Board of Directors
Paul J. Gessing, President
Julie Wright, Secretary
Evan Jones, Treasurer
To contact the Rio Grande Foundation’s Board of Directors, please email firstname.lastname@example.org, and your inquiry will be directed to the appropriate party.
Paul J. Gessing
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, NM and have three girls, Grace, Katherine and Charlotte. In his spare time, Paul enjoys hiking and walking with the family dogs, playing basketball, golf and traveling.
Director, Development and Communications
Marina Herrera (Nuevomexicana, Mestiza) is Director of Development and Communications of the Rio Grande Foundation. She leads the Foundation’s development and communications strategies, focusing on advancing individual liberty and prosperity.
Marina grew up on a small farm in Albuquerque’s South Valley and has deep familial roots in Northern New Mexico’s Mora Valley. Prior to joining the Foundation, Marina worked in nonprofit development in both the higher education and public lands spaces in the D.C. metro area, after working as a nurse in geriatrics/dementia care. She holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in English Studies from the University of New Mexico. In her free time, she enjoys visiting cultural sites and historic community churches in the American Southwest.
Director, Opportunities for All Kids NM
Rebecca is the co-owner of Dow Technology and founder of several non-profits in Sierra County designed to help children and their families thrive. These include a nationally accredited early childhood program, NM Prek, K-12 private school, after school programing, behavioral health services, and more. Through her commitment to meeting the needs of the whole child, she utilizes diverse public and private partnerships and to achieve high quality programs at low-cost or no cost for all families, especially those who need it most.
She holds an Associate’s Degree in Early Childhood and a Bachelor’s Degree in Business Management.
Rebecca is the recipient of the Governor’s Award for Outstanding New Mexico Woman, Distinguished Alumni of Tulsa Community College, The Oral Roberts University Distinguished Service to Community Alumni Award, the Leadership Award from the National Childcare Association, and the Administered of the Year by the New Mexico Non-public school association. Her programs have been awarded the Excellence in Education award from Educate New Mexico, Pioneers in New Mexico Pre-K from NM Lieutenant Governor Dianne Dennis, the Exemplary Program Award from the Association of Christian Schools International, and the Rio Grande Award for Excellence in Youth Services from the Southern New Mexico Community Foundation.
Rebecca served as House Representative to District 38 (Grant, Hidalgo, and Sierra) for three terms, including serving as Caucus Chair. Representative Dow served as a board member for the National Federation of Women Legislators and was honored as a national Women of Excellence. Rebecca is the founder of the Early Childhood Caucus and a founding member of the New Mexico Women’s Caucus.
William Patrick Leonard, Ph.D., is a Senior Fellow at the Rio Grande Foundation. Leonard is a career higher education executive and instructor. He has served public, private, domestic, and international institutions characterized by educational excellence and a deep commitment to serving their students, faculty, staff, and external stakeholders. He has broad experience with national and international accreditation organizations. An active writer, he has over 200 publications.
Regulatory Economist and Independent Consultant
Kenneth W. Costello
Kenneth W. Costello is a Regulatory Economist and 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.
Brendyn Toersbijns grew up in the Northeast Heights of Albuquerque, NM. His primary focus is on opportunities surrounding labor, education, and public health. His emphasis is on individual and local community responsibility.
Brendyn currently holds an AA in Business from Central New Mexico Community College and graduates with his BS in Supply Chain Management and BA Corporate Accounting from Arizona State University in 2022. Brendyn’s interests outside of school are health and fitness, videogames, and listening to audiobooks. He is always striving to be a good role model for his four younger siblings.
Paige McKenzie is a policy analyst for the Rio Grande Foundation, and has been working with the Foundation since 2008. A published writer and public speaker, she has 18 years of experience working in policy organizations, campaigns, state government and other areas related to politics and government policy. She has analyzed thousands of bills in various states and in all areas of government.
In 2008 Paige began serving as the Government Transparency Project Manager for the Rio Grande Foundation in Albuquerque, New Mexico. 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.