Biographies of Candidates Running for Club Office

The following list of nominees for club leadership positions is compiled from the slate selected by the Nominating Committee (marked NC) and from those who submitted petitions at least two weeks before the January 29 Annual Meeting; that is, before midnight January 15.

Nominees marked (OC) are officer candidates included on the member-at-large ballot. Those elected to officer positions will be removed from the member-at-large ballot.

The name of any candidate nominated on a petition presented to me less than two weeks before the Annual Meeting (after January 15), will be hand-written by members on their ballots at the Annual Meeting (in last-name alphabetical order.) Since January 16, none have been submitted to me. Additional nominations with ten seconds for at-large members of the Executive Committee may be made from the floor of the Annual Meeting, and will be hand-written by members on their ballots.

The list below of leadership positions and nominees is followed by a compilation of their brief biographies and statements. The nominee list and the compilation of biographies and statements are also being posted on the club website. Copies of the compilation also will be available at the Annual Meeting. Nominees whose biographies and statements are not included in this compilation may have their material available for distribution at the Annual Meeting.


Morgan Evers

Michael Heller (NC)                                        

Vice Presidents

Ellen Chapnick

Bruce Feld (NC)

Ellen Feld                               

Dan Padernacht

Heidi Schwartz (NC)

Aaron Stayman (NC)


Recording Secretary

Helen Krim (NC)


Corresponding Secretary

Ivan “Duffy” Nedds (NC)

Dale Wolff



Daniel Ranells

Robin Weinstein (NC)                                    

Executive Committee

Lisa Amowitz (NC)

Raquel Batista

Ira Bigeleisen  (NC)

Ellen Chapnick (OC)

Courtney Dastis-Galvin                       

Delores Dixon  (NC)                          

Paul Ellis (NC)

Morgan Evers (NC) (OC)

Nicholas Fazio                                               

Ellen Feld (NC) (OC)                                      

Mitzie Finley   (NC)                                      

Michael Friedman (NC)                                  

Martin Galvin  (NC)

Annemarie Golden                                         

Joe Gordon (NC)

Patrick Hill                                                     

Daniel Johnson (NC)

Betsey Knapp  (NC)                           

Jerald Kreppel (NC)

Sylvia Lask (NC)

Becca Lish

John “Jack” Marth

Andrew Mutnick (NC)

Eleanor Oliff

Dan Padernacht (NC) (OC)

Daniel Ranells (OC)

Nathan Rubin

Mariela Salazar

Aaron Stayman (OC)

Kate Theobald

Arthur Wiesenseel

Dale Wolff (OC)


LISA AMOWITZ I have lived in Riverdale for the past 29 years and raised my family here. I’ve been a graphic design professor at Bronx Community College since 1997, and am currently Director of Digital Arts, The author of three young adult novels, I have designed over 50 book covers, and design graphics for various political entities and candidates. The most valuable skill I bring to the Club is my professional design abilities. I hope to create graphics that will publicize GOTV initiatives and mobilize the community to get Democrats elected and make a Trump one term president.

RAQUEL BATISTA is an attorney and parent member of the PS 24 School Leadership Team. She worked with immigrant DV survivors as Fellow at CUNY Law School, on behalf of Latinxs at the NYC Mayor's Office, as Executive Director of the Northern Manhattan Coalition for Immigrant Rights, litigated civil rights at Latino Justice and is an adjunct assistant professor at Manhattan College. Raquel co-founded the Latina Political Action Committee and has served on many boards. El Diario La Prensa, NY State Senate and Dominican Women’s Development Center all honored her. Raquel is eager to bring her experience to the Executive Committee.

IRA BIGELEISEN – Member-at-Large since 2017 I moved to Riverdale in 2016, and immediately joined the BFRDC. I have petitioned, phone banked and canvassed. I have given money to the club and raised money for ads in the journal. As Chairperson of the Program Committee, I have arranged for speakers at meetings. I am active in NW Bronx Indivisible. I arranged for the BFRDC to partner with NW Bronx Indivisible on a Swing Left letter writing campaign. In 2020, I will for the club’s endorsed candidates, and then to help Democrats take the White House and the Senate.

