Emerge Tennessee Cabinet

State Senator Raumesh Akbari

State Senator Raumesh Akbari was elected to the Tennessee State Senate in fall of 2018 after serving three terms in the State House of Representatives.  Senator Akbari continues to introduce legislation affecting education, criminal justice reform, job growth incentives, and other areas that affect her constituents. Two of Senator Akbari’s greatest honors were speaking at the 2016 Democratic National Convention and again at the 2020 Democratic National Convention as one of the “rising star” keynote speakers. Senator Raumesh Akbari is proud to be from Memphis and hopes to continue representing its people with dignity and purpose.

Olliette Murry-Drobot

Olliette Murry-Drobot is the Chief Executive Officer of O2 Strategic Partners, a Licensed Consultant with Standards for Excellence Institute® focusing on community engagement, government affairs and public policy consultation, facilitation, and guidance on strengthening anti-violence strategies. Olliette is a strategist, innovator, and public speaker with 20 years of experience in nonprofit leadership, social justice, and community building strategies. Most recently Olliette served as Executive Director of the Family Safety Center of Memphis and Shelby County. Olliette lives in Memphis with her husband Tadeusz and their two dogs Loki, a German Shepherd/Husky mix and Luna, an Alaskan Husky.

Nadira Freeman

Nadira Freeman has over a decade of experience in the public and private sectors. Her work in nonprofit management and community and political engagement has led to her involvement in organizing several political and issue-based campaigns on the municipal, state, and federal level. Nadira is the Founding Principal at Axis Strategies, a boutique consulting agency that provides public affairs, strategic communications, political strategy, and media/ productions services. The agency provides a solution-oriented approach and unrelenting aim for excellence in execution to every project they engage. Nadira is a 2019 Emerge Alumna.

Brenda Gadd

Canon 7D MkIIBrenda Gadd is a founding board member of Emerge Tennessee. With almost two decades of political campaign and lobbying experience, she provides strategic consulting and direct services for advocacy engagement through coalition building, collective impact, lobbying, and issue and ballot campaigns. She primarily serves nonprofits and social benefit organizations. She is a member of the Mayor’s Gender Equity Council and often leads trainings on advocacy and the legislative process. She rarely misses an opportunity to listen to live music or to cheer on the Nashville Predators.

Tara Houston

Tara Houston is a Nashville native whose dream in life is to get solid Democratic leaders elected in her home state and to help progressive Democrats reach majority status at all levels of government. In her current role at Triumph Strategies, Tara assists Democratic candidates and non-profit organizations in identifying and achieving their fundraising and friend-raising goals. She is an Executive Committee member of the Davidson County Democratic Party where she currently serves as Chair. Additional community involvement includes Co-Chairing the mentorship committee for the Nashville chapter of New Leaders Council and serving as the Democratic representative to the Women’s Political Collaborative of Tennessee. Tara is a 2017 Emerge TN alumna.

Laurie Stulberg Macnair

Laurie Stulberg Macnair, brings expertise as an academic, management consultant, and corporate executive.  She is a leadership and development coach for individuals and teams.  She serves as a Leadership Development Coach for all the Executive MBA programs as well as customized Leadership Academies at the University of Tennessee Knoxville in the Haslam Business School. Laurie has served on several non-profit boards including Girls Inc. of the Tennessee Valley, STAR, Boys and Girls Club of the Tennessee Valley, Akima, Knoxville Symphony League and Zoo Knoxville Circle of Friends.  She is a member of the ICF TN Board of Directors.    She and her husband live in Knoxville, and have two children, five greyhounds and one cat.

Lorean Mays

Lorean Mays, a native of Chattanooga, is a National Award-Winning Researcher and Health and Education Advocate. With over 15 years of work in education, business, and politics, she is committed to ensuring a better life is accessible for all Tennesseans. Lorean currently serves on local/regional/national Boards for the American Heart Association, American Cancer Society, League of Women Voters, and several other nonprofit and civic organizations. Lorean is a 2019 Alumna of Emerge Tennessee. She holds memberships in NCNW, Order of Eastern Star (Prince Hall Affiliated), National Black Nurses, and many others. She is an active member of her community serving on several boards and advocating for a more just and equitable society.

Vonda McDaniel

Vonda McDaniel joined the United Rubber Workers (URW) in 1992 at the Bridgestone-Firestone Lavergne Plant, where she has worked for the last 28 years.  After serving for 10 years as the local Union Pension and Insurance Representative; Vonda was elected President of the Central Labor Council of Nashville and Middle Tennessee in 2013. Vonda is active in a variety of organizations. She is a life member of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority Inc. and a member of the Tennessee State University National Alumni Association. Vonda is the Vice Chair of the Music City Center, appointed by Governor Haslam to the State Workforce Development Board and elected to the Executive Council of the AFL-CIO in October of 2017.

Lauren Rider

Lauren Rider lives in North Knoxville with her husband, Steven Rider, a Neurologist at UTMC, two sons, Finley, age 13, Hagen, age 12, and their two poodles, Spike and Georgie. She serves as the 4th District City Council representative.

Lauren Rider has worked on many community issues in North Knoxville. She organized community-based efforts to re-build abandoned, condemned properties and return them to the tax rolls. Lauren is a faculty member at Pellissippi State Community College, serving as the Librarian at their Division Street campus.

Joanne Sowell

Joanne Sowell as an attorney works for the Wood Stabell Law Group in Nashville, TN. Her current practice focuses on corporate law and mergers and acquisitions.  In addition to her legal practice, Joanne is an entrepreneur, and a mom who is active in the community. She currently serves on two charitable boards and one political organization board in addition to the cabinet.

Prior to joining Wood Stabell, Joanne also had extensive involvement with Room in the Inn, a Nashville organization offering support services to the city’s homeless community. She worked in development and communications for the organization for four years. In addition, Joanne has served on the boards of directors of multiple Nashville charitable organizations.

Jennifer Buck Wallace

Jennifer Buck Wallace is currently the Director for Together Tennessee.  Jennifer forged a career in television production, working as a writer/producer for Country Music Television. In 2007, Jennifer left her career in television to become the Tennessee State Coordinator for Barack Obama’s Presidential campaign. Jennifer went to work for the Tennessee Democratic Party as the Executive Director in 2009, and in 2011 was elected Vice President of the Association of State Democratic Executive Directors by her peers. Jennifer left the TNDP to become the Director of Development and Senior Advisor for Organizing for Action for Tennessee in 2013. Jennifer and her husband Billy live in Nashville and are the proud parents of Buck who is 6 years old.