Photo of Stephen Lakis Stephen Lakis President
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ABOUT STEPHEN

Nothing gives me more professional satisfaction than bringing people together to find common purpose. The most rewarding part of my job is seeing new friendships develop between politicians who often don’t even speak the same language–and I’m not just talking about Northerners and Southerners! It’s when a conservative Republican and a liberal Democrat share an idea, have a good conversation about an important issue, and then go on to develop a lasting friendship. It happens often at SLLF programs and that’s what makes me feel like we’re doing a good job.

I’ve been here almost from the start. My career began with SLLF in 1972. Yikes! Over the years I’ve worked with some pretty amazing men and women and I’ve seen a lot of things. Through it all, I’ve developed an abiding respect for these regular people who take on the heavy responsibility of public servant and legislative leader. These are good people doing a tough job in often difficult times. I get inspired by them.

I am a lucky man. I have a great family, a few good friends, and a job I love. And did I mention Hope, Hadley, and Sophia? And the young prince, Hayden? My Perfect grandchildren!

I have a BA in Political Science and I studied for a year towards a Master’s Degree (that I never completed). I’m what you call an autodidactic!

Photo of marcia vandervoort marcia vandervoort Executive Vice President
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ABOUT MARCIA

Sitting on the beach in the summer of 1981 Marcia agreed to do some part-time work for Steve Lakis who had recently been made president of SLLF. He was working out of his home office on the Cape and she was his neighbor and family friend. Thus began the saga of the IBM Selectric typewriter on the dining room table and the humble beginnings of the Foundation of today.

For nearly 40 years Marcia has been part of the team that creates, plans and manages the Foundation’s national and international educational programs. She’s also assisted in editing several major research studies, and much of the correspondence that goes out. She works closely with the Board of Directors and the National Speakers Conference.

Marcia grew up in Florida and went to college in New Orleans. She and her husband Tom moved to Cape Cod in 1980 and raised their family there. When she’s not at work Marcia enjoys practicing yoga, doing crossword puzzles, reading and walking (3 miles a day!). But her favorite pastime is spoiling her two beautiful granddaughters.

Photo of Maria Alexander Maria Alexander Finance Manager
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ABOUT MARIA

Maria Alexander serves as the Finance Manager and reports directly to the President. She joined SLLF in 2018. A native of Venezuela, she holds a Finance Degree from the National School of Finance from her home city of Caracas. She moved to the United States in 2005 and got her start working in construction accounting in Houston, Texas. After moving east to Massachusetts, she continued to gain experience in commercial property management and office management, including human resources and accounting.

In addition to handling all accounting functions and compliance for the Foundation, Maria works with the President to develop the annual operating budget of SLLF. She also works with our program managers to develop and implement specific program budgets and keep us all on track!

Maria enjoys life on the Cape, taking the outdoors with her family anytime when possible.

Photo of Debra Bohlin Debra Bohlin Executive Assistant
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ABOUT DEBRA

Debbie began working for the Foundation in September 1993. Her meticulous attention to detail and exceptional organizational skills have made her an indispensable member of the SLLF team. Each year she ably assists to make sure all SLLF programs are seamless.

Debbie and her husband reside on Cape Cod, and together have 6 children and 8 grandchildren. When not working she is involved with raising funds through her church for many local charities. She is always crafting, knitting or making her signature gnomes, her hands are never idle!

Photo of Jessica Cardone Jessica Cardone Graphic Designer/Program Assistant
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ABOUT JESSICA

Jessica fell in love with art and design at young age. You could always find her color coordinating her arts and crafts as well as décor. She graduated from Lasell College, with a Bachelor Degree in Graphic Design and minor in Fine Arts. During her time there she also studied abroad to complete her fine arts degree in Florence, Italy.

Her passion is creating eye catching materials for not only our programs, but for our website and app as well. She resides on Cape Cod with her husband, Jesse, and their standard poodle, Riggs. Year round you can find her wandering the trails and beaches of the Cape, skiing up north in the winter, and boating off sandy neck in the summer.

Photo of Evelene Lakis Evelene Lakis Director of Operations
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ABOUT EVELENE

Evelene grew up in Ireland with a forever passion for America. Now that she’s lived here most of her life, her love for this country has never been stronger.

As SLLF’s Director of Operations, she gets to do the things she loves the most; work for a good purpose, set goals, and help our team achieve those goals. Her attention to detail is unmatched and all of SLLF’s programs reflect her drive for excellence. 

She has been a valuable team member at SLLF for nearly 15 years. Previously, she worked in the United States Congress as office manager to Congressman John Larson (CT) for 4 years. 

At home she loves long walks on the beach, with her dog Hopkins, trying out new and healthy recipes and constantly updating the look and feel of her home.

Photo of Kate Levin Kate Levin Director of Strategic Outreach
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ABOUT KATE

Kate holds down the fort for SLLF in the Midwest! She was born and raised in the suburbs of Chicago before her career as a TV news reporter took her on a tour of midwestern markets, (hello county fairs and farmland!) After working as the capitol correspondent in Madison, Wisconsin she transitioned into politics and worked for Wisconsin Speaker Robin Vos. There, she used her Emmy Award-Winning videography skills to transform the caucus’s outreach with constituents.

