Mary Ellen Russell
Mary Ellen Russell was appointed Executive Director of the Maryland Catholic Conference in November 2008. The Conference represents the public-policy interests of the Catholic (arch)dioceses serving Maryland, which include the Archdiocese of Baltimore, the Archdiocese of Washington, and the Diocese of Wilmington. Mrs. Russell has also served as an associate director and deputy director of the Conference since joining the staff in 1995, focusing primarily on coordinating legislative advocacy efforts affecting Maryland’s Catholic and other nonpublic schools.
Mrs. Russell is a member of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) Ad Hoc Committee on Religious Liberty, a board member of Maryland Citizens Against State Executions, and past co-chair of the Maryland State Superintendent’s Nonpublic Schools Workgroup. Mrs. Russell also worked for several years as Assistant Secretary for Parental Advocacy at the USCCB.
Mrs. Russell holds an M.A. in Liberal Arts from St. John’s College, Annapolis, and a B.A. in English from Boston College. She and her husband live in Annapolis, where they have raised four sons. Her husband is a permanent deacon in the Archdiocese of Baltimore, and serves at the Catholic Community of South Baltimore.
Nancy E. Paltell, Ph.D.
Associate Director, Respect for Life
Dr. Paltell serves as the Associate Director for Respect for Life at the Maryland Catholic Conference. She is a native of Springfield, Massachusetts and a graduate of Worcester Polytechnic Institute in Worcester, Massachusetts. Her Ph.D. in analytical chemistry was earned at Iowa State University.
Prior to joining the Conference, Dr. Paltell was employed as a senior research scientist at the Procter & Gamble Company, in Cincinnati, Ohio for 10 years and in Hunt Valley, Maryland for four years. When she moved to Maryland in 1998, she became active in the pro-life committee at her parish, the Catholic Community of St. Francis Xavier in Hunt Valley. In 2000, she was named chair of that committee and began to focus on pro-life political advocacy as a way to contribute to Maryland’s respect life efforts. She began to collaborate with the Conference and Mrs. Patricia Kelly. Upon Mrs. Kelly’s retirement in 2001, Dr. Paltell accepted a full-time position at the Conference.
Chris Ross, J.D.
Associate Director, Social Concerns
Chris Ross serves as the Associate Director of Social Concerns. He advocates for economic and social justice policies which protect the poor and respect each individual’s inherent human dignity.
Mr. Ross became involved in Maryland politics in 2006 when he served as campaign manager for successful primary and general campaigns. He then assisted in advocacy efforts for both early childhood education and the Earned Income Tax Credit. He worked as a legislative aide during the 2011 session.
Mr. Ross earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in political science from Loyola University Maryland and a Juris Doctor from the University of Maryland School of Law.
Kathy Dempsey has been working in Washington, DC and Maryland in the areas of government, public policy, communications and the Catholic Church since graduating from The University of Texas in 1987 with a Bachelor of Arts degree in government relations. Prior to joining the Maryland Catholic Conference in June 2010, Mrs. Dempsey worked several years for the Archdiocese of Washington in the communications office and also oversaw public relations and marketing for the Catholic schools.
Mrs. Dempsey began her career on Capitol Hill and also served in the executive branch. Moving from government to the Catholic Church, she then spent a number of years with the Washington Theological Union before working for the Archdiocese.
Communications & Outreach Coordinator
Mariann Hughes has worked as Communications & Outreach Coordinator at the Maryland Catholic Conference since September 2011. She graduated in 2007 with a Bachelor of Arts in Communications Journalism from Franciscan University in Steubenville, Ohio. Her background includes television and print news, publishing and communications.
Prior to the Conference, Ms. Hughes worked as a designer at a Virginia newspaper, and then as a communications associate at the Diocese of Arlington, Virginia. She grew up in Michigan before attending Franciscan University.