Staff List and Contacts

We have taken our time to put together a strong and very varied organizational chart for Westercon 70, sourced not only from our Leprecon, Inc. sponsoring body but from organisations across Arizona fandom and beyond.

Most of our positions are filled, but we do still have a few empty slots. If you’re interested in any of them, please contact the Chair below.

Our departments are quickly available by e-mail at the addresses to the right. Please see the rest of the page for what these roles mean, who’s handling them and how fandom has brought them to this point.

Most photos are from LepreCon 41 and 42, courtesy of photographer Jeff George. The photos of Mark Boniece and Earl C. Hedges Jr. were provided by them. The photo of the chairs and the Westercon fan table at Westercon 69 in Portland are courtesy of Countess Chaos Creations.

Chair and Vice-Chair

Our Chair is Dee Astell. She can be contacted at

Dee Astell aka Countess Chaos is the Fashion Manager for Wild Wild West Con. She has also been the Steampunk Coordinator for Phoenix Comicon as well as LepreCon, DarkCon and various other cons. She’s a founding director of the Arizona Penny Dreadfuls and the Archpriestess of Chaos in the First United Church of Cthulhu. She runs a host of maker workshops at events and conventions in and out of state.

Her Vice-Chair is Hal C. F. Astell. He can be contacted at

Hal owns and runs the Apocalypse Later Empire, which is celebrating its tenth anniversary in 2017, including the only dedicated annual genre film festival in Phoenix, the Apocalypse Later International Fantastic Film Festival. He hosts free Mini-Film Festivals at cons across the southwest, which have included Phoenix Comicon, Wild Wild West Con, Gaslight Gathering, San Diego Comic-Fest, LepreCon, CopperCon, DarkCon etc. He co-founded and co-runs the Arizona Penny Dreadfuls, a social group which hosts a variety of events. He’s also the quartermaster for Leprecon, Inc.

Department Heads

Our Department Heads, reporting directly to the Chair and Vice Chair, are as follows. For background bios, please see the section below.

Art Show – David Gish and Annette Sexton-Ruiz

Our Art Show department, surprisingly enough, is responsible for running the Art Show at Westercon 70. David and Annette can be reached at

Ambience – Margaret Grady

Our Ambience director is responsible for decorating the convention to fit our theme of aliens and jackalopes.

Dealers – Mark Boniece

Our Dealers department is responsible for laying out and organizing our Dealers’ Room and dealing with any issues. Mark is handling this pre-con and can be reached at

Gaming – Earl C. Hedges

Our Gaming department is responsible for all gaming at Westercon 70, which is branded CONflagration. Earl can be reached at

Guest Liaison – Barri Giardelli

Our Guest Liaison is responsible for ensuring that our Guests of Honor get to the con and enjoy themselves once there.

Hospitality – Wendy Trakes

Our Hospitality department is responsible for running the best ConSuite and Staff Lounge we’ve seen in Arizona for decades.

Hotel Liaison – Mark Boniece

Our Hotel Liaison is responsible for all liaison with our host hotel, including troubleshooting booking issues and coordinating parties. Mark can be reached at

Operations – Paul Tanton

Our Operations department is responsible for making sure Westercon 70 runs smoothly during the 4th July weekend, including our Rangers team, volunteers and all logistics.

Programming – Michael Flanders

Our Programming department is responsible for the panels and events that you’ll enjoy at Westercon 70. Michael can be reached at

Publications – Hal C. F. Astell

Our Publications department is responsible everything that you’ll read about the con outside of social media, including the website, program book and progress reports. Hal can be reached at

Publicity – Deb Krol

Our Publicity department is responsible for letting you know about this convention.

Registration – Deena Johnson

Our Registration department is responsible for getting everyone checked in smoothly so they can enjoy Westercon 70. Deena can be contacted at

Sponsorship – Kate Hatcher

Our Sponsorship Director and all-around Convention Guru is responsible for liaising with potential sponsors, to help ease the costs of Westercon 70 and ensure the presence of major guests.

Treasurer – Kevin McAlonan

Our Treasurer is responsible for maintaining all finances for the convention and ensuring our financial success.

Background Bios of Department Heads

Hal C. F. Astell (Publications) is a film critic and author with five books in print. He runs Apocalypse Later Press, the publishing imprint of the Apocalypse Later Empire, where he designs and lays out all books. He’s edited a number of small press magazines and designed books for the horror author, Guy N. Smith. He maintains a number of informational websites, including the Arizona Fandom History area of the Arizona Penny Dreadfuls site, which documents every convention in Arizona going back to Phoenix Con in 1970.

