Our Staff

Staff:

Rob Cherry

David Riemer

Mike Bare

Kari Lerch

Kathy Staats

Melissa McGaughey

Shawn Holliman

Jefferey Roman

Cassy Krueger

Somer Nowak

Kasaundra Brown

Consultants:

Genyne Edwards

Ken Germanson

Conor Williams

Julie Kerksick


Staff:

Rob Cherry
Director,
Public Policy Institute

Rob Cherry was named Director of the Community Advocates Public Policy Institute in November of 2012. Rob is a Milwaukee native who envisions and works toward a community that actively aligns its public policies with dramatically reducing poverty and its root causes, compassionately caring for those who are ill, rationally providing services to those within the criminal justice system, and keenly preventing negative outcomes for Milwaukee's youth and families.

Rob joined the Community Advocates Public Policy Institute in 2009 as Systems Design Coordinator for the Milwaukee Addiction Treatment Initiative, and helped promote legislated access for Wisconsin individuals to a high-quality healthcare delivery system integrating addiction treatment, mental health, physical health and supportive services to improve the likelihood of recovery.

Rob was then appointed to the position of Prevention Services Manager and his responsibilities were expanded to include management of the Milwaukee Brighter Futures Initiative, a state-funded program that provides prevention services for Milwaukee County youth and families. This included the implementation of the Carrera model Adolescent Pregnancy Prevention Program within the Darryl Hynes Academy in cooperation with the Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Milwaukee and the Center for Self-Sufficiency.

Through Rob's leadership, the Community Advocates Public Policy Institute was awarded the role of coordinator of the Milwaukee Multi-Jurisdictional Tobacco Coalition that is funded by the State Tobacco Prevention Control program.
Rob was formerly an Outreach Specialist for UW Milwaukee’s School of Public Health Center for Urban Population Health, Lead Assessment Counselor for M&S Clinical Services, and a Prevention Specialist for Aurora Sinai, where he provided support to the State of Wisconsin's initiative to enhance the delivery of substance abuse screening, brief screening, referral and treatment (SBIRT) services in a primary healthcare setting.


David Riemer
Senior Fellow,
Public Policy Institute

David has been active for many years in reshaping Wisconsin and U.S. policies on welfare, poverty, health care and education. He was chosen in 2010 to serve as a member of the Wisconsin Legislative Council Special Committee on Health Care Reform Implementation, as well as the National Academy of Social Insurance (NASI) Study Panel on Health Insurance Exchanges.

David is the author of “The Prisoners of Welfare” and numerous articles on poverty, health care reform and public administration. He is one of the co-founders of The New Hope Project. David served from 2004-07 as Director of the Wisconsin Health Project, which sought to lower the number of Wisconsin’s uninsured and control health care costs. The project was responsible for developing bipartisan legislation to provide all of the state’s residents with affordable health insurance and lower the growth of health care costs.

David worked as an Atlantic Fellow in Public Policy in London and Oxford, England, in 2002; his research focused on supplementing low-income workers’ earnings through the tax system. During 2003, David served as Budget Director for Wisconsin Governor Jim Doyle. His primary responsibility was to help solve the state’s projected $3.2 billion deficit. The resulting balanced budget preserved vital services without raising taxes. In 2004, David campaigned for Milwaukee County Executive.

From 1988-2001, David held several high-level jobs for the City of Milwaukee, including Budget Director, Administration Director and Chief of Staff for Mayor John O. Norquist. For most of this period, he was responsible for overseeing the central fiscal, purchasing, IT and intergovernmental functions of the city government.

From 1975-88, David held several positions in government and the private sector. He was legal advisor to Wisconsin Governor Patrick Lucey, served as legal counsel to Senator Edward Kennedy’s Subcommittee on Health and Scientific Research, worked as a health policy analyst for the Wisconsin Legislative Fiscal Bureau, prepared a report on Wisconsin’s uninsured for the state Department of Health and Social Services, and worked on health care cost containment issues for Time Insurance Company.

David received an AB degree from Harvard College in History and Literature (1970) and a law degree from Harvard Law School (1975).


Mike Bare
Research and Program Coordinator,
Public Policy Institute

Mike is the Research and Program Coordinator for the Community Advocates Public Policy Institute. He specializes in policy research in disability, energy assistance, housing and health care, and is an expert on the intersection of policy with politics and the legislative process. Mike is also an expert on the Affordable Care Act and is the Coordinator of the Effective ACA Implementation Project.

