Skip to main content

Val Applewhite

Field Organizer, Southeast NC

Born in New York City, Val travelled the world during her Air Force Career. She retired at Pope AFB in 1999 after 20 years of honorable service. With a strong desire for positive outcomes in her community, she was motivated to seek a seat on the Fayetteville City Council and served three terms. The Air Force core value of “Service before Self” is the foundation of her life in public service. She is a member of various community organizations that focus on economic development, youth and veteran’s issues.

val@democracync.org | 910-302-5951

Darlene Azarmi

Field Organizer, Western NC

Darlene grew up in Western North Carolina, which significantly shaped her political perspective. As a college student at UNC Wilmington, Darlene balanced her time working and volunteering for campus committees, student groups, and national organizations. Her activism, love for travel and consistent community involvement fueled her passion for organizing. She received a BA in Environmental Studies and started her organizing career at an environmental advocacy organization in Washington, D.C., Darlene then moved to Colorado, where she helped pass that state’s campaign-finance amendment. She continued good government work in Oregon, where she served as a campus organizer and petition office director for the Oregon Public Interest Research Group. Darlene currently lives in Asheville.

darlene@democracync.org | 828-216-3430

Leigh Bradley

Office Manager

Leigh holds a BSW from Indiana University and an MSW from UNC-Chapel Hill. She has been with the organization since 1996.

leigh@democracync.org | 919-908-7910

Becky Carver

Development Director

Since moving to Durham in 1981, Becky has been a dedicated volunteer and activist, primarily around reproductive rights and other social justice issues. She has a B.S. from the University of Tennessee and M.S. from American University. Building on her special education and mental health experience, Becky has over twenty-five years in the nonprofit sector as Executive Director, Director of Development, Deputy Director, Project Director, and volunteer board member effectively promoting and advancing organizations’ missions and programs. She has worked at Wright School, The Alcohol/Drug Council of NC, Cornucopia Cancer Support Center, and Planned Parenthood. She understands the importance of making systemic changes to remedy the challenges we face in our communities and beyond and the need to work in coalition to achieve common goals.

becky@democracync.org | 919-908-7912

Juliana Deitch

Volunteer Coordinator

Juliana first became involved in social justice work in college, which sparked her passion for political activism and advancing equality. One of her first jobs was working in Raleigh as a Deputy Field Organizer at Organizing for America, where she learned firsthand the importance of voter engagement and education. She has worked in various advocacy roles in several educational institutions, as an AmeriCorps VISTA for United Way of the Bay Area, and at an educational nonprofit that serves low income, first-generation students in San Francisco. She has a BA in English from North Carolina State University.

juliana@democracync.org | 919-908-7914

Cheryl Ellis

Interim Field Director

Cheryl is a proud alumna of the University of Virginia. As Organizing Director, she trains and leads Democracy NC’s Organizing Team and develops and oversees implementation of our organizing, base building and voter engagement work. Since moving to NC in 1986, Cheryl has worked in both the private and public sectors. Through her work in the public school system and human services for over 20 years, she saw the plight of those who were disenfranchised and many times forgotten and dedicated her career to standing for and with the least of these. In 2008, Cheryl was re-energized to engage politically in the health care reform movement because of her son’s personal experience of being denied coverage. She moved through the ranks of Organizing for America (now Action), starting as a volunteer and moving up to the position of State Coordinator. In that role, Cheryl led staff and volunteers across North Carolina into a new era for OFA as a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization working on multiple issues including health care, gun violence prevention, immigration reform, climate change, women’s rights, minimum wage and Medicaid expansion. Cheryl has also served as a volunteer peer counselor for The Women’s Center in Raleigh, a member and leader of Southern Wake Concerned Citizens and member of the NC Association of Educators.

cheryl@democracync.org | 919-908-7931

Sunny Frothingham

Senior Researcher

Sunny is responsible for generating quantitative analysis and advocacy materials that advance Democracy North Carolina’s mission. Sunny was born and raised in Durham, North Carolina and attended Duke University, where she majored in public policy and women’s studies. She has held research and advocacy roles in a variety of issue-based campaigns ranging from family economic policy to gun violence prevention, labor, and LGBTQ rights. Before joining Democracy NC, Sunny was the senior researcher for women’s economic policy at the Center for American Progress in Washington, DC.

sunny@democracync.org | 919-908-7941

Jennifer Frye

Training Director

Jenn has been with Democracy North Carolina for over a decade. She started as a student organizer in 2003 and served on the board of directors before joining the staff in 2006. Before joining the Democracy NC team, Jenn worked in homelessness and gun violence prevention. She has a BA in Political Science and German from UNC Chapel Hill. Jenn is an alumnus of the Public Allies North Carolina leadership development program and is a fellow in the 2014-2016 class of the William C. Friday Fellowship for Human Relations. As the Director of Training, Jenn is responsible for developing and overseeing the implementation of Democracy North Carolina’s political education, skills building and leadership development strategies.

jenn@democracync.org | 919-908-7915

Isela Gutiérrez

Research and Policy Director

Isela got her start in social justice work as a student activist in 1997 and has been hooked ever since. She has over a decade of experience in advocacy-oriented nonprofits, beginning with her first job at the ACLU of Washington State in Seattle. Most recently before moving to North Carolina, Isela worked as an advocate for statewide juvenile justice policy reform at the Texas Criminal Justice Coalition in Austin and to promote local drug policy reform at the Defender Association’s Racial Disparity Project in Seattle. She has a BA in History from Scripps College and a MSW from UNC-Chapel Hill.