Mark Boniece (Hotel Liaison and Dealers) has been in involved in conventions for a long time, and has chaired 15 cons including sci-fi cons, fantasy cons, gaming cons and an H. P. Lovecraft con. He has lost count of the many times he has volunteered in all areas of conrunning. He has been director and officer for several Arizona fan groups and is currently Chairman of the Board for the Central Arizona Speculative Fiction Society (CASFS).

Michael Flanders (Programming) is the panel programmer for Phoenix Fearcon and has presented at Phoenix Comicon for the last five years. Known as an amateur writer, director and podcast personality, Michael has run the gamut in the realm of creativity, ranging from providing voice work for a Korean martial arts monster movie to having over a dozen of self-written plays performed onstage, most of which he’s also acted in. Chock-full of wit and pop culture references, his passions include indulging his muse, participating in geekly endeavors and man-crushing on Dean Winchester. Catch him at Westercon 70 as he engages the masses with Awesomely Awful film picks and Tesla vs. Edison competitive trivia.

Margaret Grady (Ambience) (alternately known as Margie and Marg) has been actively involved in Phoenix fandom and conrunning since her twenties. Starting in CASFS and Leprecon, Inc., she eventually got involved with the Southwest Costumers Guild and helped found the Arizona Browncoats. She has chaired four conventions, been treasurer for over a dozen and held almost every committee position at some point. She was on the Can’t Stop the Serenity global steering committee for six years and was a member of the Chelonavigators Guild for the North American Discworld Convention for three. She’s been a director for various local fannish organizations, co-chair for Costume-Con 31, and vice-chair for the 2013 Browncoat Ball. Currently, Margaret is serving as a director for Leprecon, Inc. and The Dark Ones and is on the Browncoat Ball Braintrust committee.

Kate Hatcher (Sponsorship etc.) is a writer, disability advocate, RPG fan, customer service guru, voracious reader, world-builder and stay-at-home mother of an autistic giggle factory named Ireland. She majored in music theory and history at college and carries experience with lifestyle differences. Her first RPG character in the ’80s kicked a bad guy where it counts. After rolling 4 (D-6) and re-rolling successes, the table group groaned, protected their characters’ anatomies and pushed her to run online tabletop games. She met her husband Ben as her vampire erased his character’s memory and they stuck like fan-glue for the last fourteen years. Kate is often pulled into conventions last minute to help, which earned her the nickname of ‘Igor’. Certified to run the floor of a hospital, she volunteered with Westercon 67, LTUE (Life, the Universe and Everything), Salt Lake Comic Con and is currently helping both Westercon 70 and Westercon 71.

Earl C. Hedges Jr. (Gaming) has over 30 years of gaming experience and brings a vast amount of knowledge of the gaming industry to his role. He grew up with his family during the 70’s playing games together. During the 80’s he continued that trend and in the 90’s started playing at local game stores all over the country as both a Game Master and Narrator. He has run games at local conventions, stores and other venues for a couple of years. As a player he has dabbled at one time or another in just about every type of game known to man or beast. During the 90’s he mostly played Games Workshop products and now he mostly plays an assortment of tabletop RPGs.

Deb Krol (Publicity), when not plotting (er, strategizing) all things PR at her day job as director of marketing at a Valley performing arts company, is a longtime SF fan, albeit a quiet one. Deb is dusting off her old SCA persona, Lady Deborah of Lancashire, and wielding her PR and marketing skills to achieve total conquest and world domination of the western SF region through serving as PR director for Westercon 70.

Kevin McAlonan (Treasurer) is the secretary and a board member of Leprecon, Inc.; President, Treasurer, and Secretary of CASFS; and incorporator, past officer and board member of the Arizona Browncoats, Inc. He has been a volunteer, staff member or participant for various conventions (including LepreCons, CopperCons, AniZonas, DarkCons, Phoenix Comicons, Westercons, 2013 Browncoat Ball, 1st North America Discworld Convention, and 2006 Nebula Awards). He is also privileged and proud to have a daughter who not only is intelligent, accomplished, talented, strong, independent and beautiful, but even more of a geek than he is.

