New York Counts State Convening
State Convening Speaker Bios
State Convening Speaker Bios
Presenters (in alphabetical order by last name)
Meeta Anand is the Census 2020 Senior Fellow at the NYIC, spearheading the organization’s efforts to ensure a complete and accurate count of New Yorkers in the 2020 Census. In this role, she is also responsible for managing the efforts of New York Counts 2020, broad-based, statewide coalition composed of racial, ethnic, immigrant, religious, health, education, labor, housing, social services, and business groups working in partnership with state and local government officials working towards a fair and accurate count in the 2020 Census. Meeta has been actively involved in New York’s mission-driven community for more than a decade, most recently serving as Board Chair for Sakhi for South Asian Women. Meeta spent over 10 years working at the law firm White & Case, where she was an associate in the project and asset finance group and headed business development for the same group. Prior to that, she clerked at the Court of International Trade, interned at the Division of Appeals and Opinions at the New York State Office of the Attorney General, worked as a commercial banker at Banco Santander, interned at the Bureau of Human Rights at the State Department, and assisted research in economics at the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston. She received a J.D. from Harvard Law School, an M.A from the The Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University, and a B.A. from Tufts University in Political Science and Economics, summa cum laude, Phi Beta Kappa. Meeta is a proud native of Queens, where she was born to a Haitian mother and an Indian father. She roots for the Mets and tries to teach her Minnesotan husband to say “stand on line.”
Simeon Banister is Vice President, Community Programs at the Rochester Area Community Foundation where he manages the Foundation’s grant-making and community leadership. He is a former member of the Rush-Henrietta Board of Education. He currently serves as President of the Greater Rochester Martin Luther King Jr. Commission and also serves on the boards of the Congressional Award Foundation, Hillside Children’s Foundation, The Children’s Agenda, and the Genesee Land Trust. His career spans across the public and private sectors.
Jeff T. Behler is the Director of the US Census Bureau’s New York Region, one of six regions across the US responsible for data collections activities for ongoing surveys and the 2020 Census. This will be Jeff’s third Census and first leading the New York Region.
Anna Blatto is a part-time research associate at Partnership for the Public Good, a community-based think tank that unites over 300 organizations in Buffalo Niagara. A 2018 graduate of the University at Buffalo in Sociology and Urban and Public Policy, she authored a major report for PPG on the history and manifestations of segregation in Buffalo. In 2019, Anna worked at PPG as an AmeriCorps Communications and Research Fellow. Much of her work now focuses on advocacy and outreach in preparation for the upcoming 2020 Census as well as research on water affordability in the City of Buffalo. Her areas of interest include social equity and justice, racial and spatial segregation, affordable housing, and their relationships with social and urban public policy. In the coming years, she hopes to pursue graduate work related to urban public policy.
Cate Teuten Bohn, MPH, is a Research Associate with the Council on Children and Families and a Clinical Associate Professor at UAlbany School of Public Health. The Council is part of the national KIDS COUNT network using data to call attention to child well-being and economic recovery. In New York, the Council is part of a comprehensive multi-agency state task force that has been working for more than a year to assure a full count of all residents of New York State with an intense focus on all hard to count populations particularly young children.
Wennie Chin is the Senior Manager of Civic Engagement at the NYIC. She oversees the organization’s work in civic participation, electoral reform, and good government practices.Prior to joining the New York Immigration Coalition, Wennie was a Community Organizer at the MinKwon Center for Community Action working with Asian American youths and supported the launch of APA VOICE. Wennie previously managed two State Senate races in Queens and was formerly on the board for OCA-NY Advocates, chairing their Civil Rights Committee.Wennie received her B.A. cum laude with high honors in Politics and Asian American Studies from NYU.
Steven Choi is the Executive Director of the New York Immigration Coalition, a coalition of over 200 member groups that represents New York State’s immigrant communities. He has tripled the organizational budget and doubled the size of the organization’s staff since joining in 2013, now overseeing the nation’s largest state immigrant rights coalition and serving as the chief advocate on immigrant rights, education, civic participation, and health care access on the Federal, state and local levels. He also serves as the facilitator and convener of New York Counts 2020.
