Meet the Vote Run Lead Board of Directors
Crystal Patterson, Board Chair - Washington, DC
Crystal Patterson, Global Civic Partnerships Manager at Facebook, and Chair of the Board of Directors at Vote Run Lead. As a senior level communications and political professional with extensive experience in strategic communications, including earned and paid media, new media, social networking, rapid response and crisis communications, as well as fundraising and development communications, polling, research and activist engagement, Crystal is uniquely qualified to help guide Vote Run Lead’s technology-based training modules and outreach. Prior to her years with Facebook, Crystal was the communications director at the Center for American Progress, the communications director for the U.S. Congress, managing director with Petel & Co., a political consulting firm, and a strategic communications specialist with the American Federation of State County and Municipal Employees. She holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in Political Science and Government from Northwestern University and resides in the Washington, D.C. area.
Jehmu Greene, Founding Board Member - Austin, TX
Jehmu Greene is the Founder of Barbara’s Legacy, a new initiative dedicated to amplifying the impact and voices of women of color thought leaders. With a curriculum designed from her 25 years at the forefront of progressive advocacy, Barbara's Legacy trains, nurtures, and directly supports women of color to best position them to thrive in their pursuit of America's promise. A Distinguished Fellow at the Athena Center for Leadership at Barnard College, Jehmu is a Fox News Political Analyst where she has unapologetically defended progressive values and policies on the network for the last decade. Together with Jose Vargas, Alicia Menendez and Jake Brewer, she co-founded Define American, an organization that uses media and culture to elevate the immigration reform conversation and was recently named one of Fast Company's Most Innovative Companies in America. In 2017, Jehmu was the only woman of color to run for Chair of the Democratic National Committee, running on a platform of innovation and uncomfortable truths. While her campaign garnered only half a vote from institutional Democrats, she changed the narrative of the race and inspired women of color across the country to run for party leadership positions and win. She is also a Founding Board Member of VoteRunLead, a non-partisan organization that has trained more than 35,000 women to run for office. As a national trainer for VoteRunLead, Jehmu travels the country empowering women to run as they are. Jehmu previously served as the U.S. president and global Chief Marketing Officer of WakaWaka, working to bring solar power to people living without access to electricity; president of Rock the Vote, where under her leadership young voter turnout had the highest increase ever recorded; and president of the Women’s Media Center where she designed the Name It, Change It campaign to fight sexism against women candidates and trained progressive women to amplify their voices in the media. From Botswana to Ukraine, Jehmu has traveled the world training young people and women on how to amplify their voices and increase their political power. She was appointed to the U.S. Commission for UNESCO by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. An award-winning media and advocacy strategist, evangelist for social good, guacamole aficionado and proud Texan, Jehmu splits her time between Austin, NYC and Instagram: @jehmu
Shannon M. Garrett, Co-Founder and Board Member – Holland, MI
Shannon M. Garrett is the Founder and President of SMG Strategies. Operating under a personal mission statement of “Honor. Empower. Amplify.,” Shannon is a nationally recognized trainer, strategist, civic engagement consultant and leadership coach. Shannon’s commitment to advancing equity and inclusion in civic life has introduced her to communities throughout the United States, where she has worked alongside thousands of candidates, elected officials, social activists and civic-minded organizations. Her consulting firm, SMG Strategies, combines over 20 years of electoral, legislative and legal experience with humor, mindfulness and a no-nonsense approach to building a more active and diverse democracy. Her leadership trainings and coaching services are known for breaking down fears about living a publicly political life and helping individuals embrace their civic ambitions. Shannon is also co-founder and board chair of Vote Run Lead, a national tech nonprofit unleashing the power of women as leaders in democracy. Through both SMG Strategies and Vote Run Lead, Shannon intentionally and directly addresses the impact of intersectionality on political leadership in order to welcome more individuals into the civic space and strengthen our democracy and civic institutions. In her spare time, Shannon enjoys running – the on-foot exercise kind – and coaches her niece’s Girls on the Run team, helping to foster the next generation of strong women. She is also an elected precinct delegate and the 2010 Precinct Delegate Honoree for the Michigan Second Congregational District, former chair of the City of Holland’s Human Relations Commission, and sits on the Leadership Committee of Michigan Voice. Shannon is a graduate of Alma College and the University of Minnesota Law School.
