ThurstonTalk Team’s professional team is passionate about Olympia.  While our paths leading to Olympia differ, we all live, work, and play in Thurston County.

Dan Jones, CEO, Founder,

Dan Jones and Martin McElliott lead the ThurstonTalk team.

Dan has been running his own businesses in the technology realm for the last 13 years. He currently has around 35 team members working between his three organizations. After receiving his BS in Engineering and Master of Science degrees, he focused on creating products that create long-term impacts in the marketplace. When not working long hours as an entrepreneur, Dan enjoys skiing, wind surfing, and spending time with his wife and twins in Olympia.

Martin McElliott, VP of Sales,

Martin has lived in the Olympia area his entire life. A proud Olympia High School graduate, Martin married his high school sweetheart and is the father to two daughters. Martin credits his experience in the grocery business for developing his people skills. A realtor since 1997, Martin now enjoys being part of a fantastic team creating a positive new business.


Stephen Backholm, VP of Technology,

Stephen is passionate about using technology to help businesses succeed. He has over a decade of experience architecting and managing large, enterprise systems, and has held a variety of senior technology leadership positions. He enjoys spending time cooking, drinking well made wines, and traversing the mountains and valleys of North America.  Stephen is happily married to a beautiful girl named Paige and together they have four amazing children. He holds a BS in Computer Science from Western Washington University. Stephen has cried three times in his life: at the birth of his first child, when Spain won the World Cup in 2010, and during the final scene of Rudy.

Kristina Lotz, Publisher

Kristina was born with writing in her genes. She grew up writing stories for her toys and quickly turned her passion into a career choice by earning her undergraduate degree in English and a Masters in Business Administration. Since then, she has written and edited for both print and online publications in the United States and internationally. She has a particular passion for telling the stories of people, the history of places and anything to do with animals. When she isn’t writing, she loves to create through various crafts, including sewing and even leather work. She also enjoys spending time on her farm full of animals, including riding the many horseback trails Southwest Washington has to offer and participating in mounted archery with her Norwegian Fjord.

Tara Rendon, Regional Sales

With more than 15 years of experience in sales and customer service, Tara brings a wealth of knowledge to the sales team. Tara is inspired by building long-lasting relationships and exceeding goals. Along with her husband, Tara is raising a daughter in Olympia.

Tim Shaw, Business Development

Tim Shaw has lived around Olympia since he was ten years old. Tim raised his children through the Tumwater School District. Prior to joining ThurstonTalk, Tim worked in the mortgage industry, served pizza at local Brewery City Pizza, and baked bread at Top Foods bakery. Tim loves that Olympia is centrally located to everything that he loves.


To submit a story idea, send an email to

Interested in joining our writing team?  Read more here.

We’re hiring for a Business Development professional.  Read the job posting here.

For information about promoting your business or organization, drop a note to

To contact a ThurstonTalk writer, please send an email to

Carrie Bell

Carrie is the proud mom to three fantastic children. They often joke that she has too many unpaid jobs, meaning that she loves to volunteer in the community. She enjoys getting out and meeting new people, interviewing them for stories and getting paid for it! In her free time she enjoys running, hiking and watching her daughter play soccer.

Alia Brookshire

Alia Brookshire has lived in Olympia since 2015, having moved here from Arcata, California. She is studying Anthropology and Sustainable Design at the Evergreen State College. With writing experience ranging from poetry to grant-writing, she loves working as a journalist because it allows her to connect with the community and share positive stories. She loves the natural beauty and artistic community of Thurston County, and can be found hiking, making art, traveling or knitting in her free time.

Kailey Caldwell

Kailey is an adopted Korean American from Tucson, a ragtime pianist and student at The Evergreen State College. Her passion for writing started with music reviews for KAOS and progressed into writing food and art stories for ThurstonTalk.  Her most recent writing project was the completion of her book AhRa, an autobiographical musical “cookbook” that explores adoption, relation to a place, and is overall a tribute to Scott Joplin. The book reads as poetry with original recipes that correspond with each poem. The Scott Joplin sheet music chosen for each poem is intended to be performed together with prosody, as if singing a hymnal. Kailey is looking forward to continuing her writing and expanding its forms.

Jennifer Crooks

Jennifer Crooks is an Olympia native and a graduate of Olympia High School. She recently graduated from Central Washington University with a M.A. in history. She loves the history of the region as well as sharing stories that have been forgotten. Jennifer completed an internship at ThurstonTalk while at Saint Martin’s University (where she received a B. A. in history) and is excited to be on the team again. She spends the rest of her time volunteering at her church and absorbing (almost) everything Star Wars and Marvel.

