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Comings & Goings

Veteran advocates launch business consulting firm

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Scott Zumwalt, gay news, Washington Blade
The ‘Comings & Goings’ column chronicles important life changes of Blade readers.

The Comings & Goings column is about sharing the professional successes of our community. We want to recognize those landing new jobs, new clients for their business, joining boards of organizations and other achievements. Please share your successes with us at: [email protected]

Whetstone Point Consulting, gay news, Washington Blade
From left, Matthew Thorn, Morgan Meneses-Sheets and Sharon Brackett.

Congratulations to Matthew Thorn, Sharon Brackett and Morgan Meneses-Sheets who launched Whetstone Point Consulting. Whetstone Point will bring a creative approach to working with their clients by providing thoughtful, customized and strategic support. The three partners bring years of experience in managing and building effective programs to move the dial on key issues and challenge people to consider new ways of thinking.  

The co-founders are renowned on progressive issues and policy from working to pass marriage equality and gender identity non-discrimination protections in Maryland to challenging the Trump administration’s ban on transgender service members and working to ensure access to reproductive health services at the state and federal level. 

Thorn most recently served as president and CEO of OutServe-SLDN. He was a partner in Beyond the Hill Strategies and served as executive director of the LGBT Community Center of Baltimore and Central Maryland and was a director of development and government relations for the Prince George’s African American Museum and Cultural Center.    

Brackett has started five successful companies in the last 20 years. In 2016, she was named one of Maryland’s Top Women in Tech by the Maryland Department of Commerce. In 2010, she was selected by Washington SmartCEO Magazine as one of Washington’s Smart100 CEOs for 2010 and then again, after her transition, in 2011. She is a savvy businesswoman who has also leveraged her know-how in the policy world. Brackett is a board member of the Point Foundation, a published writer and radio commentator on the movement for LGBT equality. In 2018, she was elected to the Baltimore City Democratic State Central Committee, becoming the first transgender person in Maryland to be elected to any office. 

Meneses-Sheets brings more than 20 years of experience in non-profit strategy and communications. She worked with state and national groups throughout the country to draft, introduce and move legislation and create inventive and impactful communications programs to achieve their goals. She provided media training to help clients maximize their ability to amplify their voice and advance their priorities. 

Congratulations also to Jay Fisette managing partner, DMV Strategic Advisors, LLC, a new firm he has opened with Roger Berliner. DMV Strategic Advisors’ mission is to assist businesses, non-profits, and local governments advance projects and policies aligned with the overarching goals of the DMV region. Fisette said, “After 20 years in elected office, I have found a way to continue advancing many of the public policies I worked on over the years.”

He servedas member and chair of the Arlington County Board beginning in 1998 until last year. Berliner served for 12 years on the Montgomery County Council. They worked on regional issues together at the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments where Fisette served as chair in 2006,

Fisette has earned numerous awards for his service to the community, including Public Official of the Year from the Virginia Transit Association in 2009.

Jay Fisette
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Virginia

Virginia Beach high school students stage walkouts to support transgender rights

City’s school board approved policy to out trans students to parents

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Transgender flags (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key.)

Students at five Virginia Beach high schools on Friday staged walkouts in support of transgender rights.

The walkout is in response to the Virginia Beach School Board potentially approving policy 5-31, which the Pride Liberation Project says will require schools to out trans students to their parents.

Students have been organizing walkouts across the state since Republican Gov. Glenn Youngkin earlier this year announced new guidelines for trans and nonbinary students.

“Students like me aren’t going to be able to talk to our teachers if we’re constantly worried about our school officials calling home to forcibly out us,” AJ, a trans Kellam High School Student, told the Pride Liberation Project.

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District of Columbia

Pepco, Exelon announce $2.7 million in funding for four minority-owned businesses

‘It’s good business sense to bring more people to the table’

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Pepco and Exelon held a press conference Friday to announce four recipients of $2.7 million in investments. (Photo courtesy Exelon)

Pepco and Exelon announced a $2.7 million investment in four minority-owned businesses on Friday.

“Today’s been a long time coming,” said Pepco Vice President of Governmental and External Affairs Valencia McClure.

