Time & Location
Jan 17, 2024, 7:00 AM
About the event
The Sycamore Institute is an independent, nonpartisan public policy research center for Tennessee and exists to help policymakers, the media, and the public understand complex issues that affect and connect Tennesseans’ health and prosperity. We are independent, nonpartisan researchers. Sycamore takes a neutral and objective approach to analyzing and explaining public policy issues. We are not beholden to any political, government, academic, or other organization. Our leadership and staff come from across the political spectrum, but we all believe that data and evidence create the best foundation for effective public policy. Sycamore provides information, analysis, and opportunities for learning and discussion. We are not lobbyists or advocates for particular legislative proposals, political perspectives, or party agendas.
Brian Straessle is the Executive Director of the Sycamore Institute, an independent, nonpartisan public policy research center for Tennessee. As a public policy generalist and veteran communicator, he helps to equip decision-makers and advocates from all perspectives with clear, reliable information on our state’s toughest challenges. A founding member of Sycamore’s leadership, Brian leads a bipartisan team of experts dedicated to the organization’s mission of producing impartial and actionable policy research and analysis. Their work is respected for being both rigorous and accessible, and is used by governors, executive branch leadership, legislators, media, community leaders, and citizens to better understand and craft solutions to the state’s most complex challenges. Previously, Brian shaped policy and public relations efforts for Congressman Tom Price (R-GA), the U.S. House Republican Study Committee, and the American Petroleum Institute. Those experiences include active roles in debates over economic policy, health care, welfare, energy, transportation, and the federal budget, and he started his career as an intern at the Heritage Foundation in Washington, D.C. In college, Brian pursued a broad liberal arts education at the University of Florida and came out the other side with a degree in history, French, and business administration. Brian and his family live in East Nashville, where he plays for the local vintage base ball club, plants trees with Root Nashville, and harvests fresh fruit from his yard. He is a graduate of Nashville’s Young Leaders Council, a member of Leadership Tennessee and the American Enterprise Institute’s Leadership Network, and serves on the boards of Cumberland Region Tomorrow and the United Ways of Tennessee.
Mandy Spears is the Deputy Director of the Sycamore Institute, an independent, nonpartisan public policy research center for Tennessee. A seasoned policy expert and strategic thinker, Mandy is a trusted guide to elected officials, journalists, and citizens who seek to better understand and shape our society. As a founding member of its leadership team, Mandy helped establish Sycamore’s accessible, objective, and evidence-based approach to explaining complex issues. She has overseen the production of hundreds of publications with clear and actionable information on the state budget, health, education, criminal justice, and beyond. Mandy has over 15 years of experience supporting federal and state policymakers – including as a Presidential Management Fellow and advisor to senior leaders at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services under Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama. She also served as a legislative aide to former U.S. Representative Lincoln Davis (D-TN) and policy adviser to U.S. Representative Bill Pascrell (D-NJ). A native Tennessean, she started her public policy career in the state Comptroller’s Office of Research and the Tennessee General Assembly. Mandy is a member of Leadership Tennessee and Young Leaders Council and serves on the boards of the Civic Design Center, Governmental Research Association, and the Friends of Shelby Park. She is an adjunct professor of public policy at Vanderbilt University’s Peabody College and Lipscomb University’s College of Leadership and Public Service. In 2022, the Nashville Business Journal recognized her as one of the region’s Women of Influence. Mandy holds a master’s degree in public policy from Georgetown University and a bachelor’s degree in political science from Lipscomb University. Mandy maintains strong ties to her local community through volunteer activities and her creative endeavors. She now calls East Nashville home.