Meet the Issue Chairs

The following people are volunteer lobbyists on behalf of the League of Women Voters of Washington State. 

Kimberly Abbey

Health Care

Kim Abbey has been a member of the LWV of Thurston County since 2017. She was a registered nurse and an advanced registered nurse practitioner in clinical services for 30 years. She retired from Public Health–Seattle & King County in 2012. Kim has been politically active in universal health care since 1999 and was on the board of Health Care for All-Washington for two years. She and her husband moved from north Seattle to Olympia in 2015.

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Catherine Ahl


Before moving to Washington State in 1995, Catherine was education specialist for the National Military Family Association in Washington, D.C., and advocated for military children’s education at the Pentagon and in Congress. She also served as director of government relations for two years and received the association’s Most Valuable Volunteer Award in 1994.

In 1997, Catherine was appointed education chair for the LWV of Washington and advocates for education in Olympia. She served on the LWVWA board from 1998 to 2003, was on the LWV of Kitsap County Board from 1997 to 2012, served as president from 2009 to 2012, and served on the North Kitsap School District School Board from 1999 to 2007. She received the Washington Education Association’s Friend of Public Education Award in 2005, the North Kitsap PTA Advocacy for Children Award in 2008, and the Kitsap County Bar Association’s Liberty Bell Award in 2013.

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Stoney Bird

Advocate, Public Bank

Stoney joined the League of Women Voters in Bellingham in 2015 and was impressed by the great deliberateness and openness with which all levels of the League addressed public questions.

In his prior life, Stoney was a corporate lawyer and was in charge of the European legal affairs for a Fortune 300 corporation. He left the law behind in the late 1980s, and since 1990 has been living in northwest Washington. He has become increasingly engaged with local, state, and national political and environmental matters as an advocate, an organizer, and a candidate.

Stoney undertook his first big project with the LWV of Washington in 2019 when he acted as the main writer of the LWVWA’s review of voting methods. At the same time, having read about public banking for years, he joined the LWVWA’s Task Force on Public Banking.

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Ruth Fruland

Advocate, Public Bank
Ruth Fruland grew up in Houston, Texas, and worked as a NASA geologist at the Johnson Space Center, an environmental geologist at the Battelle-managed National Lab in Richland, Washington, and an educational researcher and teacher in the Puget Sound area.

Her professional work was directly or indirectly funded by the federal government, so that funding and budget processes were on her radar. When she saw deep, systemic flaws in public education funding and budgeting, she realized incremental changes were inadequate, given that wealth inequities were increasing exponentially. Policies and laws initiated in the 1930s literally “grew” poverty and inferior educational outcomes for select groups over time.

The shocking 2008 subprime scandal drove Ruth into activism to promote real prosperity and protect public money from private malfeasance by establishing a public bank. Ruth joined the League and its revenue team in 2020 to work toward economic justice, beginning with a public bank.

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Martin Gibbins

Climate Change and Energy

Martin Gibbins grew up in West Virginia; his father was a college professor and his mother was an activist for the League of Women Voters for over 50 years. He earned engineering degrees from Virginia Tech and for 35 years worked for Boeing in design, analysis, research, and management. Now retired, he lives on a lake in Carnation and enjoys snow skiing in the Cascades, travel, theater, and flying sail planes (zero-emission vehicles) with Evergreen Soaring. 

Marty joined the LWV of Washington in early 2017 and joined the Advocacy Team to promote legislation that ensured a healthy environment for people and wildlife. He has previously worked on water issues and now advocates in the areas of climate and energy. He served on the State Energy Strategy Advisory Committee in 2020 and on the LWVUS Climate Team.

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Raelene Gold

Natural Resources: Rivers

Raelene has been a member of the Advocacy Team since 2014 as issue chair of water resources and the Columbia River. She also works on tribal treaty rights, rivers, forests, and state parks. She represents the LWVWA on the nongovernmental organization and tribal caucus for the Columbia River Treaty. She has been an active volunteer in a number of environmental groups and causes.

She was past president and is a current executive committee member of the Federation of Western Outdoor Clubs as well as editor of its newsletter Outdoors West. She is also a past board and current Conservation Committee member of the Seattle Audubon Society.

She graduated from the University of Washington and the University of Washington Medical School, and practiced psychiatry and psychoanalysis in Connecticut, New York City, and Seattle until her retirement in 2004.

