Judy Berman, Deputy Director. Judy directs DC Appleseed’s work on child support, special education, working poor families and children’s health. Before joining DC Appleseed in 2006, Judy worked with the Center for Effective Public Policy, a D.C.-based non-profit organization that focuses on national criminal justice policy, and specialized in the areas of women offenders, sex offenders, violence against women, crime victims, offender re-entry and collaboration within the criminal justice system. Previously, Judy’s career focused on violence against women policy and advocacy. Judy received her doctorate in English with a concentration in American Studies and Gender Studies from the University of California, Berkeley and her undergraduate degree from Brown University. Judy is an animal lover with aspirations in the areas of karate, creative writing, and effective parenting.
Kevin Hilgers, Staff Attorney. Kevin joined DC Appleseed as a legal intern in 2011 and joined the staff in 2012. His portfolio includes affordable housing, D.C. democracy and CareFirst reform. Kevin previously worked as a journalist, covering local news and sports for The Current Newspapers in Northwest Washington and The Gazette in Prince George’s County. His prior experience also includes legal internships at the D.C. Council, with the Office of the General Counsel and the Committee on Government Operations and the Environment. Kevin is a graduate of the University of Baltimore School of Law and holds Bachelor degrees in journalism and Russian from American University. He is also a member of the bar in the District of Columbia and Maryland. Kevin’s aspirational goal is to bicycle the Anacostia River and tributary trails every weekend with his family.
Tosha Joseph Francis, Office Manager. Tosha is responsible for the day-to-day smooth operation and management of the DC Appleseed office, including financial, personnel and facilities management. She is also responsible for providing administrative leadership and acts as liaison between the office and the Board of Directors. She makes it possible for the DC Appleseed team to function efficiently. Tosha has more than 18 years of professional experience in office administration with an emphasis on human resources, employee relations, recruiting, personnel development, and team building. She graduated from high school in the D.C. area, and has attended numerous computer, desktopping, and administrative training programs. Tosha is also an enthusiastic extreme couponer; she will go above and beyond to save a buck.
Chris Laskowski, Project Director. Chris directs DC Appleseed’s projects on HIV/AIDS, improving end of life care, Anacostia River restoration and lead in the water. He started with DC Appleseed as an intern while at the George Washington University Law School in 2004 and continued for three years as a Program Associate. Before returning to DC Appleseed in 2015, Chris spent several years in Taiwan and Russia where he worked on environmental policy issues for NGOs and the government among other endeavors. Before law school, Chris was an elementary school teacher in the Baltimore City Public School system for four years. He grew up in Seattle and studied English at the University of Michigan. Chris has visited five of seven continents and won his fantasy baseball league three out of the last four years.
Amber Morley Rieke, Policy Analyst. Amber provides research and analysis on an array of issues including HIV/AIDS, child health, end of life care, education and workforce development. Prior to joining DC Appleseed in 2014, Amber conducted research related to the healthcare system at The George Washington University’s School of Public Health. Amber previously worked in California as an AmeriCorps volunteer teaching in a public school in Oakland and as the client services coordinator at a community clinic in San Francisco. Amber holds a Master of Public Health degree from The George Washington University and a Bachelor of Arts from Pacific Lutheran University. She volunteers with Horton’s Kids and plays on a flag football team. One of Amber’s greatest accomplishments was teaching a class of 5th graders the choreography of Thriller.
Desmond Riley, Director of Development. Desmond directs DC Appleseed’s fundraising outreach to foundations, individuals and corporate donors, as well as the organization’s annual fundraising event. He works closely with DC Appleseed’s Executive Director, Board, and accountant to ensure the financial health of the organization. Before joining the organization in 2004, Desmond worked for the Educational Fund to Stop Gun Violence as Public Affairs Director and Communications Director. In these capacities, he helped form the organization’s fundraising and media outreach. He is a graduate of the University of Virginia. Desmond likes to spend his weekends eating ethnic food at area restaurants, exercising, reading and cajoling his wife and kids to go on hikes.
Walter Smith, Executive Director. Walter has been the executive director of DC Appleseed since 2001. Previously, he served as the Special Deputy Corporation Counsel at the D.C. Office of the Corporation Counsel, now the Office of the Attorney General, where he focused on addressing the many receiverships in the District, supervising litigation affecting the school system, setting up pro bono assistance for the District from private law firms, and bringing a suit before a three-judge federal court seeking voting representation for the District in Congress. Walter practiced for 16 years at the law firm of Hogan Lovells, where he specialized in appellate litigation. For several years, he served as a partner and full-time director of the firm’s pro bono practice. He also served as a Lieutenant in the U.S. Navy JAG Corps. Walter has argued numerous cases before the U.S. Supreme Court, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit and the D.C. Court of Appeals. Walter has a Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of Oklahoma and a law degree from Harvard Law School. He served as a law clerk to Chief Judge Charles Clark on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit. In 2011, Walter received the President’s Award from the Washington Council of Lawyers. In 2007, the Legal Times named him one of the “90 Greatest Washington Lawyers of the last 30 years.” In addition to his many accomplishments, Walter reigned as the Hula Hoop Champion of Oklahoma in junior high.