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Program Evaluation Division Staff Bios

Kiernan McGorty, J.D., Ph.D., Acting Director

Kiernan joined the Program Evaluation Division in November 2007. She was named Acting Director of PED in September 2020. Kiernan also currently serves as Counsel to the Joint Legislative Program Evaluation Oversight Committee and manages the Division's Measurability Assessment program. She is Secretary and Chair of the Professional Development Subcommittee of the National Legislative Program Evaluation Society, and she attended the National Conference of State Legislatures Legislative Staff Management Institute. Kiernan has led evaluations of the Board of Review, Retiree Health Benefit Fund, state-administered funds related to fire, rescue, and EMS departments, the Human Relations Commission and Civil Rights Division, DMV's oversight of license plate agencies, the state retirement system, the statewide high school graduation project requirement, and Medicaid's private duty nursing service. Prior to her work at PED, she was a Project Director at the NC Institute of Medicine. She received her Ph.D. in cognitive psychology and her J.D., with a concentration in healthcare law, from the University of Nebraska at Lincoln. Kiernan graduated cum laude from Davidson College with a B.S. in psychology.

Sean Hamel, Principal Program Evaluator

Sean joined the Program Evaluation Division in June of 2008. Since then, he has led evaluations of the historic Stonewall Jackson campus, North Carolina State Ports Authority, school funding dispute resolution, the allotment system for funding K-12 public education, the management of real property, the system for monitoring and preventing the abuse of prescribed controlled substances, management of the state motor fleet, the Indian Cultural Center, the Department of Transportation's Global TransPark Authority, and the Department of Environment and Natural Resources' Underground Storage Tank Program. His previous research experience includes developing, refining, and testing the cost estimation relationships of government systems integration for the Department of Defense's Program Analysis and Evaluation Group. He served as a research affiliate for the Software Engineering Institute in support of the Dynamic Systems work group. He has worked as an instructor in two capacities: as adjunct faculty with the Center for Excellence in Public Leadership at George Washington University and as a teaching assistant of political science courses at North Carolina State University. Sean earned his Masters of Public Administration from North Carolina State University and has earned a B.S. and M.S. from the University of Tennessee.

Current Projects – Road/Highway Construction Contracting (Project Lead), DPS Reorganization.

James D. Horne, Principal Program Evaluator

Jim joined the Program Evaluation Division in January 2012. He was the lead evaluator on projects examining the Department of Transportation's internal audit function, military licensure provisions, the grant application process for stream restorations, allocation of attorneys in state government, the state lottery, the North Carolina Railroad Company, and the State's child support program. Jim has 35 years of state and federal experience with performance audits. Previously, he worked at the Office of the State Auditor for 5 years and, prior to that, he worked at the Air Force Audit Agency for 30 years. Jim began his career as a marketing teacher in Greensboro. He continued teaching as an adjunct accounting instructor at Mount Olive College, Saint Leo College, and North Carolina Wesleyan College for 17 years while working for the Air Force. Jim received an AB in Education from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and a MS in Business Education from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro. Jim is a Certified Public Accountant and a Certified Government Financial Manager.

Current Projects – Sales and Use Tax Administration (Project Lead).

Sara Nienow, Principal Program Evaluator

Sara joined the Program Evaluation Division in May 2013. She has served as lead evaluator for projects addressing the child welfare case management component of NC FAST, child protection screening, the Economic Development Partnership of North Carolina, school nurses, community college funding, the alcohol tax earmark, and the economic development tiers system. Prior to her work at PED, she was an economist with the N.C. Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR). Her work for DENR included the development of fiscal notes for rulemaking actions, program measurement, and budget formation. Prior to her work at DENR, Sara worked for six years as a policy analyst with the North Carolina Department of Commerce. In this position she evaluated tax incentive programs, analyzed the state's creative economy, and assessed the economic impact of the military and other industries. Sara received an M.S. in Agricultural and Applied Economics from Purdue University and has been designated a Certified Community Researcher (CCR) by the Council for Community and Economic Research (C2ER).

Current Projects – Cell Service and Equipment, Sales and Use Tax Administration.

Brent Lucas, Ph.D., Principal Program Evaluator

Brent joined the Program Evaluation Division in May 2013. Since joining PED, he has served as lead evaluator on projects evaluating inmate healthcare, disaster recovery funds, spans of control and organizational layers in state government executive offices, the North Carolina Guaranteed Admissions Program, and overnight respite at adult day care facilities. Prior to joining PED, he was an instructor in political science at North Carolina State University, teaching courses in data analysis, public policy, public administration, and American government and politics. His prior work experience includes serving as a research assistant with the Fiscal Research Division of the North Carolina General Assembly and as a graduate assistant in Institutional Research at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro. Brent completed his Ph.D. in Public Administration at North Carolina State University in May 2014. Brent received an M.P.A. from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro and a B.A. in Government, with a concentration in Public Administration and Policy, from Campbell University.

Current Projects – Teacher Diversity, Disaster Non-Profit Coordination.

Jeff Grimes, Principal Program Evaluator

Jeff joined the Program Evaluation Division in January of 2012. He has led evaluations of the North Carolina Housing Finance Agency, inpatient substance abuse treatment programs, state ownership of submerged land, supplemental insurance benefits for state employees, and disadvantaged school districts that succeed. In his professional career, he has served as a vice president at a community foundation, worked as a consultant to nonprofit and government organizations, and taught environmental science at a university in China. Jeff received a Master of Public Policy from Duke University and graduated cum laude from Allegheny College with a B.S. in Environmental Science and Political Science.

Current Projects – Cell Service and Equipment (Project Lead).

