The Ruth S. Shur Fellows team is comprised of 28 dynamic and dedicated volunteers from across the country who were selected from a pool of candidates to support state coaching teams in mentoring local Leagues in recruiting and engaging members and the community to make our democracy strong and vibrant. Read about each of our unique and talented National Coaches below.
The Ruth S. Shur Fellows are a part of the support network provided to participating state coaching teams through the Membership and Leadership Development (MLD) Program. Through the MLD program, the League is becoming more effective and more powerful in communities throughout the nation. Watch this short video to learn more.
Tracy Adkison has been an active member of the League of Women Voters for over 10 years. In 2002, Tracy joined the Board of Directors of LWV Atlanta/Fulton County. During her term on the Board, she served as VP Programs & Membership, as well as served on the Voter Services committee. She organized various community forums, voter registration drives and chaired candidate forums.
In 2008, Tracy joined the Board of the LWV Georgia. She also chaired the local arrangements committee for the LWV-US 49th National Convention held in Atlanta, Georgia 2010. She is currently serving as Vice President. Professionally, Tracy is on a contract as a Project Manager for the Management Information Systems department of the DeKalb County School District. Tracy has a BS in Business Administration, and an MBA. Tracy has been married to her husband Eric for 8 years and enjoys reading, traveling, community service and spending time with family.
Julie Arneth has been an active League of Women Voters member since 1996. She has served on both the LWV Greater Green Bay and LWV Wisconsin boards as director, secretary, and president. Presently, she is the LWV Greater Green Bay president-elect. In an effort to hone her technology skills she maintains the LWVGGB Website and monthly e-newsletter.
Julie is a retired secondary Language Arts teacher. She continues to substitute teach and has served as past-president of the Green Bay Substitute Teacher Association. She also teaches classes for English Language Learners at Literacy Green Bay in the evening. Julie enjoys a myriad of activities including reading, prairie gardening, travel, and volunteer work both within the states and internationally with the Sierra Club and Global Volunteers.
Lineah Davey grew up in Nebraska where she began her career teaching English. She retired teaching high school social studies and now she supervises social studies student-teachers at Colorado College. When Lineah and her family moved to Boulder, Colorado in 1969, she joined the League, which had intrigued her since she read the LWV of Omaha Voters Guides.
After moving to Colorado Springs, Lineah became more active in League and has since held several positions on the local board, including President. Lineah served on LWVCO Board from 2005-2012 as VP of Member Services, conducting Leadership Training for local league board members, and serving as state coordinator for Membership Leadership Development. Lineah also served as a member of LWVUS Streamlining Committee. Lineah and her husband have two married daughters and three grandchildren. In her free time, Lineah enjoys hiking, sewing, and reading mysteries.
Georgia DeGregorio has previously served on the local League board for the LWV of Rochester Metropolitan Area and is now president. She is also finishing six years on the NYS board--first as Grassroots Director and then as Membership Chair. No matter how long Georgia has been a League member, she has always found something new to learn and ways to grow and new friends to make.
Being a Shur Fellow helps her to continue this adventure. Besides League commitments, Georgia enjoys membership in the Osher Lifelong Living Institute at Rochester Institute of Technology where she just finished reading Ulysses under the inspired guidance of a Dubliner who is a fellow member. Additionally, each week, Georgia is responsible for the services at her church. Georgia has also had the pleasure of welcoming her three daughters into the League.
Sarah Diefendorf directs the Environmental Finance Center at Dominican University of California where she assists communities with climate action plans and works with American Indian tribes in Arizona, California and Nevada to promote green economies. She recently completed work on the Guidebook on International Environmental Finance for the United Nations Development Program.
From 2004 – 2008, she served as board member and 2nd VP for the LWVUS and acted as the chair of the LWVUS Climate Change Task Force from 2006 to 2010. Currently she serves as the LWV of California Program Director on Climate Change. Sarah also served as a Grassroots Democracy Trainer for the LWVUS and has worked in Ethiopia, Zimbabwe, Nigeria, Armenia, Jamaica, Jordan and Tunisia. Sarah holds a master’s degree in environmental geography from Cambridge University.
