Our Staff

Featured image for “Rachel Ackoff”

Rachel Ackoff

Campaigns Director

(207) 797-0967
[email protected]

Rachel (she/her) builds strategic partnerships and coalitions and works with MPA department leaders to set campaign strategy for electoral and legislative campaigns.

Rachel Ackoff is Campaigns Director at Maine People’s Alliance. She previously served as Deputy Field Director at Bend the Arc Jewish Action. She got her start organizing in high school with the Sierra Student Coalition almost 25 years ago. Rachel loves camping and hiking, book clubs, co-ops, and breastfeeding.

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Cate Blackford

Director of Public Policy

(207) 810-6628
[email protected]

Cate (she/her) leads the development of MPA’s policy agenda and legislative strategy, in close collaboration with members and allies, to advance our mission and meet the moment.

Cate has spent her career working to connect the people most excluded from state and local decision making to the process and supporting them in shaping solutions. She has worked on housing, hunger, consumer protections, fiscal policy, establishing universal benefits like retirement and paid leave, and many other issues. She holds a BA from UMaine and Masters in Public Policy from the Harvard Kennedy School, which she’s using to ensure other people don’t need advanced degrees to feel like they belong in developing policy solutions. She lives in Isleboro with her husband and two children.

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Ben Chin

Deputy Director

Ben Chin is the Deputy Director of Maine People’s Alliance, where he has worked for grassroots social change since 2005.

Ben has helped build the teams that won minimum wage increases, expanded Medicaid, and guaranteed workers paid sick days. As a community organizer, he focused on immigrant rights. As a political director, he lobbied on many issues, especially those related to taxes and the state budget, and helped elect dozens of candidates to office. He published Maine’s first racial justice policy guide, and a white paper outlining a plan for universal childcare, home care, and paid family and medical leave. He co-hosts the Beacon Podcast, and received the Frederick Douglass 200 award for his contributions to racial justice by the Guardian and Ibram Kendi’s Anti-racist Research and Policy Center. He lives in Lewiston with his wife Nicola, and two kids that train with him on the mats of justice at Central Maine Brazilian Jiu Jitsu.

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Rev. Dr. Jodi Cohen Hayashida

Faith Community Organizer

Jodi (she/her) organizes people of all faiths to build power

Jodi has been grounding a community of faith in the discipline and practice of radical love for more than two decades. She served publicly as clergy voice advocating for justice and supported others in doing the same. Working with my people to nurture and develop a culture that recognizes hope, grief, joy, and holy rage as equally sacred expressions of love.Jodi grew up outside of Boston, attended seminary in Chicago, and was called to serve as the minister of First Universalist in Auburn.

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Nora Flaherty

Communications Director

Nora (she/her) leads MPA’s communications and media programs.

Nora is honored to bring the voices, perspectives and concerns of MPA’s members into the public sphere, and to bring a strongly progressive voice into the state conversation. Nora holds a BA in Latin American Studies from the University of Chicago and an MA in Anthropology from the University of Michigan. Before she worked at Maine People’s Alliance, Nora was a an award-winning public radio reporter and host for 20 years.She lives in southern Maine with her family and enjoys thrift shopping, movies, and crafting.

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Kate Gardner

Deputy Communications Director

Kate (she/her) designs and implements communications strategies and projects, including running our social media platforms.

Kate started at MPA in 2023 and has worked in writing and communications in one capacity or another since earning her BA in journalism in 2014. Her writing has been published in the Washington Post, Teen Vogue, SELF, Bustle, and many Maine newspapers and magazines. She first combined her love of storytelling and desire to make the world better in 2018 when she started working at the Planned Parenthood Maine Action Fund as a digital organizer. Kate loves reading and has more books than her tiny apartment can hold. She and her husband live in Portland with their cat.

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Jesse Graham

Co-Director

(207) 797-0967
[email protected]

Jesse (he/him) helps lead MPA strategy, organizational management, and fundraising. He staffs the MPA board of directors.

