The West Wing Weekend Staff
Department of Outreach
Claire Handscombe - Outreach Director
Claire Handscombe is a British writer who moved to Washington, DC, in 2012, ostensibly to study for an MFA but really, let’s be honest, because of her West Wing obsession. She’s written about said obsession for various publications, including the Washington Post, and is the editor of the anthology Walk With Us: How The West Wing Changed Our Lives.
When she’s not watching or writing about The West Wing, Claire can usually be found reading, or tending to her newest project, the Brit Lit podcast, a fortnightly show about news and views from British books and publishing.
Janet Mercer - Web Developer
Janet Mercer is a Web Developer with over 15 years experience building websites for a variety of non-profit and commercial organizations, including SPCA International and the National Center for Learning Disabilities. Most recently she worked at NASA Goddard Space Flight Center obtaining security badges for new researchers and managing 2 Earth Science Division websites. She is married to her husband, Mark, and has 2 children, one a lawyer and one a future accountant. In her spare time, she enjoys singing with her Sweet Adeline chorus, Chesapeake Harmony, and crocheting while re-watching The West Wing. Her favorite scene is in 20 Hours in America Part 2, where Nancy McNally calls Yeoman Fitzwallace “Admiral Sissymary.”
Debbie Enoch - Special Guest Liaison
Debbie Enoch is an Engineering Technician for the Department of Navy, where she has worked for 30 years. She has extensive experience leading teams and getting things done. She enjoys traveling, live theatre, music, movies, crafting, and of course she is a huge West Wing fan. Debbie has watched the entire series through nine times….and believes that this number will definitely be higher the next time she is asked to write a bio on herself. The married mother of three daughters feels that the character of Claudia Jean (C.J.) Cregg is one of the best television characters ever written and that the part was masterfully played by a pure genius. C.J.’s personality, wit, and compassion combined with her dedication to doing the right thing make her Debbie’s favorite West Wing character.
Sarah Withrow King - Social Media & Website Content Creator
Sarah is the Deputy Director of Evangelicals for Social Action at Eastern University and the co-Director of CreatureKind. She is the author of Animals Are Not Ours (No Really, They’re Not): An Evangelical Animal Liberation Theology and Vegangelical: How Caring for Animals Can Shape Your Faith. A lifelong activist and idealist, Sarah sees the West Wing as a constant source of inspiration and solace and believes there is a WW quote for all occasions.
JENNIFER MERCER - SOCIAL MEDIA COORDINATOR
Jennifer Mercer is an attorney employed at a feminist nonprofit organization serving survivors of domestic violence in Maryland. She is a graduate of the University of Maryland, Baltimore County and the University of Maryland School of Law. She is a devoted Ravens fan, craft beer aficionada, and lover of all kinds of rock music.
She is also the daughter of Web Developer Janet Mercer, who got her into The West Wing and insisted she finish the series before she moved out. Jennifer’s favorite episode is "The Supremes," and she wishes that Evelyn Baker Lang were the actual Chief Justice of the Supreme Court. She also can’t help but get a bit emotional watching the press conference at the end.
As a token Millennial, Jennifer is excited to promote TWWW on social media platforms like Snapchat and Reddit. She resides in Baltimore with her partner, Tiff, and a very sweet black cat named Moonshine. She looks forward to drinking from the Keg of Glory with everyone in September!
SHAW BREWER - LOCAL LIAISON
Shaw Brewer earned her B.A. dual in Religion and Psychology at University of the Ozarks. While there she fell in love with The West Wing. Upon graduating, she moved to Washington DC, the setting for her favorite show. She continued to be crazy for school, earning three master’s degrees from Wesley Theological Seminary (in Divinity and Theology) and George Washington University (in Legislative Affairs). While in school, she also continued her obsession with The West Wing, hosting weekly West Wing viewing parties in her dorm room. She now continues to take inspiration from the show as she combines her degrees to work towards the kind of social justice that those in the Bartlet White house fought for so valiantly. In her free time she loves hanging out with friends and family. She also loves helping admin the What’s Next West Wing group with fellow Staff Members Yael Lackmaker and Alex James, she is the Bartlet of that group due to her sharing most of his geekiness.
Department of Operations
Patricia E. Arriaza - Operations Director
Patricia E. Arriaza is a child advocate with more than 20 years in the non-profit and public sectors. She has been fortunate to be able to focus her career on issues that impact children, youth, and families. Patricia finds purpose and satisfaction in using her skills and experience to develop sound programs and policies that meet the needs of vulnerable families.