Caroline Emmons-Schramm retired in 2001 after over 20 years in nonprofit management training. She has also held professional positions in human resources and insurance management. A member of the League of Woman Voters since 1972, Caroline has served as President and Board member for LWV of Orange County, Florida.
She also served on the Constitutional Accountability Commission and currently represents the LWV of Florida on the Steering Committee of FairDistrictsFlorida. She has been active in the areas of Program, Legislative Action, Transportation and Local Government. She is married to Robert Schramm, who retired as an engineering manager at Lockheed Martin and has lived in Winter Park for over 30 years.
Nancy joined the Seattle LWV in 1975 and was elected to the Board in 1977 during the pre-electronic era. During the next 20+ years she held both on and off board offices, chaired Housing, Women, and Social Justice committees and coordinated action on various issues of concern to the public. Her passions are making voting easy and accessible, registration universal, and providing clear and accessible information on the issues of the day.
She served four years as the LWVS president (2003-2007) and one term on the LWVUS Board (2008-2010). Professionally, she was a public affairs special project coordinator for KING 5 TV, development director for several nonprofits, and a deputy probation officer in Alameda County, California. She is president of the Southeast Seattle Senior Foundation that owns and manages 125 units of affordable nonprofit senior housing. Nancy is married, has two adult children, and two young grandsons who fill her spare time with fun and adventure.
Some of Myra’s work with the league has been as the local Nominating Chair, member of the local MLD Ambassador Team and youth voter outreach coordinator/facilitator. She is sought out as a “connector”, someone with an ability to assess a circumstance and offer suggestions, when invited. Locally Myra’s mantra is “it is all about the party” – not the political party, but the fun that is shared when work is done in groups, and always the more the merrier.
As a bit of a vagabond early in life, Myra have been blessed to live in different states and countries. Myra and her husband like to say that currently they are Mobilians by choice. That choice has enabled Myra to work with a number of non-profits with varied focuses from sex education to preschoolers to community growing to housing. Myra is looking forward to expanding her circle of friends and knowledge through the Shur Fellows program and the incredible work everyone is involved in.
Connie Ferguson has been an active League member since 1969, except for four years she spent overseas. Locally, she is a past President, VP and NR Chair, at the state level she served as Nominating Committee Chair, President, VP and NR Chair and finally at the national level, she was the Nominating Committee Chair 2002-04. While focusing on natural resources and voter service, she has been involved with most areas of League activity.
After retiring in 2006 from the Kalamazoo Nature Center, Connie continues to volunteer there and elsewhere. She is a past board chair for Kalamazoo Environmental Council, the local Planned Parenthood, and People’s Church (Unitarian-Universalist). Connie lived in Australia for three years and England for one. Now she enjoys visiting children and grandchildren in Mexico and Germany and seeing sights in those and other places. At home, she appreciates theater and music performances and conversations with friends.
Charolette (Lottie) Fox
Lottie Fox first became involved with the League in September 1962 because of an interest in a community issue. Over the years she’s served in nearly every local board capacity from observer to President and is a past board director for LWV California. Being involved in the League opened the doors of her mind and has walked beside her and befriended her through both her working career and her personal life.
She has been inspired by other League leaders past and present who found their voice and their purpose in community service. Being a Ruth Shur Fellow is an extension of that purpose; a way to give back (with gratitude!) to THE organization that educates and trains members to be leaders. Whether gardening, fussing over banquet flower arranging and table settings, baking, attending the local community theatre, or volunteering for one thing or another, she’s always got her League “hat” on!
Judy has 35 years of League experience that has included just about every aspect of the organization including serving on the state board, as the state president, serving on her local board and serving as president. She also worked full time at the local medical center (now retired). Judy has been very involved in her community in activities ranging from educational, children’s groups, civic/service oriented, parliamentary procedures, and political.
