The Rural Assembly Team

Whitney Kimball Coe

Director of National Programs

Whitney Kimball Coe is the director of National Programs at the Center for Rural Strategies. In that role, she leads the Rural Assembly, a nationwide movement striving to build better policy and more opportunity for rural communities across the country. As an organizer, speaker, moderator, and writer, Whitney has shared her perspectives on community and civic courage with audiences around the world. She has been featured on stage at the Aspen Ideas Festival and the inaugural Obama Foundation Summit, and as a guest on the radio program On Being with Krista Tippett. She writes a regular column for her local newspaper, the Daily Post Athenian, and has participated in Citizen University’s Civic Saturday Fellowship program. She holds a M.A. in Appalachian studies from Appalachian State University and an undergraduate degree in religion and philosophy from Queens University. She lives in her hometown of Athens, Tennessee with her husband Matt, and daughters, Lucy and Susannah.

Tyler Owens

Tyler Owens

Program Associate

Tyler Owens (she/her) is from the Gila River Indian Community in Southern Arizona where she was born and raised. Owens currently attends Chandler-Gilbert Community College where she is studying Finance. Prior to joining the Rural Assembly, Owens worked with the National Congress of American Indians where she took on various roles, such as: Membership Coordinator, Youth Program Associate, and Administrative Assistance. Since graduating high school, she has had opportunities to grow and learn through internship opportunities with the Department of Justice and the Arizona Coyotes (NHL). As an Afro-Indigenous Latina, she has a strong drive to create a better environment for young people and the communities where she has roots. When she isn’t working Ms. Owens enjoys spending time with her loved ones and playing volleyball.

Tracy Staley

Communications Specialist

Tracy Staley (she/her) lives in Dayton, Ohio, by way of Hazard, Ky. She is a marketing specialist for Great Stories LLC, a digital marketing and advertising company in Kentucky. At the Rural Assembly, Staley works on social media, content, email newsletters, and publicity. Staley has two decades of communications work for newspapers, magazines, companies and nonprofits. When she is not working, Staley enjoys reading, writing, and live music.

Chris Poore

Chris Poore

Digital Production

Chris Poore (he/him) lives in Lexington, Kentucky. Poore is the owner of Great Stories LLC, a digital marketing and advertising company in Kentucky. Poore helps the Rural Assembly with social media, editing and web design and production. Prior to joining the Rural Assembly, Poore was the adviser for the student newspaper at the University of Kentucky and also taught journalism classes. Poore also spent a decade at a reporter and editor for the Lexington Herald-Leader in Kentucky and the Ledger-Enquirer in Georgia. When Poore isn’t working, he enjoys fishing, reading, writing and taking very long walks.

Kim Phinney

Fellow, Center for Rural Strategies

Kim Phinney is a Senior Fellow with the Center for Rural Strategies. Previously she was the Vice President of Program Design for YouthBuild USA. In this position, she collaborated with senior leaders to craft  the organization’s strategic direction as well as led the overall design and implementation of TA, training, and organizational learning across education, career pathways, and life skills for rural, Native, and urban programs across the country. Kim joined YouthBuild USA in 2001 to design a national initiative to create and strengthen education and career pathways for rural and Native Opportunity Youth. She served as the senior director of Rural and Native Initiatives, overseeing technical assistance and training to the national field of over 70 rural and Native YouthBuild programs. Across these roles, Kim works on a broad range of policy issues related to rural and Native youth and their communities.

Anna Claussen coordinator of the Rural Connectors with the Rural Assembly

Anna Claussen

Partner, Rural Connectors Program

Anna Claussen is a photographer, community place-maker, policy and social strategist. She bridges years of practice in urban design and sustainable agriculture policy with a life deeply rooted on a Minnesota family farm. Anna founded Voices for Rural Resilience, a collective of rural leaders who embrace a portfolio of empathy building tools to create a reality where rural people are heard, feel moved and take the lead in our collective fight against climate change. She was recently chosen as a 2017-18 Nathan Cummings Foundation Fellow. Prior, Anna was the Director of Rural Strategies at the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy (IATP), a non-profit working locally and globally pursuing cutting edge solutions that benefit family farmers, rural communities, and the planet. Over the last two decades, Anna has focused on creating resilient communities through the design and vision of alternative land-use plans; by advancing market solutions within the emerging bio-based economy; by sitting in tough spaces, wrestling with problems, and believing in the humanity of all people. 


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