Andrea Culletto

Andrea Culletto a freelance journalist whose work has appeared in Mary Jane’s Farm magazine, Mamalode magazine, Black Hills Bride magazine, The La Crosse Tribune, Exceptional Homes, Driftless Notes, Klutch Chronicle, La Crosse Magazine, The Chronicle and Coulee Region Women Magazine. She is currently a Community Editor at and and a regular contributor to LINK Magazine. She enjoys life with her husband, Tony, their three amazing children and their giant St. Bernard. In her free time Andrea enjoys traveling, exploring other cultures, hiking, reading, writing, creating art and spending time with her family.

Jessie Dunnam

While visiting with one of her second grade students during lunch, Jessie Dunnam was asked a curious question: “What do you want to be when you grow up?” Immediately tossing aside the possibility that perhaps she was already grown up, she excitedly announced, “A writer!” Her dream found life eight years later when she accepted her first paid gig as a freelance writer for ThurstonTalk.

Between articles, Jessie can be found at her favorite place, her house in Lacey, with her boyfriend, Dylan, and their three rambunctious but loveable pups, Hank, Archer and Reginald.

Doris Faltys

Doris has lived in the Olympia area for many years.   She has taught many art related classes for various agencies in the community and held volunteer positions in public education, crisis intervention, radio, and public service.  Frequently she can be found in her studio working on pottery, photography, watercolor, silk painting, Ukrainian Egg dyeing , or something a friend wants to try out together.   She is co-owner of Polar Bear Construction a small company building custom homes and remodels  that has offered customers the opportunities to incorporate “Green Building” technologies and materials into their projects for the last 20 years.   Doris has a BFA in Ceramics and Metal Smithing and a BA in K-12 Art Education.

Jennifer Ganey

Jennifer Ganey is a Certified Holistic Health Coach who specializes in helping other moms create a thriving life for themselves and their families. She offers individual coaching and 6-week group sugar detox sessions. She loves to cook, read, and explore nature with her family. You can find her on her website, FacebookPinterest, and Instagram]

Jessica Hoppe

Jessica Hoppe is an Olympia native who moved back to the area from Montana, with her husband and son.  She spends her time being involved in activities with her family and their many animals. ThurstonTalk provides a great way to combine her love of writing with her love of the community she grew up in.

Katie Hurley

Katie Hurley is a longtime Olympia resident, wife and mom of two kids in elementary school.  She keeps busy volunteering and serving on the boards of 4 different nonprofit organizations in Olympia, occasionally teaching cooking classes, and driving her kids to soccer, football, basketball, baseball, softball, guitar and Girl Scouts.

She graduated from Olympia High School and holds a BA in Communications and Public Relations from Pacific Lutheran University.  When not volunteering, carpooling, writing or cooking, Katie and her family enjoy boating on Puget Sound, snow skiing and traveling.

Melanie Kallas Ricklefs

Melanie was born and raised in Connecticut, and thoroughly enjoyed the long and winding road that brought her to Olympia in 1999. She earned a B.S. in Forest Biology from the University of Vermont, and an M.S. in Forest Pathology from Colorado State University. She moved to Washington in 1997 to work and play in the forests of the Northwest. These days, Melanie can be found spending time with her family, hiking, kayaking, practicing yoga, and volunteering at school every chance she gets.

Lesley Klenk

A long-time Washington native, Lesley Klenk moved to Olympia in 1999 to accept a position at the Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction. For the last 17 years, Lesley has developed English Language Arts state assessments and raised three children with her husband, Paul Klenk.  In addition to contributing to academic publications, Lesley wrote a year-long column for The Olympian’s editorial page as the “On the Left” columnist. A writer, researcher, and passionate advocate for the goodness inherent in all people, Lesley looks forward to finding ordinary people who live extraordinary lives and sharing their stories in ThurstonTalk.

Barb Lally

Barb Lally is a prolific writer and photographer from New York with a communications degree from Cornell University and more than 20 years experience. She has spent most of her career working for non-profits from a ministry where she and her husband served in nine different states to here in Olympia where she was the director of public affairs for one of the state’s largest trade associations for more than a decade. She is experienced in all aspects of getting words on a page whether it is a webpage, newsletter, magazine or newspaper and has established her own company, Lally Communications, to provide her services to non-profits and small businesses in the area.

Lauri Martin

Lauri Martin has lived in the Olympia area since 1999. She enjoys reading, hiking, exploring and learning. Writing for ThurstonTalk has enabled her to meet interesting people and gain a new perspective on all our area has to offer.