Her hobbies include playing bridge, reading, working out in the gym, hiking, skiing, traveling the world and spending time with her husband, two sons and two grandsons. Judy believes that the best aspect of being a Ruth Shur Fellow is learning from other national and state coaches and the national staff. The MLD is an exciting program that can spark enthusiasm throughout the League. Judy’s personal goal is to share with others this knowledge and enthusiasm!
Nearing the end of her career as a computer systems analyst, Diana Haskell finally joined LWVUS in 1999 and became a member of LWV-Wake County, NC in 2000. There she chaired the education committee and was a facilitator for Study Circles before becoming the local president 2006-2008 where her focus was on coalition building.
In 2007, she participated in the pilot of the Membership Recruitment Initiative (MRI) and then became a Ruth S. Shur Fellow in 2010. Throughout this process her most rewarding experiences have been the privilege of working with so many dedicated leaders at all three levels of the League. Since moving to Bethesda, MD in 2009, she has served on the boards of LWV-Montgomery County and LWVMD, but her local passion is the LWVUS Volunteer Lobby Corps. On occasion, she finds time to read or sew.
Florence was born and raised in North Dakota, received a BS from NDSU and served in the Peace Corps. After moving to Minnesota in 1968, she taught school, worked with the U of M Extension Service and received an MEd from UMN. She married Carter Hedeen and together, they raised their family, Eric and TJ, were foster parents, and hosted exchange students. In 2008, TJ died during organ transplant surgery.
Florence was a Founding Mother of the Village of the Smoky Hills. She serves as Board Chair and volunteers for the Headwaters Intervention Center serving victims of domestic violence. She also served on the Advisory Committee of the NWMN Women's Fund, and on the School Board. In 1999, she helped form LWV Park Rapids State Unit where she has served as President, Secretary, Publicity, Program and Voter Service chairs. In 2007, she was elected to the LWVMN Board as the Membership Initiative co-chair. Florence and Carter enjoy volunteering with the North Country Trail Association and help to build and maintain 67 miles of the North Country National Scenic Trail in Minnesota.
Margaret (Peggy) Hill
Peggy Hill joined the League of Women Voters in Texas forty years ago. Her family had just moved to Texas and she was looking to find a group of intelligent women, engaged and learning about many issues in which she believed. Over the years, Peggy has held many League positions from president to unit leader, held many portfolios, lead legislative action and conducted studies. However, education issues became Peggy’s focus. With a doctorate in curriculum and instruction and with 40 + years of teaching, Peggy was elected to the LWVUS Board of Directors where she co-chaired the national LWV education study.
Although Marcia Hirshberg likes to say she’s been in League for 100 years and served at every level, she also points out that she is still growing with this wonderful vibrant organization. Being a Shur fellow has allowed Marcia to learn new things about how the League works in different areas of the country. It gives her the opportunity to interact with intelligent, creative women to solve community issues. Outside of Marcia’s League life, she enjoys choral singing (as in her picture), gardening, reading a lot and recently she has been outrageously involved in partisan politics. Marcia’s Scottie dog thinks she should take him for more walks and her husband thinks they should go to more movies.
Linda Johnson has been active in League since 1980, having served on local and state boards in 4 communities and two states. Since moving to Leavenworth, KS with her husband, Carl, Linda has been instrumental in starting a new League there. Most recently, Linda has been the secretary on the Kansas board, and an MLD coach.
Linda and her husband have two adult daughters – one in Seattle, and one here in Leavenworth. Linda and Carl enjoy playing bridge, square dancing, attending theatre, reading, walking, singing in choir, and working together outdoors. Linda’s professional life was in social work, in a wide variety of settings – hospitals, inpatient mental health, nursing homes, ethics center, managed care organization. For the last decade or so of her career, she was in administration and teaching. Her most recent adventure was running unsuccessfully for the state legislature – but she thinks she’ll try again!!
