Malik L. Boyd

CEO, Premiere Brand LLC

Malik Boyd’s clients include Fortune 500 companies, small businesses, city agencies and elected officials. A broad network and demand for his services have made him an under-the-radar player, someone who is completely engaged – and who values engaging and educating others.

“It’s hard to pledge allegiance to something you have no idea about,” he said. “My goal has always been educating people so they can understand what they’re standing for or against.”

Boyd has a unique perspective: From 2010-12, he was president of Philadelphia Young Democrats. Since 2015, he’s served as president of the city’s Republican Voters League. He switched parties after feeling that some city Democrats weren’t pushing themselves because they didn’t fear the competition.

“Coke needs Pepsi in order to make a great product,”  he explained. “Without it, it allows an opportunity for Coke to give something other than its best.”

That said, Boyd believes in good government above all else. 

“Good government has zero to do with parties and more to do with the mindset of the individuals and their moral beliefs,” he said. “I have great relationships on both sides of the aisle and (Premiere Brand) has never had to take a project just to keep the lights on. That allows us to work with candidates and elected officials we believe in.”

Would Boyd run for office himself? “I’m open to it,” he said. “But there’s a value in being a kingmaker, as there is in being a king.” - N.P.

 

Brendan F. Boyle

U.S. Congressman 

When Democrats lost in the Rust Belt this year, Congressman Brendan Boyle was stunned, but he understood.

“Growing up in a row home, in a blue-collar neighborhood, having two parents who were blue-collar workers – I can understand the everyday struggles many people face,” he said. “The reality for many blue-collar workers is that they’re worse off than they were 30 years ago.”

The Northeast Philadelphia native announced recently that he would launch a “Blue Collar Caucus” to reconnect Democrats with a disenfranchised base.

“From as early as I can remember, I was always interested in sports and politics,” he said. “Some of my earliest memories in grade school were following election night in 1983, in the Frank Rizzo – Wilson Goode mayoral race.”

The first in his family to go to college, Boyle eventually graduated from Harvard’s John F. Kennedy School of Government. He came home to run against longtime Republican state Rep. George Kenney in his home neighborhood. Boyle lost twice, but when Kenney retired, he was a shoo-in, becoming the first Democrat to ever represent the 170th district. After working to get his brother, Kevin, elected to a state Senate seat, Boyle won an upset victory in the hotly contested 2014 race for the 13th Congressional district.

While Boyle cites a transit bill he helped pass while in Harrisburg as a model for working with President-elect Donald Trump, he’s focused on reconnecting the working class with the Democratic party.

“A lot of working-class folks are voting against their self-interest when they vote for Republicans,” he said. “If we don’t focus on this, we’re doomed to repeat our minority status.” – R.B.

 

 

Michael Bronstein

Co-founder and President, Bronstein & Weaver Inc.

There is no shortage of people who can lay claim to having worked on political campaigns across the country. Not many, however, can say they’ve done so across international borders.

Michael Bronstein, the co-founder of Bronstein & Weaver, Inc., a media and strategic messaging firm based in Bryn Mawr, worked as a researcher for a member of Parliament, as well as on the re-election campaign for British Prime Minister Tony Blair in 2005, all while attending the London School of Economics. “I was at LSE and part of that was being placed in the House of Commons with James Purnell,” the aforementioned member of Parliament, he said. “When he was coming up for re-election, he said, ‘You should go work for the Labour party.’ I had a tremendous experience working for Labour – it really informs what I do now in terms of political advertising.”

When he returned stateside, Bronstein opted against continuing to work in government. “I felt like the experience I had overseas couldn’t be quantified to people in the U.S. If I go and work for a member of Congress or a campaign organization, it would probably take away from the experience I had” in the United Kingdom, he said.

Instead, his company produces award-winning advertising  – over a dozen in 2016 alone – and provides consulting to political candidates and organizations like the American Trade Association for Cannabis and Hemp, for whom they are the lead consultant.

After a personality-driven 2016 election, Bronstein thinks 2017 will be quite the opposite.

“I see it as a big issue-advocacy year,” he observed. “A lot of people will be trying to affect what will be going on with the new administration.” – G.S.

 

Donna Bullock

State Representative

Ask state Rep. Donna Bullock to tell you how she got here, and you’re likely to hear something like this: “I’m originally from New Brunswick, N.J. I came to Philly to go to law school. I fell in love with Philly, fell in love with a Philly guy and wound up here.”

Talk to her a bit longer, and she becomes much more expansive, matter-of-factly explaining that her devotion to public service began as a child in the soup kitchen where her family regularly ate.

“Through that experience, my mother and grandmother were insistent on giving back,” she said. “I was encouraged – not just encouraged, but told – to participate in some way. I would help clean up, help give out meal tickets. I did that through high school and college, so when I got to Philly and law school, I immediately became very involved in the community – it was sort of in my DNA to be of service.”

She worked at local nonprofits, helping them stay in compliance, including Community Legal Services, where she attracted the attention of Philadelphia City Council President Darrell Clarke. He brought her on his staff and ultimately put her on the trajectory to run in the 2015 special election for the 195th District.

“I see this as the path that was meant for me,” she reflected. “I was a little girl who had big dreams – I wanted to be first female president. When this opportunity came along, I said to myself, ‘You did say you wanted to do this when you were 16.’ Engaging citizens in the process is very important to me because I have been there myself.” – G.S.

 

Leigh M. Chapman

Director of Policy, Pennsylvania Department of State

Thanks to recent recount efforts, Leigh Chapman has been much busier than she expected to be post-election. That said, Chapman, the director of policy for the Pennsylvania Department of State, is quite clear: There is only so much the state can do.

“There is no uniformity in our election system,” she said. “So much of it is at the county level; they’re the ones responsible for counting the votes.”

Defending voters’ rights not only determined her career path, but where she went to law school as well: Her first choice was Howard University.

“I knew I wanted to do something along the lines of civil rights, and Howard had a lot of civil rights movement leaders” on the faculty, she explained. As soon as she got there, she added, “I enrolled in their civil rights clinic – at that moment, I was able to get my first experience in voting rights.”

After graduating from Howard, she went right into civil rights work as a voting rights attorney, working in states like Wisconsin, Nevada, Virginia and Florida on behalf of voters. She also became the chairwoman of the National Bar Association’s Young Lawyers Division, which allowed her to get 50 fellow lawyers to sign up for the Clemency Project to provide pro bono assistance to convicted non-violent drug offenders. Their efforts have resulted in almost half of their clients being granted clemency by President Barack Obama.

For her day job, Chapman is committed to, she said, “expanding voting options like online voter registration, continuing to identify ways that citizens can have their voices heard, and to ensure that the government is responsible to its citizens.” – G.S.

 

Mary Chicorelli

Founder and Executive Director, Equal Access Legal Services

Mary Chicorelli wants people to know upfront that what she does is personal – something she makes clear both in the literature for her Philadelphia nonprofit law firm, Equal Access Legal Services, and in person.

