The June 10th Edition of City & State Magazine

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Matt Anderson Justin Berhaupt Michael Blake Ed Braunstein Deanne Braverman Matt Cannon Carlos Cuevas Eric Henderson Zack Hutchins Jessica Morelli Joyce Latoya Joyner Todd Kaminsky Benjamin Kern Freeman Klopott Jeff Leb Chris Ludlow Annie Lydgate Molly Marcy John McCarthy Matthew McMorrow

28 29 30 31 32 33 34 36 37 38 40 41 42 43 44 45 46 47 48 49

Michael Meade Jennifer Mero Deidrea Miller Carl Mills III Jonaliza Misa Mitch Pawluk Burton Phillips Mike Poulopoulos Hattie Quarnstrom-Figueroa Diana Richardson Raven Robinson David Rozen Caley Taratus Julie Tighe Paul Thomas Mike Vilensky Tunisha Walker Alison Walsh Nantasha Williams Angela Wozniak

Profiles written by Jeffrey Coltin, Wilder Fleming, Ashley Hupfl, Jon Lentz, Alice Popovici and Justin Sondel.

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61 Broadway, Suite 2235 New York, NY 10006 Editorial (212) 894-5417 General (646) 517-2740 Advertising (212) 284-5422

CITY AND STATE, LLC Chairman Steve Farbman President/CEO Tom Allon PUBLISHING Publisher Andrew A. Holt Vice President of Advertising Jim Katocin

Michael Gareth Johnson Executive Editor

Events Director Jasmin Freeman Business Development Scott Augustine


tate government is a behemoth. It is a massive construct of agencies and authorities, political leaders and their staffers. It also includes lobbyists, advocates, journalists and countless others playing their parts in decisions that impact our everyday lives. And while the prominent elected officials get all the attention, there are thousands of hardworking people outside the glare of the spotlight who are just as vital to state operations. Which is why we profile 40 of these exceptional talents each year as our Rising Stars in the world of state government. This year’s honorees include a crop of fresh-faced Assembly members, some of the best communications people at the state Capitol, policy wonks who do unglamorous grunt work and some successful lobbyists. What struck me in reading the nominations and profiles was the sense of optimism they all shared. When we asked our honorees about the one thing that could make state government function better, the most common response was some version of having more time to allow them to accomplish more things—or think through their decisions. Another recurring theme we hear in the profiles is the Rising Stars’ desire to defend their colleagues in Albany against a perception of corruption, pointing out that the vast majority of those working at the Capitol or in state government are well-intentioned people who play by the rules and want to make things better. To a cynic all this may sound cliché or naive, but my sense is that among our honorees there is a sincere belief that their actions will make a difference for the good—even if it is a small one. In a year that saw unprecedented corruption exposed in the state Capitol, this positive attitude gives me hope that the future of state government is not doomed—it is in fact very bright.

Director of Marketing Samantha Diliberti EDITORIAL Executive Editor Michael Johnson Senior Correspondent Jon Lentz Digital Editor/Reporter Wilder Fleming Albany Reporter Ashley Hupfl Buffalo Reporter Justin Sondel Staff Reporter Sarina Trangle Editor-at-Large Gerson Borrero Copy Editor Ryan Somers PRODUCTION Art Director Guillaume Federighi Senior Designer Michelle Yang Marketing Graphic Designer Charles Flores, Web Manager Lydia Eck, Illustrator Danilo Agutoli City & State is published twice monthly. Copyright ©2015, City and State NY, LLC


Congratulations to CsEa’s own MillEr Bryan Chris ludlow and all of thE othEr 40 undEr 40 honorEEs rEprEsEnting thE nExt gEnEration of nEw york lEadErship.

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MATT ANDERSON DEPUTY SUPERINTENDENT FOR PUBLIC AFFAIRS, STATE DEPARTMENT OF FINANCIAL SERVICES bought up the right to service loans from a lot of the big banks and ultimately weren’t doing a very good job and that was causing some pretty significant homeowner abuses,” Anderson said. “So we had a case with a company called Ocwen related to that. That was the case I was most proud to have worked on.” Anderson grew up near Albany and got his start interning in the Assembly and for the state attorney general. In 2010 he became a spokesman for the U.S. Treasury Department in Washington, D.C., returning to New York two and a half years ago to work at DFS. “Having worked in Washington for a while, DFS is a smaller and more nimble organization in many ways, and that’s been both an advantage and a disadvantage,” Anderson said. “But when we see an issue that’s not getting enough attention, we can move quickly to help spotlight it or highlight it, and hopefully other regulators will follow as well.”

Age: 29


ew York’s Department of Financial Services has been turning heads since its formation in 2011, beating other regulators to the punch with a $340 million penalty against Standard Chartered bank in 2012 and raking in a mind-boggling $6 billion for the state. But for Matt Anderson, a top aide to DFS Superintendent Benjamin Lawsky, the agency’s oversight of non-bank mortgage servicers has been equally important. “These companies after the financial crisis had

If you could have any hero superpower, what would it be? “Mind reading, because it would make my job easier.” If you could change one thing about state government, what would it be? “Often you can have a quicker and more direct impact on everyday people in state government, rather than in D.C., where sometimes you feel removed from the work on the ground. But by the same token, oftentimes state government is a little more parochial and less policy focused, which is a detriment sometimes to achieving what we need to for New Yorkers.” —JL


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his month, Justin Berhaupt is traveling to Washington, D.C., to talk about prescription pill addiction in New York and I-STOP, a bill he helped advance while working for Attorney General Eric Schneiderman. Among other provisions, the Internet System for Tracking Over-Prescribing Act aims “to stem the problem before it becomes a criminal matter” by requiring doctors to consult a database before prescribing certain medications, Berhaupt said. This ensures patients are not already getting the same prescription elsewhere. “There’s definitely been a reduction in the amount of controlled substance prescription issues,” he said. “It’s improved numerous people’s lives.” Berhaupt, who left Schneiderman’s office to take a lobbying job with the firm Malkin & Ross earlier this year, said he and a few colleagues began working on the legislation several years ago at the attorney general’s request. After researching prescription medication in New York, Berhaupt said they learned that addiction to painkillers such as Oxycontin, opium and Vicodin was widespread throughout the state and affecting people from all demographics. Berhaupt said his inspiration to pursue law came from his grandfather, Harry Gold, who worked as an attorney and City Court judge in Kingston, Ulster County, in the 1960s. “I just saw how he had helped a lot of people,” he said.

