yellow title background


Terrell Halaska

Terrell Halaska, PARTNER

As one of the founding partners of HCM Strategists, Terrell Halaska envisioned a mission-driven public policy firm that worked hand-in-hand with clients to improve people’s lives through good policy. The result was a joining of forces with Kristin Conklin and Michael Manganiello to form a unique, values-based firm that offers organizations a trusted, strategic partner in the pursuit of positive change. An expert at strategy development and relationship building, Terrell leads the firm’s support of several education clients and provides strategic guidance to HCM’s health team.

A graduate of the University of California, San Diego with a bachelor’s degree in political science, Terrell began to focus on policy during her master’s studies at the Monterey Institution of International Studies. She put her education to work on Capitol Hill as a press secretary to Rep. Scott Klug and on the state level as the media manager for the National Governor’s Association and director of the state of Wisconsin’s Washington, D.C. office.

After the confirmation of former Wisconsin Governor Tommy Thompson as secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), Terrell joined his senior management team as deputy chief of staff. She oversaw policy development on a number of issues within the department – including stem cell research and international and domestic HIV/AIDS initiatives – and built a reputation as a consensus builder willing to consider fresh ideas to address vexing bioethical and health policy problems.

Terrell soon moved from HHS to the White House, where she advised the President, domestic policy advisor and other senior staff as special assistant to the President for domestic policy. In that role, she developed and advanced Administration policies on family and children’s issues – including early childhood education, welfare reform, housing, and homelessness. In 2005, she was confirmed by the Senate as assistant secretary of education for legislation and congressional affairs, serving as the department’s top negotiator with Congress on several key initiatives.

Terrell credits her work on the President’s Emergency Plan For AIDS Relief for demonstrating to her the power and effectiveness of innovative policies when stakeholders commit to advancing change. In helping senior Administration officials develop HIV/AIDS policies, Terrell witnessed an open-mindedness to creative solutions and an unwavering commitment to the overarching principle of helping others. The result was increased HIV testing, counseling and treatment that has averted deaths and improved the quality of lives for individuals with HIV/AIDS around the world.

These experiences underlie Terrell’s work at HCM, where she remains grounded in the belief that sound policy can catalyze change and prides herself on the firm’s continued focus on improving people’s lives.  Married to David Dunn, Terrell splits her time between Washington, D.C. and Austin, Texas, where David also shapes education policy as head of the state charter school association.


I believe that public policy can improve people’s lives if it is based on research, evidence and experience. I also believe that public policy is necessary to address equity gaps that will never be closed without focused effort. That is why I founded HCM Strategists – to help create public policy that improves everyone’s ability to receive a high quality education and healthcare.