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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Deb Carstens

Criminal Justice

Deb was born and raised in the Seattle area and graduated from Willamette University and Willamette University College of Law. After practicing law for nearly 30 years, she retired to become a grant writing consultant.

Deb joined the League of Women Voters in 2017 and has also volunteered with other organizations promoting criminal justice. As issue chair for criminal justice, she promotes legislation that will make our justice system more equitable for all.

Deb enjoys reading, genealogy, and exploring Seattle on foot.

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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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Kirstin Mueller

Election Security

Kirstin was born and raised in Seattle and graduated from the University of Washington with a bachelor’s in microbiology. She went on to attend Washington University in Saint Louis, where she obtained her doctorate in physical therapy. For the last 12 years, she has lived in Snohomish County and works as a physical therapist; she also runs a small software company with her husband. In her free time, Kirstin enjoys practicing sustainable living, and spending time outdoors with her family.

Recently Kirstin became passionate about the need to ensure accuracy and security in our elections, and she leads the LWVWA’s advocacy on important election security bills and advocates for positive election reforms.

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Kathy Sakahara


Kathy Sakahara is a lifelong political activist. She ran for the Wisconsin House of Representatives at age 23 and has been fascinated by the political process ever since. She served on the board of the LWV of Washington for six years, and most recently served as vice president of advocacy. She manages all advocacy relating to campaign finance and elections. Kathy also served on the board of the LWV of Seattle-King County for two years.

Kathy had a successful career as a presentation coach and trainer to Fortune 500 executives and technical experts. Her specialty was teaching scientists, engineers, and other technical specialists to present complex information in a clear, understandable way that facilitated decision-making. She carried that work into her nonprofit career, providing speaker bureau consulting, communication, advocacy, and media outreach training to several nonprofits across Washington.

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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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Joan Lawson

Advocacy Portfolio Director

Joan first joined the League in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, where she served as president. When she moved to Seattle, she served as leader of the LWV of Seattle-King County’s First Hill Unit and as a board member of the LWV of Seattle-King County. Her political experience includes being an officer of her county political party as well as a candidate for state representative in both Maine and King County, Washington.

Joan’s volunteer experience includes working with Planned Parenthood, the national boards of the Unitarian Universalist Service Committee, and the United Nations Association. Her business experience includes being manager of an architectural firm as well as working at a local chamber of commerce and as a legal assistant.

Having organized networks of volunteers, Joan enjoys working with local League action chairs. Due to her experiences as a legislative aide at state legislatures in Maine and Washington, she really enjoys working with our issue chairs.

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