Building State Leadership Skills: The Emerging Leaders Program’s 2019-20 Class Launches

Emerging Leaders Program

Many state policymakers yearn for some time away from their frenetic schedules to focus on professional development, but few such opportunities exist. Enter the Milbank Memorial Fund’s Emerging Leaders Program (ELP), which welcomed its fourth class of participants with an opening meeting in Baltimore last month. The program provides practical, hands-on leadership skills to future senior state government officials in executive branch and legislative positions, with the goal of enhancing their effectiveness in meeting the challenges and opportunities of today’s health policy environment.

Sponsored by the Milbank Memorial Fund’s Reforming States Group (RSG) of state health policy leaders, the ELP is a one-year program that includes at least three in-person meetings, virtual training sessions, and a pairing with an RSG mentor. Participants are nominated for the program by RSG members from their home states.

“Milbank really focuses on leadership and how to bring other people to support a project that can shape the lives of so many people,” says 2019–20 ELP fellow Rep. Mohamud Noor, of Minnesota. Noor explained that a focus of the training so far was the need for members of the legislative and executive branches to understand each other’s perspectives, and be flexible, in order to best develop policy that can have a significant impact.

“Through the Emerging Leaders Program, we offer busy state officials and legislators the opportunity to focus on their professional growth,” says Milbank Memorial Fund program officer Michelle Alletto, a former state official who oversees the program. “Participants can connect with peers, reflect, and build leadership skills.”

Fellow Karen Stubbs, assistant secretary in the Office of Behavioral Health at the Louisiana Department of Health, agrees. Stubbs relished the opportunity to connect with her fellow participants in Baltimore about not only health policy topics like 1115 Medicaid waivers but also the mechanics of running a health policy department like personnel policies and her own work-life balance.

She was also appreciative of the time to reflect on the breadth of topics that legislators are required to track — and think about how to work more efficiently with them. She also valued a setting where people could be candid about their varied policy implementation experiences.

“In [most] meetings, you can’t talk about the missteps and the journeys that might have led you to go in a different direction,” Stubbs says. “When you are with a group you feel comfortable and safe with [like the ELP], you are talking about the pros and cons.”

Emerging Leaders 2019-2020 Cohort

Sarah AkerSarah Aker
Deputy Director, Division of Medicaid and CHIP
South Dakota Department of Social Services
Erin BoyceErin Boyce
Chief of Staff, South Carolina Department of Health
Kiki EvingerKiki Evinger
Chief Policy Advisor, Delaware Department of Health and Social Services
Marvin FigueroaMarvin Figueroa
Deputy Secretary, Virginia Health and Human Resources
Eric HarknessEric Harkness
Director of Office of Health Policy, Tennessee Department of Health
Caprice KnappCaprice Knapp
Director, Medical Services Division
North Dakota Department of Human Services
Sandra Manzo de PueblaSandra Manzo de Puebla
Director, Federal and State Authorities
Oklahoma Health Care Authority
Ethan ManningEthan Manning
Member, Public Health Committee
Indiana House of Representatives
Mohamud NoorMohamud Noor
Member, Ways and Means Committee
Minnesota House of Representatives
Heather RossiHeather Rossi
Deputy Policy Director, Eligibility Policy, MassHealth
Massachusetts Executive Office of Health and Human Services
Laura RussellLaura O. Russell
Policy Advisor
Alaska Department of Health and Social Services
Karen StubbsKaren Stubbs
Assistant Secretary
Office of Behavioral Health
Louisiana Department of Health
Lisa WillnerLisa Willner
Member, Health and Family Services Committee
Kentucky House of Representatives