Executive Leadership Team

Portrait of Arnold Sowell Jr.

Arnold Sowell Jr.

Executive Director

Portrait of Adriana Sanchez-Ochoa

Adriana Sanchez-Ochoa

Deputy Director

Portrait of Stacey Smith

Stacey Smith

Special Projects Director

Portrait of Arnold Sowell Jr.

Arnold Sowell Jr.

Executive Director

Arnie Sowell is Executive Director of NextGen Policy (NGP), a non-profit organization that works to advance progressive policy solutions across a range of areas including: climate change, affordable housing, healthcare, education, criminal justice, immigration, mental health, voting rights, food insecurity, and income inequality. Arnie leads the NGP team and manages their legislative, political, advocacy, and programmatic activities.

Before joining NextGen, Arnie spent over two decades in the California State Assembly, serving as Policy Director for five Assembly Speakers. Prior to that, he held various positions in state and local government including as Undersecretary of the State and Consumer Services Agency during the Governor Davis Administration and as a Budget Manager in the San Francisco Mayor’s office. Arnie started his career in the Legislative Analyst Office.

He is an Oregon State alum, a Sloan Foundation Fellow, and holds a Master’s in Public Policy from the University of Washington. Arnie is a proud father of three and a new grandfather. He is the son of a career military officer and has lived in numerous states and overseas.

Pronouns: He, Him, His

Portrait of Adriana Sanchez-Ochoa

Adriana Sanchez-Ochoa

Deputy Director

Adriana Sanchez-Ochoa is the Deputy Director of NextGen Policy and directly assists in team management and daily operations. Her policy areas of emphasis include: immigration, women’s issues, and environmental justice (e.g. drinking water in low-income communities). She also serves as the NGP liaison to the ethnic, women’s, and LGBT caucuses of the CA State Legislature.

Before joining the NextGen Policy team, Adriana spent 18 years working in the California Legislature in various key positions. She worked for four Assembly Speakers and, in her last job with the Assembly, was the Director of International Relations and Protocol. In addition, Adriana has worked extensively with the California Latino Caucus.

Adriana has a Bachelor’s degree from UC Davis in International Relations and Political Science with a minor in Spanish. She is the proud mother of three daughters and has two beautiful grandchildren. In her spare time, she loves gardening, restoring old furniture and traveling with her husband. She is a proud immigrant and is fully bilingual in Spanish.

Pronouns: She, Her, Hers

Portrait of Stacey Smith

Stacey Smith

Special Projects Director

Stacey Smith serves as the Special Projects Director for NextGen Policy, assisting with team management, political operations, and advocacy campaigns — she also handles policy work in the veterans affairs area. She previously worked for NextGen America as Director of Outreach, managing legislative advocacy and the California political team’s electoral work at the Congressional level.

Prior to NextGen, Stacey was the Deputy State Director and State Press Liaison for United States Senator Barbara Boxer (D- CA), serving as the Senator’s liaison in northern California, overseeing six field offices, and managing press events across California.

Stacey proudly attended public schools from kindergarten through college and holds a BA in Government-Journalism from California State University, Sacramento. In her personal time she enjoys exploring California with her husband and two young sons, and coaching youth soccer.

Pronouns: She, Her, Hers

Administrative, Finance, and Development Team

Portrait of Hunter Blas

Hunter Blas

Grants and Compliance Manager

Portrait of Kat Bocanegra-Speed

Kat Bocanegra-Speed

Development Advisor

Portrait of Samantha Couch

Samantha Couch

Senior Advisor, Development

Portrait of Chris Fadeff

Chris Fadeff

Senior Advisor

Portrait of Hunter Blas

Hunter Blas

Grants and Compliance Manager

Hunter Blas is NGP’s Grants and Compliance Manager and is responsible for reviewing, tracking, and monitoring compliance for all grants NGP receives or administers. 

Before joining NextGen Policy, Hunter was with NextGen America during the 2018 midterm election cycle, working on their finance, legal, and operations team which helped to manage the largest and best-funded effort to turn out young people in a midterms election. Afterwards, she worked on Tom Steyer’s presidential campaign as an HQ Operations Manager, managing logistics across more than 10 states. 

Hunter has a Bachelor’s degree in Political Science and English from Fordham University. She is currently pursuing her Masters in Public Administration at New York University’s Wagner School of Public Service.