Annette Sexton-Ruiz (Art Show) was born in Chicago and has lived most of her life in Arizona. She has studied art in Puerto Rico, Italy, England, Ireland and Cuba and she has a Bachelors in Art History from ASU; her work has been displayed nationally and internationally. She participated in the Chicano Art Movement in Chicago’s ‘Little Mexico’ in the 80s and Self-Help Graphics in East Los Angeles throughout the 90s. She has worked in three different Phoenix museums over fifteen years and has been a curator of art exhibitions in the east LA Chicano art scene and San Francisco’s Mission Cultural Center. She has participated in local sci-fi fandom since the mid 90s with participation in art programming. Her website is

Paul Tanton (Operations) has been attending local conventions since his teens and he began working the local cons while still in college. He began simply enough, being talked into gamemastering for his favorite RPG by a close friend running the games hall for CopperCon. From there, he worked in various staff roles at multiple local conventions for games, registration, participant green room, tech and program. When unneeded, he also lent a hand as needed in games, art show, hospitality, volunteer den and logistics. Paul’s first committee position was Participant Green Room Coordinator for LepreCon. After that he joined other committees as Kids Program Coordinator, Program Manager, Operations Manager, Social Media Coordinator, Survey Manager and Digital Publications Coordinator. He has often worn multiple hats for the same con. Paul has served on local committees for LepreConCopperCon, DarkCon, MaricopaCon, Westercon, World Fantasy Convention and even a NASFiC bid. He was Chief Operating Officer of LepreCon 41, the most profitable LepreCon in a decade. He still manages to get away with being just a gamemaster for a convention every so often, but this year has been elected chairman of the board of directors at Leprecon, Inc.

Wendy Trakes (Hospitality) brings over 30 years of convention volunteering experience. An internationally traveled archaeologist and foodie, Wendy embraced running medium-scale food service for conventions and indie films after being diagnosed with Celiac disease. Embarking on an adventure to find alternatives to her favorite dishes she could no longer eat, she sees food as an art form and community builder. She loves making people happy through food and has contributed allergy-safe meals at numerous gatherings including a few weddings, celebrations. She has introduced a Gluten Free table for various conventions around the state and as Hospitality Manager for DarkCon and Wild Wild West Con. She has been married 10 years,  is currently pursuing a Masters degree, and is mother of two adult daughters. She owns and maintains an all woman moderated Facebook science page called Spacemen Ate My Homework. Her work-life revolves around books and academic research.

Other Staff

We have many other talented people reporting up to our department heads, as follows. For background bios, please see the section below.


Working under Wendy in Hospitality is Kevin Hull, who runs the consuites at Gaslight Steampunk Expo in San Diego.


Accessibility Services is responsible for ensuring that we are appropriately catering to those who are differently able. This is currently an open slot. If you’re interested in this role, please e-mail

Marcus Johnston is responsible for coordinating our Fan Tables. Captain Johnston, RMN can be reached at and, if you want a better location this year, it couldn’t hurt to use his fictitious title in the email.

Michael Flanders is responsible for Logistics, ensuring that all Leprecon, Inc. equipment gets safely from the storage unit to Westercon 70 before the con and back again after it.

Mandy Parker is responsible for manning the Operations Room so that event staff have what they need when they need it.

Victor Bugg is responsible for our Rangers team which will keep Westercon 70 safe and secure.

Woody Bernardi will be ensuring that our Signage lets everyone know what’s happening where and how to get there.

Dawndreia Robinson is responsible for coordinating our Volunteers.


Michael Senft is responsible for our Books and Authors track. He can be reached at

Alex Canto is responsible for our Dances, working with John Hertz on the Regency Dance.

Jen McAlonan is responsible for our Diversity track.

Valerie Richie and Gary Swaty are jointly responsible for our Filk track.

Jon Bonnell is responsible for our Film track.

Elaine Mami is responsible for our Masquerade.

Edward Pulley is responsible for handling Moderation.

Hal C. F. Astell is responsible for Post-Con Events, though we’ve ramped these down because NASFiC is the following weekend.

Kelly Ann Bonnell is responsible for our Science and Education tracks.

Dee Astell is responsible for our Steampunk track.


Jason Drotman is responsible for our Marketing and Graphics. He created our logo and flyers and designed our Program Guide cover.

Anastasia Hunter is our Marketing Representative on the west coast.

Diane Shreve designed and created our Website. Hal C. F. Astell has maintained it.


Duncan Rittschof is our On-Site Vendor Liaison.

Background Bios of Other Staff

Victor Bugg (Rangers) is a studio medic and fandom/gaming cons organizer. He was born under the Union Jack and raised under Old Glory. He had a watercolor piece put into an art gallery as a kid and appeared the same year on a TV quiz show. He was a high school and college All American in sports. He went to college in Oklahoma and Montreal. He played pro football in Canada. He’s a gamer, a geek, a grandfather, an athlete, a video gamer, a comic fan, a cosplayer, a corpsman. He’s a first responder and worked as such at the Oklahoma City bombing, 9/11 and Katrina. He’s worked as medical crew on American Gladiators, Xena, Buffy, Survivor, Highlander and Firefly. He’s lived everywhere but Middle Earth.

