President & CEO
With more than 25 years of experience working in Washington, DC, Anita’s achievements at the national level are unparalleled. As a pioneering principal of the top independent lobbying firm in Washington, DC and equity owner of the fastest growing law firm in the US, and now President & CEO of the Estell Group, Anita is considered a master operative and continues to indelibly demonstrate her bona fides as a tested and successful attorney and federal relations and policy executive.
As President & CEO, Anita focuses on relationship management, creative strategic counsel, policy development, and fostering the important connections that breed client success. Even so, she has been trained in the trenches. Her background as a former House of Representatives appropriations committee staff person, presidential appointee and senior advisor to a US Secretary of Education provided the platform needed to differentiate her in a competitive marketplace. This experience prepared her to assist clients with a number of policy matters. She has served as lead consultant on teams that helped secure more than $1 billion in funding for the model light rail system in the US; $2.5 billion in mandatory funding for a coalition of minority-serving institutions; the authorization of disease-specific legislation; enactment of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 Commemorative Coin Act (P.L. 110-451); the placement of a statue honoring the late Rosa Parks in Statuary Hall of the US Capitol; and $3 million for a Harvard teaching hospital’s acquisition of research equipment. Anita’s client successes quantitatively are measured in the tens of billions of dollars, and the numbers of people who have benefitted from her efforts are measured in the millions.
Anita leverages her relationships and knowledge of federal procedure to afford clients opportunities to obtain resources from places few others can access. Her reach, impact, and reputation extend far beyond Capitol Hill and the executive branch. Indeed, she has advised government leaders, from presidents and governors to county executives and mayors, as well as C-Suite leaders from Fortune 500 companies and the officers of large, national nonprofit member organizations. With her understanding of changing demographics and the push and pull of global dynamics, Anita has spent more than two decades forging relationships that span various communities while identifying synergies and opportunities for collaboration among them.
When it comes to the development of creative approaches and delivery of client successes, Anita dares to go where few have traveled. Anita brings a bold and relevant vision to the Washington, DC-based government relations consulting community. The changing face of America presents implications for cities, counties, states and every sector, including education, financial services, health and human services, national security, science and technology and telecommunications. Leaning into excellence and business best practices, she has assembled a superior bi-partisan and diverse team of public policy and communications professionals who embrace and understand the demographic changes affecting the nation and the world. These professionals stand above the crowd in many ways, and bring additional value in their ability to help clients transform the challenges associated with changing demographics into real opportunities. Anita’s commitment to diversity and inclusion is not contrived or calculated. It is organic and represents the essence of who she is.
Most comfortable operating on the cutting edge of business and politics, Anita has used federal policy, regulatory mechanisms, spending streams, and law as vehicles to create opportunity and solve corporate and community problems of all sizes. It has been said that a small spark can start a fire. When it comes to both transactional and transformational thought leadership, bold thinking and quality representation at the federal level, Anita R. Estell is that spark.
A published author, her comprehensive knowledge of the federal process and commitment to civic engagement are evidenced in her book, The Power of Us: The Art and Science of Enlightened Citizen Engagement and Collective Action (How the US Government “Really” Works and How to Get it to Work for You). Customized training materials and workshops have been developed to accompany the book and to assist communities, companies, organizations and others seeking to take their advocacy efforts to a new level.
Anita received her Juris Doctor and Bachelor of Journalism degrees from the University of Missouri-Columbia, where she also is a member of the Order of the Coif. She holds a certificate from the Harvard Kennedy School Women and Power Executive Leadership Program and has been a founding member, board member and active supporter of numerous national and local service organizations.
Senior Policy Advisor
Susan McAvoy joins the Estell Group with more than twenty years of congressional and executive experience. She is a proud and distinguished alumni of the congressional Chiefs of Staff community. Susan served as Chief of Staff for former Congressman Leonard Boswell and prior to that in several senior positions for former Congressman Martin Frost. As Chief of Staff to Congressman Boswell and with a reputation for bipartisanship, Susan oversaw the passage of the Joshua Omvig Veterans Suicide Prevention Act which directed funding to the Department of Veterans Affairs for suicide prevention among veterans.