Jesse grew up in Weld, Maine and started working at MPA shortly after graduating from college in 1999. During his time at MPA Jesse has worked as a door-to-door canvass director, community organizer, Associate Director, Executive Director and Co-Director. He runs MPA’s longest running campaign to hold Holtrachem accountable for dumping mercury into the Penobscot river, and has a successful track record of wins within that campaign. Jesse lives with his family in Bar Harbor and can be found playing basketball at the MDI YMCA in his free time.

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Amy Halsted

Co-Director

(207) 797-0967
[email protected]

Amy (she/her) helps lead MPA strategy, organizational management, and fundraising. She staffs the MPA board of directors.

Amy started her career in social change knocking on doors and community organizing with MPA in 2001. Over the past two decades, Amy has helped grow MPA’s field, organizing and communications programs. She served in many roles at MPA before becoming Co-Director, including managing the successful ballot initiative campaign to increase Maine’s minimum wage. She is a graduate of Bates College, lives with her family in Freeport, and spends her free time running, watching her sons play baseball and hockey, gardening, and cross country skiing.

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Mohamed Ibrahim

Community Organizer

207-844-1646
[email protected]

Mohamed (he/him) leads the immigration work for the organization. He spends his time building partnerships and networking with leaders of different immigrant communities in Maine.

Mohamed speaks four languages fluently and wants to learn a fifth one. He is passionate about how new Mainers could have a seat at the decision-making table and build a progressive youth leadership.

Featured image for “Carrie Jadud”

Carrie Jadud

Community Organizer

Carrie (she/her) discovers and develops leaders in the Lewiston-Auburn area.

Carrie initially joined MPA by volunteering to knock on doors for universal home care, and then stayed to lobby legislators on just about everything. She loves little more than using her editing background to help other Mainers speak their truth in their own words. She has her PhD in English, lives in Lewiston with her family (consisting of husband, two school-aged children, and dog), and can be found singing soprano in the Maine Music Society Chorale and reading novels of dubious literary merit.

Featured image for “Nyawal Lia”

Nyawal Lia

Housing Community Organizer

Nyawal ( she/her) oversees housing organizing projects with MPA and manages Housing Justice Maine, a statewide Coalition.

Nyawal joined MPA as the housing and community organizer in June, 2023 after having been a part of Housing Justice Maine since 2021. As the housing organizer Nyawal oversees and has collaborated with organizers and activists throughout the state to help amplify the experiences of people directly impacted by housing. A huge part of her role consists of engaging tenants monthly and hosting community conversations around tenant rights. Prior to MPA Nyawal organized for several years in the Portland area, focusing on issues such as education reform, and immigrant housing rights in Maine. Nyawal lives in Windham, with her husband and two daughters, and really enjoys being active in her South Sudanese community of Maine as often as possible.

Featured image for “Genevieve Lysen”

Genevieve Lysen

Organizing Director

Genevieve joined MPA in 2005 knocking on doors, and now serves as Organizing Director. She is the co-founder and President of Movement Building Maine.

She began with MPA leading their civic engagement campaign in 2008 – registering 4000 new voters. Since then she has worked on organizing campaigns on the issues of healthcare, affordable housing, worker justice, and fair taxes, at the local, state, and national levels. Her desire to work for social change has been shaped both by her education and her life experiences. Since she was a young child, Genevieve has traveled, volunteered and studied in more than 20 countries in Europe, and in Haiti and Ghana.She traces her commitment to and grounding in community building to her Waldorf education and the guidance of her parents, both long-time social activists.
Genevieve loves working in her vegetable garden, cooking, writing, biking, snowboarding and spending time with her family and friends. She lives in her hometown of Lewiston, Maine.

Featured image for “Logan Massara”

Logan Massara

Canvass Director

Logan (he/him) runs our Bangor canvass, which is currently focused on deep canvassing to educate Mainers on current climate initiatives.