Portrait of Kat Bocanegra-Speed

Kat Bocanegra-Speed

Development Advisor

Kat Bocanegra-Speed works on small business programs, policies, and initiatives for NextGen Policy. Her responsibilities include: assisting in the development of innovative funding and e-commerce solutions for small businesses; partnering with community groups, grassroots organizations, and trade associations that support the small business sector; and advocating for resources and policies that support small business owners.

Kat joined NextGen Policy after working as a Research and Project Manager for the Tom Steyer PAC, where she worked on the Governor’s Task Force on Jobs and Economic Recovery. Prior to her work at the Tom Steyer PAC, she served as the Deputy Research Director for the Tom Steyer presidential campaign and as a Research Associate for multiple Steyer-led programs and initiatives.

Kat has a Bachelor’s degree from UCLA in Political Science with an emphasis on American politics.

Pronouns: She, Her, Hers

Portrait of Samantha Couch

Samantha Couch

Senior Advisor, Development

Sam Couch leads NGP’s development team and is responsible for helping our organization create a sustainable funding model.

Prior to leading the development team, Sam helped manage NGP’s staffing engagement with the Governor’s Task Force on Business and Jobs Recovery–which generated over 20 policy and program proposals and over $20 billion in state budget funding.

Prior to joining NGP, Sam worked with NextGen America, the largest youth-vote mobilization organization in the country and had roles with their political, advocacy, and communications teams. As a Senior Project Manager, Sam developed and launched a large-scale voter mobilization program as well as a multi-million dollar immigrant rights initiative. She also directed NGA’s social media campaign for the 2018 midterms before moving to work on the Need to Impeach team in 2019, and as a senior member of the Steyer for President campaign in 2020.

Earlier in her career, Sam was drawn to education policy, managing an afterschool program and then joining an education based non-profit. Sam held several key roles with the non-profit, including supporting the CEO and helping to coordinate their development functions. As a product of California’s public school system, Sam is passionate about ensuring all children have the right to a high quality education, regardless of their zip code.

Sam is from Salinas, CA and attended community college before receiving her degree in Communications from CSU, Sacramento. In her free time she enjoys cooking, traveling, and spending time with her husband, 2 year old son, and their dog.

Pronouns: She, Her, Hers

Portrait of Chris Fadeff

Chris Fadeff

Senior Advisor

Chris Fadeff has worked for NextGen Policy Founder Tom Steyer or entities he founded since 2013. Most recently, Chris was vice president of Fahr LLC and chief operating officer of Steyer’s presidential campaign.

Prior to that, Chris served in senior roles at NextGen America, formerly NextGen Climate for five years. Chris is a Truman National Security Project partner and sits on an advisory committee of the Tides Foundation.

Pronouns: He, Him, His

Portrait of McKenna Jenkins

McKenna Jenkins

Executive Assistant

Portrait of Chris Lehman

Chris Lehman

Advisor

Portrait of Kimi Meyer

Kimi Meyer

Finance and Accounting Manager

Portrait of Courtnie Thomas

Courtnie Thomas

HR Director & Policy Advisor

Portrait of McKenna Jenkins

McKenna Jenkins

Executive Assistant

McKenna Jenkins is an Executive Assistant at NextGen Policy. Her broad responsibilities primarily include providing administrative support to the Executive Director as well as assisting the Legislative Director in the tracking, monitoring, and advocacy coordination around the NGP bill, budget, program, and regulatory priorities. She also manages the operational functions and processes for the organization. 

Prior to joining the NextGen Policy team, McKenna held various positions in the legislative advocacy world where she specialized in grassroots coalition building and digital advocacy campaigns. 

McKenna holds a B.A in Political Science with a minor in Sociology from Sonoma State University. She has many outdoor hobbies and enjoys spending time with her two cats. 

Pronouns: She/Her/Hers

Portrait of Chris Lehman

Chris Lehman

Advisor

Chris Lehman is a Political Advisor to NextGen Policy — advising on political, advocacy, and messaging activities on both legislative and ballot measure issues.

Chris has over 20 years of experience in California state government and has held leading strategy, messaging, and management roles on over 50 national, statewide, ballot measure, candidate, and political campaigns including Tom Steyer for President 2020. His career started in 1998 in the Office of Senator John Vasconcellos, one of the longest serving legislators in California history. Chris has been an advisor to four consecutive leaders of the California State Senate: Don Perata, Darrell Steinberg, Kevin DeLeon, and Toni Atkins.

Chris holds degrees in Political Science and Physics from UC Davis. He hails from the rugged and rural North Coast of California. Chris is a father of three, and in his spare time loves being present with his kids, exploring his faith, and considers serving others his life’s work.