When Congressman Frost was elected Democratic Caucus Chair, Susan joined him as Senior Policy Advisor, with responsibility for staffing several Caucus Task Forces including Energy, Immigration and Health Care and served as the staff liaison to House Leadership. While serving as Legislative Director for Congressman Frost, Susan oversaw the writing and passage of the Amber Hagerman Protection Act, the precursor of federal funding for the Amber Alert Program. Susan also provided senior policy counsel on matters related to transportation, veterans affairs, health care and appropriations.
In October of 1999, President Clinton appointed Susan to the position of Deputy Press Secretary at the U.S. Department of Agriculture, serving under then Secretary Dan Glickman. In this position, Susan oversaw the media roll-out of USDA’s Organic Labeling Program, assisted in developing and implementing public relations strategy for six agencies within USDA and coordinated press activities between the White House and USDA.
After leaving the Hill, Susan worked with Anita and other equity shareholders in the Polsinelli Public Policy Group advising clients through the appropriations and authorization processes, and managing client development, strategy development and client recruitment.
Susan received both her Bachelor of Arts degree and Master of Arts degree from the University of Texas and Arlington, majoring in Political Science and Urban Affairs respectively. She resides on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC.
A political and cultural activist who knows and associates with some of the most notable leaders in Washington, DC, the world and entertainment industry, Charles out distances the traditional lobbying crowd in that he also keeps his finger on the pulse of “everyday people.” He cut his teeth with grassroots mobilization at a young age.
He spent 21 years working in the Washington office of former Congressman Ronald V. Dellums of California’s ninth Congressional District. As Legislative Director and Press Assistant, he advised and briefed the Congressman on day-to-day legislative matters, media strategy, while managing the legislative office and maintaining constituent casework. In addition to district work, he assisted on national issues relating to Dellums’ Chairmanship of the House Armed Services Committee and the House District of Columbia Committee.
After completion of his work on Capitol Hill, Charles served as Director for Governmental Relations for Healthcare International Management Company, which worked to enhance health care services in Africa. As a former partner with Dellums & Associates, LLC, he managed client accounts and provided strategic advice and planning to large corporations, private companies and foreign governments. He left Dellums & Associates to become the senior government relations advisor to the Mayor of the City of Oakland, California, interfacing with the California state legislature, the governor’s office, Congress, the White House and federal executive branch agencies. He is passionate about the need to end the global pandemic of HIV/AIDS.
He has extensive political campaign experience in supervising several Get-Out-the-Vote (GOTV) efforts in California and Washington, D.C, and grassroots relationships across the US. He continues his work with organizations, which are dedicated to expanding participation in the political process, and remains committed to his community. He is a former Chair of the District of Columbia Commission on the Arts and Humanities and is the Chair of the 05-05 precinct in Raleigh, NC and is a member of the Raleigh County Democratic Executive Committee. He also serves on the board of directors for The African American Music Association; Rebuild Durham, Inc.; The Ronald V. Dellums Foundation; Regional Addiction Prevention, Inc. (RAP); Washington Area Music Association; and the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP).
During his career, he always has explored the best ways to integrate culture and politics into his roster of activities, and believes the combination of the two most effectively motivate and empower people and communities. In addition to his many political and government relations achievements, Charles found time to leave an iconic impression within the arts and culture arena. He managed the band, EU, and witnessed the ascent of go-go music. As a producer and manager, he interacted with all the popular go-go acts in Washington, D.C., which included Chuck Brown and the Soul Searchers, Rare Essence and the Junkyard Band. Charles translated this experience as the published author of the celebrated authoritative book on Go-Go music, “The Beat”: Go Go’s Fusion of Funk and Hip Hop. The book, which was co-authored by Kip Lornell, is the only book available that explores the history and popularity of this often ignored music style. He is married to his dear wife, Judith A. Burrell and has two children Brandon N. Stephenson and Zora A. B. Stephenson. He graduated cum laude from American University with a bachelor’s degree.
Senior Health Care Advisor
Priscilla Chatman is an attorney with 25 years’ experience in health policy, government and community relations. She won a competitive federal contract from the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) to serve as an Affordable Care Act navigator entity for the state of Delaware. Headquartered at Widener University School of Law, her team facilitates outreach education and enrollment into ACA Marketplace insurance plans. Priscilla won this contract for two consecutive years. She also won a Maryland state contract to serve as an ACA navigator entity. She is certified in cultural competency by the Office of Minority Health, Department of Health and Human Services.
