Executive Leadership Team

Portrait of Arnold Sowell Jr.

Arnold Sowell Jr.

Executive Director

Portrait of Adriana Sanchez-Ochoa

Adriana Sanchez-Ochoa

Chief Deputy Director

Portrait of Stacey Smith

Stacey Smith

Deputy 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 equity and justice across a range of issue areas including climate, workforce development, higher education, food insecurity, and income inequality. Arnie directs the NGP team’s policy development, legislative advocacy, strategic communications, grassroots organizing, and program activities.

Before joining NextGen, Arnie spent two decades in the California State Assembly, serving as Policy Director for five Assembly Speakers, and, over his 30-year career, he has also held various high-level positions in state and local government.  Arnie was honored for his work by the Sacramento Bee’s Equity Lab as one of the Top 20 Black Change Makers in the Capitol Region and has appeared on Capitol Weekly’s Top 100 list of professionals influencing change at the State Capitol.

He is an Oregon State University Honors College alum and holds a Master’s degree in Public Policy from the University of Washington. Arnie serves on the California State Bar Board of Trustees, is an elected member of the Sacramento Natural Foods Cooperative, and is a proud father of three and grandfather of two.

Pronouns: He, Him, His

Portrait of Adriana Sanchez-Ochoa

Adriana Sanchez-Ochoa

Chief Deputy Director

Adriana Sanchez-Ochoa is the Chief Deputy Director of NextGen Policy and directly assists in team management and daily operations. Her policy areas of emphasis include immigration, digital equity, and environmental justice. She also serves as the NextGen Policy 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 various key positions in the California Legislature. 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 three beautiful grandchildren. In her spare time, she loves gardening, exercise and anything that involves the outdoors. She is a proud immigrant from Colombia and is fully bilingual in Spanish.

Pronouns: She, Her, Hers

Portrait of Stacey Smith

Stacey Smith

Deputy Director

StaceySm ith serves as the Deputy Director for NextGen Policy, responsible for team management, political operations, communications, and advocacy campaigns. She also handles policy work in the veterans affairs area, and serves on the Vet Fund Foundation Board of Directors. 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 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 holds a BA in Government-Journalism from California State University, Sacramento. In her personal time she enjoys exploring California with her family, attending Sacramento Republic FC soccer matches, and cheering on her two sons at their many sporting events.

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

Development Director

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 holds a B.A. in Political Science and English from Fordham University and a Master’s in Public Administration from New York University’s Wagner School of Public Service.

Portrait of Kat Bocanegra Speed

Kat Bocanegra Speed

Development Advisor

Kat Bocanegra Speed supports the organization’s fundraising and development program, focusing on grant writing, foundation relations, and donor stewardship.  

Before joining NextGen Policy, Kat was 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 this, 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

Development Director

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.

Before 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 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. Outside of work, Sam enjoys spending time with her husband, their two sons, Leo and Henry, and their dog, London.

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 Associate

Portrait of Chris Lehman

Chris Lehman

Advisor

Portrait of Kimi Meyer

Kimi Meyer

Finance and Accounting Manager

Portrait of McKenna Jenkins

McKenna Jenkins

Executive Associate

McKenna Jenkins is an Executive Associate at NextGen Policy. Her comprehensive responsibilities include supporting the Executive Director, Legislative/Policy Manager, and Development team. She is responsible for tracking, monitoring, and advocacy coordination around NGP’s bill, budget, program, and regulatory priorities. She also manages the operational functions/processes for the organization and supports NGP’s Women’s Issue policy area. 

Before joining the NextGen Policy team, McKenna held various positions in legislative advocacy 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.

Pronouns: She/Her/Hers

Portrait of Chris Lehman

Chris Lehman

Advisor

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

Chris has over 25 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 co-creating the successful Need to Impeach campaign that resulted in the first impeachment of Donald Trump. His career started in 1998 in the Office of Senator John Vasconcellos, one of the longest serving legislators in California history. Chris was 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 and splits time between California, Ohio, and Washington DC. Chris is a father of three and stepfather to two, 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

Communications Team

Portrait of Tyler Bushnell

Tyler Bushnell

Content and Media Coordinator

Portrait of Andrea Serrano

Andrea Serrano

Communications Specialist (Digital & Design)

Portrait of Celene Talavera

Celene Talavera

Communications Intern

Portrait of Tyler Bushnell

Tyler Bushnell

Content and Media Coordinator

Tyler Bushnell works with the Communications team as the Content and Media Coordinator 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 a marketing and PR firm based in Roseville. 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 Andrea Serrano

Andrea Serrano

Communications Specialist (Digital & Design)

Andrea Serrano is NextGen’s Communications Specialist (Digital and Design) and works closely with the Policy team on all digital items, including external email send outs, website maintenance, and advocacy campaign strategy. Andrea is the lead graphic designer for creative direction & content management for social media, website, and external 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 and being outdoors. She is second-generation and fluent in Spanish.