In addition to her grandfather being financially abused in 2013, Chicorelli’s mother immigrated to the United States during World War II as a refugee – a fact that neither woman knew until last year.

“It threw me for a loop – it wasn’t what I was expecting at all,” she said. She always knew her mother immigrated here – it was one of the reasons Chicorelli focused on asylum issues in law school – “but when I found out, it was one of those moments like, ‘What!?’”

Chicorelli said her mission – “to bridge the gap between those that are not eligible for free legal services because they make too much money, but are not able to afford to pay regular attorney fees” – grew out of her involvement in her neighborhood, Point Breeze in South Philadelphia.

“I was constantly running into people who needed help,” she said. “I slowly started to realize how unrepresented people are – even if they’re eligible for free legal services, they can’t even get to Center City to get the help.”

Chicorelli launched Equal Access earlier this year after getting laid off in January. She based the business model off of a similar nonprofit in Salt Lake City that also doesn’t rely on grants, and instead is self-sustaining through charging nominal fees for representation.

“When I told my parents, they said, ‘Are you crazy?’” she recalled. “I said, probably. But if I’m going to make that big move, this is the time.” – G.S.

Joseph Corrigan

Joe Corrigan

Principal, Edge Hill Strategies

Joseph Corrigan is an unabashed contrarian and optimist – a combination that has repeatedly proven successful for the principal of Edge Hill Strategies, the Philadelphia-based political consultancy.

“I don’t like to pick people who are going to win anyway,” he emphasized. “I like taking people who are underdogs and making the impossible, possible – making things that people don’t think can happen, happen.”

The former pharmacy student began developing that attitude in his early teens, volunteering for Democratic campaigns – his mother ran for township commissioner in Abington – in then-heavily Republican Montgomery County.

It was his experience working in a pharmacy that drove him to re-enter politics in 2009.

“I was seeing folks every day who couldn’t afford their medication,” he recounted. “Insurance companies were hassling them and, at the same time, I was watching CNN in the pharmacy waiting room in Bethlehem, with people comparing the Affordable Care Act to the Nazis.”

He became a field organizer in a campaign for Montgomery County Court of Common Pleas. Since then, he has worked for Democrats like Philadelphia City Councilwoman Cindy Bass, and state Reps. Brian Sims and Leanne Krueger-Braneky.

True to his nature, in the wake of an election where Democrats fared poorly, Corrigan plans to expand across the state. “I do this work because it is hard, time-consuming, energy-consuming – and it is so often incredibly frustrating,” he said. “I do it because when it pays off, it is rewarding. Even when it doesn’t pay off, when I go to bed at night, I know I’m fighting to help people who need help – vulnerable, people who are poor, kids who need an education.” – G.S.

 

Brittany Crampsie

Brittany Crampsie

Associate, Triad Strategies

Brittany Crampsie started college at Lehigh University on a music scholarship – she’s a classically trained cellist – on track to be the “next Ann Curry.”

But stints at PoliticsPA, a political news blog and a paid internship at Triad Strategies changed all that.

“I briefly thought about being a professional cello player, which is even less lucrative than being a journalist,” she said. “But I learned that my passion was really in advocacy.”

A Presidential Scholar and a member of Phi Beta Kappa, Crampsie quickly rose through the ranks at Triad, which specializes in advocacy work around issues like health care and labor rights.

“Seeing the behind-the-scenes work of what goes into media and issues advocacy, I really fell in love with that,” she said. “And I really strongly believe in being an advocate for good causes. We don’t represent any clients we don’t agree with morally.”

A communications associate at the firm, Crampsie said she’s looking ahead to a campaign to encourage the expansion of behavioral health services to Pennsylvania veterans.

“The stigma around psychiatric care has lingered for a lot longer than it should have,” she explained. “With rising addiction rates in Pennsylvania, behavioral health could turn the tide. The ability to fight for someone you believe in to help organizations that don’t have the capacity on their own to accomplish their goal...being a champion for someone else is very appealing.” – R.B.

 

Joe DeFelice

Joe DeFelice

Chairman, Philly Republican City Committee

Joe DeFelice always knew he was a little different from other children growing up in Northeast Philadelphia’s Mayfair neighborhood. One evening in 1991, most of his peers were probably out playing baseball at the local rec center or awkwardly trying to pick up girls.

“I was inside watching the ’91 mayoral primary debate with Frank Rizzo, Sam Katz and Ron Castille,” DeFelice says, of his 13-year-old self. “They were talking about wards and committee people. Most kids aren’t interested in that kind of stuff. I don’t know if it was because Rizzo was an Italian who was running or what – we weren’t a political family.”

Today, the 38-year-old lawyer and chair of the Philadelphia GOP says he’s an effective leader of the once-sclerotic local party because he started at the bottom.

“I knocked on [former state Rep.] John Perzel’s door – and that was it,” he said. “I started as an intern at 17 years old.”

He went from stuffing campaign mailers to working as a legislative aide, serving on his local board of elections until Perzel made him an assistant committeeman. He worked his way up to leader of the 34th Ward while picking up a law degree from LaSalle University.

His tenure as head of the party has focused on uniting the often-feuding wings of the local GOP – working-class Reagan Democrats in the Northeast and more libertarian, upwardly mobile members downtown.

“I think my experience gave me a better appreciation to sit in the seat I’m in now,” he said. “I understand where the reformers are coming from but I also understand where the old guys are coming from. And I think there’s a place for both.” – R.B.

 

Alex Egner

Alex Egner

Chairman, Lancaster County Young Republicans

To hear Alex Egner tell it, getting involved in politics was simply a matter of will – literally. “My high school had a career day, and I got to sit with the register of wills all day – it was a nice lesson in Lancaster County government,” he enthused. “Her husband was running for judge, and I got to be a part of that” as a result.

Egner hasn’t stopped since: A cursory glance at his political CV reveals involvement in races across central Pennsylvania, ranging from borough council races in Carlisle to the heated U.S. Senate race last month.

For Egner, who returned to Lancaster County in 2014 after stints across the country in the U.S. Army – he still serves at Letterkenny Army Depot – this year’s GOP victories were particularly rewarding. His organization helped deliver the state’s sixth-largest county for the Republicans, thanks in no small part to a get out the vote effort that included making 15,000 voter contacts in the month before the election. But, he is keenly aware of the state’s changing demographics.

“We are going to have tough sledding as we see larger and larger numbers of Democrats coming out of the Southeast,” he acknowledged.

After years of nonstop campaign work and graduation on the horizon, Egner sounds ready to find a way to combine his experience, education and passion.

“There are a couple of avenues I’d like to explore,” he mused, “especially the intersection between government and the law. One of the best things I’ve been able to work in is election law; it’s a small field, but it’s important.” – G.S.

