About the Rio Grande Foundation

Staff

Paul J. Gessing

President

pgessing@riograndefoundation.org

Paul Gessing became the first full-time President of the Rio Grande Foundation in March of 2006. Since joining the Foundation, Gessing has been a prominent voice for limited government and individual liberties in policy areas including: Constitutional liberties, taxes, health care, education, and transportation.

Prior to joining the Foundation, Gessing headed up the lobbying efforts of the National Taxpayers Union (NTU) a respected taxpayer-advocacy organization in Washington, DC.

He has published articles in the Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, US News & World Reports, The Albuquerque Journal, Barron’s and several other major publications. He writes for and appears regularly in media outlets around New Mexico. Paul has also testified in Congress and before a variety of state and local bodies.

Paul graduated from Bowling Green State University in Ohio with a degree in Political Science in 1997 and he received his Masters in Business Administration from the University of Maryland in 2005. Despite not growing up in Albuquerque himself, his mother is a 1963 graduate of St. Pius and Paul has family in the Albuquerque area dating back to World War II.

Paul is on the Board of New Mexico Connections virtual charter school.

Paul and his wife Krista were married in October 2007 in Algodones, N.M. and have three girls, Grace, Katherine and Charlotte Rose. He is active in Toastmasters and, in his spare time, Paul enjoys hiking and walking with the family dogs, playing basketball, golf and traveling.

Patrick M. Brenner

Director of Giving

pbrenner@riograndefoundation.org

​Patrick M. Brenner is the Director of Giving and a Policy Analyst and at the Rio Grande Foundation where Patrick cultivates revenue streams for the nonprofit organization, including grant writing, fundraising, and philanthropic contributions.

Prior to joining the Foundation, Patrick worked in public relations and marketing at a firm located in Albuquerque. Patrick is actively pursuing his Master’s of Business Administration with the University of New Mexico.

Patrick has experience in public relations, is an advocate for government transparency, has been recognized for his nonprofit work, and has won awards in marketing, among other distinctions in the field. Patrick helps instill conservative principles in his generation through his political activism.

Patrick and his wife Christina live in the Town of Bernalillo with their three children, Charlotte, Marie, and David. He is a pilot, avid cyclist, amateur historian and aquarist. The family enjoys frequent trips to the ABQ BioPark.

Laura Abendroth

Policy Analyst

lbendroth@riograndefoundation.org

Laura Abendroth was born and raised in Albuquerque and earned her Bachelor’s degree in Political Science from the University of New Mexico in 2016. She currently lives in Bowie, Maryland where she received her Masters in Public Policy from the University of Maryland, College Park. Laura has worked for both state and U.S. Senators, as a legal assistant at several private practice and corporate law firms, and most recently for the United States Government Accountability Office. Her policy interests include federal acquisitions, criminal justice, and education.

Paige McKenzie

Policy Analyst

pmckenzie@riograndefoundation.org

Paige McKenzie began serving as the Government Transparency Project Manager for the Rio Grande Foundation in Albuquerque, New Mexico in 2008. At that time New Mexico was one of only three states in the country that did not have its legislative floor sessions accessible via live video or audio web streaming. The legislature did not even post its House floor votes online. During Paige’s tenure, the Foundation launched an unprecedented transparency site giving the public free electronic access to the payroll and all other spending by the state’s 10 largest school districts. After the site’s launch, the legislature passed a law requiring all school districts to submit their payroll and spending information to the state’s Sunshine Portal transparency site for the public. The New Mexico legislature not only began complying with both of the above transparency standards, but also passed bills requiring the state to post all state contracts over $20,000 on the Internet, as well as the salaries of all state employees. In addition, the state now requires all state and local government agencies to provide information to the public electronically when so requested.

Paige has written and edited for various local and national magazines, including American Cowboy, Nashville Life and Business Nashville magazines, the New Mexico Business Journal, Albuquerque The Magazine and NewsMax, where she also served on the company’s editorial board. She has interviewed John Fund, John Stossel, David Horowitz, Michael Deaver, Mary Matalin, and various congressmen, senators, authors and celebrities.

Her experience includes television reporting and production, political and communications consulting, public relations, event planning, and public speaking in New Mexico and in Washington, D.C.

Paige has a bachelor’s degree in communications from David Lipscomb University in Nashville, Tennessee, with a minor in business and the French language.

Scholars

Katharine B. Stevens

Adjunct Scholar in Early Childhood Development

katharine.stevens@aei.org

Katharine B. Stevens leads the early-childhood program at the American Enterprise Institute (AEI), where her work focuses on the early development and learning of children. She studies the crucial role of early childhood in fostering better economic outcomes and breaking the cycle of intergenerational poverty in disadvantaged communities, as well as the challenges of implementing rapidly expanding early-childhood initiatives.

Before joining AEI, Dr. Stevens founded and led Teachers for Tomorrow, one of the first teacher apprenticeship programs in the United States, which recruited and trained teachers for New York City’s lowest-performing schools. She began her career in public education as an assistant in a Head Start classroom in St. Louis, Missouri, and as a preschool teacher in New Haven, Connecticut.

Her publications include “Workforce of Today, Workforce of Tomorrow: The Business Case for High-Quality Childcare” (US Chamber of Commerce Foundation, 2017); “Does Pre-K Work? The Research on Ten Early Childhood Programs—And What It Tells Us” (AEI, 2016); and “Renewing Childhood’s Promise: The History and Future of Federal Early Care and Education Policy” (AEI, 2015).

Her analyses and commentary have been published in Education Week, The Hill, HuffPost, Los Angeles Times, New York Daily News, New York Post, US News & World Report, and The Wall Street Journal, among others.

Dr. Stevens has a PhD in education policy from Columbia University, an MEd from Teachers College, an MBA from Columbia Business School, and a BA in US history from the University of Chicago.

Kenneth W. Costello

Adjunct Scholar on Regulatory Issues

kcostello@riograndefoundation.org

Kenneth W. Costello is a Regulatory Economist/Independent Consultant. He has conducted extensive research and written on a wide variety of topics related to the energy industries and public utility regulation. His research has appeared in books, technical reports and monographs, and scholarly and trade publications. He has provided training and consulting services to several countries. Mr. Costello is the Recipient of the 2017 Crystal Award for Distinguished Contribution to Public Utility Regulatory Policy, sponsored by the Financial Research Institute, University of Missouri – Columbia. He received BS and MA degrees from Marquette University and has done doctoral work in economics at the University of Chicago.