From 2009 to 2013, Steve was the Executive Director of the MinKwon Center for Community Action, which represents the Korean and Asian community in New York. Prior to that, he was Director of the Korean Workers Project at the Asian American Legal Defense & Education Fund (AALDEF). His previous experience includes working for the Hale and Dorr Legal Services Center in Boston, Greater Boston Legal Services, and the Asian Pacific American Legal Center of Los Angeles.
Steve received a J.D. from Harvard Law School, a M.A. from the University of Hawaii, and a B.A. from Stanford University in History with Honors. He is the recipient of the 2013 New York Law Journal’s “Rising Stars” Award, the 2012 NAPABA Best Lawyers Under 40 Award, the Korean American Association “Man of the Year” Award, the Skadden Fellowship, the Wasserstein Fellowship, the Skirnick Public Interest Fellowship, and the Harvard Law School Asian Pacific American Alumni Award. He also currently serves on the New York City Commission on Human Rights.
Lurie Daniel Favors is General Counsel at the Center for Law and Social Justice, an activist and attorney with a long-standing commitment to racial and social justice. Before graduating from New York University School of Law as a Root-Tilden-Kern public interest scholar, Ms. Daniel Favors co-founded Sankofa Community Empowerment, Inc., a non-profit organization designed to empower racially disenfranchised communities. She later co-founded Breaking the Cycle Consulting Services LLC, which specializes in creating comprehensive professional development for educators, youth education programs and family workshops designed to address the crisis in urban education through the use of culturally responsive teaching. Ms. Daniel Favors is a weekly contributor for the Karen Hunter Show on Sirius XM Urban View and co-hosts the Sunday Civics show which appears on the same network.
Ms. Daniel Favors began her legal career as an attorney in the New York offices of Proskauer Rose LLP and Manatt Phelps and Phillips, LLP. She served as a law clerk in the chambers of the Honorable Sterling Johnson, Jr., in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York. She later founded Daniel Favors Law PLLC, a law firm that focused on economic and racial justice.
Freda Eisenberg has been the Sullivan County Commissioner of Planning, Community Development and Real Property since 20014. Prior to becoming planning commissioner in 2014, Eisenberg worked in local government for the Town of Southampton, NY and as a private sector consultant to developers, municipalities and stakeholder groups in the greater NY metro area. She began her planning career as a regional planner in rural western Massachusetts, working with 43 municipalities for the Pioneer Valley Planning Commission.
Katherine Hammil is the School Library System Director at Wayne-Finger Lakes BOCES. In this role, she oversees resources and services to over 70 schools libraries in 25 component districts. Katherine is also pursuing an EdD in Human Development at the University of Rochester.
Fryda Guedes is the Data Manager at the New York Civic Engagement Table. Previously, she was a Data Consultant for non-profit organizations throughout the country, helping them use data to drive civic engagement programs. Fryda also worked at Hispanic Federation as Director of Immigration and Civic Engagement, where she executed programming, wrote and managed grants, oversaw community outreach, and led issue-area advocacy initiatives.
Elaine Jardine has worked in the fields of Planning and Geographic Information Systems (GIS) nearly 30 years. For the last 25 years, she has worked as County Planning Director in the Tioga County Department of Economic Development and Planning in Owego, NY. Responsibilities include performing all state-mandated planning duties such as General Municipal Law §239 l&m planning / zoning referrals, agricultural district reviews; as well as providing planning technical assistance to municipalities in the county, supporting economic development activities mainly through streamlined local approvals for development projects, grant writing and administration, geographic information systems mapping. She has also led the development of countywide plans such as the County’s Comprehensive Plan, Strategic Plan, Agricultural and Farmland Protection Plan, the Multi-jurisdictional Multi-Hazard Mitigation Plan, among others. She also participated on the team that won the Village of Owego DRI Award for the Southern Tier Region in 2018, and is also on the implementation team, bringing project plans to reality. Ms. Jardine also serves on various professionally-related Boards, Committees, Coalitions and Associations. She has a Bachelor of Arts from SUNY Geneseo in Pre-Professional Planning and a Master of Arts from SUNY Binghamton in Planning/Geography.
