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Our Team

Meet Our Team of Consultants
Professional • Diverse • Collaborative

President

Tonya Saunders is a tireless advocate. She is a leader, a go-getter, a planner, a speaker, and a lobbyist. Working her way from state to national government, she carved her path first in the world of health care and seniors’ issues, then moved into the diverse areas of telecommunications, financial services, transportation, women’s issues, and small, emerging, and medium-sized business issues.

Ms. Saunders has proven again and again that she is an accomplished advocate on Capitol Hill by building relationships and effecting legislative change for her clients. After 17 years of working for others, Tonya struck out on her own, founding Washington Premier Consulting, LLC (WPC), in 2010. WPC was originally a government relations and strategic planning business. Recently, WPC was changed into a federal contracting company and counts the Department of Energy as a client. Tonya then formed Washington Premier Group (WPG), LLC, to handle all lobbying, public relations, and management consulting work. Ms. Saunders continues to deliver for her clients, whether it is creating a coalition, planning an annual leadership conference, amending, passing, or suggesting new legislation, or speaking about issues that are meaningful for Tonya and her clients.

PROFESSIONAL EXPERIENCE
Tonya Saunders is the founder and principal for WPC and WPG. A seasoned politico for over 20 years, Ms. Saunders brings acumen and savvy to government affairs. She is also a Senior Advisor with mCapitol, a large national government relations firm.

Among her accomplishments is founding and directing Mid-Tier Advocacy (MTA), a national coalition of small, emerging, and medium-sized businesses. Tonya was instrumental in passing legislation that helped these engines of our economy grow and create jobs. Ms. Saunders spearheaded the effort to enact the Advanced Small Business Pilot amendment in the National Defense Authorization Act in 2013, which passed the House of Representatives and is now part of a study conducted by the Department of Defense. Tonya continues to lead efforts to create laws that help these mid-tier businesses prosper.

Tonya also works for Women Construction Owners and Executives’ Women Build America Leadership Conference, BOSS Controls, an energy efficiency device manufacturer, a transportation concern, and many others.

Other past legislative victories include amendments to the Balanced Budget Act, amendments to the Fair Credit Reporting Act, amendments to the Medicare reimbursement rates for hospitals in Puerto Rico, and amendments to the Health Care Affordability Act of 2010.

Before building WPC, joining mCapitol, and creating MTA, Ms. Saunders worked for one firm for 17 years. First, it was called McAuliffe, Kelly and Raffaelli – which later became Raffelli, Spees, Springer and Smith. This firm then became The Washington Group and was sold to Ketchum Communications, owned by Omnicom. It later merged with Clark & Weinstock, which is now named Mercury. As this firm changed hands, Tonya continued to serve clients, gaining extensive experience in legislative and strategic affairs and amassing contacts that laid the groundwork for her stellar career.

In 1990, Tonya worked on Senator John Rockefeller’s IV (D-WV) successful re-election campaign and then joined his staff specializing in healthcare, finance and energy issues. Prior to her Capitol Hill experience, Ms. Saunders worked in state politics, serving as a special assistant to West Virginia Secretary Ken Hechler.

Ms. Saunders holds a degree in Political Science from West Virginia State College.

VOLUNTEER DISTINCTIONS
Ms. Saunders has been a member of the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation Corporate Advisory Board since 2009. In this role, she helps shape opportunities for scholarships for deserving students in underserved areas. Tonya is also a member of the South Carolina Business Council, the Washington Government Relations Group, and Democratic Women in Leadership.

Ms. Saunders is a pro-bono advocate for women who are victims of domestic abuse, violence, and stalking. In this area, Tonya is and has been:

  • A speaker for training sessions, panels, and conferences,
  • Appeared on “On the Case” with Paula Zahn-Stalking Awareness Month, January 2010,
  • Keynote speaker for California Coalition against Sexual Assault Winter Training Institute in FL, 2010,
  • Successful advocate for passage of stalking legislation in Virginia, 2008,
  • Victim Specialist, Victim Assistant Network (VAN), 2005-2006,
  • Featured Speaker in Training Video for Stalking Survey-The National Center for Victims of Crime-Stalking Division, 2005,
  • Appeared on the Today Show, “How to Recognize a Dangerous Relationship”, August 2005.

In every role, Tonya has provided advocacy with integrity on both state and national fronts for more than 20 years.

