U.S. Rep.-Elect Deb Haaland: My Team Is Ready To Work For New Mexico On Day 1

January 2, 2019
In The News

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Rep.-elect Deb Haaland has announced staff hires for her team, which will begin work Thursday.

Haaland made history in the 2018 midterm when she was elected as one of the first Native American women to serve in Congress. She will take the oath of officeThursday, the first day of the 116th Congress.

“My team is ready to work for New Mexico starting on day 1,” Haaland said. “I know how difficult it was for me to imagine a Native American woman in Congress because it was something I had never seen before. It is equally important for my staff to be diverse so I hired a talented, experienced team to work for our district that is as diverse as the beautiful state I represent. I’m pleased that we have hired a majority-minority staff.”

Two-thirds of the staff are from the state of New Mexico and 60 percent are women. In addition, two thirds of her senior staff are from diverse backgrounds. The experienced team who will be serving New Mexico’s First Congressional District include: 

Leadership Team 

Chief of Staff – Jennifer Van de Heide

Jennifer Van der Heide has more than 25 years of federal, state, and local legislative and local legislative, legal, and electoral experience in both the public and private sectors, including as fmr. Rep. Mike Honda’s chief of staff of 16 years. She also has specific expertise in tribal law and policy, which stems from her experience as Washington Director for the Hoopa Valley Tribe and as their on-reservation Tribal Attorney and Tribal Attorney for California Indian Legal Services. Van der Heide is a Senior Stennis Congressional Staff Fellow, a senior Congressional European Parliamentary Fellow and Women’s Executive Leadership Program Fellow. She is a working single mother with a 9th grade daughter in DC public schools.

District Director - Scott Forrester

Born and raised in Albuquerque, Scott Forrester has more than a decade of experience in national, state and local government. Forrester served as Albuquerque Mayor Martin Chavez’s assistant and moved up to chief of staff. He has a record of working for diverse candidates including the only two Latinas on Albuquerque’s City Council, the first openly gay mayor in New Mexico, Hillary Clinton and managing Haaland’s historic campaign. He is raising his family in Albuquerque. 

Congressional Office in Washington D.C.

Legislative Director – Eric Werwa

Dr. Eric Werwa comes to the office with 17 years of Congressional experience. As an engineer and Ph.D. in electronic materials from MIT, and a former college professor, he has a history of working in science and tech policy issues including climate change and renewable energy, and with the national labs. Dr. Werwa spearheaded the bipartisan 21st Century Nanotechnology Research Development Act, which became law in 2003. He most recently served as legislative director for U.S. Rep. Lucille Roybal-Allard (D-CA), Ranking member of the Homeland Security and Appropriations Committee.

Communications Director – Felicia Salazar

Born and raised in the rural area of New Mexico’s First Congressional District, Felicia Salazar brings nearly a decade of communications and digital media experience to the team. After graduating from the University of New Mexico, Salazar worked in U.S. Sen. Martin Heinrich’s press office and has since worked in press shops for in the New Mexico House under Speaker Brian Egolf and most recently the City of Albuquerque in Mayor Tim Keller’s Office. Salazar specializes in social media and works to make government approachable and transparent.

Senior Legislative Assistant – Yvesner Zamar

Yvesner is a lawyer who worked for nearly four years for Judiciary Committee Ranking Member Rep. John Conyers and comes with breadth of legislative policy expertise. He founded the Haitian-American Staff Association in Congress. Previously, he worked with the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of the Nation’s Capital Area, the Federal Health and Families Team at AARP,  and served two years on National Black Law Students Association’s (NBLSA) National Board as National Historian and National Attorney General. During his time with NBLSA, he played a role in international efforts in delegations to Haiti and Canada.

Legislative Assistant - Heidi Todacheene

Heidi Todacheene is an enrolled member of Navajo Nation from Farmington, and her clans are: Bilagáana (Anglo), born for Táchii’nii (Red-Running-Into-The-Water) and her maternal grandfathers are Bilagáana and her paternal grandfathers are Honágháahnii (One-walks-around clan). Todacheene is a University of New Mexico graduate, and after earning a J.D. and Law of Indigenous People Certificate from the University of New Mexico School of Law, she worked with Tribal and Pueblo communities at the New Mexico Indian Affairs Department in Santa Fe. Later, she served as an associate attorney at a civil law firm in Albuquerque. Most recently, Todacheene worked on government and legislative affairs for the Navajo Nation in Washington, D.C. 

