The Ferox Team
CRISTINA ANTELO, ESQ – PRINCIPAL
A fierce believer in Thomas Edison’s, “Everything comes to h[er] who hustles while [she] waits,” Cristina Antelo is a founding principal at Ferox Strategies. Cristina has spent more than a decade representing multinational corporations with her trademark hustle at Washington’s best-known government relations firms.
From Wall Street to K Street, Cristina has set herself apart as a trusted advisor, skilled advocate, and effective negotiator who isn’t afraid of long, hard work. She began her lobbying career in 2004, immediately representing Fortune 500 clients at top-ranked, bipartisan government and public affairs firms in Washington, D.C. Her past clients include major chain retailers, spirits companies, national theme and amusement parks, pharmaceutical firms, and nutrition and wellness companies. Her policy areas of expertise include financial services, tax, trade, border security, transportation and infrastructure, and crisis management.
Featured in Washingtonian magazine in “Success Stories of Washingtonians of Latino and Hispanic Descent” and identified as a "Top Lawyer," “Power Player,” and “Most Influential 40 and Under Leader” in other regional publications, Cristina provides insider advice on how public policy is created and communicated. As a founding member and former President of the Hispanic Lobbyists Association and a long stint as the interim CEO of the non-profit Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute (CHCI), Cristina has served as both a leader and an advocate, promoting communication, ethics, education, and bipartisanship.
Before transitioning to government relations, in the early 2000s Cristina worked as a Wall Street investment banker and wealth management advisor at major Wall Street firms including Goldman Sachs and J.P. Morgan. She also served as a legal fellow with the Senate Democratic Steering Committee, then chaired by former Sens. Hillary Clinton (D-NY) and Tom Daschle (D-SD).
Today, Cristina is active in charitable work, contributing her business acumen, political savvy, and trademark hustle on the Board of Directors of the CHCI, serving under Chairman Ruben Gallego (D-AZ), as well as the board of the National Wildlife Federation's (NWF) Action Fund supporting conservation of endangered species and habitats. Cristina further serves on the finance committee for the March of Dimes' annual Gourmet Gala, raising hundreds of thousands of dollars boosting maternal and infant health worldwide. Finally, Cristina is also on the Board of Directors for her alma mater, the Brooks School in North Andover, MA, and volunteers with Common Threads, focusing on nutrition education for children.
A native Spanish speaker, Cristina was born in Dallas and graduated from Georgetown University and the George Washington University Law School. She is married with two young daughters, Havana and Brooklyn, who are fiercely loyal to any client that provides toys...or snacks…or anything with glitter.
MARK WILLIAMS – PRINCIPAL
For nearly two decades, Mark has been a seasoned, dynamic, and high-energy congressional Chief of Staff excelling at the intersection of politics, policy, and personalities. He is well-connected and respected across the House and Senate. A charismatic and collaborative team leader, Mark is skilled in coalition building, campaign management, and media strategy. He has also played a significant role in 11 winning House races.
As top aide to Congressman Mike Conaway of Texas, Chairman of the House Agriculture Committee, Mark helped usher passage of the bipartisan 2018 Farm Bill. Mark also supported Rep. Conaway when he was handpicked by the GOP Conference to lead the high-profile Intelligence Committee investigation into Russia’s influence in the 2016 presidential election.
Previously, Mark ran point on policy as Legislative Director for former Congressman Sam Johnson of Texas, a senior member of the Ways & Means Committee, and served as Chief of Staff for former Congressman Todd Rokita of Indiana. Mark also has significant experience working with the Armed Services, Transportation & Infrastructure, Budget, and Education & Workforce Committees under Reps. Conaway, Johnson, and Rokita.
In his spare time, Mark has successfully completed three Ironman triathlons and raised over $40k for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society in conjunction with each race. He’s also involved with the U.S. Soccer Foundation and serves as the Head Coach of his son’s youth soccer team. Additionally, he remains a long- standing steering committee member for the Hispanic Republicans of Texas.
DEBRA DIXON – PRINCIPAL
An innovative, pragmatic, and big-picture thinker, Debra can quickly identify critical tasks as well as longer-term strategies. She is a results-oriented professional with private, public, and nonprofit experience, who is at her best when working with a talented, bipartisan team on a shared mission.
