Every year, City & State puts the spotlight on high-ranking executives leading the state’s highest-grossing government relations firms on our Top Lobbyists list. But when it comes to influencing policymakers or securing public funds, these well-known lobbying leaders are just the tip of the iceberg. Our inaugural Who’s Who in Government Relations feature highlights a much broader community of professionals who are leveraging their know-how and connections with public officials at City Hall, in the state Capitol and in Congress. This list encompasses key staffers directly employed by a wide range of companies, organizations and trade associations with government business, as well as rising stars making a name for themselves at top lobbying shops, leaders of smaller lobbying operations punching above their weight and even a few government relations officials who are inside government. What unites them all is a record of pushing, shaping or stopping proposed policies in New York.
Mikelle Adgate leads a dynamic team of government relations professionals who design and implement engagement strategies to support NYCEDC’s mission to create a vibrant, inclusive and globally competitive economy for all New Yorkers. Prior to NYCEDC, she worked in public affairs and environmental policy for the New York City Department of Environmental Protection leading legislative affairs, marketing, special projects and resiliency and stormwater management engagement. Adgate was born in Queens, raised in Western New York, and lives in East Harlem. She holds a bachelor’s degree from Pace University and a master’s in public administration from NYU Wagner.
Recent accomplishments: Since June 2022, EDC has released NYC Ferry Forward and worked with the City Council on discount fares for high school students, launched the community vision process for the revitalization of the Kingsbridge Armory, unveiled planning for the Science Park and Research Campus in Kips Bay, announced the transformation of Willets Point which will include affordable housing and the city’s first soccer-specific stadium, supported the release of the mayor’s and governor’s joint agenda Making New York Work For Everyone, and announced investments for public realm improvements for Broadway Junction.
Mohammed Alam is an associate at Hodgson Russ LLP. He represents companies and corporations as both plaintiffs and defendants on various matters including commercial disputes and contract litigation. He also has experience in cannabis law as well as voting rights and election law. Among Alam’s clients are construction and development companies, banks, other financial institutions, utility providers and both commercial landlords and commercial tenants. He also represents educational institutions, government entities and municipalities, as well as officials, on a variety of litigation and regulatory matters in state and federal court.
Recent accomplishments: Winning an appeal with a team of litigators to protect absentee voting rights in New York. Winning election law cases for candidates currently running for office. City & State 40 Under 40 Albany. Lawyers of Color Hot List 2023.
Born and raised in Queens, David Aronov found his passion in public service. For nearly a decade, Aronov worked for local government, both in the New York City Council and in the mayor’s office. Currently at UJA, he is leading work in the Queens community and elevating the organization externally on the government relations team. Beyond his professional endeavors, Aronov is a community activist and sits on his local community board. Aronov earned his bachelor's degree from Hunter College and a master's in public administration from NYU Wagner.
Recent accomplishments: Managed an allocation of $75,000 in new microgrants to 28 nonprofits promoting civic engagement efforts for the 2022 midterm election. Launching a new program to combat the opioid epidemic in the Bukharian Jewish community of Queens by distributing Narcan in community centers for free. Facilitated partnerships with elected officials and government agencies to promote UJA in community-based initiatives. Increased visibility of organization through robust external relations by participating in events, large-scale conferences and responding in real-time to community needs and concerns.
Mike Avella Jr. started his career in the Assembly, and between that and his time at the state Board of Elections and the state Department of Health, (he) had over 10 years in state government before transitioning to the private sector. With experience in the legislature, state agencies, health care, association advocacy and government affairs, Avella provides a well-rounded perspective for D&A's clients. He is a strong proponent of retail lobbying and can be always be found roaming the halls of the Capitol complex, utilizing his extensive network to connect clients with policymakers and helping execute strategies that position clients for success.
Recent accomplishments: The best part of my career is the diversity and breadth of issues I work on. I'm not going to pick favorites amongst clients, but if I had to pick recent highlights, I'd say working in the elections space has become one of my greatest passions and we've had great success in helping to continually evolve and improve New York's elections and voting system. Also working to improve awareness about the need to improve methods for treating health and mental health issues, especially as it involves veterans and first responders.
Alex Betke is an attorney and registered lobbyist focusing his practice on government relations and municipal law, positioning him to meet client needs at all levels of government and provide innovative resolutions to a variety of legislative and regulatory challenges. Betke served as an elected official in local government and maintains strong relationships with leaders throughout the state; he currently serves on the board of directors of Hudson Valley Pattern for Progress. He is well-versed in regulatory matters and has extensive knowledge of government funding streams to support economic and housing developments.
Recent accomplishments: Worked with an upstate film studio to enhance the film tax credit for upstate productions during the state budget. Secured $14 million in bond allocation for an upstate housing project. Secured $1.5 million for an economic development project in Sullivan County. Secured Restore NY grant for municipal client in Rockland County. Secured Restore NY grant and Empire State Development grant for development project in Greene County. Worked to secure passage of legislation to allow municipalities to participate in a new workers comp program.
Kimberly Blair is the director of public policy and advocacy for NAMI-NYC, where she recruits, trains and leads a group of over 200 ambassadors in grassroots advocacy efforts. She currently serves as a steering committee member of Correct Crisis Intervention Today-NYC (CCIT-NYC) and on the legislative subcommittee of the Treatment Not Jails campaign. Blair holds her MPH in health policy and maternal health from the Boston University School of Public Health and her bachelor's in women's and gender studies from Georgetown University. Blair identifies as queer, Black and Latina.
Recent accomplishments: Blair leads a robust city and state policy agenda, which includes increasing access to mental health care, decriminalizing mental illness and expanding support for peers facing homelessness. Most recently, she mobilized advocates on behalf of Daniel’s Law (to implement a peer-led crisis response), in support of more mental health professionals in families with children shelters and against New York City’s involuntary removal directive. This year, she co-authored a report assessing mental health and drug courts throughout New York that makes the case in support of passing the Treatment Not Jail Act.
Joshua Bocian has two decades focusing on New York government, both in the public and private sector. Prior to becoming senior manager of government relations at Grubhub in 2022, he spent four years as regional government relations manager at McDonald’s and a decade at Manatt, Phelps & Phillips as government relations adviser. He also was director of community affairs and constituent services at the Manhattan borough president’s office and deputy chief of staff in the New York City Council. He has an M.A. in organizational psychology from Columbia University and a B.A. in psychology from SUNY Albany.
Recent accomplishments: Bocian works cross-functionally to conceptualize, execute and represent Grubhub’s legislative and regulatory interests across state and local levels of government primarily in the eastern U.S. He tracks and maintains an active list of state and local legislation and regulations of interest to the business, drafts policy update communications for senior and executive teams and external audiences, and fosters positive relationships with business and government leaders, as well as other constituencies important to the business. He also acts as Grubhub’s representative in legislative and policy meetings, hearings and other events.
Vanessa Bongiorno is an accomplished adviser who represents clients in the public health, mental health, human services and education sectors. She has served as the government relations director at Farrell Fritz P.C. for five years and previously worked at Ostroff Associates, Manatt, Phelps & Phillips and a labor union. Throughout her career Bongiorno has worked tirelessly on behalf of health care providers, patients, families, civil legal service providers, social services organizations, biotech companies and trade associations, to help her clients develop and advance legislative and regulatory solutions for their most pressing issues.
Recent accomplishments: Bongiorno helped to facilitate the enactment of legislation that created a statewide public awareness campaign to promote advanced care planning and use of hospice and palliative care services. This new law will educate and empower individuals about health care options that are available to them. She worked to improve access to vital services for individuals with autism, aided civil legal services providers to secure funding to continue to provide essential legal services, and helped improve access to critical services and treatments for individuals with mental health and substance use disorders.
Deborah Brown oversees external relationships for NYC Health + Hospitals, the nation's largest municipal healthcare system. Her portfolio includes government relations, regulatory affairs, community affairs, fundraising and faith-based partnerships. Brown is a health care lawyer by training who has served at the U.S. Department of Justice, the New York City Council and in private practice. She transitioned into policy and advocacy at the Greater New York Hospital Association and then led external affairs at Montefiore Health System. Just prior to H+H, she served as the chief strategy and innovation officer for health in City Hall.
Recent accomplishments: Brown amplified H+H's legislative and regulatory voice in D.C. and Albany while never overstepping the partnerships H+H facilities have with their legislative champions. Working together, the system garnered $100 million-plus in support from elected officials last year and has received nearly $20 million in federal earmarks in two years. She led H+H's collaborations with other safety net providers, ushered complex state and federal regulatory proposals, built a new faith-based community initiative and fundraising office, supported partnerships with H+H's important community advisory boards, and led the system's Community Health Needs Assessment.