 

Leslie Elder

Leslie Ann Elder

Senior State Director, Working America

A typical day for Working America Senior State Director Leslie Elder might include helping workers organize, advocating for a higher minimum wage, providing information about collective bargaining or campaigning for progressive legislation like paid family sick leave. Or all of the above. 

It’s a lot, but Elder is driven to help others, inspired by her own family’s hardships: When she was 10 years old, her father had a heart attack. He lost his job and his insurance coverage. Tens of thousands of dollars in bills piled up.

“We lost absolutely everything because my father got sick – it was unconscionable,” Elder remembered. “I started this work because I was passionate about universal health care. But as anyone who does this can tell you, once you get into it, you find 20 million other issues you care about as well.”

Elder joined Working America, the community affiliate of the AFL-CIO, in May. Here, she helps to organize their 470,000 members in the state and a nationally acclaimed field operation. In November, she added to her workload, taking on the role of state executive director of the Pennsylvania Alliance for Retired Americans, organizing 300,000 members. Prior to that, Elder was a political and field director for America Votes and a regional director for Grassroots Campaigns. All her work shares a common theme: pushing progressive causes.

“I want to do work that will make a huge impact,” she said. “I truly care about my fellow person and want to make sure everyone has the opportunity to succeed.” – N.P.

 

Ori Feibush

Ori Feibush

President, OCF Realty

“Politics never interested me and, to be candid, real estate never interested me, either,” Ori Feibush said.

This is not the kind of sentence you expect to emanate from the founder of OCF Realty and a former candidate for City Council.

It’s the kind of declaration that underlines the contrarian streak that led him to buy properties in Point Breeze, turning what had been an all-but-forgotten South Philly neighborhood into one of the city’s hottest ZIP codes.

Feibush started out as an actuary before he got into the notoriously risky business of real estate development.

“There was an abandoned property at 20th and Federal streets,” he explained. “It had been in disrepair for decades, but it also happened to be the gateway to a nascent commercial corridor that had been abandoned in the ’50s and ’60s. I had the gut belief that if I fixed up that one corner, this would act as a catalyst for others.”

It was through a years-long battle to open a coffee shop in that building – and other well-covered run-ins with the city – that he decided to run in the 2015 Democratic primary, losing to incumbent Councilman Kenyatta Johnson.

“I began to realize that if I distilled all of the issues that have befallen the city, many of them are in fact political issues” he said. “I saw it as an opportunity to effect real change.”

After his loss, Feibush said he doesn’t see himself running for office again, but adds: “I had an awesome experience, and I hope that others follow that process – and have better success.” – G.S.

 

Rob Ghormoz

Rob Ghormoz

Deputy Chief of Staff, Office of Gov. Tom Wolf

Rob Ghormoz is already making a name for himself in Gov. Tom Wolf’s administration. A Wilkes-Barre native, Ghormoz was inspired to venture into politics after Barack Obama’s first presidential run. 

“I come from a political family – my mother was always involved in Democratic circles,” he said. “She was the one who most pushed me toward my interest in Democratic politics.”

After working as a college intern for U.S. Sen. Bob Casey, his colleague Mark Nicastre – who is now Wolf’s communications director – referred him to Wolf’s campaign in 2014.

“They needed someone to travel with the governor,” Ghormoz said. “Something I learned during that period was how important local politics can be. I had already been on the outside of it, with the senator in D.C., dealing with high-level federal issues. But on that campaign, I saw how important it was for statewide politicians to be locked in with local folks.”

He must have made a good impression. After the election, the newly elected governor asked Ghormoz to join his administration.

“Campaigns are fun and interesting and high-profile,” Ghormoz said. “But that feeling of, ‘OK, we won but now we have to go do something’ – that drove a lot of us to follow him into Harrisburg.”

Starting out as special assistant to Wolf, Ghormoz is now deputy chief of staff, overseeing public safety issues on behalf of the governor.

Ghormoz says that for now, he’s not planning on going anywhere.

”The passion around his campaign, that’s what made me jump,” he said. “But Wolf really is just a great guy to work for.” – R.B.

 

Matt Goldfine

Matt Goldfine

Manager, Government Relations and Public Grants, University City Science Center

Matt Goldfine grew up in a family that sought fairness for others. His father joined picketers seeking to desegregate a Philadelphia boarding school, Girard College, in the 1960s. In fifth grade, he wrote a letter to his principal questioning the fairness of having a Christmas tree on display but not a menorah – an inequity soon rectified.

“I guess I had an activist instinct early on,” said Goldfine, who grew up in Chester County.  

After working for state Democrats Sen. Daylin Leach and Rep. Tim Briggs, helping Rep. Brian Sims become the first openly gay person elected to the state Legislature, and recruiting the first majority female slate of state House candidates, Goldfine became frustrated by a lack of progress. 

“There were a few places where we were able to get things done, but I was not having the impact on people’s lives that I’d hoped to,” he said. 

That led him to take the job as manager of government relations and public grants for University City Science Center.

“I still believe the greatest way to do the most good in the quickest way is to elect good people to office,” he said. “But at a time when government is not working as it’s supposed to, this is the place where I can make the greatest positive impact” – as indicated by the center’s $12.9 billion economic impact on the region. 

“Technology-based economic development creates huge opportunities,” he said. “It’s much more gratifying to see a startup go from employing 10 people to employing 20 people than it is trying to fight education funding cuts year after year.” – N.P.

 

Jon Grabelle Herrmann

Jon Grabelle Herrmann

Executive Director, USA250

When Philadelphia plays host to visitors from around the world for the nation’s 250th birthday, you can thank Jon Grabelle Herrmann.

A North Jersey native who graduated from Penn, Herrmann worked at Campus Philly for nearly a decade, trying to keep college students in Philadelphia to fuel downtown revitalization efforts through free concerts and other events. 

“I fell in love and stayed,” he explained. “I was originally very involved in concerts and I thought I was going to go into that business. Personally, I like big events and I like bringing people together. So, it’s important to me that our country is reaching this milestone, and it’s exciting that Philly can be at the center of that.”

Herrmann then worked at Pre-K for PA and J Street, a liberal pro-Israel lobbying firm, while serving on the board of Young Involved Philly, a local political advocacy group. The contacts he made there led him to the executive director’s slot at USA250.

“My motivation is that I really feel like this can be unifying in a substantive way for the city,” he said, of the organizing effort. “Philadelphia itself is the canvas.”

Herrmann and the group have already scored a major, bipartisan legislative victory on the road to 2026 by getting the U.S. Semiquincentennial Act passed.

“It was led by (U.S. Sens.) Bob Casey and Pat Toomey, and the Philly congressional delegation got it passed a decade early,” he said. “We’re not proposing a mega-site like the Olympics – but we want it to feel just as significant.” – R.B.