Republicans or Democrats, or people that see an issue differently. If everyone just respected each other’s position a bit more, I think a lot more would get done.” —AP

If you could have any hero superpower, what would it be? “The ability to freeze time without it affecting myself.” If you could change one thing about state government, what would it be? “Increase civility between people, whether it be

Age: 37

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ichael Alexander Blake’s very name predicted his future in politics. Named after two Jamaican prime ministers, he always had a fascination with politics. Before he launched his political career, Blake was a sportscaster in Chicago. When he felt he wasn’t doing enough to help people, he decided to intern for a state senator, and later joined President Barack Obama’s “Yes We Can” political training program. “I don’t think there’s a more comprehensive way to help than public service,” Blake said. “I genuinely don’t think there is one. So that’s where it all started for me.” Blake describes himself as a “live music junkie” who also loves sports. When not busy with politics, he’d like to someday get back to playing the piano, a childhood pastime. He says his goals include combating income inequality and helping people reach their potential. This year, he has pushed criminal justice reforms, including the “Raise the Age” campaign. “This year hopefully showed people what young progressive energy can do,” he said. “There’s this transformational feel that’s started to happen in Albany. I feel this is the beginning of some major things that are going to happen.” If you could have any hero superpower, what would it be? “To live forever.” If you could change one thing about state government, what would it be? “That we would find more efficient ways to fund the local projects in need. If we could find ways to help people faster and give them the resources they need, that would be the most changeable thing to get done.” —AH

Age: 32


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“There’s a lot of learning that needs to go on about how to portray yourself to voters and how to navigate the political landscape,” he said. “It’s something you really need to learn trial-by-fire.” The Queens assemblyman says he ran for office to help protect his constituents’ quality of life. He represents about 125,000 people in northeast Queens, and says that everything he does, he does with their interests in mind. During his time in office, he’s fought to reduce excessive airplane noise and create a fair property tax for residents in co-op housing. His greatest accomplishment after assuming office was working with the Bloomberg administration to change the co-op tax abatement system. Braunstein is a die-hard Mets fan and enjoys going to the beach when he’s not working. “If I can sum up what I love about the job I have now, it’s the people,” he said. “Every day I wake up and I don’t know what the day is going to bring me and I meet so many different people from so many diverse backgrounds. It’s something that I wouldn’t give up in a million years.” If you could have any hero superpower, what would it be? “Oh man. I guess I would like to fly. If I could fly it would be pretty cool.” Age: 34


d Braunstein has long been involved in politics, but before 2010, when he ran for an open Assembly seat, he’d never been a candidate for office.

If you could change one thing about state government, what would it be? “I think we could have a little bit more session time. After the November elections, after we go back in January, if we had an extra month up in Albany I think it would create more time for people to get more accomplished.” —AH


re q u i r e i n n ova t i ve s t ra t e g i e s Congratulations to

ANNIE LYDGATE and the 2015 Rising Stars! Proud to celebrate this acomplishment with you! Maggie Moran Rich Bamberger Michael Blaustein Vincent Ciniello Chris Donnelly Andrew Fries Kay Gehshan Bao-Tran Huynh Jaclyn La Barbera Edgard Laborde Alex Lewis Annie Lydgate



June 2015

Laura Matos

Peter Mauric Chuck Meara Thomas Meara Sue Miceli Benjamin Rubin Jonathan Scharff Kira Shunk Zach Silber Adam Steinberger Adriane Underwood



30 Vandam Street, 3rd Floor New York, NY 10013 212.929.0669

1700 Main Street, Suite 4 Lake Como, NJ 07719 732.280.9600


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eanne “Dee” Braveman is a government relations associate at law firm Meyer, Suozzi, English & Klein—but some people call her “Martha Stewart.” “I love to cook,” said Braveman, who spends her free time baking cakes, churning her own butter and making bread, pasta and ricotta cheese from scratch. “I’m constantly trying new recipes and sharing with friends.” A lobbyist currently working on the Paid Family Leave Insurance Campaign, Braveman said she’s drawn to policy issues that promote social change. The campaign, which is supported by child care groups and labor groups, among other organizations, promotes paid family leave for new parents as well as family members caring for a sick loved one. “I spend a lot of my time really talking to people … to find out why they care about family leave and then translate that to legislators,” Braveman said. “It’s been really great to see how community groups can come together and be supportive of a legislative campaign.” Braveman said she tries to blend her culinary and policy worlds whenever possible—and often treats her colleagues to home-baked goodies at events and receptions. “If there is a way for me to bring my food interests into work, I definitely do,” she said. If you could have any hero superpower, what would it be? “Teleportation. I would like to be able to go places very quickly. If I could be at work all week and take a 20-second trip to Napa, that would be awesome.”

If you could change one thing about state government, what would it be? “I would probably increase the involvement of women in decision-making positions. I think it’s important to have more voices represented.” —AP

Age: 32

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MATT CANNON DIRECTOR OF PUBLIC AFFAIRS, GRAMERCY COMMUNICATIONS The project was fast-moving—three weeks of media outreach, messaging, talking points and op-eds advancing the position of CEOs from various New York industries—but in the end Cannon said his team’s efforts proved successful. Lawmakers approved $1.5 billion in funding for the 2015-2016 budget, which will be used for infrastructure improvements, tourism initiatives and economic development. “We created a grass-roots media effort with the CEOs,” Cannon said. “You’re really just injecting life into the upstate.” Cannon said one of the most exciting aspects of his work is developing a media campaign and seeing it play out exactly as planned. The strategy he shares with his teammates, he says, is to focus on the end goal and the audience they want to reach, while tapping into their range of experience and staying flexible. “At this firm we’re very competitive. We all want to win,” he said. Gramercy Communications, a 10-employee agency, has made a name for itself statewide despite its small size. “We’re still competing against those large, established New York City firms.”

Age: 30


hile lawmakers deliberated the state budget in March, Matt Cannon and his colleagues at Gramercy Communications were rapidly working on a media campaign aimed at securing funding for the Upstate Revitalization Initiative.

If you could have any hero superpower, what would it be? “The ability to travel in time. I think there’s just so many cool historical things in all different industries (and) locations.” If you could change one thing about state government, what would it be? “Restore the legislative softball league. It’s a nice time to interact with the people you work with daily in a fun setting, while still showing our competitive side.” —AP


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arlos Cuevas was making plenty of money at a hedge fund a few years ago, but he hated the work. “I was making rich people richer, but when you make someone who has $50 million $2 million, it really doesn’t impact their life all that much,” he said. While the financial crisis was eliminating the jobs—and health coverage—of his colleagues, Cuevas simply quit. He went on to help his father, a corporate bankruptcy attorney, restructure a health center. “What I realized is that everybody utilizes the health care system, but so few people understand how it works and how the financial incentives dictate what kind of care you get and what kind of setting you get it in,” he said. “I realized I was never going to be a doctor and physically save lives, but that I could use my finance skill set to do a lot of good.” He returned to Columbia University, earning master’s degrees in public health and public administration. The Affordable Care Act was going into effect, and New York launched its Medicaid Redesign Team to revamp the delivery of care. “I basically lived like a 12th-century monk in grad school and studied every MRT document that came out, because my goal was to be the Medicaid expert for my generation,” he said. That led to a two-year state fellowship, and his MRT contributions landed him a permanent job this year. Now, the New York City native is unsure if he’ll leave Albany. “I love upstate New York and it’s going to be pretty hard to get me downstate,” he said. If you could have any hero superpower, what would it be? “To read minds, because it would give me greater empathy to understand other people’s positions.”