An experienced leader in government relations, community engagement and media affairs, Brian Browne coordinates all interactions with government officials on behalf of St. John's University. In his expansive role, he handles government and media relations efforts and implements creative internal and external communications and public relations strategies. He has experience working in the public sector and is a longtime advocate in the independent higher education community. He also serves as an adjunct faculty member teaching undergraduate courses in political science and provides political commentary and academic analysis to local media outlets.
Recent accomplishments: A fixture in Albany, Browne advocated for reforms to NIL (name, image and likeness) legislation and that nursing programs be permitted to use simulation-based learning experiences for up to one-third of required clinical hours helping St. John's new nursing program. He is part of St. John's effort to coordinate and communicate the sale and future use of their Staten Island campus slated to close in 2024. On campus, he organizes university events such as Student Advocacy Day, candidate forums and advocacy visits to City Hall, Albany and Washington, D.C.
Michael Burridge is a Capital Region native and proud graduate of Shenendehowa High School and The College of Saint Rose. His passion for literature and history formed the foundation for his interest in public policy. A career path came into focus during his internship with the Civil Service Employees Association. After graduation, Burridge served as the legislative director for Assembly Member William Colton from 2008-2013, gaining insight and knowledge into the legislative process. In 2013, he was hired by AIANYS as the advocacy coordinator and now serves as the director of government affairs.
Recent accomplishments: Entire careers may pass in search of purpose. Associations open countless opportunities for those interested in public policy and willing to immerse themselves in a trade, profession or special cause. Working on behalf of the architectural profession has been a true honor, as it is brimming with some of the most intelligent and creative humans on the planet. The world is at a climate tipping point, and architects will be needed to design solutions in our built environment. That is a cause I can get behind. I've found my purpose.
As vice president of government affairs at the New York Racing Association, Jeffrey Cannizzo represents NYRA’s interests in Albany and before communities across the state. A third-generation horseman whose family has been involved with thoroughbred racing for 50-plus years, Cannizzo has considerable experience advocating for the sport. Prior to joining NYRA, Cannizzo served as executive director of the New York Thoroughbred Breeders for over a decade. He was named to the Thoroughbred Times’ inaugural “40 Under 40” list and the Albany Business Review’s “40 Under 40” list.
Recent accomplishments: One of Cannizzo’s primary goals upon joining NYRA in 2019 was building support and advancing legislation to secure a new Belmont Park. He guided a multi-year campaign to secure a $455 million loan from the state to build a new, modernized Belmont Park. As the political strategist behind this effort, he successfully highlighted the sport’s significance to the state’s economy and culture to a diverse audience of lawmakers, community leaders and racing stakeholders to achieve one of NYRA’s most important victories.
With over 20 years of lobbying and public policy experience at the state Capitol, Karin Carreau-Spencer has built a track record of success. Throughout her career, she has given voice to underrepresented populations and those who serve them, delivering victories on high-profile, landmark initiatives including raising the age of criminal responsibility, mental health parity, telehealth reimbursement mandates, gun violence prevention, LGBTQ+ protections, family peer advocate reimbursement, insurance reporting mandates and equine welfare. In addition, she has garnered millions of dollars for programs serving at-risk youth, veterans and equine facilities.
Recent accomplishments: Carreau-Spencer is among the most well-known, respected and tenacious government relations professionals in Albany who, most recently, has ushered in victories for her clients that include telehealth insurance parity reimbursement, mental health network adequacy, banning of ghost guns, passage of microstamping, enhancing access to services for victims of gun violence, and funding for at-risk youth, autistic youth, veterans’ mental health and concussion education. In addition, she led the charge on two bills, one to ban the sale or transfer of equines to slaughter and another to protect equines at auction.
For more than 25 years, Michael Davoli has been a passionate advocate working on a variety of national, state and local policy campaigns across issues – from education to health care reform. A native of Syracuse, Davoli studied political science at the University at Albany before embarking on a career in advocacy. He arrived at ACS CAN in 2011 to manage its statewide grassroots network and eventually began heading up legislative efforts in New York state, New York City and New Jersey aimed at limiting the impact of cancer for all residents.
Recent accomplishments: Ensuring equitable access to cancer prevention and care has been a defining feature in 2022 and 2023. In the last year, he has built multiple coalitions of patient and provider groups, working to improve access to precision medicine through biomarker testing and expand access to cancer screening. A dynamic advocate, Davoli has mobilized stakeholders across the state and captured the attention of the media, resulting in bipartisan support for legislation to improve access to biomarker testing and cancer screening, help patients pay for prescription drugs, and curb tobacco use.
At Red Horse Strategies, Michael DeLoach has advanced environmental policies for The Nature Conservancy and built community support for major economic development and green energy projects. As deputy commissioner for public affairs at the New York City Department of Environmental Protection, he led high-profile public service campaigns including Billy Never Idles. While in City Hall, he advised the mayor and deputy mayors overseeing dozens of city agencies, focusing on housing, economic development, transportation and resiliency. He has worked on political campaigns across the state, starting as a political organizer for 1199SEIU and crafting grassroots campaigns for the Healthcare Education Project.
Recent accomplishments: Since starting at RHS in the winter of 2022, DeLoach has advanced environmental policies for Forest for All NYC (The Nature Conservancy) and built vital community support for major economic development, transportation and green energy projects across New York state. Working with some of New York's largest labor unions, he has helped ensure the right messages move members and voters alike to key victories.
Erin Drinkwater serves as the chief of government relations and strategic partnerships at MetroPlusHealth. Previously, Drinkwater served as the deputy commissioner for intergovernmental and legislative affairs at the Department of Social Services. She is an accomplished advocate for access to benefits, including public health insurance and health care access. With expertise in government relations and legislative affairs, Drinkwater has contributed to the passage of dozens of bills impacting the vulnerable and underserved. Her dedication to making government work has improved the lives of those in need and community relations across the city.
Recent accomplishments: Drinkwater developed and is executing the company’s government relations strategy. She successfully advocated for proposals to strengthen the Medicaid program including the restoration of Medicaid Quality Pools. Another priority included Coverage for All to extend health insurance coverage to all irrespective of immigration status and close the single largest coverage gap. She plans to build on her relationships across the city with elected officials and community based organizations to ensure access to high quality, affordable health care and to advance the mission of MetroPlusHealth that health care is a human right.
Over three decades, Taryn Duffy has built a reputation on diverse expertise in public policy, communications, coalition building and corporate social responsibility. Duffy is vice president of public affairs for MGM Resorts Northeast Group, encompassing Empire City Casino and MGM Springfield. She served as chair of the New York Gaming Association, the trade organization for racing and gaming venues, and holds leadership roles on the boards of several organizations. She uses her legal, government and private sector experience to move public policy, develop brand reputations and achieve business objectives.
Recent accomplishments: Duffy is known for her work developing the unwavering support of community stakeholders, unions, businesses and nonprofit organizations for Empire City Casino by MGM Resorts efforts to secure a commercial casino license. Her brand building and reputation management expertise has positioned Empire City as an expected frontrunner in what has become a highly competitive bidding process to secure one of three available licenses. With a license process that is the first of its kind to require demonstrated community support of applications to move forward, Duffy’s advocacy work is proving critical.
As president and CEO of the Food Industry Alliance since 2018, Michael Durant leads the organization as the premier voice for the retail food industry in New York. Durant coordinates FIA's public policy, communications and trade relations efforts. Prior to FIA, he was an advocate for New York’s small businesses as state director for the National Federation of Independent Business and has also served in a variety of roles on former Gov. George Pataki’s staff. Durant received his bachelor’s degree from Siena College in 2000.
Recent accomplishments: FIA has been engaged in a number of issues that are critical to the retail food industry over the past year. From the proliferation of retail theft to food safety, to packaging and recycling issues such as EPR and efforts to modernize New York’s alcoholic beverage laws, the most recent state legislative session was extremely active. Additionally, the entire industry continues to adapt to post-pandemic economic conditions and consumer trends that FIA helps their members navigate.
Nicole Epstein Schwartz graduated from Stony Brook University magna cum laude with a bachelor’s degree in psychology and was inducted as a lifetime member to Psi Chi, National Honor Society for Psychology. After graduating from Stony Brook, she received her law degree from the Maurice A. Deane School of Law at Hofstra University. Most recently, in 2021, she was recognized by the law school as an “Outstanding Woman in Law.” She is also the chair of the Government Relations Committee for the Nassau County Bar Association.