As former Chief of Staff to then Rep. Xavier Becerra, Debra’s more than a decade and a half of work on Capitol Hill included supporting the Congressman’s efforts on the Ways and Means Committee, the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, House Democratic Leadership and the California Delegation. Debra also learned the ins and outs of the nonprofit world at the National Immigration Forum where she advocated for immigration reform, workforce needs, and a path to citizenship. An attorney by trade, Debra bookended her time on Capitol Hill with stints at two federal agencies, serving as Immigration Counsel at the Department of Justice and subsequently as the Chief of Staff at the Department of Education’s Office of Planning, Evaluation and Policy Development.
Debra has represented clients in the healthcare, tech and B2B manufacturing industries. She is an expert at translating legislative and regulatory developments into layperson’s terms on issues such as international trade, immigration, healthcare, supply chain, and tax.
In addition to the hard work and hustle for Ferox clients that she thrives on, Debra serves on the board of the Women’s Congressional Staff Foundation whose mission is to increase the number, rank and leadership skills of women working for the U.S. Congress. Debra is proud to have received the CHCI Alumni Association Award in 2014 for her commitment to promoting diversity on Capitol Hill and looks for opportunities every day to advance diversity and embrace collaboration across parties and ideologies.
The daughter of an immigrant, Debra’s father was born in Panama, her mother in the Midwest and they met and married in Ecuador. Wanting their children to receive the best education in the world, they moved to the US, and Debra grew up in Ohio. She has an undergraduate degree from Wheaton College, a law degree from Ohio State, and an LLM with an emphasis on International Trade from Georgetown University Law Center. Debra and her husband live in DC with their two teenage daughters.
SANTIAGO 'RICO' VACA – STRATEGIC ADVISOR
Santiago ‘Rico’ Vaca serves as a Strategic Advisor at Ferox Strategies where he works on appropriations, defense matters and budgets, and national security concerns.
Rico, who holds a bachelor’s degree in International Affairs from the United States Air Force Academy and a master’s degree in Aeronautical Science from Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, has specialized in the defense and national security world of Washington, D.C. for two decades. An exceptional leader, strategist, and problem-solving executive, he has advised clients on federal challenges associated with national security programs, from both the operational and commercial perspectives.
As a retired Air Force officer, Rico retains a diverse skill set that includes detailed knowledge of Department of Defense and Homeland Security programs, budgets, and policies across the agencies, with emphasis on procurement, research and development, operations, and their associated funding processes. In addition, Rico maintains a comprehensive knowledge and expertise of the federal budget and appropriations processes gained through his time on Capitol Hill and within the Department of Defense.
After serving as an Air Force fighter pilot with more than 3,200 hours in the F-15C and F-16, Rico worked as a Senior Policy Advisor at the global law firm of Holland & Knight. Shortly thereafter, Rico continued to specialize in the defense and national security sphere when he founded S. Vaca & Associates, where he continues to serve as president. Through his work, Rico sustains long term, high-level relationships with Legislative and Executive branch officials, including Senators, Members of Congress, key congressional committee staff, and general and staff officers across the United States Air Force.
Rico lives in the suburbs of Washington D.C. with his wife and four boys. He is a lifelong Lakers and Dodgers fan and longs to someday return home to Southern California.
KAMAL PATEL – DIRECTOR
Kamal Patel serves as a Government Affairs Director at Ferox Strategies where he leads the firm’s research, analysis, and writing while maintaining a busy schedule advocating for our clients on Capitol Hill.
Kamal, who holds a bachelor’s degree in political science and master’s in international relations with a focus on modern conflict and diplomacy reconciliation from Texas Tech University, has a diverse background in public policy gained throughout his time on Capitol Hill. From 2015 to 2016, Kamal pulled double duty working on Congressman Jodey Arrington’s (R-TX) campaign in West Texas and in the private sector. After a successful campaign, he then moved to Washington, D.C. to join Congressman Arrington’s office on Capitol Hill where he gained significant experience as Legislative Assistant managing a portfolio including financial services, immigration reform, the ports-to plains transportation infrastructure initiative, and the Congressman’s Budget Committee assignments.