 

Alicia Hubiak

Alicia Hubiak

Legislative Assistant, Office of State Sen. Camera Bartolotta

Alicia Hubiak has already had a multifaceted career in politics, holding jobs on the national and the state level, working for chaotic campaigns and with tireless legislators. But now she believes she’s found her place: back home. 

“My heart’s in it to help people and make Pennsylvania better,” she said.  “When I started, I never knew how much more of an impact your state Legislature has on the laws and taxes that affect you versus your congressmen and senators.”

Hubiak, now a legislative assistant to PA Sen. Camera Bartolotta, a Republican from Monongahela, began working on the then-newbie politician’s 2014 campaign. 

“I’d worked on smaller campaigns previously, but getting to work with her when she was the underdog and helping her, and flipping her Senate seat – which nobody felt could be done – that’s what I’m most proud of,” said Hubiak, who knocked on doors, made phone calls and represented Bartolotta on the trail.

“I liked getting out there and meeting people, explaining the candidate’s platform and what they stand for,” Hubiak said. “I like to be behind the scenes, the person who makes all the big things happen.”

Hubiak doesn’t see a high-profile public office in her future. (She’s passionate about education, though, and could see making her mark on a school board.) But she wants to keep shaping policy while encouraging citizens to join in the process.

“If you don’t like what your state representative or state senator or city council member is doing, you can be proactive and play a part in changing that,” she said. “If you don’t vote, you shouldn’t get to complain.” – N.P.

 

Frank Iannuzzi

Frank Iannuzzi

Legislative Director, Office of Philadelphia City Councilman At-Large Derek Green

You could say that Frank Iannuzzi loves to talk policy, that he loves the nitty gritty of public policy. It would just be a massive understatement. In his words, policy is politics.

“Some people are more worried about the competitive aspect – I don’t want to call it the ‘game’ – of politics. Others are more technocratic,” he said. “I see myself as someone who likes to sit in the overlap between those two things.”

The son of a restaurant owner, Iannuzzi worked his way to a law degree through night classes at Temple University. Iannuzzi said he’s always been interested in government  – in fact, he first came to Philadelphia City Council through a fellowship program run by Council President Darrell Clarke in 2012. 

He eventually crossed paths with longtime Councilwoman Marian Tasco, who said she needed a lawyer for her council office, and wanted him.

When Tasco retired and Iannuzzi’s fellow staffer Derek Green left to run for her seat, he knew just where to turn for a policy director.

During his tenure with Green, those policies have ranged from social impact bonds and publicly financed elections to medical marijuana zoning and anti-discrimination bills.

His motivation, and interest in governance, is simply to help his fellow citizens.

“It’s a way of helping people that I really like. To me, helping a thousand people with a new law is more fulfilling than doing that sort of one-on-one constituent service,” he said. “The real marker for me will be, ‘Have we enacted good policies?’ That’s the question I measure myself against.” – R.B.

 

Malcolm Kenyatta

Malcolm Kenyatta

Member Engagement Coordinator, Greater Philadelphia Chamber of Commerce

Malcolm Kenyatta is working his way out from under a long shadow. 

His grandfather, Muhammad Kenyatta, was a legendary African-American civil rights organizer from North Philadelphia who ran for mayor in Philadelphia, fought for African-American involvement in Southern politics, and waged a war against organized crime in black communities before dying of kidney disease at age 47.

“The things he was able to accomplish in his life are incredible,” Kenyatta said. 

It’s a lot to live up to, but Kenyatta said his grandfather’s legacy, and their shared faith in God, are also his biggest motivators.

Kenyatta, an occasional City & State op-ed contributor, has gone from washing dishes in a restaurant to the Greater Philadelphia Chamber of Commerce. He’s already run a Philadelphia City Council campaign, serves on the boards of numerous political clubs, and was elected as a Democratic National Convention delegate supporting Hillary Clinton – eventually meeting the woman herself. Kenyatta was asked to introduce Clinton at a campaign stop, and was featured prominently in campaign materials.

“It was phenomenal to get a sense of how warm and dynamic of a person she was. And to have Hillary say, ‘Who the fuck is that? I want to know him,’” he joked.

Kenyatta, who doesn’t rule out a run for political office, says his next phase of engagement will be to start a program called “Civic Saturdays” to teach North Philly residents Government 101. – R.B.

 

Obra S. Kernodle IV

Obra S. Kernodle IV

Deputy Chief of Staff, Office of Gov. Tom Wolf

Obra Kernodle is refreshingly candid about how he got his start in Pennsylvania politics. In the 2009 Philadelphia district attorney race, he was working on challenger Seth Williams’ campaign when Williams asked him to be his political director. “I have to say: I had no idea what that was,” Kernodle admitted.

He figured it out. Since that successful race, Kernodle worked as deputy of legislative affairs for Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter and as the political director for Southeastern Pennsylvania during President Barack Obama’s 2012 re-election campaign before joining his fortunes to a little-known Democratic challenger to Gov. Tom Corbett in 2014.

“I was a little tired of doing campaigns,” Kernodle admitted. “Mayor Nutter hired me in his government relations department, and I was there exactly a month and five days when I got a call from a gentleman named Tom Wolf. I had no idea who he was, and he asked me to have lunch with him. We talked for a good hour. As soon as I got out of there, I knew this was a person I wanted to work for.”

Starting as deputy campaign manager and political director of Wolf’s successful race, Kernodle is now the governor’s deputy chief of staff, a role that allows him to frequently return to his Philadelphia roots.

When asked about his career trajectory, Kernodle answers with typical brio: “What makes me good is, I’m able to keep information and I try to be respectful of everybody. You can be a CEO or a doorman – everyone has a job to do, and they all deserve to be treated with respect.” – G.S.

 

Dan J. Kessler

Dan J. Kessler

Investment Associate, Brandywine Realty Trust

How strong is Dan Kessler’s optimistic streak? Strong enough that just a few weeks after the election, he was still wearing a Clinton campaign logo pin prominently affixed to his lapel.

It is that optimism that has helped make Kessler one of the go-to leaders for reaching millennial voters, and the youngest Hillblazer – someone who raised at least $100,000 for the Clinton campaign.

“I hosted events in Philly and six other cities, leveraging contacts from when I was an intern at the White House,” he said of his involvement in creating what he calls a “millennial engagement strategy” that began in earnest at the very start of the Ready for Hillary movement in late 2013.

Kessler takes his commitment to engagement as seriously as he does his day job, noting: “When I get off work, I have meetings at night, every weekend. Every ounce of free time I have is dedicated to building relationships with other leaders.”

That effort resulted in securing 1,500 donors to the Clinton campaign, 95 percent of whom, he said, had never given to a political candidate before. Despite the crushing defeat, he is looking ahead.

“If I’ve successfully engaged 100 new activists in the process, I think that is going to have long-term positive implications for the country,” he said. “The work doesn’t stop because the election is over. My mission is to help build a team of next-generation leaders, locally and nationally, that cares about the future of this country – one that crosses party lines in order to achieve prosperity for the greater good.” - G.S.

