Meet the Founding Team

 
Benji Backer, Founder & President Benji is a conservative activist from Appleton, Wisconsin and a freshman at the University of Washington in Seattle. He previously served as the co-chair for Young Americans for Mitt Romney in Wisconsin and was named one of RedAlert's top "30 Under 30" conservatives in 2015. He has contributed to sites such as FreedomWorks, IJReview, RedState, and TheBlaze. Benji has also spoken at events across the country, including CPAC in 2014 and 2016. He currently writes for CNBC.com. In his free time, you can find Benji cheering on his favorite Wisconsin sports teams and enjoying the outdoors through hiking or skiing. Through CFER, Benji is excited to help unite Americans on pro-environmental changes and change the conservative narrative when it comes to the environment. Contact Benji: benji@CFERUSA.org

Benji Backer, Founder & President

Benji is a conservative activist from Appleton, Wisconsin and a freshman at the University of Washington in Seattle. He previously served as the co-chair for Young Americans for Mitt Romney in Wisconsin and was named one of RedAlert's top "30 Under 30" conservatives in 2015.

He has contributed to sites such as FreedomWorks, IJReview, RedState, and TheBlaze. Benji has also spoken at events across the country, including CPAC in 2014 and 2016. He currently writes for CNBC.com.

In his free time, you can find Benji cheering on his favorite Wisconsin sports teams and enjoying the outdoors through hiking or skiing. Through CFER, Benji is excited to help unite Americans on pro-environmental changes and change the conservative narrative when it comes to the environment.

Contact Benji: benji@CFERUSA.org

Matthew Mailloux, Outreach Director Matthew is currently a junior at La Salle University in Philadelphia, PA. Majoring in Marketing and Finance, Matthew leverages his strong business background to champion political activism. Matthew got his start in politics working on gubernatorial campaigns during the 2012 and 2014 elections. Most recently he served as the La Salle campus director for Students for Rubio. Since then, he has focused his efforts on digital and relationship marketing. With CFER, Matthew leverages this experience into creating a vision that engages supporters. Matthew is proud to call New Hampshire home. He is an avid hiker and skier. In his free time, you’re most likely to find Matt listening to Chance the Rapper, reading Malcolm Gladwell, or planning his next weekend trip.

Matthew Mailloux, Outreach Director

Matthew is currently a junior at La Salle University in Philadelphia, PA. Majoring in Marketing and Finance, Matthew leverages his strong business background to champion political activism.

Matthew got his start in politics working on gubernatorial campaigns during the 2012 and 2014 elections. Most recently he served as the La Salle campus director for Students for Rubio. Since then, he has focused his efforts on digital and relationship marketing. With CFER, Matthew leverages this experience into creating a vision that engages supporters.

Matthew is proud to call New Hampshire home. He is an avid hiker and skier. In his free time, you’re most likely to find Matt listening to Chance the Rapper, reading Malcolm Gladwell, or planning his next weekend trip.

Ryder Selmi, Co-Policy Director Ryder is a conservative activist from Conway, New Hampshire who entered politics back in 2012 interning for Mitt Romney’s campaign for President. He brings years of professional political experience, having worked for Governor Rick Perry of Texas, as well as various statewide, federal, and local races over the last four years. Having grown up in the White Mountains of New Hampshire, being conservation minded is a must. Ryder has been a lifelong skier and hiker with a passion for the outdoors. Conservation of National Parks and protecting all of our land and waters is a top priority and he is determined to work towards making conservation a conservative cause through CFER. He will be transferring to Southern New Hampshire University to finish degrees in Homeland Security and Middle Eastern Studies.

Ryder Selmi, Co-Policy Director

Ryder is a conservative activist from Conway, New Hampshire who entered politics back in 2012 interning for Mitt Romney’s campaign for President. He brings years of professional political experience, having worked for Governor Rick Perry of Texas, as well as various statewide, federal, and local races over the last four years.