Recent accomplishments: Successfully introduced Intro. 0885-2023 in the New York City Council, which has 41 members signed on already. This bill restores fairness to parking ticket hearings and will increase revenue to the city. Representing the school bus contractors association – working with NYSERDA, chairs of education, the governor's office and key stakeholders on New York state's nation-leading switch to electrifying its school bus fleet. Ensuring school districts and contractors have the flexibility needed to make this work. Successfully recovered thousands of dollars for property owners in New York City due to property tax misclassifications in city records.
Frances Escano is a highly accomplished professional dedicated to expanding culture, STEM learning and education. As the director of government affairs at the New York Hall of Science, she secures government funding and maintains partnerships with public officials and local communities. Escano brings over 11 years of experience in government and community relations, including notable positions at The Metropolitan Museum of Art and the New York City Council. She holds a master’s in public administration from Columbia University, is proud of her South Bronx roots and currently resides in Queens.
Recent accomplishments: Escano has achieved remarkable success during her 20-month tenure at the institution. She showcased her exceptional skills by delivering mission-critical results and securing an impressive funding amount of approximately $14 million from all three levels of government. Escano played a crucial role in the re-opening of NYSCI following the devastation of Hurricane Ida. Additionally, she spearheaded the creation of pathways to enhance and fortify community partnerships by incorporating community days to offer valuable resources.
Josiel Estrella currently serves as secretary to the speaker for intergovernmental and external affairs. Prior to joining the speaker's office, she served in the administration of the last three New York City comptrollers, most recently as senior adviser for strategic communications and labor law. She also previously worked with former New York City Deputy Mayor Bill Lynch at Bill Lynch Associates and WNET. Estrella earned a bachelor’s degree from Syracuse University and certificates from Harvard Law School on negotiation and leadership as well as mediation and conflict management.
Recent accomplishments: Estrella transitioned from the New York City comptroller’s office last year and her greatest historic highlight was connecting workers with more than $2 million in stolen prevailing wages. Thereafter, she hit the ground running at the Assembly speaker’s office in her current role during the 2023 legislative session and budget season. She leads a trailblazing team of deputy secretaries, including Carl-Harry Nau, Mayleen Rivera and Ian Chan. Together, the IEA team has implemented new systems, developed an internal website, and was recognized for their contributions by the New York State Dominican Caucus.
Brian Fessler has served as the director of governmental relations and chief lobbyist for the New York State School Boards Association since 2020. He first joined the NYSSBA staff as a governmental relations representative in 2014. Prior to joining NYSSBA, Fessler was a specialist with Questar III BOCES State Aid and Financial Planning Service, where he assisted school districts with state aid, taxation and other school finance issues. Prior to that position, Fessler was a legislative associate for the College Board, where he supported the organization’s government relations efforts throughout the northeast and mid-Atlantic region.
Recent accomplishments: Helped secure full-funding of Foundation Aid for school districts, leading to a nearly $3 billion increase in state aid for schools. Helped secure legislative passage of a constitutional ballot proposition to support small city school districts, to be considered by voters in November. Successfully advocated for passage of legislation addressing the property tax cap, teacher shortages, shared services, student health and safety, and other issues that benefit P-12 public education.
Loftin Flowers is the vice president for government and community affairs at Columbia University, where he oversees university partnerships in Upper Manhattan and across New York City and leads Columbia’s engagement and advocacy efforts with federal, state and city government. Loftin holds a bachelor’s degree in history from Haverford College and a master’s in public administration from Columbia University. Prior to his role at Columbia, Loftin worked for Bill Lynch Associates and in Washington, D.C., at the national offices of the Children's Defense Fund, the Democratic National Committee and John Kerry’s 2004 campaign for president.
Recent accomplishments: For over 15 years, Loftin has represented Columbia University on legislative and executive branch matters at the federal, state and local levels of government. He began his career at Columbia at the outset of the university’s expansion project in West Harlem and he now leads both government affairs as well as community relations, working locally to develop partnerships and strengthen relationships with community organizations, civic groups, small businesses and neighbors in West Harlem, Morningside Heights and beyond. Loftin chairs the Board of the Morningside Area Alliance.
Jamila Fynes is a public servant who centers compassion and community in her work. She serves as regional head of government affairs for a global food and beverage chain and president of a local civic group in New York City. She recently covered equitable transportation initiatives along the East Coast, and prior to that, served as assistant commissioner for the mayor of New York City implementing sustainable solutions and resources toward issues stemming from socioeconomic disparities through community and advocacy. Fynes also served as chief of staff in the Assembly.
Recent accomplishments: Garnered minority group inclusion in sustainability activation during New York Water Week to highlight investments with United Nations Water Resilience Coalition to support a water-positive future.
Joseph N. Garba is head of external affairs at Cross River Bank, a technology-driven infrastructure provider that offers embedded financial solutions. Previously, he was director of state government affairs for the East Coast at Alexion; secretary to the speaker for intergovernmental affairs at the Assembly; deputy national political director for the Mike Bloomberg 2020 campaign; deputy Manhattan borough president; director of state legislative affairs for the New York City Office of the Mayor; and served in the administration of two New York governors.
Recent accomplishments: Over the last year, Garba has led Cross River’s government affairs agenda, which includes advocating for how the responsible use of technology and innovation in the financial services sector through bank-fintech partnerships is meeting the need for safe and nonpredatory financial products in historically underserved and excluded communities. In addition to everyday advocacy, he was instrumental in the creation of the Fintech Future Coalition, a collective of leaders who support breaking down traditional barriers to capital to ensure all communities can easily and responsibly access responsible financial services.
Teresa Gonzalez brings expertise in stakeholder and community engagement to nonprofit, for-profit and corporate clients. As a co-founder of DalyGonzalez, she has helped public and private institutions establish meaningful partnerships and navigate complex government and community issues. She recently co-founded Evolution Strategies, a Latina-owned and operated strategic advising, stakeholder engagement and campaign services firm. She previously served as communications director and chief of staff at the Mayor’s Community Affairs Unit, and as deputy press secretary at the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs during the Bloomberg administration.
Recent accomplishments: Gonzalez sits on the boards of The New Majority NYC, The New York Women’s Foundation, the New York Immigration Coalition, NYIC Action, the ABNY Foundation and Brooklyn Academy of Music.
Alishia Goodridge is an important figure in promoting SUNY Downstate and working closely with local and state officials to provide excellent education and health care services to the Brooklyn community and beyond. Her vast experience in government relations, stakeholder management, and advocacy has enabled her to establish strong partnerships across different levels of government, as well as in the private sector. Through her connections in Central Brooklyn, Goodridge has opened up new opportunities for her institution to broaden its impact.
Recent accomplishments: Downstate has made itself more visible and accessible to the community by increasing its outreach efforts and increased participation in community events. Downstate has strengthened and established relationships with elected officials, faith-based institutions, and community organizations. Downstate has revived its health fair and renamed it the “Healthy Lifestyle Fair” to reflect its focus on preventive care and overall wellness for the community.
Kenya Handy-Hilliard started her career working for Rep. Yvette Clarke in Washington, D.C., later moving back to Brooklyn to work for the Community Affairs Unit in the New York City Comptroller's Office. She then worked in the intergovernmental affairs department for the state attorney general’s office. She moved again to the intergovernmental affairs and outreach unit for the New York City Department of Investigation, and later ran for City Council in Brooklyn. She landed as the government relations manager for McDonald’s Corp. covering the greater New York region.
Recent accomplishments: Organized McRig in Buffalo after the Tops supermarket shooting. Working to highlight and re-introduce the greater New York region to the wonderful franchisees that own and operate the restaurants we order from every day. Demystifying and introducing the brand – showing how these operators have invested in local communities across the state (e.g., Archways to Opportunity). But also offer resources and partnership to inform sound policy that will adequately address the issues New Yorkers face daily, including public safety, workforce development, intergenerational wealth creation, community development, and business growth and expansion.
Kevin Hansen leads government affairs and public policy in New York state for Ørsted, a leading renewable energy company that develops, constructs and operates offshore and onshore wind farms, solar farms, energy storage facilities, renewable hydrogen and green fuels facilities and bioenergy plants. Prior to Ørsted, Kevin spent nearly a decade with New York state at Empire State Development, where he last served as senior vice president and head of public policy. He has also worked in the Washington, D.C., mayor’s office and for the management consultancy Bain & Company.