 

Dave Kralle

Dave Kralle

Government Affairs Specialist, AQUA AMERICA

During college, Dave Kralle juggled a full-time class schedule with a part-time job as a legislative assistant for Pennsylvania Republican state Rep. Dennis O’Brien. He saw lessons from his political science coursework come to life in the district office.

“If you’re there for people as their elected official, they put their trust in you in a very big way,” he said. “If a senior citizen needed help with a property tax or rent rebate, or getting a handicap placard, I was there for that. Grown men would cry at my desk – they didn’t know where to turn because of a drug-addicted child – and we could help them.”

Buoyed by the experience, the then 25-year-old old ran for a seat in the statehouse in 2012. While Kralle didn’t win that contest and says he’s happy in his current job, political junkies should keep an eye on this GOP up-and-comer.

“I’ve learned never to say never,” he answered when asked about his political ambitions.

Kralle works as a government affairs specialist for Aqua America, a water utility company serving eight states. The company currently serves more than 1.4 million people in 32 Pennsylvania counties.

On the job since July 2015, Kralle was instrumental in the passage of a 2016 bill that allows municipalities to be paid the fair market value rather than the original depreciated cost for the sale of their own water and sewer systems. The fair market value bill was “one of the biggest pieces of legislation we’ve advocated for for the company,” he said. “I never considered myself an environmentalist, but I realized it really is a calling.” - N.P.

 

Mike Lee, Esq.

Mike Lee, Esq.

Executive Director, Philadelphia Lawyers for Social Equity

Mike Lee’s nonprofit organization, Philadelphia Lawyers for Social Equity, has a project helping people expunge their criminal records. The aim is not only to change how the world and future employers view those re-entering society, but also to positively affect the way they see themselves.

“People who have overcome the disease of substance abuse are so optimistic about moving forward and being productive and positive, but then they find a criminal record freezes their life story in time,” Lee said. “We use the expungement process to empower and remind people that their personal history is not criminal history.” 

Since 2010, the organization has filed 6,500 expungement requests and provided direct legal services to 2,500 people. In 2014, Lee created a second project, the Fair Employment Opportunities Project, which supports employees who feel they have been discriminated against because of their past and helps employers develop best practices in hiring.

“Growing up a person of color in Philadelphia, I’m familiar with the many inequities my clients face; that’s why it’s equity, not justice,” Lee said. “It’s not just about creating an environment where people hold hands, but respecting the dignity of every individual.”

Another important part of Lee’s work is training others and creating a sustainable model that can be replicated. In Dauphin County, for example, there are now two recurring expungement clinics; before, there were none.

As Lee explained, “This is the best way for me to make the change I want to see – and to empower people to create a better world.”  -N.P.

 

Leanne Krueger-Braneky

Leanne Krueger-Braneky

State Representative

Leanne Krueger-Braneky is a veteran of three bruising political campaigns – in three years.

The Swarthmore resident ran for the 161st state House seat in 2014, 2015 and 2016, losing the first and winning the last two.

Battling through an electoral trifecta just to become part of the Democratic minority seems to have done nothing so much as energize the former longtime head of the Sustainable Business Network of Greater Philadelphia. It was there that she helped the region become the most sustainable in the country, and where she first heard the call to public service.

“I ran because I felt like the voice of the local independent businesses I was working with wasn’t being heard in Harrisburg,” she said. “Seeing economic development policies and environmental policies literally being written by oil and gas lobbyists really frustrated me, and I pledged to myself I would run for office when the time was right.”

Just how right was indicated by her victory in November – a rare bright spot for state Democrats and one that Krueger-Braneky will take to heart, and the state House floor, in January.

“Democrats need to continue to stand up and call out injustice and unfairness when we see it,” she said. “I will continue to do that.”
G.S.

 

Teresa M. Lundy

Teresa M. Lundy

Principal, TML Communications LLC

Teresa Lundy lives for two things: community and faith. 

“I had a blue-collar worker father, and a mother who was an overseer in the local ministry,” she said. “I grew up doing a lot of community service and giveback.”

She’s also a rising star in public relations, but that’s not mutually exclusive – as the head of TML Communications, the Abington native uses her talents to promote causes that will help the Philadelphia-area communities she grew up around.

“A lot of that is still instilled in me,” she said. “I’m not thinking about the dollar sign. The money will come, but if the vision fails, then we fail.”

Lundy got her start as an intern for Philadelphia City Council President Darrell Clarke’s office before moving over to Ceisler Media in 2014. Last year, she ran communications for mayoral longshot candidate Doug Oliver.

“The campaign didn’t have any money, but we had a candidate who was young and fresh, and not connected to a political system,” she said.

The experience led her to found TML as a side project, but her firm quickly grew into a full-time job. While running communications for candidates like former Congressman Chaka Fattah and Republican candidate for state treasurer Otto Voit, Lundy says she’s kept her eye on service.

“We’re involved with helping a lot of community-related activities like protests – getting the media coverage they want,” she said. “My passion is for everyone to be engaged in media...making sure that neighborhoods have the right spokesperson for whatever they want to present to the public.” – R.B.

 

Ryan Mackenzie

Ryan Mackenzie

State Representative

When Ryan Mackenzie says he has deep roots in the commonwealth, he’s not kidding. He is the ninth generation of Mackenzies to reside in Pennsylvania.

“It was something I found out when I was in middle school,” he said. “We were able to connect our lineage back to an ancestor who came over from Germany in the 1700s.”

Mackenzie, the state representative for the 134th District, is following in the steps of a more recent antecedent: his father, who was a township supervisor, although that wasn’t the original plan.

“I was a business major,” he recounted, “and the summer before senior year of college, I reached out to then-Congressman Pat Toomey. I saw that he was on the Banking Committee – I thought it would be interesting to look at banking from the government side. At the time, he was running for Senate, and they asked if I would be interested in working on the campaign.”

Mackenzie enjoyed his time as Toomey’s body man and the political hurly-burly enough that he went to Washington to work for the U.S. Department of Labor in the George W. Bush administration before going for his MBA. He then returned to Pennsylvania as the director of policy at the Pennsylvania Department of Labor & Industry on his way to the House.

As he prepares for his fourth term, Mackenzie talks excitedly about his legislative wish list, which includes workers’ compensation reform, career-development programming for middle- and high-school students, and stroke-centers designations.

“The good thing about getting a couple more terms under your belt,” he enthused, “is you have a stock of legislation.”- G.S.

 

Aubrey Montgomery

Aubrey Montgomery

Principal, Rittenhouse Political Partners

Aubrey Montgomery was too young to vote in the 2000 presidential election. A young, impassioned college Democrat by 2004, she knew what she had to do – quit school and move to a swing state to work for John Kerry’s campaign.