Josh Love, Publications Coordinator/Senior Program Evaluator

Josh joined the Program Evaluation Division in May 2013. Prior to joining PED, he worked for the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission from 2006–2011. He also worked in the circulation department of the Athens Banner-Herald newspaper in Athens, GA from 2002–2006. For ten years he served in a variety of capacities as a freelance journalist for a number of publications, including The News and Observer, Pitchfork, Stylus Magazine, and The Village Voice. He earned an M.S. in information science from UNC-Chapel Hill in 2013 and a B.A. in English from the same institution in 2002. While pursuing his master's degree, Josh served as a research assistant for the Environmental Protection Agency and also worked as a medical library intern for Rex Hospital in Raleigh.

Emily B. McCartha, Ph.D., Senior Program Evaluator

Emily joined the Program Evaluation Division in May 2016. She served as lead evaluator for projects examining Educator Preparation Programs and organizational layers and permit processing in the Department of Environmental Quality. Prior to joining PED, she worked on a research team based out of North Carolina State University that evaluated state-level programs and conducted research on multi-level, intergovernmental interactions on Type I wildfire events. She also served as an instructor at North Carolina State University, teaching undergraduate courses in public policy and American government. She also currently serves as an instructor for the online Master of Public Administration program at The University of North Carolina. Prior to moving to North Carolina, Emily worked for an arts-education nonprofit organization in Austin, Texas. She received her Master of Public Affairs degree from the LBJ School at the University of Texas at Austin and also earned a B.A. in Urban Studies with a concentration in Government from UT-Austin. She completed her PhD in Public Administration at NC State University in May of 2019.

Current Projects – DPS Reorganization (Project Lead).

Adora Thayer, Program Evaluator II

Adora joined the Program Evaluation Division in May 2017. She served as lead evaluator for projects evaluating state-funded educational aid and the State's erosion and stormwater control program. Prior to joining PED, she completed a local government management internship and earned eight years of work experience in bankruptcy law and the federal court system. She received an M.P.A. with a concentration in Public Policy from UNC-Chapel Hill’s School of Government, during which time she served as a research assistant focused on strategic human capital initiatives and professional leadership development. She also earned a B.A. in Political Science with a concentration in History from the University of South Carolina-Aiken.

Current Projects – Disaster Non-Profit Coordination (Project Lead), DPS Reorganization.

Sidney Thomas, J.D., M.P.A, Legal Analyst

Sidney joined the Program Evaluation Division in October 2017. Prior to joining PED, she practiced as a volunteer district attorney in Orange County’s District Attorney’s Office and earned six years of legal experience in several offices handling criminal cases and estates and wills. She received her J.D. and M.P.A. from North Carolina Central. During that time, she served as research assistant for the Public Administration department's chair, focusing on program accreditation and improving the curriculum for dual-degree students. From 2015 to 2017 she served as a state Senate intern. Sidney also earned a B.A. in Political Science with minors in Criminal Justice and Spanish from the University of North Carolina at Pembroke.

Current Projects – Teacher Diversity, Disaster Non-Profit Coordination, Road/Highway Construction Contracting, Sales and Use Tax Administration.

Natalie Garrett, Program Evaluator

Natalie joined the Program Evaluation Division in May of 2019. She concurrently serves as vice president and grant coordinator for a small nonprofit targeting child food insecurity in Wake County. Her previous research experience includes analyzing the economic and social impacts of deep injection disposal wells, investigating streamlining methods for regional hunger alleviation programs, and assessing alternative transportation infrastructure funding strategies for the NC Office of State Budget and Management. Natalie earned her Masters of Public Policy from Duke University in 2017. Previously, she graduated cum laude from the University of North Carolina at Asheville with a B.A. in Economics and a B.S. in Environmental Policy and Management.

Current Projects – Cell Service and Equipment, Road/Highway Construction Contracting.

Jenny Hausman, Program Evaluator

Jenny joined the Program Evaluation Division in May 2019. Prior to joining PED, she worked as a technical content developer for an educational technology company, where she also ran a tutoring program for a local high school. Jenny received a Master of Public Policy with a concentration in social policy from Duke University, during which time she interned for the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction. Jenny also has experience as a math teacher and tutor and received her B.A. from UNC-Chapel Hill.

Current Projects – Teacher Diversity (Project Lead).

Cody Davis, J.D., M.P.A, Program Evaluator

Cody joined the Program Evaluation Division in April 2020. Prior to joining PED, he served as the Wallace Public Service Fellow at the Campbell University School of Law, where he coordinated pro bono and public service opportunities for law students. Cody has also served as a legal intern for the North Carolina General Assembly’s Legislative Analysis Division, the City of Raleigh, and the Office of the Juvenile Defender. His research experience includes evaluating a teen court program, analyzing data on juvenile court jurisdiction and juvenile representation, and researching wellness issues and strategies for the legal profession. Cody received a J.D. from Campbell University School of Law and his M.P.A. and B.A. in Political Science from North Carolina State University.

Current Projects – Teacher Diversity, Cell Service and Equipment.

Allie Jaarsma, Program Evaluator

Allie joined the Program Evaluation Division in May 2020. Prior to joining PED, she spent nine years in various content management roles in the private, public, and nonprofit sectors. Allie earned her Master of Public Policy from Duke University, where her graduate research focused primarily on K-12 education policy and school finance in North Carolina. She also earned a B.A. in Political Economy from the University of California, Berkeley.

Current Projects – Disaster Non-Profit Coordination, Road/Highway Construction Contracting.

Program Evaluation Division, North Carolina General Assembly
Legislative Office Building, Suite 100
300 North Salisbury Street , Raleigh, NC 27603-5925
919-301-1404