isela@democracync.org | 919-908-7918

Arthur Hartsell

Field Organizer, Western Piedmont

Arthur Hartsell is a native of the North Carolina Piedmont, born and raised in Concord. Arthur received undergraduate and graduate degrees in social work from the University of North Carolina at Charlotte with the goal of working in communities and advocating around social justice issues. Arthur is part of many advocacy organizations in the Piedmont and has been an educator, facilitator, and consultant around intersectionality. Arthur currently lives in Charlotte.

arthur@democracync.org | 980-230-8961

Jen Jones

Director of Communications and Digital Strategy

Jen Jones became part of the social justice movement in the South when she joined the staff of Equality NC in 2011 as the organization’s first-ever Communications Director. A native of rural Eastern North Carolina, Jen received her undergraduate degree from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and a law degree from North Carolina Central University. Jen played a key role in the campaign against Amendment One as the Communications lead for the Coalition to Protect All NC Families and the award-winning RACE TO THE BALLOT campaign, a voter education effort that led her to run across North Carolina to build momentum against the state’s constitutional ban on the freedom to marry. Her digital activism would go on to propel Equality NC to the second-most followed state equality group in the nation, engaging tens of thousands of supporters online daily. Honors include the ACLU of NC’s Sharon Thompson Award for extraordinary efforts toward advancing equal rights for LGBT persons, the Blueprint NC Trailblazer Award, Qnotes Carolinas Statewide LGBT Leader of the Year (Female) Award, Equality Federation Awards for fundraising and media coverage, and the LGBT Center of Raleigh’s Community Impact Award. Prior to joining Democracy NC, Jen worked with a variety of state organizations, including League of Women Voters of NC, NARAL Pro Choice NC, and NC AIDS Action Network. Find Jen on Twitter at @thatjenjones.

jenjones@democracync.org | 919-260-5906

Adrienne Kelly

Operations Director

Adrienne entered the non-profit sector after working for IBM and Hewlett-Packard companies, and then owning a telecommunications business for two decades. Prior to her current position, she was Chief Operations Officer for a non-profit organization in the education industry. She has volunteered in numerous capacities for Wake County public schools and is a strong advocate for public education.

Active in grassroots organizations, Adrienne has been a defender of voter education and advocacy, women’s rights and other issues that impact disenfranchised populations. She has been recognized by the National Association of Women Business Owners, Greater Raleigh Chamber, YWCA Academy of Women, Wesleyan University and others for her leadership, advocacy and community service.

In her role as Operations Director at Democracy North Carolina, Adrienne is charged with streamlining operations and leading the effective administration of the organization in support of its mission.

Adrienne has a BA from Wesleyan University (CT) and an MBA from Harvard University (MA).

adrienne@democracync.org | 919-908-7932

Tomas Lopez

Executive Director

Tomas Lopez became Democracy North Carolina’s Executive Director in January 2018. Previously, he was Counsel with the Democracy Program at the Brennan Center for Justice at NYU School of Law, a non-partisan law and policy institute that seeks to improve the nation’s systems of democracy and justice. As a voting rights attorney there, he litigated against restrictive voting laws in federal court and partnered with advocates to advance and defend election reforms at the state level. He has also commented on voting rights and election law issues in local and national media.

Prior to joining the Brennan Center, Tomas was a fellow with the Southern Poverty Law Center’s Immigrant Justice Project, where he was part of efforts that successfully challenged anti-immigrant legislation in Alabama. He also previously served as the Bacon Immigration Law and Policy Program Fellow at the University of Arizona, Rogers College of Law, where he co-authored a report on the impact of Arizona’s immigration law on young people. Tomas is a graduate of Duke University and Yale Law School.

tomas@democracync.org | 919-908-7942

Amanda Matson

Engagement Editor

Amanda began her time at Democracy NC as a fellow in the fall of 2014, joining staff in 2016. Her background is in using community-based research to advocate around social justice issues. Her work previous to joining the Democracy NC team was using digital storytelling to advocate with women experiencing homelessness for greater access to transportation resources. She completed her undergraduate degree at the University of Mount Union (in Ohio) and her graduate work in Community Psychology at NC State University. Amanda currently uses her background in research and digital advocacy to work at the intersection of the communications and research teams at Democracy NC.

amandamatson@democracync.org | 919-908-7920

Linda Sutton

Field Organizer, Central Piedmont

Linda has been active in the Winston-Salem community since the early 70’s, working as a union organizer and Special Voter Registration Commissioner. She co-founded the Winston-Salem Voting Rights Coalition, a grassroots organization of non-profit, nonpartisan community groups that has registered thousands of voters and engaged them in electoral reforms such as early voting, same day registration and campaign finance reform. She has received numerous local, state and national awards for her civic engagement work. Linda is based in Winston-Salem and also works in Forsyth, Guilford, Davie and surrounding counties.

linda@democracync.org | 336-870-2168

Marques Thompson

Field Organizer, Northeast NC

Marques was raised in Eastern North Carolina and has been volunteering to serve the community from his youth onward. Volunteering, advocating, organizing, and serving on issues as diverse as religion, education, workers rights, social justice and civil rights, Marques has ties with organizations and leaders throughout the region.

marques@democracync.org | 252-508-9575