Pepco’s parent company, Exelon, launched the Racial Equity Capital Fund (RECF) in 2022 to expand capital access to diverse businesses. This latest $2.7 million investment is just a portion of RECF’s $36 million in funding.

At the announcement, D.C. Mayor Muriel E. Bowser spoke about the other ways Pepco and Exelon have “put their money where their mouth is” through their partnership with the D.C. Infrastructure Academy. She reported that all 22 of the residents that graduated from the program last week have a job offer from Pepco.

“We know that is not just a job, but a career,” she said to the crowd’s applause. “We know that working together, we can invest in D.C. residents, provide opportunity, and ensure that our D.C. businesses are a part of D.C.’s growing prosperity.”

The four minority businesses that received funding were Gemini Energy Solutions, Public Sector Solutions Group, CJR Development Partners, and Escalate.

“It’s good business sense to bring more people to the table,” said fund recipient Nicole Cober, CJR Development’s Principle Managing Partner.

Gemini Energy Solutions, which is Black owned, received $1 million, the most of the four companies. Its mission is to equitably scale energy efficiency to marginalized communities. For the founder and CEO Anthony Kinslow II, this investment means that he is able to get paid and advance the work of his organization.

“We are now able to accelerate the work in our software and technology development,” he said. “What we were going to do in two years, we are now going to do in six months.”

For Escalate, a workforce development platform focused on frontline worker retention, the funding means that it will be able to double the pay for frontline workers.

Public Sector Solutions Group CEO Darryl Wiggins emphasized that this investment was not just ‘charity’ work, but mission-driven work.

“The principle and the intent is greater than the money we receive,” he said. Public Sector Solutions is Black owned.

Public Sector Solutions Group received a $600,000 debt investment; CJR Development, a minority and woman-owned small business, received a $600,000 debt investment; and Escalate, a majority Black and woman-owned company, received a $500,000 equity investment.

Exelon launched the RECF in partnership with RockCreek, one of the world’s largest diverse-owned global investment firms, in 2022. The RECF expands capital access to diverse businesses so they can create more jobs, grow their companies and reinvest in their neighborhoods and communities, according to a statement from Exelon.

New RECF applications are accepted on a rolling basis. Interested businesses may apply online or contact RockCreek at [email protected] for more information.

(Photo courtesy Exelon)
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Comings & Goings

Armstrong recognized with Lifetime Achievement Award

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Lynden C. Armstrong

The Comings & Goings column is about sharing the professional successes of our community. We want to recognize those landing new jobs, new clients for their business, joining boards of organizations and other achievements. Please share your successes with us at: [email protected].

Congratulations to Lynden C. Armstrong on his Lifetime Achievement award from the Congressional Management Foundation in recognition of his exemplary public service in Congress. 

Upon receiving the award Armstrong said, “This recognition is not just a personal achievement, but a testament to the unwavering dedication and hard work of colleagues and mentors who have been with me on this journey. I’ve dedicated my entire career to public service within the Senate, where recognition isn’t the primary motivation for our work, making this recognition even more humbling.” He is currently Deputy Assistant Senate Sergeant at Arms and Chief Information Officer.  

Armstrong started his career with Sen. Pete Domenici (R-N.M.), where he rose to Deputy Chief of Staff in his more than 13-year stint. In 2004, during his tenure with Domenici, amid a debate on the Federal Marriage Amendment, Armstrong became a co-founder of the Gay, Lesbian and Allies Senate Staff (GLASS) Caucus. In 2014, he moved to the Sergeant at Arms CIO organization, where he established a new department within the CIO that was crafted to engage Senate offices in comprehending and harnessing technologies provided by the SAA. 

Lynden has previously served as Chief Clerk on the U.S. Senate, Committee on Rules and Administration, and with the U.S. Senate, Joint Congressional Committee on Inaugural Ceremonies, as Deputy Inaugural Coordinator, 2012–2013.  In that role among other responsibilities, he served as civilian liaison to the National Special Security Event Executive Steering Committee and subcommittees, including the Capitol, USCP, Crowd Management, Public Relations, Transportation, and credentialing, and as liaison to the Joint Task Force – National Capital Region. 

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