Rhonda Briggins, Co-Founder and Board Member – Atlanta, GA
Rhonda Briggins, J.D. dedicates her life to public service through her role as a community advocate, political strategist, and servant leader. She serves on various boards of directors such as the Bridge Crossing Jubilee, Vote Run Lead, DeKalb Workforce Development, and DeKalb Housing Authority Advisory Committee. She is a member of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc. and she is the Regional Social Action Coordinator for the Southern Region which includes Alabama, Bahamas, Florida, Georgia, Mississippi, and Tennessee. She is also a member of Jack and Jill of America, Inc. and is the Georgia Legislative Chair. Leadership development is a great passion of hers. She has developed, marketed and implemented numerous workshops for elected officials, corporate offices, non-profit organizations, businesses and schools in this area. Her expertise and understanding of politics and political trends makes a valuable resource to many elected officials, company executives, and employees interested in enhancing their skills. She is often sought after as a keynote speaker and workshop leader. To date, she has taught and trained thousands in the areas of political strategy, communications, public involvement fundraising, and base building. Rhonda brings over a decade of experience in advocacy and public policy. She is currently the Senior Director of External Affairs for the Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority (MARTA). She oversees Community Relations and Government Affairs (federal, state and local) for the Authority. Over the last two years, she has worked with the Georgia General Assembly to pass major transportation legislations for the state of Georgia and MARTA amounting in over $1billion dollars for the agencies. She has a Juris Doctor from Jones School of Law and a Bachelor of Arts in Interdisciplinary Law and Society from Georgia State University. She resides in Tucker, Georgia with her son, Kai.
Liz Johnson, Co-Founder and Board Member – Duluth, MN
Liz Johnson is the Director or Statewide Outreach at FairVote Minnesota where she promotes Ranked Choice Voting, a growing electoral reform movement. Liz is also a co-founder and board member at Vote Run Lead, the nation’s largest and most diverse training program for women to run for office and win. For over 15 years, Liz has worked with countless women leaders to inspire, inform and equip them to pursue positions of influence and elective office. Liz was the Director of Rural Programs for The White House Project where she became a leader in the design and implementation of training programs for rural women. As part of her determination to elevate rural women leaders, Liz also trains women in agriculture, natural resources and food systems with Women Food and Agriculture Network through a partnership called Plate to Politics. She is a member of the board of the Hmong American Farmers Association and First Witness Child Advocacy Center. Liz lives in Duluth, Minnesota next to the largest freshwater lake in the world.
Dawn Crandall, Founding Board Member – Lansing, MI
Dawn Crandall holds leadership positions across nonprofit, political and the private sector. She is the Political Affairs Director for the Home Builders Association of Michigan. Her professional path was led by her passion for the legislative and political arena, starting off as an intern for then Senator Connie Binsfeld, later working for former State Senator Norm Shingle and as the legislative aide to State Representative Bev Hammerstrom. Crandall’s early career covered the Senate Finance Office, the Senate Republican Caucus Services Office as well as the House Republican Campaign Committee. Following Hammerstrom, she accepted the charge from the Home Builders Association of Michigan (HBAM), serving as their Political Affairs Director since 1996. In her current position, Dawn works on candidate endorsements, raising monies for Friends of Housing and, since 2015, has served as the Executive director of Skilled to Build Michigan Foundation, a non-profit whose focus is reaching out to students and returning veterans on the career opportunities in the residential construction. Crandall is the President of the Michigan Excellence in Public Service Series which trains Republican women in the areas of leadership, public policy, media training and campaigns. In her spare time, she also advises members of HBAM on legislative issues they are working on as well as re-election campaigns.
