Leadership

Get to know our leadership

Are you frustrated by the state of politics and ready to do something about it?

Welcome to The Centrist Project.

If you’ve found your way to this website, our story is probably similar to yours. We are disheartened and concerned by what we’re seeing in Washington. And we’re committed to making things better.

I’m first and foremost a policy guy. I teach public policy and economics at Dartmouth College and taught at the University of Chicago before that. Over the past decade, it became clear our country was not dealing in any meaningful way with significant policy challenges: the fiscal situation, climate change, an infrastructure deficit, mediocre K-12 education, and so on.

Charles Wheelan, The Centrist Project

I would never argue that there is a right answer for any of these challenges. I am certain there are a range of things we could, and should, be doing—all of which are better than what we are doing now.

I increasingly found that I was a person without a party. Do I want to be a Republican and pretend that climate change isn’t happening? Or do I want to be a Democrat and pretend that our entitlement programs are not a fiscal disaster waiting to happen?

More and more people I spoke to felt exactly the same way.

Meanwhile, the dysfunction in Washington kept getting worse. I wrote The Centrist Manifesto when the Simpson-Bowles deficit reduction plan collapsed as the two parties kowtowed to their most active and vocal members.

The book was just the beginning. The Centrist Project was born to turn ideas into action. It has attracted a dedicated and growing group of people trying to solve problems by making the political process work better.

This is really about political innovation. If you think what we are trying to do makes sense, then join us.

Charles Wheelan, The Centrist Project

 

 

Charlie Wheelan, Founder

 

Co-Chairs

Charles Wheelan, Founder

Charles Wheelan, The Centrist Project

Charles Wheelan is the founder of The Centrist Project, a 501(c)4 creating the first political home for centrists. The organization is based on his book, "The Centrist Manifesto" (W.W. Norton), which outlines a set of centrist principles: fiscal responsibility, environmental responsibility, social tolerance, and genuine economic opportunity for all. The book also outlines an innovative electoral strategy to elect five centrist U.S. senators empowered to broker deals across party lines. The Centrist Project's ultimate goal is to help pragmatic leaders and voters solve America's greatest policy challenges.

Wheelan is a Senior Lecturer in Economics at Dartmouth.  He has served as the Midwest correspondent for The Economist, as an adjunct lecturer at Northwestern University's Medill School of Journalism, and as Director of Policy and Communications for Chicago Metropolis 2020. In 2009, he was a Democratic candidate for Congress in Illinois' 5th District.

In addition, Wheelan previously served as the speechwriter for Maine Governor John R. McKernan, Jr. He is the New York Times bestselling author of Naked Economics: Undressing the Dismal Science, and is currently at work on An Introduction to Public Policy.

 Wheelan received an BA from Dartmouth, an MPA from Princeton University’s Woodrow Wilson School and a PhD in public policy from the University of Chicago's Harris School in 1998. 

Colston Young, Treasurer

Colston Young, the Centrist Project

Colston Young is the founder of Whiteboot, providing content marketing for high-touch professional services firms. He has deep finance experience in the technology sector. Colston has held positions at Sapphire Ventures, Credit Suisse, and Bear Stearns. Colston also served as a Peace Corps volunteer in Armenia. Colston received a BA from Williams College and an MBA from Harvard Business School. Colston previously founded The Big Middle Alliance. 

Team

Nick Troiano, Executive Director

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Nick joined the Centrist Project’s Founders Circle in 2014, Operating Board in 2015, and staff in October 2016. He has spent the last decade leading political reform campaigns.

Most recently, Nick helped launch Change.org’s new elections platform as the company’s Senior Politics Manager. Previously, he co-founded and ran The Can Kicks Back, an organization that advocated for bipartisan deficit reduction proposals. Nick also ran for U.S. Congress as an independent in 2014 in Pennsylvania’s 10th District, winning over 22,000 votes and gaining firsthand experience with the challenges facing independent candidates. 

Nick graduated with a MA in American government from Georgetown University and was named to Forbes’ “30 Under 30” list for Law & Policy in 2016.

Email: nick@centristproject.org
Read Nick's story

Joel Searby, Senior Strategist

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Joel Searby is a veteran campaign operative with over 10 years’ experience in the realm of political campaigning, strategic planning, and leadership development.

Joel spent a decade in consulting with one of the largest firms in the Southeast, serving as CEO beginning in 2014. His firm served clients in 17 states from federal to local. In 2016, feeling a strong calling to step into the presidential mess, he left the firm to run Evan McMullin’s historic independent presidential campaign.

Kyle Butts, Communications Director

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Kyle brings broad experience across public affairs to his role with the Centrist Project.  A communicator with a political research background, Kyle has previously worked with a diverse set of industries and organizations, from major American manufacturers and trade associations to small advocacy groups, task forces, and start-ups.