“I wanted to do everything I could do to beat (George W.) Bush,” she said.

Chastened by Kerry’s defeat but already a veteran of a major presidential campaign, and with internships in Eliot Spitzer’s race for New York attorney general and then-Sen. Hillary Clinton’s state office, the Philadelphia native moved home in 2005, determined to finish her degree and make a difference in her home state.

“I wanted to develop relationships,” she said. “And there was a lot more political impact in terms of building relationships with donors. The donors don’t change. The candidates do, but the donors don’t.”

Now one of the city’s most-sought after political fundraisers, Montgomery’s past campaign work include names like former U.S. Rep. Allyson Schwartz, state Sen. Daylin Leach, state Rep. Bryan Lentz, and Philadelphia DA Seth Williams.

She founded her own firm, Rittenhouse Political Partners, in 2013, “at her kitchen table.” She has six employees today.

Montgomery described herself both as a witness to the gender inequity ingrained in American politics, but also the beneficiary of role models who taught her the importance relationship-building and effective fundraising can have in gaining political power.

“Fundraising shouldn’t be like a secret sauce,” she said. “It is, but it’s also a skill I want other people to have. It’s important to me as a business owner to create more learning opportunities for young people and especially women. It’s why I have as many women on staff as I do.” - R.B.

 

Brittney Parker

Brittney Parker

Senior Entrepreneur Engagement Officer, Commonwealth Foundation

Brittney Parker mentioned the American dream more than once when asked why she is committed to promoting limited government and free-market ideas through her work with the Commonwealth Foundation. 

Hard work and self-determination mean something personal to her: Three out of her four grandparents didn’t graduate from high school. In fact, one of her grandmothers had to drop out of school at age 9 to begin working as a maid in Puerto Rico. 

“Within two generations, our family has had so many opportunities to become successful,” she said. “I want to make sure everyone has the opportunity to create their own success.”

A native of Harrisburg, Parker became involved with local conservative organizations as a teenager. As a student at George Washington University, she co-founded Students for a Free Cuba and was president of her Latina-based sorority. Some of her fellow students were surprised to see a multi-ethnic leader advocating for conservative causes, she said, since people of color are “so often told they’re supposed to be left-wing.”

Parker joined the Commonwealth Foundation in April 2015. In a typical day, she said, she might talk to a teacher who opposes forced unionism, an entrepreneur who believes regulations are stifling business or a parent interested in learning more about school choice. 

“I’m my own individual,” Parker said. “I believe everybody has the capability and the right to come to their own conclusions and decide what’s best for them. I believe I can make better decisions for myself and about my life than the government can.”- N.P.

 

Alison Perelman

Alison Perelman

Executive Director, Philadelphia 3.0

Alison Perelman spent years working on a University of Pennsylvania dissertation about insider-y political candidates everywhere cravenly draping themselves in apple pie-loving, down-home faux-folksiness to appeal to voters. 

Everywhere except Philadelphia, that is. Here, phony politicians tend go over about as well as a lead balloon.

Eventually, Perelman, a scion of the influential Perelman family, submitted her work – and promptly walked away from academia.

“My academic options weren’t really where my heart was,” Perelman explained. “I wanted to make Philadelphia my career.”

So Perelman, the director of Philadelphia 3.0, one of the city’s most well-endowed PACs, worked at Philadelphia City Council, first as a policy research fellow for Council President Darrell Clarke, next as a staffer for former councilmember Bill Green. 

“Our political system has a lot of scar tissue to break through, but it seemed like the place you could do the most good,” she said of her decision to go into local politics.

The council contacts she made there made her an easy pick when the Zuritsky family, parking magnates by trade, decided they wanted to fund a 501(c)4 organization to shake up Philly politics.

“There really wasn’t an example of a hybrid organization that was interested in electoral work and reform advocacy. I’m proud of the fact that we’ve made it work,” she said.

Perelman has Philadelphia 3.0 on a mission to increase youth participation in local politics, eliminate the City Commissioners office – oft regarded as a local patronage den – and bring term limits to City Hall.

“Our local government and legislature could work so much better,” she said. “The city can’t reach it its full potential without those institutions moving into the 21st century.” - R.B.

 

Sully Pinos

Sully Pinos

Community Outreach and Multicultural Affairs Manager

York County Economic Alliance

During sophomore year of college, Sully Pinos interned for a New York City councilman. She remembers her “a-ha” moment, when she realized she wanted a career in public service: the first time she went to City Hall for a council meeting.

“The experience solidified for me that it is important to become really engaged in the community where I work and live,” she said. “I saw how quickly one can make a difference and have an impact on many lives.”

Since then, Pinos has worked for five political campaigns, including as a field organizer in Pennsylvania with Obama for America. All of her candidates have won. She also imagines a run for political office in her own future; she recently completed the intensive Emerge Pennsylvania training program, which helps prepare Democratic women to run for office. 

One of her successful candidates, Democratic state Rep. Kevin Schreiber, the latest in a string of political mentors, brought Pinos with him to the statehouse in 2013 as his chief of staff. 

“A lot of my success is because of the amazing and giving mentorships I’ve had,” she said. 

When Schreiber decided this year to leave his elected post to become president and CEO of the York County Economic Alliance, Pinos followed. She is now the nonprofit’s community outreach and multicultural affairs manager. 

The alliance “is the county’s lead advocate,” said Pinos, who grew up in Brooklyn. “This is an exciting new opportunity to connect businesses and the community to resources, and to help the county with workforce development and the other goals. It’s also an incredible opportunity to showcase York, a community I’ve developed a strong passion for.” - N.P.

 

Guy Reschenthaler

Guy Reschenthaler

State Senator

Guy Reschenthaler’s political career began in the courtroom. More precisely, it began because he didn’t want to be kept out of one.

The Pittsburgh native had joined the U.S. Navy Judge Advocate General’s Corps shortly after graduating from law school in 2007 – “I decided I wanted to be a JAG officer before seventh grade,” he said with a laugh. “I wanted to be a lawyer and a military officer.” After stints that included prosecuting terrorists in Iraq, the Navy wanted him to start teaching, which he wasn’t interested in. So he moved back home in 2012 and was approached almost immediately to run for district judge. “I thought about it – I missed service,” he said.

He won that 2013 race and, two years later, seized the opportunity to be the GOP candidate in the special election in the state Senate’s 37th District, winning that race as well as his re-election bid in November.

His latest position shares key traits with his previous ones, including a passion to serve; the need for a leadership role; and the ability to foster concord. “In the Navy, you were trained to advocate for your client, but at the end of the day, you are all wearing the same uniform. As a district judge, that helped me to build consensus, to make sure everyone was treated fairly,” he said. It’s something he practices in Harrisburg as well.

One of Reschenthaler’s focal points for next term: criminal justice reform. “We need a paradigm shift in how we treat defendants in the judicial system,” he said. “We need to use treatment, counseling and rehabilitation.” – G.S.