Priscilla directed the Washington office of the American Urological Association, a physician’s membership organization, where she worked on Medicare and Medicaid provider issues including physician’s payments (SGR), imaging, medical devices, reimbursement, EMR, health information technology, and comparative effectiveness research. She was the senior policy attorney at the University Of Maryland School Of Medicine where she advocated to the state and federal governments concerning clinical trials, licensure, Medicare and Medicaid reimbursement, rural health and telemedicine. Priscilla was an advisor to the Institutional Review Board (IRB) addressing the FDA requirements for the protection of human subjects and informed consent. She was instrumental in getting passed into law a bill requiring insurers to pay for medical costs incident to cancer clinical trials when the patient’s life was in danger; the first such bill in the nation. She conceptualized and facilitated the passage of a bill that provided state funded mammograms for low income women.
Other distinguished experience and efforts include serving as Vice President for Government at the Lupus Foundation of American leading advocacy to Congress and the administration including the Department of Defense, HHS, CMS, and the Center for Disease Control and Prevention from which she secured millions of dollars in research funding. Priscilla helped secure the engagement of NIH in the creation of its research roadmap and to the FDA concerning the drug approval pathway. She also served as Counsel and Director of Government for the nation’s second largest senior’s organization, National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare (NCPSSM), where she directed advocacy on Medicare, prescription drug coverage, Medicaid, home care and hospice, nursing homes, long term care and Social Security. Priscilla developed an expertise in pharmaceuticals, from the bench research at NIH to the drug approval pathway at the FDA, the debates over Average Wholesale Price for Medicare and rebates for Medicaid.
Priscilla is a former senior staff advisor to former Senator Harris Wofford (D-PA). She attended Swarthmore College before receiving her Bachelors of Art Degree from Temple University and her Juris Doctorate degree from Widener University School of Law where she graduated Order of the Barrister.
Senior Policy Advisor
Fritz works with clients utilizing his expertise and experience in strategic government, stakeholder and external relations at Federal, state and local levels. His work also includes advocacy research and policy analysis, strategic planning and resource development, and outreach and public engagement.
Fritz created and implemented the Ohio and the California Mayors’ Education Roundtables, and continues to advise individual mayors on education strategy and related issues. He works primarily with education focused businesses, national organizations and associations, and individual cities to assist them in developing strategies to address their priorities and needs. He created and produces “Fritzwire,” the nation’s leading email newsletter on education that provides timely education and related information. It has been dubbed “Education’s Water Cooler.” He also assists other organizations and businesses in government relations and strategy to expand their opportunities. Fritz is a contributor to a variety of national newsletters and magazines on inside the Beltway education policy and politics. In 2006, Fritz worked with members of the Argentine National Assembly in an effort to rewrite their national education statute and rethink the role of mayors in education in Argentine cities.
From February 2003 to December 2006, he was a Senior Advisor at the U.S. Conference of Mayors, where he directed the Conference’s effort to increase and improve mayoral leadership and involvement in education. Fritz was responsible for creating and implementing the Conference’s education policy platform, shaping policy positions on federal education legislation and programs, managing a network of more than 200 mayoral education policy advisors, and conducting policy research. He organized two Mayors’ National Education Summits and wrote an action guide for mayors to assist in their leadership and involvement in education that continues to be used by mayors. He also worked to link education to other key mayoral issues.
From 1975 to 2003, he held a variety of positions at the U.S. Department of Education. His last position was Director of Constituent Relations. This brought him in constant contact with the full range of education stakeholders, and was responsible for creating and managing a comprehensive outreach, strategic relations and public engagement effort to involve and communicate with the stakeholder groups on behalf of the Secretary of Education.
From 1988 to 1992, Fritz served as the Senior Fellow at the National Alliance of Business where shaped the Alliance’s priorities and policy positions in education; developed and managed corporate training seminars; and created and staffed the Business Coalition for Education Reform. He also authored several publications and papers, established strategic alliances, and expanded corporate involvement in education.
In 1983 he served as the Deputy Director of the American Gathering of Holocaust Survivors; in 1973 he was a project coordinator for a National Study Commission; and from 1969-1970 he was a VISTA Volunteer in Omaha, Nebraska. Fritz has a B.A. from Washington University (St. Louis, MO) in political science; M. Ed from the University of Nebraska, Lincoln in elementary education; and a Ph.D. from the University of Nebraska, Lincoln in the politics of education.