At the Institute, Mike was also Coordinator of the Project for Health Insurance Exchange Education (PHIXE), a Program Evaluator of the Milwaukee Brighter Futures Initiative, and has assisted with the Pathways to Ending Poverty Project and the Milwaukee Tobacco Prevention and Control Program.

Mike has an extensive grassroots politics and government service background, having worked and consulted for political campaigns at every level of government. He also served as a longtime aide to former U.S. Senator Russ Feingold in his Washington, DC office, and as the Research Director for his 2010 campaign.

Mike holds an MA in political science from American University, where he was President of the Graduate Student Council. He is a former alderman, has been a longtime volunteer for Special Olympics and other disability organizations, and currently serves on the Board of Directors for the Down Syndrome Association of Wisconsin, HealthWatch Wisconsin, and is the Chapter Director of New Leader Council-Madison.


Kari Lerch
Prevention Services Manager,
Public Policy Institute

Kari is the Institute's Prevention Services Manager. Kari came to Community Advocates almost 7 years ago as an intern while obtaining her bachelor’s degree in social work from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. As an intern, she spent time in the housing, utility, protective payee and health departments, which has provided her with a broad foundation of knowledge to work on social issues affecting people living in poverty.

Kari was hired to serve as a case manager for the disability department after completing her internship and graduating. Through several advancements, Kari joined the Institute in the position she now holds overseeing prevention services.

Kari has always had an interest in learning and furthering her education, and recently received her master’s degree in Public and Nonprofit Administration from Metropolitan State University in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Kari also serves on the Board of the Wisconsin Coalition to End Homelessness, a statewide organization dedicated to advocating for homeless programming in Wisconsin.


Kathy Staats
Prevention Services Coordinator, Public Policy Institute

Kathy’s background in grassroots advocacy and tobacco prevention fuels her passion for making her hometown, Milwaukee, the strongest and healthiest community it can be.

At the Public Policy Institute, Kathy’s main project is oversight of the City of Milwaukee Tobacco-Free Alliance, funded by Wisconsin’s Tobacco Prevention and Control Program. Kathy also provides technical assistance to the Partnership For Success project, focusing on prescription drug abuse prevention, as well as the Milwaukee County Substance Abuse Prevention Coalition.

Kathy has a longstanding history of national, state, local, and institutional substance abuse prevention work and is thrilled to be able to contribute to this team. Starting in high school leading programs such as FACT and Peers with Impact, she was recognized in 2007 as the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids’ National Youth Advocate of the Year. Kathy then went on to gain experience in community relations and grassroots policy through The American Cancer Society, the Eau Claire Health Department, and the YMCA of Dane County. Before joining the Institute, Kathy worked at the American Lung Association where she coordinated Spark- Wisconsin’s young adult/ tobacco-free campus initiative, provided statewide technical assistance and outreach to Clear Gains- Wisconsin’s smoke-free multi-unit housing initiative, and led asthma prevention and education programs.

Kathy received her undergraduate degree from the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire in Public Communication and is currently working toward her Master of Public Health in Community and Behavioral Health Promotion at the University of Wisconsin- Milwaukee’s Zilber School of Public Health. Outside of work she enjoys her family and friends, cooking, time spent outdoors in a tent or on a running trail, volunteering, and showing love for Milwaukee’s theater scene.


Melissa McGaughey

Grants and Communications Manager, Public Policy Institute

At the Public Policy Institute, Melissa is responsible for writing and submitting grant proposals, prospect research, and assisting with program development.  With regard to communications, Melissa oversees the Public Policy Institute’s website content and social media.  Previous to her work in the Public Policy Institute, Melissa worked on grantwriting and communications for Community Advocates’ programs as a whole, including their many direct service programs. 

She has worked as a grantwriter for two organizations related to American Indian communities – at the Electa Quinney Institute for American Indian Education at the University of WI-Milwaukee and the Division of Indian Work in Minneapolis, MN.  She has also worked as a Researcher/Policy Analyst at the local think tank, the Public Policy Forum, mainly researching and writing about policies related to early childhood education and Milwaukee County’s mental health system.

Melissa holds an MPP (master’s degree in public policy) from the Hubert H. Humphrey Institute for Public Affairs at the University of MN-Twin Cities.  Her degree concentration was social policy.  She also holds a BA in English from Marquette University.  She serves on the board of directors of the Endometriosis Association.