Recent accomplishments: Led public engagement for Ørsted’s Sunrise Wind 2 offshore wind farm proposal, resulting in support letters from nearly 70 New York elected officials, community groups, nonprofits and labor partners. Oversaw Ørsted’s legislative and policy positions and regulatory filings to support South Fork Wind and Sunrise Wind, slated to be New York’s first two offshore wind farms. Represented Ørsted nationally and locally at conferences, events and meetings with industry associations and government officials. Serve on the boards of the National Offshore Wind R&D Consortium and the New York Offshore Wind Alliance.
Vanessa J. Herman has been involved in higher education advocacy since 1999, when she joined Stony Brook University’s office of governmental relations after getting her start in politics working in Long Island and New York City for a former U.S. senator. Her years of legislative experience at Stony Brook and as vice president for government and community relations at Pace University made her a natural fit for the Rochester Institute of Technology, which selected her to be their second-ever vice president for government and community relations in 2021.
Recent accomplishments: Herman is passionate about supporting student veterans and fighting for federal and state aid for RIT’s 19,000-plus students. Under her leadership, RIT joined several new high-profile partnerships. RIT is one of only six U.S. universities partnering with Micron Technology, and select Japanese universities, to address the STEM workforce shortage. RIT is the third largest producer of undergraduate STEM degrees among all private universities in the nation. RIT is a partner in the recently announced and historic New York Climate Exchange which anchors the Center for Climate Solutions on Governors Island.
Mina Hoblitz currently serves as the government relations and public policy manager for the Greater Binghamton Chamber of Commerce. Hoblitz graduated from the University of Albany with a bachelor's degree in sociology in 2016, and in May 2023 earned her master’s degree in public administration from Binghamton University. Having previously worked for state Sen. Fred Akshar, Hoblitz has a strong understanding of bureaucratic processes and a wealth of first-hand experience in government relations from prior experience working directly with businesses and constituents.
Recent accomplishments: Hoblitz serves as the liaison for our officials at the federal, state and local levels and in just one year has planned and executed over 12 events, developed the Chamber's annual legislative agenda and organized several roundtables and business advocacy tours with elected officials. In addition, she continues to serve as the staff liaison for Upstate United and has assisted in fundraising efforts for UU, while also coordinating regional advocacy efforts. Hoblitz oversees the Chamber's two government affairs committees and continues to keep members educated about important policy issues.
Kara Hughes has more than two decades experience in public policy and government relations at the federal, state and local level. She specializes in helping corporations, advocacy groups and nonprofits translate broad policy goals into real world action. Hughes is senior adviser and head of New York City practice for O’Donnell & Associates, which she joined after three years as senior vice president and executive vice president at Kasirer. Her government experience includes working as acting director of city legislative affairs for Mayor Bill de Blasio, director of economic development for U.S. Sen. Hillary Clinton and executive director of New Jobs for New York.
Recent accomplishments: Among Hughes’ legislative victories are the reauthorization and expansion of the New York City school speed camera legislation home rule and the launch of the city’s outdoor dining initiative during the COVID-19 pandemic. At the height of the pandemic, Hughes guided some of the largest employers in New York City to help them understand and navigate new regulations, ensuring that their feedback helped shape policies.
Meeting the state’s clean energy goals for 4 million customers across New York is at the core of National Grid’s mission. Kimberly Ireland, director of state government relations for National Grid, has drawn on her multidisciplinary and cross-collaborative experience working for the state Legislature and New York Independent System Operator to manage some of the company’s largest and most complex customer relationships. She leverages these past experiences, together with National Grid’s focus areas of balancing sustainability, affordability and reliability, as pillars for her advocacy for the clean energy transition.
Recent accomplishments: In 2022, Ireland celebrated with a coalition of environmental and labor organizations a new law enabling utility ownership of thermal energy networks, an important component to decarbonize building heat. During this session, her team championed legislation approved by both houses to promote and inform state policy in preparation for the growing use of electric vehicles and the need for utility infrastructure to support charging. Additionally, they worked with customer focused organizations AARP and PULP to shepherd the passage of legislation to streamline the application processes for utility customer assistance programs.
As the New York City Charter School Center’s director of government affairs, Erik Joerss serves as a central voice in New York City’s education reform movement. Joerss leads the Charter Center’s engagement strategies, which include educating New York’s policymakers, guiding and facilitating the outreach of New York City’s charter schools, shaping advocacy communications and collaborating with myriad partners in the reform space. Previously, he ran political campaigns, held senior positions in New York City government and founded a nonprofit. Joerss is a member of the Bay Ridge Democratic Club, where he lives with his family.
Recent accomplishments: While the resurrection of 14 New York City “zombie” charters was the headline of the 2023 session, the real story was our success in connecting charter leaders, teachers, families and students to their elected officials. New Yorkers can attest to the important opportunities high-quality, unscreened public charter schools bring to historically underserved communities throughout New York City – Albany policymakers heard from thousands of them directly. When communities speak up, it makes it harder for leaders to accept a status quo that doesn’t meet the needs of families in all ZIP codes.
Camille Joseph-Goldman is the group vice president for Charter Communications, where she oversees government affairs in the northeastern United States from Harlem to Bangor, Maine. Joining in 2016, Joseph-Goldman brings over a decade of political experience to Charter, working every day to connect communities throughout the Northeast to Spectrum’s growing network and ever-expanding suite of products. After serving as U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand’s director of intergovernmental affairs and special adviser, she was appointed deputy comptroller for public affairs in 2014, becoming the youngest appointed deputy comptroller in New York City history.
Recent accomplishments: Among her many accolades, including the 2022 National Action Network Keepers of the Dream Corporate Award and the Haitian Roundtable 1804 Changemakers and Ones to Watch award, Joseph-Goldman recently led the team responsible for Charter’s landmark three-year agreement with the New York City Office of Technology and Innovation to launch Big Apple Connect, the country’s largest free municipal broadband program.
Dan Katz is known for his ability to accomplish what some have previously thought to be impossible. He has helped pass New York’s landmark sports betting law and the Wage Theft Prevention Act, and he has assisted clients with more than $150 million in new business development. No matter what issue he’s working on, Katz researches every angle of every argument to an exhaustive degree. He spends days poring over policy. He makes notes and spreadsheets. He has mock debates with his colleagues. And he goes to every meeting he’s invited to.
Recent accomplishments: The biggest highlight from the past year was passing the Grieving Families Act, a long overdue amendment to the state’s wrongful death law. Katz also helped to advance iGaming.
Mike Kelly, a proud University of Nebraska-Lincoln graduate, joined the New York State Association of Realtors in 2001 after spending eight years in the Assembly. Kelly has served as NYSAR’s director of government affairs since 2008. The association is a not-for-profit trade organization representing more than 60,000 of New York state’s real estate professionals.
Recent accomplishments: NYSAR was pleased to see a renewed focus by Gov. Kathy Hochul and the Legislature on housing supply and the housing needs of all New Yorkers. While we were disappointed that an overall housing agreement remained elusive, we are committed to finding commonsense solutions to address the housing crisis. NYSAR was proud to advocate for practical measures as New York continues its transition away from carbon-based fuels. NYSAR continued the fight against illegal discrimination in housing and supported an incentive program for the purchase of a first home in New York.
A results-oriented policy advocate, educator and government and regulatory affairs attorney with over 25 years of diverse professional and volunteer experience, Cheryl Kraus’ background includes direct advocacy for vulnerable individuals and populations to counseling nonprofits and corporations with a global reach. Her portfolio is grounded in the belief of the power of law, advocacy and collaboration to champion policy priorities. She demonstrates a deep commitment to the elimination of care disparities and improving health outcomes. She currently advocates for providers, patients, caregivers and communities in the serious illness care space.
Recent accomplishments: In an industry projected to reach $64.7 billion by 2030, Kraus is architect and strategist for the association’s revamped advocacy program. She has delivered unprecedented success, ushering four bills through the state Legislature and drawing national attention to the association as an innovative leader in the serious illness care space. While successfully positioning budget and legislative priorities, she secured support from historically unaligned stakeholders. She has cultivated a vast public relations network while advising media on multiple pieces, with a recent story securing a New York Emmy nomination.
Natasha Lifton’s career spans the government, philanthropic and nonprofit sectors. In her current role as Trinity Church Wall Street’s first director of government relations, she oversees advocacy efforts related to youth, mental health, housing and homelessness and criminal justice reform. Lifton works across departments that carry out the church’s grantmaking, impact investing and programming efforts, as well as with its real estate portfolio and congregation. Prior to Trinity, she held positions at The New York Community Trust, the New York City Housing Authority, United Way of New York City and the New York City Public Advocate’s Office.
