Bryson Gillette is a Los Angeles based, minority-owned public affairs firm.
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© 2020 Bryson Gillette, LLC
Founder and President
Bill Burton is a renowned political and communications strategist who has served as a senior adviser to political leaders, corporations and nonprofits in California, Washington, D.C., and around the country. In California, Bill and his colleagues have experience consulting on political, litigation and public affairs projects of all different scales, working with everyone from individuals to some of the most recognizable brands in the world.
Bill was one of the earliest hires on President Obama’s first presidential campaign where he was the national press secretary beginning in January 2007. He served in the Obama administration as deputy White House press secretary and special assistant to the president. In that capacity, he traveled extensively, both domestically and internationally, advising the president, briefing reporters both on Air Force One and at the podium in the White House briefing room. After leaving the White House, Bill co-founded and served as senior strategist for the super PAC Priorities USA Action during President Obama’s reelection campaign in 2012.
During the 2006 electoral cycle, in which Democrats won control of the House of Representatives, Bill worked as Rahm Emanuel’s communications director at the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. Before that, Bill served as a communications adviser to Democratic Leader Rep. Dick Gephardt, Senators John Kerry and Tom Harkin and others.
Most recently Bill has served as an advisor to Senator Amy Klobuchar’s presidential campaign and has worked with leading trial attorneys to build successful messaging campaigns around important cases and issue areas.
Bill believes that a good strategy is one that has heart. He works with clients to ensure that their personal story and values are embedded into their communications and messaging.
Since 2015, Bill has made Santa Barbara his home with his wife Kelly Ward Burton and three kids, Oscar, Emma, and Miles. Bill loves playing guitar and teaching his son to play basketball.
Senior Vice President
Sarah Angel is a former prosecutor and long-time advocate for educational equity and reform. Most reåcently, Sarah served as the Chief of Staff to Los Angeles Unified School Board Vice President Nick Melvoin, where she managed a team of policy, community engagement, and communications professionals serving the over 700,000 public school students and their families in Los Angeles.
After graduating from UC Berkeley School of Law, Sarah practiced as an attorney at the Los Angeles office of O’Melveny & Myers, LLP. Her pro bono work there led to her next role as a prosecutor. After seeing too many defendants end up in court as a result of an inadequate education system, Sarah left her law practice to become a non-profit education advocate for low-income students of color in Los Angeles at the California Charter Schools Association; there, she led a team developing and executing strategic consulting for charter schools and collective action campaigns related to new schools, renewals, and facilities issues. Sarah also grew a community organizing team that coached charter schools on how to connect with their parents to improve their school communities. She began her career as a staff consultant for the California State Assembly Budget Committee, focused on health and human services. Sarah is a proud alumna of California public schools, including UCLA for her undergraduate degree and UC Berkeley School of Law.
Sarah believes in progressive values, understands how to guide transition through large, bureaucratic organizations and in the impact of change at the local level. Sarah lives with her husband, Dan Nieman, and their three school-aged children in Los Angeles. She is a proficient Spanish speaker, learned from her mom, public school, and a semester teaching algebra in Monterrey, Mexico. You can find her at cross-fit-style workouts, family trips to the beach, and singing off-key to the musical “Hamilton.”
Marcos brings a robust background in speechwriting, crisis communications and political consulting to the team at Bryson Gillette. He works with a broad range of clients from law firms to political candidates to tech organizations. As a native Spanish speaker, Marcos helps connect clients to diverse communities through bilingual communications and engagement with Spanish language news outlets.
Prior to joining Bryson Gillette, Marcos completed a fellowship with the Office of the Superintendent at the Los Angeles Unified School District. During the fellowship, he worked on the crisis communications during the 2019 teacher strike and spearheaded communications for new initiatives. Marcos began his career at SKDKnickerbocker, working with congressional candidates, nonprofits and elected officials on strategic communications.
Marcos was born in Mexico, grew up in California’s Central Valley and now lives in Los Angeles. He graduated from Harvard University with B.A. in Government.