If you could change one thing about state government, what would it be? “People’s perception. People think that there’s a tremendous amount of bureaucracy and that the wheels move slowly, but there are thousands of state workers that are dedicated to making government better and could be making so much more on the outside but really understand the value.” —JL

Age: 31

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Age: 39


henever Eric Henderson walks into the state Capitol to network or attend meetings on health care policy, he feels a “Capraesque” sense of purpose, he says. The old building reminds him of the film “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington,” directed by Frank Capra, in which a young, idealistic senator takes a stand against government corruption. “You walk into a big building that’s filled with

history … you sort of become part of that machine,” said Henderson, who joined law firm Cordo & Co. last year as director of health care policy. “I never thought of myself as going into government relations, but I loved the research piece of it.” Henderson, who has spent the past eight years working on Medicaid delivery, policy and compliance—he previously worked for the nonprofit organization Capital District Physicians’ Health Plan Inc.—said the process has been “fascinating.” There has been particular interest in reforming New York’s Medicaid delivery system, which—at about $55 billion per year—is considered among the most expensive in the nation. Now, as he coordinates between lawmakers and clients including nonprofits, nurses organizations, organ donor networks and health care workers unions, Henderson said he enjoys seeing “how all the pieces fit together.” “It’s like putting together a puzzle,” he said. “Having the opportunity to touch so many different parts of the industry is always exciting. It’s challenging in the best possible way.” If you could have any hero superpower, what would it be? “Telekinesis. Because I’m always interested in efficiency.” If you could change one thing about state government, what would it be? “Accessibility. Access and knowledge are huge, and I think it can make us all much more thoughtful and much more meaningfully engaged in how the government works.” —AP


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ack Hutchins knows how to make the most of a challenge. He had only been on the job as the media manager in the state Senate for a few months when the infamous coup of 2009 took place, throwing the chamber into chaos. Instead of being overwhelmed, the former reporter looked at the situation—which found him trying to figure out how to cover an outdoor session of the Senate majority—as an opportunity to use his communications skills to get the word out about the very unique events. He came up with what he called a “mobile news studio” to allow him to film, edit and post reports on the fly. “It was a really fun, exciting time,” Hutchins said. “I wasn’t making much money. I was working incredibly long hours. But I really enjoyed my job.” Those experiences served Hutchins well as he continued to climb the rungs of the communications world. Now he works to get the word out for the state’s top business advocacy group. Hutchins says that although working for a business council in a state like New York can be a challenge, he has a great group of co-workers who, like himself, enjoy working to try to get some things changed, a fight he says is heading in the right direction. “Working for a business organization in a state that doesn’t have the best business climate means that we always have lots to do,” Hutchins said. “And that’s good. It keeps us busy.” If you could have any hero superpower, what would it be? “I’ve always been fascinated by flight. I would love to be able to fly.”

If you could change one thing about state government, what would it be? I think the public really needs to know and should know that the vast, vast majority of (people working in politics) are good, honest, hardworking, really smart people. I tell all my friends, if they ever have the opportunity, to work for a lawmaker at whatever level it might be.” —JS

Age: 32

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she went on to work with then-New York City Mayor Michal Bloomberg and lobbied on behalf of county governments before signing on with state Sen. David Valesky. “It was actually the perfect foray into this arena because it allowed me to use a lot of skills from my liberal arts degree,” Joyce said. A mother of three boys, Joyce says the demands of the job can sometimes be difficult, especially when trying to be involved in her kids’ lives, but she is able to keep up because she really enjoys what she does. “I’m a person who is really programmed to work,” Joyce said. “I like to work. I like to be busy and I really like challenges all the time.” Joyce has particularly enjoyed the challenge of working for a member of the Independent Democratic Conference, though she hopes that soon she can stop having to explain how the coalition government works. “It’s always a challenge to try to work with a lot of different personalities, and in the Senate, particularly, it’s challenging to have to keep explaining the coalition,” she said.

Age: 38


essica Morelli Joyce studied literature and theater as an undergrad—so she didn’t find the transition to politics very difficult, since she was so familiar with drama before she got to Albany. Landing a job with then-Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver’s office right out of graduate school,

If you could have any hero superpower, what would it be? “To be in two places at once. Sometimes I do feel pretty torn about being with my kids or at their events and being at work because I love doing both things. It would be a lot easier if I could be in two places at once.” If you could change one thing about state government, what would it be? “The IDC would be in charge.” —JS

Meyer Suozzi is pleased to congratulate our colleague

Deanne Braveman City & State’s 40 Under 40 Rising Stars of 2015

Meyer, Suozzi, English & Klein, P.C. I One Commerce Plaza I Albany I New York 12260 I Tel: 518-465-5551 ALBANY I GARDEN CITY I NEW YORK CITY I WASHINGTON, D.C. I

Congratulations to our dear friend and esteemed colleague

Tunisha W. Walker And all the honorees for being recognized by City&State as Albany’s 40 Under 40 Rising Stars

The Woolworth Building • 233 Broadway, Suite 710 • New York, NY 10279 • 212.616.5810 • •


June 2015


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uring her campaign for her Assembly seat, Latoya Joyner focused on a grass-roots, community-based approach. “I chose to run because I really care about the district,” she said. “There are a lot of pressing issues that directly impact me and I thought I could be the best voice to represent the district.” Her favorite way to relax is spending time in the park and with her friends in her community. During her time in Albany, the Bronx Democrat has helped pass legislation to allow domestic abuse victims to file orders of protection electronically and secured funding for a legal education opportunity program. Joyner first became interested in politics when she interned for former Assemblywoman Aurelia Greene. While later working as her community liaison, she was introduced to the legislative process and became very interested in constituent issues and helping the community. “Legislation and policies that directly impact my district remain on the forefront,” she said. “I think I’ve accomplished a lot so far!” If you could have any hero superpower, what would it be? “If I had to pick a superhero, it would have to be Jean Grey because she is a strong woman, has exceptional abilities and a powerful mind.”

Age: 28

If you could change one thing about state government, what would it be? “To not have everything linked all the time. I think delinking legislation and really addressing things on their merits sends a positive message because the exchange sometimes sends the wrong message.” —AH


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fter the arrests of both leaders of the state houses, one could call this former federal prosecutor’s first year in the Assembly “timely.” Todd Kaminsky has experience with corruption, having helped convict former state Senate Majority Leader Pedro Espada Jr. and former U.S. Rep. Michael Grimm. However, it was after Superstorm Sandy hit that he got involved in his community. And Kaminsky says there is still a lot of work to be done for his district to recover. “It opened my eyes,” he said. “I got involved in trying to recruit charities to help individuals who were in real need and that got me involved civically again and engaged with civic organizations (and) local governments.” Now, in between listening to Bruce Springsteen and helping his wife care for their baby boy, Rafe, born in February, he hopes to help restore the public’s confidence in the ability of Albany to operate honestly. “A lot of people told me I was crazy to leave the U.S. Attorney’s Office—that I would sit around here and bang my head against the wall waiting for someone to tell me how to vote,” he said. “It’s been the furthest thing from the truth. I’m very fortunate to be in this position.”

running every two years has people thinking way too much about elections and not what’s good for the state. … (Also) I think making this a full-time Legislature would be a really good idea.” —AH

If you could have any hero superpower, what would it be? “I’d want to know what people are thinking as I’m talking to them.” If you could change one thing about state government, what would it be? “If I could change anything it would be that the Assembly and Senate terms are longer because

