Michelle Gowdy, Executive Director – (804) 523-8525; email@example.com. Michelle joined the league staff in 2016. She began her local government career in 2009, working as an Assistant County Attorney in New Kent County. She later became the New Kent County Attorney in 2010 and spent a brief amount of time as the James City County Attorney in 2015 prior to joining VML. Michelle worked as a prosecutor and for the Virginia Department of Forensic Science until 2008. Originally from northern Wisconsin, she received a bachelor of arts degree in International Business from Carthage College in 1993 and a Juris Doctorate from Oklahoma City University in 1996.
Jessica Ackerman, Policy and Advisory Relations Manager – (804) 523-8521; firstname.lastname@example.org. Jessica joined the league staff in 2018. Since 2007, she has developed and analyzed policy at the local, state, and federal levels. Most recently, Jessica was a senior fiscal policy analyst to the New York City Council, advising the Committees on Community Development, Education, Higher Education, and Youth Services. Her earlier career includes state and federal policy research with MDRC (formerly the Manpower Development and Research Corporation), policy management with the Association of Children’s Museums, and research and coordination with the U.S. Department of State. She holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in political science from Dickinson College, and a Master of Public Policy degree from George Mason University.
Janet Areson, Director of Policy Development – (804) 523-8522; email@example.com. Janet lobbies on human service issues and the state budget. She also tracks issues of importance to local governments in Congress. Janet joined the league in 1990 with a background that included six years of experience at the National League of Cities in Washington and two years with the Virginia Association of Counties. She also has worked for the Virginia Department of Planning and Budget. Janet holds a bachelor’s degree in government from the College of William and Mary and a master’s degree in public administration from Virginia Commonwealth University. She is a past president of the Virginia Chapter of the American Society for Public Administration (ASPA) and serves as the executive secretary-treasurer for the Virginia Local Government Management Association (VLGMA), a VML affiliate and a state affiliate of ICMA.
Rob Bullington, Director of Communications – (804) 523-8527; firstname.lastname@example.org. Rob joined the League staff in September 2018. He has worked as a writer, editor, and instructor for 20 years. As a freelancer, he completed projects for clients such as The Library of Congress, Publications International, and the Saylor Foundation. He is also a founding member of the Virginia-based old-time and bluegrass group The Hackensaw Boys and was a touring and recording member for 12 years. Most recently, Rob was a Content Manager for Capital One Financial Corporation for 8 years during which time he handled internal communications, training, and content consulting duties. He holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in English from James Madison University and a Master of Arts degree in English from the University of Virginia. Rob is the editor of the League magazine, Virginia Town & City, and the newsletter VML eNews.
Josette Bulova, Policy Communications Coordinator – (804) 523-8533; email@example.com. Josette began as an intern with the league in May 2019 and joined as a member of the staff in July 2021. Prior to joining the league, Josette worked closely with the General Assembly members as a 2013 General Assembly page. A Christopher Newport University alum, Josette earned her degree majoring in Communication with a double minor in Political Science and Human Rights and Conflict Resolution.
Patrick L. Ford, Press Operator/Clerk – (804) 523-8526; firstname.lastname@example.org. Patrick joined the league staff in 1991 after serving for 8½ years in the Army. Most recently, he was a map maker stationed at Fort Bragg, N.C., where he received his printing experience. A native of Detroit, he is responsible for preparing and sending all VML mailings and all of VML’s in-house printing jobs and projects. Patrick also manages the “Classifieds” our most frequently visited web page.
Sandra Harrington, Affiliate Relations Manager & Events Coordinator – (804) 523-8524; email@example.com. Sandy joined the league staff in 2017. She has over 30 years’ experience working in government including the Drug Enforcement Administration, Arlington County Commonwealth’s Attorney’s Office, and various Fairfax County Public Safety and Economic Development Departments. Sandy also served as adjunct faculty for Northern Virginia Community College (NVCC). Sandy received a Bachelor of Science in Public Administration (1984), a Master of Arts in Sociology (2001), and a Master of Public Administration (2013) from George Mason University. Sandy serves as the Executive Director of the Virginia Building and Code Officials Association (VBCOA), Secretary Treasurer of the Municipal Electric Power Association of Virginia (MEPAV), the Virginia Energy Purchasing Governmental Association (VEPGA) and the VML/VACo APCO Steering Committee and serves on the Professional Development Committee for the Virginia Local Government Management Association (VLGMA).
Sue Mellen, Chief of Staff – (804) 523-8528; firstname.lastname@example.org. Sue joined the League after a 31-year career with James City County, most recently as the Director of Financial and Management Services. She holds a Bachelor of Science in accounting from Christopher Newport University and a Master of Public Administration from Old Dominion University.
Mitchell Smiley, Policy Manager for Transportation & Natural Resources – (804) 649-8471; email@example.com. Mitchell joined the League in July 2019. He has worked in policy roles starting in 2008 at the U.S. House of Representatives for the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform. In 2009 he moved to the Committee on Energy and Commerce where he worked as Deputy Clerk. In 2011 he began working as a lobbyist for the Virginia Transit Association in Richmond representing Virginia’s transit community. He then worked as a Data Analyst with the Virginia Department of Corrections developing re-entry programming grant proposals and incarcerated veteran programming before pursuing full-time graduate studies. During his graduate studies at Virginia Commonwealth University he worked for the Department of Focused Inquiry as a Graduate Teaching Assistant where he taught a class for first-year students on the foundations of composition, critical thinking, research, and ethical & civic responsibility. His research focused on the economic development impacts of craft businesses in the U.S. South, local park management, and 911 dispatcher turnover rates. Mitchell holds a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science (2008) and a Master of Public Administration (2018) from Virginia Commonwealth University. He will be working with the VML Policy team on Transportation and Environment/Natural resource issues.
Joni S. Terry, Office Coordinator – (804) 523-8529; firstname.lastname@example.org. Joni joined the league staff in 1978 as a clerk-typist. Promoted to administrative secretary in 1980 and to office coordinator in 1982, Joni serves as secretary to the executive director and oversees the day-to-day operations of the office. In addition, she helps manage the league’s computer operations and the VML annual conference registration. Joni served as executive director for the Virginia Building and Code Officials Association for seven years. She is also the circulation manager for Virginia Town & City.
Manuel Timbreza, Director of Digital Communications – (804) 523-8531; email@example.com. Manuel joined the league in 1997. He formerly was the creative director of Gates Communications in Richmond, publishers of Campus Voice, a national publication for college students. He also has worked as a freelance graphic designer and illustrator. He holds a BFA degree in communication arts and design from Virginia Commonwealth University. Manuel is the design and contributing editor of the League magazine, Virginia Town & City, VML News, and other member communications. He is also responsible for the design and production of most league publications, various events, and the Annual Conference. Manuel is also main content manager and developer for the VML web site the VML Mobile App.