Recent accomplishments: Over the past year, Lifton implemented an organizationwide policy agenda, advocated for legislation to increase access to housing vouchers and improve school culture and climate, as well as for the Clean Slate Act and the closure of the jails on Rikers Island. She also managed engagement with local officials and advised on neighborhood-related policy issues to ensure Trinity’s real estate assets are maximized and to promote its sustainable design, construction and property management practices.
Grant Loomis is currently the Buffalo Niagara Partnership’s vice president for government affairs and economic development, leading the regional chamber of commerce’s advocacy, economic development and workforce initiatives. Prior to joining the BNP, Loomis worked in various capacities for federal, state and local elected officials and began his career as a television news reporter. He is a graduate of Syracuse University and earned a master’s in business administration from the University at Buffalo.
Recent accomplishments: Leading the team that secured a $1 million grant in the inaugural round of awards from the state Office of Strategic Workforce Development. Advancing the vital energy needs of employers as New York adopts transformative climate policy. Expanding the BNP’s advocacy priorities to include issues focused on equity and creating economic mobility for the underemployed.
Wilfredo López, director of government affairs at Urban Resources Institute, holds a bachelor’s degree in political science from Holy Cross and a law degree from Pace Law School. López has worked as an assistant district attorney and legislative director in the New York City Council and played a key role in establishing the New York City Council Union. He resides in East Harlem with his wife, Luisa López, and serves on the Metropolitan Hospital Community Advisory Board and Latino Justice Líderes board, as well as holding fellowships with JCRC BridgesNYC and the Council of Urban Professionals.
Recent accomplishments: López has been instrumental in driving positive change for URI, advocating on crucial issues. His efforts led to the successful passing of LL 31/2023, recognizing economic abuse as domestic violence. He directed a coalition advocating for legislation for DV survivors burdened by coerced debt. Beyond URI, his active involvement with HSC's #JustPay Campaign and appearances on Fox 5 and Univision amplify URI's mission. His consistent presence at City Hall and Albany has strengthened partnerships, elevating URI’s profile and impact. López’s unwavering dedication has been transformative for URI's advocacy efforts.
David Marks is the head of government relations and public affairs for Equinor Renewables US and leads all external relations, state government relations and stakeholder management for Equinor’s U.S. offshore wind energy business. Marks has spent nearly two decades in the energy industry and is a veteran of Capitol Hill. He served as an aide to U.S. Sen. Jeff Bingaman, the former chair of the U.S. Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee.
Recent accomplishments: Marks and his team of government relations experts have been at the forefront of moving some of the first offshore wind projects forward. Moving critical pieces of legislation for the industry and permitting milestones forward for the projects, including Empire Wind, which will power more than 1 million homes with renewable energy.
Lester Marks heads Kasirer’s nonprofits team, working with clients to develop and implement client strategy for budget appropriations, policy and legislative proposals and relationship building with key government officials. Before Kasirer, Marks was the director of government affairs and administration at Lighthouse Guild, where he oversaw and implemented the organization’s government affairs agenda on all levels of government. He holds a bachelor’s degree from Manhattan College, a master’s in public administration from Pace University and law degree from New York Law School. He is admitted to the New York State Bar.
Recent accomplishments: Working with nonprofit organizations to navigate through the asylum-seeker crisis and New York City fiscal constraints, opening of Brotherhood Sister Sol’s new building, supporting the New York Historical Society’s capital campaign to expand and partner with The American LGBTQ+ Museum.
Julie Marlette has 25 years of legislative, lobbying and nonprofit management experience. She worked in both the offices of Assembly Program and Counsel and Senate Counsel and Program. She was also the director of governmental relations at New York State School Boards Association, vice president for political strategy at 50CAN, executive director of the 50CAN Action Fund and managing director for state funding at Teach for America before joining Hinman Straub. Marlette serves on the board of directors for ToLife and the Northeastern New York Chapter of the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation.
Recent accomplishments: Secured two successful waivers for public sector retirees to work in school districts and BOCES without income limit or pension penalty. Contributed to changes in the open meeting law to allow for increased virtual access to and participation in public meetings, including school board meetings. Helped secure new funding to support early college high schools. Assisted in securing passage of legislation to allow school districts and BOCES maintain membership in health insurance consortia and expand self-insurance options for workers compensation.
Possessing an impressive background in government and community affairs, Lesley Massiah-Arthur has distinguished herself as one of the leading advocates for higher education in New York – often working behind the scenes to improve the lives of New York’s college students and their families. A recipient of City & State’s Above & Beyond: Women Award, Massiah-Arthur holds undergraduate and graduate degrees from SUNY Albany and Fordham University, professional certificates from Yale University and the University at Michigan and is an American Council on Education Fellow.
Recent accomplishments: In addition to being accepted to the American Council on Education Fellowship Program, Massiah-Arthur continued to develop advocacy efforts and policy positions in support of higher education. This year, she successfully advocated for the restoration of funding for educational opportunity and academic pipeline programs and capital investment for colleges. She also shepherded grant funding for Fordham University projects, including The McShane Center and support services for disabled students. Finally, she worked with White House staff to facilitate Fordham students greeting Vice President Kamala Harris during her April visit to New York.
Marcia Maxwell is the senior director of government affairs at Cresco Labs, a leading multistate cannabis operator in the U.S. She focuses on policy development, intergovernmental relations and grassroots campaigns to enhance medical cannabis availability in the northeast. Marcia serves on the New York Urban League and Manhattan Chamber of Commerce boards and the Excelsior College Cannabis Industrial Advisory Committee, and previously held leadership roles at the New York Medical Cannabis Industry Association. Cresco Labs, with stores in Brooklyn, Long Island, Pittsburgh and Philadelphia, has firmly established itself as a major player in the region.
Recent accomplishments: Recently promoted to senior director of government affairs at Cresco Labs, Maxwell now spearheads advocacy and government affairs on the East Coast for one of the largest publicly traded cannabis companies in the U.S. Her focus over the past year was lobbying for reform that both protects the 124,352 registered patients in the state’s medical cannabis program and advocating for fair legislation ending the inequities caused by the war on drugs.
Onida Coward Mayers is a sought-after strategist in media, politics and government relations advising clients on matters navigating the inner workings of government. She conceived and launched several New York firsts, including Shield the Vote, the Youth Poet Laureate Program, NYC Votes and the Video Voter Guide. She was the founding director of Brooklyn Community Access Television, now BRIC TV. An Afro Latina, she lives in Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn, with her husband and children. She is a member of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority Inc., The Links Inc., Cornerstone Baptist Church and the Committee of Panamanians.
Recent accomplishments: Mayers is proud to be one of the lead consultants providing education and awareness of the historical Racial Justice Commissions’ ballot reform proposals that New Yorkers voted overwhelmingly for in the November 2022 election.
Bridget McBrien is a seasoned government relations professional with over six years of experience advocating for the Jewish Board of Family and Children’s Services, a nonprofit organization dedicated to providing mental health counseling and social services. Her role involves building strong relationships with local elected officials and advocating for increased funding for the organization’s vital programs. With previous experience as a special assistant in the state Senate in both the Bronx and Albany, McBrien brings a wealth of knowledge to her current position.
Recent accomplishments: In the face of the COVID-19 pandemic and the mental health crisis it has exacerbated, McBrien has been instrumental in securing discretionary grant funding for The Jewish Board. Over the last year, her efforts have resulted in increased financial support for the organization. Additionally, she recognizes the importance of accessible mental health services and has actively participated in shaping legislation regarding telemental health and improved access to care. Her successful advocacy efforts have also garnered community support for an impactful new supportive housing project in New York City.
Homer Mayor Hal McCabe has worked in every level of government over the past 25 years and comes to the Cannabis Association of New York with a passion for helping small farmers and small businesses. His other former careers include: scuba instructor, motorcycle racing instructor, motorcycle franchise owner and corporate espionage expert. A graduate of Ithaca College, McCabe is an avid hunter, camper and lover of chicken wings, and he was once a guest on Oprah (no, he won’t say why). He has been the mayor of the Village of Homer, New York, since 2017.
Recent accomplishments: Aside from the village of Homer winning the $10 million Downtown Revitalization Initiative grant, it has been eventful. McCabe moved from executive director of the state Legislative Commission on Rural Resources to the premier cannabis trade association in New York, which coincidentally enough, he had a small hand in creating. The legislative session did not go as most hoped or planned, yet the association had a number of big wins. The loss that stings the most, however, is the City & State shower curtain – McCabe was one of the final seven.