Age: 37

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ack when Benjamin Kern was attending American University in D.C., he parlayed a year of high school in Germany into a job at the Department of Justice translating Nazi-era legal depositions, “investigating these 80-, 90-year-old guys who were involved in the Holocaust trying to figure out if there were still legal prosecutions to go forward,” he said. Kern is still translating today, but it’s not Deutsch anymore—it’s the singular language of the Capitol. “It’s not just explaining the legislation or how it fits into the larger legal scheme but sometimes it’s just translating the politics of Albany to the client,” he said. “I find the clients are extremely smart and knowledgeable, but Albany is its own little world. Especially if they’re based outside of New York, they just don’t get how things work in Albany.” Those clients are lucky to have Kern around—the Ulster County native has his finger on the Capitol’s pulse, connecting corporations and nonprofits with lawmakers. He has even started to focus on a new language: the legal side of health care exchanges. If you could have any hero superpower, what would it be? “To travel at the speed of light, so I could quickly get away! I wish I could do a three-day weekend in Europe and be over there in a split-second.” If you could change one thing about state government, what would it be? “Wish that more people in New York actually paid attention to what goes on. I think it would go a long way to solving some issues that are very prevalent right now. I just think there are a lot of people in New York that are very interested in what goes on in Washington but are generally naive about state politics.” —JC

Age: 30


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here’s nobody quite like us up here in Albany,” Freeman Klopott says of Bloomberg’s finance-heavy coverage of state politics. And many would say there’s nobody quite like Klopott. In his four years covering the capitol, Klopott has put together great stories on everything from state Sen. Tom Libous’ ties to fracking interests to a series on the expansion of the state’s Hasidic population into the New York City exurbs. But his favorite stories are all about state and municipal finances. “It’s a fascinating way to look at and assess how that government is functioning by looking at the way people in the bond market are treating the government’s debt,” he said. Klopott worked and went to school in four states before coming back to his Capitol Region home. “Like Goldilocks,” he said, “Albany is just the right size for me.” And the political town fit his interests perfectly. “Covering politics is one of the reasons I got into journalism,” he said. “I was fascinated by the sausage-making, the inner workings of how our government functions.” If you could have any hero superpower what would it be? “Invisible. I would definitely hide in the governor’s office during budget negotiations. Watch the three men in the room do their work.”

Age: 33

If you could change one thing about state government, what would it be? “Scale back the governor’s powers over the budget so you could have an actual legislative process where you have hearings and bill markups that are public and are actually meaningful so that people know how things are put together and can know why their money is being spent the way it is.” —JC

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JEFF LEB MANAGING DIRECTOR OF GOVERNMENT AND EXTERNAL RELATIONS, UJA-FEDERATION OF NEW YORK in Brooklyn before being hired by the New York City Council. “Then I just became a dirty lobbyist, I guess,” Leb said with a laugh. “I got traded to the dark side.” All joking aside, Leb has demonstrated his passion for the work he does, advocating on behalf of some of the same causes he started off fighting for, albeit in a different capacity. On the City Council, for instance, he was able to make a significant impact by helping to secure millions of dollars to upgrade special-needs schools. “I lobby in order to get government to essentially assist people with their everyday needs and try to make the programs that are run by the city and by the state and by the government more efficient and more effective so that people can achieve the maximum benefit,” Leb said. Leb said that throughout his career, one of the hardest things he has had to do is earn people’s trust, as many people have a hard time taking lobbyists and politicians at their word. “It’s really just creating a bond and a trust with whomever I speak with,” Leb said.

Age: 36


eff Leb always knew he wanted to work with communities. What he didn’t know was that he would eventually be serving them by lobbying legislators on their behalf. Leb started his career in the not-for-profit sector

If you could have any hero superpower, what would it be? “I’d probably go with the ability to fly, because getting to and from Albany is just ... not a very fun part of my commute and having the ability to fly would allow me to actually get back to possibly get to dinner with my family.” If you could change one thing about state government, what would it be? “I think I’d move session to the fall and spring only, so we could avoid the Albany winters.” —JS


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n many ways, getting elected is about making promises—something a fourth-grade Chris Ludlow knew as he ran for class president on a platform of better snacks, more recess and more gym time. “I didn’t know what the heck I was doing,” Ludlow said, and he couldn’t follow through on any of his promises. Now, as a coordinator for the Civil Service Employees Association in the Hudson Valley, Ludlow is more careful about what he tells his 40,000 members. “All I can promise is that I will always be there to fight for them, and I will help lead the charge and work collaboratively with them,” he said. “To not only stop bad things from happening, but to also make gains and to improve people’s lives and to protect their retirement.” Ludlow is passionate about retirement, speaking with a fervor many reserve for religion. “I have members that have been working 40 years or more,” he said. “If you don’t deserve a secure, decent retirement after that, I don’t know what you have to do to get that.” It’s a far cry from more recess—but this is a promise Ludlow knows he can keep. If you could have any hero superpower, what would it be? “The ability to fly would be pretty cool. I hate traffic so much, so if I could just get out of my car and fly over it, that would be a positive.” If you could change one thing about state government, what would it be? “Make it more transparent. There’s an obvious distrust from the public in their government in recent years and months. I think more transparency would restore some of that trust.” —JC

Age: 29

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campus and into presidential politics, working to register college students throughout the Midwest during the lead-up to the 2008 elections. “The 2008 Obama campaign was just starting to take hold, so it was a super exciting time to be in Chicago,” Lydgate said. From there she went on to join David Axelrod’s firm ASGK, and eventually moved on to M Public Affairs. In both cases Lydgate got to help build the companies from the ground up: When she signed on with M Public Affairs there were four employees and now there are more than 40, she said. “It’s been really fun to be at the ground level helping build the company,” she said. Lydgate said that to deal with the stress of such a demanding job, she loves to have dinner parties with friends, drink some wine and talk about things other than work. “I always find socializing with my friends who have absolutely no ties to the world I work in is really the best way to wind down,” Lydgate said. If you could have any hero superpower, what would it be? “The power of flight. It’s kind of an obvious answer, but flight would be pretty sweet.” Age: 30


nnie Lydgate’s first gig after college put her squarely on the path to working with politicians. She stepped right off the Washington University

If you could change one thing about state government, what would it be? “I would like more people to vote. I would like the general population of New York State to be more engaged, more informed and more active in the process.” -JS


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But the Marcy family legacy in Albany goes back even further—her great-grandmother Mary Marcy founded the Albany County Democratic Women’s Club and was Boss Dan O’Connell’s right-hand woman. But the young Molly Marcy didn’t always dream of politics: She first thought of being an architect. A political science class at the University at Albany changed that, but she still appreciates the Capitol through an artist’s eyes: “I think it is so beautiful!” she said. “I just like to go for a walk and look at the architecture, the detail is unbelievable. I feel like I could walk around that building every day for the next year and still find something new that I didn’t know was there.” She may not be an architect, but that hasn’t stopped Marcy from writing blueprints for the IDC. From working with lobbyists to hearing out members’ budget and bill priorities, Marcy is doing her part to leave a legacy for whichever Marcy comes to the Capitol next.

Age: 25


olly Marcy was destined for politics—her mother has worked in the Assembly for 38 years. “I’ve been literally coming here since I was born,” she said. “My mom brought me to the Legislative Office Building as a baby.”