Pronouns: He, Him, His

Portrait of Kimi Meyer

Kimi Meyer

Finance and Accounting Manager

Kimi Meyer is NGP’s Finance and Accounting Manager and works with the Admin Team on budget forecasting and financial reporting. Her responsibilities include: managing the accounts receivable, tracking grant expenditures, and overseeing the yearly audit. 

Before joining NextGen Policy, Kimi worked as the Budget Manager for the Tom Steyer PAC where she analyzed budget spending and program costs, administered the financial projection process, and produced financial reports. Prior to her work at the Tom Steyer PAC, she served as the Finance and Operations Analyst for the Tom Steyer presidential campaign, and the Operations Manager for NextGen America. 

Kimi has a Bachelor’s degree from UC Berkeley in Geography with a minor in Geographic Information Systems.

Pronouns: She, Her, Hers

Portrait of Courtnie Thomas

Courtnie Thomas

HR Director & Policy Advisor

Courtnie Thomas works on mental health issues for NextGen Policy. Her work includes coalition building, advocacy, program development and policy analysis, and, most importantly, listening to those who have lived experiences in this space. She is also the Human Resources Manager for NGP.

She joined NextGen after working for various Speakers and Assemblymembers in the California State Assembly. Prior to her stint at the State Capitol, Courtnie came from the local government world of Sacramento City Hall, where she worked tirelessly to change the social and economic landscape of the Oak Park neighborhood where she grew up.

She is a proud first-generation college graduate, a proud daughter of a single mother, and a proud mother of a wonderful child.

Pronouns: She, Her, Hers

Communications Team

Portrait of Milena Paez

Milena Paez

Communications Director

Portrait of Tyler Bushnell

Tyler Bushnell

Communications Associate

Portrait of Dustin Moon

Dustin Moon

Digital Manager

Portrait of Andrea Serrano

Andrea Serrano

Graphic Designer

Portrait of Milena Paez

Milena Paez

Communications Director

Milena Paez manages the strategic communications operation for NextGen Policy and is responsible for amplifying the organization’s wide range of legislative, policy, programmatic, advocacy, and community engagement initiatives. She administers all press and media communications and supervises the digital outreach program.

She began her career community organizing in rural Central America as a Program Supervisor for an international non-profit, Amigos de las Americas, which sparked her passion for civic engagement. Prior to joining NextGen Policy, she worked on outreach and communications initiatives for the California Secretary of State and the California Assembly Speaker’s Office.

Milena holds a bachelor’s degree in International Relations and Political Science from California State University, Sacramento and was a 2017 HOPE Leadership Institute Fellow. Se habla español.

Pronouns: She, Her, Hers

Portrait of Tyler Bushnell

Tyler Bushnell

Communications Associate

Tyler Bushnell is the NGP Communications Associate and works with the team to support our policy, advocacy and digital outreach efforts through social media content development and management, earned media efforts, and other writing, editing and copywriting activities.

Before joining NGP, Tyler worked on various local and statewide outreach campaigns for Prosio Communications, a marketing and PR firm. Prior to that, he spent several years living and working for various marketing organizations in the San Francisco Bay Area. 

Tyler holds a bachelor’s degree in Business Marketing from San Francisco State University. When away from work, Tyler enjoys spending time outdoors exploring Sacramento’s restaurants, parks and live music offerings with his family and friends.

Pronouns: He, Him, His

Portrait of Dustin Moon

Dustin Moon

Digital Manager

Dustin Moon is the Digital Manager at NextGen Policy. He is an experienced communications professional specializing in digital management and digital content for the NGP Facebook page, Twitter account, organization website, email, and texting programs.

Prior to working for NextGen, Dustin worked in the public sector managing digital outreach strategies to effectively communicate organizational messaging. He holds a BA in Communication Design from Chico State and enjoys spending his time away from the office with his wife, daughter, and son.

Pronouns: He, Him, His

Portrait of Andrea Serrano

Andrea Serrano

Graphic Designer

Andrea Serrano is the NGP Graphic Designer and works with the Communications and Policy team on materials for in-house, external messaging, and creative branding strategies. Before coming to NextGen Policy, Andrea worked at the Sacramento Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, leading the Graphic Design visuals for prominent Chamber and community partner campaigns. Andrea has worked in design planning and strategy with La Familia Counseling Center, The Sacramento Kings, The Golden 1 Center, and Caltrans Division of Human Resources. Andrea has a Bachelor of Arts degree from California State University, East Bay, in Graphic Design. In her spare time, she enjoys visiting local art museums. She is second-generation and fluent in Spanish.

