We are political strategists, creatives, former government aides. We are policy geeks who watch NY1 for fun. We used to be those kids who ran the high school newspaper and were in student council and tried to pressure the principal to expand recycling and host pep rallies for the state champion girls gymnastics team. We read the morning e-newsletters religiously on our phones but still love to flip through the print edition of our favorite paper on a Sunday morning. Some of us play Wordle or even Octordle (and some of us would never admit to this or just watch over the shoulders of our significant others while they do so). We like both dogs and cats. And we believe our work can help make government and civic life better for more people.
Katie Hazen joined Pythia Public at the end of 2020. Since then, she’s been fighting for labor rights for fashion workers, sexual abuse survivors, and a better plan for upgrading Penn Station. Prior to joining Pythia, Katie served as Deputy Press Secretary in the New York Governor’s office during the height of COVID-19 and also worked at Marathon Strategies on a wide range of issues.
A Chicago native with Hudson Valley roots, Katie moved to New York after graduating from Smith College in 2018. She recently joined the Junior League, through which she’ll volunteer as a Sexual Assault Advocate at New York Presbyterian. When she’s not championing women’s rights, she’s rolling them back by spending too much on skincare and reading gossip pages.
Marissa Solomon has been fighting for the climate, environment, democracy, housing justice, equitable healthcare and sensible drug policy at Pythia Public since 2021. Her work has recently contributed to two major new pieces of first-in-the-nation legislation: New York State’s moratorium on cryptomining and the New York City Council’s bill that mandates provision of naloxone, a drug that reverses opioid overdoses, and fentanyl test strips to bars across the city at no cost.
Before joining Pythia, Marissa was a senior communications strategist at the Brennan Center and helped to lead communications for the 2021 New York City Council Charter Revision Commission. Marissa is also a comedy writer and performer who has written for the Upright Citizens Brigade Theater and Reductress, and likes to combine her two passions — politics and comedy — whenever possible. At the Charter Commission, she wrote and produced the “You Can Vote on That” PSA starring Abbi Jacobson and Ilana Glazer.
Marissa grew up in Ann Arbor, Michigan and has a B.A. in Public Policy from the University of Michigan. She moved to New York immediately after graduating in order to be as close as possible to the Gershwin Theater, so she can see “Wicked” whenever she wants.
Becky Stern is a born and bred New Yorker -- and it shows. As a Vice President, she leads a range of campaigns where she fights on the frontlines for election reform, anti-corruption legislation, sex abuse survivors, and homeless rights, among others. She’s also the resident Bravo and Bachelor expert.
Before joining Pythia, Becky spent three years in the New York City Council, working as the Budget and District Director for a Brooklyn Council Member. It was there that she developed her love for helping people through local politics.
Becky is a proud graduate of Skidmore College in Saratoga Springs, is a proud dog mom (do you want to see photos of her terrier mix rescue pup?) and hosts a bi-weekly podcast about pop music and politics with her two friends. She’s learning to talk slower, she swears.
Ana Hall joined Pythia as a Director in early 2023 after working in New York state government and politics for three years. She previously worked in State Senator Alessandra Biaggi’s office as Communication Director and then Chief of Staff, as well as on Alessandra’s campaign for Congress as Campaign Manager. In her new role at Pythia, Ana is eager to continue working to transform government to uplift hard working New Yorkers — from fair wages to a cleaner environment to affordable housing.
An organizer at heart, Ana began her career in politics organizing for the Elizabeth Warren Presidential Campaign in Iowa, followed by Representative Sharice Davids’ re-election campaign in Kansas. She learned quickly the power of coalition building and people-centered storytelling to fight for change. Ana is a proud graduate of Boston University, somewhat of an aspiring chef, and always eager to knock doors for local campaigns.
Claire Wixted joined Pythia Public at the end of 2022 and looks forward to supporting the just fulfillment of New York’s clean energy goals and joining the fight for more resilient and reliable infrastructure. Before she joined Pythia, Claire served as the Communications Director for New York State Assemblywoman Sandy Galef where she drove community support for ranked choice voting, brought awareness to New York’s climate policies, and got up close to the decommissioning of Indian Point Nuclear Power Plant.
