Since 2000, Policy Matters Ohio has provided an essential voice in Ohio's legislative debate. The case for good jobs, strong neighborhoods and smart solutions to complex problems, that support communities and help working families get ahead, is advanced each and every day by this committed team.
Hannah Halbert is our Executive Director. She joined Policy Matters in 2010 as a policy liaison. She had previously spent nearly four years with the Equal Justice Foundation and the Legal Aid Society of Columbus where she protected homeowners from foreclosures during the housing crisis. Halbert was named project director in 2018, overseeing work and wages research. Under her leadership, Policy Matters articulated a clear vision for working people with “A New Way Forward: 10 Ways to Support Ohio’s Working People.” Halbert has documented the growing prevalence of low-wage jobs in Ohio and promoted smart policies to ensure all Ohioans share in the economic growth their work produces. Her research and advocacy prevented Ohio workers from losing crucial unemployment compensation benefits and led to increased state support to protect working people from having their wages stolen. Halbert also serves on the board of the Central Ohio Worker Center and the Ohio Association of Nonprofit Organizations.
Halbert has a master’s in nonprofit management, a law degree from Hamline University and a bachelor’s degree from Transylvania University. Her life experiences shape her dedication to Policy Matters’ mission of building an Ohio where everyone thrives. She grew up in rural Kentucky, raised by her mother and stepdad, who worked as coal miner.
Molly Bryden is our climate and sustainability researcher. She holds a bachelor’s degree in sociology from Case Western Reserve University and a master’s in public administration from the Maxine Goodman Levin School of Urban Affairs at Cleveland State University, with a specialization in nonprofit management. Working as a Graduate Assistant, her research explored the accessibility of social services, focusing on energy insecurity and public energy assistance programs. Before joining Policy Matters Ohio, Molly worked as a Fellow at Cleveland Owns, a Cleveland-based nonprofit working to build energy and economic democracy by organizing cooperative businesses and grassroots campaigns. She also serves as the Board Vice President of the United Spinal Association Northeast Ohio Chapter, a membership-based organization providing educational and recreational opportunities to individuals with spinal cord injuries. Motivated by her commitment to serving her local community and her experience in energy insecurity research and promoting community ownership of energy resources, Molly’s work at Policy Matters will focus on enhancing community-level outcomes for all Ohioans as the energy transition accelerates, both regionally and nationally.
Clevelander Bree Easterling has worked to develop a non-police care response for people in crisis due to mental health issues, substance abuse, being neurodivergent, or unhoused. Bree has a rich background in social justice reform, community engagement, and grassroots activism. A disabled Air Force veteran, Bree worked as a Veterans Service Officer and Outreach Coordinator for Cuyahoga County Veterans Service Commission prior to their fellowship with Policy Matters. Bree will continue to connect policy to people and people to policy, with a focus on care response, mental and behavioral health, fine and fees, and eliminating collateral sanctions.
Kathryn Poe is our Budget & Health Researcher, focusing on the state budget, health policy, and child care. They have a BA in creative writing from Capital University and are a current student at the Ohio State University for their MA in bioethics, studying medical disinformation and conspiracy theories.
Kathryn got their start working on issues surrounding medication affordability, specifically Insulin, for Ohioans with T1 International and has been the Ohio legislative lead since 2018. They’ve worked on health issues such as insurance coverage, disability rights, reproductive justice, vaccination, and end of life care. As a bone marrow transplant and rare disease survivor, Kathryn is passionate about working with other survivors through Be the Match, Nationwide Children's Hospital, and the Arthritis Foundation. Kathryn previously worked at Equality Ohio in Public Policy and Communications, working on issues like nondiscrimination, education policy and school censorship, and protecting gender affirming care for youth. They are an avid writer, with bylines in publications like the Huffington Post and Teen Vogue.
Originally from Reynoldsburg, Tanisha holds a Ph.D. in public policy and urban affairs from Southern University and A & M College in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. She holds a bachelor’s degree in sociology from Miami University of Ohio and a master’s in applied behavioral science from Wright State University. Tanisha held previous fellowships with New Leaders Council-Columbus chapter, New American Leadership Academy (NALA) with the City of Columbus, Educational Testing Services, and was a member of the inaugural Governor’s Fellows Program in Louisiana Government. Her past research focused on technical education programs, the interaction of school disciplinary policies and the criminal justice system among Black and brown students, and how to close racial achievement gaps. She is on the Board of Directors for the Columbus chapter of Miami University's Alumni Association, and for the NLC, where she co-chairs the external engagement committee. Tanisha’s work at Policy Matters focuses on education and opportunity for Ohio youth.