 

Darren Smith

Darren Smith

Senior Associate, S.R. Wojdak & Associates

Darren Smith is a Central Pennsylvania boy who has quickly became the go-to guy in Harrisburg for everything Southeastern.

“I live in Fishtown and I’m proud to be a city resident, even if I’m a transplant,” he said. “I’m really proud of doing work that’s putting the city on an upward trajectory.”

Smith is talking about his efforts on behalf of lobbying firm S.R. Wojdak & Associates to line up state grants and zoning for the redevelopment of the Logan Triangle – a long-disused brownfield site in North Philadelphia – just one of many efforts he’s undertaken on behalf of the influential company.

Smith got his start on a campaign for state Rep. Mauree Gingrich, in his home district near Lebanon. He then worked for longtime Delaware County Republican state Rep. Mario Civera for six years, until he took a gamble on the state Senate Majority Leader.

“I learned that (former state Sen.) Dominic Pileggi didn’t have anyone picked out for his chief of staff,” Smith recalled. “I went and talked with him, and a week later I was chief of staff.”

That rapid ascent brought Smith to the attention of Wojdak president Steve Crawford. 

The young lobbyist says something about the civic sphere is just in his blood.

“In first grade, I was the only kid in my class that wanted to know everything about the Bush-Dukakis race,” he said. “I was always drawn to government, law and politics. I think if I spent all day doing just one of those, I wouldn’t be as satisfied as if I did all three...and working at Wojdak lets me dabble in all three.” – R.B.

 

Jared G. Solomon

Jared G. Solomon

State Representative

Raised by a single parent in Philadelphia’s Castor Gardens neighborhood, Jared Solomon says he can’t remember a time when he wasn’t thinking about politics.

“I remember that I always had two interests: government and baseball. My dream was to play for the University of Arizona, but that went out the window,” Solomon joked.

Baseball may have been out, but Solomon did work his way up to law school at Villanova and counsel at the prominent law firm Spector Gadon & Rosen, with occasional breaks to help run Joe Sestak’s U.S. Senate campaigns.

More recently, Solomon founded a nonprofit to support his neighborhood while serving as a JAG for the Army Reserve – not to mention breaking state Rep. Mark Cohen’s three-decade lock on the 202nd state House district.

“The reason I decided to run was because I thought I could do more for my neighborhood by leveraging state resources,” Solomon said. “We have the most diverse neighborhood in the city. You’re seeing a lot of younger families who are happy to be in the neighborhood.”

Solomon says going door-to-door for votes changed how he sees others.

“There were a lot of people that really wanted to engage,” he said. “There’s a lot of people, especially older people, with this intense feeling of being alone. And I felt how a public servant can help just by being present.” – R.B.

 

Ben Stango

Ben Stango

J.D./MBA Candidate, University of Pennsylvania

Ben Stango got hooked on politics early, campaigning for Democrat Lois Murphy’s unsuccessful 2004 congressional bid while a sophomore at Lower Merion High School.

“That was it. I was hooked,” he said.

As a Yale undergrad, he volunteered for the College Democrats and ran financial operations for Ned Lamont’s Connecticut gubernatorial bid. But it was back home, at a summer internship at the Mayor’s Office of Community Services in Philadelphia, that Stango found his calling in anti-poverty service work.

“I was a white boy from the suburbs who went to an Ivy League school; what did I know about poverty?” he recalled. “But I spent a lot of time sitting in living rooms and community centers, hearing about what people were experiencing. I fell in love with the mission of that office.”

Around his graduation in 2011, MOCS director Otis Bullock called Stango and asked him to be assistant director – to use data to figure out new ways to attack the city’s entrenched poverty.

Stango has distinguished himself by serving on a string of civic boards while consulting for the Committee of Seventy, a government watchdog. He ran and won a committeeperson slot in the 8th Ward, and helped run a successful recruitment effort called “Ward 101” to encourage hundreds of other young people to do the same.

But with graduation on the horizon, what’s next?

“In the short term, I’m going to practice law,” he said. “But in terms of what I want to do eventually, it could be running for office. Or playing the role of a Paul Levy, a nonprofit bringing together public resources. But I’m here for life.” - R.B.

 

Matthew Stitt

Matthew Stitt

Chief Financial Officer, Philadelphia City Council

If you want to know the cold, hard numbers behind getting a bill passed in Philadelphia City Council, the first person to see is Matt Stitt.

Stitt, council’s chief financial officer, has been working the data for city legislators since he was hired as an analyst there in 2012, straight out of grad school. “I hit the ground running,” he remembered. “The first major issue I worked on when I came over was the AVI” – the city’s Actual Value Initiative overhaul of real estate taxes.

While his bailiwick is financial analysis, Stitt has no problem expressing his opinion and providing his input on what he thinks should be legislative priorities in Philadelphia, including financial literacy and equal access to quality education, a passion of his since high school.

“That motivated me in some way to be in government, whether it’s helping in after-school programs or helping council members to secure more funding for schools,” he said. “I really do feel as though if kids are given the best opportunities, they really can succeed.”

That belief in making things better through engagement was inculcated in Stitt by his mother and her extended family.

“I’ve always been interested in finding ways for people to contribute to their community – through private, public and nonprofit methods,” he said. “We need more people to pay attention to City Council, their state reps, state senators. If everyone knew how important local decisions at city and state level were to their lives, more people would participate.” – G.S.

 

Jojy Varghese

Jojy Varghese

Director of Community and Economic Development, Urban Affairs Coalition

Jojy Varghese was one of Philadelphia’s biggest cheerleaders before he became the Urban Affairs Coalition’s director of community and economic development last year – way before. “You can hear videos of a 6- or 7-year-old me at Magic Kingdom telling my New Yorker cousins various oddball facts about why Philadelphia was better than New York – how the capital was in Philly first, dorky stuff from the early ’90s,” he remembered. It was that love for his hometown that brought him back after working in Washington, D.C., as a consultant with Booz Allen Hamilton. He earned his master’s from Fels and began work as chief of staff for state Rep. Tony Payton, until Payton removed himself from the 2012 ballot. He continued his government work as the director of housing and real estate for Reading, until Mayor Vaughn Spencer lost his re-election bid last year. That led him back to Philadelphia to “uplift spirits and hopes and capital in communities that need special care,” as he put it. Among his priorities: getting a financial literacy course into Philadelphia high schools by next year, foreclosure prevention and making home repair loans. Given his history, it’s no surprise that Varghese demurs on the subject of future political plans. “I’m very grateful to not have to worry about job security and to just focus on the communities and people I work for and enjoying an Election Day that didn’t ruin my life or the people that work for me,” he said. “People have approached me to run for City Council – I think I’m better behind the scenes. I’m not in any rush at all.” - G.S.