Alex Canto (Dances). When people ask Alex how he got into dancing, he usually says “my parents met dancing.” Which is true. He also met his wife dancing. After moving to Arizona from Oakland, CA, Alex missed the costume dance events he used to go to so, in 2015, he decided that if you want it to exist, you have to do it yourself. Since then he has been teaching English and Irish traditional dances at local geek events. He runs AZ Shindig and Smart Alex Cosplay.

Marcus Johnston (Fan Tables) is a mercenary teacher by trade but, after jetsetting across the country (not as glamorous as it sounds), he comes home to be a space captain. As president of HMS Claymore (the Arizona Chapter of The Royal Manticoran Navy), he’s no stranger to fan tables and has manned his for the past three years at LepreCon. Getting tired of asking the confused staff, “Where’s my table?”, it seemed only fair to make the man complaining the loudest to be responsible for it.

Elaine Mami (Masquerade) has been costuming for about 34 years and plans to keep at it as long as she can find fabric. She competes in the Masters Division because it’s fun to keep challenging herself to keep up with the big dogs. She can also be found running costume cons, acting as Masquerade Director, judging, MCing and generally being underfoot in some fashion or other. In March she is generally running around Old Tucson Studios as part of the Wild Wild West Steampunk Convention staff because – why not? She also runs the Lower Arizona Costume Enthusiasts (LACE).

Jen McAlonan (Diversity) grew up in fandom and has spoken and/or performed at numerous local conventions, including LepreCon, DevCon and Phoenix Comicon. She is also a participant in the West Coast Nerd Corps podcast, as well as an educator in the Maricopa County Community Colleges.

Mandy Parker (Operations) once made an innocent little jaunt into the world of science fiction and fantasy conventions that turned into a lengthy trek leading deeper and deeper into the geek universe. Going between LepreCon, CopperCon, Phoenix Comicon, DarkCon and TusCon, she went from Attendee to Volunteer to Program Staff to Participant to Volunteer Director to Con Operations to Art Gallery Director to Registration to Program Director to Chair of LepreCon 2016 to Game Staff. Where she’ll end up next is any one’s guess.

Valerie Richie (Filk) grew up listening to filk and attending conventions and for the last two years she has run the filk/music tracks at LepreCon. She began performing in filk rooms at the age of 7 and now performs in The Unusual Suspects and Magical Wanderings as the Wanderer, as well as on her own as the Wandering Storyteller. Growing up she also developed a love of live theater and acting. Valerie currently lives in Mesa, AZ with her husband, Michael, and daughter, Kaitlyn, born in 2015. She tutors elementary students and performs in the Murder Mystery Company, Phoenix troupe.

Duncan Rittschof (On-Site Vendor Liaison) has been involved in selling books online through Amazon, Barnes and Noble and several other sites for close to nine years. He began his own business seven years ago and in the last few years has begun assisting local authors with selling their books at events. Part of that service is taking care of the taxes, both state and city, for the authors, ensuring authors don’t have to sweat some of those details. You can check him out further at Duncan’s Books and More which has links to the used books he sells and the new books he offers online.

Michael Senft (Books and Authors), a lifelong geek and reader, worked at Borders Books and wrote about music for the Arizona Republic. After rediscovering his love of fandom a few years ago, he combined his skills and passions into the occasionally-updated blog, Relentless Reading. Since then, he’s founded the Sci-Fridays Book Discussion Group at the Poisoned Pen and started regularly volunteering at local cons. He can usually be seen schmoozing with authors at events around town, or at the occasional prog-rock concert.

Gary Swaty (Filk) has been attending sci-fi cons since the early 1970s. The first he worked was IguanaCon II, the 1978 Phoenix WorldCon, working Info Desk and Security. Sometime in the mid-nineties, he became Filk Liaison to Phoenix area cons for the Phoenix Filk Circle; he obtained Filk GoHs and scheduled Filk events at CopperCon and LepreCon until 2013. He was Staff for Things Musical at MythosCon and the North American Discworld Convention and he worked Filk at Westercons 57 and 62. He chaired HexaCon 16 and CopperCon 28 and has worked many departments at AniZona, DarkCon, HexaCon, RandomCon, World Horror and World Fantasy. He was recognised as Fan GoH at LepreCon 42 in 2016.