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Alison McCaffree

Census and Redistricting

Alison McCaffree has a wide range of leadership, management, and community organizing experience. Her involvement with giving back to her community started at an early age—and she was a recipient of the Girl Scout Gold Award. Alison holds mechanical engineering degrees from Stanford University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and an MBA from the Sloan School of Business at MIT. 

After starting and managing successful for-profit businesses, Alison moved to the nonprofit sector, where she has held chief executive positions since 2009. Alison currently leads Politics of the Possible in Action—a nonprofit that focuses on increasing community engagement and enhancing the public’s knowledge of civics.

Alison heads up the LWVWA’s redistricting efforts for the 2021 redistricting cycle.

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Cynthia Stewart

Housing and Homeless,

Cynthia Stewart has worked for decades in the field of public works, including management roles on the King County Council central staff, the King County solid waste division, and the King County airport, where she was designated Airport Manager of the Year by the Washington State Department of Transportation. She has also consulted with small cities on development of capital facilities plans and served as deputy county manager in Thurston County, where she was responsible for finance, including funding of the capital facilities plan.

After retiring, Cynthia became an active League of Women Voters member and has served on the LWVWA Advocacy Team for transportation and as support for health care and revenue. In the last several years, she has worked intensively on homelessness issues and now lobbies for the League on housing/homelessness and revenue as well as transportation.

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Phyllis Farrell

Advocate, Environment

Phyllis was born in Birmingham, Alabama, and still has relatives in the deep South she likes to visit. She was raised in Iowa and received her bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the University of Iowa. She moved to Washington in 1976 and the Olympia area has become home. She retired from the North Thurston Public Schools after 35 years of teaching and now volunteers with political, community, and environmental groups.

Phyllis lobbies for policies to improve civic engagement, address climate change, and protect public lands and clean water. She enjoys hiking, traveling, and reading.

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Susan Fleming

Advocacy (Lobby Team) Portfolio Director

Susan is originally from western Pennsylvania but spent most of her adult life in the Minneapolis, MN, area. After retiring, she and her husband followed their son to the Portland area, where they were able to finally thaw out! 

For most of her professional career she worked in the technical areas of data base administration and telecommunications for a large corporation. She finished up her working life with 10 years as a special education teacher. For fun, Susan trains dogs, and competes in sports such as tracking, agility and obedience. 

She’s been a League member for about 10 years, and much of her local League work was arranging and executing candidate forums. As a state board member for the past two years, she chaired the DEI Working Committee until moving to the advocacy team. Social justice is one of her biggest concerns, and she has worked for improvements and fairness with other organizations such as the NAACP and the ACLU. She views policy development and legislation as necessary and important for movement toward social justice and environmental sustainability.

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Joan Lawson

Advocacy Portfolio Director

Joan’s day jobs include managing an architectural firm and local chamber of commerce, legal assistant, and three years each with the Washington and Maine Legislatures, was a professional organizer, but also worked at a newspaper, telephone company, candy store, laundry. She was involved in local organizations and organized national networks of volunteers, serving on the national boards of the Unitarian Universalist Service Committee and United Nations Association.

Her political experience began as a child doorbelling when her father ran for the City Commission, later mayor. She worked at the polls for years, served as precinct committee officer, officer of her county political party, and candidate for state representative in King County and Maine.

Joan has served as president of the League in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, board director of the LWV of Seattle-King County, its First Hill Unit, and is serving her second term as LWVWA Advocacy Portfolio Director.

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Julia (Julie) Sarkissian

DEI Portfolio Director

Julie’s career was in public health as administrator/manager for a number of programs e.g., family planning, HIV/AIDS medical/social services for women and children and outreach/access to medical coverage/services. Most of the positions were with government agencies, but she also worked for 2+ years at the Seattle Indian Health Board gaining a deeper understanding of the health disparities affecting Native Americans/Alaskan Natives. In fact, much of the work in community public health is focused on addressing health disparities in communities of color.

Julie’s focus with LWV has been with voter services until joining the LWVWA Board. This has included voter registration training, organizing other volunteers, co-chairing a unit and assisting with candidate forums. Many of the most meaningful experiences with the LWV have been speaking with community members during voter outreach.

Other volunteer work has included involvement with farmer’s markets, cooking/serving for a shelter, board of social services group for women with HIV and political campaigns.

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