Policy Insights 2021: Speakers
Learn more about the experts and advocates
joining us for this year's Policy Insights Conference.
Keynote: Heather McGhee
A renowned expert on the American economy, Heather McGhee is one of the most brilliant and influential thinkers exploring inequality today. Both her viral TED talk and her eagerly anticipated book The Sum of Us reveal the devastating true cost of racism—not just for people of color, but for everyone. As the former president of the inequality-focused think tank Demos, McGhee has drafted legislation, testified before Congress, and become a regular contributor on shows like Meet the Press and Real Time with Bill Maher. She also led Demos’ own racial equity organizational transformation, resulting in a doubling of the organization’s racial diversity and growth across all measures of organizational impact.
Now a Distinguished Senior Fellow at Demos, McGhee holds a B.A. in American Studies from Yale University and a J.D. from the University of California at Berkeley School of Law. She is a member of the World Economic Forum’s Global Agenda Council on Civic Participation, and serves on multiple boards of trustees, including the Rockefeller Brothers Fund and Indivisible.
Sarah is the Maine Center for Economic Policy’s lead policy analyst on tax and budget issues. She conducts research and impact analyses, writes educational materials, and collaborates with partners. Sarah is skilled in data collection, research, and statistical and policy analysis. Sarah holds a master’s of public affairs from the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s La Follette School of Public Affairs and a bachelor’s of science in environmental policy from Maine’s Unity College.
Ben is the Deputy Director of Maine People’s Alliance and a board member at MECEP. He has worked on community organizing campaigns for the last fifteen years, and helped build the teams at MPA that won wage increases for one out of three Maine workers, the first Medicaid expansion referendum in the country, and the nation’s first paid time off law. He has managed electoral campaigns at the local and statewide level. After his run for mayor of Lewiston, he was named one of the “Frederick Douglass 200” for his efforts towards racial justice. His white paper for universal family care — including universal childcare and home health care for seniors and disabilities — has become a model for state and federal campaigns. Ben is also a Maine Center for Economic Policy Board Member.
Nicole is the Vice President of Public Policy at Planned Parenthood of Northern New England. Previously, she worked at the Family Planning Association of Maine, now Maine Family Planning, as their VP of Public Affairs. During her tenure, she worked on family life education legislation, collaborative practice agreements for emergency contraception and Chaired the Maine Choice Coalition. As a coalition partner, she offered her services as Communications Director to the Maine Won’t Discriminate campaign, which successfully expanded the Human Rights Act to include sexual orientation. She has also worked as the Director of Communications for the City of Portland and the Maine Public Utilities Commission. She holds a bachelor’s degree in economics and government from Smith College.
Claire is the Director of Campaigns and Partnerships at Groundwork Collaborative, working to advance a cross-cutting economic narrative for the progressive movement. Prior to joining Groundwork in 2019, Claire was Associate Director of the Faith and Progressive Policy Initiative at the Center for American Progress and a Field Associate and minimum wage lobbyist at NETWORK Lobby for Catholic Social Justice. Claire is a former high school teacher and college campus minister, and holds degrees in Theology from Boston College and Catholic Theological Union, where she was a Bernardin Scholar.
“Ask workers what they need and believe them.” Arlo is a member and worker organizer for the Work With Dignity Committee at the Southern Maine Workers’ Center. SMWC runs the Worker Support Hotline and legal clinic, and has won recent state and local campaigns for workers rights and human rights. Their past and present projects include the statewide Maine campaign for Ranked choice voting, and community organizing for black liberation and racial justice in Northern New England. They hold a bachelor’s degree in Pan African Studies from Drew University.
Michael Kebede is Policy Counsel at the ACLU of Maine and a board member at MECEP. Prior to joining the ACLU in 2019, Michael was a Consumer Rights Advocate at Maine Equal Justice and an Associate at Verrill, a full-service law firm in Portland, Maine. Michael holds a law degree from Boston College Law School, a master’s degree from the University of Oxford in Socio-Legal Research, and a bachelor’s degree from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst in Anthropology and Social Thought and Political Economy.
Alec is the Executive Director of Maine State Employees Association, SEIU Local 1989. Alec served as MSEA-SEIU’s assistant director of politics and legislation from 2008 to 2015 before becoming the associate director the Maine Voices Network and Maine Votes, where he worked to increase economic opportunities for all Mainers. He served as a field director for the SEIU Maine Change that Works Campaign for passage of national legislation such as the Affordable Care Act. Alec studied the philosophy of social and political theory at Bates College from 2001 to 2006.
Brandon is the President of New Jersey Policy Perspective and leads the organization’s efforts in shaping policy debates to advance economic justice for the many, not a chosen few. He also produces research and analysis on issues such as economic security, the social safety net and economic opportunity. Prior to being named President of NJPP in February 2019, Brandon served as NJPP’s Director of Government and Public Affairs. He holds a master’s degree in City & Regional Planning and Policy Development from Rutgers University’s Edward J. Bloustein School of Planning and Public Policy and a bachelor’s degree in Social Psychology from The College of New Jersey.
Mario is Communications Director at the Maine Center for Economic Policy. His background is in journalism and political communications. Prior to joining MECEP, he was communications director for two Maine Senate Minority Leaders. Before transitioning to a career in communications, Mario was a State House reporter for the Bangor Daily News, where he co-founded the newspapers still-popular Daily Brief state politics newsletter. He holds a bachelor’s degree in international relations and anthropology, with a minor in political science, from the University of Maine.
James is the Maine Center for Economic Policy’s lead policy analyst on the inclusive economy, including research on labor issues, gender and racial equity, and health care policy. He studied public policy and management at the University of Southern Maine and holds a master’s degree in ancient history and archaeology from the University of St. Andrews in Scotland.
Nsiona Nguizani is the President of the Angolan Community of Maine and the Town of Brunswick’s cultural broker, where he helps asylum seekers who moved from Portland to transition to life in Brunswick. Originally from Angola, he is fluent in three languages and can understand several others. Nsiona is restudying Accounting and Economics at the University of Southern Maine.
John is the outgoing President of the South Sudanese Community Association and currently works at the Maine Community Foundation as a Program Officer. He currently serves as a Public Safety Commissioner for the City of Westbrook and is a board member at the Immigrant Welcome Center and Gateway Community Services. John also founded and directs Community Champions League, an immigrant-led soccer program serving youths and young adults in the Greater Portland area. John was vice president of the board at Maine Immigrants’ Rights Coalition, member of the board at Southern Maine Workers’ Center and served on the City of Portland’s Community Development Block Grant Allocation Committee. In his free time, he likes to play Soccer and take photographs.
Amber is the Deputy Director of New Mexico Voices for Children. Her research is focused on education, tax and budget, hunger, and economic issues. She joined NM Voices in 2012 as a Center on Budget and Policy Priorities Fellow, after which she was a Research and Policy Analyst, and later KIDS COUNT Director. Amber has worked in the public sector at the municipal, state, and federal levels, working in the government department at New Mexico State University and the budget department at the city of Las Cruces. She received her MPA from NMSU.