Nonprofit Leaders Tapped To Aid In Biden Transition

Academics, think tanks, labor unions, and alumni of the President Barack Obama administration are among the 257 members who have been appointed to the Agency Review Teams for the President-Elect Joe Biden and Vice President-Elect Kamala Harris transition. Nonprofits are especially represented among the teams focused on the environment, international development and justice.

Agency review teams are responsible for “understanding the operations of each agency, ensuring a smooth transfer of power,” according to the Biden-Harrison transition website, buildbackbetter.com. The teams, composed of professionals with backgrounds in policy areas across the federal government, “have been crafted to ensure they not only reflect the values and priorities of the incoming administration, but reflect the diversity of perspectives crucial for addressing America’s most urgent and complex challenges.”

Among the leaders with ties to the charitable sector are:

Arts and Humanities

  • Robert Lynch, president and CEO of Americans for the Arts, is among seven members of the Arts and Humanities review team. He has been among the nonprofit leaders recognized in the annual NPT Power & Influence Top 50 for the past several years.

Council on Environmental Quality

  • Cecilia Martinez, team lead, is co-founder and executive director of the Center for Earth, Energy and Democracy
  • Shara Mohtadi, a senior advisor at Bloomberg Philanthropies

Department of Commerce

  • Denice Ross is a senior fellow at the National Conference on Citizenship, with a focus on technology and data issues related to the 2020 Census, and a Fellow at the Beeck Center for Social Impact and Innovation. Ross co-founded the White House Police Data Initiative as a presidential innovation fellow in the Obama administration.
  • Kathryn de Wit is manager of the Broadband Research Initiative at The Pew Charitable Trusts

Department of Energy

Department of Justice

  • Melanca Clark, president and CEO of the Hudson-Webber Foundation in Detroit, was chief of staff of the Office of Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS Office) in the U.S. Department of Justice.
  • Jose Morales is deputy director, voter protection, at Fair Fight Action.
  • Kristina ‘Kris’ Rose is director of strategic partnerships at Healing Justice Project. Previously, she was executive director of End Violence Against Women International and was deputy director of the U.S. Justice Department’s Office for Victims and Crime. In 2016, Rose was senior policy advisor on violence against women to Biden when he was vice president.
  • Lynn Rosenthal, president of the Center for Family Safety and Healing, came from the Biden Foundation, where she was director of the Violence Against Women Initiatives since 2017.

Department of the Interior

Department of Veterans Affairs

Environmental Protection Agency

  • Patrice Simms, team lead, is vice president, health communities, at EarthJustice. He served in the Obama Administration as deputy assistant attorney general in the Department of Justice’s Environment and Natural Resources Division.
  • Lisa Garcia, Fix program director at Grist magazine, was an associate administrator and the environmental-justice advisor to the EPA administrator under Obama. She also served as a vice president at Earthjustice.
  • Alejandra Núñez is staff attorney for the environmental law program at Sierra Club.

Executive Office of the President, Management and Administration

  • Austin Lin, technical program manager at Chan Zuckerberg Initiative (CZI) and prior to that Facebook, was deputy director of information technology for White House Information Technology. He also will serve on the agency review team for the National Security Council.

International Development


  • Ellen Stofan, team lead, Smithsonian
  • David Noble, executive director of the ACLU of Michigan, spent eight years in the Obama Administration, including White House liaison and deputy chief of staff at NASA, where he led the Combined Federal Campaign (CFC) to raise donations from NASA headquarters employees. He also will serve on the Office of the National Drug Control Policy review team.

Office of the National Drug Control Policy

Office of Personnel Management

  • Kiran Ahuja, team lead, CEO of Philanthropy Northwest, was chief of staff in the Office of Personnel Management during the Obama Administration and executive director of the White House Initiative on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders.
  • Rita Aguilar, College Promise Campaign chief of staff at Civic Nation.
  • Thoedora Chang, Partnership for Public Service
  • David March, senior manager, state and federal policy, Markle Foundation, served a year as special assistant to the OPM director during Obama’s final year in office.

U.S. Mission to the United Nations

Department of Agriculture

  • Sanah Baig, chief of staff at The Good Food Institute, was program director at the National Association of Counties, and previously was an advisor to the U.S. Secretary of Agriculture on place-based and rural infrastructure investments, as well as the department’s response to the opioid epidemic.
  • Kumar Chandran, policy director at FoodCorps, worked as an Obama appointee at the U.S. Department of Agriculture, and for state and national nonprofits.

U.S. Digital Service

  • Matt Bailey

    Matt Bailey is program director, digital freedom at PEN America, which works to “ensure that people everywhere have the freedom to create literature, to convey information and ideas, to express their views, and to access the views, ideas, and literatures of others.”
  • Andrew Nacin, director of engineering for the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative (CZI), was lead developer at WordPress for a decade after serving in the Obama Administration, as software engineer and senior advisor to the U.S. Digital Service from 2015 to 2018.