Samantha Harkins is the Deputy Mayor of Lansing, Michigan and joined Mayor Andy Schor’s administration in January of 2018. Her entire career has been in local government: as the Executive Assistant to the Mayor of Norfolk, Virginia; as a local government policy advisor for the Michigan House of Representatives; as lead lobbyist for the Michigan Municipal League and then President of the MML Foundation, and as VP of Government Relations at Munetrix (a municipal performance metric software company). She received her B.A. and J.D. from West Virginia University and bleeds old gold and blue. She lives in a renovated 1884 Victorian in Downtown Lansing with her husband, son, 100-pound Portuguese Water Dog/Poodle mix and two cats. She’s an avid runner, reader and writer. She loves food and cocktails (gin in the summer, bourbon in the winter and wine year round.)
Jordan Rae Hillman serves as Deputy Director of City Planning for the City of Jackson, Mississippi. She has over 10 years of experience in planning and design. Previously, she served as the Community Development Director at the City of Brandon, Mississippi. Her work has focused on innovation in local government, downtown development, urban design, code writing, development entitlement reform, collaborative planning, and capacity building. She has been an American Institute of Certified Planners (AICP) member since 2013 and is a Mississippi licensed landscape architect. She earned her bachelor’s degree in Landscape Architecture from Mississippi State University, and master’s degree in City and Regional Planning from the University of Memphis.
Ben Kittelson is an Associate at The Novak Consulting Group where he works with local governments all across the country. He has helped run ELGL since May of 2013 and he produces and co-hosts ELGL’s GovLove Podcast. Previously he worked as a Sr. Budget & Management Analyst for three years at the City of Durham, NC and for two years at Guilford County, NC. Ben began his career in the Portland, OR region, where he served the Cities of Gresham, West Linn, and Beaverton, as well as Metro, the regional government for the Portland area. Ben has his Masters in Public Administration from Portland State University and his BA in Politics & Economics from Willamette University. Ben enjoys walking his dog, Franklin, and drinking hoppy craft beers.
Christian M. Williams is a Development Services Planner in Goodyear, Arizona. He works with the Development Continuum to ensure quality growth and development within his city. He was born in Florida and raised in sunny Arizona. In 2019, he graduated from Grand Canyon University with his Master of Public Administration: Emphasis on Government and Policy. For his undergraduate studies he attended the University of Washington-Seattle and in 2009 graduated with a BA in Community, Environment and Planning; minors in Geography and Urban Design and Planning. He appreciates and enjoys the many connections and conversations he has experienced on his journey with ELGL. He views ELGL as a unique organization that allows for meaningful dialog amongst local government professionals; and says “I don’t think any other group does it the way we do!” He is excited for the trajectory of ELGL and wants to ensure we continue to share enriching content and experiences with one another.
Kent Wyatt is the Communications Director for the City of Tigard, OR and co-founder of Engaging Local Government Leaders (ELGL). Previously, he worked as a Senior Management Analyst for Tigard and a Senior Associate Legislative Analyst for the Joint Legislative Audit and Review Commission in Richmond, VA. He has served on the Clackamas County Budget Committee and West Linn-Wilsonville School District Long Range Planning Committee. Kent graduated from Elon University with a Bachelors of Science in Business Administration and obtained his Masters of Public Administration from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
Kirsten Wyatt is the executive director and co-founder of ELGL. Previously, she served as Assistant City Manager of West Linn, Oregon. Also at the city of West Linn, she was employed as the Assistant to the City Manager and the Finance Analyst. Prior to her tenure in West Linn, she served as a budget analyst for the Virginia Department of Education; as a graduate assistant with the Town of Chapel Hill, North Carolina; and as a communications consultant with Pacific Public Affairs. She has a Bachelor of Science degree in Politics from Willamette University in Salem, Oregon; and a Master of Public Administration Degree from the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill, North Carolina.
Emily Edmonds is the Membership and Programs Director at ELGL. She spent her previous fifteen-year career in local government and nonprofit work across the East Coast, focusing primarily on North Carolina’s regional and local governments, building relationships between rural and urban communities and advocating for policies that support underserved rural populations. She holds a BA from Western Carolina University in Social Policy and an MPA from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, where she completed her graduate thesis on modern approaches to rural economic development. In her consulting career, she specialized in grant writing and administration, food systems assessment and planning, cross-sector engagement, and project and program management. Emily is an Appalachian native from Western North Carolina and loves geeking out with fellow ELGL members about data, engagement, process innovation, and what to wear with ELGL socks.
Allie Breyer is the Digital Coordinator for ELGL. Her love of local government work began while working as a Waste Prevention Analyst for the City of Eugene. For over three years, she served as the community engagement lead on a variety of waste prevention initiatives in the community, with a focus on residential food waste, composting, and repair programs. In addition to ELGL, Allie currently works for the State of Vermont’s Health Department as an Emergency Preparedness Planner. She is particularly interested in helping government agencies effectively share their successes and engage with the public through digital communication platforms.
She holds a Masters in Public Administration from the University of Oregon, where she focused on community and regional planning, and environmental sustainability.
When she is not nerding-out on public sector digital communication strategies, you can find her reading a good book, buying far too many plants, taking in the Vermont scenery by foot, or enjoying a really good maple pastry.
Hallee Haygood is currently a graduate student at UNC- Chapel Hill, working towards a dual degree in Public Administration and City & Regional Planning. While working on her undergraduate degree, a close friend recommended she listen to GovLove. After one episode she was hooked and immediately started researching schools where she could receive an education in local government. During her time at UNC she has served as a Research Assistant, analyzing local sales tax data, and this past summer worked as an intern in the City of Durham’s Budget & Management Services Department. In her free time, Hallee enjoys watching stand-up comedy, spending time with her cat, and finding the best oat milk latte in Chapel Hill. She is extremely excited for the opportunity to be a part of the ELGL team, and looks forward to creating change at the local level.
The GovLove Podcast is co-hosted by five regular hosts. Board Members Ben Kittelson & Kent Wyatt, as well as Executive Director Kirsten Wyatt host the podcast with Javon and Alyssa.
Javon Davis is the Assistant Deputy Commissioner of the Philadelphia Fire Department and Co-Host of ELGL’s GovLove Podcast. Before moving to America’s 5 th (or 6 th ) largest city, he served as the Policy and Government Affairs Manager for the Kansas City, Missouri Health Department and is a former Cookingham-Noll Management Fellow with the City of KCMO. For GovLove, he enjoys sharing positive local government stories about equity and inclusion, innovative practices, and highlighting all the amazing people that make up the profession. Javon was born and raised in Virginia and graduated with a BA in Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness, a BS in Criminal Justice, and a Masters of Public Administration from the L. Douglas Wilder School of Government and Public Affairs at Virginia Commonwealth University.