2023 May Luncheon – Featured Speakers

Sarah Godlewski is Wisconsin’s 31st Secretary of State and a fifth-generation Wisconsinite. Her parents were both public school teachers and proud union members. After graduating college, Sarah worked in national security and foreign affairs for the government. She worked for the Department of Defense, and was a member of a Bipartisan Congressional PTSD Task Force and a volunteer Board member of UNICEF. After fighting to combat child poverty both at home and abroad, she co-founded an impact investment firm, MaSa Impact, which invests in renewable and clean energy, women-owned businesses, and agriculture. In 2018, Sarah took on Scott Walker and Wisconsin politicians to stop them from eliminating the Office of the State Treasurer — a move that would have made Walker and future governors more powerful. After launching a successful bipartisan statewide campaign to preserve the position, she ran for the seat and won by a larger margin than the Governor, Lieutenant Governor, and Attorney General. 

As State Treasurer, Sarah ended the Republican gag order on climate change and prioritized investing in renewable energy projects. She led the investment of more than $299 million supporting over 451 projects in hundreds of communities across Wisconsin, and worked with Governor Tony Evers to secure $92.7 million for struggling Wisoninites at risk of losing their homes. She worked tirelessly to fight for working class people and went on to run for the U.S. Senate in 2022. After losing in the Democratic primary, she was appointed as Secretary of State in March of 2023 by the Governor. Sarah has a BA in Peace and Conflict Resolution Studies at George Mason University, and lives with her husband, son, and rescue dog in Wisconsin.

Malia Cohen is chief fiscal officer of California, the world’s fourth-largest economy, and is the first Black woman to ever hold this position in the state. She was elected in November 2022, following her service on the California State Board of Equalization (BOE), the nation’s only elected tax commission responsible for administering California’s $100 billion property tax system. She was elected to the BOE in November 2018 as the first Black women member, and was Chair in 2019 and 2022. She has seen firsthand how unequal funding impacts communities and has made it her personal mission to ensure California’s spending reflects its values. 

As Chair of the State Board of Equalization, Malia works to provide tax relief for Californians reeling from the pandemic, while holding corporations accountable for paying their fair share. She also cut wasteful spending and launched a Property Tax Modernization Initiative to ensure that the state administers property taxes more efficiently and fairly. On the San Francisco Board of Supervisors, she led efforts to divest the city’s pension fund from fossil fuels, oversaw the adoption of an $11 billion budget as Chair of the Budget and Finance Committee, and fought to increase the minimum wage. Malia was born and raised in San Francisco and attended public schools in the City. She earned a BA from Fisk University and a Master’s in Public Policy and Management from Carnegie Mellon University. She and her husband reside in San Francisco with their daughter. 

Ruwa Romman is the Georgia State Representative for House District 97 and the first Muslim woman ever elected to the Georgia State House. Ruwa was born in Jordan and is the granddaughter of Palestinian refugees. Her family moved to Georgia when she was 7 years old.  She graduated with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Politics from Oglethorpe University in 2015 and a Masters in Public Policy from the McCourt School of Public Policy at Georgetown University in 2019. 

After college, Ruwa leveraged her platform to inform thousands of Georgians how to get involved in the 2020 elections and worked as a field organizer for the Asian American Advocacy Fund. She also helped establish the Georgia Volunteer Hub to train the influx of state and national volunteers, while connecting them to local Georgia organizations. Ruwa has volunteered in every election cycle since 2014 to help flip Georgia blue, and has worked as a Field Organizer for the Georgia Muslim Voter Project, as well as served as Communications Director for CAIR Georgia. Before getting elected in 2022, she worked as a senior consultant at Deloitte, working to tackle major public policy issues to improve lives and make government work for everyone.

Colonel Pamela Stevenson is a Kentucky veteran who retired from the US Air Force as a Colonel after 27 years of service. Born and raised in Louisville, she graduated from the Brown School.  For two decades,  she served around the world as a judge advocate (JAG) representing America. She has practiced law at the federal level through posts including chief prosecutor, criminal defense attorney, and operations law expert. After retiring, Pamela returned home, to continue her service to the people of Kentucky. She is actively involved in the great work that is being accomplished in her community and is the founder of a nonprofit law center that serves veterans, the elderly and working families. 

Pamela currently represents Kentucky’s 43rd House District and is running to be Kentucky’s next Attorney General – she would become the first woman to ever be elected to that position in the state. She received both a Bachelor’s degree and a JD from Indiana University Bloomington.

Nancy Brune, Ph.D. was elected to the Las Vegas City Council in 2022 and represents Ward 6. As a daughter of immigrants, Nancy centers public service in everything she does. She is committed to bringing common-sense solutions to City Hall and restoring public trust in local government.
Prior to running for office, Nancy served as founding executive director of the Kenny Guinn Center for Policy Priorities, Nevada’s only bipartisan policy center, for almost a decade. She has authored more than 100 peer-reviewed journal articles, reports, essays, blogs and op-ed pieces, and was a regular columnist with The Nevada Independent. Nancy is currently a research professor at Desert Research Institute and a principal at Luz Development Institute. Previously, she served as a senior policy analyst at Sandia National Laboratories and the UNLV Institute for Security Studies, and as a senior fellow at the Center for a New American Security. She also consulted with the World Bank, Harvard School of Public Health, JPMorgan Chase and U.S. Development Corporation. She holds a B.A. and Master’s degrees in Public Policy from Harvard University and received her Ph.D. from Yale University. Like many, she worked while taking classes to pay for tuition and books.

A’shanti Gholar is the President of Emerge. In this role, she leads the organization and steers its overall strategy and direction, overseeing a national staff as well as affiliates across the country. Her relationship with Emerge started in 2006 when she was a founding board member of Emerge Nevada. She then joined the national staff as our first Political Director and was the architect of Emerge’s national expansion from 15 to 27 states. Today, A’shanti is a nationally recognized political strategist with over two decades of experience as a grassroots organizer and activist for women, communities of color and progressive causes. Prior to coming to Emerge, A’shanti served as the National Deputy Director of Community Engagement and Director of African American Engagement for the Democratic National Committee. A’shanti has also served as the Manager of National Partnerships for United Way Worldwide, as a political appointee in the Obama Administration at the U.S. Department of Labor and as the Director of Public Engagement for the 2012 Democratic National Convention Committee in Charlotte, NC.

In all her spare time, she is also the founder of The Brown Girls Guide to Politics, an award-winning podcast that was featured as one of the top political podcasts by Time Magazine, Teen Vogue, and Vanity Fair. She also sits on the Engagement Committee of Heart of a Nation, an organization that empowers the next generation of American, Israeli, and Palestinian change-makers to embrace better, together.