Joan Mooney, President & Chief Executive Officer

Joan Mooney has been actively engaged with The Faith & Politics Institute since 1997, participating in its Congressional Chief of Staff reflection groups, annual retreats, forums, and events including the highly respected civil rights pilgrimages to Alabama. She brings over 25 years of leadership experience with both the executive and legislative branches of the federal government to The Faith & Politics Institute.

President Barack Obama nominated Mooney in May 2009 to serve as Assistant Secretary for Congressional and Legislative Affairs for the Department of Veterans Affairs. Following Senate confirmation, Mooney served in the position until 2014. As the daughter of a veteran who died from cancer that was related to his service, she continues her advocacy for veterans to this day. In January 2009, Mooney served as House Director of Congressional Affairs for the Presidential Inaugural Committee, the largest presidential inaugural in American history. In 1987, Mooney began her Hill career in the Washington office of Illinois Congressman Terry Bruce, ultimately leading that office as a director. Mooney later finished her congressional service as Oregon Congresswoman Darlene Hooley’s chief of staff for her entire tenure, 1997-2009. 


A California native, Sal Abdulla joined The Faith & Politics Institute in September 2016. Prior to joining the Institute, Abdulla spent three years helping build two separate startups in the Middle East most recently as deputy chief financial officer at Yemen Cable TV, the first subscription television network to operate in Yemen. From 2013 to 2014, he was the head of finance and administration at HRTC, a rapidly growing oil and gas drilling company operating in Yemen. Sal has worked on political digital and direct marketing teams and began his work in politics in the office of Congressman Dennis Cardoza, a retired member from California’s Central Valley.

Abdulla received a bachelor’s degree with honors in philosophy and religious studies from the University of California, where he was the recipient of the Walter H. Capps Memorial Award for academic achievement in the study of religion and public life. He served for nearly five years as a volunteer firefighter in his home state of California.


Nelson Watkins joined the Faith & Politics Institute in 2002 as the office manager and has held several key positions during his tenure. He currently serves as director of congressional relations. Prior to joining the Institute, he worked in an management capacity for a Georgetown estate for a number of years. Earlier in his career, he was assistant payroll manager for a large hospital, and a night auditor and assistant office manager in the Alabama state government. 

Watkins graduated from Faulkner University in Alabama where he earned his ASBA in business administration in 1987. In Watkins’s spare time, he serves as associate minister at the Metropolitan Baptist Church in Largo, Maryland, the assistant director of the Charles S. Whitted New Disciples Ministry, and chaplain for the Pray Until Something Happens (PUSH) Ministry.


Britney Lomax joined The Faith & Politics Institute team in March 2016, bringing with her broad experience from her work on several political and advocacy campaigns. Most recently, Lomax served as the regional field and outreach director for the Chris Van Hollen for Senate campaign. Prior to the campaign, she was a program and policy analyst in Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley’s Office for Children, where she provided grant and program technical assistance to 24 local management boards. Lomax also has legislative experience, having served as a legislative aide in Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake’s legislative office and as an intern in Congressman Tim Ryan’s congressional office.


Charles Tuggle joined The Faith & Politics Institute staff in October 2016. He moved to Washington after earning his master’s degree in religion from Yale Divinity School in May 2016 and worked briefly on various political and non-profit events before joining the Institute.  While completing his graduate studies, Tuggle worked at the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Archive, reported for Yale Sports Publicity, and assisted research projects at the Institute for Social Policy and Studies. Prior to his time at Yale Divinity School, he worked as an analyst and account manager at BlitzLocal, a social media marketing and analytics startup. In May 2010, Charles graduated from Lewis & Clark College in Portland, Oregon.