Kathryn Millhorn

While not native to the Olympia area, Kathryn has called it home for the past 20 years.  As a transplanted Floridian, you can find this occasional librarian watching tugboats and drinking iced tea by the quart.  Research is her passion and her training has granted amazing opportunities for exploration, travel, and knowledge.  She can also find ANYthing, because that’s what librarians do best.  Having traveled the world, she settled here to raise her daughter, tend goldfish, and make the best popcorn known to man (references provided upon request).  In the next five years, she sees herself owning ducks, being debt-free, and finally conquering homemade pizzas.

Haleigh Missildine

Haleigh is a Pacific Northwest native. She graduated from Capital High School and holds a BA in Communications with an emphasis on journalism from Pacific Lutheran University. She works for the State of Washington during the day but spends her free time writing and playing guitar. She loves learning and writing about the unique stories Olympia has to offer.

Noelle Nicholson

Noelle Nicholson is a freelance writer from Olympia. She graduated from Gonzaga University with a BA in Spanish and spent several years living in Spain after graduation. In her free time she enjoys reading and spending time with her husband and family. She is a novice member of the Puget Sound Writer’s Guild and enjoys being part of ThurstonTalk because it allows her to hear intriguing stories from members of the community.

Laurie O’Brien

Laurie is a Thurston County writer, wife and mother of two teenage sons.  In addition to hauling her children all over the state for their activities, she finds time to volunteer at her local elementary school and to sing in a chorus with 35 of her best friends.  A  trained English teacher, Laurie has spent most of her adult life involved in recreation and organized camping.  These days, you’re likely to find her behind her camera at bike races and soccer games.

Emmett O’Connell

Emmett O’Connell has blogged about Olympia for over ten years, most currently at Olympia Time: He has also contributed to the Olympia Historical Society Newsletter and volunteers with the Friends of the Olympia Library. He tweets at @emmettoconnell.

Bob Partlow

Bob Partlow was born and raised in Olympia. A graduate of Olympia High School in 1965, he attended Western Washington University from 1965-69.  His work career included stints as a television production assistant, news director at two radio stations and 23 years writing for newspapers, most notably The Olympian and Bellingham Herald. He covered state government and politics and did extensive investigative reporting.

He switched careers in 2001, becoming a program manager for Children’s Administration of the state Department of Social and Health Services. He and his wife Deanna had been foster parents and his work with Children’s Administration focused on recruitment and support of foster parents.

After retiring from the state in 2013, he took on various freelance writing projects, continued to be a counselor at a camp he helped start for siblings separated due to foster, relative or adoptive care and became a professional Santa, which he describes as “the best job in the world.” He is also a Board member for Family Education and Support Services.

Bob and Deanna, also a writer and a partner in the Santa work, have five children, two grandchildren and numerous other young people who are part of their lives. They live in Olympia near Olympia High School.

Mary Ellen Psaltis

Mary Ellen Psaltis eats food every day and loves it. She finds food fascinating, fun and limitless in possibilities. She believes that eating well is a foundation for being well. Mary Ellen speaks and writes in varied venues about making healthy life choices. She is a Certified Nutrition and Wellness Consultant. For the most part she eats in Thurston County, but her travels take her across the globe. Two of her favorite things are cats and chocolate.

Alyssa Ramsfield

Alyssa Ramsfield is a lifetime PNW native. She graduated from The Evergreen State College and earned a Masters in Teaching degree from City University. She has worked as an assignment editor/writer for Northwest Cable News and KING 5 in Seattle, WA. She currently teaches Language Arts and Social Studies in the North Thurston School District. Alyssa and her husband are raising a daughter.

Jessica Reeves-Rush

Jessica Reeves-Rush is a lifelong Washingtonian from Tenino. She is a graduate from the University of Washington with a Bachelor’s in English Literature and an emphasis in history. She spent 16 years in the family’s furniture business and has a strong background in marketing. Her work as a hobby historian landed her an unusual job as clerk of the
Forest Grove Cemetery in Tenino. Jessica is a mother of three and enjoys writing fiction and poetry. She also can’t get enough of the great outdoors and often goes hiking and

camping with her family. Jessica also owns a small farm specializing in dairy goats.

Joe Saladino

Joe Saladino is a local photographer and educator. A Washington Native who grew up in Port Orchard, he holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Family and Consumer Sciences from Central Washington University and a Master’s Degree in Applied Behavioral Science from Bastyr University. After a few years in Minnesota, Joe and his wife moved back to Lacey, her childhood home, so they could both work for Saint Martin’s University.

When not at work, Joe enjoys volunteering his photography skills to the Sounders Supporter’s Group Gorilla FC and other positive community organizations. You can connect with Joe at and view his photography in action.

