The Maryland Catholic Conference has turned to one of its own in its search for a new leader.
The conference announced Wednesday that Jennifer Briemann will succeed Mary Ellen Russell as executive director in June. Briemann currently serves as the conference’s deputy director, and brings more than 15 years in nonprofit and corporate lobbying experience to the new position.
Russell has been executive director since 2008, and began working at the conference as associate director for education in 1995.
“We are grateful to Mary Ellen for her many years of service and for all she has done to establish the Maryland Catholic Conference as one of the premier advocacy organizations in Annapolis,” Archbishop William E. Lori, chairman of the conference’s Board of Governors and Archbishop of Baltimore, said in a statement.
“Looking forward, it’s exciting to contemplate the success I am confident Jennifer will accomplish as the new leader of the Conference. Her deep commitment to her faith and the Church, coupled with her extraordinary professional skills, will be a tremendous asset to the work of the Conference.”
Briemann, who joined the Catholic Conference in August 2016, has also lobbied for pharmaceutical companies Bristol-Myers Squibb, AbbVie and Abbott Laboratories, and for the National Rifle Association, according to her LinkedIn page.
She has a BA from Salisbury University and a law degree from the George Mason University Antonin Scalia School of Law.
Under Russell’s tenure, the conference has successfully advanced a number of initiatives, including the creation of the Nonpublic Schools Textbook and Technology Loan and Aging Schools programs and the BOOST scholarship program for low-income students.
The conference helped pass the DREAM Act, providing immigrant students access to higher education, worked to repeal the state’s death penalty, and pushed for bills to increase the state’s minimum wage and provide sick leave to all workers.
Mary Ellen Russell
The conference has also worked with disability groups and other stakeholders to successfully defeat legislation to legalize physician-assisted suicide for the past three years, and to protect religious institutions and health care providers who do not wish to participate in practices that violate their religious beliefs.
“One of the greatest challenges and advantages of promoting the Church’s agenda in the public square is the fact that we can’t be pigeon-holed into a partisan approach to issues,” Russell said in a statement. “As a result, we have alliances with just about every member of the Maryland General Assembly on one issue or another, and we cherish each of those relationships.”
The conference said that Russell will continue to pursue her interest in supporting the efforts of the church to minister to disadvantaged communities, particularly in Baltimore city.