Jake Williams, Executive Director
Jake Williams is Healthier Colorado’s first Executive Director. Before taking the helm he served as a consultant to the Walton Family Foundation on its efforts to sustain the Colorado River, as well as to the Gill Foundation with its work to achieve LGBT legal equality. Previously, Jake was the Western Conservation Foundation’s Campaigns Director, where he activated a diversity of strategic voices including Latinos, businesses and farmers to help protect the West’s land, air and water. Before that, he led teams on legislative, electoral and healthcare advocacy campaigns for the Service Employees International Union.
Jake earned a Master of Science in Comparative Politics and Policy from the London School of Economics, and his Bachelor of Arts in Political Science and Communications from the University of Michigan. He lives with his wife and two daughters in Lafayette.
Hillary Jorgensen, Director of Policy Change
Hillary Jorgensen serves as Healthier Colorado’s Director of Policy Change. Prior to joining the Healthier Colorado team, Hillary served as the Political Director for Colorado Progressive Coalition where she led their organizing, legislative, and electoral efforts. She has organized diverse groups to take action on health care, economic justice, and civil rights issues. She has also built and implemented large-scale electoral programs to mobilize voters in underserved areas of the state. Hillary’s prior professional experience also includes leading policy, organizing, and advocacy initiatives at Disability Rights Washington and the Colfax Community Network.
Hillary earned a J.D. from Seattle University School of Law and a Bachelor of Arts in English from the University of Colorado.
Kate Stigberg, Director of Activism
As our Director of Activism, Kate began her career by ascending the labor organizing ranks to eventually become State Program Director at Colorado AFL-CIO. She then took on the role Political and Legislative Director at the American Federation of Teachers (AFT) Colorado where she managed their political program and lobbied at the state capitol. Kate has extensive experience running electoral campaigns, working in coalitions, and building training programs. Prior to her work in the labor movement, Kate worked in healthcare advocacy and child welfare. Additionally, she is a founding member on the advisory board of Emerge Colorado, an organization dedicated to training and encouraging women to run for office.
Kate earned her a Master of Social Work from the University of South Carolina, and a Bachelor of Science in Psychology from the University of Illinois. She lives in Denver and enjoys hiking, snowshoeing, camping, and (responsibly) exploring the city’s breweries on her bike.
Susanna Mizer, Director of Public Affairs
Prior to joining the Healthier Colorado Team, Director of Public Affairs, Susanna Mizer worked as the Senior Director of Government Relations for the American Heart Association. By building diverse coalitions and mobilizing grassroots advocates, she worked to pass statewide laws to ensure all residents have the opportunity to lead a long and healthy life. She started her career as a legislative Aide for State Senator Josh Penry, and Representatives Laura Bradford, Tom Massey and Ken Summers, and as the Western Slope Field Director for the Colorado Republican Committee. In these roles Susanna developed an appreciation for the unique differences communities in Colorado face and how to find commonalities to rally diverse stakeholders around shared goals.
A lifetime resident of Colorado, Susanna was raised in Fort Collins and earned her Bachelors of Arts in Political Science From Colorado Mesa University.
Phil Labonte, Director of Canvassing
Born and raised in Colorado, Phil took an interest in politics at an early age and has canvassed nearly every part of the state since. Prior to joining the Healthier Colorado team, Phil served as Project Manager for CRS Management Group where he oversaw a wide variety of successful grassroots advocacy efforts across Colorado including petition drives, state elections, and educational efforts. Phil’s prior professional experience also includes grass tops coalition building and business outreach.
Phil earned his Bachelor’s of Arts in Political Science from Colorado State University.
Flora Welsh, Communications Manager
Flora is the first yearlong Public Interest Fellow from Colorado College to join Healthier Colorado. Flora graduated in May 2016 as an Anthropology student. She previously worked with Family Promise of Colorado Springs, a small organization working to provide transitional housing for homeless families. Because of her work with Family Promise and a passion for nutrition and fitness, Flora’s thesis study focused on the nutritional behaviors and practices of families living in generational and situational poverty. This work sparked Flora’s interest in the field of public health and policy.
Born in Nicaragua and raised in Kentucky, Flora is excited to continue living in Colorado.