ELLEN CHAPNICK repositioned from being Dean for Social Justice Initiatives at Columbia Law School in 2017 to become more directly involved in grassroots politics and fighting Trump. She then became a member of the BFRDC’s Bylaws Review Committee and an endorsed candidate for Alternate Judicial Delegate; a Steering Committee member of the Northwest Bronx Community and Clergy Coalition’s Community Land Trust project; and a member of the Riverdale Huddle. She was President of both Bronx Legal Services and the Center for Constitutional Rights. As Vice President, Ellen would use her experience and skills to help develop inclusive, democratic and transparent Club Bylaws and practices, present educational programs about important issues, and build the alliances necessary to elect Democrats at the national, state and local levels.

COURTNEY DASTIS-GALVIN has been a club member for 3 years. She currently serves on the Bronx Democratic County Committee. Professionally, Courtney leads strategy and marketing for a national education nonprofit organization with a mission to drive equity in our public schools. Courtney also volunteers as a trauma-informed yoga and meditation teacher through the Children’s Aid Society. She is passionate about environmental justice and local sustainability efforts to fight climate change. Courtney recently completed the Developing Nonprofit Leaders Program at Columbia University and she is eager to leverage her skills to support the great work of BFRDC.

DELORES (DEE) DIXON began her notable career as a child organist in her Harlem church. She graduated the High School of Performing Arts (classical piano and cello), graduated City College, and became vocalist of the folk trio New World Singers touring the South with SNCC on programs with Martin Luther King, Jr. Employment director of HARYOU-ACT. She was a music education teacher for 35 years, offered teacher workshops and Head Start classes. Worked with handicapped organizations, NYC Mission Society, USO, and member of NAACP, NY Coalition 100 Black Women, SAG-AFTRA, Actor’s Equity. Longtime club member serving on the executive committee.

PAUL ELLIS I have been a club member since 2009, having served as Vice President, Executive Committee member and Bylaws Committee Co-Chair. I am a member of Community Board 8, having served as Vice Chair of CB8 and as Chair of the CB8 Housing Committee, where I focused on critical housing issues facing our community, especially in the NYCHA developments. I am managing partner of the Paul Ellis Law Group, an 8-person Midtown Manhattan law firm. I look forward to working with all the club members, old and new, to make the club an active force in this critical election year.

MORGAN GRANT EVERS is currently Member-at-Large and Technology Committee Co-Chair, collaborated on the modernization of the Club’s website, enabling efficient online application and dues processing. Morgan deepened relationships between and built a greater sense of community among Club members by hosting seven debate-watching events and programming issue-focused enrichment for our Pride month meeting. A veteran elementary school teacher and Co-Chair of the PS24 Special Education Committee, Morgan has the essential skills to run participatory meetings, honor multiple perspectives and build consensus in diverse groups. She believes the BFRDC will be stronger by fully engaging and sharing the work of the Club more broadly with an energized volunteer base, while striving to be the center of activity for the greatest number of local Democrats, welcoming all.

NICHOLAS FAZIO has built a successful business, taught at a local university, and been a volunteer and activist in his community, including as a consultant for start-up businesses, a mentor for military veterans, and collaborator with non-profits on research and fundraising. He is a member of Community Board 8 and its Economic Development and Education Committees, the Northwest Bronx Indivisible Steering Committee, a career advisor and mentor with American Corporate Partners, and the VP of Public Relations for the Riverdale Bronx Toastmasters Club. Nick would be thrilled to contribute to the collaborative efforts of the BFRDC as a Member-at-Large.

BRUCE FELD holds degrees in political science from University of Miami, Rutgers University, and Columbia University; former fellow of Eagleton Institute of Politics, Herbert Lehman Fellow. Former faculty and associate dean of Barnard College, staff U. S. Senate and Democratic National Committee, head of NYC Mayor’s Community Assistance Unit (CAU). Former board member and officer of Lehman Performing Arts Center. Current president and CEO of not-for-profit, non-sectarian Mount Pleasant Cemetery. In this 81st assembly district, Democratic State Committeeman for 10 years, followed by 10 years as Democratic District Leader. Active club member for 30 years. In 2017 club president; currently first vice president, parliamentarian, and co-chair of bylaws committee. He believes Democrats and Americans face the most profound political challenge of his lifetime.