Chief Organizational and Leadership Development Officer
Jennifer Henderson leads the Estell Group’s organizational and leadership development division. She is an experienced facilitator, technical assistance provider, and executive coach in the areas of strategic planning and thinking, organizational transitions and transformation, innovative program design, cultural diversity, sustainable community development, and organizational capacity building.
Prior to establishing her own company, Strategic Decisions, LLC, Jennifer spent ten years leading a statewide grassroots advocacy organization in North Carolina and then fifteen years working with scores of local, state and national community development organizations as Director of Training and Leadership Development at the Center for Community Change in Washington, DC. She continues to advise organizations and philanthropic entities working for racial and economic equity and social inclusion.
Jennifer has worked with civic and Non-Governmental Organizations on issue campaigns and development projects in the United States, South Africa and the Newly Independent States of Eastern Europe. She has served as a lead consultant to the public and private redevelopment efforts in the Central City neighborhood of New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina. Support for civic engagement initiatives has included place-based organizational capacity building for grantees of The Ford Foundation, Annie E. Casey Foundation, W.K. Kellogg Foundation, and Winthrop Rockefeller Foundation. In addition, Jennifer has advised redevelopment agencies in Los Angeles and Arlington, VA.
She is the creator of a holistic approach to organizational development, “The Fusion Model”, which is promoted by a number of foundations including the Mary Reynolds Babcock Foundation which has chosen the model the organizational development model for its grantees.
Jennifer is an advocate and advisor to progressive businesses. Since 1996, Jennifer has been a board member of the Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream Company and served for seven years as the chair of the board. Jennifer served as the first chair of Sweet Beginnings, LLC, a personal products company which trains and employs formerly incarcerated and economically marginalized people. Jennifer currently serves on the board of an alternative energy company, Imani Energy which provides low-cost solar energy to urban-based organizations and businesses while training and employing unemployed young people.
Jennifer holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in Politics and Journalism from North Carolina State University.
Senior Education Policy Advisor
Dr. Arthur E. Thomas has been a pioneering educational administrator and thought-leader shaping policy and advancing progress for the underserved at the local, state and federal levels for more than four decades.
Art is most remembered for his role as President of Central State University, his alma mater. During his presidential tenure at Central State University, the university had a record enrollment of more than 3,200 students; developed a four-year undergraduate International Water Resources Management Program; established a four-year fully accredited Manufacturing Engineering Program; offered a Master’s Degree in Education, an African Studies Program, a model Linguistics Program, an internationally renowned convocation series, and an outstanding marching band and university choir; and advanced two football National NAIA championships, eight women’s National NAIA track championships, two men’s National track championship teams, and a gold medalist in the Olympics in the 400 meter hurdles. Central State University’s women’s basketball teams won eight district basketball championships and participated in the National playoffs eight times.
He served on the Historically Black College and University Presidential Advisory Board of former Presidents George H.W. Bush and William J. Clinton. Art served for 12 consecutive years. President Clinton also selected him to be an official U.S. representative to the first democratic elections in South Africa. During his tenure as President at Central State University, he awarded 123 full scholarships to African students from 23 African countries. Ten students were recipients from South Africa in fulfillment of a commitment to the Honorable Nelson Mandela.
Following his time at Central State University, Art served as the Director of the Kellogg Foundation-funded NAFEO Kellogg Leadership Fellows Program and as the Program Manager for the California State University San Bernardino Integrated Technology Transfer Network Program (CSUSB-ITTN) at Morgan State University in Baltimore, MD. More recently, he has served as the Senior Administrative Coordinator of the Ph.D. Program in Bioenvironmental Science, School of Computer, Mathematical, & Natural Sciences at Morgan State University. He recently co-authored a tutoring guide prepared by Black presidents for Black students titled, Good to Gray, Black Men and Boys.
Art has worked as an elementary and high school teacher, as well as, a football and track coach. He also has taught and directed advocacy programs. At the university level, he has served as Vice President and President.
He is the recipient of numerous awards and honors. Dr. Thomas earned a Master’s in Education from Miami University in Oxford, Ohio, and a doctoral degree in Education Administration from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst. He is a graduate of the CSU Class of 1962.