Melanie Kesner, Community Organizer
Melanie Kesner serves as Healthier Colorado’s first ever Community Organizer. Prior to joining the Healthier Colorado team, Melanie served as a Legislative Aide at the Colorado State Capitol. She has also worked as a field organizer in 2016 with New Era Colorado. Just before joining New Era, Melanie worked as a Community Organizer and Community Builder with Jews United for Justice in Washington D.C. There she worked to engage the Jewish community in DC to support racial and economic justice in the District- specifically with JUFJ’s district-wide Paid Family Leave campaign.
She holds a BA in International Studies and a BA in Religious Studies from the University of Denver. She was born and raised in Albuquerque, NM and loves seeking out good (and spicy!) green chile. In her free time, she enjoys all that Colorado has to offer including hiking, camping, and climbing.
Ashley Barrow, Events Manager
Ashley graduated from the University of Colorado Boulder in 2016 with a bachelors degree in Speech, Language and Hearing Sciences. She previously worked as a specialist in an Early Literacy and Language program for families living in low-income and transitional housing across the Denver Metro Area to provide underserved children with the best chance at academic success. Having worked closely with these families in need, Ashley saw the health disparities facing Colorado residents and developed a passion for public health.
In her time at the Marion Downs Center Ashley successfully fundraised and executed events in order to raise money for underserved children and families across Colorado. Her ground level experience with the health disparities that face the states most vulnerable populations has driven her passion to bring awareness and change to these important issues.
As a transplant to Colorado, born and raised in Georgia, Ashley loves cooking, discovering new food and enjoying all the wonderful things Colorado has to offer.
Priyanka Guragain, Advocacy Fellow
Priyanka graduated in May 2017 from University of Colorado Boulder with her Bachelor’s degree in International Affairs and Sociology. Her time at CU Boulder allowed her to work and volunteer at organizations that are dedicated to training students in leadership and health education. In the summer of 2016, she was exposed to nonprofits in Denver through Public Interest Internship Experience at CU Boulder. She interned at Bayaud Enterprises, where she was trained in marketing and community resources navigation. In her role, she helped Bayaud’s clients access Medicaid and Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program. As a fellow for the next six months, Priyanka hopes to learn the best practices for policy change at the state level as she plans to continue working towards solving issues of health inequity.
Chris Meisner, Canvass Team Member
Chris is a Massachusetts native and was raised with a strong deference toward education and a penchant for social justice. As such, Chris has been extremely active within various political advocacy groups since his second year of university in 2005. Before joining the Healthier Colorado team, Chris served as a Canvass Director for CRS Management Group where he successfully led petition drives, candidate-driven campaigns, as well as a number of other political grassroots efforts. Chris has also worked with fundraising efforts focusing on issues such as homelessness awareness, environmental sustainability, and getting young people involved in the public policy process.
Chris earned his Bachelor of Arts in Sociology from Bridgewater State University. He is also currently enrolled in the University of Denver’s Master’s program, where he is completing coursework for a Master’s Degree in Public Policy.
Abby Vestecka, Canvass Team Member
Abby was born and raised in Nebraska and has always had a keen interest in community engagement. Her first experience in field work was as a volunteer for a City Council race in Lincoln, Nebraska. Shortly thereafter, Abby moved to Colorado and joined the New Era Colorado team as an Organizer focusing on voter registration among high school students. Abby has also served as an Organizer for school board campaigns, and an Assistant Canvass Director for CRS Management Group.
In her free time, Abby enjoys hitting the slopes with her snowboard during the winter and hiking Colorado’s beautiful trails in the summer.
Lauren Swain, Canvass Team Member
Lauren brings a wealth of grassroots advocacy experience to the Healthier Colorado team. She has a long history working in a communications and outreach capacity for organizations focused on issues such as refugee resettlement and environmental sustainability. She has also worked on countless political advocacy efforts at the local, state, and federal level.
Lauren earned her Bachelor’s Degree in Psychology and Filmmaking from the University of Denver. She has produced many videos orienting newly-settled refugees to the US healthcare and education systems.
Lance Pollard, Canvass Team Member
Before joining the Healthier Colorado team, Lance served as a Canvass Director for CRS Management Group. Lance’s last campaign work involved successfully re-electing New Mexico’s 3rd district Congressman Ben Ray Lujan. Lance has also worked on voter education efforts, petition drives, voter registration, among many other political outreach campaigns. A lifelong resident of Colorado, Lance grew up in the Arvada area. Lance has had a continued passion for kids and their protection as they are the most vulnerable members of our society and as such need special attention when formulating public policy. Lance is planning on returning to school in the spring of 2018, where he plans on obtaining either a public administration or political science degree.