Pronouns: She, Her, Hers

Policy Team

Portrait of Samantha Seng

Samantha Seng

Legislative Director & Policy Advisor

Portrait of Tiffany Germain

Tiffany Germain

Research & Policy Advisor

Portrait of Amy Hamblin

Amy Hamblin

Policy Advisor

Portrait of Arturo Juarez

Arturo Juarez

Program Manager & Policy Associate

Portrait of Samantha Seng

Samantha Seng

Legislative Director & Policy Advisor

Samantha Seng covers education policy – early childhood, K – 12th grade, and higher education for NextGen Policy. The work includes advocating for policies and programs that promote access, equity, and student success at every stage of their educational career.

Samantha joined NextGen after a stint in the California State Assembly, working on a wide range of issues for several different elected officials. Before moving to Sacramento, Samantha came from the non-profit sector, teaching, mentoring, and tutoring low-income and at-promise youth throughout the Bay Area.

Samantha is a proud daughter of immigrants, a first-generation college graduate, and the first family member to hold a Master’s Degree – in Education from Lesley University. Samantha holds an undergraduate degree from UC Berkeley.

Portrait of Tiffany Germain

Tiffany Germain

Research & Policy Advisor

Tiffany Germain specializes in high-level public policy analysis and political research. Her primary areas of emphasis include tackling food insecurity, providing more healthy school meals in California schools, and developing California’s food system networks.

Before joining NextGen Policy, Tiffany was the Deputy Research Director at NextGen America, where she focused on statewide and national political races. Prior to her work at NextGen, she served as Research Manager for the Center for American Progress Action Fund in Washington, D.C. She also spent time on Capitol Hill working for United States Senator Kay Hagan (D-NC), proudly serving the people of her home state of North Carolina.

Tiffany holds a BA in Political Science from East Carolina University and an MA in Public Management from Johns Hopkins University.

Pronouns: She, Her, Hers

Portrait of Amy Hamblin

Amy Hamblin

Policy Advisor

Amy Hamblin is a Policy Consultant at NextGen Policy and is responsible for the following areas: voting rights, 2020 census, local government, and labor issues.

Before joining NextGen Policy, Amy worked as a policy advisor on Tom Steyer’s presidential campaign. She brings over 10 years of experience in advocacy, communications and civic engagement. She began her career on the 2008 Obama campaign, managing an online community of nearly two million supporters. She is passionate about strengthening civic engagement at home and abroad. She has served as an international election observer in Ukraine, Russia, Egypt and Macedonia. In addition to her work at NextGen, Amy also teaches in the Political Science Department at Contra Costa College.

Amy holds a Master’s degree in International Relations with a specialization in Economics from Johns Hopkins University and a Bachelor’s degree in Journalism and Political Science from Northwestern University.

Pronouns: She/Her/Hers

Portrait of Arturo Juarez

Arturo Juarez

Program Manager & Policy Associate

Arturo Juarez oversees the on-the-ground implementation of NextGen’s Connect Corps pilot program and helps lead NextGen’s broadband and digital equity policy portfolio. His work includes program design and set up, the training and management of digital navigators, and leading a broadband policy portfolio focused on universal access, affordability, equity, and literacy & navigation. 

Arturo started his career in the private sector, working for a multinational investment and financial services company, where he managed a five hundred million dollar investment portfolio, before transitioning to the nonprofit sector where he has held roles in advocacy, fundraising, and partnership development. Prior to joining the NextGen Policy team, Arturo worked for the Biden/Harris Presidential Campaign as a Regional Director, helping get out the vote in several battleground states during the 2020 election. 

Arturo is a first generation college student, and holds a Bachelor’s degree from California Lutheran University, and a Master’s Degree from the University of Chicago in International Relations with an emphasis in security and economic development. In his spare time, he enjoys running, reading, exploring our nation’s national parks, and spending time with his family. He is fully bilingual and can read, write, and speak in Spanish.

Pronouns: He, Him, His

Portrait of Ashley Perez

Ashley Perez

Program Coordinator & Policy Associate

Portrait of Jamie Pew

Jamie Pew

Climate Policy Fellow

Portrait of Kimberly Sanchez

Kimberly Sanchez

Education Policy Associate

Portrait of Elena Santamaria

Elena Santamaria

Policy Advisor

Portrait of Ashley Perez

Ashley Perez

Program Coordinator & Policy Associate

Ashley Perez is a NGP Policy Associate and Program Coordinator. Her policy areas of emphasis include: voting rights and digital equity. Before joining the NextGen Policy team, Ashley interned at the California Labor Commissioner’s office and, most recently, at the Labor Council for Latin American Advancement.

