State OfficesJennifer Ortega, California State Director
Jennifer Ortega joined America’s Edge as its California State Director in April 2010. Prior to that, Ms. Ortega was the Associate Director of Fight Crime: Invest in Kids, where she oversaw the Communications and Membership departments and played a key role in the organization’s strategic planning. She joined Fight Crime: Invest in Kids in 2008 as its Communications Director. Previously she worked as a Marketing Manager and Communications Specialist for Raley’s, a privately held supermarket chain based in Sacramento, CA. Ms. Ortega got her start in public relations at the non-profit Association of California Water Agencies, where she focused on member outreach campaigns to publicize important legislation. Upon graduating from UC Berkeley in 1999 with a BA in Mass Communications, Jennifer honed her journalism skills as a writer, reporter and associate producer in a variety of print and broadcast media outlets, including ABC 7 News, TechTV and Bay City News Service. In 2005, she received a certificate in Public Relations from UC Davis.
Tim Carpenter, Illinois State Director
Tim Carpenter expanded his work in 2010 to serve as State Director of America’s Edge as well as working as the Illinois State Director for Fight Crime: Invest In Kids, where he has worked since 1998.
As Illinois State Director, Tim brings thirty years of experience in issue advocacy, public education, and public relations strategies at the state and national levels. For eleven years, he was the executive director of the Metropolitan Tenants Organization in Chicago, a nonprofit citywide coalition devoted to promoting tenants’ rights and the availability, affordability, and quality of rental housing in Chicago. Tim received a bachelor’s degree in natural resources from the environmental advocacy program at the University of Michigan.
Alena Chaps, Illinois Policy Associate
Alena worked at Hope Community Inc. with youth, young adults, and residents of mixed-income housing prior to joining our staff in February 2010. As a founding member of SPEAC (Sustainable Progress through Engaging Active Citizens,) she worked with community listening projects and also is the primary author of a report to build community support around investment in a local park and to document funding inequalities within the Minneapolis Park and Recreation System. In her work as an Americorps full-time volunteer, she worked with The Advocates for Human Rights in the Women’s Human Rights Program and also coordinated basic education classes and an English language learning program for adult students.
Kim Gore, Maine State Director
In 2009 Kim Gore expanded her work to serve as State Director for America’s Edge in Maine as well as working as Maine State Director for Fight Crime: Invest In Kids.
Ms. Gore has been with Fight Crime: Invest In Kids since December 2006 and during that time she also directed law enforcement activities in Connecticut and Massachusetts as New England Regional Director. Previously, she worked as a legislative assistant to former Maine Governor Jock McKernan and as a staff member on U.S. Senator Olympia’s Snowe’s 1994 and 2000 campaigns. Ms. Gore also worked as Development Director for Spurwink, one of Maine’s largest mental health agencies and did fundraising and events at the University of Southern Maine. Early in her career, Ms. Gore worked in the White House Press Office during the Reagan Administration and as Assistant Press Secretary to Senator Mitch McConnell. She is a graduate of Indiana University with degrees in Journalism and Political Science.
Dave Curry, Montana State Director
Dave Curry started as our Montana State Director for America’s Edge in 2011. Prior to joining the staff of America’s Edge, Mr. Curry worked for a public utility for a number of years, including the position of Director of Applications. In addition to his employment, he was a volunteer leader within the Kiwanis Organization for over 20 years, both leading the Montana District of Kiwanis and the entire organization as the International President of Kiwanis during the 2007-08 administrative year. Dave served on the Butte-Silver Bow Council of Commissioners, chaired the Butte-Silver Bow Planning Board, and actively served on the Economic Development and Attraction of Industry committees. Among many awards, he received the Pachyderm’s Meritorious Service award for his community efforts. His community service included Cub Scout Master, Junior Achievement Advisor, and coaching T-Ball, YMCA basketball, and as a Little League baseball assistant. He currently serves as the Vice-Chair of a worldwide effort to eliminate Maternal Neonatal Tetanus. Dave attended Carroll College in Helena, Montana and received his Master’s degree in Philanthropy and Development from Saint Mary’s University in Winona, Minnesota.
