Sunday, December 17, 2017

Our Experts

Melissa Johnson

Melissa Johnson is a senior policy analyst with GBPI, where she leads the organization’s research in economic mobility and human services. Her recent focus includes safety net services, women’s economic equality, affordable child care and workforce development.

Melissa graduated from Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University and holds a Master of Business Administration and a Juris Doctor from Emory University.

Wesley Tharpe

Wesley Tharpe serves as Research Director at GBPI, where he is responsible for coordinating the organization’s team of policy analysts and ensuring all reports and analysis meet the highest standards. He also spearheads GBPI’s tax policy agenda and monitors long-term trends in state spending and revenues.

A native of Fayetteville, Ga., Wesley graduated from the University of Georgia and holds a master’s in public policy from the Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore.

Claire Suggs

Claire Suggs

Claire Suggs is a senior education policy analyst at GBPI, where her research focuses on education finance and school reform issues related to early childhood education, K-12 education and higher education in Georgia.

Claire graduated from the University of Michigan and holds a master’s in public affairs from LaFollette School of Public Affairs at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Claire is pursuing a doctorate in education policy at the University of Georgia, College of Education.

Laura Harker

Laura Harker

Laura Harker is a health policy analyst at GBPI where she is responsible for researching and reporting on Georgia’s health policies and related spending.

Laura graduated from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and holds a master’s degree in public health policy from the Rollins School of Public Health at Emory University.

Jennifer Lee

Jennifer Lee is higher education policy analyst at GBPI, where she focuses on state policies that provide Georgians greater opportunity to complete a higher education credential across race, ethnicity and family income.

Jennifer graduated from Wellesley College and holds a master’s in public affairs from the Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs at the University of Texas at Austin.

Taifa Smith Butler

Taifa Smith Butler is executive director of the Georgia Budget and Policy Institute, where she leads and inspires the GBPI team to accomplish the organization’s mission and vision to improve economic opportunity for all Georgians. She is a problem solver, tireless champion for equity, working families and investing early in children — Georgia’s greatest asset.

Taifa graduated from Mount Holyoke College and holds a master’s in public management and policy from the Heinz School of Public Policy and Management at Carnegie Mellon University, with a concentration in economic development and financial management.

Former Staff

Tim Sweeney

Tim served as GBPI’s health care policy analyst from 2005 to 2016. Tim’s research focused on a wide variety of Georgia’s healthcare issues affecting Medicaid and PeachCare, as well as health insurance-related tax policy issues.

Tim holds a master’s in public affairs from the La Follette School of Public Affairs at the University of Wisconsin – Madison, and a bachelor’s in mathematics and political science from the University of Oregon.

Alan Essig

GBPI’s founding executive director, Alan led the organization until 2015. His wealth of experience includes serving as deputy policy director for the Georgia Governor’s Office, assistant commissioner for the Georgia Department of Human Resources and director of the Georgia State Senate Research Office.

Alan holds a bachelor’s degree in history from the State University of New York at Buffalo and a master’s degree in public administration from the State University of New York at Albany.

Clare Richie

A former analyst with GBPI, Clare was responsible for analyzing budget and policy decisions related to poverty-reduction and social services.

Clare holds a master’s in public administration from Georgia State University and graduated magna cum laude from Brown University with a bachelor’s in mathematical economics.