Shawna Watley is a senior policy professional and strategist with more than 16 years of experience in public policy, political, legislative and regulatory counseling, and creative solutions to corporate, nonprofit and governmental issues at the federal level. She has cultivated working relationships on the federal, state and local levels of government. This includes professional relationships with the Obama administration, leaders in the House of Representatives and the Senate, moderate Democrats and the Congressional Black Caucus.

Ms. Watley forges and maintains working relationships with key elected political leaders, appointed officials and corporate executives. She has extensive experience representing public and private interests in numerous issues, including financial services, transportation, homeland security, healthcare, energy and education.

Prior to joining Holland & Knight, Ms. Watley was the principal owner of the Francis Group LLC, where she was retained by clients to lead efforts in government relations and develop strategy, programming and implementation for federal policy initiatives. She also previously served as director of congressional affairs for the Democratic Leadership Council and the Public Policy Institute, where she was responsible for the development of strategy, programming and implementation for the Congressional Affairs Department. During her tenure, she designed the “Meet the Freshmen” series, the weekly congressional newsletter, the Global Economy Project and the organization’s Congressional Agenda for the 21st Century, which included several major ideas and reform policies. As the primary point of contact with members of Congress, Ms. Watley has extensive working relationships with moderate Democratic senators and representatives, as well as senior staff. As a former legislative assistant to Sen. Robert Kerrey (D-Neb.), she gained a keen understanding of the workings of Congress.



  • Howard University, B.S.
  • The Johns Hopkins University, M.A., Public Policy
  • Arena Stage, Board Member 
  • Our Place, Board Member 
  • Reid Temple AME Church
  • Congressional Black Caucus Foundation Corporate Advisory Board
  • University of Maryland Center – Bowie State Board Member
  • Congressional Black Caucus Institute Advisory Board Member
Honors & Awards
  • Bayard Rustin Fellow


Speaking Engagements