In her personal time, Patricia can often be found looking at the world through the lens of her trusty DSLR. She's had a photo published in a book and one used in a documentary. Books have seen her through some good and bad times and 80's music shuffles through the playlists more often than is socially acceptable. And, of course, she has seen every West Wing episode more times than can be counted. Patricia is an outgoing introvert and though that may sound like a contradiction, spend a little time with her and you'll see just what she means.
Chris Robertson - Assistant Operations Director
Chris Robertson is a project manager with many years of conference planning and logistics experience in different non-profit organizations. He enjoys working behind the scenes to ensure conference attendees have a positive, comfortable experience. Outside of work, he enjoys bike riding, reading book, writing book reviews, and spending time with his wife and children. The opportunity to combine his skills in conference logistics with The West Wing was impossible to resist. His favorite West Wing character by far would be Josh Lyman. He will work to ensure we have nothing but the finest bagels in the land.
Bev Beardsley - Volunteer Co-Coordinator
Beverly Beardsley is a Kindergarten teacher, theatre performer/director, and one-time Jeopardy loser. With over 30 years in education, she's developed unending patience, outstanding shoe-tying skills, and a distaste for unnecessary paperwork. Bev lives in South Jersey with her favorite Dude of all work, Richard. Her daughters Meredith and Ellen make her proud every day with their talents and strength. When she isn't bingeing on "The West Wing", Bev is working on new theatrical projects, reading, traveling or cooking. "Education is the silver bullet".
Kaitlynn Smith - Volunteer Co-Coordinator
Kaitlynn currently works as a substitute teacher and is pursuing her teaching license and Master's in Elementary Education. She lives in Virginia, just south of Washington DC, with her fiancée Danica. She and Danica met because of their shared love of The West Wing and, more specifically, Donna Moss. When she is not studying or in a classroom, she enjoys watching too much television, reading books, exploring DC, and cuddling her bunny. The "Which West Wing character are you?" Buzzfeed quiz told her she was Donna Moss, and Kaitlynn burst into tears of joy. She tries to live up to that honor every day.
Technical Coordinator - Kimberley Debus
Rev. Kimberley Debus is a longtime West Wing fan, which is evidenced by the sheer number of references in her sermons, even one called “What’s Next?”
Prior to ministry, Kimberley worked in the performing arts for 35 years, including serving as director of a seasonal performing arts space in Upstate New York. She has directed countless plays and musicals, and has created several cabarets. She has also served as company stage manager for small troupes (“with an e”) in NY and NC, and has taken several turns on stage.
In her professional life, Kimberley is a Unitarian Universalist community minister based in New York’s Capital Region, where she works to inspire artful and art-filled worship, congregational life, and public witness. She has served congregations Key West, Florida, and Long Island, New York. She also serves on the national General Assembly worship arts team, designing worship experiences for over 4000 attendees. She has been known to burst out in song (particularly show tunes and standards); will wax poetic about British panel shows, mysteries, and of course, The West Wing; and is staff to two cats, neither of whom have ever inspired a swapity-do.
Robby Schwach - Head of Security
Rob Schwach, our Head of Security, comes to us by way of New York City and 25+ years in the business of safety and security. He spent 21 years in the New York City Police Department, with experience in community policing, training, crowd management and emergency management, before retiring in 2010.
His interest in government and politics comes from his father, a history teacher and the author of social studies textbooks. After retiring, that interest led to Rob work for a member of the New York City Council, most recently as his Deputy Chief of Staff. He has managed local political campaigns and dabbled in policy and legislation while supervising the office’s constituent services program.
Rob became a West Wing fan when it originally aired and is on his second set of dvds after burning through the first set. He’s met three Presidents and once was invited with his family to a special White House Tour by friends in the Secret Service. His favorite WW characters are Leo and Will with special mention to Charlie’s Mom, for obvious professional reasons.
When not watching West Wing reruns and managing his own consulting company, Rob can be found spending most of his time with his wife, Belinda. a sixth grade humanities teacher, and their three kids. Ryan, 19, is a film major at Brooklyn College and a 2nd generation WW fan. Corey, 16, is in high school and a Dr. Who convention regular. Lauren, 11, is a theater kid and Harry Potter fanatic.