Shortly thereafter, Kamal teamed up with the Chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, Congressman Mac Thornberry (R-TX), as Legislative Assistant. Kamal worked his way up the ranks as Legislative Director, and ultimately served as Deputy Chief of Staff. Throughout his tenure under the Chairman and Ranking Member, Kamal worked on annual defense spending bills and the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). Kamal was responsible for working as a liaison between committee staff, other Congressional offices, and the Chairman to guarantee a bipartisan and bicameral bill was signed into law. He ensured hundreds of amendments were considered throughout committee markup and House floor consideration and provided fundamental vote recommendations to staff and members of Congress. Kamal also oversaw time-sensitive member requests, social media activity, and navigated outside interest over the NDAA process.
In addition to his Congressional duties, Kamal completed the Spring 2019 Woodrow Wilson Foreign Policy Fellowship Program and US-Asia Institute’s Korea 101 Series. A native Texan and second generation Indian American, he is fluent in Gujarati. In his spare time, Kamal enjoys watching and playing sports, traveling, and dabbling in the stock market.
IVELISSE PORROA-GARCÍA – DIRECTOR
Ivelisse Porroa-García serves as a Government Affairs Director at Ferox Strategies where she leads the firm’s public affairs and coalition building efforts while championing our client driven goals on Capitol Hill.
Ivelisse, who holds a bachelor’s degree in political science from the University of California, Los Angeles, has a diverse background in public policy gained throughout her time on Capitol Hill. She is skilled in legislative drafting, floor procedures, and media strategy.
Ivelisse got her start in 2012, when she worked for Congressman Raul Ruiz’s (D-CA) campaign in California. In 2015, she joined the Washington D.C. office of Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA), then Ranking Member of the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works. Shortly thereafter, she teamed up again with Congressman Ruiz for a six year stint, where she worked her way up the ranks starting as Legislative Assistant, and ultimately served as Policy Director of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus.
Throughout her tenure under Congressman Ruiz, Ivelisse handled his work as Vice-Chair of the House Committee on Energy and Commerce’s Environment and Climate Change Subcommittee and the Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee. She also managed his bipartisan Congressional Burn Pits Caucus and advised the Congressman on key legislative issues like appropriations, national security and defense, judiciary, energy and commerce, immigration, and the NDAA. When Congressman Ruiz became Chairman of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, he appointed Ivelisse as Policy Director to advance the legislative agenda of its thirty-four Members of Congress and four Senators. Throughout her six years on the Hill, she helped secure passage of dozens of pieces of legislation through the House and into public law. Ivelisse also maintains strong relationships with the New Democrats Coalition, the Congressional Black Caucus, and the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus.
In addition to her Congressional duties, Ivelisse served as the President of the Congressional Hispanic Staff Association and is a graduate of the NALEO’s Legislative Academy. She continues her charitable work as a member of the Advisory Board of the veteran non-profit Burn Pits 360. Ivelisse was born and raised in Lima, Peru, where she studied Law at Universidad de Lima.
ALEAH SHUREN – DIRECTOR
Aleah Shuren serves as a Government Affairs Director at Ferox Strategies where she works on the firm’s research, writing, and analysis while maintaining a busy schedule advocating for our clients on Capitol Hill. Aleah leads the Trusted AI Coalition as Project Director which aims to monitor federal policy, provide strategic analysis, gather intelligence, create intentional messaging and collateral, and engage in lobbying efforts to advance the Coalition’s goals.
Aleah, who holds a bachelor’s degree in Commerce and Marketing from Ryerson University located in Toronto, Ontario, Canada, has a diverse background in law, business, and advocacy. After earning her Juris Doctor from Nova Southeastern University, Aleah attended the George Washington University School of Law to obtain her Masters of Law (LL.M.) in International Law. Aleah is a member of the District of Columbia Bar and the Florida Bar. As an attorney, Aleah has worked on topics such as immigration, corporate, labor, and insurance law. Having worked alongside senior counsel at international firms, she has developed strong legal research, writing and advocacy skills.
In her free time, Aleah is a mentor for the Brave House, a non-profit that supports young immigrant women who are survivors of gender-based violence. Every month she works with her mentee on advancing her career and academic goals, adjusting to life in the U.S., and building a meaningful and lasting mentorship with her mentee. Aleah speaks French fluently and has a working knowledge of Spanish.
