Staff Biographies

Emily Burns, Deputy Chief of Staff

Emily joined the Garamendi office in 2011 and now serves as Deputy Chief of Staff, coordinating the Congressman’s policy initiatives from the Washington, DC office to best serve the people of California’s third district. She is a cum laude honors graduate of Kenyon College, where she earned a BA in Sociology and Psychology and directed a program to coordinate the college’s community service projects in the surrounding counties. She has worked in law, financial services, and with hundreds of small businesses, studying how business owners thrive in and contribute to their surrounding communities. She has also worked in Kenya, where she helped the Kenyan Wildlife Service with community development, fisheries management, and sustainable agriculture initiatives. She was named Legislative Staffperson of the Year in 2015 by the Professional Engineers in California Government and has completed fellowships at the New Leaders Council and the Woodrow Wilson Foreign Policy Center, focusing on policy, advocacy, entrepreneurship, community revitalization, and leadership. 

 

John Evalle, District Director 

John was raised in Virginia Beach, Virginia where he entered the Air Force in November 1984 as a Civil Engineer Engineering Assistant. He served 30 years and rose to lead in multiple positions at the squadron, group, wing, and MAJCOM levels and retired in December 2014 as the Command Chief Master Sergeant of the 60th Air Mobility Wing at Travis Air Force Base in the 3rd District. During his military service, John served in Saudi Arabia during Operation Desert Shield/Desert Storm as well as operations in Iraq, Afghanistan, Kuwait, Qatar, and South Korea. John is married and has a son and a daughter and upon retirement from the Air Force joined the Congressman's staff to focus on supporting the Military and Veteran communities before assuming his current position as District Director.  

 

Debbi Gibbs, Deputy District Director

A native of Texas, Debbi has dedicated over 30 years of public service to the people of California. She previously served as Congressman Garamendi’s Chief of Staff in his Washington, DC Office. In addition, she served in the Lieutenant Governor’s Office, the California Department of Insurance, Trade and Commerce Agency, Department of Motor Vehicles, and Elk Grove Unified School District. Debbi resides in Elk Grove and together with her husband Bill and has six children and three grandchildren.

 

Garrett Durst, Legislative Director

Garrett was born and raised in Woodland, California where he grew up working on his family’s farm. He attended Arizona State University where he received his BA in Sustainability and a minor in Justice Studies. Following college he continued his career in agriculture, working for Tanimura and Antle, a produce grower/shipper in the Salinas Valley. He then returned to Woodland to help manage the family farm prior to joining Congressman Garamendi's staff in Washington, D.C.

 

Washington, D.C. Office

Dante Atkins, Communications Director

A proud Angeleno, Press Secretary Dante Atkins graduated summa cum laude with highest honors from UCLA, where he majored in classical linguistics. After college, Dante turned his attention from the academic world to political and communications consulting. In these roles, Dante has served as campaign manager for multiple statewide campaigns in California and advised many high-profile clients, including Fortune 500 companies, major labor unions, and California’s health insurance exchange.

Dante is a founding boardmember of the Los Angeles chapter of New Leaders Council, and is proud to be a Political Partner with the Truman National Security Project. Dante speaks several languages, including Spanish, French and German. He joined Congressman Garamendi’s staff in June of 2015.

 

Jennifer Lee, Scheduler & Deputy Press Secretary

Jennifer Lee was born and raised in San Francisco, California where she spent much of her time competing in sports and volunteering for the de Young Museum and other local organizations. After graduating from George Washington High School in 2009, Jennifer attended the University of California, Davis where she double majored in Political Science and Communication and interned in Congressman Garamendi’s Davis District Office. Following college she continued her career in public relations working for a local start-up before rejoining the Davis staff.