Consultant

Kimberly is an international, trade and government relations consultant with experience working closely with governments, businesses and institutions in an effort to represent interests before Congress and the Administration. She has served top officials and entities based in Latin America, Russia and the Middle East for international trade and visibility, notably working with Panama for 5 years towards successful passage of the Panama Trade Promotion Agreement (or FTA) and with the Kremlin on a niche trade issue.

With more than 15 years of Washington experience, she has also advocated for Fortune 500 companies, high profile individuals and small businesses in other issue areas including those related to health, transportation, financial services, real estate, food/agriculture, energy, the environment, communications and technology. She has a special expertise in client relationship building and servicing, strategic and cross-cultural communications, research, writing and coalition building. While earning her MA in international politics from the School of International Service at American University, she specialized in international conflict resolution and environmental policy and worked in development at a global think tank.

She earned her BA in international relations with minors in political science and French from the Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs at Syracuse University. During university, she was invited to intern at the Council of Europe in Strasbourg, France where she studied European environmental initiatives in the Arctic and Antarctic. She is a native of Massachusetts.

Data Analyst

Samara Rasheed excels in our government contracting practice because she adapt quickly to constantly changing projects and environments and knows how to prioritize multiple tasks simultaneously.

Samara is a seasoned professional with over 10 years of government and private experience with a broad range of skills, including: • Website maintenance (HTML, Java, Drupal – maintained user dedicated websites and data depositories) • Task/initiative management (SharePoint-creating deadlines, delegation, progress tracking/reporting) • Analytic skills (SAS, SPSS collect and analyze requirement data for process improvement) • Database Management (MS Access, SQL- attention to detail and ability to think conceptually) • General office duties (conference preparation, various travel/financial management, drafting correspondence, presentations, Microsoft Office suite)

Consultant

Deborah Mack’s career has transitioned between the private and public sectors; most notably, she is experienced in policy research and development, communications and issues management. She currently works as consultant to the Washington Premier Group, LLC where her focus is on government relations and crisis communications.

Formerly, Deborah worked as a Professional Staff Member for the House Committee on Homeland Security’s Subcommittee on Oversight and Management Efficiency where her issue areas included management integration, procurement and contracting oversight. Additionally, Deborah also worked as a Professional Staff Member for the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform where she was part of the staff for the Subcommittee on Government Management, Organization and Procurement and worked for the full committee.

Deborah holds a Master’s in Public Administration from the National Urban Fellows/Baruch School of Public Affairs, and she is also a graduate of Yale University and the Coro Southern California Fellows Program. She is active with the alumni associations of Yale University, Coro and the National Urban Fellows. Deborah also volunteered for the Democratic National Committee at both the Charlotte 2012 and Denver 2008 conventions where she was assigned to the Office of the Chief Operating Officer.

Intern Coordinator

Sarah Vitellaro is a junior at Stonehill College in Massachusetts majoring in Psychology with a minor in Healthcare Administration. She is the Washington Premier Group Intern Coordinator and Administrative Assistant, conducting FEW Research and providing Legislative Support. She began her political involvement in high school, volunteering on local campaigns and ultimately interning at the Massachusetts State House for her district’s State Representative. Sarah hopes to combine her major and minor with her passion for government affairs in a medical setting after graduating in May of 2019. Her hobbies include playing the clarinet and bowling, and she can often be found watching football or her favorite show, I Love Lucy.

Research Intern

Shane Palmer is a junior attending George Mason University, majoring in government and international politics with a concentration in public policy and administration and with a minor in economics. He is a current intern for the Washington Premier during the Spring Semester of 2018 and will graduate in May of 2019. He began his political involvement as an active member of his high school’s Teenage Republican Club and Debate Team. Before relocating from Roanoke, Virginia to George Mason University, Shane was an active board member of an emerging 501(c)(3) nonprofit LGBT+ community center. In his spare time, he enjoys reading, running, and spending time with his friends.

Social Media Intern

Ebenezer Bulcha is a junior Economics, Sociology, and Public Policy triple-major attending Dartmouth College on the JD/MBA route post-grad. While still currently undecided on the practice he plans to undergo, he has an affinity towards corporate law, given his background in managing compliance work for his various startups, as well as a passion for Civil Rights Law, given he is a community organizer. On campus, Ebenezer is heavily involved in both pre-professional and affinity organizations as well as student government as he is currently running for the SGA presidency.