I left Grassroots, it’s all been downhill for me. I was arrested (for civil disobedience), I grew a garden and started actually eating vegetables (mainly to keep them from taking over my backyard), and I only go to MoveOn meetings as an attendee.