 

Bradley Bottoms, Senior Legislative Assistant

Bradley Bottoms was born and raised in Pacifica, California. He graduated from the University of California, Davis where he studied Sociology Organizational Studies and Political Science Public service while conducting research on workforce development and the political process. In Davis, Bradley served in many positions including the Student Body Vice President and the Chair of the City of Davis Student-City Liaison Commission. Bradley works with the Congressman on various legislative issues including: health, housing, labor, finance, consumer affairs, animal rights, elections/voting, government, homelessness, Social Security, Medicare/Medicaid, and taxes. He also manages our Washington-based constituent services such as Washington DC tours, flag requests, and our DC intern program.  

 

Gabriel Sehr, Military Legislative Assistant

Gabriel joined Congressman Garamendi’s office after receiving his master’s degree in international relations from the University of Chicago, where his research focused on state-sponsored terrorism and non-state actors in the Middle East. Before his graduate work, Gabriel volunteered for President Obama’s reelection campaign and worked in insurance law in Chicago. He received his bachelor’s degree in international studies and political science from the University of Wisconsin – Madison and has previously studied and the University of Bonn, Germany and the American University in Cairo, Egypt. Gabriel speaks German, Arabic, and works on foreign affairs, judiciary issues, and defense policy for Congressman Garamendi.

 

USAF Maj. Jeremy Folks, Defense Fellow

Jeremy was raised in Virginia by parents who were both veterans.  He has lived in various locations throughout California during his military service including Fairfield, Vacaville, and Yuba City. He graduated from Southern Illinois University through a remote campus program at Travis Air Force Base and later completed a master’s degree in education through Chapman University’s Yuba City Campus.  He also holds a master’s degree in international relations and recently completed three years of doctoral coursework at the University of Southern California where his focus area was in higher education access for underrepresented minorities and veterans.  Additionally, he has conducted extensive research on Human Rights Education for defense-sponsored graduate education programs in the United States. Prior to joining Congressman Garamendi’s office, Jeremy was stationed in Los Angeles where he was the director of a readiness center supporting local reservists and members of the California National Guard.     

 


 

Betsy Thompson, Legislative Assistant & Correspondent

Betsy grew up in Redwood Falls, a small rural town in Southwestern Minnesota. She had had enough of the cold Midwestern winters and decided to attend Pepperdine University in Malibu, California. A recipient of a music scholarship as a percussionist for orchestra and other ensembles, she majored in International Studies with a Political Science emphasis. While in school, Betsy participated in Pepperdine’s International Programs, studying abroad in Florence, Italy, for her entire sophomore year and then traveling to Jinja, Uganda, and Kigali, Rwanda, in May of 2014. She was also co-founder and President of Pepperdine’s Amnesty International Chapter.

Betsy briefly interned in Congressman Garamendi's Washington office before accepting a position as Legislative Correspondent. She currently expands our constituent correspondence and outreach campaign, while continuing to work with our natural resources staff on issues that are not only important to the people of California’s Third Congressional District, but issues she cares deeply about as well.

 

Eric Olsen, Press Secretary & Legislative Assistant 

Eric was born in Ojai, California, and graduated summa cum laude from the University of California, Davis with a degree in Political Science and Communication. Prior to joining Congressman Garamendi’s staff, Eric served as Research Lead for a joint study sanctioned by the UC Davis Communication and Political Science departments to analyze America’s stature abroad. During his time rebuilding plumbing systems in untouchable villages throughout India, Eric acquired a passion for public service that he now pursues through his work on Congressman Garamendi’s district staff.  

 

District Offices

Jack Batchelor, Senior Field Representative

Jack Batchelor was first elected to the Dixon City Council in 2006.  In 2008, he was elected Mayor City of Dixon and served 8 years in this capacity.  During his tenure as mayor, Jack served on several regional boards such as the Solano Transportation Authority, Solano Economic Development Corporation, Solano County LAFCO, Yolo/Solano Air Quality Board, Capital Corridor JPA, and Association of Bay Area Government Executive Board.  Jack earned his BA degree from Chico State University and MS degree from San Francisco State University.

