NASHVILLE, Tenn. (Sept. 1, 2022) — The Sycamore Institute’s board of directors announced the resignation of Executive Director Eric Harkness and the promotion of two founding members of the organization’s leadership team. Brian Straessle will assume the role of interim executive director, and Mandy Pellegrin will now serve as deputy director.
“We appreciate Eric’s contributions this past year and wish him all the best,” said Board Chair Pamela Carter. “Brian and Mandy have played pivotal roles at Sycamore since the very beginning, and no one is better positioned to lead the institute forward. Our board is grateful for their continued leadership and service to Sycamore and the entire state of Tennessee.”
Straessle, who joined the staff in early 2017, previously ran all communications and outreach efforts as Sycamore’s director of external affairs. 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. Straessle brings to this new role 15 years of experience in strategy, public policy, and communications in the government, nonprofit, and private sectors. He began his career at the Heritage Foundation before shaping policy and public relations efforts for Congressman Tom Price (R-GA), the U.S. House Republican Study Committee, the American Petroleum Institute, and Nashville-based architecture and engineering firm Gresham Smith. He is a graduate of Young Leaders Council and serves on the board of Cumberland Region Tomorrow.
Pellegrin joined Sycamore in 2016 as policy director and spearheads Sycamore’s research and analysis. A seasoned policy expert and strategic thinker, Pellegrin is a trusted guide to elected officials, journalists, and citizens who seek to better understand and shape our society. She brings to her new role 19 years of experience in public policy at the local, state, and federal levels, including as an advisor to senior leaders at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and to Congressmen Lincoln Davis (D-TN) and Bill Pascrell (D-NJ). A native Tennessean, Pellegrin began her career in the state Comptroller’s Office of Research and the Tennessee General Assembly. She is a member of Leadership Tennessee, an adjunct professor at Vanderbilt University and Lipscomb University, serves on the board of the Civic Design Center, and was recently named a Woman of Influence by the Nashville Business Journal.
The Sycamore Institute is an independent, nonpartisan organization that helps Tennesseans identify, understand, and solve big challenges with impartial analysis of data and evidence. The organization was founded in 2015 and began publishing research and analysis in late 2016. With leadership and staff from across the political spectrum, Sycamore provides accessible, reliable information in pursuit of sound, sustainable policies that improve the lives of all Tennesseans.