Having grown up in the White Mountains of New Hampshire, being conservation minded is a must. Ryder has been a lifelong skier and hiker with a passion for the outdoors. Conservation of National Parks and protecting all of our land and waters is a top priority and he is determined to work towards making conservation a conservative cause through CFER.

He will be transferring to Southern New Hampshire University to finish degrees in Homeland Security and Middle Eastern Studies.

Jim Betancourt, Co-Policy Director Jim brings more than 8 years in politics and public policy. He has worked on local and statewide campaigns in Texas. He has assisted members of the House Freedom Caucus and Family Research Council in D.C. Jim earned his Master's degree in Public Administration with an emphasis in Government & Policy from Grand Canyon University and a Bachelor’s degree from Texas State University in Political Science. As policy director, his focus is bringing common sense reforms to environmental issues. As a grandson of a rancher, he understands the importance of protecting our natural resources and small family ranches & farms. He believes that the priorities of CFER are closely linked with America’s national security interests. He currently resides in Austin, Texas with his two dogs. He enjoys a good run, great bbq, hunting and watching his Green Bay Packers.  

Jim Betancourt, Co-Policy Director

Jim brings more than 8 years in politics and public policy. He has worked on local and statewide campaigns in Texas. He has assisted members of the House Freedom Caucus and Family Research Council in D.C. Jim earned his Master's degree in Public Administration with an emphasis in Government & Policy from Grand Canyon University and a Bachelor’s degree from Texas State University in Political Science.

As policy director, his focus is bringing common sense reforms to environmental issues. As a grandson of a rancher, he understands the importance of protecting our natural resources and small family ranches & farms. He believes that the priorities of CFER are closely linked with America’s national security interests.

He currently resides in Austin, Texas with his two dogs. He enjoys a good run, great bbq, hunting and watching his Green Bay Packers.

 

Stephen Perkins, Leadership Development Director Stephen envisions a world where individuals are empowered to fulfill their God-given potential, where people collaborate with others, and where citizens take ownership in the well-being and success of their communities. He believe that a common-sense approach to environmental issues is vital to protecting the Earth that we have inherited from God. He currently serves as the Editor-in-Chief of OUTSET, a digital media network of young and emerging conservative leaders. A senior at the University of Texas at Arlington, Stephen will graduate in 2017 with a degree in political science. Originally from Houston, he now lives and works in the Dallas-Forth Worth metroplex.

Stephen Perkins, Leadership Development Director

Stephen envisions a world where individuals are empowered to fulfill their God-given potential, where people collaborate with others, and where citizens take ownership in the well-being and success of their communities. He believe that a common-sense approach to environmental issues is vital to protecting the Earth that we have inherited from God.

He currently serves as the Editor-in-Chief of OUTSET, a digital media network of young and emerging conservative leaders.

A senior at the University of Texas at Arlington, Stephen will graduate in 2017 with a degree in political science. Originally from Houston, he now lives and works in the Dallas-Forth Worth metroplex.

Nathan Walder, Fundraising Director Nathan currently resides in Iroquois County, Illinois. He served as the Co-Fundraising Director for Draft Biden and on the board of Bring Leadership Back PAC. He also was the founder of Americans for Perry PAC. He will be attending the University of Illinois Springfield this upcoming fall. Nathan has worked on the campaign trail as well, working for U.S. Senator Kirk, among many others.

Nathan Walder, Fundraising Director

Nathan currently resides in Iroquois County, Illinois. He served as the Co-Fundraising Director for Draft Biden and on the board of Bring Leadership Back PAC. He also was the founder of Americans for Perry PAC. He will be attending the University of Illinois Springfield this upcoming fall. Nathan has worked on the campaign trail as well, working for U.S. Senator Kirk, among many others.