Rob McCausland - Head Videographer
Rob’s videography experience stems from 30+ years as a public access television advocate. In the late 70s, he helped lead the successful effort to build PEG access TV requirements into Boston's first cable franchise. He’s been a public access TV producer, station board member, studio manager, instructor, and station executive director. From 2006-2010 he served as the Alliance for Community Media’s Director of Information & Organizing Services, creating a directory of US PEG Access stations, now at Community Media Database. Throughout, he’s participated in numerous conferences, in roles ranging from organizer to panelist to videographer.
In the 1990s he was series producer for Ford Hall Forum’s lectures, many now available online: Ford Hall Forum: The Clinton Years. Most recently, he’s been serving on the Philadelphia Folk Festival Video Production Crew, and producing high school graduation and folk music concert videos in Virginia Beach. Rob watched The West Wing’s original broadcast episodes multiple times each week (VCR). In November 2017 he and his 93-year-old mother started on her 3rd time through! His favorite characters: Sam, for his idealism and eloquence, and Toby, for his moral grounding.
Department of Programming
Elisa Birdseye - Programming Director
Elisa Birdseye is a librarian by day and a violist the rest of the time. She is a graduate of the New England Conservatory, where she got her Bachelor’s Degree in Music Performance, and Simmons College, from whom she received a Master’s degree in Library & Information Science. She is an active Democratic Party volunteer in Boston, where politics is as serious a blood sport as the Red Sox/Yankees rivalry. She was in the room in Dorchester when Elizabeth Warren had her first exploratory conversation about running for the Senate. She is on the Ward Committee for Ward 18-12, which she never has trouble remembering, because it’s one of Tchaikovsky’s most popular pieces. Elisa also writes concert reviews for the Boston Musical Intelligencer and is the Personnel Manager of the New Bedford Symphony. She is active on the boards of the Neponset River Watershed Association and WORK Inc, an agency which provides job training and assistance for individuals with disabilities. She is also an Associate Parks Commissioner for the City of Boston. In her spare time she plays the electric viola with the Boston ILL Harmonic and the Richie Parsons Bands and tries to keep her three cats, Josie, Chinacat, & Rider, out of trouble.
Alex James - Non-Profit & Political Programming Coordinator
Alex James is a lobbyist and political operative whose career choice was inspired by The West Wing and specifically by Josh Lyman. That said, Alex is much more of a Leo. In his spare time Alex enjoys singing with an acappella group, in musical theatre productions, and in his church choir.
Yael Lackmaker - Academic Coordinator
Yael Lackmaker gained her BA in English Literature at the University of Leeds and her MA from Kings College London and RADA in Text and Performance, where she took a special interest in modern American drama. She spent several years as a director, producer and dramaturge working in theatre and standup comedy. She then decided to get a proper adult job and worked as an event planner for a major UK charity until 2015, when she was inevitably lured back into academia. She began working towards her PhD thesis in January 2015 which focuses on constructs, tropes and visualizations of the hero and anti hero figure in post 9/11 American television drama. She may have the accent of Lord John but is definitely an impulsive, neurotic Josh with a ‘smart New York sense of humor’. She’s been a West Wing fan from the beginning and it’s still her fall back comfort show. She runs the successful Facebook group "What’s Next, a West Wing Group" with other staff members Alex James and Shaw Brewer. Also, one day her cat is going to be a Supreme Court judge.
Jena Yamada - Programming Assistant
Jena has been the lab manager and a researcher in a developmental neuroscience lab in the University of California system since 2003. She has volunteered and worked merchandise tables at New York Comic Con, C2E2, and other venues with The Thrilling Adventure Hour. She has contributed to fan wiki websites and, when health allows, loves to play ice hockey. She is an avid podcast listener, comedy and improv fan, dog lover, and dedicated fan of the San Francisco Giants and San Jose Sharks. She was born and raised in Monterey, CA and is happily settled nearby in Santa Cruz.
DEPARTMENT OF TREASURY
Elizabeth Price - Bookkeeper/Registration Coordinator
Elizabeth Price was born in Port Arthur, Texas, home of Janis Joplin. When she was still very young, her family moved to Austin, Texas. Living in the blue island of Austin in the red sea of the Texas shaped her liberal leaning political beliefs.
Elizabeth brings over 20 years of accounting experience to her role as Bookkeeper. She has worked in accounting for small family companies and for Fortune 500 companies alike. She looks forward to using her skills to helping make the West Wing Weekend a wonderful experience for everyone.