ELLEN FELD is a 40-year club member, its president four separate times, and a member of the club’s executive committee for decades. Former staff of the U.S. Senate, the Democratic National Committee (in the then-Office of Women’s Activities), the American Jewish Committee, the Boston U. Human Relations Lab, and NY State Assembly. Currently and for 35 years a Riverdale real estate broker. Awarded Realtor of the Year and former president Bronx Manhattan-North Association of Realtors. Ellen has lived, worked, and been active in our community for over 50 years. “For 60 years, our club has represented liberal and progressive Democratic principles and practices. I’m proud to have been part of that story. I hope to continue to play a role in its leadership.” 

MITZIE FINLEY, a CPA, worked in NYC Social Services for over 35 years. Active in local DC37 pension and political action committees, served as secretary, sergeant-at-arms, served on candidate screening board, chaired NYC validation test board, and leader of dress-for-success program for 300-400 young women, for which she received numerous HRA awards; visits at-home ill and shut-ins in hospitals and nursing homes through church eucharistic ministry. Accountancy degree from NYC Technical College and BS from Mercy College. As a 20-year club member, dependable petitioner, and county committee member. If elected, this would be her second year on the executive committee. 

MICHAEL FRIEDMAN- I have been a Reform Democrat since the early 1970’s and have always been committed to progressive politics. Service has been a part of my life and I have been a special education teacher since 1979. I am proud of the work I have done with my students. I teach in an alternative education program for young adults who work to obtain their high school equivalency exam. I am the union representative for a program that has 80 sites in all five boroughs. I am running for reelection as an executive committee member and hope to continue in that role.

MARTIN GALVIN is from Kingsbridge and has also lived in Riverdale and Woodlawn. A graduate of Manhattan College and Notre Dame Law School, he served as an A.D.A in the Bronx, and as a court attorney to Judge Carmen Ciparick, Court of Appeals, and Bronx Supreme Court, Criminal Division. He was also an adjunct professor at Manhattan College. As a club member for 8 years, he has petitioned, attended club meetings and fundraisers. He served on the community board for several years, and currently is Legal Counsel to the Woodlawn Taxpayers Association. He also coaches local students for the mock trial competition. 

ANNEMARIE GOLDEN has lived in Riverdale/ Kingsbridge for 64 years. In 2014, she retired as a Management Analyst with the NYS Court System, where her final post was at the Human Resources office for NYC Civil Court Citywide. Annemarie was elected P.T.A. Treasurer and then President of the Bronx New School and subsequently P.T.A. President of Jonas Bronck Academy. She carried petitions for BFRDC-endorsed candidates and volunteered on the Alessandra Biaggi campaign. Annemarie’s proven ability to problem solve and work with varied personalities in her employment and elected volunteer positions will be an asset to the BFRDC Executive Committee.

JOE GORDON has a long, varied, and rich career as an engineer. Chief engineer for Bulova and Timex watch companies, helped develop the first digital instruments for commercial aircraft, was in charge of critical components of 747 maintenance worldwide, worked on licensing programs at NOAA and NRC, been a technical consultant for the NYC Board of Elections. Teamed with his late wife Judy Sonett, Joe secured record numbers of petition signatures, journal ads, and anything else needed for the club. He continues in these endeavors. Former staff member for Oliver Koppell, his political goals are club unity and defeating Trump. 

MICHAEL HELLER has a life-long passion for public service and democratic party politics. President of the BFRDC, he has held every executive position over his 40-year membership. Dating back to high-school, he has volunteered in countless campaigns. Holding degrees from Columbia University, he has an extensive career in public affairs, community/government relations at Albert Einstein College of Medicine, Jacobi/NCBH, Maimonides MC, St. Joseph’s RMC, and the NYCTA. Mr. Heller, former district manager of Bronx CB 8 and chair of the Traffic and Transportation Committee, donates time to locally-based organizations as a board member for BronxNet, Association of Riverdale Co-ops/Condominiums, and Friends of the Hudson River Greenway. He looks forward to another year of leadership, electing democrats and retiring President Trump.

