Today, President Biden and Vice President Harris announced the appointments of additional policy staff who will serve with the White House COVID Response Team, Domestic Climate Policy Office, Domestic Policy Council, and National Economic Council. These qualified, impressive, and dedicated individuals reflect the diversity and strength of America and will play critical roles advancing the Biden-Harris Administration’s commitment to tackling the crises we face and building back our country better.
Biographies of the appointees are listed below in alphabetical order and by White House office:
COVID Response Team
Charles Anderson, Director of Economic Policy and Budget for the COVID-19 Response Team
Charlie Anderson has most recently served as the Senior Advisor for Tax and Economic Policy to Senator Michael Bennet of Colorado, developing policies to reduce child poverty, curb evictions, reform unemployment insurance, enact automatic stabilizers, and address the COVID-19 pandemic. Prior to that, he served in the Obama-Biden Administration as Special Assistant to the President for Economic Policy and Senior Advisor to the Director at the White House National Economic Council from 2014 to 2017; in various capacities at the Department of the Treasury from 2010 to 2013; and at the White House Domestic Policy Council from 2009 to 2010. He was also the Deputy Field Director in Georgia for the Obama-Biden 2008 campaign. Born in New York and raised in North Carolina, Anderson is a graduate of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and Harvard’s Kennedy School.
Sam Berger, Director of Strategic Operations and Policy for the COVID-19 Response Team
Prior to joining the Biden-Harris Administration, Sam Berger was Vice President for Democracy and Government Reform at the Center for American Progress. During the Obama-Biden administration, he served as a senior policy adviser at the White House Domestic Policy Council, where his work focused on the Affordable Care Act and Medicaid, as well as at the Office of Management and Budget in various roles, including senior counselor and policy adviser. Born in Buffalo, New York, Berger is a graduate of Swarthmore College and Yale Law School. He lives in Washington, D.C. with his wife and two children.
Domestic Policy Council (DPC)
Philip Giudice, Special Assistant to the President for Climate Policy
Phil Giudice has more than 40 years’ experience in the energy industry as a geologist, consultant, entrepreneur, executive, CEO, board director and state energy official. Phil served as Massachusetts Undersecretary of Energy and was Treasurer and Vice Chair for the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI), board chair National Association of State Energy Officials and member of DOEs State Energy Advisory Board, Energy Efficiency and Renewables Advisory Committee and EPA/DOE’s State Energy Efficiency Action Network. Phil earned geology degrees from University of New Hampshire and University of Arizona and an MBA at the Tuck School at Dartmouth. Phil is the father of two grown sons as well as the grandfather of two toddlers who provide enormous joy and delight in his life.
Domestic Policy Council (DPC)
Chiraag Bains, Special Assistant to the President for Criminal Justice
Chiraag Bains was recently the Director of Legal Strategies at Demos, a national public policy organization where he led voting rights litigation and advocacy across the country. Before that, he was a senior fellow at Harvard Law School and at the Open Society Foundations. From 2010 to 2017, Bains served in the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division, first as a prosecutor of civil rights crimes and then as senior counsel to the Assistant Attorney General. He was a member of the team that investigated and sued Ferguson, Missouri, for constitutional violations. Bains clerked for the Honorable Karen Nelson Moore on the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals and Judge Nancy Gertner in the District of Massachusetts. He graduated from Yale College, the University of Cambridge, and Harvard Law School.
Kelliann Blazek, Special Assistant to the President for Agriculture and Rural Policy
Kelliann Blazek most recently served as the first director of Wisconsin’s Office of Rural Prosperity, created by Governor Tony Evers in 2020 to support the state’s rural communities. Previously, Blazek worked as counsel to Congresswoman Chellie Pingree and taught food law and policy at the Antonin Scalia Law School. She has also worked at the Harvard Food Law and Policy Clinic and the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition. Blazek holds a Juris Doctor degree from the University of Wisconsin Law School and grew up on her family’s farm in Wisconsin.
Pronita Gupta, Special Assistant to the President for Labor and Workers
Most recently, Pronita Gupta was the director of job quality for the Center for Law and Social Policy (CLASP). Prior to joining CLASP, she served as the deputy director of the Women’s Bureau in the U.S. Department of Labor under President Obama. She also previously served as senior director of programs for the Women Donors Network (WDN) as well as research director for Asian Americans/Pacific Islanders in Philanthropy. Gupta also served as research director for SCOPE/AGENDA in Los Angeles, and for the Living Wage Campaign at the LA Alliance for a New Economy (LAANE). Early in her career she served as executive director of Institute for Southern Studies and legislative director for the U.S. Student Association. Raised in Rochester, NY, Gupta holds an MPA from Columbia University and a BA in Government from Clark University.
