2019 Board Candidate Biographies

Running for a First Term:

Paul DeBell

Paul DeBell is an Assistant Professor of Political Science at Fort Lewis College, where he specializes in political psychology and comparative politics. Specifically, Paul studies democratic backsliding – the usually gradual undermining of the institutions and rights that rule by the people requires. His dissertation focused on the dismantling of democracy in Hungary, and over many years studying and living in that country, he witnessed the systematic destruction of their democratic institutions. Today the USA demonstrates many textbook markers of democratic backslide, from extreme polarization, to attacks on individual rights and the independent media, to predatory rhetoric against vulnerable populations. What excites Paul most about serving on the ACLU board is the organization’s unwavering commitment to defending the rights and dignities of the most marginalized in society. These groups often disproportionately suffer during democratic backsliding, both because they depend upon the protection of rights the most and because they are often targeted as scapegoats. That is why at Fort Lewis Paul spearheads political engagement efforts both in the classroom and through a series of events targeted at helping students of all backgrounds and political inclinations realize how vital their voices are to making democracy work. Paul is grateful for the opportunity to work with the ACLU to continue advocating for the rights of all Americans, as this is the surest way to defend our democracy.

Paul earned his PhD in Political Science from the Ohio State University and his BA from the College of William and Mary, where he studied government, philosophy, and Russian. He lives in Durango with his husband and their two dogs, and is excited to work to increase connections between the state ACLU organization and communities on the Western Slope and in the Four Corners region.

Alexi Freeman

Alexi Freeman has a distinguished record working alongside low-income communities and communities of color as a racial justice and legal advocate. She currently serves as Associate Professor of the Practice and Director of Externships and Public Interest Initiative at the University of Denver Sturm College of Law. At Denver Law, Freeman teaches a range of social justice lawyering courses and leads efforts to build the next generation of public interest and social justice advocates. Prior to joining Denver Law, Freeman worked as an attorney at Advancement Project, a national civil rights group, where she assisted grassroots organizations across the country on social justice advocacy campaigns around education and juvenile justice policy, housing, and voting rights issues. Freeman continues to support grassroots communities and social justice movements pro bono. She is a member of the National Association of Pro Bono Professionals and serves on the Board of Governors for the Society of American Law Teachers, which is a community of progressive law teachers working for justice, diversity, and academic excellence. Freeman is a graduate of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and Harvard Law School. While at Harvard Law, she was recognized for her work in public interest law and her leadership on campus. She first became interested in issues of racial and social justice as a child growing up in an interracial and interfaith family. She is now the proud mother of two children and spends her weekends at ballet class, gymnastics practice, and baseball and basketball games.

Velveta Golightly-Howell

Velveta Golightly-Howell uses her skills, knowledge and talents to effect change.  A committed Civil Rights, Social Justice, and Equal Opportunity advocate, for all, Velveta most recently served as Director of Civil Rights for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).  An appointee of former Administrator Gina McCarthy, Velveta led EPA’s national Civil Rights operations.  Before then, Tom Perez, former Director, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Office for Civil Rights (HHS/OCR), appointed her to lead HHS’ Civil Rights and HIPAA operations in the Rocky Mountain Region.  She previously served as Chief Regional Civil Rights Attorney for HHS’ Rocky Mountain Region.

Velveta founded the Colorado Chapter of the National Association of Black Women Attorneys (NABWA), to provide diverse law students mentoring, employment opportunities, training, and judicial internships.  She also served on the Colorado Supreme Court ad hoc Diversity in the Law Committee; Colorado Bar Association Steering Committee on Minorities in the Law; Commission on Judicial Performance, Second Judicial District; University of Colorado (CU) law school’s Health Law Advisory Committee; Colorado Blue Ribbon Healthcare Reform Commission Vulnerable Populations Task Force; Victim Assistance Law Enforcement Board, Second Judicial District; and Robert Wood Johnson Turning Point Initiative.  She earned a Juris Doctorate from a Master’s in Public Administration from CU. Velveta is happily married and the proud mother of two adult sons.

Running for a Second Term:

John Carlson

John Carlson is an appellate and post-conviction lawyer in private practice, having recently left the Federal Public Defender, in Denver, where he spent more than 15 years. Primarily, he represents defendants on Oklahoma’s death row. He also handles non-capital, habeas-corpus cases arising from the six states of the Tenth Circuit, plus direct appeals in both federal and state courts. Whatever its source, his work immerses him in the rights protected by the Constitution, from free-exercise-of-religion cases under the First Amendment to search-and-seizure cases under the Fourth Amendment to cruel-and-unusual-punishment cases under the Eighth Amendment. Before moving to Colorado, John was a lawyer on the Navajo Indian Reservation in the Four Corners region, where he represented both the Navajo Nation and individual tribal members in state, federal, and tribal courts. He lives in Boulder and is married to a professor at the University of Colorado. They have a teenage daughter.

Laurie Steuri

Laurie Steuri is a retired corporate communications executive who recently (7 years ago) returned to live in the state of her birth. She has been active supporter of several non-profits with overlapping priorities with ACLU, including Human Rights Campaign, Southern Colorado AIDS project and Planned Parenthood. She served for six years on the board of Planned Parenthood Southwest Ohio (PPSWO), the final two years as Chair. The PPSWO work was particular challenging as this affiliate operated in one of the most conservative regions in the network and was frequently a target of harassment lawsuits by anti-abortion groups. As the mother of a gay daughter and sister of a gay brother she also brings some understanding of the challenges faced by the LGBT community. Laurie earned her BSc (Chemical Engineer) and MBA from the University of Colorado. She is delighted to be living in Colorado again after a 30 year absence. Having lived in the Midwest, east coast and Europe during her professional life, she gained a new appreciation for what our State offers and is motivated to improve it through working with the ACLU.