Email: kyle@centristproject.org 

Shelbi Lewark, Colorado Recruitment Director

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Shelbi comes to the Centrist Project with a variety of experiences in politics and foreign relations. After graduating with a dual degree in International Relations and Arabic from the University of Oklahoma, Shelbi worked as a Foreign Agent to Saudi Arabia, in Oklahoma Governor Mary Fallin’s public affairs office, and as the Colorado GOP Field Director, focused on Senator Cory Gardner’s race. Most recently, she served as the RNC Regional Director, focused on grassroots efforts and coalitions.

Email: shelbi@centristproject.org

Dane Sherrets, Outreach Manager

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After having worked for a Republican Congressman and on a Democratic campaign, Dane realized that both parties are ill-equipped to deal with our nation's problems. Dane worked with a number of organizations in the political reform space before joining The Centrist Project in 2015. In his current role, Dane manages the Grassroots, Digital, and Founding Member programs.

Email: dsherrets@centristproject.org

Tyler Fisher, Deputy Director

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Tyler brings a diverse background to his jack-of-all-trades role at the Centrist Project. Past experience includes time on campaigns, at think tanks, and leading grassroots organizations. He has degrees in government and economics from George Mason University.

Email: tyler@centristproject.org

 

Operating Board

Jeffrey Binder — President, Chief Executive Officer and Chairman of the Board of Directors of Immucor, Inc.; Senior Advisor, TPG Capital

Gregg Brockway – Co-founder and chairman, Chairish; co-founder, Hotwire & TripIt

Leonard Gail — Partner, Massey & Gail, LLP

Katherine Gehl — Former CEO, Gehl Foods; Policy Advocate and Impact Investor

Derek McDowell – Co-Founder of Boyne Capital

Marc Merrill — Co-CEO & Co-Founder of Riot Games

William Obenshain — Executive Director, Center for Financial Services, DePaul University

Greg Orman – Former Independent Candidate, U.S. Senate (KS) & Author, "Declaration of Independents"

Randy Peeler* — Former Special Assistant for the Assistant Secretary for Economic Policy, U.S. Department of the Treasury

Shawn Riegsecker — CEO and Founder, Centro

* Mr. Peeler does not participate in discussions about, decisions regarding or efforts in support or furtherance of actual or potential endorsements by The Centrist Project of candidates for state or local elected office, or of existing state or local officeholders who are candidates for federal office. 

Advisors

Chris Ashby — Founder, Ashby Law

Matthew Dowd — Chief Political Analyst, ABC; Former Chief Strategist, Bush for President ‘04

Ray Glendening – Fmr Political Director, Democratic Governors Association

Jim Jonas — Political Consultant; Campaign Manager, Greg Orman for Senate '14

Pam Peak – Principal, ALEA Strategies; former Executive Director, Centrist Project

Senator Larry Pressler — 2014 U.S. Senate Candidate (Independent – South Dakota); former U.S. Senator (Republican – South Dakota); former Member of Congress (Republican – South Dakota)

Lisa Rice – Political and external affairs strategist and marketing executive

Dan Schnur – Director, Jesse M. Unruh Institute of Politics at the University of Southern California

Jim Thomson – President emeritus of the RAND Corporation; professor at the Pardee RAND Graduate School

Russel Verney – former Chairman, Reform Party; former Campaign Manager, Perot for President ‘96

Dane Waters — Founder, Tipping Point Strategies

NextGen Leadership Council 

Marc Merrill, Co-Chair - Co-CEO & Co-Founder of Riot Games

Kellen Arno - Partner, Grandview Campaigns

Morgan Beller - Corporate Development, Medium

Jesse Beyroutey – Partner, IA Ventures

Kyle Butts – Founder, Hinge Intel

Patrick Cason – Director of Engagement, Satchel Health

Jeff Cruttenden – Co-Founder, Acorns

Jesse Draper – Founding Partner, Halogen Ventures

Ben Goldhirsh – Co-Founder & CEO, GOOD 

E.J. Kalafarski – former Presidential Innovation Fellow

Sean Kelly – CEO, SnackNation

Akshay Khanna - ‎Vice President of Strategy, Philadelphia 76ers

Allie Klun – Innovate Your State

Anna Squires Levine – Head of Growth, Industrious

Nanxi Liu - Founder & CEO, Enplug

Vishal Lugani – Investor, Aspect Ventures

Ross McCray - Founder & CEO, VideoAmp

Mike McCormick - Principal, Comet Labs

Megan Neal – Vice President, Ovation TV

Liya Palagashvili – ‎Assistant Professor of Economics, SUNY Purchase

Steven Place – Founder, Corillian

Raven Robinson - CEO, Political Strategist at Pr2Politics

Tommy Sobel  – New Media Creative Executive, Amblin Partners

Nithyaa Venkataramani – Portfolio Investing Manager, New Profit