Douglas Scott

Douglas Scott is nationally recognized outdoors writer, with works appearing in publications all over the country. Born and raised in the Pacific Northwest, his passion for the wilderness of the region spills into everything he does. He is a trail runner, avid hiker and guidebook author, focusing on the Public Lands of America’s West. Douglas strives to share his experiences with like-minded modern adventurers hoping to get to know their own backyards a little better. If there is a question about nature, chances are that Doug will know the answer and a few other quirky and important facts about the region.

Heidi Smith

Heidi is a full-time freelance writer who splits her time between ThurstonTalk, the South Sound Business Examiner and her copywriting business, Classy Copy. After 13 years teaching everything from middle school to community college and an additional ten as a facilitator and trainer, she took the leap into entrepreneurship and hasn’t looked back. For four years she was the editor-in-chief of SuperConsciousness Magazine, which focused on human potential in its many forms. When not conducting interviews, she can be found hiking, cheering on the Seahawks, enjoying her friends, or hanging out with her dogs on a five-acre home off the grid outside Yelm, Washington (probably in her bathrobe).

Alice Verree Tranum

Alice Verree Tranum is the oldest of four children, born and raised in Olympia. While in college she interned for the Palouse Review Literary and Arts Journal in poetry. Alice now resides in Olympia, volunteering as a Japanese tutor at Capital High School and working as an Emergency Substitute for North Thurston Public Schools.

Lynn West

Lynn West and her husband Bryan moved to Olympia from Spokane ten years ago to be closer to their four children and eight grandchildren. Lynn taught English and Education at Spokane Community College for many years, and most recently at South Puget Sound Community College. She enjoys travelling, camping, gardening, and, of course, reading and writing. She manages to squeeze those activities in between soccer games, piano recitals, Irish Dance performances and orchestra concerts. Happy to trade trudging through the snow for walking in the rain with their dog, Percy, Lynn and Bryan especially enjoy the beach at Burfoot Park!

Gail Wood

Gail Wood is an award-winning sportswriter, writing for the Olympian for 23 1/2 years. He’s written for more than 60 publications, including USA Today, Guideposts, Athlon Sports and Family Circle. He met his wife in an interview for a story he was writing.

High School Interns

Ainsley Austin – Avanti High School

Ainsley Austin is a Junior at Avanti High School and is thrilled to be an intern at Thurston Talk. She’s excited to bring a teen’s perspective to the site, especially when it comes to activities ​available for teens. Ainsley is currently serving as the Student Representative for the Olympia School Board and on Olympia’s Teen Library Council.​

​In her spare time she likes being in school and community theater. ​She also enjoys being part of an improv troupe, playing the piano, guitar, and ukulele, and reading.

Brittany Cahill – Timberline High School

Brittany Cahill is a sophomore at Timberline High School and moved to Washington State in 2006. She has been doing Taekwondo for more than eight years and has earned the rank of third degree black belt. Recently, she has been hired as an instructor at the U.S. Martial Arts Center. When she is not at Taekwondo, she’s either doing homework, writing, or sleeping.

Hannah McLeod – Tumwater High School

I’m Hannah, a senior at Tumwater High School. I love to swim and have been competing since age 10. School has always been fun and fairly easy for me, with English as my favorite subject. I am excited to be an intern at Thurston Talk to grow and expand my abilities as a writer while staying in touch with and sharing stories from my community. It also is crazy exciting to have my work published on such a well known and widely read platform. I love animals (especially my two dogs and two cats), I love to read, I’m passionate about politics (I can’t wait to vote), my biggest inspirations are Michelle Obama and my best friend Liv, my favorite social media is Snapchat, pizza is a food I can’t survive without, I will one day marry Harry Styles and I’m so grateful to have the opportunity to be a part of this team.

Maddi McElroy – Capital High School

I’m Maddi McElroy and am currently a senior at Capital High School. I’m excited to be an intern for ThurstonTalk this year. I am the editor and chief for Outlook newspaper at Capital. This year I hope to continue enhancing my writing through telling different stories here at ThurstonTalk. Outside of school I like creative writing and spending time with my friends. I also enjoy makeup and keeping up with my favorite Netflix shows.

Sarah Darilek – Tumwater High School

Sarah Darilek, a life-long Thurston County resident, is currently a junior at Tumwater High School. She volunteers and plays violin at both her church and school. In her spare time, she enjoys trying plant-based recipes, reading poetry and biking with her family. Sarah is passionate about learning, especially through reading books, and hopes that others would be able to learn about new things through her writing.​

Maleah Upah – Olympia High School

Maleah Upah is a junior at Olympia High School. She is excited to be a intern for ThurstonTalk so that she can write and share stories with members of her community. She is also excited to improve her writing and learn everything she can from her time as an intern. Currently Maleah is an editor at her school news paper, the Olympus. She loves acting and is a part of a local teen improv troupe. She also enjoys painting, dance and studying environmental sciences.