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Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson names additional members of leadership team

Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson today announced several additional members of her team, who will help achieve her goals at the Department of State for the people of Michigan.

Notable among the appointees are Heaster Wheeler, former assistant county executive for Wayne County and executive director of the Detroit branch of the NAACP, to serve as assistant secretary of state; Jonathan Brater, former democracy counsel with New York University’s Brennan Center, to help advise the department’s work to modernize elections; and Winnie Liao, a national technology leader and renowned innovator, to serve as chief operations officer for the department.

“These exceptionally talented individuals bring a wealth of leadership experience to my administration and personal commitments to success,” Benson said. “The staff at the department has been very welcoming and are ready to work together with additional team members to achieve our ambitious goals on behalf of the citizens of Michigan.”

The full list of appointees includes:

  • Heaster Wheeler, assistant secretary of state. Wheeler is a past assistant county executive for Wayne County and served as executive director of the NAACP’s Detroit branch for more than a decade. He has been chief innovation officer with Black Family Development and is the founder and CEO of his own company, providing leadership, community engagement and government affairs consultation. Wheeler has an associate degree from Wayne County Community College and nonprofit management certification from Harvard University.
  • Mike Brady, chief legal director. Brady has provided legal counsel, strategic planning and policy development for a number of organizations that assist in improving communities. Most recently, he was general counsel and previously director of policy and community engagement for the Detroit Land Bank Authority. Prior to that he served as vice president of policy for the Center for Community Progress in Flint and legal and policy director and special legal projects program manager for Michigan Community Resources in Detroit. He graduated from the University of Michigan and Wayne State University Law School.
  • Jonathan Brater, legal policy director. Brater previously served as counsel for the Brennan Center’s Democracy Program, where his work focused on modernizing elections in partnership with secretaries of state around the country. A nationally recognized expert on voter registration law and policy, Brater has drafted legislation and published leading analyses on automatic voter registration, registration list maintenance and other state policies affecting voting access. He graduated cum laude from the University of Michigan Law School, where he served as executive editor of the Michigan Law Review. He received a bachelor’s degree from Columbia University and prior to law school was a legislative analyst for the House Committee on Energy and Commerce in the U.S. Congress.
  • Winnie Liao, chief operations officer. Liao is an accomplished information technology leader with expertise in strategic planning, collaboration, program and project management, and process and cost optimization. Most recently, she served as global head of cloud integration & delivery and global head of infrastructure strategy for AIG in San Francisco. Liao also has held technology leadership positions with Deloitte Consulting, KPMG in Chicago and other companies. She holds a master of business administration from the University of Notre Dame and a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering from the University of Michigan.
  • Sally Marsh, research and special projects director. Marsh graduated magna cum laude with a degree in government from Harvard College. She served as director of domestic programs for the Harvard Model Congress and on the executive board for the Harvard University Institute of Politics. Marsh was an intern investigator with the Public Defender Service for the District of Columbia, held a research and policy internship with Parliament of the U.K. and studied abroad in Greece.
  • Shawn Starkey, communications director. Starkey most recently was vice president of communications and marketing for the Ross Initiative in Sports for Equality (RISE), a national nonprofit using the unifying power of sports to improve race relations. He previously served as director of marketing and communications for Wayne State University Law School and executive director of public relations, marketing and legislative affairs for St. Clair County Community College. Starkey is a graduate of Youngstown State University and was a newspaper reporter and editor for the first 15 years of his career.

Benson previously announced Hilarie Chambers as chief of staff at the Department of State.


Media Contact: Shawn Starkey