On January 6, Georgia Watch Executive Director Elena Parent announced she is running for the open Senate District 42 seat. Following the policy of the board of directors, during the period of her campaign for office, Liz Coyle will serve as Acting Executive Director effective January 29, 2014, until the election is resolved. Elena will retain an advisory role with the organization during the campaign.
Founded in 2002, Georgia Watch is a non-profit, nonpartisan 501-(c)(3) organization working through advocacy and education to give consumers a fair shake in the areas of consumer energy, healthcare, access to civil justice and personal finance. As a tax-exempt organization, Georgia Watch does not engage in partisan political activity. No organization resources are used in connection with political campaign activities in support of or in opposition to any candidates for public office.
Elena Parent, J.D., Executive Director
Elena Parent joined Georgia Watch as executive director in June 2012. From January 2011 through December 2012, Elena represented the North DeKalb County communities in District 81 at the Georgia General Assembly.
Elena was raised in Alexandria, Virginia, where she attended public schools and graduated from T.C. Williams High School. Elena received her Bachelor of Arts in Psychology with Highest Distinction from the University of Virginia in 1998 and was initiated into Phi Beta Kappa. She earned her law degree from the University of Virginia School of Law in 2002, where she served as Symposium Editor for the Virginia Journal of Social Policy and the Law. Elena practiced as a litigator at Atlanta law firm Sutherland Asbill & Brennan LLP from 2002 through 2008. In 2009, she served as the Chief of Staff to State Senator David Adelman, now the United States Ambassador to Singapore, and assisted HOPE Atlanta, a prevention of homelessness non-profit, with development and fundraising.
In 2011, Elena was the recipient of the Fulton County Daily Report’s “On the Rise” award, and also a member of the Atlanta Business Chronicle’s “40 Under 40.” Elena serves on the Georgia Association of Women Lawyers’ Foundation Board and is a member of the Advisory Board of Directors of It’s The Journey, Inc., the organization that produces the Atlanta Two-Day Walk for Breast Cancer. She has served on the Women and Minorities in the Profession Committee of the State Bar of Georgia. In June, she was presented the 2012 Environmental Leadership Award from Georgia Conservation Voters, a non-partisan organization dedicated to preserving and enhancing the quality of life of all Georgians by making conservation issues a top priority with Georgia’s elected officials, political candidates and voters.
Elena is married to Briley Brisendine, an Associate General Counsel at The Home Depot, Inc. They became proud parents with the birth of their son, Brooks, in February 2010. Their second son, Reid, was born in December 2012. They are members of All Saints’ Episcopal Church in Atlanta.
Liz Coyle, Acting Executive Director & Consumer Energy Program Director
Liz Coyle joined the team at Georgia Watch in February 2012. Born in New York City but raised in Atlanta, she graduated from the University of Virginia with a B.A. in Comparative Literature. She brings to her position nearly 30 years of experience as a communications professional and grassroots advocate. Since 1984, she has consulted with a broad spectrum of organizations including multi-national consumer products companies, public utilities, non-profit associations, and local governments. Previously, she was director of community education for PEDS, a nonprofit advocacy organization dedicated to making metro Atlanta safe and accessible for all pedestrians.
A champion of community causes, Liz has served in numerous volunteer roles as a neighborhood leader and advocate for children. She is a past president of the Council of Intown Neighborhoods and Schools (CINS), where she worked to foster the development of safe, quality education in Atlanta Public Schools, helping to secure resources, identify critical issues, and seek solutions to problems. Currently, Liz is chairman of the Historic Fourth Ward Park Conservancy board. Additionally, she serves on the F.R.E.S.H. (Fulton Roundtable Expanded Service Headquarters) Community Advisory Board for Fulton County District 6.
From the early days of its inception, Liz has been a follower and supporter of the Atlanta BeltLine. She is a founding member and chair of the BeltLine Network, an alliance of organizations including Park Pride, Georgia Stand-up, Concerned Black Clergy, Trees Atlanta, Georgia Conservancy, Community Housing Resource Center, AHAND, Georgia Trust for Historic Preservation, and Sierra Club, all working to ensure the BeltLine lives up to its vision to connect Atlanta and its citizens through transit, trails, parks and economic development. Additionally, Liz was the citizen representative on the board of directors of Atlanta BeltLine, Inc. from September 2006 to August 2009.
Liz lives in Atlanta with her two sons, Grant and Dylan, and her “daughter,” beloved 13-year old beagle, Penny.
Karla Johnson, Director of Community Education
Karla Johnson is the Director of Community Education for Georgia Watch, a statewide consumer advocacy organization. Karla earned a Bachelor of Arts in Communication from Clayton State University. Before joining Georgia Watch, she worked for the state of Georgia for ten years, seven of which were at the legislature. Karla’s extensive experience working with legislators, constituents and advocacy groups greatly informs her effectiveness as a consumer advocate.
In her current position, Karla works to empower consumers in the areas of healthcare, personal finance and consumer energy. As a Licensed Healthcare Navigator, Karla educates consumers about the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA) and has contributed tremendously to enrolling Georgians through healthcare.gov, the federal health insurance marketplace website. She has been interviewed by national, state and local TV and print media regarding the ACA. Additionally, Karla spearheads the personal finance program, conducting workshops and seminars about financial literacy. Karla presents workshops to teach consumers how to build wealth, grow assets and avoid predatory products, such as payday lending. Karla serves on the Georgia Lupus Advocacy Board and is a member of Leadership Georgia, Class of 2012.
Beth Stephens, J.D., Health Access Program Director
Beth Stephens is the Health Access Program Director at Georgia Watch where she works to ensure and expand access to safe and affordable health care for all Georgians through consumer education, policy development and advocacy.
Prior to joining the Georgia Watch team, Beth was an attorney in the Health Law Unit at the Atlanta Legal Aid Society, Inc. where she represented low-income Georgians in a variety of civil legal matters, including employment, Medicaid, Social Security, private insurance coverage, contract disputes, public and private housing, disability discrimination claims and estate planning.
Beth received a J.D. (magna cum laude) from the University of the District of Columbia David A. Clarke School of Law (UDC-DCSL) and a B.A. in English and Political Science from Emory University. At UDC-DCSL, Beth received the LeClercq Award for legal writing and served on the Law Review Editorial Board. She was a Merit Scholarship recipient and the President of her law school’s chapter of Phi Alpha Delta Law Fraternity International.
Beth currently serves as the Chair of the Public Interest Law Section of the Atlanta Bar Association. She is also a member of the Emory Lamar Inn of Court and the Women in the Profession Section of the Atlanta Bar Association. She is a former board member of the Georgia Association for Women Lawyers.