Meet Our Team
From our headquarters in Austin, we are focused around-the-clock on making big changes. Our backgrounds are varied, but our commitment is singular and strong.
Since joining Annie’s List as its Executive Director in July 2018, Fort Worth native Royce Brooks has led the organization to its most successful election cycle ever, with over 1000 women trained, a record 37 women endorsed, and a record 31 women elected, including every Annie’s List incumbent on the ballot.
Royce has honed her leadership in a career encompassing both policy and electoral politics. Before joining Annie’s List, she worked with city leaders, researchers and community members to develop a policy agenda addressing inequality in Atlanta as the city’s first Chief Equity Officer.
Prior to that, Royce helped to shape a policy vision here in Texas as the policy director for Sylvester Turner’s successful campaign for Mayor of Houston. She also guided more than 250 civic leaders and stakeholders through the consensus development of strategic policy priorities during Mayor Turner’s transition process. Before joining Mayor Turner’s campaign, she served as the statewide policy director for Wendy Davis’s 2014 campaign for Texas governor.
Royce has worked in both houses of Congress, including as a legislative counsel and subcommittee staff director in the United States Senate, where she led oversight and legislative efforts related to oil spill remediation, drinking water protections and more.
Royce served as a policy analyst with the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies, a public policy research institution focusing on issues of concern to communities of color. Early in her career, she was a legislative assistant for Martin Frost, former Chairman for the U.S. House Democratic Caucus. There she was responsible for policy issues including energy, health care, technology and finance.
Royce has been the recipient of awards including the Texas Legislative Black Caucus’s Barbara Jordan Leadership Award and the Black Austin Democrats’ Beacon of Light Award. Royce is a graduate of Rice University, Harvard Law School, and Dunbar High School in Fort Worth, Texas.
Shellie Hayes-McMahon joined Annie’s List in July, 2018. She first got to know the organization as an endorsed candidate in May when she narrowly lost her bid for the Cedar Park City Council. Shellie has more than 25 years of management experience, using her Democratic values to put employees first in pursuit of business goals. She has successfully led teams at Costco, Williams Sonoma and Natural Grocers.
Shellie currently serves on the Cedar Park City Council’s Parks, Arts and Community Enhancement (PACE) Committee, where she helps direct city resources to provide cultural experiences and improve quality of life. She is also an overactive member of Wilco Dems, bringing her younger son along while her husband and older son support from home.
Originally from the Westside of San Antonio, TX, Melissa Alfaro is the proud daughter and granddaughter of migrant farmworkers and was the first in her family to receive a college degree. Melissa graduated with her Bachelor of Arts from American University in Washington, D.C. During her time in our nation’s Capital, Melissa worked in the communications departments in the U.S. House of Representatives under Congressman Pete Gallego and in the Democratic National Committee (DNC).
In 2015, Melissa moved back to Texas to work on creating a pipeline of elected Latino leaders as Director of Programs for the Latino Center for Leadership Development in Dallas, TX. Melissa participated in the 2018 and 2020 campaign cycles through coordinating efforts with local, state, and presidential campaigns in Dallas County. Between campaign cycles, Melissa has worked in the offices of various Texas State Representatives and Annie’s List Champions as a District Director, Legislative Director, and most recently Chief of Staff. During her time in the State Legislature, Melissa led emergency response efforts for underserved communities and worked to pass legislation improving maternal health outcomes, combating human trafficking, and increasing oversight of state agencies.
Melissa is a founding member of Hey Chica!, a statewide leadership organization which has created a sisterhood of over 1,000 Latina leaders from the public, private, and nonprofit sectors. Melissa credits her successes to her mother and grandmother who instilled in her one important lesson: just don’t quit. Melissa spends her down time in full “Auntie Mode” playing kickball, visiting plant nurseries, and cooking with her nine nieces and nephews.
Gracie Padilla, a Dallas native, has extensive nonprofit experience and a background in policy research. Before joining Annie’s List, Gracie worked as a research analyst for the Texas Legislative Council. There she was assigned to ten, high-volume House committees. Prior to that, she served as an advocate at the National Domestic Violence Hotline, and on the direct services team at the Girls Empowerment Network.
Gracie is dedicated to helping elect progressive women. She frequently checks the #txlege hashtag on Twitter, and is especially passionate about health and human services, public education and election law. Gracie received her Bachelor’s of Social Work from the University of Texas at Austin and is a former Annie’s List political intern.
Celestina Sunny is a recent 2020 graduate of the University of Texas at Austin where she majored in Government, minored in Philosophy of Law, and gained the Business and Public Policy certification. The summer before her junior year, she interned with Annie’s List as a Development Intern and was asked to return as the Development Assistant during her junior year of undergrad. She was actively involved in the planning of the 2020 Austin Women’s March Rally at the Capitol in which she served as part of the Fundraising Committee as well as the Nonprofit Liaison. She has written a piece concerning the underrepresentation of women in the Texas House that is currently published on Medium and has been interviewed by UT Austin’s Daily Texan concerning the importance of civic engagement among college students.
Though Celestina has spent her younger years all over the world such as Oman, India, and England, she considers herself a proud Texan and is passionate about uplifting immigrants, women of color, and college students to be more active in politics through educating oneself, donating to worthy causes, voting every cycle, and taking part in other civic duties such as running for office! She is excited to step into her new role as Development Coordinator in order to dedicate more time to changing the face of power to reflect the diverse state that Texas is and always has been.
An Austin native, Paul is a graduate of the University of Texas at Austin with two degrees in Journalism and American Studies. With a professional background in communications and Texas policy, Paul first interned at Annie’s List during the summer of 2019, and after loving the experience so much, interned again in the Communications Department during the fall of 2020. Before getting into politics, he worked social media for the Daily Texan and helped cover the protests that erupted in the wake of the 2016 elections.
Paul believes that Texas can be brought into the 21st century through the election of progressive women to positions of political leadership. He wants more men to actively get involved in volunteering for and supporting the election of women to office. In his down time, Paul enjoys playing competitive video games, making people laugh, and arguing about irrelevant topics such as whether or not Pluto should be considered a planet. (It should be.)