Shawn Holliman
Program Assistant, Public Policy Institute

Shawn joined the Community Advocates Public Policy Institute (PPI) in February of 2013 as a Program Assistant for Brighter Futures. Introduced to Community Advocates with a contracted agency, she months later joined our team permanently for higher achievements. While studying for her Associates Degree in Liberal Arts, Shawn looks forward to serving our community by helping in any way that she can. Shawn has a passion for helping and looks forward to working with youth programs and projects on Tobacco Prevention for Brighter Futures.


Jeffery Roman
Benchmark Coordinator, Minority Male Achievement
Public Policy Institute

Jeff Roman has worked in the Milwaukee community as an educator, advocate, and coalition builder for over 10 years having served in various roles within the nonprofit, community services, and public sectors.  Jeffery comes to the Public Policy Institute leading the charge locally, developing community-municipal-academic partnerships and cross systems collaborations that engage, support and empower boys and men of color in Milwaukee. He is actively engaged in the City’s Black Male Achievement and Fatherhood Initiative efforts with focus on organizing stakeholders, building and strengthening program capacity, and aligning policy and resources at the city, county, and state levels. His work over the years has laid the foundation for cooperative efforts and collaborations that aim to improve outcomes in health, education, employment, violence elimination, entrepreneurship, and criminal justice system connection among at-risk males and fathers across the region.

Over the last recent years, Jeffery co-led the development of the Milwaukee Boys to Men Coalition, the City of Milwaukee/Milwaukee Public Schools BE the CHANGE partnership program, the Milwaukee Men’s Health Resource Network, and the Metropolitan Milwaukee Alliance of Black School Educators (MMABSE) Black Male Educators Commission. Prior to that work, he participated in, led or staffed a number of community coalitions, networks and alliances including the City of Milwaukee Adolescent Pregnancy Prevention Workgroup, the Milwaukee Teen Pregnancy Prevention Network, the Milwaukee Alliance for Sexual Health, and the Milwaukee Brighter Futures Initiative.

Jeffery is the oldest of five boys raised by a single mother in Milwaukee and is a fellow with the Aspen Institute’s Roundtable on Community Change. He is graduate of the Milwaukee Public Schools’ K-12 full Spanish immersion program and studied educational policy and community studies at the University of Wisconsin Milwaukee. In 2011,  Jeffery was appointed to the City of Milwaukee Equal Rights Commission by Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett, and has served as its Chair since. As an ERC Commissioner, he works to strengthen community relations, communication, and accountability between residents and City departments and agencies, and engages in community outreach to build capacities that leverage resources and access, and provide opportunities to all City resident and underserved communities most in need.
 


Cassy Krueger
Communications Specialist,
Public Policy Institute


Cassy comes to the Public Policy Institute from a long history of sustainability and communications work in higher education, nonprofits, and business. Taking a particular interest in the social aspect of sustainability, she is excited to work for an organization devoted to making Milwaukee a healthier community for all.

Cassy graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Madison in May 2013 with a Bachelor of Science in Environmental Studies and Philosophy. Initially sparked by her love for writing and photography, she developed a passion for utilizing effective communications to enhance and strengthen advocacy efforts. She is passionate about making community issues relevant to individuals on a personal level.

In addition to her work with Community Advocates, Cassy is currently involved with Ad 2 Milwaukee’s public service and communications committees, Think Kindness’ Global Acts of Kindness initiative, and RedLine Milwaukee’s marketing committee.


Somer Nowak
Prevention Associate,
Public Policy Institute

Somer Nowak initially joined the Public Policy Institute in January 2013 as a Public Policy Intern, and now works closely with Milwaukee Brighter Futures programs as a Prevention Associate.  She has prior experience in public policy and advocacy, where she worked as a Government Relations Intern in Washington, DC providing support in advocating for education policy benefiting low-income and first generation students.

Somer currently studies International Relations, Spanish and Africana Studies at Marquette University. Her experiences studying development and poverty abroad in countries like Argentina and Ghana has further driven her passion in eliminating poverty and lack of access stemming from social inequalities.  Somer is proud to be part of an organization seeking to improve the lives of Milwaukee’s youth and families affected by poverty.


Kasaundra Brown,
Prevention Associate,
Public Policy Institute

Kasaundra Brown joined Community Advocates Public Policy Institute in March of 2013 as the Prevention Associate for the Milwaukee County Substance Abuse Prevention Coalition.  Kasaundra received her Bachelor of Science Degree with a focus on Health Services Administration in July of 2012 from Upper Iowa University.