Vanessa Cooksey, Board Member – St.Louis, MO
Vanessa Cooksey serves as the Managing Director of Communications and Marketing at Spire, Inc., the fifth largest, publicly-traded natural gas utility with 1.7 million customers, headquartered in St. Louis, Missouri. At Spire, Vanessa currently leads the team responsible for employee and customer communications, enterprise research, public relations, digital marketing and philanthropy. A creative communicator, systems thinker and future-focused strategist, Vanessa has worked for 14 government, non-profit and for-profit organizations including Mary Kay Cosmetics, Cartoon Network, The City of Atlanta Mayor’s Office, Save-A-Lot Food Stores, Anheuser Busch and Wells Fargo. Vanessa believes that her three decades of continuous community service is the foundation of her personal and professional success. She currently serves in leadership roles on the board of directors for 11 non-profit organizations including the SIFMA Foundation for Investor Education, Harris Stowe State University, digital undivided, Vote Run Lead and The Deaconess Foundation. Vanessa earned a bachelor’s degree in radio-TV-film from the University of Texas at Austin and a master’s degree in business administration from Webster University. A student of community, governance and culture, Vanessa has spent time in France, the Caribbean, Mexico, China, Ireland, Cuba, Japan, Rwanda and England. She also enjoys cooking new vegan recipes for her friends and family to enjoy. Although Vanessa has received more than 50 national and local honors for her innovative business and community work, including the 2016 Eisenhower Fellowship and 2018 St. Louis American Corporate Executive of the Year, she believes her greatest rewards come from being a wife to Antonio, mother to Andrew and daughter to Beverley Foster.
Munawar Ahmed, Board Member - New York, NY
Munawar Ahmed is a design and technology consultant. Over the last 18 years, Munawar has helped her clients create forward-thinking digital strategies and build brilliantly productive, healthy teams. Clients range from megacorps to non-profits, including Volkswagen, Verizon, Starbucks, Time Magazine, and Planned Parenthood. Munawar runs a tight ship and has zero tolerance for poor design, convoluted architecture, sloppy documentation, or dead weight. On any given project, she is deeply involved from inception to release, and has been described as the unrelenting force that holds the entire project and its people together. Munawar graduated from Stanford University with a B.A. in Cognitive Science, from USC with an M.S.Ed in Curriculum and Instructional Design, and from Columbia University with professional certification in Systems Analysis and Software Engineering. She currently teaches Leadership, Ethics, and Professional Practice in the MFA program for Interaction Design at the School of Visual Arts (SVA). She lives in New York City with her husband and two children, and enjoys lots of time upstate in beautiful Wassaic.
Kathryn Kolbert, Board Member – Philadelphia, PA
In June, 2018, Kathryn Kolbert retired from her position as the Constance Hess Williams ’66 Director of the Athena Center for Leadership Studies at Barnard College, an interdisciplinary center dedicated to the advancement of women’s leadership, which she founded in 2009.She was also a Professor of Leadership Studies and Professor of Professional Practice in the Political Science Department at Barnard and the co-founder of the Athena Film Festival.She is continuing to consult with the Athena Film Festival and on program development and political activism with educational, health care and governmental leaders. A public-interest attorney, journalist, and executive in the non-profit world, Kolbert has been recognized by The National Law Journal as one of the “100 Most Influential Lawyers in America,” and by The American Lawyer as one of 45 public- interest lawyers “whose vision and commitment are changing lives.” In 1992, Kolbert argued the landmark case of Planned Parenthood v. Casey before the U.S. Supreme Court and has been credited with saving Roe v. Wade with what CNN’s Jeffrey Toobin has called “one of the most audacious litigation strategies in Supreme Court history.” She has been involved in every reproductive rights case considered by the Supreme Court from 1985 to 1998. Prior to coming to Barnard, Kolbert was the President and CEO of People for the American Way and its Foundation, two of the nation’s premier civil rights organizations.From 1998-2008, she oversaw a program on law and American life at the University of Pennsylvania’s Annenberg Public Policy Center where she created and was the executive producer of NPR’s Justice Talking, an award-winning radio program distributed to 125+ stations across the globe and its companion website, JusticeLearning.org.
Dr. Joan Fallon, Board Member - New York, NY
Dr. Joan Fallon, Founder and CEO of Curemark, is considered a visionary scientist, champion and advocate for the health and well-being of children worldwide. Curemark is focused on the development of novel therapies to treat diseases for which there are no or limited treatments. Curemark’s first drug CM-AT is targeted to treat autism and is still in clinical trials. CM-AT has received Fast Track status from the FDA. Joan holds over 200 patents worldwide. She served on the ADA Board of Advisors for the new Yankee Stadium. She holds appointments as a Senior Advisor to the Henry Crown Fellows at The Aspen Institute, is a Distinguished Fellow at the Athena Center for Leadership at Barnard College. She is a board member of DREAM the charter school in Harlem, formerly known as Harlem RBI. She is a proud alumna and Trustee of Franklin & Marshall College. In 2017, Joan was named EY Entrepreneur of The Year NY in Healthcare and in 2018, she received the Creative Entrepreneurship Award by The New York Hall of Science.