Meet the GR Team!
The AKC is pleased to introduce the newest member of the AKC Legislative team, Charley Hall. Charley was appointed Legislative Analyst/Community Outreach Coordinator of the Mid-Atlantic/PA region in early January. Charley will be based out of Pennsylvania and will be a canine policy resource for dog owners, clubs, policy officials and the public in Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, and West Virginia.
AKC GR is also pleased to introduce Mikki McGinnis, AKC GR Project and Administrative Manager who assists in all aspects of department administration and serves as program manager for the service dog program.
Learn more about Charley, Mikki, and the rest of your contacts at AKC GR below. Click here for a map of GR staff and contacts by region.
Vice President, Government Relations
Sheila leads the AKC’s efforts in working to protect the rights of all dog owners and promote responsible dog ownership. She oversees AKC legislative policy strategy and AKC outreach at the federal, state and local levels, works with legislators, legislative staff and regulators on key issues in canine policy, and supervises the AKC Government Relation team. She also serves as Secretary on the AKC PAC Board of Directors, as staff lead for the AKC Detection Dog Task Force, and on the board of the American Service Dog Access Coalition.
Sheila joined AKC’s publications department in 2006. In 2008, she became AKC’s Manager of Public Education. Shortly thereafter, she returned to her previous career in public policy/government affairs as AKC’s Director of Government Relations. Prior to working for the American Kennel Club, she was a Senior Legislative Analyst/Editor and Deputy Director of Editorial Product Development for Congressional Quarterly in Washington, DC. Previous experience included federal legislative staffing and advocacy, work as an editor and analyst for The Economist Intelligence Unit, and serving as an adjunct in Political Science/Comparative Politics at the State University of New York/Stony Brook.
Sheila has completed Ph.D. coursework and research in American Politics/Public Policy, earned a Masters of Philosophy in American Politics and an MA in International Political Economy and Development at Fordham University, and is a former Fulbright Scholar, studying Political Economy and Development in Sri Lanka.
Sheila breeds and shows Siberian Huskies. She is a member of the Siberian Husky Club of America and several specialty and all-breed kennel clubs.
Jennifer Clark, Director of Legislative Outreach
As the Director of Legislative Outreach, Jennifer Clark serves as the primary point of contact for legislative issues in multiple states, including providing analysis and drafting legislative and public communications. She also travels throughout the country speaking on canine legislation issues and grassroots advocacy.
Jennifer has over 20 years of Government Relations and public speaking experience, including working as a lobbyist and legislative analyst in Phoenix, Arizona, for several years prior to joining the AKC in 2009. Jennifer graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in Journalism and minor in Political Science from Messiah College in Grantham, PA, and also studied Journalism and Public Relations at Temple University in Philadelphia. As the great-granddaughter of an AKC hobby breeder and fancier, she is passionate about using her experience to help preserve purebred dogs for future generations.
Melissa Ferrell, Research Analyst, Government Relations
Melissa is the Program Manager for the AKC Detection Dog Task Force, managing all aspects from daily interactions with the general public inquiring about detection dogs to website and new database developments. Melissa oversees AKC GR research and online communications, including development and administration of the AKC GR Legislative Action Center. In her previous role, Melissa introduced and implemented new data analysis software and was also instrumental in the coordination of an interactive web site designed for AKC’s grassroots members to easily communicate with their legislators. She also creates, designs, and maintains relational databases dealing with legislative issues that impact dog owners on local, state and federal government levels.
Melissa holds a B.A. in Political Science. Melissa currently lives in Clayton NC with her husband, Beagle and 2 French Bulldogs.
Phil Guidry, Policy Analysis, Government Relations
As Director of Policy Analysis, Phil supervises the legislative portfolio for 21 states while also providing daily management of AKC’s state-level regulatory and policy efforts. Phil holds a law degree from Loyola University-New Orleans College of Law, where he also became a published co-author on legal ethics. A proud first-generation dog person, Phil got his start in junior showmanship, the highlight of which was representing the United States in the International Junior Handler Finals at the 1994 Crufts Dog Show in England. Phil was a breeder/owner/handler of Cocker Spaniels and considers his first bred-by champion as his proudest accomplishment in the sport.
Phil currently serves as the co-chair of Meet the Breeds for the AKC National Championship held each December in Orlando, Florida; is a member of the Petit Basset Griffon Vendeen Club of America and the American Bar Association; and is an Emeritus Member of the Advisory Committee of Innovate to Motivate—The National Conference of Political Involvement Professionals. Phil and his husband share their North Carolina home with a wanna-be-show-dog Petit Basset Griffon Vendeen called “Tabasco” and an All-American AKC Canine Partner called “Phoebe”.
Charles (Charley) Hall, Legislative Analyst/Community Outreach Coordinator
Charley Hall is the newest member of the Government Relations staff. As a Legislative Analyst/Community Outreach Coordinator, he will be based in Pennsylvania and serve five mid-Atlantic States: Pennsylvania, Maryland, Delaware, Virginia, and West Virginia. Charley will be responsible for monitoring legislation and regulations in the Mid-Atlantic and responding appropriately by supporting, opposing or offering recommended changes to proposals in order to support the health, safety and welfare of all dogs. Additionally, he will be working with clubs and state federations in coordinating events that promote increased involvement at the grassroots level and encourage responsible dog ownership and humane treatment of all dogs.
