Hometown: Long Beach, N.Y.
Role: Special counsel, New York State Assembly
NCSL involvement: Staff officer, Redistricting and Elections Standing Committee; staff vice chair, Legislative Staff Coordinating Committee; member for six years of the NCSL Executive Committee
Years of legislative service: 46
The skill or talent he’s proudest of: “I’ve been able to help legislators get through several redistricting cycles, enacting or challenging plans based on sound legal principles while maintaining a high level of partisan and professional civility.”
Why did you choose to work at the legislature?
I’ve had an interest in state government since elementary school. My role has enabled me to break new ground by representing the state Legislature in Washington, D.C., for many years. After NCSL opened a D.C. office, states were invited to join the organization with legislative liaison offices in the nation’s capital. I opened an office for New York and developed unique perspectives on how states could better interact with the federal government.
What’s the best advice you were ever given?
It’s important to have clear and achievable goals. New goals need to be set once earlier ones are met. And persist in the face of failure because it’s a step toward your next goal.
Who or what inspires you?
I’ve been inspired by the late Sen. Robert F. Kennedy, who said, “Each time a man stands up for an ideal, or acts to improve the lot of others, or strikes out against injustice, he sends forth a tiny ripple of hope, and crossing each other from a million different centers of energy and daring, those ripples build a current that can sweep down the mightiest walls of oppression and resistance.” Sen. Kennedy set a standard for me that I’ve always admired and followed.
What’s one thing you love about your state?
New York is the “Empire State” with so many dynamic places: New York City (of course, the greatest city on earth), Long Island’s beaches, the majestic Hudson Valley, Niagara Falls, the Adirondacks, and the Finger Lakes.
What are you currently reading/listening to/watching?
I can never stop listening to the Grateful Dead. (“What a long, strange trip it’s been!”) I’m currently reading “The Campaign to Impeach Justice William O. Douglas,” by Joshua Kastenberg. It’s a fascinating reminder of how a 1970s effort to remove a Supreme Court justice over partisan politics and personalities isn’t that much different a half century later today, except there’s less civility today.
What are some of the priorities of your NCSL Standing Committee?
The Redistricting and Elections Committee has had the unique ability to bring legislators and staff together to address some of the most divisive legal and partisan issues confronting the nation and to be able to work together for the common good.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
For its “Staff Snapshots” series, State Legislatures News is asking legislative staff about their role in the legislature. If you’d like to suggest a staffer for this series, please email Holly South at NCSL.