Randy McCullough has been employed at the New York State Funeral Directors Association for over 25 years, significantly raising the profile, voice and effectiveness of funeral service at the state Capitol. Prior to NYSFDA, he was legislative director and energy committee director for then-Assembly Member Paul Tonko. In addition to negotiating numerous initiatives on energy policy, McCullough also led staff negotiations that resulted in the enactment of the state’s 529 college savings program. He was recently elected to the board of trustees of Hartwick College, from which he earned a bachelor’s degree in political science.
Recent accomplishments: Secured unanimous passage of a bill to remove a fee paid by funeral homes to fund the development of an electronic filing system that is now up and running. Also worked to successfully pass legislation that would make more people eligible to legally obtain New York state death certificates. Throughout McCullough’s tenure, he has also successfully advocated to protect the integrity of funeral directors’ licenses as well as the safety of consumers’ funds used to prepay funeral and burial costs.
Good Shepherd Services is a leading citywide youth and family development agency in New York City that partners with communities in the Bronx, Manhattan and Brooklyn providing support to over 33,000 children and families. Annie Elisa Minguez is responsible for leading advocacy efforts impacting the human services sector throughout the city and state of New York. Before joining GSS, she worked for Accion U.S. Network, the Clinton Global Initiative, the U.S. Department of Labor, Rep. Charlie Rangel and the U.S. House of Representatives Ways and Means Committee and Alianza Dominicana Inc.
Recent accomplishments: Minguez is a steering committee member of the Campaign for Children, the Fostering Youth Success Alliance and the Coalition for Community Schools Excellence and the coordinator of the Learning to Work Coalition. She serves as the co-chair of the Network for Youth Success and Council of Family and Child Caring Agencies policy committees. Minguez also serves as New York City Comptroller Brad Lander’s designee on the board of the Wildlife Conservation Society and on the advisory committees of the National Advocacy Center and the Good Shepherd Volunteers.
Celine Mizrahi has over 20 years experience in politics, policy and advocacy at all levels of government. For over a decade, Mizrahi managed complex policy campaigns and built advocacy coalitions as a senior team member for U.S. House Judiciary Committee Chair Jerry Nadler and New York City Council Speaker Corey Johnson. She started her career in the nonprofit sector, advocating for low-income New Yorkers. After graduating from NYU Law, she managed state and federal efforts at the Center for Reproductive Rights, working with grassroots groups around the country to advance reproductive justice.
Recent accomplishments: As a principal at Civitas Public Affairs, Mizrahi works with nonprofits, advocates and coalitions to build strategic issue and policy campaigns. She uses her experience working inside and outside government across issues, including economic justice, reproductive rights and democracy. From efforts to win federal funding for election infrastructure, to campaigning for worker protection laws and policies at the city and state levels, to building solutions for homeless New Yorkers, Mizrahi works with clients to build multiyear strategic plans and advance their issues.
As part of REBNY’s government affairs team, Ryan Monell helps lead advocacy efforts before City Hall, the New York City Council and among New York’s congressional delegation while also supporting big-picture state legislative advocacy in Albany and other political initiatives. A native of Dayton, Ohio, Monell’s previous experience includes leadership for Gilbane Building Company’s New York Division and for New York City Council Land Use Committee Chair Rafael Salamanca Jr.
Recent accomplishments: Successfully laid the groundwork for REBNY and the industry’s relationships with the new mayoral administration and the new City Council. Established REBNY’s federal government affairs program to have more robust advocacy with the New York congressional delegation.
In her role with the New York Health Plan Association over the course of three decades, Leslie Moran has been an advocate for managed care plans, working with state lawmakers, regulators and policymakers to help ensure the view of the health plan community is included in policy discussions and that the role plans play in New York’s health care system is recognized.
Recent accomplishments: In 2022 and 2023, HPA joined a broad coalition – including consumers, employers and health plans – working to expand coverage to lower-income New Yorkers and the state’s uninsured immigrants. This year, HPA also teamed with a wide-ranging alliance of organizations and community partners to restore funding to the Medicaid Quality Incentive Program. By helping incentivize efforts aimed at addressing the core causes of health disparities and improving health outcomes for underserved populations, the program has been an essential resource in advancing quality in Medicaid.
Mabel Muniz-Sarduy is currently the director of political and external affairs with the Council of School Supervisors & Administrators. She was an educator for 33 years and retired from the New York City Department of Education in 2021 as the former executive superintendent of Queens North. Prior to being the executive superintendent, she was a principal, assistant principal, teacher and parent liaison in Brooklyn. This experience in education has prompted her to take an active role as the political director to advocate for the supervisors of New York City.
Recent accomplishments: Through advocacy from several leaders, CSA was able to secure $1 million for professional development for supervisors.
Steven Newmark is director of policy and chief legal officer of the Global Healthy Living Foundation, a nonprofit that helps chronically ill patients. Before joining GHLF, Newmark was at NYC Health + Hospitals and served as senior health policy adviser to New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio. He also served as general counsel in de Blasio’s public advocate’s office and an adjunct professor in U.S. health policy at Baruch College. Newmark worked in private law practice and on multiple political campaigns becoming the national coordinator of Young Lawyers for Obama.
Recent accomplishments: Expanded the reach of a weekly podcast that highlights relevant health policies for patients. Brought patients to advocate to policymakers to explain the importance of pending legislation and policies on chronically ill patients. Raised patient voices of historically marginalized communities in local and state policymaking. Increased the number of patient-advocates at GHLF; introduced patients to congressional delegation and to state leaders. Supported a law (signed by Gov. Kathy Hochul in March) that reduces financial burden of drug costs on chronically ill patients. Generated robust local, national and international earned media highlighting drug access issues.
Amy Nickson oversees the Healthcare Association of New York State’s state-level legislative, regulatory and administrative priorities and related analyses and programs. Before joining HANYS in 2018, Nickson spent two decades in the government and legislative arena. She worked at the state Department of Health, most recently as the assistant commissioner of the Office of Governmental and External Affairs. Prior to joining the department, she worked in the Assembly. Her extensive experience allows her to navigate the complexities of state government and work to advance New York’s hospitals and health systems’ state-level priorities.
Recent accomplishments: Nickson and the broader HANYS team have been hard at work educating state policymakers about the profound fiscal and workforce crises New York’s hospitals and health systems have been facing and advocating for measures that stabilize them and ensure their sustainability. This year, HANYS secured substantial increases in Medicaid reimbursement rates for hospitals and nursing homes and additional supportive funding, extensions and codification of essential workforce flexibilities, and blocked the passage of policies harmful to hospitals and patient access to care.
Perry Ochacher’s lifelong involvement in Westchester County politics allows Willett Public Affairs to occupy a unique position in the government relations field in New York. He positioned Willett Public Affairs as an experienced government relations firm available to serve Westchester clients, because this was an area he recognized as previously underserved in the public affairs marketplace. Willett is now a go-to firm for clients in the Golden Apple, representing an increasing number of Westchester’s most treasured cultural destinations and leading nonprofits, helping these respected Westchester institutions thrive.
Recent accomplishments: Over the past year, eight new Westchester-based clients signed on with Willett Public Affairs, including venerable institutions such as the Hudson River Museum, Lyndhurst Mansion, Holocaust Education Center and Burke Rehabilitation Hospital. This growth comes in addition to Willett’s established reputation for statewide lobbying, particularly in the health care and construction sectors. With a growing client base ranging from statewide trade associations to local nonprofits, and an increasing number of those clients hailing from Westchester, Willett Public Affairs is emerging as a leading regional government relations firm in New York.
Michele O’Connor is a veteran government affairs professional serving dual roles as executive director and director of public policy for Argentum New York, the state association representing professionally managed senior living providers, and as director of licensing and senior legislative associate at Hodes & Landy. For over 20 years, O’Connor has contributed to the firm’s commitment to the highest level of representation, its growth and the diversification of services and policy areas. She manages the firm’s health care licensure consulting practice. Her policy area expertise includes health care, insurance and long-term care.
Recent accomplishments: O’Connor has successfully advanced the firm’s clients’ goals throughout her 20-plus-year career at Hodes & Landy, including securing funding for a critical education to work program and advancing legislation and regulations in the long-term care arena. She has participated in numerous Department of Health work groups and was recently appointed to the Re-Imagining Long Term Care Task Force.