Still based in Wisconsin, Kate works remotely for SLLF. She helps to build the curriculum and book all of the wonderful speakers you see at our events. She couldn’t put down the video camera entirely so you might also see her capturing smiles for some marketing materials! In her free time, you can find Kate paddle boarding on a nearby lake with her husband and puppy, crafting, or knee-deep in a DIY project for their home.

Photo of Thomas Little, Ph.D. Thomas Little, Ph.D. Director, Curriculum Development and Research
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ABOUT THOM

Born and raised in North Carolina, one of Thom’s roles at SLLF is to translate for President Lakis when he goes south of the Mason-Dixon Line! For more than twenty years, Thom has served as SLLF’s Director of Curriculum Development and Research where he has coordinated programs on everything from biotechnology to crisis management. He has also written case studies on state legislative leadership in states from Alabama to Ohio.

When not watching college basketball (that is required for those born in NC), Thom teaches at UNC-Greensboro and the Institute of Political Leadership. He and wife Catherine are recent empty nesters as daughter Virginia is a new middle school teacher (pray hard) and daughter Rebecca is a Virginia Cavalier. Go Hoos!

Photo of Papalinka Paradise Papalinka Paradise Director of Communications
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ABOUT PAPALINKA

Papalinka got hooked on politics as an intern for then State Senator John Kerry while studying Communications, Politics and Law at Emerson College in Boston. Years later, she was thrilled to find her dream job at SLLF, allowing her to combine her passion for communications, politics and travel.

For 20 years she has used her communication and design skills to help create meaningful educational programs for our country’s state legislative leaders and our corporate supporters. Her exceptional creative talents in marketing and program design inform everything SLLF publishes and presents to the world (including this website)!

Outside of the office, she enjoys adventuring with her family of five, remodeling her antique home, and taking advantage of all Cape Cod has to offer.

Photo of Mariah Pena Mariah Pena Event Logistic Manager
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ABOUT MARIAH

Mariah joined the SLLF team as an intern in the winter of 2017. Now, she assists with all aspects of planning SLLF’s many programs. She has exceptional organizational skills and an eye for detail and brings a fresh vision to SLLF. She graduated magna cum laude from Johnson and Wales, in Rhode Island with a BA degree in Event and Hospitality Management.

Mariah loves to stay busy. When not working, she enjoys spending time in her barn with her alpacas, dwarf goats and chickens, traveling and going on adventures with her dogs, Hank, a pug mix and Scout, a black lab.

 

Photo of Henry Zhao, PhD Henry Zhao, PhD President, SLLF Asia

ABOUT HENRY

Henry is deeply committed to strengthening the bonds of friendship between China and the USA and SLLF provides him with the perfect platform to serve
both his country and America.

Henry is a businessman by trade. Currently he serves as the CEO and board member of Harvest Fund Management, one of the top asset management companies in China. Henry earned his PhD in Economics from Guanghua School of Management, Peking University.

Working to help establish SLLF in Asia, has given Henry many opportunities to learn more about America’s state legislatures and political system and insights into how we can build new partnerships linking American political leaders to their counterparts in China.

“I am honored by this position of trust and dedicated to our common purpose of working together in a spirit of mutual respect and friendship.” – Henry Zhao

Photo of Tony Zhao Tony Zhao Deputy Director of SLLF Asia
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ABOUT TONY

Tony joined SLLF in 2013 as an intern in the Washington, D.C. office. Today, he conducts research for SLLF leadership programs, provides insights and analysis regarding SLLF’s outreach in China, and maintains the SLLF Twitter account

Tony earned a Master’s Degree in International Affairs at the George Washington University, and has interned at the Brookings Institution and the Hudson Institute. He has provided simultaneous or consecutive interpretation for Chinese government delegations visiting the United States. In his spare time, Tony enjoys watching soccer, and practicing Chinese martial arts.

Photo of David j. Webb David j. Webb Intern
A native of Rocky Mount, North Carolina, David has been interning with SLLF since February, 2019. In May, he graduated from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro Summa Cum Laude with a 4.0 GPA and a Bachelor’s Degree in Political Science. David has worked on numerous projects for SLLF, including gathering information for and assisting in the writing of several leadership case studies, providing support for our leadership programs in Boston and Dallas, visiting new leaders in several states to introduce SLLF to them and coordinating efforts to track our Advisory Council organizations’ responses to Covid-19 and efforts to promote racial justice.

In his spare time, David likes spending time with his family, his girlfriend Kelsey and their silver Lab Bullet. David also enjoys spending time cooking his favorite southern dishes as well as any new meals he learns about. Finally he enjoys working on cars, a past time his late grandmother taught him throughout his entire life.
Photo of Hopkins Lakis Hopkins Lakis Morale Officer

Hopkins joined SLLF this fall. He is currently enrolled at Wags University, and is looking forward to graduating this spring, with a degree in Good Behavior, and Obedience. His experience in community outreach and human interaction make him a wonderful asset to SLLF.

While not at work, you can find Hopkins along side his roommates, Steve and Evelene Lakis, adventuring the towns of Cape Cod. In his spare time, Hopkins enjoys long walks, peanut butter, and belly rubs.