Kasey Poulin joins Bryson Gillette fresh off the campaign trail. Having served as National Travel Manager for Senator Elizabeth Warren presidential campaign, Kasey brings key operational and project management skills to the firm. Kasey’s career began field organizing in Massachusetts for the Jay Gonzalez gubernatorial campaign and she has held field and operational positions in congressional and senate races since then.
Born and raised in Maine, Kasey moved to Massachusetts to study at Clark University. After earning her Masters in Public Administration, Kasey committed to working in politics. She has devoted herself to local, state, and national campaigns with an unending belief that political and social engagement can empower all citizens to improve the world.
Kasey lives in Worcester, MA where she met and lives with her partner, Annie Cohn. Kasey and Annie enjoy exploring New England and working on municipal campaigns in the “off season.”
Emily Schwartz has worked at the intersection of technology, politics and policy for over a decade. Most recently, she led Uber’s global data sharing policy where she advised the company on regulatory issues regarding privacy and mobility data, and was embedded on a product and engineering team building open data products.
Prior to Uber, she ran communications strategy and international expansion for NationBuilder, the most widely used political software in the world. There, she helped the company expand from 3 to 112 countries in less than three years and expanded its footprint into the nonprofit and brand space. Emily started her career in field organizing on the 2008 Obama Campaign and has held policy positions at the U.S. Senate Finance Committee and World Trade Organization.
A proud Kansan, Emily believes deeply in the value of honest conversations and loves building and being a part of diverse and impactful teams. She holds a masters degree from the London School of Economics and currently lives in Los Angeles with her husband, Alex and rambunctious one year old, Jameson.
Michael Trujillo is a democratic strategist who has served as a senior adviser to political leaders, corporations and nonprofits in California and around the country.
Michael was the youngest City Commissioner in Los Angeles history at the age of 18. He worked as a senior political aide to Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign in 2008 in California, Texas and North Carolina.
He was one of the first hires to Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa’s initial campaign for Mayor in 2001, while Antonio came up short, Michael worked for him on his successful campaign for LA City Council and then Mayor in 2005. Michael has served as a communication advisor to Actor/Director Rob Reiner, Governor Gray Davis and many others. Michael lives in Downtown Los Angeles.
Kevin Liao joins Bryson Gillette from the U.S. Department of Energy, where he served as press secretary for Secretary Jennifer Granholm and coordinated public rollouts for department and Biden Administration initiatives. He was previously Nevada communications director for the Biden general election campaign and worked on Elizabeth Warren’s primary campaign in Iowa and California. Kevin started his career at the California State Capitol, including serving as press secretary for Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon. He’s a native of San Jose, California.
Rebecca Pearcey is one of the most accomplished Black political operatives in the country. She most recently served as Political Director and Senior Advisor for Senator Elizabeth Warren’s presidential campaign, overseeing political strategy in all 57 states and territories, and managing staff in over 30 states.
During her 20-year career, she has steered hundreds of campaigns across the country, including statewide campaigns in Ohio (Strickland for U.S. Senate) and Indiana (Gregg for Governor). In 2018 she directed the national independent expenditure campaign for the Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee, a cycle in which Democrats flipped over 400 legislative seats and 8 chambers. She has served as a Senior Advisor for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. Based in D.C., Pearcey has guest lectured at Harvard, Georgetown and George Mason universities.
Raised in Puerto Rico, Mariela comes to Bryson Gillette after completing a masters in media advocacy from Northeastern University and serving as a legislative aide in the Massachusetts House of Representatives. There, she worked directly with low-income and diverse communities in Boston, helping them with issues such as housing, unemployment, food insecurity and maternal health. Her career began when she organized for Jay González’s gubernatorial campaign in Massachusetts and Senator Elizabeth Warren’s reelection campaign, both in 2018, after completing her undergraduate degree in political science from Boston College.
Mariela is a fierce advocate for reproductive rights and immigration reform. More importantly, she cares about economic and social justice in Puerto Rico, where she lives. She is excited to join a group of expert communicators and advocates for the most pressing issues of our time. In her free time, you can find Mariela hiking, at the beach or playing with her niece and nephew.