PATRICK HILL was born in Worcester, Massachusetts and lived there all the way up until college. He attended Manhattan College where his Uncle, Father George Hill, was Chaplain. Patrick has been a resident of the Kingsbridge area for around 6 years. In addition to being a resident, Patrick has worked as a constituent services liaison for a multitude of elected officials for areas throughout the Bronx and most recently has working for Council Member Andrew Cohen right here in the Northwest Bronx. Furthermore, he has experience with organizing canvasses in order to campaign for various elected official’s candidacies.

DANIEL JOHNSON has been a Club member for over 10 years serving in various capacities, including Executive Committee Member At-Large, President, and currently as Vice President. Additionally, Dan has successfully organized campaign activities for the club for many years. He has served our community as a staff member for Assemblyman Jeffrey Dinowitz and former Chief of Staff to Council Member Andrew Cohen. Dan currently serves as the Political Director for the Bronx Democratic Party. A community resident for 15 years, he resides in Kingsbridge with his wife Kim, a teacher at MS/HS 141, and their dog Jasper.

BETSEY KNAPP has been a member of the BFRDC for 3 years and in 2018, was elected Recording Secretary and served on the Executive Committee for the past year. She is passionate about promoting the Democratic party and supporting women to run for office. A lifelong Democrat, she volunteered for Hillary for America’s national phone bank and co-founded NW Bronx Indivisible. Betsey was a neighborhood leader for the Biaggi campaign for NY State Senate and started its Riverdale phone bank in her own home and continued to lead it to a successful win.

JERALD KREPPEL- I am presently a member of the Executive Committee and have been a member of the Ben Franklin Club for many years. As a member of the community, I care about what happens in our community. I have been a member of Community Board 8, am currently on the Board of Directors of the Kingsbridge, Riverdale, Van Cortlandt Development Corp., and am a member of the 50th Precinct Community Council. I am an attorney specializing in real estate and landlord/tenant litigation, primarily representing tenants. I would like to continue as a member of the Executive Committee.

HELEN KRIM has served as recording secretary for the club twice, most recently three years ago. She was graduated from Columbia University with a doctoral degree in art history in 1975. After a short stint in the dental business, she went to work for Manufacturer’s Hanover and began a thirty-year plus career in banking. In 2013 she retired from Bank of New York Mellon as a Vice President in the IT department, and began research on a book about Purimspiels, plays performed at Purim. The work was interrupted in order to work full time against the administration of Trump. Helen is married and the proud mother of two professional women and grandmother of two fabulous grandchildren.

SYLVIA LASK is the outstanding advocate for mental health in New York State. She chairs or has been a member of the NYS Mental Health Association, the Community Advisory Board overseeing two Bronx hospitals, and the Board of Visitors of the Bronx Psychiatric Center. Instrumental in passing the 2018 Mental Health Education bill, and Timothy’s Law, making insurance companies cover mental health services. For over 30 years a community board member and for 16 years a Democratic state committeewoman. Active member of this club, even when she lived in Co-op City, Sylvia has served on the executive and bylaws committees.

BECCA LISH, a working actor for 37 years, serves her union, SAG-AFTRA, on many committees. As a volunteer, she has Chaired (NY) and Vice-Chaired negotiations and administration of contracts valued over $1B, impacting 165,000 members nationwide. Received SAG’s Joseph Reilly Award for her organizing work and earned her degree in Philosophy at Yale. Becca's worked tirelessly proposing updates and amendments via the Bylaws Review Committee. An active participant in Club meetings, Becca knocked doors from McGovern through Hillary. Devoted to the stated mission of our Club, Becca believes collective action at the grassroots level can defeat Trumpism in 2020.