Elise Yost, Social Media Director Elise is a junior at the University of North Carolina Wilmington majoring political science and minoring in psychology. On campus, she is a member of Alpha Xi Delta, UNCW Dance Company, and UNCW College Republicans, where she currently serves as their Administrative Vice President. In 2016, Elise joined Future Female Leaders as a contributor and is now one of their cabinet members. She is very passionate about closing the gap between young female voters and the Republican Party. During the summer of 2016, she spent the majority of her time door knocking and phone banking for conservative candidates. Having grown up in Appleton, Wisconsin, Elise is a huge fan of the Green Bay Packers and looks forward to many more Super Bowl victories. In her free time, she can be found dancing, sleeping on Wrightsville Beach, or laughing with her friends and family. 

Elise Yost, Social Media Director

Elise is a junior at the University of North Carolina Wilmington majoring political science and minoring in psychology. On campus, she is a member of Alpha Xi Delta, UNCW Dance Company, and UNCW College Republicans, where she currently serves as their Administrative Vice President.

In 2016, Elise joined Future Female Leaders as a contributor and is now one of their cabinet members. She is very passionate about closing the gap between young female voters and the Republican Party. During the summer of 2016, she spent the majority of her time door knocking and phone banking for conservative candidates.

Having grown up in Appleton, Wisconsin, Elise is a huge fan of the Green Bay Packers and looks forward to many more Super Bowl victories. In her free time, she can be found dancing, sleeping on Wrightsville Beach, or laughing with her friends and family. 

Jonathan Cook, Public Relations Director Jonathan is a college freshman from Mocksville, North Carolina.  Currently in community college, he plans to get his degree in either political science or communications.  He has worked on multiple campaigns, most notably Congressman Ted Budd and North Carolina State Senator Andrew Brock’s.  His experience is largely focused on grassroots and social media strategy. Outside of politics and school, you can find him cheering for the Carolina Panthers, Boston Red Sox, and South Carolina Gamecocks.

Jonathan Cook, Public Relations Director

Jonathan is a college freshman from Mocksville, North Carolina.  Currently in community college, he plans to get his degree in either political science or communications. 

He has worked on multiple campaigns, most notably Congressman Ted Budd and North Carolina State Senator Andrew Brock’s.  His experience is largely focused on grassroots and social media strategy.

Outside of politics and school, you can find him cheering for the Carolina Panthers, Boston Red Sox, and South Carolina Gamecocks.

Eric Lagergren, Digital Strategy Eric is a software engineer from Washington state. Prior entering the technology industry, Eric volunteered for a state representative which sparked his passion for politics. Eric has over four years of grassroots experience running campaigns, working for independent expenditures, and serving on the executive boards of several political organizations. Eric appreciates having grown up in a state with four seasons, even if it does drizzle nine months out of the year. He considers himself lucky that his state offers luscious rain forests, sprawling deserts and plateaus, gorgeous mountains, and almost 160 miles of pristine coastline. His desire to keep the Pacific Northwest beautiful and healthy drives his interest in conservation.   When he’s not working (or stuck in miles of I-5 traffic), you’ll probably find Eric outdoors hiking or shooting, at the gym, or fixing the latest broken part on his little old Corolla.  

Eric Lagergren, Digital Strategy

Eric is a software engineer from Washington state. Prior entering the technology industry, Eric volunteered for a state representative which sparked his passion for politics. Eric has over four years of grassroots experience running campaigns, working for independent expenditures, and serving on the executive boards of several political organizations.

Eric appreciates having grown up in a state with four seasons, even if it does drizzle nine months out of the year. He considers himself lucky that his state offers luscious rain forests, sprawling deserts and plateaus, gorgeous mountains, and almost 160 miles of pristine coastline. His desire to keep the Pacific Northwest beautiful and healthy drives his interest in conservation.  

When he’s not working (or stuck in miles of I-5 traffic), you’ll probably find Eric outdoors hiking or shooting, at the gym, or fixing the latest broken part on his little old Corolla.