Lauren Vidas

Lauren Vidas

President, Hazzouri & Associates

Before she became one of Philadelphia’s top lobbyists, Lauren Vidas was a personal injury lawyer. The money was good, but the work wasn’t satisfying. Vidas says she’s always been more of “a mediator than a litigator.” So she decided to seek out a job in Philadelphia City Council. 

“Mediation” may not be the first thing that comes to mind in the cutthroat world of Philly politics. But Vidas saw going to work for then-Councilman Bill Green in 2008 as a way to better her hometown.

“People see it as adversarial,” she said, “but in Philadelphia, most folks are trying to get to the same place, whether it’s better educational outcomes or economic growth.”

It was the start of a rapid ascent through city government – Vidas had already caught the eye of Mayor Michael Nutter for her pugilistic talents in the courtroom.

“The mayor was the last person I ever sued – over library closures,” she recalled, referring to 2008 city budget cuts. “He said, ‘I have a question for you: You’ve been kicking my ass in the courtroom. Why don’t you come work for me?’”

She joined the administration as assistant finance director, but quickly chafed under the city’s restrictions on political activity.

After briefly working on voter protection efforts, she joined her stepfather Ed Hazzouri’s firm, Hazzouri & Associates, at the forefront of some of the biggest lobbying efforts in city history.

But Vidas’s career has been one defined by restlessness, and the family business would offer little more succor than her time as a litigator, a council aide, or a mayoral staffer. “One of my frustrations now is that I’m not the decision-maker,” she said. “I would like to run for public office.” – R.B.

 

Jamie Ware

Jamie Ware

Senior Associate, S.R. Wojdak & Associates

Jamie Ware considers her role in successfully advocating for Pennsylvania’s medical marijuana law one of her biggest work-related accomplishments to date. But those who know her say many more are to come. Ware, a senior associate at lobbying and consulting firm S.R. Wojdak & Associates, is passionate about health care policy because of the positive impact it can have on people’s lives.

“With medical marijuana, it basically came down to providing people legal access to a form of medication that hadn’t previously been accessible, changing people’s lives for the better,” she said. “What’s more rewarding or important than that?”

Ware began her career working with the Service Employees International Union. An SEIU job opening brought her from her hometown of Las Vegas to Philadelphia. She began taking law school classes at Temple University in the evenings while working at a small law firm during the day, completing her degree in 2011. A job with the nonprofit Public Health Management Corporation brought home to her the importance of using policy and the law to change how patients are served.

“Working in a large public health nonprofit made me realize how many people health care catches and how many things need to improved,” she said. 

While her current job isn’t with a health care institute, she feels well-placed to effect change.

“Some people take jobs to have a job,” she said. “I can’t be that person. I’m here because Wojdak provides me an amazing opportunity to help improve people’s health.” – N.P.

 

Kevin Washo Jr.

Government Relations Principal, Cozen O’Connor Public Strategies

How do you follow up a once-in-a-generation role that garnered near-universal accolades? If you’re Kevin Washo, who served as executive director of the 2016 Host Committee for the Democratic National Convention, you stay in the game, but on a different field.

Washo just finished his first month at Cozen O’Connor, where he is working to increase the firm’s practice for public strategies in the Philadelphia region. 

“I’m also going to be spending time in the footprint of the entire operation, from the northeast corridor to throughout the country,” he added.

He said that the end of the DNC seemed to mark a logical turning point for him from the public to the private sector.

“You need to know when to stay, and you need to know when to go – I’ve never been shy about taking on new challenges,” he said. “When I’ve gotten comfortable with opportunities, I have looked to grow professionally and take chances either within an existing entity or through challenges that may come up. My decision to go in the private sector was about wanting to stay in Philadelphia. Coming to Cozen allowed me to take my experience and put it to practical use.”

The self-described maniacal University of Pittsburgh football fan – he also serves on the university’s board of trustees – has been in Philadelphia for a decade, but ascribes his affinity for politics to growing up in Scranton. “I always gravitated toward politics – people from Scranton, you catch politics like a disease up there,” he said. “It’s a very interesting town, politically – it’s kind of in the drinking water up there.”- G.S.

 

Ben Waxman

Ben Waxman

Director of Communications, Office of State Sen. Vincent Hughes

When the now-defunct Philadelphia City Paper wrote about an 18-year-old Ben Waxman in 2003, the headline read, “The Rebel.”

“I had been very active around anti-war, social justice issues,” Waxman recounted. “I was one of the leaders of a campaign to get City Council to pass a resolution against the Patriot Act.”

Raised between parents in Philadelphia and Montgomery counties, Waxman is a proud graduate of Juniata College in rural Pennsylvania. Surrounded by conservative-leaning students, he found an outlet writing left-wing op-eds for the Huntingdon Daily News.

The work would lead Waxman to become a reporter himself for the Philadelphia Daily News. But ultimately, Waxman found he was too tied to politics to stay in journalism – a referral led him to the office of state Sen. Vince Hughes, where he still works today.

“I’ve always been interested in Harrisburg,” he said. “When you look at places like Philadelphia’s City Council, there aren’t a lot of big ideological differences. Harrisburg is a place where there are real battles happening over ideas.”

The Center City resident’s rebellious streak includes challenging his own state Representative, Brian Sims, this year. Waxman lost, but came within striking distance of the charismatic incumbent.

Still mulling a rematch, Waxman says for now he’s focused on working with the nonprofit Jewish Labor Committee to push back against President-elect Donald Trump.

“The group was formed in the 1920s to fight against fascism, which feels pretty relevant right now,” he said. “I’m looking for new ways to fight Trump. I’m not giving him a chance; I’m not waiting to find out.” - R.B

 

Alison T. Young

Alison T. Young

Executive Director, Institute for Strategic Leadership at Drexel University’s LeBow College of Business

Alison Young has been preternaturally focused on a career in politics since elementary school. She chose her college partly because of its internship options in Washington, D.C. She graduated in three years and began working full-time in the capital at age 20. By 32, she was in the West Wing, a special assistant to President George W. Bush, overseeing two federal agencies, 80,000 employees and a $2 billion federal budget.

“I couldn’t even go out for happy hour when I started on the Hill,” she said. 

Today, Young continues to work towards her goal of changing people’s lives for the better, just in a different arena.

“Drexel is one of the most innovative institutions in the city,” she said. “This is a place where I’ve been able to generate new ideas and apply them to programs for the next generation.”

Two of the institute’s programs currently stand out, she said. One, called “Leading for Change,” is a tuition-free fellowship given to city employees who have different ideas on how to better the city. The other, “Student Scholars for Responsible Leadership,” aims to grow the potential of undergraduates and business school students with an interest in the intersection of business and politics.

Young was inspired by her students to pursue a grant to look at ways to increase the number of women in the public sector. 

“In public policy, if we want to change the outcomes, we need to change the players,” Young said. “I hope my work helps more people find their seat at the table.”- N.P.