Eboni LaMar has been an active member of LWV since first joining the Grosse Pointe League. Since she joined, Eboni has served on the Grosse Pointe board, currently serves as secretary of the LWVMI state board, and coordinator of the Lake Erie Basin Committee. Among other interests and activities, she serves on her city’s cultural commission and, in April, will be honored as a founding team member of Take Back the Night (Detroit). Eboni has a love for comedy, all things wine, and peace of mind.
Donna Lauffer has been an active member of LWV Johnson County Kansas since 1987. After moving to Overland Park in 1986, Donna wanted to become familiar with her new city home and volunteered as a League Observer. She has been active in the League since. In 2011 Donna retired as the Director of the Johnson County Library after 32 years. She was instrumental in developing civic engagement in the library system and established the Lauffer Civic Engagement Fund in the library foundation to continue this civic work.
Donna served as President of the LWV Johnson County 1994-1995 and the LWV Kansas President 1998-2000. She served on the LWVUS Board 2006-2008. Recently she has been a MLD coach to the Leavenworth County MAL unit that was recognized by the LWVUS board as a full-fledged LWV local league.Donna and husband Russ are enjoying more time with their grandchildren Katie, Madison, and Nicholas. Donna is also active in Kansas City Consensus, a public policy non- profit in Kansas City area that encourages citizen participation in public policy and issues.
Deborah Macmillan is president of the League of Women Voters of East Windsor-Hightstown and past chair of the LWVNJ Committee on Immigration. She has also served as president of LWVNJ member of the LWVUS study committee on immigration, and is retired from a career in academics and survey/market research, and brief stints as a professional canoeist and as a 2010 census taker. She loves the intensity and diversity of the League members she works with in the MLD program.
Linda Mahan grew up in the St. Louis area and after college in Ohio, began a career in teaching in Boston. Following graduate school at BU Linda moved to Colorado in 1979 where she quickly was invited to "join the League" in Fort Collins. In addition to leadership roles in the League of Larimer County and seven years on the LWVCO Board, Linda has enjoyed networking on health care with Leaguers and working in many other organizations related to health care, youth, the arts and my faith community.
Linda’s life has been further enriched through hosting international students and living abroad for three years with her family. Her educational background and League experience equipped Linda to teach English as a second language in France, Belgium and Nepal and most recently conduct civic education programs in Nepal and India. Linda and her husband raised their two sons in Fort Collins and continue to appreciate biking, camping and hiking in our outdoor playground.
Gini McGirr joined LWV in 1965 in Worthington, MN where she served as President for four years and held other offices. Before moving to Tucson, Gini has also been President of local Leagues in Phoenix, AZ and Greeley, CO and was Secretary on the Colorado state board. She was Voter Editor in Omaha, NE. She has lived in Tucson for 20 years, and throughout her time in Tucson, she has been President of her local League for 4 years and has served on the League board for all 20 years. Gini has been President of the Arizona state League, Arizona state secretary twice and has been secretary for the past 9 years. She has attended 20 national conventions and 14 councils, and has started four local Leagues.
Gini has also been on the LWVUS nominating committee and the LWVUS Resolutions committee. Gini has been married to her husband Gordon for 61 years. They have one daughter with two grandsons living in Tucson. Gini enjoys reading and keeping tabs on state legislators.
Eileen Olmsted settled in California in 1977 after spending many years of her life overseas. The first organization she wanted to join was the League of Women Voters. As a non-citizen living in another country Eileen realized how important civic involvement could be in a society. Eileen has held many offices in League but her favorite League position has always been membership. Quite simply, without an active membership, League can have no impact. Outside of League, Eileen’s hobbies are reading, singing, genealogy, and attending opera. Eileen currently lives in Pittsburgh PA where she is co-president of the local League. This is her second time around as a Shur fellow because she truly believes in the program and Eileen looks forward to a greatly invigorated grassroots organization as a result of it.
Lisa Plencner has been the Court Administrator for St. Joseph County, Indiana for nine years. Lisa attended Loyola University Chicago and Indiana University Bloomington. She has her paralegal certificate from Indiana University South Bend. Lisa is presently finishing her fifth year as President of the LWV of the South Bend (IN) area.