Patricia Ornst serves as managing director for Delta’s state and local government affairs efforts in New York, where her work helps Delta achieve its strategic objectives throughout the state. Ornst brings 25 years of experience in the aviation industry. Prior to Delta, Ornst managed aviation affairs for the New York City Economic Development Corp. under Mayor Mike Bloomberg. She serves on several boards, including the Association For Better New York Foundation, the Alliance for Flushing Meadows Corona Park, New York City Workforce Development Board, New York City Tourism + Conventions, YMCA of Greater New York and Snug Harbor Cultural Center & Botanical Garden.
Recent accomplishments: In June 2022, Delta opened LGA’s Terminal C, marking substantial completion of a whole new LaGuardia Airport and a culmination of over eight years of working together with the governor, Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, local elected officials and community stakeholders to help build a brand-new LGA.
Recognizing the need for innovation and collaboration, Taylor Palmer has worked in the public and private sectors throughout her career. After working in the construction industry, she realized she had a deep need to enter public service and began working for U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand as part of her state team. Palmer was responsible for elevating nuanced community matters toWashington, D.C., staff and informing local communities about the senator’s legislative wins. In her current role at ACEC New York, she advocates for issues impacting the engineering and design community.
Recent accomplishments: Palmer served on New York City Mayor Eric Adams’ Capital Process Reform Task Force with leaders from city agencies and the construction, design, labor and MWBE sector. The task force assembled over 30 recommendations to improve how the city works with the private sector to complete capital projects and advocated for some of these changes in Albany. Similarly, she has engaged members of Congress in Washington, D.C., to address the importance of strengthening the pipeline of engineers in the workforce, increasing H-1B visas and making changes to tax policy through the R&D tax credit.
Magdalonie Paris-Campbell is an accomplished senior strategic leader with an emphasis on government affairs. She has spent the past 15 years in government relations, community engagement and partnership development. From earning trust to influencing change, she has a demonstrated track record of establishing new and existing relationships with external stakeholders across sectors while serving as an internal expert on public policy. She currently serves as the director of external and legislative affairs for AT&T. In this position, she also supports the Atlantic Region Public Safety Solutions and manages external affairs activities.
Recent accomplishments: Paris-Campbell has been honored with the 2023 Diversity in Business Award, the 2023 Caribbean Life Impact Award, the 2022 Premier Business Women Award and the 2022 Creating Walkability award for Nassau County, AT&T and FirstNet. AT&T and partners revitalized the 50-year-old iconic Safety Town at Eisenhower Park. Each year, more than 10,000 third grades from across Nassau County visit Safety Town to learn about driving and public safety protocols. And now, this new and improved Safety Town has been carefully renovated and renewed to ensure local children can learn traffic and public safety for at least another 50 years.
Charlie Pensabene heads legislative relations in New York for AES’ U.S. clean energy business unit. AES is a leading developer of solar energy, onshore wind and battery storage projects, with more than 60 projects totaling almost a gigawatt of renewable energy around the Empire State. Pensabene guides AES’ legislative agenda in Albany, recently championing measures to decarbonize New York City’s energy grid, transport wind turbines more efficiently and make battery storage projects more affordable. Prior to this role, Pensabene had stints in the state Senate and SUNY System Administration.
Recent accomplishments: Established a dedicated presence in Albany for a renewable energy developer with the largest amount of clean energy capacity in New York state.
Introduced state legislators and staffers from various regions of the state to AES’ portfolio of projects in New York.
Victor Pichardo Jr. is the son of Dominican immigrants, a former member of the Assembly and current vice president for government and community affairs at SBH Health System in the Bronx. As a member of the state Legislature, he was instrumental in passing the Dream Act and the Green Light Act and raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour in the state. Pichardo is married to Glendalys Salgado-Pichardo and they are focused on raising their two daughters.
Recent accomplishments: Pichardo worked with community groups and elected officials to raise the public profile of SBH. He hosted several high-profile individuals, VIPs and community groups to tour the Health and Wellness Center at SBH. He also focused on helping secure support to help renovate and modernize the SBH emergency department.
Howard Pollack has more than 20 years of experience working at senior-level positions in state and city government. He was chief of staff to then-Assembly Member Michael Cohen followed by working for New York City Council speakers as their chief Jewish liaison. In the speaker’s office, he specialized in community relations affairs for Queens stakeholders. Additional work in the New York City Council concerned emergency and crisis management, veterans affairs and hospitals. Skills and contacts honed by years of experience in government are now put to use as the primary community and government relations officer for JCRC-NY.
Recent accomplishments: Pollack directed the Celebrate Israel Parade on Fifth Avenue for 2022 and 2023. This year, over 40,000 marchers from around the country took part in the parade. Produced JCRC-NY’s Congressional Breakfast where Jewish community stakeholders heard directly from U.S. Sen. Chuck Schumer and their congressional representatives. Organized a parlor meeting for JCRC-NY with U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand. Co-led a study tour to Israel with Assembly members. Assisted in organizing congressional candidate forums and the formation of a congressional candidate questionnaire concentrating on issues important to the Jewish community.
Since 2019, Travis Proulx has led SUNY’s budget and policy advocacy on the federal and state level. Prior to joining SUNY, Proulx managed communications and digital strategy at Metropolitan Public Strategies for political, corporate and policy campaigns. He previously spent several years helping to lead environmental campaigns like the state's fracking ban and what became New York’s Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act. Proulx began his career in the state Senate, where he served as deputy press secretary for the previous Democratic majority and head of communications for state Sen. Liz Krueger.
Recent accomplishments: The 2023-24 budget includes historic investments for SUNY from Gov. Kathy Hochul, state Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins, Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie and lawmakers. There are hundreds of millions in new operating aid for campuses and student supports, and billions for infrastructure at SUNY's 64 colleges and universities. We are also establishing the first SUNY Black Leadership Institute, enacting groundbreaking legislation to help end New York’s nursing shortage and protecting reproductive health. We are focused on bringing federal funds to New York to grow a diverse semiconductor industry and expanding research on climate change and more.
Bianca Rajpersaud is an associate director of government relations at Davidoff Hutcher & Citron LLP. Prior to joining DHC, Rajpersaud served as the director of communications for then-Assembly Member Michael Cusick. Rajpersaud was also a former legislative intern for Assembly Member Daniel O’Donnell. She holds a master’s in public administration from Kent State University and a bachelor’s degree in sociology and criminal justice from the University at Albany-SUNY. She is president of the North Shore Democratic Club of Staten Island, and a board member of the Hellenic Classical Charter Schools.
Recent accomplishments: Rajpersaud ran for state Senate in the Democratic primary for the 23rd District in 2022. She also helped to establish the first Vendor Advisory Council in New York, alongside state Sen. Leroy Comrie and her client, the Information Technology Industry Council, to help address cybersecurity issues in New York. Rajpersaud worked closely with charter school advocates on revitalizing “zombie” charter schools in New York and pushing for an increase in the film tax credit to support small businesses in New York that indirectly benefit from the credit.
Ashley Ranslow is the New York state director at NFIB, New York’s leading small-business advocacy organization representing more than 11,000 small, independent businesses statewide. She is responsible for the legislative and political affairs of the New York office, interacting with members of the state Senate and Assembly, office of the governor and various state agencies to promote the interests of NFIB and the small-business community. She executes NFIB’s advocacy agenda and strategies, including policy analysis, direct lobbying, grassroots campaigns and media efforts.
Recent accomplishments: Ranslow has been the most vocal advocate in New York to shore up the state’s unemployment insurance fund to provide much-needed UI tax relief to our small businesses desperately trying to survive unrelenting financial pressures and successfully lobbied for small-business-specific tax cuts in the last year’s state budget. She has been a vocal proponent of sunsetting New York’s outdated COVID sick leave law and has defeated countless pieces of legislation, including workers’ compensation expansion, that would hurt Main Street and worsen the state’s economic climate.
David C. Rich has headed up the Greater New York Hospital Association’s federal and state advocacy for 30 years and now is also in charge of communications, community affairs and public policy for the association. Before that, he worked for Gov. Mario Cuomo’s Washington, D.C., office and U.S. Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan in Washington.
Recent accomplishments: Along with 1199SEIU, GNYHA headed up a multilayered campaign to increase Medicaid rates for hospitals by 10%. While unhappy to have achieved only a 7.5% increase, given inadequate Medicaid rates that had not appreciably increased for 17 years and only covered 61% of costs, it was still the biggest increase in the Medicaid program’s history. Rich influenced the passage of a variety of bills on health care workforce and protected members from increased medical malpractice costs, already the highest in the country.
