ThurstonTalk Team

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


Dan Jones, CEO, Founder, dan.jones@thurstontalk.com

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.

Stephen Backholm, VP of Technology, stephen@thurstontalk.com

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 and mountain trail with her Gypsy mare, Merida.

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 submit@thurstontalk.com.

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 sales@thurstontalk.com.


To contact a ThurstonTalk writer, please send an email to submit@thurstontalk.com

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

Crystal Mazzuca

Crystal has lived in Olympia since 2007. A single mom of three boys, she teaches PE, Music, Drama, Speech and Debate, and Yearbook at Cornerstone Christian school. She has always been passionate about writing and even published a young adult novel. Her favorite types of articles to write are those that center around charitable work, people, and organizations right here in Thurston County.

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.

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 writes history articles for Thurston Talk and writes about a bunch of other less exciting stuff over at Olympia Time olympiatime.com). He also hosts a terribly boring podcast about local politics at the Olympia Standard (olympiastandard.com). He is a former trustee at the Timberland Regional Library, a father of three and an entirely mediocre recreational soccer player, but also “a good sport.”

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.

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).

Molly Walsh

Molly Walsh has been a resident of Olympia since 2013.  After finishing the Running Start program at South Puget Sound Community College, she attended The Evergreen State College, where she studied visual and performing arts and ultimately discovered her true passion in writing and photography. You can usually find Molly traveling around the Pacific Northwest, photographing and chronicling the world around her. Molly loves connecting with others and telling stories with both words and photographs and can’t wait to chronicle local businesses for ThurstonTalk. You can find Molly’s photography at www.mollywphoto.com.

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.