If you could have any hero superpower, what would it be? “Going back in time. Would you consider that a superpower? I love JFK so I would travel back in time and see him as president.” If you could change one thing about state government, what would it be? “Probably the budget process, the late-night negotiations. It just seems so compact. Everyone’s trying to come to a deal, so they’re working late at night … it’s a little exhausting.” —JC

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hen it came to his career path, John McCarthy had a geographical influence. While he wasn’t dead set on getting involved in politics, the Albany-area native had been surrounded by talk of the Capitol since he was a kid. “I always was involved in politics and always kind of had a passion for it,” McCarthy said. “Growing up in Albany you don’t really have a choice.” McCarthy advises clients and lobbies state representatives on matters relating to capital funds and labor. Sometimes, trying to get your message across in a sea of voices can seem like a daunting task, he says. “There are hundreds of people going around meeting with elected,” McCarthy said. “It’s both a challenge and one of the things I love most about it.” McCarthy, who worked in the governor’s office before signing on with Bolton-St. Johns, said that while Albany can be frustrating, with some bills lingering for years, seeing laws he has advocated for enacted after a hard fight can be very rewarding. “We had to fight for 11 years, for what I thought was a very worthwhile piece of legislation, to get it passed,” McCarthy said of a bill regulating the engineering field. “That was certainly a great success when the bill was passed and the governor signed it.” If you could have any hero superpower, what would it be? “The ability to fly so I would never have to deal with New York City traffic or the subway again.” If you could change one thing about state government, what would it be? “Putting a timeline on legislation on whether it is voted on or not instead of just having bills be lingering around for years and years and years.” —JS

Age: 32


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MATTHEW MCMORROW DIRECTOR OF GOVERNMENT AFFAIRS, EMPIRE STATE PRIDE AGENDA to celebrate. “Eighteen other states have passed nondiscrimination laws for transgender people, and New York has not,” he said. “We’re really falling behind on transgender issues.” McMorrow is spending this legislative session pushing the GENDA, or Gender Expression NonDiscrimination Act, in his position as the Empire State Pride Agenda’s director of government affairs— just his latest role in a life focused on advocating for LGBT issues. After less than two years working in Albany, McMorrow beams with pride for his wins, like doubling the amount of state funding for runaway and homeless youth services and shelters, building support for a ban on “gay conversion” therapy in the state, and gaining sponsors in the Senate for GENDA. Politics has always been in McMorrow’s blood. He was inspired to go into LGBT advocacy by the marriage equality fight in the 2000s and worked on campaigns in high school in Connecticut and later at NYU. Off days in Albany and nights after session will find him at City Beer Hall or Prime, but his mind is always on the goal. “I think the national conversation that is happening around transgender issues puts us in a pretty good position to get (GENDA) passed this year,” he said. If you could have any hero superpower, what would it be? “To change minds.” Age: 35


aitlyn Jenner’s appearance on the cover of Vanity Fair is being called “pivotal,” “a tipping point” and a “watershed moment,” but Matthew McMorrow may be too busy working

If you could change one thing about state government, what would it be? “I would probably change the calendar year of the legislative session. I don’t like to spend January and February in Albany.” —JC

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Age: 37


n Halloween in 1988, one week before the presidential election, Michael Meade donned a blue blazer, a tie and a campaign sign, parted his hair to one side and went trick-ortreating as Democratic candidate Michael Dukakis. He was in the fifth grade and already captivated by the political process. “There was an interest in politics in my family,” said Meade, who is still immersed in the political world

nearly 30 years later as director of intergovernmental affairs for Attorney General Eric Schneiderman. “It seemed like a funny—but also relevant and timely— costume.” Meade, who began working for Schneiderman during the attorney general’s tenure as state senator in 2006, said one of the things he enjoys most about his job is having the opportunity to talk with people around the state about the work being done in his office. “It’s just been a fun, fascinating ride, but also an opportunity to do a lot of great work with a great public servant,” Meade said. “Everything we do impacts a New Yorker in various ways.” One recent program Meade says has had a significant impact on the community is Schneiderman’s initiative to equip police officers with naloxone, a “heroin antidote” that can reverse the effects of drug overdose. The Attorney General’s Office estimates that the Community Overdose Prevention Program, which began in April 2014, saved the lives of more than 100 people by early 2015. If you could have any hero superpower, what would it be? “I wish I had the power to extend my day … to add an extra two hours onto my day.” If you could change one thing about state government, what would it be? “Public financing of campaigns—I think that’s something that needs to happen. Public financing helps level the playing field.” —AP


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ometimes the State University system can feel like the Broadway building that houses it: big, old and imposing. But Jen Mero is fighting that, bringing youth, accessibility and an outsider’s sensibility to the system of 65 campuses and almost 470,000 students. In her eight months as assistant secretary of the university, she has worked with the board of trustees to bring the office “a little bit more into the 21st century.” Mero was never a SUNY student. She attended tiny Russell Sage College in Troy, but she has loved learning the system: “To see this massive network of colleges and universities working together is pretty impressive.” But she doesn’t know it all yet. “I learn something new every day,” she said. “A little naive to think you know it all!” All her hard work does get her some perks, though, like a prime place in that “gorgeous” building. “I’m on the 11th floor of the tower, so I have a really great view of the river as well.” If you could have any hero superpower, what would it be? “Flying. It would be pretty cool, WonderWomaning, to fly wherever I wanted … in an invisible jet. Then I could bring luggage. No more security lines and baggage fees.” If you could change one thing about state government, what would it be? “Campaign finance reform. … It doesn’t affect me in my current position, but it would help state politics, and how things work and who can get in and how people get in.” —JC

Age: 29

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communications and strategy for the utility. “I’d like to tap into that wonder—the wonder that people have about electricity.” NYPA is in the middle of a five- to 10-year process of updating its infrastructure, and Miller says she wants to translate the technical language of levers and boards into tangible ideas. To explain this transition visually, she and her team created an animation that traces the story of electricity in New York from the power plant built by Thomas Edison on Pearl Street in 1882—the first in the nation—to plans for powering the city with renewable energy. “We tapped into that nostalgia—the pride of being a New Yorker—and then we pivoted and told the story (of) what it’s going to look like in the future,” she said. Miller, who has a bachelor’s degree in history and a master’s in marketing, says she has always been fascinated by advertising and its capacity to tell the story of a particular time. She has a vintage poster collection dating back to the 1920s ranging from propaganda to food and music ads.

Age: 31


eidrea Miller doesn’t just want to inform people about the New York Power Authority’s energy modernization projects—she wants to capture their imaginations. “We are at a really interesting time in the utility industry,” said Miller, manager of digital

If you could have any hero superpower, what would it be? “Manipulating time—I’ve always wanted to meet my ancestors, and to spend an infinite amount of time with my grandchildren and great-grandchildren.” If you could change one thing about state government, what would it be? “I would have it have more of a startup culture … where you can just start something new very quickly and get it up and running very quickly.” —AP


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As Flanagan’s counsel and legislative director, Mills until recently focused on education issues because of Flanagan’s position as chairman of the state Senate Education Committee. Now, he’s responsible for keeping track of all policy areas—with only weeks remaining in the legislative session. “It’s like going from the minor leagues to the major leagues—I know it’s a really cheesy analogy,” he said. “It was just three of us in his Albany office and now he has dozens and dozens of people who work for him. We’re still unpacking our office while also trying to get a lot of the big-ticket items negotiated by the end of session.” Mills gets away from the chaos of the state Capitol by playing the guitar. He also enjoys hiking with his fiancée and his dog on the weekends. Originally a science major, he never had any intention of getting involved in politics before he accepted a fellowship during law school and got hooked. “It’s been quite overwhelming, but in a good way!” Mills said. “The best part of the job is being able to help people.” If you could have any hero superpower, what would it be? “Probably to fly.” Age: 30


f Carl Mills hadn’t already deserved to be on our list, the recent ascension of John Flanagan to state Senate majority leader would have clinched the nomination.

