The State Legislative Leaders Foundation staff is without equal. With an average tenure well over 20 years, each person brings tremendous experience, skills, and dedication to the job. They are an honor to work with, and the successes and accomplishments we have enjoyed over more than 45 years are a celebration of their talents. -Stephen G. Lakis
Stephen G. Lakis, President
Stephen joined SLLF in 1972 just after it was established, and for the following decade honed his political skills by working directly with state legislative leaders across the country on a series of legislative reform studies. In 1981, the Board of Directors appointed him President and Chief Executive Officer.
From the outset, Stephen’s goal was to create an independent, nonpartisan organization that would serve as an educational resource for state legislative leaders. It would inform the debate on critical public policy issues, and expand discussion of leadership.
During his tenure the SLLF has grown into the preeminent nonpartisan legislative leadership organization in the country. It reaches Senate Presidents, Speakers of the House, Majority Leaders and Minority Leaders, and future leaders, with unrivaled university-based educational programs.
In addition to overseeing all SLLF activities, he is a frequent speaker on legislative leadership, ethics, and legislative performance. He also has extensive experience in the international arena, having organized scores of programs in Europe, Asia, and Latin America.
Stephen received his BA in Political Science from the University of Bridgeport. He also attended graduate school at American University. He is married to the former Evelene Corrigan and is the proud father of four grown children, two grown stepchildren, and the grandfather of three perfect girls.
Marcia B. VanderVoort, Executive Vice President
Marcia VanderVoort has been with the State Legislative Leaders Foundation since 1981, and has served as Vice President since 1999 and Executive Vice President since 2010.
Over the years Marcia has been involved with creating, planning and managing many of the Foundation’s national and international educational programs. She has also assisted in editing several major research studies, and virtually every significant piece of correspondence prepared by the Foundation’s President. She works closely with the Board of Directors, and is responsible for annual board meetings, and the organization and management of the National Speakers Conference.
Marcia is a graduate of Newcomb College of Tulane University. She and her husband Tom have two adult children – Betsy (a graduate of Smith College and Suffolk Law School), and John (a graduate of Union College and now serving as a pilot in the Air Force). Marcia has two beautiful granddaughters.
Maria Alexander, Finance Manager
Maria Alexander joined SLLF in 2018. She holds a Finance Degree from the National School of Finance in Caracas, Venezuela. She is experienced in construction accounting, 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, and works with our program managers to develop and implement specific program budgets.
When not at SLLF, Maria enjoys the outdoors with her family and traveling. She lives in Mashpee with her husband Chuck and children Charlie and Christina.
Debra J. Bohlin, Executive Asst. to the VP/Coordinator of Event Logistics
Debbie began working for the Foundation in September 1993. She collects, organizes, and distributes advanced reading materials for all SLLF programs. Debbie also manages logistics for the Foundation’s newest program, the Majority Leaders Symposium. Her meticulous attention to detail and exceptional organizational skills have made her an indispensable member of the SLLF team. Debbie also serves as a close advisor and assistant to our Executive Vice President, Marcia VanderVoort.
Debbie and her husband reside on Cape Cod, and together have 6 children and 8 grandchildren.
Janice Govoni, Scheduling and Logistics Manager
Janice Govoni joined the SLLF team in 1989. She assists with logistics for all program participants of the National Speakers Conference, and for nearly every other SLLF national and international program. In addition, Janice provides on-site assistance at all SLLF programs, and maintains close contact with legislative leaders and Advisory Council members. She is without peer in our offices.
Janice and her husband, Tom, live on Cape Cod. They have 2 grown children and four beautiful grandchildren.
Evelene Corrigan-Lakis, Director of Strategic Planning
Evelene Corrigan-Lakis was appointed in 2011 to the position of Director of Strategic Planning for the State Legislative Leaders Foundation. As a member of the senior management team, she oversees SLLF marketing, programming and innovation. Evelene also manages the logistics for several of the Foundation’s core educational programs.
Prior to joining the SLLF, Evelene served as Office Manager to U.S. Representative John Larson of Connecticut. As Office Manager she was responsible for all scheduling, special event planning, and supervision of staff. Evelene is the proud mother of two exceptional children, Thomas and Danielle, students at the University of Massachusetts and at Cape Cod Community College, and is wife and companion to Steve Lakis.
Kate Levin, Director of Strategic Outreach
Kate comes to SLLF from Wisconsin Speaker Robin Vos’s office where she spearheaded the caucus’s video advancements and outreach to constituents as Deputy Communications Director. Prior to that, Kate was an Emmy Award-Winning TV news reporter.
At SLLF, she will be tackling everything from social media and digital content, to programming for events.
Kate graduated with a degree in Broadcast Journalism with a minor in Politics and History from Illinois State University.
Thomas H. Little, PH.D., Director, Curriculum Development and Research
Thom Little joined the SLLF team in 1995, and immediately assumed responsibility for the curriculum of the Foundation’s educational programs. Thom conceptualizes the subject matter of the Foundation’s several annual educational programs, and then helps our university partners to recruit expert faculty. His work with the Foundation’s educational programs is unparalleled. He is a major reason these programs enjoy bipartisan support among legislative leaders across the country.
Thom is also the principal author of a number of case studies of legislative leadership, and the author of numerous scholarly papers and publications.
In addition to his work with SLLF, Thom is a lecturer at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro, where he teaches courses in state government, American politics, leadership, and elections. He earned his Doctorate from The Ohio State University in 1991, and taught at the University of Texas at Arlington from 1992 to 1999.
Thom and his wife, Dr. Catherine Scott-Little, reside in Greensboro, North Carolina with their two daughters, Virginia and Rebecca. In his spare time Thom serves on the Board of Directors of the Greensboro Ballet, the board of the UNCG Baptist Student Union Alumni Association, and is active in his church.
Papalinka Paradise, Communications / Events Manager
Papalinka joined SLLF in 2000. Her exceptional creative talents in marketing and program design inform everything SLLF publishes and presents to the world (including this website)!
Papalinka also oversees the Foundation’s prestigious Emerging Legislative Leaders Program at the University of Virginia each year, and assists with the Foundation’s two annual leadership summits.
A 1992 graduate of Emerson College, Papalinka earned a BA degree in Communications, Politics and Law. She and her husband, John, live in Sandwich with their three children: Lily, Anna, and Griffin.
Mariah Pena, Program Coordinator
Mariah is a lifelong Cape Codder. When not working, she enjoys spending time outdoors, traveling and hanging out with her dogs, Hank and Scout. Mariah is a 2017 graduate of Johnson and Wales University, with a degree in Event Management.
Henry Zhao, President of SLLF Asia Operations and Vice President, SLLF
Dr. Henry Zhao is the CEO of Harvest Fund Management Co., Ltd. He has worked in the financial industry for over 20 years.
Henry joined Harvest in 2000. Under his leadership, it became one of the top asset management companies in China. By the end of 2012 it was managing over $49 billion in assets — making it the second-largest fund in the industry — and its management was ranked first among joint venture funds.
Prior to joining Harvest, Henry was the deputy general manager of Da Cheng Fund, and dealt extensively with commodity futures, commodities exchange, and import-export issues.
Dr. Zhao earned a Ph.D. in economics at Guanghua School of Management, Peking University. He is currently Vice President of the Asset Management Association of China.
Tony Zhao, Deputy Director of SLLF Asia Operations
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.
Lucky Lakis, Morale Officer
October 4, 2006 – December 27, 2018. Always in our hearts.