Catherine Oakar, Special Assistant to the President for Community, Public Health, and Disparities
Catherine Oakar most recently served on the Biden-Harris Transition. She was also a Senior Advisor at Waxman Strategies consulting on public health, nutrition, and health care issues. During the Obama-Biden Administration, she served at the White House as the Associate Director of the Let’s Move! initiative in the First Lady’s office and as a Senior Advisor in the Office of National AIDS Policy. Oakar was also the Director of Public Health Policy in the Office of Health Reform at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. She began her work in Washington, D.C. as a Winston Health Policy Fellow. She has also conducted community-based research with low-income cancer survivors and safety net clinics. Oakar graduated from the University of Notre Dame and the University of Michigan School of Public Health. She is originally from outside Cleveland, Ohio.
Alex Pascal, Special Assistant to the President and Executive Secretary for the Domestic Policy Council
Alex Pascal previously served on the National Security Council (NSC) staff at the White House in various roles, including as Senior Director of the NSC Executive Secretariat, and as Senior Policy Adviser to the U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations. Most recently, Pascal was a Non-Resident Scholar at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace and an adjunct faculty member at New York University. He is a graduate of Stanford University and Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies.
Erin Pelton, Special Assistant to the President and Senior Advisor to the Domestic Policy Advisor
Before joining the Biden-Harris Administration, Erin Pelton co-founded Puerto Rico Live, a social enterprise that connected U.S. thought leaders to Puerto Rico, and was a principal at Pinpoint Strategies. A U.S. Foreign Service Officer until 2014, Erin served as Director of Communications and Spokesperson at the United States Mission to the United Nations; Assistant Press Secretary and Director of Communications and Media Relations at the National Security Council; Deputy Spokesperson for the Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs at the U.S. Department of State, and overseas at the U.S. Embassies in Mexico and Saudi Arabia. She holds an M.S. in Foreign Service from Georgetown University and a B.A. in international affairs and Spanish from Drake University.
Erika Poethig, Special Assistant to the President for Housing and Urban Policy
Before joining the Biden-Harris Administration, Erika Poethig was Chief Innovation Officer and Vice President for the Research to Action Lab at the Urban Institute, a social and economic policy research organization founded by President Lyndon Baines Johnson. In the Obama-Biden Administration, she held several positions including Acting Assistant Secretary for the Office of Policy Development and Research at the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and was a leading architect of the White House Council for Strong Cities, Strong Communities. Poethig led housing policy portfolios at the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation and at the City of Chicago’s Department of Housing. Poethig graduated from The College of Wooster and the University of Chicago Harris School of Public Policy.
Donald K. Sherman, Special Assistant to the President for Racial and Economic Justice
Prior to joining the Biden-Harris Administration, Donald K. Sherman was Deputy Director of Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, a non-partisan government accountability watchdog. Sherman previously served in various roles, including as Chief Oversight Counsel, to the late Rep. Elijah E. Cummings on the House Oversight Committee as and as Senior Counsel to Senator Claire McCaskill on the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee. Sherman served in the Obama-Biden Administration, as Chief of Staff and Senior Counsel for Oversight and Investigations in the Office of General Counsel at the Department of Housing and Urban Development. A native of Queens, NY, Sherman earned his BA from Georgetown University and his JD from the Georgetown University Law Center. He currently resides in Washington, D.C. with his wife and kids.
Terri Tanielian, Special Assistant to the President for Veterans Affairs
Terri Tanielian is a nationally recognized expert in veteran policy as well as mental health policy. Most recently, she served as a Senior Behavioral Scientist at the RAND Corporation where she led several landmark studies examining the needs of military service members, veterans, their families, and their caregivers. She has expertise in suicide prevention, sexual assault prevention and response, and behavioral health. In 2019, she served as a RAND Congressional Fellow with the House Committee on Veterans Affairs where she informed evidence-based policy making designed to reduce veteran suicide. She has also served on several national advisory committees related to improving mental health responses to disasters, terrorist incidents, and public health emergencies. She has more than 100 peer-reviewed publications on topics ranging from improving access to and quality of mental health and substance use treatment, improving public health emergency preparedness and response, and improving support systems for veterans, military families, and caregivers. Born in upstate New York, Tanielian graduated from Boston University and received her Master of Arts degree from The American University.
Maureen Tracey-Mooney, Special Assistant to the President for Education
Maureen Tracey-Mooney worked on the domestic policy team on the Biden-Harris Transition and supported the development of President Biden’s PK-12 agenda. Previously, she worked on President Obama’s campaign and transition. She served as then-Vice President Biden’s Deputy Domestic Policy Advisor in the first term of the Obama-Biden Administration, working on education, labor and other issues. In that role she supported the development of the Obama-Biden Administration’s successful Race to the Top Early Learning Challenge and President Obama’s Preschool for All plan. She left the Vice President’s office to earn her MPA from Princeton University and transition to local education work. Immediately before joining the transition she worked for the Newark Board of Education in New Jersey, where her work focused on the development of new teachers. Originally from Ohio, Maureen graduated from the University of Chicago; her life is possible because a generous friend gave her a kidney.