If you could change one thing about state government, what would it be? “I wish people were more involved. Federal government gets a lot of attention, but I feel like your more local officials have much more of an impact. I guess say making state government more accessible.” —AH

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bove all else, the lawmakers in Albany are there to serve their constituents, so it’s important for voters to know what’s going on at the Capitol. That’s where people like Jonaliza Misa come in. As communications specialist for Senate Democratic Conference Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins, Misa relays important legislative and community-related information from Albany to constituents. But politics hasn’t always been her goal. “My original plan was to work in the fashion industry,” Misa said, and that is what she studied at Virginia Tech. “I realized I wanted to do something more meaningful, something that made me feel good.” Thus began her path to public service. She worked briefly for the Rev. Al Sharpton before ending up in Albany. Misa values her time outside the Capitol as well, volunteering to help nonprofits and small businesses build their communications strategies and fundraising efforts. But even a communications specialist needs some time unplugged. Her favorite place is “up in the mountains somewhere, where there is a trail! I find some peace and quiet hiking the Adirondacks.” If you could have any hero superpower, what would it be? “If I could have one superpower, it would be to become a time-traveler so I can witness historical events that changed the world.” If you could change one thing about state government, what would it be? “I would change leadership so that a woman, aka my boss, Democratic Conference Leader StewartCousins, is in charge.” —JC

Age: 35


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Age: 30


s New York prepares to enter the medical marijuana industry and begin the selection process for granting licenses to interested businesses, Mitchell Pawluk—whose law firm represents one of the applicants—said he’s enjoyed being involved in what will be “a highly competitive race.” “It’s an emerging industry in New York State,”

Pawluk, an attorney with Harris Beach PLLC, said of the state’s medical marijuana program. “It’s always great to be on the front line.” Pawluk says New York’s regulations for its medical marijuana program, which was enacted last year and is now accepting applications from businesses interested in operating as growers or dispensaries, are expected to be among the most restrictive in the nation. He says he enjoys helping clients, among them companies in the gaming, racing and energy industries, navigate complicated regulatory processes and abide by state laws. “It has its challenges,” he said. “We do big projects at Harris Beach … and we do it under the tightest deadlines.” The past 10 years have been a “fast-moving, ever-changing” time in New York politics, said Pawluk, who has worked with the U.S. Attorney’s Office and the state Attorney General’s Office, among other agencies. He said the administrative changes and shifting political landscape in the state means there is even more emphasis on observing regulations. “Integrity is of the utmost priority in Albany currently,” Pawluk said. “At the end of the day, it’s all about trust.” If you could have any hero superpower, what would it be? “The ability to complete tasks by the blink of an eye.” If you could change one thing about state government, what would it be? “I would change the Empire State Plaza … it’s a largely more modern building. I would redo the Empire State Plaza to reflect a more classic design.” —AP

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urton Phillips was a political junkie since before most kids his age could tie their shoes. When he was 5 years old, the youngster backed Bush in the Bush-Dukakis presidential race, because he shared a name with one of Phillips’ baseball cards, Minnesota Twins designated hitter Randy Bush. Phillips says his political analysis has grown more astute since then— now he is drawn especially to those he describes as “principled, ambitious,” and “champions for their community.” He started his career interning in Washington for the progressive darling and presidential candidate Bernie Sanders, then a Vermont congressman. He now works for a New York progressive, Manhattan Sen. Brad Hoylman. Phillips is especially proud of his work helping organize Albany’s first legislative forum on climate change and his work to get funding in the budget to support runaway homeless youth. Phillips says there’s a “common thread” throughout his work: “sticking up for the voiceless and disenfranchised, and holding entrenched interests accountable.” But even a longtime political junkie needs a break once in a while. He just moved into a new house near the Capitol that he and his girlfriend are deeming their “cone of silence” to step away from the Legislature. If you could have any hero superpower, what would it be? “Right now, I only have the ability to be in three or four places at one time. If I can raise that to like five or six, that might make my job a little easier.”

Age: 32

If you could change one thing about state government, what would it be? “The deep cynicism that unfortunately has taken hold in Albany, and restoring people’s trust.” —JC

The Partners and Team of Bolton-St. Johns Tom Connolly Giorgio DeRosa Ed Draves Emily Giske Mike Keogh Bill McCarthy Jack O’Donnell

Congratulate John McCarthy for being named to City & State’s 40 Under 40 Rising Stars of Albany list, and for being recognized for his expertise in government relations across New York State.



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veryone says the devil’s in the details for the budget,” said Mike Poulopoulos. “But that’s also the saying regardless of what’s going on in leadership. The details are always what matters.” And Poulopoulos’ website StateWatch is one of the best places to get those details. Somewhere between an “editor, data specialist and journalist at times,” Poulopoulos has been providing StateWatch’s subscribers with the hard data behind what’s going on at the Capitol for 11 years. Poulopoulos joined as an intern, purely out of “curiosity” for politics, and rose through the ranks over the past decade. StateWatch seems to be the perfect fit for Poulopoulos, who, while he was still attending the College of Saint Rose, started a nonpartisan advocacy group “basically to get people together and share information and then enable folks to make their own decisions.” Albany is the perfect fit for this Capital Region native. He still lists his childhood home in west Albany as his favorite place in town. If you could have any hero superpower, what would it be? “The power to make session end every day at 5 p.m. You know the state of Louisiana has a constitutional requirement that session will not go beyond 5 p.m.” If you could change one thing about state government, what would it be? “Generally speaking, I wish it were more open and inclusive.” —JC

Age: 35


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hen she looks up from her desk at the New York State Office for New Americans, Hattie Quarnstrom-Figueroa can see all the different things she wants to remember on dryerase boards around the room—from task lists and deadlines to contracts and email addresses. “There’s a lot of hats I have to wear … you have to be super organized and make sure every moving piece is always moving,” said Quarnstrom-Figueroa, who manages the recently opened office, which focuses on helping immigrants and refugees make New York home. “Everyone walks in and they laugh at my boards.” Launched by Gov. Andrew Cuomo in 2013, the Office for New Americans is made up of 26 opportunity centers throughout the state, where clients attend ESOL (English for Speakers of Other Languages) classes, receive legal assistance or find information on how to start their own businesses. Quarnstrom-Figueroa said she recently observed a lively class at one of the centers, where women from different countries were learning new vocabulary words and having fun. “It’s extremely rewarding,” said QuarnstromFigueroa, who draws a lot from her experience in previous positions with Teach for America and New York City’s Administration for Children’s Services. She says having worked in communities served by various nonprofit and government organizations inspires her to carefully evaluate services to determine whether they will work. “Does it make sense?” she asks when considering a program at her office. “Would it work for a family that I know? Would it work for me?”