Scott Jarzombek is the Executive Director of the Albany Public Library. He has served on the city of Albany’s Broadband Committee and is currently on the city’s Complete Count Committee. Jarzombek is an adjunct lecturer at SUNY Albany’s College of Emergency Preparedness, Homeland Security & Cybersecurity, and a member of Urban Librarians Unite’s Board of Directors.
Kayla Kelechian is an organizer with the Workers’ Center of Central New York, a grassroots member-led organization focused upon improving living and working conditions for low-wage workers. In 2019 the Workers’ Center of Central New York celebrated three historic statewide victories: the passing of the Greenlight NY law, the Farmworkers Fair Labor Standards Act, and the supreme court ruling asserting that Farmworkers have the right to organize. The Workers’ Center of Central New York’s model of developing the leadership of the directly impacted community, does not only build capacity, but sets a model for the directly affected members to rightfully lead the movement for social and economic justice. Through the Workers’ Center of Central New York, the New York Immigration Coalition and NYCounts2020, Kayla has worked on numerous projects with Workers’ Center members for a fair and accurate census. During the legislative session of 2019, The Worker’s Center of Central New York has spent numerous days lobbying in Albany and locally with state legislators for a fair and accurate Census; Moreover, they have organized “days of action”, and community events. On April 1st, 2019 marking the official countdown until the Census2020, Workers’ Center held a press conference outside of the State Building, calling on the state budget to include $40 million for Community-based organizations to complete the outreach necessary for “hard-to-count” communities.
Most notably, in 2018 the Workers’ Center successfully completed a Local Update of Census Addresses, (known as LUCA) for Onondaga County in “hard-to-count” tracts. Workers’ Center utilized the model of the directly affected members leading to guarantee that their communities are being counted accurately and fairly.
Originally from Texas, Kayla got her start in community development and activism working with Karen refugees from the Thai-Myanmar Border, which brought her to Syracuse’s Northside in 2009. She is currently completing her Bachelor of Science in Cultural Studies at SUNY Empire, and also organizes as a member of the Syracuse Immigrant and Refugee Defense Network.
Melody Lopez is Executive Director of the New York Civic Engagement Table. Melody has over a decade of experience in community organizing, electoral campaigns, issue campaigns, and coalition building. Melody joined NYCET after working with the NYC Department of Education Office of Intergovernmental Affairs and before that she managed several successful electoral campaigns for progressive candidates in New York.
Hillary Medina-Loveless is a Field Associate at The Leadership Conference Education Fund, working on the Census Counts campaign. Here, Hillary helps to run the States COUNT Action Network where over 200 national and local organizations come together to share best practices, share resources, and discuss challenges while they work to ensure a fair and accurate 2020 Census. Prior to joining The Leadership Conference Education Fund, Hillary was a 2nd grade teacher in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. Most recently, Hillary worked at Rescue Social Change where she trained high school students across Virginia on how to make long-lasting change through policy advocacy through their local and state elected officials. Hillary graduated from The University of Oklahoma with a bachelor’s in International and Area Studies.
Sharon F. Owens has worked for more than 30 years in the fields of housing, community development, human services, and government. In her current position of deputy mayor, Owens oversees city programs and services that address quality of life in our community, including Neighborhood and Business Development and Parks, Recreation, and Youth Programs, as well as the Police and Fire Departments. Owens also serves as chief of staff to the mayor.
Prior to this appointment, Owens served as the third CEO of Syracuse Model Neighborhood Facility, Inc. She previously worked for the City of Syracuse as Deputy Commissioner of Neighborhood and Business Development from 2010 to 2013 during the Miner Administration.
Owens also has extensive experience in the nonprofit sector. She served as Deputy Director of housing for Home HeadQuarters, Inc. and Jubilee Homes of Syracuse. Owens also worked at People’s Equal Action and Community Effort, Inc. (PEACE) as the Early Head Start Family and Community Coordinator and the Youth Services Component Director.