Prior to joining Community Advocates, Kasaundra worked for Milwaukee Public Schools for 9 years as a Paraprofessional in Special Education.  Kasaundra was born and raised in Milwaukee, and expresses a great passion for youth with special needs.


Consultants:

Genyne Edwards
Tobacco Advocacy Consultant,
Tobacco Prevention and Control Program

As an attorney, Genyne has been actively involved in policy, politics and social advocacy. While Deputy Secretary of the Wisconsin Department of Tourism she successfully advocated for an increased role for cultural and urban tourism in statewide economic development policy. Genyne was the Program Director for Milwaukee Mosaic Partnerships Program and is a Commissioner for the City of Milwaukee-Equal Rights Commission. She is a graduate of Marquette University Law School, having received a BS in Organizational Leadership and Supervision from Purdue University.


Ken Germanson
Communications Consultant,
Tobacco Prevention and Control Program

Ken has worked at Community Advocates since 1992 on projects involving child abuse prevention, youth development, community strengthening and health care advocacy for low-income persons. He also has been a community activist and spent more than 35 years as a labor union leader.

Ken is a former journalist who began work on the old Milwaukee Sentinel as a reporter-rewriteman after his return to Milwaukee from the U.S. Navy in 1957. It was at the Sentinel that he became active in his labor union, the Milwaukee Newspaper Guild, eventually serving on the executive board and bargaining committee.

In 1964, Ken joined the staff of Milwaukee District Council 48, American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFL-CIO), where he mainly represented workers for the Cities of Milwaukee and West Allis, bargaining some of the pioneer labor contracts of the period. From 1968 to 1992, he was a staff member of the Milwaukee-based International Union, Allied Industrial Workers of America (AFL-CIO), heading the union’s political action and communications programs, becoming chief administrative officer for the union in 1981.

He was president of the Wisconsin Labor History Society from 1992 to 2009 and continues serving the Society as President Emeritus, editing the Society’s newsletter, handling Web site functions and assisting the current officers.

Ken has been active in a number of community groups and nonprofit organizations, serving on the boards of Family Services of Milwaukee, St. Mary’s Academy and others. He also served many years on the board and as president of the Planning Council for Health and Social Services, and was involved throughout the years in many advocacy groups supporting civil rights or worker causes. He has received numerous awards for his community work.

Ken is a 1951 graduate of the University of Wisconsin-Madison, with degrees in journalism and economics. He is married and lives in Milwaukee.


Conor Williams
Economic Policy Analyst,
Pathways to Ending Poverty

Conor Williams is the Economic Policy Analyst for the Pathways to Ending Poverty Project. He also operates a family-owned stone fabrication business which he helped to found. Conor holds an honors BA in Economics from University College Dublin in Dublin, Ireland. Conor started work doing econometric modeling at the Department of Transport in Sydney, Australia followed by a number of years as an economic analyst for an aircraft leasing company in Shannon, Ireland. Subsequently he worked as an economic policy analyst for the Department of Commerce and Industry, Gaborone, Botswana, facilitated through the Irish aid agency APSO.

Conor is active in MICAH (Milwaukee Inner-city Congregations Allied for Hope), where he leads the TIP Initiative (Treatment Instead of Prison), which offers an alternative to criminalization and incarceration through seeking to send non-violent offenders suffering from the disease of substance use disorder to supervised community treatment programs.


Julie Kerksick, Policy Analyst

Pathways to Ending Poverty Project

Julie is a Policy Analyst for the Pathways to Ending Poverty Project.  As former Executive Director of the New Hope Project in Milwaukee, Julie has specific “hands-on” experience with both transitional jobs and Earned Income Tax Credit reform. As part of Julie’s work at New Hope, she played a key role in persuading state and federal policy-makers of both parties to enact legislation to support the program.  In her two most recent positions—as Administrator of the Division of Family and Economic Security in Wisconsin’s Department of Children and Families, and as Director of the Office of Economic Security in Colorado’s Department of Human Services—she ran two TANF programs, and influenced national TANF policy. In these positions, she organized the implementation (in Wisconsin) and adoption (in Colorado) of transitional jobs programs that, taken together, allocated over $30 million to provide thousands of poor, unemployed adults with wage-paying jobs.  Julie is a graduate of Saint Louis University.