She is the former Chair of the Nominating Committee of the LWV of Indiana and is currently a member of that Committee. Lisa presently sits on the board of the Unity Gardens, the Volunteer Lawyer Network and is the District 2 (IN) Coordinator for the “We the People: The Citizen and the Constitution” a program to promote civic competence and responsibility among the nation’s elementary and secondary students. In her free time, Lisa does extensive traveling with her mother and participates in competitive shooting with her father. Lisa shares her home with her partner of seven years and their two dogs and two cats.
Haley Richards has been an active member of the LWV Pensacola Bay Area for 5 years. Haley is a Pensacola native and received a BA degree in Secondary Education/ Social Science from Flagler College in St. Augustine, FL in 2007. She is currently employed as the Bridges to Circles Community Organizer with Catholic Charities of Northwest Florida.
Haley is very active in her community through a number of organizations including Pensacola Young Professionals Quality of Life Team, United Way of Escambia County’s Emerging Leaders Society, and Toastmasters Club. In 2009, Haley joined the Board of Directors of LWV Pensacola Bay Area as Secretary a position she still holds today. Other League activities include Membership Committee Chair, Nominating Committee, Social Media and participating in a study of Inmate Rehabilitation Programs.
Sandy Spence has served as Treasurer and President of the LWV of Delaware. She also served as a state coach in the first year the states were involved in the Membership Recruitment Initiative, the predecessor of MLD. She’s one of 8 volunteer, registered lobbyists for the LWVDE. She’s retired from a career in Washington, DC, where she managed several small associations and advocated for them, mostly for “good causes.”
When she’s not doing League business, she likes to watch birds, have lunch with friends, and play computer games. “At my age, one is supposed to be a mentor as opposed to a ‘do-er’. So, although I still do a lot, I see being a Shur Fellow as a way to be a mentor too,” she says.
Elona serves as LWVCT Membership Director and is co-president of her local League. She was appointed by President Carter to the Commission on Foreign Language and International Studies, has worked in the Connecticut Governor’s Office of Policy and Management, was the editor for the engineering departments at Yale University, wrote a by-lined column on civic activism in the New Haven Register, produced a monthly show on health/medicine on WELI, was a consultant for the CPTV program “Better Health,” and visited Lithuania for the LWVUS Global Democracy Program.
Elona holds a Ph.D. from Yale, has a son and daughter, and lives with her scientist husband in North Haven, CT.
Penney Van Vleet
Penney Van Vleet has been president of several local Leagues and served on state boards in WI and WA. She managed multiple community and economic development organizations in WI. Penney, along with her mentor, new Leaguers and young mothers, recently conducted a housing survey and won enactment of a Fair Housing Ordinance for Houston, TX.
Penney credits the Shur Fellows experience with providing a new skills set and insights into the camaraderie, support, enthusiasm, and hard work at all three levels of the League. It has been an exciting journey! When there is free time she loves to kayak, read, knit, carve driftwood, and enjoy time with her friends and husband.
Mary G. Wilson served as the 17th president of the League of Women Voters of the United States (LWVUS). She is a native of Ohio who has lived in New Mexico since 1979 and has been a member of the League since 1986. Mary is a graduate of Valparaiso University in Indiana and the University of Denver College of Law.
She is an attorney with 37 years of experience in diverse fields of practice including estate planning, regulatory compliance, commercialization and privatization, corporate and environmental law. She is the owner of The Law Offices of Wilson & Associates, P.C., Albuquerque, NM. She and her partner, José Mora, live on a ranch with their five horses and two donkeys.
The work of the National Coaches was made possible through the generosity of League member Walter Shur in memory of his beloved late wife and life-long League member Ruth S. Shur. If you would like to participate in the Membership Leadership Development (MLD) program or would like to donate to the Fund for Local League Growth to support the National Coaches’ work, please contact Shauneen Grout at SGrout@lwv.org.