Pronouns: She, Her, Hers

Portrait of Celene Talavera

Celene Talavera

Communications Intern

Celene Talavera is the Communications Intern at NextGen Policy and works with the communications team by supporting the development of social media content across multiple platforms, contributing to communication strategies, and assisting with digital metrics and analytics to help drive strategic decisions, along with writing and proofreading copy for email and online content.

Before joining NextGen, Celene interned at The Impact Foundry as a Communications Intern and reported for California State University of Sacramento’s student-ran newspaper, The State Hornet. Celene is a first generation college graduate and holds a B.A. in Journalism and a Minor in Chicanx/Latinx Studies. In her free time, she enjoys spending time with her two cats and exploring new restaurants.  

 

Pronouns: She/Her/Hers/Ella

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 Advisor

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.

Pronouns: They/She

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 Advisor at NextGen Policy and is responsible for the following areas: inclusive democracy and digital equity.

Before joining NextGen Policy, Amy worked as a policy advisor on Tom Steyer’s presidential campaign. She brings over 15 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 Advisor

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 A’Mari Truby-McKay

A’Mari Truby-McKay

Policy Intern & Program Coordinator

Portrait of Jamie Pew

Jamie Pew

Policy Advisor

Portrait of Kimberly Sanchez

Kimberly Sanchez

Education Policy Associate

Portrait of Elena Santamaria

Elena Santamaria

Partnerships Manager and Senior Policy Advisor

Portrait of A’Mari Truby-McKay

A’Mari Truby-McKay

Policy Intern & Program Coordinator

A’Mari Truby-McKay is a Policy Intern and also helps with the administration of Connect Corps, NextGen Policy’s digital equity pilot program. Her work with Connect Corps includes coordinating events, program buildout, and managing digital navigators from Compton College.

She is a recent Masters of Public Policy graduate from the University of California, Riverside specializing in Health and Social Policy, as well as Inequality. A’Mari received her B.A. in International Studies with a Concentration in Global Diplomacy from Louisiana State University. 

A’Mari’s dedication to promoting racial equality and public service is rooted in the values of perseverance and community upliftment instilled in her by her family. In her spare time, she enjoys spending time with family and friends, traveling, and volunteering with her sorority, Delta Sigma Theta Sorority Inc.

Pronouns: She, Her, Hers

Portrait of Jamie Pew

Jamie Pew

Policy Advisor

James Pew is the NGP Policy Advisor for climate and transportation, including issues related to clean mobility, transportation justice, and climate-smart infrastructure. His work is focused on orienting state transportation spending toward achieving better outcomes: less traffic and climate pollution, more access to opportunity, and thriving, connected communities. 

Prior to joining NGP, Jamie worked with local and regional governments in the Midwest and along the Gulf Coast researching best practices for adapting to climate change and building community resilience. Jamie holds an MS in Environmental Policy and Planning and a BA in Political Science from the University of Michigan.

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

Partnerships Manager and Senior 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. Additionally, she spearheads the organization’s racial equity work as it relates to the state’s Racial Equity Commission and co-leads the coalition advocacy. 

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 Kami Peer

Kami Peer

Policy Associate

Portrait of Ken Spence

Ken Spence

Senior Policy Advisor

Ken Spence works on criminal justice, workforce development, and consumer financial protection 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 justice, 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

Portrait of Kami Peer

Kami Peer

Policy Associate

Kami Peer is a Policy Associate at NextGen having specialized in a wide range of issue areas over the years to advance equity and justice in her home state of California. Her work has encompassed digital equity and broadband infrastructure buildout to climate resilience and sustainable transportation policy to student debt relief and online child safety. Her focus now is supporting the Development Team and advancing NextGen’s important coalition advocacy like the CA Alliance for Digital Equity (CADE), a group that Kami helped to organize in 2022.

She has prior experience in both the nonprofit and public sectors, most recently leading Common Sense Media’s CA state legislative advocacy related to digital literacy and social media regulation. In addition to supporting NextGen Policy’s priorities, she is also a local K-12 educator specializing in English as a Second Language (ESL).

Kami holds a Bachelors of Science in Environmental Science and Management and a Minor in Geographic Information Systems from the University of California, Davis. In her spare time, she loves traveling, painting, and improving her Spanish speaking skills.