Legislative Director, Wilson Elser
Tania Dissanayake’s family came to the U.S. in 1989 to escape civil war in Sri Lanka, so when her mother encourages her to pursue her dreams, the advice carries some weight.
“My brother and I were raised in Westchester, proudly by a single mom, and she instilled in me a lot of big dreams and promise and trying to have a big future,” Dissanayake says.
Dissanayake, who saw government as a way to protect against suffering, started out as an intern for State Senator Jeff Klein, who had just formed the Independent Democratic Conference.
“They announced the breakaway on January 5 and I started on January 6, so as you can imagine I started amid quite a flurry of movement and excitement,” Dissanayake says. “I felt very encouraged to see a group of people who put governance ahead of everything else.”
Dissanayake now tracks legislation at one of the state’s top lobbying firms.
“I really kind of viewed it as the starting point of getting to see what the political realities are, and how I can insert myself and hopefully make a difference someday,” she says.
How did your past jobs get you to where you are now?
“Without campaigning I never would have learned what the structure of constituent relations was and what organizations for constituents are. Without the Senate IDC I would not have known how to use those constituent voices to translate that into meaningful political action. And without both I would never have made it to Wilson Elser, where I’m able to see the reverberations of all those political actions.”
If you weren’t in politics, what would you be doing?
“I certainly struggled with trying to decide whether I was going to do creative writing or something like that. I used to in college, but I put in on the back burner because this is my passion.”
What will your business card say in five years?
“ ‘Attorney at Law,’ hopefully.”
If you could have a superpower, what would it be, and why?
“I would love the ability to teleport, because that would then give me the ability to see all the places I’ve always wanted to see in my life. I would love that. To be able to be in Italy one second and Greece the next would be kind of fantastic.”
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