If you could have any hero superpower, what would it be? “I would definitely want to be able to teleport myself anywhere. Blink and be anywhere I want.” If you could change one thing about state government, what would it be? “It would be all the red tape. Sometimes something simple can take a lot of steps to get done.” —AP

Age: 34

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The tide is turning and it’s just not beneficial to the residents,” she said. “I felt the community needed to be more organized.” The newsletter prompted Richardson to run for district leader of the 43rd Assembly District—a campaign she lost by 400 votes. Still, she rebounded with a grass-roots approach using phone banks and going door to door to speak with potential constituents, and was elected to the Assembly in 2015. “I believe that leadership is visual,” Richardson said. “How I deal with the community is just something different, something they’re not used to, which is why they were very receptive to me.” Richardson’s biggest priority going forward is to continue to organize her district and be more personally involved in community and constituent issues. While there’s still a lot of work to do, she says she enjoys taking time for herself and spending it with her 12-year-old son. If you could have any hero superpower, what would it be? “I would have the power to extend time. To give me more time in the day.” Age: 32


iana Richardson gained community attention and support after she created “The Richardson Report,” a monthly newsletter to help raise awareness about community meetings and involvement. “I saw a lot of changes to the community. …

If you could change one thing about state government, what would it be? “I would want people to be more honest and direct. I like people to be very honest and very direct and in this kind of business not everyone is that way— and if we did, I believe we’d get a whole lot more accomplished. But again, this is politics so that would be a big fairy-tale dream.” —AH

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platform so people can know them,” said Robinson, founder and CEO of public relations firm PR2Politics. “I feel like the only way for real change is politics.” Robinson, who is from the Bronx, said she found the inspiration for what would become her company when she was 15, working as an intern for Sen. Rubén Díaz Sr. She saw how active Díaz and his staff were in the community, reaching out to single parents and providing employment and education resources, but she also realized few people knew about their efforts. A political science major at City College of New York, Robinson discovered her niche as she combined her passion for politics with her training in writing and public relations. She founded PR2Politics during her sophomore year, by approaching politicians and offering to run their social media accounts for free—if they agreed to display her logo on publicity materials. Six years later, Robinson is running large events, has published a book and wants to expand PR2Politics to Chicago, Washington, D.C., Miami and other cities where officials represent underprivileged communities dealing with poverty and violence. Age: 24


aven Robinson says she’s noticed that many politicians who do great work in their communities may not get the credit they deserve because they don’t promote themselves on social media. She wants to harness the power of Twitter and Facebook to help put them in office. “Just give people that want to help the proper

If you could have any hero superpower, what would it be? “I would want to fly … to mobilize and help more people and do more work.” If you could change one thing about state government, what would it be? “I would like to put in place a policy or initiative that encourages more elected officials to train and mentor young aspiring elected officials to run for office.” —AP


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hen New York City saw its first case of Ebola last year, David Rozen and his colleagues at the state Department of Health had to go through about 20,000 emails. While Rozen’s job as assistant counsel at the department’s Records Access Office is always fast-paced, he said dealing with the Ebola situation was particularly challenging. “We wanted to get the information to the public as quickly as possible … while not creating public panic and also within the limit of the law,” he said. For Rozen, a routine day at work involves dealing with Freedom of Information Law requests for documents on hydrofracking to immunization records, but he says his commitment to civic engagement extends beyond work. In his free time, he volunteers with youth organizations such as the Hugh O’Brian Youth Leadership Seminar, New Leaders Council and Pride Center of the Capital Region. He says he wants to empower young people and make sure they know their voices matter. “Instead of saying you don’t like how things are, change them,” Rozen said. “Everyone thinks to create change at the federal level, but really, everything happens at the state and local level.”

foundation of a healthy democratic political system: honesty, fairness, transparency, accountability, competition and informed citizen participation. It should be possible for every citizen, not just those who are wealthy and well-connected, to run for public office and have their voices heard.” —AP

If you could have any hero superpower, what would it be? “The Zack Morris (“Saved by the Bell”) ‘time out’ superpower that allows me to pause any moment and alter the situation and future.” If you could change one thing about state government, what would it be? “Campaign finance reform. We must preserve and strengthen those values and qualities that are the

Age: 28

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aley Taratus, a legislative analyst at The Roffe Group, said one of the most exciting aspects of her job is watching bills advance through the legislative process—and then going out in the community and seeing them put in practice. “It’s just very interesting to watch public policy be shaped,” said Taratus, who knew she wanted to work in politics ever since she was in high school. “Once I learned that there was this behind-the-scenes way to be involved, I thought, ‘This is perfect.’ ” Taratus, who divides her time between researching legislation, tracking bills and lobbying, says every day is a little different—and could take her from a conference call with a banking client to a meeting on a health issue to a hearing about energy. Among bills she is handling now is a piece of legislation that would require smoke alarms to have 10-year batteries and another that would require nurses to earn bachelor’s degrees within 10 years of entering the profession. “It keeps you on your toes,” Taratus said. “I think the best part about it is being able to give a voice to people who may not have it otherwise.” If you could have any hero superpower, what would it be? “I would be invisible. I would love to be able to walk into a place and just see what’s going on without anybody knowing I was there. Like the Oval Office— why not?” If you could change one thing about state government, what would it be? “It would be all the corruption. I think it’s really sad because there’s a lot of people out there that work hard and are being swallowed up in this negative corruption.” —AP

Age: 37


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JULIE TIGHE DIRECTOR OF LEGISLATIVE AFFAIRS, STATE DEPARTMENT OF ENVIRONMENTAL CONSERVATION policy than I could with being an individual doctor.” Somewhere along the line, her bent for politics and policy seems to have supplanted her affinity for health care. A job as associate director of the Assembly Insurance Committee segued in 2007 into her current job as director of legislative affairs at the state Department of Environmental Conservation. “It’s definitely a different policy area,” she said. “When I went to work for the Insurance Committee in the Assembly I was not anticipating moving to work on the environment.” But Tighe says she loves working with the Legislature. “It’s hard for anyone to imagine me not doing it, because it is kind of a sickness,” she said. “There is something very time-consuming and all-absorbing about March and June in my life. So it’s hard to imagine not working around the same field for my whole career, just because I’m so passionate about it.” If you could have any hero superpower, what would it be? “I’m all about mind reading. Certainly in the professional realm it would be nice at times to know what people are thinking.” Age: 38


s a college student at the University at Albany in the late ’90s, Julie Tighe originally wanted to be a doctor, but at some point she decided she might better serve people elsewhere in the health care system. “I wanted to be able to give people with no health insurance free health care services,” she said. “And at some point I realized I could do more with public

If you could change one thing about state government, what would it be? “It would be great to see more women run for office. Obviously we’re 51 percent of the population and we’re not 51 percent of any elected body. Oftentimes women have a different approach in trying to find compromises or in reaching conclusions. You shouldn’t select someone because of their sex, but certainly having equal opportunities would be fantastic.” —WF

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meteoric rise from the Bronx, an education at Stony Brook, and a position of influence in Albany—it doesn’t only apply to new Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie. Though Bronxite Paul Thomas doesn’t mind the comparisons. “I still get goose bumps calling the speaker ‘Speaker,’” said Thomas, who used to work for Heastie. “He’s perfect for (the position) because he’s a humble man. … He’s about doing the work and not the glamour of the job.” The same could be said of Thomas. There are higher-profile clients than the nonprofits he typically works with, but he likes them for their common thread: “Each one is trying to enhance the lives of individuals who need it most,” he said, citing Queensborough Community College making higher education affordable and New York Cares’ “diverse portfolio” of great work. But he can’t bring himself to pick a favorite. “As any good parent would say, they’re all my favorites!” Thomas knows a thing about good parents, too. He comes from a family of civil servants and his mother worked for the NYPD. “She always taught me to give back,” he said. If you could have any hero superpower, what would it be? “I’m a huge comics fan. ... Since I’m in public affairs lobbying, I’d love to have the ability to read minds. I think that would be a pretty practical one. If I had the powers of Charles Xavier I’d be doing very well.” If you could change one thing about state government, what would it be? “I’d love to see new, creative ways to improve our public education.” —JC

