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. Follow their adventures on Facebook and Instagram.

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

Jess Caldwell

Professional Rewilder | Founder of Wildkind Academy 

With 20 years of local engagement, volunteering, working and recreating in Thurston County, Jess brings her love for people, storytelling and profound connection to nature to the ThurstonTalk community. As both a content writer and Pacific Northwest Outdoor & Adventure Influencer who shares her journey of hunting, fishing, foraging and nature engagement through her weekly Field Notes Blog, Jess has partnered with NorthAmericanTalk to bring our state-wide audiences live coverage from the field. From outdoor adventures to local treasures Jess Caldwell is trailblazer for sharing the many gifts of Washington State through our media outlets.

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.

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.

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.

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.”

Jerica Pender

20 years ago Jerica marched into the publisher’s office of a small press and begged for a spot at a desk. She said she’d work for free, just to be around words and their wordsmiths. Jerica was shocked when the publisher was willing to pay – as trading words for money had been a dream of hers since childhood. Jerica is a freelance writer and content marketer. Nowadays she can usually be found telling stories for ThurstonTalk and OLY ARTS. She also runs a one-woman marketing firm assisting small businesses in sharing their stories with the world.

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.

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.

Rebecca Sanchez

Rebecca is a Pacific Northwest native who thrives on traveling and exploring historical locations, funky restaurants, independent bookstores and any great hike that includes dogs. She has covered 37 states and British Columbia looking for adventurous writing and photography opportunities to add to her blog. As a writing instructor, Rebecca has been guiding students through fiction writing, poetry structures and the various essay forms for fifteen years. She has a bachelor’s degree in secondary education emphasizing English composition and a master’s degree in language and literacy.

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.