Claire grew up in Croton-on-Hudson, New York, where her early experiences sailing on the Hudson River with Pete Seeger’s Sloop Clearwater informed her appreciation for the natural world and developed her sense of urgency around environmental issues. She graduated from UMass Amherst in 2019 and is now pleased to reside once again in close proximity to the Hudson River, this time thirty miles south on Manhattan’s Upper West Side. When she’s not fighting for climate solutions at scale, she’s getting creative with sustainability in her personal life -- ask her about how much of her furniture and decor is sourced from the side of the street.
Ben Branham joined Pythia as Managing Director and Chief Operations Officer in the summer of 2022. He previously served as Chief Communications Officer for the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, where he drove the comprehensive rebranding of the bi-state agency and unabashedly fell in love with the new and improved LaGuardia Airport and led the rollout of its new terminals among many other transportation infrastructure projects across the region.
His background spans the public, private, and non-profit sectors where he has been fortunate to navigate the intersections of policy, infrastructure, innovation and sustainable growth. Branham formerly served in several senior roles in the administration of Mayor Michael Bloomberg, including as Chief Strategy Officer of the City’s Economic Development Corporation. He also was Executive Vice President of Edelman’s New York office, where he advised foundations, institutions, and Fortune 500 companies. He lives in Brooklyn with his family, has a deep affinity for vintage Pyrex and old typewriters, and will talk all things new airports and transportation policy to anyone who will listen.
Curt Courtenay is a brand strategist, graphic designer and digital marketing professional who directs creative services for many of Pythia’s campaigns. Curt has a track record of success in building and enhancing brand identity for clients ranging in scale from early stage start-ups to Fortune 500 companies, including Time, Essence, Sports Illustrated, Yahoo! and others.
Curt prides himself on tending to the minor details that can have a major impact. His work within boutique to mid-size agencies allows him to focus on building strong relationships and understanding client needs while remaining highly accessible. This people-focused mentality also translates into his work for small businesses and individual proprietors where he specializes in building, refining, expanding or re-launching brands, often with founders and founding teams.
Curt received his Master’s of Business Administration (MBA) and undergraduate degree from Alliance University. With his strong passion for inspiring Brooklyn youth, Curt also serves as the teen director at his local church but always has time to scheme about potential NY Knicks' trades.
Alexis Grenell is the co-founder of Pythia, where she leads innovative issue campaigns for workers rights’, gender equality, climate policy, and small “d” democracy. With more than 15 years of experience at the intersection of policy, politics and press, Alexis designs strategies to build consensus and drive meaningful change.
Some of her recent wins include expanding laws allowing survivors of sexual abuse to seek justice in the courts, a first in the nation moratorium on fossil fuel based cryptomining, and New York City’s new system of municipal elections called Ranked Choice Voting. After getting her start in government in the State Senate and Office of the Attorney General, she’s gone on to work on numerous political campaigns, notably Brad Lander’s successful bid for New York City Comptroller, and Zephyr Teachout’s nationally recognized campaign for Attorney General, where she lead communications strategy.
Alexis is also a columnist for The Nation where she frequently writes about gender, politics and power among other issues. Her work has also appeared in the New York Daily News, The New York Times, The Washington Post, the Daily Beast, Newsday, the New York Post, El Diario, and City & State. In 2015, she earned her Masters in Public Administration from Columbia’s School of International and Public Affairs (SIPA).
Born and raised in the Bronx, Alexis fondly recalls skipping class in high school to finish reading the latest and loooong Wayne Barrett investigation into government corruption.
Evan Thies is the co-founder of Pythia, advancing agendas and causes for both public sector and private sector clients in New York and beyond as one of the leading public affairs consultants in New York. A 20-year veteran of press and politics, Evan shapes public perception every day by taking a comprehensive approach and thinking ahead.
Before becoming a private consultant to some of the largest advocacy organizations and corporations in New York and in the country, Evan worked for Hillary Clinton, was a senior adviser in the New York City Council, and led communications on a number of major political campaigns.
Evan has won landmark improvements to public policy, fought successfully for major land use changes, and advanced the public affairs goals of private companies. He was also lead consultant to Eric Adams’ historic 2021 campaign for mayor, heading up both communications and policy. In his election night victory speech, Mayor Adams said Evan “found his voice.”
For his work, Evan was also recognized by the New York Daily News for “distinguishing himself in fights for affordable housing and public space,” and by the New York Times as “excellent” for work on “reform and clean-air issues.” Thies regularly contributes to the Daily News, MSNBC, The Hill, USA Today, and other news outlets about government and politics. He lives in Brooklyn with his partner Melanie and their young son, John—who cannot be advised, managed or consulted with when it’s time to take a bath.