Jason Mandell is a seasoned strategic communications professional with expertise in media relations and education advocacy. He has worked with leading Los Angeles and California nonprofits, including The Education Trust-West, United Way of Greater Los Angeles and the California Charter Schools Association, to elevate awareness and spur action on educational justice, income inequality and homelessness.
As a communications director and consultant, he has a decade of experience spearheading advocacy campaigns, weaving storytelling and data into narratives that have sparked media attention, mobilized communities and achieved policy victories.
Jason’s op-eds have appeared in the Los Angeles Times, USA Today, San Francisco Chronicle, Sacramento Bee, and many other publications. As a spokesperson, his comments have been featured in the Wall Street Journal, NPR-affiliate KPCC, EdSource and other outlets.
Jason was a founding board member and board president of Resolute Academy, a charter middle school in Watts. He is excited to be part of a team of passionate, progressive, creative people working on some of the most urgent political and social causes facing our communities and our country. He is an Aquarius and a singer-songwriter. He knows a lot, perhaps too much, about Led Zeppelin.
Vice President and Head of Strategic Communications
Shira has designed and managed strategic communications campaigns for top corporations, technology companies, philanthropic institutions, non-profits, production companies and high-profile individuals for more than a decade. From the Los Angeles Unified’s School Board to the Capitol in Sacramento and from technology companies defining their brand to the Champagne Region of France protecting its name, Shira helps clients in a wide variety of industries figure out how to use communications to solve their toughest problems.
Shira previously worked at SKDKnickerbocker, where she helped open their West Coast office, and at Global Strategy Group and CLS Strategies in Washington D.C. She also helped re-elect President Obama during the 2012 campaign cycle, working as a political media buyer.
Shira graduated from Syracuse University with a degree in public relations. On the weekends, she can be found hiking in Griffith Park, wandering on the beach or discovering new playgrounds. She currently lives in Los Angeles with her husband and two sons.
William is a junior strategic communication major, political science minor at Howard University in Washington D.C. He is an active student leader with a passion for global affairs, public speaking, and intellectual development through writing and working to increase the consciousness of African Americans’ presence in academia. William plans to pursue his JD MBA in corporate communications and public policy following college and implement more diversity in the global professional workplace.
William has had extensive professional experience since 2018, including college preparation tutoring, interning as a legislative student worker with his local state representative at the time, and most recently, working as a consulting intern with the Dallas office of PriceWaterhouseCoopers (PWC). William demonstrates his leadership on campus through competing as part of his school’s debate and forensics team, interning with the Howard University Senate Association, and participating as a member of the HU Association of Black Journalists. Although having grown up in Dallas, Texas, William’s current place of residence is in Cleveland, Ohio, where he lives with his two charismatic younger brothers Joshua and Christopher, and his loving parents James and Frances.
Ralph Jean is a strategic communications professional with experience managing projects for a diverse range of causes, from business rebrands to grassroots organizing. A journalist by trade and a storyteller at heart, Ralph has directed his passion to produce original content in support of project launches like Destination Crenshaw Museum, HealthyLA Coalition, and A3C Festival & Conference in Atlanta, GA.
Prior to Bryson Gillette, Ralph served as Director of Communications for Strategic Actions for a Just Economy (SAJE). Ralph values flexible thinking and rigid procedure. He’s used these values to create metrics driven campaign strategies to increase website traffic, expand email audience, and grow organic social media engagements while connecting companies and organizations to new communities.
Ralph started his strategic communications career as a congressional intern for Congressman David Scott in Atlanta, Georgia. He attended Morehouse College, studying psychology and journalism and later obtained a Master of Science degree from Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism. When he’s not catching up on the hot memes of the month Ralph enjoys amateur astronomy and likes to unplug by visiting national dark sky parks or biking around his home in Georgia.
Risa Sunakawa is a rising senior at Cornell University studying Government and Psychology. Since freshman year, Risa has been committed to prevent what’s left of democracy in the U.S. from dying. She has worked with non-profits in her home state of Utah to increase voter registration and civic engagement, and made a web platform that helped Missourians safely and easily request absentee ballots during the 2020 election season.