Justin Vail, Special Assistant to the President for Democracy and Civic Participation
Justin Vail most recently managed policy development and advocacy initiatives at Protect Democracy. During the Obama-Biden Administration, he served at the White House as the Deputy Director of Private Sector Engagement. Vail also served as an aide to Senator Claire McCaskill and clerked for the Honorable Rodney W. Sippel of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Missouri and the Honorable James F. Holderman of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois. Originally from Missouri, Vail graduated from Truman State University and Washington University School of Law.
Libby Washburn, Special Assistant to the President for Native Affairs
Prior to joining the Biden-Harris Administration, Libby Washburn served in senior leadership roles at New Mexico State University and the University of New Mexico, focusing on building compliance structures and strengthening ethics requirements and Title IX processes. Previously she worked in the Obama-Biden Administration at the U.S. Department of the Interior. Washburn worked for Sen. Jeff Bingaman, serving as both the State Director and Legislative Counsel. She practiced Native American law for several years for the federal government and in private practice. Washburn graduated from the University of Oklahoma and University of New Mexico School of Law. She is a citizen of the Chickasaw Nation of Oklahoma.
National Economic Council (NEC)
Leandra English, Special Assistant to the President and Chief of Staff for the National Economic Council
Leandra English was the Director of Policy for the New York State Department of Financial Services where she managed the department’s portfolio of policy initiatives involving consumers, financial services, and other issues. Prior to joining DFS, she served in a variety of roles at the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau including Acting Director, Chief of Staff, and Deputy Chief Operating Officer. In addition, Leandra held senior roles at the U.S. Office of Management and Budget (OMB) and the U.S. Office of Personnel Management (OPM). English also previously served as Director of Financial Services Advocacy for the Consumer Federation of America (CFA) in Washington D.C. She received her B.A. from New York University and a M.S. from the London School of Economics.
Seth D. Harris, Deputy Assistant to the President for Labor and Economy
Seth D. Harris was the Biden-Harris campaign’s principal labor policy advisor and a member of the Labor Department transition team. He was Acting Secretary of Labor and Deputy U.S. Secretary of Labor from 2009 to 2014 and served for six and one-half years in the Labor Department during the Clinton Administration. Harris is an attorney, business advisor, and former trade unionist. He also is a Visiting Professor at Cornell University’s Institute for Public Affairs. He has co-authored three books and authored scholarly articles and op-eds on labor, employment, leadership, retirement, and economics. A native New Yorker who currently lives in Maryland, Harris earned a bachelor of science degree from Cornell University’s School of Industrial & Labor Relations and a juris doctor from New York University’s School of Law.
Daniel Hornung, Special Assistant to the President for Economic Policy
Daniel Hornung most recently served as a judicial law clerk to Judge Merrick Garland on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit. During the Obama-Biden Administration, Hornung served as Special Assistant to the President and Senior Policy Advisor, focused on climate policy, economic policy, and judicial nominations. Prior to that, he worked in the Office of Management and Budget. A native of Chicago, Hornung has also been a fellow at Chicago CRED, an organization focused on reducing gun violence and creating economic opportunity in Chicago neighborhoods. Hornung holds a J.D. from Yale Law School and a B.A. in economics and political science from Yale College. He and his wife live in Washington, D.C.
Elisabeth Reynolds, Special Assistant to the President for Manufacturing and Economic Development
Elisabeth Reynolds is a principal research scientist and executive director of the MIT Industrial Performance Center as well as a lecturer in MIT’s Department of Urban Studies and Planning (DUSP). Prior to joining MIT, Reynolds was the director of the City Advisory Practice at the Initiative for a Competitive Inner City (ICIC), a non-profit focused on job and business growth in urban areas. She has been actively engaged in efforts to rebuild manufacturing capabilities in the U.S., most recently as a member of the Massachusetts Advanced Manufacturing Collaborative. She is a graduate of Harvard College and holds a Master’s in Economics from the University of Montreal as well as a PhD from MIT DUSP.
Samantha Silverberg, Special Assistant to the President for Transportation and Infrastructure Policy
Samantha Silverberg served on the Biden-Harris transition team as a volunteer on the domestic and economic policy team and on two Agency Review Teams. Previously, she served as Deputy Chief Administrative Officer and Senior Director of Capital Planning at the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority. Silverberg began her public service as a Presidential Management Fellow at the Office of Management and Budget and U.S. Department of Transportation. Silverberg is a graduate of the University of Virginia and holds a Master in Public Policy from Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government. Originally from Queens, NY, she currently resides in the Boston area with her husband and son.
Tim Wu, Special Assistant to the President for Technology and Competition Policy
Tim Wu was most recently a Professor at Columbia University law school. He previously served as senior enforcement counsel to the New York Attorney General, as a senior advisor at the Federal Trade Commission, and an advisor at the National Economic Council. He was also a law clerk for Stephen Breyer of the United States Supreme Court and Richard Posner of the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals. Born in Washington D.C., Wu is a graduate of McGill University and Harvard Law School. He lives in New York City with his wife and two daughters.