who we are

Our Team

Founder and chair

Ellen Brown, J.D., developed her research skills as an attorney practicing civil litigation in Los Angeles. She is the author of 12 books, including the groundbreaking Web of Debt and The Public Bank Solution. The latter traces the history and evolution of the current private banking system, showing how it usurped the power to create money from the public, and how the people can take that power back through public banks that operate in the public interest. Ellen’s 300+ articles are posted at EllenBrown.com. She also co-hosts the podcast “It’s Our Money” on PRN.FM and podbean. She is a Fellow of the Democracy Collaborative and has degrees from UC Berkeley and UCLA School of Law.

board member

An adoption social worker by profession, Nichoe has spent much of her life in environmental, civil rights and economic justice work. In 2011, she helped form WeArePeopleHere! whose mission was to seek an antidote to plutocracy. In 2012 Nichoe introduced public banking to New Mexico to regain dignity, hope, and economic democracy at the local level. She helped found Banking on New Mexico, which hosted an international public banking symposium in Santa Fe in September 2014. Nichoe served on the Executive committee of that BonNM, and coordinated the “Brass Tacks Team” which did technical research to ground public banking in facts and data. The efforts of Nichoe and others led the City of Santa Fe to commission a public bank feasibility study in 2015. She joined the Board of the Public Banking Institute in 2015.

board member

Carlos is an accomplished community organizer, union leader, and postal worker. He is a founding team member of Public Bank LA, and PBLA’s Director of Community Organizing. In 2017, Carlos was central to organizing with Ellen Brown and Suzanne O’Keeffe the Bring On the Power of a Public Bank town hall forum in Los Angeles that significantly catalyzed Los Angeles’ public bank movement. In 2011, Carlos initiated Occupy Fights Foreclosures which led the fight for families working to save their homes from predatory banks. He currently serves as National Director of Food for Health Programs at AIDS Healthcare Foundation.

Board Member

Cate is a 2022 graduate of Harvard Law School with a background in state policy work. Prior to attending law school, she worked as the Chief of Staff to a Massachusetts State Representative and has additional experience working with both political campaigns and advocacy organizations. She discovered public banking in law school during her studies of monetary law and policy and a semester working with Massachusetts Public Banking. In addition to economic justice, she is also passionate about the arts, holds a BA in Studio Art from Boston College, and is a practicing artist in her spare time. She recently relocated back to her home state of Oregon, and currently lives in Eugene.

Board Member

Madeline is a grassroots community organizer and former Field Organizer for Bernie Sanders in Los Angeles County and Queens, New York. Inspired to action by Black Lives Matter and Standing Rock, she became deeply involved in movement organizing in 2016 and hasn’t looked back. After returning from the frontlines in 2017, she was a core organizer for Divestment and Public Banking in Los Angeles. As Community Outreach Director for the Measure B campaign and Surprise Lobby Lead for AB 857, she has utilized direct action, lobbying, and the legislative process to redirect banking power for the people. In addition to her work on behalf of public banking in California, she has been an organizer with many people-centered movements including Medicare For All and StandingRock. During the outbreak of Covid-19 she lived as a frontline volunteer with The Dandelion Collective. She is currently working in collaboration with the Governor’s Office and UCLA on Covid recovery in California’s most underserved communities and recently relocated to Portland, Oregon to be closer to family and nature.

Chair Emeritus, Senior Advisor

Walt McRee has held leadership roles with PBI since its earliest years including as Chair and President (2015-2017), Board Director and in his continuing role as Senior Advisor. He co-founded and helps direct other public banking initiatives including the Pennsylvania Project and Banking On New Jersey. Walt produces and co-hosts the radio podcast “It’s Our Money with Ellen Brown” on the Progressive Radio Network as well as hosts the “Public Bank Solution” online TV series. Following his time as PBI Chair, Walt became president of Public Banking Associates, a national consultancy of public banking experts helping legislators and policy professionals address creation of their own public banks. Along with a career in media as a performing artist, entrepreneur and strategist, Walt has held leadership positions in a variety of public interest issues including world hunger, the environment, public broadcasting and the arts. He holds a BA in Philosophy and Geography from Valparaiso University.

Engagement & Support Director, Charitable Giving Coordinator

Cimbria has an MBA in Managing for Sustainability, and is a certified permaculture designer and trainer. Based in Central NY, Cimbria serves as a consultant and coach for individuals and companies who are interested in streamlining their systems, and creating pathways to thriving. Her model for life rests on the permaculture principles as a framework, and integrates financial permaculture, dynamic governance and the practice of Buddhism. Cimbria sees the Public Banking Institute as illustrating many aspects of financial permaculture. It is a grass-root organization helping to create a stakeholder-guided model of exchange which supports economic growth for all.

Communications Director

Suzanne came to PBI after many years as a public banking and homeowner advocate in Los Angeles following the financial crash. In 2017, Suzanne organized with Ellen Brown and Carlos Marroquin the Bring On the Power of a Public Bank town hall forum that significantly catalyzed Los Angeles’ public bank movement. Over her career, she has been Director of Marketing and Public Relations for non-profit arts organizations, an independent web developer, filmmaker, media consultant, and a core team member of influential grassroots organizations. She holds a masters in professional writing from Carnegie Mellon, a digital media certificate from Vancouver Film School, and BS in biology / psychology from Allegheny College.

In Memoriam

board member

Dennis Ortblad served in the U.S. Foreign Service as a diplomat in overseas postings in Germany, Japan, Poland, the Philippines, and Switzerland for over 25 years before returning to his home in Seattle. Prior to the Foreign Service, he worked as a university instructor in Germany and North Africa. As an embassy counselor for Economic and Financial Affairs, he learned the importance of publicly owned banks in Germany and Japan for strengthening economic development. For this reason, after retirement, he engaged in promoting efforts to establish public banks back home in Washington state and Seattle city.

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