Elizabeth also brings a unique perspective to her role as Registration Coordinator. She has been attending fan conventions for over a decade and has seen the best, and the worst, ways conventions have run the registration process. She wants to use those experiences to ensure every attendees' first impression be one that sets the tone for the weekend.
Elizabeth became a fan of Aaron Sorkin after watching the film “The American President,” and Sorkin cemented his place in Elizabeth’s heart with the TV series “Sports Night.” As a result, Elizabeth watched “The West Wing” from the beginning. The show helped shape the person she is today. It not only widened her horizons and made her think about the world around her, it also gave her hope when that world seems hopeless.
MaryEllen Dunn - Attendee Services & Hospitality Coordinator
I love being part of the West Wing groups because I am surrounded by people who are far smarter than I and from whom I learn every day.
I was born and raised a Liberal. I honestly didn’t know three were people who weren’t Democrats until my first Civics class in school. My parents marched for Civil Rights, I marched for Women’s Rights, and I still can’t believe both are still open issues in this country.
I graduated from Villanova University where I enhanced my understanding of the importance of cooperation, personal responsibility, and action. Praying is good; praying with action was better.
I spent my career working for a company whose sole product is serving others, especially when they are in need. I’ve worked in both backstage and member-facing roles, and with all levels of employees from entry-level to C-Suite. I ended my career with them helping newly hired employees become a part of our culture and learn how to serve honorably and professionally.
I participate with several Resist and Indivisible groups to raise awareness about current issues, and I call both of my Senators and my Congressman every day to let them know where I stand, and to acknowledge their good work.
I’m no Toby Ziegler and I’m no Will Bailey. But I am one of you.
Marjohn Heath - VIP Services Coordinator
Marjohn Heath is VIP Services Coordinator for The West Wing Weekend. She is the first point of contact and a resource of information for VIPs. She is responsible for ensuring an outstanding experience for our VIP attendees.
IRL, Marjohn manages administrative operations for Green Generation Solutions, a Bethesda, Maryland based global energy efficiency solutions firm. She is responsible for developing and maintaining office systems, managing resources and processes, and corporate events. She also manages human resources, IT, and marketing and communications initiatives.
Marjohn likes to think she’s a CJ, but she’s really more of a Lou. She has two kids and a puppy named Toby who always wears his over the moon face.
Megan Kalbaugh - Vendor and Crafter Coordinator
Megan is a mental health therapist, working in Northeast Ohio with survivors of trauma (mildly inspired by Dr. Stanley Keyworth). She is a graduate of Miami University (BS in Family Studies), and The University of Akron (MS in Counseling). Outside of work, Megan likes to craft, rock climb with friends, hike with her dog, and travel with her husband. Megan likes to think she is as fierce as Debbie Fiderer, but in reality she's usually more amicable like Charlie.
Clay Dockery - Head Organizer, Treasurer, Artistic Director
Clay Dockery is the Head Organizer, Treasurer, and Artistic Director of The West Wing Weekend. He has been organizing events and conventions to engage multiple fandoms for several years. He is the co-Head Organizer of the successful Harry Potter convention, MISTI-Con, which has been held in 2013, 2015, and 2017 (and will be held again in 2019). He has also co-organized Coal Hill Convention (a Doctor Who convention), served as co-editor of Why I Geek: An Anthology of Fandom Origin Stories and is the treasurer of Coal Hill, Inc. a non-profit dedicated to creating engaging and insightful performances and fan experiences. He also serves as co-host of the Coal Hill A/V Club podcast. In his day job he serves as Education and Program Director of the Interfaith Community. He is also a supreme West Wing fan who self identifies as a perfectly eccentric and gruff mixture of Jed and Toby.
Elizabeth Fordham - Assistant to the head organizer
Elizabeth has an office administration background that has ranged from being an Administrative and Executive Assistant, to Accounts Payable, to Learning & Development, and she is currently working as a Human Resources Assistant. One of her favorite (non-West Wing) quotes: "There are two ways of spreading light…to be the candle or to be the mirror that reflects it.” Elizabeth says that she prefers to work as an assistant behind the scenes to provide the most valuable help she can to others; she wants to be the “mirror” referenced in the previous quote. Therefore, the West Wing character she most relates to is Donna, and wishes there was a real-life Josh Lyman she could work for! An Aaron Sorkin fan to her core, Elizabeth looks forward to being involved with like-minded people who share her appreciation for great writing. Looking for a mind at work.