In 1985, two distinguished public servants formed Lyng & Lesher, a food and agriculture consulting firm that would later become the Russell Group. Today we set the standard for food and agriculture government affairs services, while carrying forth the spirit and commitment that personified our founders and defined our earliest days.
Prior to founding Lyng & Lesher, Dick Lyng held leading positions in the agriculture industry and with both the Nixon and Reagan Administrations, culminating in his appointment by President Ronald Reagan in 1986 to Secretary of Agriculture, where he served until the end of Reagan’s term in 1989.
Bill Lesher served as a Legislative Assistant to Senator Richard Lugar (R-IN), then worked for the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry as the Committee’s Chief Economist. Prior to forming the firm with Lyng, Bill served as the Assistant Secretary for Economics in the U.S. Department of Agriculture from 1981 to 1985.
Randy Russell joined Bill in 1986 and together he and Tyson continue our legacy by contributing decades of experience in Congress, Administrations, and the private sector. We provide our clients with experience and credibility on both sides of the aisle. For over 30 years, the Russell Group has worked on hundreds of government relations issues including legislation, appropriations, and regulations across the federal government.
We believe that people are the foundation of our government and care deeply how that government affects your business. There is no substitute for personal knowledge and experience.
This is why our philosophy remains simple and straightforward: proven, professional, personal.
Meet Our Team
Randy M. Russell was born and raised in Virginia. Randy attended George Mason University, where he was a proud member of the school’s baseball team, and where he did his undergraduate studies in public administration and graduate work in economics. Before joining the firm in 1986, he worked in a number of agricultural policy positions both inside and outside of government. Randy served as Chief of Staff to Secretary of Agriculture John Block and also as Deputy Assistant Secretary of Economics. He also served as agricultural aide on Capitol Hill for the Senate Agriculture Committee and former U.S. Senator Rudy Boschwitz.
Randy has been actively involved in the Big Brothers/Big Sisters Program in Northern Virginia. He served as a Big Brother for ten years and has served as President, Vice President and Treasurer of the Northern Virginia Council of Big Brothers/Big Sisters. He also served on the Board of Big Brothers/Big Sisters of the National Capital Area. He previously served as Chairman of the Board and is currently on the Executive Committee for the World Food Program/USA which raises awareness and funding in order to fight global hunger. Randy also serves on the Bryce Harlow Foundation Board of Governors, which works to promote the highest standards for professional lobbying and government relations.
Randy and his wife Beth are co-founders of The Golden Phoenix Foundation, focused on addressing the issue of childhood abandonment around the world. He and Beth are also actively involved in the National Council for Adoption which helps promote domestic and foreign adoptions.
Randy and Beth live in McLean, and have six children. The family recently purchased a small farm in Round Hill, VA and has since added over a dozen alpacas to the clan. When Randy isn’t at the farm, he can be found at one of his daughter’s cheerleading competitions or soccer games.
Tyson was born in Oxford, Ohio during the snowmageddon of 1978 earning him the unflattering ‘blizzard baby’ reference from his family. Coupled with the childhood teasing he took from being named Tyson, you can see how quickly character building shaped his life.
Working at the family-owned John Deere dealerships doing whatever his Mom and Dad told him to do seared into him a strong work ethic because he really didn’t have a choice. This would pay-off later in high school and college when Tyson sweated through every minute of every summer working at the farms, construction sites and janitorial apartment building jobs that helped pay for his Indiana University degree in Public Affairs.
Proudly telling his grandfather that one day he would be President, Tyson moved to Washington, D.C. after graduation and began working for his local Congressman, U.S. Representative John Boehner (R-OH). Tyson twice served on Boehner’s staff eventually advising him on things like agriculture, financial services, trade, and tax policy. His more noteworthy legislative accomplishments included the Child Nutrition and WIC Reauthorization Act, the American Jobs Creation Act and the Healthy Forests Restoration Act. Tyson has also hit the campaign trail a couple of times working on a Congressional election in the Great State of Arkansas in 2000 and for President Bush at the New York City GOP Convention and in the Best State of Ohio during the 2004 campaign. Tyson has also worked for the law firm of Olsson, Frank and Weeda, P.C. and directed government relations for the National Grain Trade Council.
