City of Chattanooga

Mayor's Council for Women

Statewide Women's Policy Conference

Speaker Bios

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Cary Rayson, MSW
Community Engagement Coordinator, Prevent Child Abuse Tennessee

Cary is the Community Education Coordinator for Prevent Child Abuse Tennessee (PCAT).  In this role she facilitates a range of training and public education events to increase awareness and utilization of primary and secondary child abuse prevention programs.  She also coordinates a collective of nonprofit organizations in Nashville to disseminate and facilitate Stewards of Children, (child sexual abuse prevention training for adult learners) and provides leadership for All Children Excel (ACE) Nashville, a collective impact initiative to reduce childhood adversity and promote individual, family and community health.  Since coming to PCAT in 2014 she has also assumed grant writing and legislative advocacy responsibilities for the agency.

Prior to coming to Prevent Child Abuse Tennessee Cary was the Executive Director of Magdalene, a residential community at Thistle Farms for women with a history of prostitution and addiction.   Cary received her Bachelors of Arts from Vanderbilt University in 1982 and a Masters in Social Work from the University of Tennessee in 1986. 


Christine Raino
Senior Director of Public Policy, Shared Hope International

As Senior Director of Public Policy, Christine leads state and federal legislative advocacy efforts to advance protections and services for juvenile sex trafficking victims. She authors and leads research initiatives on emerging topics related to juvenile sex trafficking and convenes the JuST (Juvenile Sex Trafficking) Response Council, a group of over 30 experts from the areas of policy development, survivor leadership, federal and state child serving agencies and service provision. Christine is a licensed attorney and obtained her J.D. from American University. Previously, Christine worked with refugees, asylees and victims of trafficking through federal and state resettlement programs at the International Institute of Boston.

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Elyse Shaw, M.A.
Senior Research Associate, Institute for Women's Policy Research

Elyse Shaw is a Senior Research Associate at the Institute for Women’s Policy Research. Elyse manages IWPR’s projects on women’s political participation and those related to women and girls of color, which examines the intersectional nature of race and gender on women’s lives.

Elyse also works extensively on workforce development and job training initiatives, IWPR’s Status of Women in the States project, and contributes to IWPR’s research on global women’s issues, including providing technical assistance to the United Nations Education, Scientific, and Cultural Organization on the establishment of a gender policy institute in Palestine. Elyse has presented IWPR research on numerous webinars, panels, and to visiting international thought leaders. Her broad ranging expertise has enabled Elyse to provide commentary on a broad range of research topics. She has been quoted in several local and national outlets including The Washington Post and Public Radio International.

Prior to joining IWPR in August of 2012, Elyse was a graduate student at American University. Elyse received her Masters of International Relations from American University’s School of International Service, where she studied peace and conflict, and a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science from Bryn Mawr College.

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Emily O'Donnell
Executive Director, Women's Fund of Greater Chattanooga

Emily O'Donnell grew up in Decatur, GA.  She received her BA in Political Science from Sewanee, and her Juris Doctor from Georgia State University College of Law.  She moved to Chattanooga in 2008 and worked as a staff attorney at Legal Aid of East Tennessee from 2008-2015. She was named New Advocate of the Year in 2013 by the Tennessee Alliance for Legal Services.  As a lawyer, Emily saw the importance of well written statutes and well reasoned policy. This led her to become the Executive Director of the Women’s Fund of Greater Chattanooga. The Women’s Fund improves the lives of women and girls in Tennessee through advocacy and philanthropy.  At the Women’s Fund, Emily and her team have written legislation that has passed unanimously in both chambers of the Tennessee General Assembly. The Women’s Fund continues to work with legislators on improving Tennessee statutes for the benefit of women and girls. Emily lives in Chattanooga with her husband, John, 2 daughters, and a dog.  

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Heidi Williamson
Founder/Principal Consultant, Infinite Idieh Consulting Group

Heidi Williamson is the founder and principal consultant with Infinite Idieh Consulting Group, a boutique policy and communications firm in Washington, DC.