Charley has 25 years of experience working for the Pennsylvania House of Representatives and has been doing community outreach for over 30 years. For the past 14 months, Charley has had the joy of taking care of his daughter’s Boston Terrier, Sam, until she was able to get completely settled in the Washington D.C.
Emily Holmes, Program Specialist
Program Specialist, Emily Holmes, works to maximize the AKC’s communications efforts through tactical execution of press releases and media pitches, fact sheets, blog posts, legislative alerts, and other promotional materials. Emily also reports on day to day legislative activity while providing analysis and policy recommendations. Emily holds a Bachelor’s degree in Political Science and Policy Studies from Syracuse University. She comes to the AKC from a renewable energy non-profit, where she worked on public policy communications. Emily started her career working for the Pet Food Institute, a trade association representing pet food manufacturers and producers, and is incredibly excited to be back working with dogs.
Originally from the Washington, DC area. Emily now lives in Durham, North Carolina with her husband and three dogs, Lilly, Daisy, and Poppy. Lilly could be considered a part-time AKC employee, as she frequently joins Emily in the office.
Nathan Makla, Administrator
Nathan Makla is an Administrator for the AKC’s Government Relations Department. He is responsible for executing AKC’s outreach strategy by developing government and coalition relations with the goal of reaching new audiences and varied constituencies to advance AKC’s message. Nathan also manages the day to day administration of the PAC and is responsible for quarterly reporting to the Federal Election Commission. Nathan also serves as the primary point of contact for legislative issues in Hawaii, Minnesota, North Dakota, and South Dakota including providing analysis and drafting legislative and public communications.
Prior to joining the AKC Nathan worked as a State Government Relations Manager for The Heartland Institute in Chicago. He also worked in the federal affairs department for an energy company in Washington, DC. Prior to working in the energy sector, Nathan was a government affairs intern for the American Forest and Paper Association, where he helped coordinate the Forest Products Industry Fly-In; a Senate aide for the 2011 session of the Georgia General Assembly; and a legislative aide for the Science and Technology Committee.
Nathan is a graduate of Clemson University, where he earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in economics.
Mikki McKinnis, Project & Administrative Manager, Government Relations
Mikki joined the AKC GR team in August 2019. Her focus is managing a service dog program, Service Dog Pass, which streamlines the travel process for service dog teams while also reducing the challenges faced by access providers when working to accommodate them. She also assists Sheila in all her many facets of being VP of Government Relations. Mikki has an eight-year-old German Shorthaired Pointer (GSP) named Rosie who is a registered therapy dog and is looking to add another GSP to her family this year.
Robert Miller, Legislative Analyst/Community Outreach Coordinator, Government Relations
Based in the Sacramento, California area, Robert Miller is the American Kennel Club Government Relations legislative point person for six Western states: California, Oregon, Washington, Nevada, Idaho and Montana. He is a long-time sportsman and is addicted to upland bird hunting. Before joining AKC, he worked two decades in state and local government in communications and legislation. Along with Lisa, his veterinarian wife, he breeds Wirehaired Pointing Griffons and is an AKC Breeder of Merit. His current brood includes two champion Griffons, a Giant Schnauzer service dog, a GCH Tibetan Terrier who has traded the show ring for fly ball, a Maltese and a mixed terrier rescue. And two teenage children.
Stacey Ober, Legislative Analyst & Community Outreach, New England Region
After years as a government relations professional representing Massachusetts health and safety non-profit organizations, I moved to Cape Cod with my husband and three bulldogs in 2016. In my leisure time, in addition to sitting in front of the fireplace surrounded by snoring, I enjoy boating, fishing, photography and some time on the back of my husband’s Harley. Since 2018, I have served as the AKC’s legislative analyst and advocate responsible for community outreach in New England. My job is getting the right information to the right people at the right time in support of constructive communication and strategic collaboration with the AKC clubs and federations. When I am not in front of the computer tracking, analyzing or discussing pending legislation or rule changes, I’m at state capitols and town halls to meet, educate, testify and ensure that policy decisions support the right to own, breed and enjoy dogs.
Patty Van Sicklen, Regional Manager
Patty has been involved in AKC events, clubs, and legislative issues for more than 31 years. She served as president, treasurer and event secretary for area specialty and all-breed clubs and on the Board of the Siberian Husky Club of America. Before working for the AKC, she helped found a state coalition of dog clubs, worked to oppose local anti-breeder measures, and served as a media contact and spokesperson on responsible dog care. Patty came to the AKC in 2007 as a member of the Internal Consulting Group and joined the Government Relations team in 2010. As Regional Manager, she evaluates proposed legislation and communicates its potential impact to legislators and stakeholders; works with state and local lawmakers and agencies to craft reasonable, enforceable and non-discriminatory canine legislation; and manages regional grassroots education and outreach. She has served as a member and subject matter expert on state study and legislative advisory committees.
Patty previously worked in economic development for Williamson County, TN, and as National Director of Business Operations, trainer, contract analyst, and speaker in the serviced office suites industry. She received a B.S. in Public Relations from Bowling Green State University.
Patty has titled her Siberian Huskies in conformation, rally, obedience, agility, barn hunt, coursing ability, Fast CAT, scent work, and pet therapy. She is an AKC Canine Good Citizen evaluator and former dog training instructor.