She is also a Yankees fan (although not this season). On campus, Risa works as a research assistant in both the Government and Psychology departments, and is excited to learn more about the intersection between the two fields while interning for Bryson Gillette.
A British designer who’s hopped the pond and is obsessed by clever, considered, beautiful typography, created digitally or by hand. A designer that will gently push each project as far as it can go, to live up to its potential. A designer who will strip away the nonessentials to make the communication as powerful as possible. But most importantly, a designer who loves, lives and breathes design.
Prior to working with Bryson Gillette, Paul was trained in branding and print design at Kingston University, London. Winning a D&AD New Blood Award led him to working at the prestigious product design agency SeymourPowell, being trained under Richard Seymour as a graphic designer alongside a breadth of talent.
Moving on to run Delivery of Thought, a small design studio for several years, working with a wide variety of clients from The Prince’s Trust, Unilever, Freedom From Torture, Puma and Adidas (not at the same time!)
Paul has the skills to implement into a wide variety of projects across both print and digital. This allowed Paul the freedom to work Freelance and make the move to NYC, where he met his wife, Becky Bean. After a stint in NYC and Seattle, Paul and Becky are now settled in Becky’s home-town, the wonderful Santa Barbara.
Tess Seger is an experienced campaign professional with a strong background in paid and strategic communications. Tess put thousands of miles on her car as the communications director for Senator Cory Booker’s Presidential campaign in Iowa. She also served as the campaign manager for Congresswoman Susie Lee’s highly competitive re-election campaign in Nevada. In 2018, as the communications director for the Iowa Democratic Party, Tess helped flip federal, statewide, and local seats blue. She started her career at the Los Angeles office of SKDKnickerbocker after graduating with honors from the George Washington University.
Standing up for progressive values is as much a profession as it is a calling for Tess — she started advocating for public education when she was in the classroom herself. Forever an Oregonian at heart, outside of the office you can find her hiking, practicing yoga, or having heart failure over the latest Trail Blazer game. Tess lives in D.C. with her cat Finnegan.
Sloane Perry double majored in Political Science and Communications at the University of Southern California. She has experience in public relations, campaigns, social media strategy, and research from her internships with Cerrell Associates, the LAX Public Relations team, and the 2020 Colorado Democratic Coordinated Campaign.
As a Colorado Native, she spends most of her free time outside hiking, skiing, at the beach, or playing with her dog, Fig.
Sean Nesmith is a senior at New York University studying International Relations and Public Policy. Before coming to Bryson Gillette, he had previously volunteered for Sen. Jon Ossoff and Sen. Reverend Raphael Warnock on their senatorial campaigns and worked for Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand in constituent affairs. A big believer in service-based leadership, Sean is also a sixth-year volunteer for HOBY, a national youth empowerment organization for high-school students.
On campus, Sean works in the Office of Undergraduate Admissions. When he isn’t running around Washington Square Park, Sean is probably online, attempting to make sense of politics by way of pop culture and social media.
Gavin Lodge is an account strategist and social media specialist for Bryson Gillette. After two decades on Broadway, Gavin brings creativity, insight and smidgeon of pizazz to social media management. In 2015, Gavin successfully launched his own brand of baby gear for stylish dads where he cut his teeth in utilizing new media to reach target audiences. Gavin’s understanding of the creative process, ability to adjust to varying client needs, and understanding of what it takes to cut through the noise makes him an asset for Bryson Gillette and its clients.
Having worked as a field organizer in Iowa many moons ago, then as a manager for then-candidate U.S. Senator Maria Cantwell (WA), Gavin left politics to pursue show business in New York City. Over the course of a career including five Broadway shows, several original cast albums, a dozen TV appearances, and a turn on the Late Show with David Letterman (where he was greased up as a singing “Rambo” for a parody sketch), he’s followed other passions including founding the “baby gear for stylish dads” fashion start-up, E.C.Knox. His greatest pride are his two children, for which he waded into the political madness of Manhattan Public Schools by serving as PTA President.
Gavin is thrilled to be back in politics to bring about real change for progressive causes that will ensure a more just world for his children and yours.