Prior to starting her own business, she was deputy director of Strategic Partnerships for In Our Own Voice: The Black Women’s Reproductive Justice Agenda, the Center for American Progress and the Center for American Progress Action Fund, the Alzheimer’s Association, SisterSong Women of Color Reproductive Health Collective and the Services Employee International Union (SEIU). She has successfully led legislative and advocacy efforts in the South, as well as, helped to elect more than twenty women legislators to office at the state and local level.  She is a founding member of Trust Black Women Partnership, a strong network of African American women organizations and individuals, who mobilize to defend the human right to have a child, not have a child, and parent for African American women in the U.S. 

She has been published in the Huffington Post and RHReality Check; seen on MSNBC; heard on NPR and various CBS radio outlets; quoted by the Associated PressThe Atlanta Journal & Constitution, and The Guardian; and featured in Collective Voices and the documentary We Always Resist. Her publications include “The State of Black Women and Reproductive Justice,”  “The Pillars of Equity: A Vision of Economic Security and Reproductive Justice,” “Race, Gender, and Abortion in Georgia: A Policy Report” and “Reproductive Justice in the South: A Case for Education, Prevention, and Policy.” 

Heidi is a graduate of Georgia State University where she double majored in English and African American Studies. 

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Kimberly Ellis, J.D.
Founder of Unbought-Unbossed

Kimberly Ellis is the Founder of Unbought - Unbossed, an incubator for the next generation of political disruptors. As the former Executive Director of Emerge California, the state’s most effective training program for Democratic women who run for office, Kimberly is a nationally recognized Progressive leader who has been credited with revolutionizing Democratic politics in California.

Kimberly has appeared on syndicated television and radio, and is frequently interviewed by leading political media outlets, including the New York Times, Washington Post, and Associated Press. She is a frequent contributor to a number of online and print dailies, including the San Francisco Chronicle, Los Angeles Times, and Huffington Post.

Most recently, Kimberly was a candidate for Chair of the California Democratic Party, where she inspired thousands and lit the spark of an ongoing movement for the next generation of Progressive activists. Kimberly serves on a number of boards and advisory councils, including Fund Her, K to College and the California Young Dems Black Caucus.

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Laura H. Berlind
Founding Executive Director, The Sycamore Institute

Laura joined The Sycamore Institute in 2015 as the founding executive director. She provides Sycamore’s organizational vision, strategic planning, and day-to-day management.  Laura holds a master’s degree in public policy with a focus on business and government from Harvard’s Kennedy School Government and a bachelor’s degree from Boston College. Her role reflects her longstanding commitment to using data and research to bring together diverse stakeholders and work complex problems.

Laura brings with her almost fifteen years of nonprofit and government finance experience, most recently serving as the CEO of Renewal House, a holistic residential treatment center for women and their children affected by addiction and poverty. Prior to her role at Renewal House, she worked as a financial analyst at Vanderbilt University and as a vice president in the public finance department at Ambac Financial Group in New York, NY.  At Ambac, Laura worked with a wide range of government and nonprofit clients to evaluate and execute publically funded capital projects ranging in size up to $800 million.

Laura maintains a strong connection to her local community through service on nonprofit boards and other volunteer activities. She is currently serving as the chair of the Tennessee Department of Mental Health’s Planning and Policy Council and is an active member of Rotary Club.  In 2014, Laura received the Volunteer of the Year award from the Tennessee Association of Alcohol, Drug and Other Addiction Services. She was also recognized as one of the Nashville Business Journal’s 2014 Forty Under 40 award winners. She is a member Leadership Tennessee’s Class IV.

When she is not a work, she loves to do anything outside – hiking, camping, sailing, scuba diving and skiing top the list. Laura and her husband, Andreas, live in Nashville with their two children and always-enthusiastic mutt, Sully.

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Lucy Gettman
Executive Director, Women in Government, Inc.