Age: 37


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hen Mike Vilensky switched over from writing about New York’s party and society scene to politics, it seemed like a natural fit. He already had an impressive Rolodex after so many nights rubbing elbows, and he found his new challenge exciting: covering the 2013 mayoral race as part of the Journal’s metro team. “It was such a stimulating thing to cover,” Vilensky said. “Really colorful candidates. All these twists and turns. I became engaged in covering politics during that.” Vilensky, who has been involved in journalism since working on his high school paper, says one of the things he enjoys most about his job is trying to get the truth out of people who are not always keen to voice it. “You always want an honest answer and to push politicians for the truth,” Vilensky said. “There’s probably times when some government officials don’t seem to always be giving an honest answer.” Vilensky enjoys running and reading when he has downtime, but says he often finds himself scanning news articles when he isn’t on the clock. “I think the job is pretty fun,” Vilensky said. “So I do not mind working a lot.” If you could have any hero superpower, what would it be? “I think to be as probing as possible, to have a sort of supernatural detector for lies.”

Age: 27

If you could change one thing about state government, what would it be? “I think there would be a more transparent process, more opportunities for the media and the public to get a clear sense of what is going into the laws and why.” —JS

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government relations and lobbying firm, said she has been able to leverage her experience working in state government and grass-roots organizing to help her clients reach their goals. Before joining Capalino, she worked for ACORN (Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now), the New York State Conference of Black Senators and the state Department of Labor. “I’ve spent my whole entire career making sure that people of color and those who are at a disadvantage have a voice,” she said. “On a grassroots (level) I was able to help them, be the voice to get their issues addressed, and on the state side I was able to be that voice to make sure key legislation is put together.” Inspired by her family to serve the community, Walker said she began her career as a paralegal on cases dealing with immigration and personal injury issues. Growing up, she says, it was “instilled in us to help others. Helping people has been something my family’s always tried to do.”

Age: 39


lients go to Tunisha Walker at Capalino+Company when they are having trouble reaching a politician, setting up a meeting or getting a question answered. She said it’s rewarding to be able to solve their problems and help them get results. Walker, who specializes in assisting women- and minority-owned businesses as vice president at the

If you could have any hero superpower, what would it be? “I would want to be Wonder Woman because of her super strength, super speed, her ability to overcome all situations. To be able to sustain and endure anything.” If you could change one thing about state government, what would it be? “Communication. There needs to be more communication between the state, the city and our communities.” —AP


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s she travels across New York to promote new businesses with the state’s economic development agency, Alison Walsh can see signs of progress: A brewing company that recently decided to expand. A graduating college senior who took a job in New York instead of moving to another state. “The region’s coming together, taking pride in their community in ways they weren’t doing before,” said Walsh, an Albany-area native who is assistant vice president of public policy, planning and incentives for Empire State Development. “You see these little things happening, and it’s definitely a turn of the tide.” Walsh says programs started by Gov. Andrew Cuomo to promote economic growth—among them the Regional Economic Development Councils, which she used to help coordinate—have helped turn the area around after a period of decline. In April, she began touring the state to highlight companies with Start-Up NY, another Cuomo initiative which offers a tax break to businesses that open near college campuses and partner with the schools. She recently attended events highlighting Empire Brewing Company, which is expanding and partnering with Morrisville State College to start a farm brewery, and Sustainable Waster Power Systems, a company that turns waste into energy that plans to partner with SUNY Ulster. “I love meeting the people who are on the ground starting their own businesses,” Walsh said. If you could have any hero superpower, what would it be? “I’d like to be able to fly … because then I wouldn’t have to spend as much time in the car as I do.”

If you could change one thing about state government, what would it be? “Red tape. Just cutting through all the unnecessary and duplicative processes to get things done.” —AP

Age: 29

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NANTASHA WILLIAMS INTERIM EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, STATE BLACK, PUERTO RICAN, HISPANIC AND ASIAN LEGISLATIVE CAUCUS the youth organization when she’s not working as interim executive director of the New York State Black, Puerto Rican, Hispanic and Asian Legislative Caucus. She said she is passionate about giving a voice to people who are underrepresented—including those not yet old enough to vote. If young people don’t have a voice, she asked, “how can they have a positive impact on their community?” Williams and several lawmakers who are part of the caucus are currently working on a criminal justice subcommittee charged with developing policy priorities for more effective community policing. The group, which was formed in March, is looking at everything that impacts communities, from recidivism rates to the quality of education. “What else is existing in the communities besides police officers? Do we have adequate schools? How can we look at all these things to see how someone interfaces with the criminal justice system?” Williams said. “It’s just looking at different policies or charges or infrastructure that are used to penalize and criminalize people in certain communities. How can we make changes there?” Age: 27


n March, Nantasha Williams attended an art show hosted by the Brooklyn-based organization The Voice of Youth Changes Everything, where she saw young people energized by the opportunity to showcase their talents. “They don’t have a lot of platforms to display their artwork,” said Williams, who volunteers with

If you could have any hero superpower, what would it be? “If I could have any superpower, it would be the ability to remove hate out of people’s hearts.” If you could change one thing about state government, what would it be? “Making the process more accessible to the everyday New Yorker. Creating an environment for people to be involved.” —AP


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his newly elected assemblywoman may be (by her estimation) the second-youngest member in the state Legislature, but she doesn’t let that stop her. “It’s an enjoyable test,” Angela Wozniak said. “I know I’m very fortunate to be able to be in this position at such a young age, so I really just try to take it all in and appreciate what I’m doing.” Even before the recent arrests in Albany, Wozniak ran her campaign last fall focused on rooting out corruption. She replaced Dennis Gabryszak after he resigned amid allegations of sexual harassment. At the time, she was a Cheektowaga councilwoman. “The greatest thing I hope to achieve is addressing ethics issues,” she said. “This legislative session has been in disarray multiple times … and these issues are really distressing to a lot of New Yorkers and they’re really disgusted with the behavior of state legislators.” Despite her age, Wozniak says she doesn’t shy from speaking up during committee meetings and debating bills on the floor. She plans to continue to apply the work ethic she’s had in previous jobs to this one as well. At night, after she puts her son to sleep, she says she enjoys reading the news, as it often gives her great ideas for bills. She says it’s not uncommon for her to email staffers with ideas at 10 or 11 p.m. If you could have any hero superpower, what would it be? “Mind reader!” If you could change one thing about state government, what would it be? “A lot of ethical issues need to be addressed. We just need to make sure that our government is fair and effective in what it’s doing and that we’re not leaving behind people who need services.” —AH

Age: 28

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Our Albany rising stars were asked what superhero power they wished they had. Here’s how the ability battle royale played out:

10 9


3 2

2 1





Note: After careful consideration, we categorized Wonder Woman’s various powers as super strength, and Jean Grey’s as mind control.

The Parkside Group

congratulates Vice President

Paul Thomas on being named a 2015 Rising Star


Pollie Awards for Creative Ad Design


2004-2014 Top 10 New York Public Affairs Firms PUBLIC RELATIONS




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