Scheduler/Office Manager - Christopher Garcia

Christopher Garcia began his career in the service industry where he became a general manager at Jimmy John’s at a young age. He later earned his degree and went on to law school. He worked as a staff assistant/intern coordinator for Sen. Klobuchar and also managed the chief of staff's schedule. He was raised by a single mother who is disabled giving him valuable experience with ADA policies. 

Alejandro Oms - Legislative Correspondent

For almost two years, Alejandro Oms has served the state of New Mexico in Sen. Martin Heinrich’s office. Oms interned with LULAC and the Truman National Security Project. He was raised in a military family and at the age of 11 settled in Albuquerque. While in college, racial incidents on campus spurred him to get involved in student government and campus activism.  

Staff Assistant - Naomie Germain

Naomie Germain is a proud Haitian-American born and raised in Albuquerque. For the past year and a half, she has served as the policy associate at Young Women United. In her role, she facilitated leadership development and lobbied to maintain access to a full-range of reproductive health in New Mexico. Germaine graduated from the University of New Mexico with a degree in Political Science in 2016, and in the same year was crowned Miss New Mexico USA, where she represented New Mexico at the national Miss USA competition. 

District Office in Albuquerque New Mexico

Senior Field Representative - Sofia Sanchez

Sofia Sanchez was born and raised in the Albuquerque area and comes from a long line of public servants. She studied journalism at the University of New Mexico. Her family’s roots run deep in the area as a member of the Atrisco Land Grant. With a background in communications and community organizing, Sanchez most recently served as coordinator for ABQ Volunteers in Albuquerque Mayor Keller's office, working to foster a culture of service in the community. Prior to that, she worked as coordinator of Collective Impact for an AmeriCorps VISTA program run through the City of Albuquerque. 

Constituent Services Manager - Jon Moore

Jon Moore has lived in New Mexico for 15 years and is the son of  a career army officer. After moving to New Mexico in 2004, he attended the University of New Mexico, majoring in Political Science and Spanish. While there, he spent eight months living in Ecuador studying Spanish and teaching English. Most recently, Moore helps connect residents in New Mexico’s First Congressional District with federal services and programs as a constituent services representative for former U.S. Rep. Michelle Lujan Grisham. 

Constituent Services Representative/Special Projects Coordinator - Cynthia Hull

Cynthia Hull has worked as a field representative and constituent services representative for U.S. Senators Martin Heinrich and Tom Udall and former Rep. Harry Teague. Most recently she worked as a field representative with Sen. Heinrich, working on immigration, healthcare, economic development and international trade. Hull also has enjoyed the opportunity to help coordinate events such as Si Se Puede and a Binational Women’s Entrepreneur event, which focus on equipping Spanish speakers with the tools and resources they need to start or expand their small business. Prior to working in the senate, Hull was selected to participate in a politics and journalism fellowship with Bloomberg Television in Washington, D.C. and she worked as a reporter for an NPR affiliate station covering immigration issues. Hull and her husband are raising their daughter in Albuquerque.

Brenda McKenna - Field Representative

Brenda McKenna is a Nambé Ówîngeh (Tewa) Tribal Member. She earned a BA from Syracuse University and a MS in Organization Development from Central Washington University. Since returning to New Mexico, McKenna served as coordinator for the Nambé Tewa Language Revitalization Program, chair for Nambé former gaming enterprise board, as an examiner and team editor for Quality New Mexico, co-chair for a Stabilizing Indigenous Language Symposium and in precinct and vice-ward chair positions. She also served as a program manager for the New Mexico Medical Society in Albuquerque; a patient relations facilitator at Lovelace Medical Center; the Director of Public Relations at the League of Women Voters in NM; and was an advocate for domestic violence for more than two years in Syracuse, NY. She is an advisory board member for Wildlife Conservation Advocacy Southwest and volunteers for Prairie Dog Pals and Animal Protection New Mexico.   

Field Representative - Tsailii Rogers 

Tsailii ("Say-Lee") Rogers brings more than 16 years of experience in business development, client relations, multimedia production, and philanthropy. With deep roots in New Mexico, Arizona, and California, Rogers established a successful business before earning a Bachelor’s in Business Administration from the University of New Mexico, and she produced her first social impact film before she started building pathways for underserved filmmakers to gain real-world experience in the film and fashion industries. Her Diné (Navajo) father influenced a passion for building unparalleled connections with global communities, while her Latina, single-mother and extended family instilled a lifelong commitment to self-development and public service.  

Staff Assistant - Molly Callaghan

Molly Callaghan recently graduated from the University of New Mexico in 2018 with a double major in Political Science and International Studies. Callaghan spent much of her college experience working to elect local and statewide candidates in New Mexico. She also volunteers at a Horse Therapy Center.