Originally from Wisconsin, Sarah moved to Columbus in 2011 and earned her BA in strategic communication from Ohio State University. Prior to joining Policy Matters Ohio, she worked in a variety of customer service roles across the city and interned at Pro-Choice Ohio. This variety of experience, combined with a love of popular culture, language and storytelling, led her to the study of strategic communications and, ultimately, to Policy Matters.
Zach Schiller is our research director. Prior to coming to Policy Matters in 2001, Zach worked for more than two decades researching and writing about the Ohio economy as a business reporter for The Plain Dealer and Business Week. His education includes a master’s degree in journalism from Columbia University and a bachelor’s degree from the University of Michigan. For Policy Matters, Zach has written about foreclosures, economic development, job growth, unemployment insurance, tax policy and other issues. He is a member of the board of managers of the Ohio Poverty Law Center.
Sybille Schomerus is our administrative director. She previously served as our office manager. She has a master’s degree from the University of Freiburg, Germany, where she studied law and worked as an attorney in labor law and family law until 2008 when she moved to Cleveland. Sybille is also head of the International Women’s Group of Cleveland and serves on the board of the Shaker Historical Society. She is also a member of the Human Relations Task Force for the city of Shaker Heights.
Michael Shields is an economist and senior researcher focused on fair wages and job quality. Mike writes about the Ohio labor market, the minimum wage, wage theft, and unemployment. He serves on the steering committee of Cleveland Jobs With Justice and represents the bargaining unit as a delegate to the North Shore Federation of Labor. Mike holds a bachelor’s degree in economics and history from the University of Akron and a master’s degree in economics from Cleveland State.
Ali Smith is our operations specialist and worker center network liaison. Ali coordinates work among Ohio's developing network of worker centers in Cincinnati, Columbus and Cleveland. Ali was born and raised in Stark County, to a family supported and empowered by union steelwork. She now lives with in the Hocking Hills area and is passionate about building power for all workers, particularly marginalized groups, including those in the Appalachian region and other rural communities. Ali has been the communications coordinator for the Central Ohio Worker Center since 2016, and a board member there since 2019. Her work has included social media strategy, immigrant rights campaigns, project management, development, and helping get a wage theft ordinance passed in Columbus in 2020.
Ben Stein serves as communications director. Before coming to Policy Matters, Ben worked as an educator for 12 years, teaching high school English in Massachusetts and college writing in West Virginia, New England and Cleveland. A proud product of public schools, Ben holds a BA from the State University of New York, an MFA from West Virginia University, and a master's degree in education from the University of Massachusetts.
Michelle Unangst is our development director. Michelle brings 15 years’ experience as a nonprofit consultant where she specialized in grant writing, organizational storytelling, budgeting, donor management, program development and coordination, and community-based practice. She has worked closely with our partners at NOBLE (Northern Ohioans for Budget Legislation Equality), and with neighborhood centers including West Side Community House and Merrick House.
Michelle began her career as a classroom teacher and then social worker building community-based literacy programs. In her development and consulting roles, she has worked to build capacity and stability for mission-driven nonprofits that share her values. Michelle has a master’s of science in social administration from Case Western Reserve University and an undergraduate degree in Spanish and elementary education.
Piet van Lier is a Senior Researcher working with allies and partners to transform the criminal legal system and to ensure an honest and inclusive education for every Ohioan. Piet originally joined the staff in 2007 as an education policy researcher and became Policy Matters’ first communications director in 2011.He left in 2014 to work with the Cleveland Transformation Alliance, where he served as executive director from 2016 to 2019, after which he began working with Policy Matters again.
Piet began his career as a journalist, covering a broad array of social justice issues including education, and has worked in Guatemala and Mexico as a peace and human rights activist. He grew up in the Old Brooklyn neighborhood of Cleveland and now lives on the near west side with his family.
Bailey Williams is a researcher focusing on tax policy. A proud lifelong Ohioan, Bailey grew up in a working-class household in the Dayton area, the son of a nurse and union electrician. Bailey joined Policy Matters to advocate for a tax system that supports working-class families like the one he hails from. Prior to coming to Policy Matters, Bailey was a law clerk for a business accelerator supporting minority- and women-owned businesses in Cincinnati, a fellow with the Ohio Innocence Project, and a legislative intern for U.S. Senator Sherrod Brown.
Bailey is a first-generation college graduate, holding a B.S. in Economics from Ohio University’s Honor Tutorial College as well as a law degree from the University of Cincinnati. He currently resides in Columbus with his rambunctious cat, Nala.
Gizmo Schomerus is our office dog. He specializes in begging for snacks. Gizmo is not on email.
1 of 22