MARISA L. SANCHEZ – MANAGER
Marisa L. Sanchez serves as the Government Affairs Manager at Ferox Strategies where she supports Ferox’s clients and executives through research and analysis, as well as co-managing our marketing and various social media platforms.
Marisa, who holds a summa cum laude bachelor’s degree in International Studies with a concentration in Global Markets and Governance from the University of New Mexico, focused her research in trade, labor, and international economics. In addition, she has a diverse background in research and media management that she gained throughout her time in her district Congressional office and Capitol Hill.
Marisa worked in Congresswoman Deb Haaland’s (D-NM) Albuquerque office where she was Staff Assistant and Intern Coordinator. She led multiple congressional projects while also delegating and addressing constituent concerns in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. Marisa gained significant experience in her district while being exposed to issue areas including immigration, labor, diversity, and local economics.
Shortly after working heavily in constituent services and federal resources, Marisa participated in the Fall 2020 Congressional Hispanic Leadership Institute's (CHLI) Global Leaders Program, a competitive semester-long program featuring placement in a Congressional and private office. She was the second fellow to ever be selected from New Mexico. As part of CHLI, Marisa was placed with Congresswoman Cheri Bustos (D-IL), where she was the first fully remote fellow to work full time completing daily COVID-19 reports, monthly economic reports, and various projects related to education, voting records, and grants.
In her free time, Marisa enjoys participating in the Washington, D.C. League of United Latin American Citizens council, printmaking and handwriting letters, attending movie nights with friends, and riding her bike.
T. MALIK ROSS – POLICY ANALYST
T. Malik Ross serves as a Policy Analyst at Ferox Strategies, tracking legislation, researching federal funding opportunities, and summarizing policy on behalf of the firm’s clients. His areas of focus include healthcare, Homeland Security, and tech-focused policy research.
Malik earned a Bachelor of Business Administration, with concentrations in Marketing, Management, and Business Law from Mississippi State University. Additionally, his interest in policy and the judicial process led him to pursue a minor in Law. With experience in non-profit service and sales, Malik provides a diverse perspective that contributes to the firm’s commitment to continuous growth.
Combining his passion for interpersonal connections and strategy, Malik offers honed social networking capabilities. In 2017, Malik served as a Congressional Intern with the House Committee on Homeland Security under Chairman Bennie G. Thompson. In his role, he conducted research on behalf of the Transportation and Maritime, as well as the Cybersecurity, Infrastructure Protection and Innovation subcommittees. The role’s responsibilities encompassed drafting congressional correspondence and hearing materials for the committee’s Democratic members. In addition, Malik pioneered Mississippi State University’s athletic team shop, StateStyle, MSU's first student-led PRISM Agency, and the Public Relations Coordinator position for AmeriCorps VISTA.
Malik considers himself a true audiophile, most proud of his vinyl soul collection. Additionally, he possesses a passion for graphic design and a love for content creation. Being an African-American from the Mississippi Delta has shaped his unique worldview, and influences Malik’s hustle.
LAUREN DOEPKE – POLICY ANALYST
Lauren Doepke serves as a Policy Analyst at Ferox Strategies, tracking legislation, researching federal funding opportunities, and summarizing policy on behalf of the firm’s clients. Her area of focus is environmental policy.
Lauren, a Cincinnati, Ohio native, is currently completing her master’s degree in Environmental Science with a concentration in Water Resource Management and holds a bachelor’s degree in Environmental Earth Science and Sustainability, along with a minor in Spanish, from Miami University of Ohio. Her research has focused on microscopy, industrial contaminants, and green revolving fund models.
Lauren offers valuable analytical skills gained from her experience as an Environmental Justice Intern at The Mill Creek Alliance, a Cincinnati non-profit focused on remediating the Mill Creek Watershed, and The STEM Lab, providing STEM education programming for diverse groups of K-8 students. Additionally, as a participant in Miami University’s Inside Washington Program, Lauren spent an immersive full semester in Washington D.C. and interned at Ferox Strategies.
Lauren loves to spend her time outdoors kayaking, hiking, and backpacking.