JACK MARTH is an attorney and Director of Programs at Part of the Solution (POTS), a multi-service center for low-income Bronxites. He is a board member of the Northwest Bronx Community and Clergy Coalition. He was a Senior Advisor to the New Roosevelt Initiative, which played a key role in the 2010 election of Senator Gustavo Rivera. He has lived in the Bronx since 1982. He currently serves on the bylaws committee of BFRDC and received its endorsement for Alternate Judicial Delegate. He wants to focus on defeating Trump and increasing the Democratic majority in the NYS State Senate.

ANDREW MUTNICK is a Pediatrician in clinical practice, education, and administration. He was Associate Professor of Pediatrics at Columbia University’s College of Physicians and Surgeons and Senior Associate Dean of Student Affairs at New York Medical College. Andrew became deeply engaged in state/local politics, advocating for progressive legislation and supported the Alessandra Biaggi campaign from start to finish and was Chief of Staff to Senator Biaggi during her first term in office. Although he has returned to clinical practice, Andrew remains on the Steering Committee of NYCD16-Indivisible and the BFRDC’s Executive Committee. Andrew hopes to increase opportunities for the political engagement of local Democrats. 

IVAN “DUFFY” NEDDS has been an active club member since 2012 and has had the honor of serving as the Corresponding Secretary since 2015. As Corresponding Secretary, Duffy has continued to improve the methods by which the club communicates. In 2018 he converted the club’s previously antiquated Gmail system to Constant Contact, where emails can be scheduled in advance and outreach data can be recorded. Outside of his officer role, since 2014 he has led the club’s petitioning efforts to place all our endorsed candidates on the ballot for election and has worked on numerous campaigns for the club. Additionally, he coordinates sign in efforts before each club meeting and provides all necessary material to ensure club meetings run efficiently.

ELEANOR OLIFF- I’ve always been involved in pursuing policies for progressive reforms. I studied at Bronx Community College for 2 years. I’ve been a member of the BFRDC for 26 years and a member of the Executive Committee for 21 years. I spent many evenings at Phone Banks for our club with success. I’ve handed out Palm Cards for our candidates on all Primary + election days. I’ve been a Delegate to our Democratic Judicial Convention from the 81st AD. I carried petitions with great success, achieving as many as 265 valid signatures. My efforts have always been successful for the BFRDC.

DAN PADERNACHT demonstrated his commitment to advancing the election of progressive Bronx Democratic leaders in 2010 by withdrawing from the Democratic Primary for State Senate in order to strengthen Gustavo Rivera’s (ultimately victorious) opposition to Pedro Espada. A member of the BFRDC since 2011, Dan has been a Member of the Bronx Democratic County Committee since 2012, an Alternate Judicial Delegate since 2014 and a Member-at Large. A member of Community Board 8 since 2009, he was Board Chair from 2014 – 2017; chaired its Traffic and Transportation Committee from 2017 - present (and from 2010-2014); and has been Vice-Chair of its Land Use Committee from 2017 – present. Dan was born and raised in the Bronx and now is a private practice attorney.

DANIEL RANELLS managed IT planning and budgeting for 12 years as Director of Information Systems at Bronx Science (his alma mater), including coordinating $7M in high-tech science lab renovations with several government agencies. An IT consultant, Daniel uses expertise in digital marketing and communications, data management, and process/systems creation. His proficiency as a collaborative problem solver and passion for civic engagement has led to leadership of the Budget and Fundraising committee for Boogie on the Boulevard 2020 (an open streets event that transforms a mile of the Grand Concourse into a community fitness and education space); the volunteer marshals for the Tour de Bronx and being the DC37 Union Rep on his School Leadership Team. He volunteered for the Biaggi, AOC, and Gounardes campaigns.

NATHAN RUBIN regularly appears on CNN, MSNBC, and Fox News to discuss federal politics, and is a strong believer in building power on a local level to impact policy at the national level. Nathan is the Founder and CEO of Millennial Politics, a digital media company that shines a spotlight on progressive candidates, causes, and organizations. Before joining the BFRDC in 2018, he served on the Executive Committee of the Central Brooklyn Independent Democrats in Park Slope. Nathan is the co-author of the Award-Winning book, “Boomers To Millennials: Moving America Forward”. He can be found across social media platforms @NathanHRubin.

