The State Innovation Exchange (SiX) is pleased to announce its continued growth this fall with the addition of eight new staff members, including Neha Patel as Chief Development and Strategy Officer and Victoria Simarano as National Legislative Director, positions that will help SiX deepen our ability to advance progressive policies in the states.
SiX is also proud to announce the addition of six new state directors in Arizona, Colorado, Maine, Michigan, North Carolina, and Virginia. These new state director positions will greatly expand SiX’s capacity to support legislators directly, with the addition of permanent, on-the-ground staff members based in state capitols.
“SiX’s expansion into the states and the work these state directors will be doing is unprecedented in state policy making. The individuals joining SiX as state directors are among the best and brightest advocates in the country. Each brings years of work experience and relationships to their respective states. Their expertise will allow us to build on the foundation we’ve laid over the past few years and enable us to have greater capacity to provide tailored support to legislators and legislative staff who are working every day to improve the lives and well-being of their constituents,” SiX Executive Director Nick Rathod said.
Neha Patel, Chief Development and Strategy Officer
As SiX's Chief Development and Strategy Officer, Neha will be overseeing organizational strategic planning, developing fundraising growth strategies, building out SiX's development function, and serving as part of the organizational management team. Neha brings over 15 years of experience in strategy, business development, and partnership and program management. Neha previously worked with various domestic and international non-profit organizations and foundations, including FHI 360 and Open Society Foundations (OSF).
Victoria Simarano, National Legislative Director
As the National Legislative Director for SiX, Victoria will oversee a legislative team of more than a dozen staff, including SiX’s new state directors. Victoria brings over 20 years of experience working for social change across the governmental, conservation, university and political arenas as an organizer, executive director, and fundraiser. Victoria came to SiX from The Climate Reality Project, and previously worked for the Clinton Administration, WILD PAC, and the Sierra Club.
Joaquin Rios, Arizona State Director
Joaquin comes to SiX having most recently served as the Chief of Staff to Phoenix City Councilwoman Kate Gallego. Rios is a licensed attorney and has also worked as a Staff Attorney in the Housing Unit at Community Legal Services, a nonprofit law firm that provides free legal services to low-income Arizonans, and practiced immigration law. Joaquin has also served a wide variety of roles on progressive political campaigns in Arizona.
David Oppenheim, Colorado State Director
Prior to joining SiX, David served two separate stints as the Chief of Staff to the Colorado House Majority office where he helped to craft and execute progressive legislative agendas. David was also previously a Principal at Hilltop Public Solutions, a leading public affairs and political consulting firm.
Danna Hayes, Maine State Director
Danna comes to SiX from the Maine Women’s Lobby and the Maine Women’s Policy Center, where she served as Director of Public Policy. Danna previously spent two years clerking in New Hampshire Superior Courts, and worked as a community organizer advocating for policy solutions to hunger and poverty with the Preble Street Maine Hunger Initiative.
Tom Lenard, Michigan State Director
Prior to SiX, Tom served as Senior Advisor to Michigan Senate Democratic Leader Jim Ananich of Flint, Michigan. As such, he worked to help respond to the Flint water crisis, and led efforts to address the opioid epidemic, combat scrap metal theft, and push for paid sick leave. Prior to serving multiple roles in the state legislature, Tom worked in the Washington, D.C. offices of former Sen. Chris Dodd of Connecticut and former Rep. John Dingell of Michigan.
Chris Kukla, North Carolina State Director
Chris joins SiX with over two decades of policy, political and organizing experience. Chris spent the last 15 years at the Center for Responsible Lending, a nonpartisan, non-profit policy and research organization dedicated to ending abusive lending practices, where he regularly counseled legislators, regulators and law enforcement agencies in North Carolina and across the country.
Meredith Smith, Virginia State Director
Meredith brings over a decade of work in the Virginia progressive community to her role as SiX’s Virginia State Director. Meredith most recently served as a legislative consultant for various members of the Virginia General Assembly, responsible for training, crafting legislative strategy and setting up the offices of new legislators and staff.