Jenn O’Connor, New York State Director
Jenn O’Connor became NYS Director for the Council for a Strong America in mid-December 2012. Prior to this position she was a senior policy associate at the Schuyler Center for Analysis and Advocacy in Albany from January 2007 – December 2012. In this capacity, she was coordinator of Winning Beginning NY, the State’s early care and learning coalition and provided staff support to the Governor’s Early Childhood Advisory Council (ECAC).
Ms. O’Connor is Public Policy Chair for both the NYS AEYC (Association for the Education of Young Children) and the Capital District AEYC, and is a Steering Committee Member of the New York State Parenting Education Partnership (NYSPEP). In 2008, she co-chaired the Early Identification and Intervention, Family Support and Engagement, and Evidence-Based Practices Committee for the State’s Children’s Plan. Prior to joining SCAA, Ms. O’Connor spent five years in Washington, D.C. as a senior policy analyst with the National Governors Association (NGA) Center for Best Practices, specializing in mental health and maternal/child health issues. As a consultant to the nation’s governors, she provided technical assistance to states on everything from Medicaid programs to mental health parity. Before moving to D.C. in 2002, Ms. O’Connor spent ten years in Albany as both legislative and campaign staff and finally as Director of Legislative Affairs and Education with the National Conference of Insurance Legislators (NCOIL), where she specialized in health insurance issues.
Ms. O’Connor has a B.A. in English/Creative Writing Arts from SUNY-Oswego and is pursuing a Certificate in Nonprofit Management and Leadership from Rockefeller College of Public Affairs and Policy.
Martha Brooks, Oregon State Director & Western States Regional Director
Martha Brooks started as our Western States Regional Director in 2010 and also serves as the Oregon State Director. Prior to joining the staff of America’s Edge, Martha joined Fight Crime: Invest in Kids as the Oregon State Director in September 2004 and has been the Western States Regional Director since 2006. Ms. Brooks has an extensive business background having worked for a number of years with several small business ventures and also worked in management for a major U.S. retailer for over 10 years. Martha developed a very successful 20-year real estate practice in the Portland, Oregon area and served in a leadership role in many local political activities. She received the State and Local Realtor Associations’ “Realtor Active in Politics” Awards for her grassroots lobbying activities, candidate campaign volunteer work, local and statewide issue campaign volunteer work, and involvement as an elected local school committee member. Martha has volunteered in her community in numerous capacities including taking the lead in creating an innovative scholarship program at Aloha High School for lower-income kids to help them participate in extra-curricular programs. She presently serves on several local and state boards working on children’s issues. She attended Idaho State University in Pocatello, Idaho.
Steve Leahy, Washington State Director
Before joining America’s Edge as the Washington State Director, Steve Leahy served as president & CEO of the Greater Seattle Chamber of Commerce from late-2001 to mid-2009. He led its regional development and business advocacy initiatives and grew its scope, membership, and financial strength. Prior to being selected as CEO, Steve served for many years as the Chamber’s executive vice president and senior vice president of public affairs and operations. In the 1980’s, Steve served as the founding director of Leadership Tomorrow, a highly-regarded community leadership program in metro Seattle. He also helped create and served as executive director of Business Volunteers for the Arts which provided business consulting services to local nonprofit arts and cultural organizations. Steve began his post-college career as a high school English and journalism teacher in Oak Lawn, Illinois and Dearborn, Michigan.
Steve is active in various community and professional organizations, including United Way of King County, Children’s Music Foundation, and Lake Washington Schools Foundation. During his chamber career, Steve served as Vice Chair of the American Chamber of Commerce Executives association, on the Executive Committee of the Association of Washington Business, and on the boards of Leadership Tomorrow, the Seattle Sports Commission, Enterprise Seattle, and the Trade Development Alliance of Greater Seattle.
Steve received his MBA from the University of Puget Sound; a Master’s in English from the University of Notre Dame; and his BA from Lewis University in the Chicago area. Steve lives in Sammamish with his wife, Janet.