Team Martha

Team Martha

Martha's team is a woman-led group of people with diverse backgrounds and a shared interest in seeing IL House District 65 represented by someone who embodies their progressive values and will advocate for them in Springfield. In addition to those featured below, Martha has a dedicated group of volunteers making calls, placing yard signs, writing peer-to-peer postcards to constituents and more. There are always roles for more volunteers, be sure to click Get Involved to volunteer. Come meet #TeamMartha!

Paula Merrington, Campaign Co-Manager and Political Director

Paula Merrington is a registered nurse and midwife who specializes in Pediatrics and Pediatric ICU. She worked as a pediatric nurse practitioner in South Africa, in Trauma and Obstetrics at a mine hospital in Namibia, as a flight and PICU nurse in New Orleans. She has volunteered for the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA), the Geneva Parent Teacher Association, and various community organizations. The most influential community activism was the many years she was an anti-Apartheid activist in South Africa. When you meet her, ask her about the time Archbishop Desmond Tutu saved her bacon. Paula has lived in Geneva for six years and has been very involved in community, city, and state politics working alongside Martha the majority of the time.

Chazmin Baechler, Campaign Co-Manager and Communications Director

Chaz Baechler is a teacher and educational consultant whose professional experiences range from acquisitions editor at a children’s book publisher, to classroom teacher at schools in Wilmette and Chicago, and most recently as a part-time instructor with Northwestern University’s Center for Talent Development. A Fox Valley native, Chaz is an active volunteer in her community and serves on the Geneva Cultural Arts Commission. Chaz also co-led the successful “Yes, Geneva Library” referendum campaign in 2017. She earned a bachelor’s degree in Art History from the University of Illinois at Chicago and a master’s in Education from Northwestern University.

Beth Schwingel, Volunteer Director and Communications Editor

Beth Behland Schwingel is a journalist and communications/media consultant with more than 20 years' experience in news media and public relations. In addition to working as an editor and reporter at award-winning newspapers, including the Chicago Tribune, Beth spent several years as the assistant director of a local Montessori school and currently provides communication expertise and intake services in the mental health field. As a Court Appointed Special Advocate and Guardian Ad Litem for CASA Kane County, Beth represents the best interests of local abused and neglected children in the foster care system. Beth met Martha during their mutual community activism ventures. Beth has served as a media consultant to several area activist groups and projects; she is an active core member of We Can Lead Change-Fox Valley and the Fox Valley Women's March. Beth received a bachelor's degree in Journalism-News/Editorial from Northern Illinois University.

Karen Smith, Operations Director

Karen Smith is a technology consultant and project manager who has been tasked with applying business principles, such as organization, management, and process design, to a political campaign. She first met Martha years ago in the world of volunteer breast-feeding support, where she and Martha connected over the importance of access to affordable healthcare and maternal/infant health. She holds a bachelor’s degree in Cognitive Science and a master’s degree in Computer Science, both from Northwestern University. When not busy making website updates or wrangling slack channel conversations, she can be found spending time with her teens, spouse, several pets, and an extremely unruly patch of raspberry bushes.

Rudy Anderson, Fundraising Director

Rudy Anderson has more than 10 years’ experience in non-profit philanthropy. Through his work with the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American College of Chest Physicians, and the CHEST Foundation, he has developed new, creative, and sustainable resources of support that has culminated in more than $15 million over the past five years. Rudy’s true passion has been in collaboration and coalition building that has led to more than 50 public-private and non-profit partnerships. Beyond his day job at CHEST, Rudy is a member of a number of fundraising professional development organizations and plays an active role in his city’s political planning. Rudy recently received his Certified Association Executive (CAE) certificate from American Society of Association Executives (ASAE) and holds a bachelor’s degree in Philosophy from the College of the Holy Cross in Worcester, MA.

Sara Holing, Policy Advisor

Sara Holing is a social worker and mother of two who helps advise the campaign on policy. She met Martha through community political activism. Sara has experience in working with children, teens, families, individuals and couples as they manage living with mental illness. Sara holds a bachelor’s degree in Social Work, a master’s degree in Social Work, and is a licensed clinical social worker.

Katie Newcome, Graphic Designer

Katie Newcome is a marketing professional, artist, and single mother of two who assists the campaign with event graphics and social media campaigns. She currently works in marketing and community engagement for an area design-build firm. Katie has a diverse work history, from a global marketing role in consumer-packaged goods to planning children’s programming at the Geneva Public Library. She has also been a stay-at-home mom, camp counselor, dance teacher, lifestyle blogger, and costume/set designer for local theaters. Her volunteer work has been and continues to be focused on children and education. Katie first met Martha through their children and involvement at their local elementary school. She has been moved to get involved with the campaign by Martha’s continued and undying focus on creating an inclusive and just community that serves all. Katie graduated from Washington University in St. Louis, with a bachelor’s degree in Spanish Literature.

Chanda Szczeblowski, Graphic Designer

Chanda Szczeblowski is thrilled to be involved in getting Martha elected as State Representative. She met Martha through their shared work in empowering women and families as childbirth educators. Chanda has successfully led a referendum in her City of Berwyn to increase funding for their public schools in District 100. She then served on the Berwyn South School District 100 Board of Education and lobbied in Springfield for funding and referendum reform. Chanda is fiercely committed to creating equitable opportunities for education for her diverse city. She currently is involved with several local grassroots organizations looking to address anti-racism work and equity. By day, Chanda is a senior graphic designer for an international architecture and engineering company. She has two amazing teenage daughters and a brilliant librarian and musician husband.

Desiree Cortez, Treasurer

Desiree Cortez has more than 13 years of experience in operational, human resources and financial management in the advertising industry. Adept in strategic planning, workforce and staff planning, recruitment, staff training and development, Desiree has been successful at developing, implementing and managing a wider variety of systems, processes, and policies that have led to consistent growth and success for her previous agency. While Desiree's undergraduate studies focused on literature, she also has a master's degree in Accounting and Financial Management. Desiree spends her free time reading and managing her household operations as though it was a business.

Jean Maiorella, Volunteer Coordinator

Jean Maiorella is a longtime Geneva resident whose professional background is as a technology and management consultant. Currently, she is a small business owner as a real estate broker affiliated with Baird & Warner in the Fox Valley. Jean spent several years working at the Geneva Public Library and actively supported the campaign to pass the library referendum. Jean was a core volunteer at the Third Tuesday Community Supper (TTS) in Geneva for 10 years and became the social media manager for the TTS Facebook page in 2019. Jean and her husband, Brian, have three boys. It was in the Geneva 304 school district where Jean crossed paths with Martha and was inspired by Martha’s passion, courage, and commitment to her community. Jean has an MBA from University of Chicago; a bachelor’s degree from the University of Colorado, and is certified in organization design and change management.

Wilma Van Arragon, Super Volunteer

Wilma Van Arragon is a proud member of Team Martha who has known Martha and her family for many years. They first met at church, but then their paths crossed at other events that focused on issues of social justice and community activism. Wilma is a retired certified school nurse and has a bachelor’s degree from University of Illinois at Chicago and a Master of Arts in Teaching and Leadership from St. Xavier, as well as a master’s in Education from Cambridge College in Boston, MA. In Martha, Wilma has found a partner in advocacy for health care, education, environmental health, and social justice.