MARIELA SALAZAR Mariela Salazar’s career spans a wide swath of nonprofit and governmental disciplines. Presently working as a Government & Community Relations Manager at Montefiore Health System; she serves as an emissary for the hospital, interfacing with communities, elected officials and agencies. She has served as Chief of Staff to NYC Council Member Annabel Palma, immersing her in the legislative process, budget preparations/allocations, media relations and constituent services. Mariela holds both a BA and an MPA from Binghamton University. Bronx resident, she is committed to ensuring social and political engagement; she currently is the parliamentarian for the Bronx Democratic County Committee.

HEIDI SCHWARTZ was born, raised and resides in our community. She is an active member of the club since 2004 as Member at Large, Secretary, President and VP. As President from 2008-2011 Heidi organized debate and watch get togethers, revised club logo and branding and collaborated with community organizations. Through these roles, Heidi has worked on numerous committees especially fundraising where she has assisted in organizing brunches, dinners, and charitable drives while phone banking, petitioning and mail stuffing, in order to strengthen the democratic party and BFRDC. As VP of Business Development for a licensing and branding agency Heidi has a strong marketing, networking, organizational and public speaking background. Daily, Heidi negotiates and troubleshoots all types of problems which are positive assets for the Club.

AARON STAYMAN is currently a Member-at-Large of the club’s Executive Committee and co-chair of the Technology Committee. Aaron collaborated with the committee to rebuild the club website and aims to continue using technology as an engagement tool in the important year ahead. In 2018, Aaron was a neighborhood volunteer leader for Alessandra Biaggi’s State Senate campaign. Aaron views 2020 as a year of voter mobilization and envisions the club as the center of that effort. His goal is to unite local activist groups by establishing the Club as an organizing body as well as a space for collaboration on these efforts. Aaron is originally from Texas originally (and tries to talk to voters there when possible) and works professionally as a marketing analytics consultant.

KATE THEOBALD is a registered Democrat. A member of Ben Franklin Reform Democratic Club for over five years. She has served in various leadership roles, including Executive Committee Member, Recording Secretary, Bylaws Committee and Nominating Committee. Most importantly, she shows up, e.g. attendance record of approximately 95%, during petitioning periods is out Monday through Thursday from 6-8 p.m. She is currently Chief of Staff to NYC Councilmember Keith Powers and preciously worked as court attorney in Bronx Supreme Court and as legislative counsel to Councilmember Andrew Cohen. She lives in Riverdale and has no fish.

ROBIN WEINSTEIN is the longtime Treasurer of the club seeking your support for reelection. Professionally, she is a nursery school teacher with an MS in bilingual education (Spanish). Over the past 15 years in the position of treasurer, she has kept club expenses under tight control by careful bookkeeping and active cost-reduction, including looking for savings by changing our insurance company to a firm in the community, which has saved $1,000/year; taking advantage of Verizon plans to reduce the phone bills; keeping expenses down on annual dinners and brunches as a member of the team that produces the events. She also served as Recording Secretary and for over 20 years as a member has been an active phone banker, petitioner, and campaigner for club-endorsed candidates.

ART WEISENSEEL joined the BFRDC in 2018 and its Technology Committee this year so that he could use his experience as a professional computer networking and systems administrator to assist in furthering the Club’s goals. Art also was active in Alessandra Biaggi’s successful campaign, writing postcards to voters. He is particularly skillful at connecting people and systems, streamlining and enhancing the efficiency of their communication and will apply those skills to assist the BFRDC Executive Committee in its mission.

DALE WOLFF developed highly regarded communication and organizational skills in her career in information technology project management. This expertise was essential for her role coordinating the successful volunteer phone banking operation for the 2018 Biaggi campaign. Dale is also a member of the Riverdale Huddle and has participated in its numerous postcard- writing parties for Democratic state and national candidates in New York, Mississippi, Virginia, and elsewhere. She has written or contributed to most of the letters the Riverdale Huddle has submitted to the Riverdale Press. Dale has been a member of the BFRDC since 2017 and looks forward to helping the Club expand its membership throughout the community, and to keeping members and neighbors informed through Club communications.

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