Lucy Gettman is Executive Director of Women In Government (WIG), Inc., an organization of women state legislators that provides leadership opportunities, networking, expert forums and educational resources for policy makers. She previously served as Chief Advocacy Officer for the National School Boards Association (NSBA) the federation of 50 state associations representing 90,000 local school board members. Prior to NSBA, Gettman was Director of Government Relations for the Reading Recovery Council of North America, from which she received the Reading Recovery Teacher Leader Award. She also held professional positions at the Ohio House of Representatives, the Ohio Attorney General and the Inter-University Council of Ohio. Gettman is an Adjunct Professor for the School of Public Affairs at American University and received the Alice Paul Faculty Award in 2014. Gettman also serves on the Leadership Circle for Women in Government Relations (WGR) a professional society for government relations and public affairs professionals. In 2017 Gettman received the Distinguished Alumni Award for Career Achievement from the John Glenn College of Public Affairs at The Ohio State University.

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Mandy Young
Butler Snow LLP

Mandy Young practices law with the firm of Butler Snow LLP in Nashville, Tennessee. Her practice includes governmental relations and insurance and health care regulatory work. She graduated from the University of Tennessee College of Law in 1992, Order of Coif, and graduated with a B.S. Degree from Vanderbilt University, cum laude, in 1989.

Her primary focus is governmental relations at the Tennessee legislature. Her current legislative clients include Tennessee Association for Home Care, Baptist Memorial Hospital, CVS, Verizon Wireless, Tennessee Society of Certified Public Accountants, and Volkswagen Group of America, Inc., to name a few.

She is married to Stephen G. Young, a lawyer, and together they have three children

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Mariko L. A. Bennett
Founder/President of COCO B.

After a successful career spanning nearly two decades, Mariko was ready for a new challenge. She transitioned her career as a corporate political affairs leader in Washington, D.C. for Fortune 500 companies and built her next career from the ground up.

As founder and president of COCO B. an innovative enterprise curating exclusive C-suite solutions, her unique portfolio of services includes Leadership Coaching & Training, Enterprise Fundraising, and Event Innovation & Production Management. Mariko lives to empower others. From leadership development workshops and strategy sessions to curated lifestyle experiences and networking events, Mariko excels at delivering tailored solutions for the diverse needs of the corporate, government, and nonprofit sectors.

While representing Fortune 500 companies, Mariko has managed political action committees, led communications and outreach initiatives, directed advocacy programs, and developed effective inclusion and diversity engagement strategies. Through these experiences, she has mastered critical skills, including large-scale event planning, national and international strategic partnership development, coalition building, stakeholder engagement, and relationship management.

In the wake of the water crisis in Flint, Michigan, Mariko led a bipartisan Congressional delegation along with both corporate and social action organizations to visit impacted areas and discuss how best to work together to deliver funding and resources to the people of Flint. It is a guiding principle to Mariko in her daily life that she is an active servant locally, nationally, and globally.

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Sue M. Cadwell
AVP, Women's and Children's Services - Clinical Services Group

Sue Cadwell is currently the Assistant Vice President for Women’s and Children’s Services of the Clinical Services group of Nashville, Tenn.-based HCA, the nation’s leading provider of healthcare services. She is responsible for leading the clinical agenda for Perinatal, Pediatric and Neonatal services.

Sue joined the company in 2006 as a pediatric subject matter expert. As a member of the ED Initiative from 2006 through 2015, she developed a pediatric standardization project to bring HCA Emergency Departments into alignment with national recommendations. She has also been a co-leader of the ED and Behavioral Health Collaborative, and worked to develop a quarterly ED Director orientation program. Prior to joining HCA, Sue worked at Vanderbilt Children’s Hospital for 17 years in various clinical and advancing nursing leadership positions.

Sue currently serves on the Board of Directors for Tennessee Emergency Medical Services for Children (TNEMSC) Foundation, and is the immediate past chair for the Tennessee Committee for Pediatric Emergency Care. She was the recipient of the Joseph Weinberg Leadership award from TNEMSC in 2015.

Sue earned a master’s degree in nursing administration in 2008 from Austin Peay State University, and a bachelor of science in nursing in 1987, from Northern Michigan University. Sue has served on many committees for the Emergency Nurses’ Association, and was the Editor for the 2014 rewrite of the Curriculum for Advanced Trauma Nursing (CATN). She has also worked with the national EMSC foundation in developing guidelines for Transfer of Pediatric patients, and has presented on numerous webcasts for EMSC / HRSA.


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EST 2015 - City of Chattanooga - Mayor's Council for Women