Ashley has a Bachelor’s degree from UC Riverside in Political Science and Public Service. In her spare time, she enjoys baking, reading and walking her dogs.

Pronouns: She, Her, Hers

Portrait of Jamie Pew

Jamie Pew

Climate Policy Fellow

Jamie Pew is NextGen Policy’s Climate Policy Fellow and a key member of our Climate 100 budget advocacy team. His primary areas of focus include: the climate, equity, and economic justice impacts of California’s transportation and land use policies.

Before joining NextGen, Jamie was a graduate student and researcher at the University of Michigan. While working towards his master’s degree in climate policy, Jamie conducted research on local stormwater infrastructure planning in the Gulf Coast. He also worked as a climate policy intern with the Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning.

Jamie holds both a B.A. in Political Science and an M.S. in Climate Policy from the University of Michigan. He grew up in New Jersey, is a semi-retired rower, and spends his free time biking, reading, and finding any excuse to be near the water.

Portrait of Kimberly Sanchez

Kimberly Sanchez

Education Policy Associate

Kimberly Yareni Sanchez is NGP’s Education Policy Associate where her focus is advancing the team’s education agenda – advocating for policies and programs that promote equity, access, and student success from cradle to career.

Education equity first piqued her interest when she served as a Student Board Member for her K-12 school district. Prior to working at NextGen Policy, Kimberly held an administrative role at the California State Senate and interned in Washington, D.C., for the Council of Opportunity in Education. 

Kimberly has a Bachelor’s degree from UC Davis in Political Science with a minor in Education. She is the proud daughter of immigrants, the first in her family to graduate from college, and fully bilingual in Spanish. In her free time, she enjoys writing and spending time with her family.

Pronouns: She, Her, Hers

Portrait of Elena Santamaria

Elena Santamaria

Policy Advisor

Elena Santamaria specializes in health, human services, and homelessness policy issues. She has led NextGen’s efforts to defend the Affordable Care Act, extend services to undocumented communities, ensure patients have access to affordable prescription drugs, and expand progressive healthcare policies both nationally and in California.

Prior to working at NextGen Policy, Elena worked in the California State Legislature for a number of Assembly Members and also intermittently spent time on various legislative campaigns.

Elena holds a Bachelors of Science in Political Science from the University of California, Davis.

Pronouns: She, Her, Hers

Portrait of Ken Spence

Ken Spence

Senior Policy Advisor

Portrait of Brian Weinberger

Brian Weinberger

Senior Policy Advisor

Portrait of Dave Weiskopf

Dave Weiskopf

Senior Policy Advisor

Portrait of Ken Spence

Ken Spence

Senior Policy Advisor

Ken Spence works on criminal justice, consumer financial protection, and public banking issues for NextGen Policy. Before joining NextGen, Ken was Director of Policy and Legislation at the Department of Pesticide Regulation, Deputy Director of the Senate Office of Research, and a consultant in the Assembly Speaker’s Office, covering public safety and the Select Committee on Boys and Men of Color.

Ken earned a doctorate in Entomology from UC Davis, and a bachelor’s degree in Biology and Spanish from Morehouse College. He loves traveling, yard-farming, and outdoor activities.

Pronouns: He, Him, His

Portrait of Brian Weinberger

Brian Weinberger

Senior Policy Advisor

Brian works on issues relating to state finance, housing, and infrastructure policy. Before coming to NextGen Policy, Brian worked for 11 years as a consultant to the California State Senate Committee on Governance and Finance, where he worked on legislation affecting state and local finance, land use planning and development, and the governance of cities, counties, and special districts.

He holds a bachelor’s degree in Foreign Service from Georgetown University and a master’s degree in Public Policy from the Kennedy School of Government.

Portrait of Dave Weiskopf

Dave Weiskopf

Senior Policy Advisor

David Weiskopf is the NGP Senior Policy Advisor for climate and environmental issues including: climate change, clean energy, natural resources, and ending our dependence on fossil fuels. His work is focused on designing policy solutions that prioritize social equity and environmental integrity.

Prior to joining NextGen Policy, Dave advocated for clean energy and energy efficiency with Midwestern electric utilities and governments. Dave holds a JD from Stanford Law School, an MS from Stanford School of Earth Sciences, and an MA in Philosophy from Catholic University of America. He is also a member of the CA and IL State Bars.

Pronouns: He, Him, His