What Tyson does when he’s not working usually involves Team Redpath which is this incredible family unit made up of a daughter named Helena, two sons, Thatcher and Weston, a Rhodesian Ridgeback named the Noble Miss Genevieve and his wife Renee who somehow manages to hold it all together with grace and style. Meanwhile he cares deeply about his sports allegiance to the Ohio State Buckeyes (even though he went to IU), the Cincinnati Bengals, the Cincinnati Reds, and the Washington Capitals. Otherwise he’s figuring out some new workout routine to punish his early mornings or searching for a career path that allows him to continue lobbying while coaching high school football. That combination continues to elude him.
Andrew Harker is a lifelong resident of the Commonwealth of Virginia. He grew up working for Harker Painting, Inc. climbing ladders, navigating scaffolding towers and walkboards, and his personal “favorite” overhead drywall sanding.
Andrew completed an internship with the House Agriculture Committee before graduating from Virginia Tech in 2006 with a degree in animal and poultry science. He completed 3 months of post-graduate work with Harker Painting before receiving a call from Randy Russell and Bill Lesher who offered to pay him for not climbing ladders and sanding drywall.
Andrew currently lives in Virginia with his wife and three sons.
Prior to joining the Russell Group in 2017, Karla Thieman served as the USDA Chief of Staff to Secretary Tom Vilsack. Karla first joined the USDA in 2014, serving as a Senior Policy Advisor to Secretary Vilsack and later as Chief of Staff to Deputy Secretary Krysta Harden. Previously Karla also worked for the Senate Agriculture Committee for more than five years, serving under three Chairs of the Committee: Senator Tom Harkin, Senator Blanche Lincoln, and Senator Debbie Stabenow. As senior professional staff on the Agriculture Committee, she handled a portfolio that included livestock, food safety, dairy, energy and climate change. Karla previously served in leadership positions on the campaigns of Senators McCaskill, Udall and Bennet.
Karla grew up on a third-generation family farm in central Missouri where her family raised cattle, corn and soybeans. She has a degree in Agricultural Economics from the University of Missouri.
Allyson Alvaré was born and raised on Virginia’s Eastern Shore, where her parents own and operate a local greenhouse, garden center, and landscaping business. She spent a vast majority of her childhood at that business with her two younger sisters, while their parents instilled perseverance and a strong work ethic in each of them. Allyson and her sisters also studied classical ballet and often traveled to various dance programs during their summers. Their poor father was in the audience at every single performance.
Allyson received her Bachelor of Arts in English at James Madison University in 2007. Prior to joining The Russell Group, Allyson worked on both sides of the aisle. She started her career on Capitol Hill as Staff Assistant for her hometown representative, former Congresswoman Thelma Drake. She then served as Scheduler/Executive Assistant for Congresswoman Donna F. Edwards for more than four years, managing the Congresswoman’s daily schedule as well as a variety of large scale events.
Allyson lives in DC and enjoys cooking, Penn State football, and the Washington Capitals. You can often find her going back to the Shore on the weekends to take advantage of the beautiful beaches.
Savannah was born and raised in Dunn Loring, VA, located just outside of Washington, D.C. She is the only daughter of two loving parents, who supported her love and dedication for soccer and basketball, which she played as a young child and throughout high school. She spent most of her youth exploring outside, biking, and travelling with her family in many parts of Europe. Her life has had a particular focus surrounding agriculture, during which she would often travel to her father’s successful family farm in Illinois.
This past May, Savannah graduated from Virginia Tech with a degree in Agricultural Economics, which was inspired by her father, Jack Block, Former Secretary of Agriculture. She also received her minor in International Studies, which included a wonderful summer study abroad program in Switzerland.
Savannah joined The Russell Group in June 2016 as an intern. She enjoys going to Nationals games, spending time with family and friends, and Virginia Tech football.
Samantha Buchalter was born and raised in central Connecticut. In high school, she participated in a four-year vocational agriculture program and was actively involved in the FFA. Her high school studies prompted her to move to D.C. in 2013 to further pursue her interest in food and agriculture policy.
Samantha is currently working towards her Master’s degree in Environmental Resource Policy from the George Washington University. She enjoys cooking, hiking, and cheering on the Wizards.