 

Mary Jane Griego, Senior Field Representative

Mary Jane Griego has helped run her family’s small business since she moved to Yuba County in the 1960s. A graduate of Marysville High School and Yuba College, she has spent her life focused on charitable work helping children, seniors, and veterans. She served as a Yuba County Supervisor from 2000-2016. During her tenure, flood control was a major priority of hers. She founded the River Levee Improvement Authority and served as Chair until January 2017. This worked helped create what is arguably the best levee system in the state in South Yuba County. She also served on the Yuba County Water Agency, California Association of Local Agency Formation Commissions (CALAFCO) Executive Board, Sacramento Area Council of Governments (SACOG), California Council of Governments, Feather River Air Quality, Yuba LAFCO, First 5 Yuba Commission, and Honorary Vice Chair of the Metro Chamber Capitol to Capitol (2016).  Most recently she was appointed to the Board of Directors for Olivehurst Public Utility District (OPUD) serving on the Water/Waste Water Committee.

 

Jacqueline Hartsough, Constituent Services Representative 

Jacqueline Hartsough was born and raised in Davis, California where she was active in several extracurricular clubs at her high school and volunteered teaching Sunday School at her church. She went on to graduate from the University California, Santa Barbara where she earned a BA in Political Science with an emphasis in American Politics. Following graduation, Jacqueline returned to Davis where she began working as a substitute teacher in the Davis School District before joining Congressman Garamendi’s district staff. 

 

Angel Melchor, Field Representative

Raised in the farm-working community of Salinas in Monterey County, Angel Melchor understood the importance of public service and community engagement. At Cypress College, he was elected into the Student Body Senate and cofounded the Coalition for Latino Advancement, which established the second AB540 scholarship for undocumented students in the State. At Cal State Fullerton, Angel searched for a deeper understanding of political narratives and micro-politics. He took interest in international politics and the United Nations. He represented Fullerton as a delegate at the prestigious New York University and Harvard Model United Nations Conference. Angel has over 10 years of political consulting and campaign management experience for statewide, countywide, and local elections. He is currently the Vice-Chair of the Yolo County Democratic Central Committee and is a graduated fellow from the New Leaders Council-Sacramento. Angel serves as the District Representative for Congressman John Garamendi’s Davis district office.

 

John Nicoletti, Senior Field Representative

John Nicoletti has long been a fixture in Yuba County. A volunteer member of the Kiwanis Club of Marysville, Linda Lions Club, Marysville Elks Lodge, Friends of the Bok Kai Temple, Mary Aaron Museum Association, Yuba County Historical Society, and his local church, he currently serves as Deputy Director of Public Relations for Habitat for Humanity Yuba Sutter. A former Yuba County Supervisor, Nicoletti served on two dozen boards and commissions, including the Yuba Sutter Economic Development Corporation Board, Marysville Levee Commission, Peach Tree Health, and Yuba County Water Agency. As a Supervisor and private citizen, ending homelessness and poverty in the region has been one of his greatest priorities. Having experienced three major evacuations, Nicoletti understands the important role Congress plays in funding lifesaving levees.

 

Kiana Okhovat, Constituent Service Representative

Kiana is a native to Hamburg, Germany and moved to northern California in 2001.  As a youth, she was a competitive pianist and performed her first solo at the Mondavi Center at the age of 12, and two years later she returned to perform Beethoven’s third piano concerto, accompanied by the Sacramento State Symphony Orchestra.  Kiana attended the University of California, Davis, where she majored in Political Science – Public Service with a focus on foreign and public policy.  She was a very active student, including volunteering with the United Nations Association, working on political campaigns and in several political offices, and founding UC Davis’ premier humanitarian student organization, in response to the Syrian refugee crisis where she helped raise several thousand dollars for the UN Refugee Agency.  Kiana also wrote a research paper about the ties between homelessness and human sex trafficking in California that was recognized by the Midwest Political Science Association. Kiana completed her university studies in December of 2016, two years early, while studying abroad at the London School of Economics, and is a proud member of the National Society of Leadership and Success, the nation’s largest leadership honor society.