Logan started with MPA in 2023. He lived in the Netherlands where he owned and ran restaurants for 15 years. He comes from a long line of organizers and union folks and when he returned to the US in 2014 he got involved in activism work doing everything from phone canvassing to Campaign Coordinator. Before coming to MPA he worked at MPA partner, Center for Popular Democracy. He lives in Bangor with his partner, he loves boxing and coaching boxing, reading, and playing video games.

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Esther Pew

Senior Organizer

(207) 797-0967
[email protected]

Esther (she/her) organizes the MPA project Maine Student Action, oversees MPA’s internship program, and is one of the hosts of the Maine Beacon podcast.

Esther grew up in Western Maine and credits her energy for political activism to her parents instilling a need for justice in her from a young age. In 2016, Esther interned at MPA while getting her Masters in Social Work and waiting tables. Her first project as an intern was working on the minimum wage campaign. She spoke to reporters, gave testimony, presented in classrooms, and much more. Now she gets to help other students and young people have similar experiences! Esther currently lives in South Portland with her rescue dog Barney where she is currently planning her next Halloween costume and trivia night.

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Jennie Pirkl

Special Projects Coordinator

(207) 671-2490
[email protected]

Jennie (she/her) oversees major organizational projects and coordinates with all of our administrative staff.

Jennie has worked with MPA since 2009 first as a community organizer leading our chapter in Portland and our statewide healthcare work, then as the Campaign Manager for the successful Medicaid Expansion ballot initiative in 2017, for which she received a national “Health Advocate of the Year” award from Families USA for her work empowering Medicaid recipients to provide leadership in the expansion of Medicaid coverage in Maine. She served as MPA’s Organizing Director from 2018-2022. She lives in South Portland with her husband, daughter, dog and two cats and loves reading and being outdoors.

Featured image for “Caleb Sherman”

Caleb Sherman

Canvass Director

207-810-6625
[email protected]

Caleb (they/them) leads the recruitment and training of MPA’s intrepid door-to-door canvassing team.

Caleb has spent the last few years leading our Portland year round canvass. Their team has collected thousands of signatures and their team of canvassers have had tens of thousands of conversations about what is possible for Maine’s future. They grew up in Dingmans Ferry Pennsylvania, and came to Maine for the moose, stayed for the politics. They graduated from SUNY Albany in 2015 with Philosophy B.A. and uses that degree as a punchline in stand-up comedy routines when they are not playing D&D (because they don’t get enough role playing in canvass training).

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Bridget Surber

Field Strategy Director

Bridget (she/her) leads our Administrative and Field teams, making sure the organization runs smoothly and that we have a tens of thousands of conversations with Mainers across the state every year.

Bridget has been canvassing, fundraising, and managing for 30 years. She has had leadership roles in every campaign MPA has run since 2006, including overseeing signature collection and petition management for every ballot campaign. Bridget lives with her family in Gorham.

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Mike Tipping

Research Director

Mike (he/him) does issue research

Mike started at MPA as a field canvasser in our Bangor office. He went on to serve as Communications Director for several years, during which time he founded our new website Maine Beacon. Mike is a hobbyist woodworker and represents District 8 in the Maine Senate. He wrote a book on Maine politics, As Maine Went, in 2014 and has written as a political columnist for the Portland Press Herald, Bangor Daily News, Kennebec Journal and Down East Magazine. He lives in Orono with his wife and two children.

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Adam Zuckerman

Lobbyist

(207) 838-5806
[email protected]

Adam (he/him) works with MPA members and allies to develop MPA’s legislative agenda and advocate for it at the State House and on Capitol Hill.

Adam joined the Maine People’s Alliance in 2018, first directing MPA’s small business coalition and then becoming its lobbyist in January 2021. Prior to MPA, Adam spent several years working in international human rights, including four years supporting indigenous peoples from the Amazon who were defending the rainforest from oil companies. Adam grew up in Portland, Maine, where he got his first taste of lobbying as a student at Deering High School. Adam loves to travel, dance, lift weights, and walk on the beach with his geriatric goldendoodle, Emmie.