Her involvement reaches to the boardroom as well. She currently serves on the Executive Committee of the Greater Syracuse HOPE Initiative, the Consensus Commission on Local Government Modernization, the I-81 Community Stakeholder Committee, and the Blueprint 15 board as president.
In 2015 Owens received “The Kathy” Award from the Gifford Foundation, which recognized her commitment to establishing sound community-impacting advocacy for community residents and their families. She is a graduate of Syracuse University. The role she is most proud of is wife of 27 years to Shaun Owens and mother to Simone and Isaac.
Steven Romalewski directs the Mapping Service at the Center for Urban Research at CUNY’s Graduate Center. The Mapping Service engages with foundations, agencies, businesses, nonprofits, and CUNY researchers to use spatial analysis techniques in applied research projects. They specialize in online applications providing intuitive access to powerful data sets, displayed visually through interactive maps and other formats.
Tory Russo is the census coordinator for the City of Syracuse, working to manage community resources and partners to inform, engage, and support city residents to complete the 2020 Census. She moved from Western Pennsylvania to Syracuse, New York in 2013 to attend Syracuse University. She graduated from SU in 2016 with a Bachelor’s degree in magazine journalism and international relations, having spent semesters in Florence, Italy and Wroclaw, Poland.
Previously, Tory served as the public information officer in the Office of the Mayor under the Walsh Administration and as a communications specialist with the Ben Walsh for Mayor campaign. Prior to her roles with the City, Tory was the content coordinator for PEACE, Inc., the community action agency of Onondaga County. During that time she also completed an apprenticeship at Hopeprint, a nonprofit on the Northside of Syracuse primarily serving resettled refugees, where she lived and volunteered as the assistant director of youth programs.
Tory continues to volunteer with Hopeprint’s Global Citizen Cohort program for high school students, in addition to the Big Brothers Big Sisters and ARISE & Ski programs. She is a 2019 graduate of Leadership Greater Syracuse, a civic engagement program that enriches participants to take a more active and higher level role in the community and in the work place. In her free time, Tory enjoys writing, traveling, and being outdoors. She hates the heat and often jokes that she could never live anywhere south of Syracuse.
Rebecca Sanin is the President/CEO of the Health and Welfare Council of Long Island (HWCLI), an umbrella organization with a network of over 150 nonprofits. Rebecca has a proven record of leadership in professional development, performance management, strategic analysis and planning, policy making and direct services. She has established key partnerships in a variety of emerging areas, including: community development, leadership development, social policy and civic engagement. As a Stein Scholar, Rebecca earned a Juris Doctor from Fordham University. She holds a Master’s Degree in developmental psychology from Teachers College, Columbia University where she was a fellow at the National Center for Children and Families.
Jeffrey M. Wice is an advisor to New York Counts 2020 and serves as a Senior Fellow at the New York Law School where he directs the NU census & Redistricting Institute, and is also Jaeckle Fellow at SUNY Buffalo Law School. Now working on his fifth census cycle, Jeff led past census outreach efforts for the New York State Assembly and State Senate. He is a counsel in the New York State Assembly and the co-editor of the National Conference of State Legislatures’ 2020 Redistricting Redbook, a comprehensive handbook on the census and redistricting processes.
Jennifer Wilson is the Deputy Director for the League of Women Voters of New York State. She serves as their in-house lobbyist, policy advisor, and communications representative. Since joining the League in 2015, she’s helped advocate for the passage of progressive voting reforms including early voting, primary consolidation, pre-registration for 16- and 17-year old’s, and voter registration modernization. Her voting rights leadership led her to be named one of City and State’s 40 Under 40 Rising Stars in 2017. Jennifer has been featured in the Times Union, Wall Street Journal, Politico, and on NPR, as an expert on voting rights and government ethics.
Before joining the League Jennifer served as Deputy Regional Director for the Albany office of Senator Charles Schumer. Jennifer has a Master of Public Administration from the Rockefeller School of Public Affairs and Policy, with a specialization in Public Management and Policy Analytics. She received her Bachelors of Arts in Political Science and Business from City University of New York where she graduated magna cum laude.
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