CSG Welcomes New Team in Washington, D.C.

When CSG’s leaders established the office in Washington, D.C., in 1966, they understood the importance of the state’s role in federal decision-making. They knew the federal-state struggles of the previous decades would likely expand into new areas of public policymaking as both sides attempted to master the cyclical nature of federalism.

Today, CSG’s presence in our nation’s capital has never been more important. Medicaid expansion, air quality regulations, net neutrality, cybersecurity, transportation funding and public lands—to name just a few—are all critical issues to the states. That is why CSG has made the conscious decision to align its Washington, D.C., activities more closely with the national policy and research team.

The policy products and programming overseen by CSG’s headquarters staff increasingly carry aspects and nuances that must be informed by federal leaders. In addition, as the federal government is often slow to react to a changing world, states are driving a new wave of policy innovation from which federal partners can learn. This partnership between CSG’s headquarters-based national policy and research team and its Washington, D.C., office is a natural evolution that will pay tremendous dividends in terms of CSG’s staff working more closely together to advance the interests and voice of the states both nationally and globally.

Here are several key personnel additions to CSG’s Washington, D.C., team.

Andy Karellas

Director of Federal Affairs

Karellas comes to CSG from Capitol Hill where he served as a senior staffer with the House Small Business Committee, focusing on international trade and technology issues. Andy brings a history of accomplishment to the director of federal affairs role, including positions in the private sector, U.S. Congress and the U.S. Department of Commerce.

A native of Mexico, Missouri, Karellas received his bachelor’s degree in international business from Webster University and his master’s degree in international commerce and policy from George Mason University. Prior to joining the House Small Business Committee in early 2011, Karellas worked as deputy director of government affairs for Aon Corporation in Chicago. Before that, he served as special assistant to U.S. Commerce Secretary Carlos Gutierrez.

Karellas’ first experience in Washington and on Capitol Hill was as an aide to former Sen. Jim Talent of Missouri. Having worked with both CSG and SIDO over the last couple years on STEP and STEP reauthorization, Karellas is familiar with our organization and the unique role we can play in advancing the voice of the states in the federal conversation.

Along these lines, one of Karellas’ first tasks will be to hire a new director of legislative affairs to assist with the Washington, D.C., portfolio and to bolster our outreach to the administration, Congress and the NGO/think tank/foundation community in Washington, D.C.  

Catherine Bray

Director of International Affairs / Director of SIDO

Bray has rejoined CSG as our director of international affairs and director of the State International Development Organizations, known as SIDO. In these roles, Bray will represent state governments to the foreign embassy community, the academic and think tank community and relevant federal agencies such as the departments of Commerce and State.

In her work, Bray assists state governments as they build international capacities by fostering exchanges with counterparts abroad, with a special focus on Canadian provincial government and Mexico border states. International trade is an important part of understanding how global trends affect state policymaking and, in her role coordinating exchanges between state international trade promotion professionals and economic development officers, Bray will work closely with the CSG federal affairs team, as well as our regional leaders to build understanding in Congress on the value of state export promotion programs.

Bray has spent the last seven years in Washington, D.C., specializing in international outreach programs for various think tanks, other nonprofits and corporations. She previously held this position at CSG in 2009. Prior to her time at CSG, Bray spent seven years working up to the chief of staff level in the European Parliament in Brussels. A British national, Bray has expert knowledge of the workings of Capitol Hill, Brussels and London.

Kamanzi Kalisa

Program Director – CSG’s Overseas Voting Initiative

CSG, in support of and working in cooperation with the U.S. Department of Defense through a four-year, $3.2 million cooperative agreement, will conduct outreach and provide assistance to state policymakers in better understanding the needs of overseas military voters. CSG will work with a variety of stakeholders and state government membership associations to research best practices in overseas personnel election management to ensure full voting enfranchisement of impacted U.S. citizens overseas.

Kalisa comes to CSG from the Georgia Secretary of State’s office where he served as assistant director of elections since 2006, directing Georgia’s $77 million implementation of the Help America Vote Act in 695 local jurisdictions. Kalisa has been involved in several Georgia and Florida state and Congressional campaigns and interned with then-Sen. John Kerry in Washington, D.C., in 2002.

Kalisa is extremely passionate about both elections and international affairs – making him an ideal candidate to fill this new position at CSG. He has a B.A. from Tufts University and his M.P.A. from Georgia State University. When not living and breathing elections, Kalisa is an avid golfer and swimmer.

Justin Fisk

Policy Associate – CSG Federal and International Affairs

Justin Fisk recently joined CSG’s Washington, D.C., office as a policy associate for federal and international affairs. This new position on CSG's Policy & Research Team will work cooperatively on federal affairs and on international affairs and with CSG’s affiliate organization, the State International Development Organizations.

Fisk is leaving his position at Sandler, Travis & Rosenberg, where he conducted research on trade and customs issues for the firm’s clients. He also has worked at the Department of Commerce in the Trade Promotion Coordinating Committee where he helped develop an export promotion campaign, “Look South.” He previously worked in the Office of the Western Hemisphere at the USTR where he participated in the Trans-Pacific Partnership negotiations and helped compose the Special 301 Report for Latin American countries. Fisk recently completed a Master’s of International Affairs at the Elliott School of International Affairs at The George Washington University.