Eliezer Rodriguez was born in Orocovis, Puerto Rico, and raised in Philadelphia. At 17, Rodriguez joined the Army where he earned his sergeant stripes. He received a bachelor’s degree in speech, pre-law and social science from Kansas State University and law degree from CUNY at Queens College. Rodriguez is known for completing the humanitarian mission that killed baseball’s great Roberto Clemente, 33 years after his death. He is a philanthropist who is in love with the Bronx. He lives in the Bronx with his wife, Fiordaliza Rodriguez, a Bronx Family Court judge, and their two boys.
Recent accomplishments: Rodriguez helped to plan and implement a successful lobby day in Albany. His goal is to defend and promote the American dream of homeownership. He was asked by Rep. Adriano Espaillat and did serve on a committee to select honorees for this year’s leadership award breakfast. The breakfast was a prelude to the National Puerto Rican Day Parade.
Terri Rosen Deutsch, associate vice president for external affairs, joined Hunter College in 2002 after serving as chief of staff for the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission. Rosen Deutsch is the face of the college to its government, community and local business partners. With the help of her advocacy, including her ability to secure public support, Hunter’s footprint has grown considerably from its main campus centered around 68th Street, to include the Silberman School of Social Work and Roosevelt House and the creation of Manhattan Hunter Science High School.
Recent accomplishments: Rosen Deutsch successfully developed relationships with city, state and federal government officials, agencies, community stakeholders, businesses and institutions that have directly contributed to enhancing the college’s profile and securing an additional $2 million annually in public funding for programming and capital improvements. She demonstrated a commitment to community engagement by creating the Hunter Helpers Program, which in the past year connected over 100 Hunter students with productive paid work opportunities. The Care for the Future program placed dozens of students in paid internships at nonprofit organizations, city and state agencies and elected official’s offices.
Throughout his career, Denny Salas has been a stockbroker, a legislative researcher on Capitol Hill, a political consultant to members of Congress, a government affairs and political action committee manager for small-business manufacturing, a grant writer and development officer at a charter school, and a political candidate for local office. He serves on the NYPD’s 7th Precinct Community Council, as policy director for lower Manhattan’s United Democratic Organization, and as a county committee member and judicial delegate for the Manhattan Democratic Party.
Recent accomplishments: Since Salas joined Gotham, he has helped deliver substantive victories. In Long Island, with AARP New York, Nassau County Executive Bruce Blakeman and Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone issued executive orders installing age-friendly liaisons across relevant agencies to serve the 50-plus population. With the New York City municipal retirees, he helped lead the effort of having City Comptroller Brad Lander reject the mayor’s contract forcing municipal retirees into a Medicare Advantage plan, in addition to having City Council Member Charles Barron and Assembly Member Ken Zebrowski introduce legislation to protect the earned Medicare benefits of retirees.
Craig Schulz is director of communications and external affairs at Amtrak, overseeing public affairs and stakeholder coordination for the Gateway Program and other capital projects. In more than 10 years with Amtrak, Schulz has managed high-profile initiatives throughout the Northeast Corridor, including Superstorm Sandy’s effects on the North River Tunnel and the Train No. 188 derailment in Philadelphia. Before joining Amtrak, he was a broadcast journalist in local and national television news. He lives outside Philadelphia with his wife and two kids and commutes to work in New York.
Recent accomplishments: President Joe Biden’s visit to the Hudson Yards concrete casing to announce $292 million in IIJA grant funding; hosting U.S. Department of Transportation Deputy Secretary Polly Trottenberg and other VIPs aboard Amtrak’s inspection car; with partners at MTA and NJ Transit, engaging elected officials and community leaders in an active discussion about the future of Penn Station and the Northeast Corridor; speaking at various conferences and events about the exciting new era of passenger rail and Amtrak’s generational opportunity to grow into an even more vital element of the nation’s transportation network.
William Schwartz currently oversees government and community relations for the largest transportation network in North America, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority. Responsible for the MTA’s legislative priorities in Albany and New York City, he has implemented a number of policy priorities for the agency since joining in 2019. None were more important than securing billions in recurring revenue during this year’s legislative session as part of a funding plan to stabilize the MTA. Will has a master’s in public administration from Marist College and bachelor’s in political science from SUNY Buffalo State University. He and his wife, Amy, have two children, Matthew and Hailey.
Recent accomplishments: Schwartz saw $1.3 billion in recurring revenues in the fiscal year 2024 enacted budget for the MTA, along with future downstate casino revenues starting in 2026. He built a diverse regional and statewide coalition in support of the MTA funding plan. New bus camera authorization legislation was included in the fiscal year enacted budget allowing for new violations to be enforced. He has helped transform the MTA’s government relations team during pandemic and MTA reorganization. He worked on major MTA projects – Grand Central Madison, Penn Station Access, and more – and welcomed a daughter in 2022, Hailey.
Last year, Jonathan Shabshaikhes joined VNS Health as associate director of government affairs. He manages city, state and federal relationships that benefit the services and programs of the organization. For the past eight years, he worked in government and politics with roles in the state attorney general’s office and the New York City public advocate’s office under Letitia James handling intergovernmental relations and Jewish affairs. Additionally, he worked as a legislative director in the New York City Council and at The Friedlander Group. Shabshaikhes was born and raised in Coney Island, Brooklyn.
Recent accomplishments: Entering the health care space during a time of government budget deficits, Shabshaikhes has secured an increase in discretionary funding in the New York City budget allowing VNS Health to increase health care access to more vulnerable New Yorkers. When the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services proposed payment reductions for home health care, Shabshaikhes lobbied Congress and secured the support of every member of the New York congressional delegation to oppose the cuts. Shabshaikhes has also enhanced VNS Health’s government stakeholder engagements through community based partnerships and collaborations.
A lawyer by training, Aravella Simotas has a keen understanding of how state policy trends influence federal action. Prior to joining BNY Mellon, Simotas served in the Assembly for 10 years. More recently, she served as a senior adviser to Rep. Grace Meng and began her long tenure in government as an aide to the New York City Council speaker. Last year, SUNY awarded her an honorary doctoral degree of humane letters in recognition of her work supporting higher education and health care.
Recent accomplishments: Simotas devised and implements the bank’s government affairs strategy for U.S. states and municipalities. She coordinates with the bank’s risk, legal and business advisory segments on state and local implications of the company’s decisions and future positions. She counsels global external communications teams on a range of state and local legislative and political issues with cross-border and U.S. business implications. She manages the bank’s relationships with outside lobbyists and bank trade associations, participates in trade groups’ systemic efforts to represent banking industry interests before state and local governments, and continually updates the bank’s business lines on key political and legislative initiatives.
Felicia Singh is an advocate for children and families whose organizing background comes from civic engagement, electoral organizing and workers’ rights. She is the director of policy and government relations with the Coalition for Asian American Children and Families. Singh is also a trainer for New American Leaders, an organization that supports first- and second-generation Americans running for office. Prior to CACF, she was the advocacy and campaigns manager for Jahajee Sisters. She also taught for 10 years before running for New York City Council District 32 in 2021.
Recent accomplishments: Singh supervises campaigns and initiatives across New York that center the AAPI community. She coordinated members and partners to successfully advocate for a historical investment of $30 million in the state budget for the AAPI community. CACF co-leads the REACH Coalition, which was founded to advocate for the teaching of Asian American Native Hawaiian Pacific Islander curriculum in New York state’s public schools. This year, CACF’s 18% and Growing Campaign was able to restore funds for essential programs like the AAPI Community Support Initiative and Access Health NYC.
Meghan Taylor joined the Genting team in May 2020. Currently, Taylor directs Resorts World’s government affairs strategy, lobbying and advocacy on issues of strategic importance at the state and local levels for Resorts World Catskills, Resorts World New York City and Resorts World Hudson Valley. In addition, she manages all aspects of public relations for Genting’s New York state properties. Previously, as the vice president and regional director of Empire State Development’s Mid-Hudson regional office, Taylor led the state’s implementation of economic development programs and initiatives for the Hudson Valley region.
Recent accomplishments: Over the past year, Taylor has spearheaded several initiatives across Resorts World’s properties and played a leading role in the opening of Resorts World Hudson Valley, the state’s newest casino. She worked closely with local, regional and state leaders to showcase the tremendous benefits of RWHV, including the creation of 250 new full-time jobs and over $50 million in private investment. Her approach is driven by a steadfast belief in the power of partnerships within the communities that Resorts World calls home.
Ashley Thompson DiNardo is a managing director at Capalino, with an extensive background in legislative, budget and land use processes. In this role, she advises clients such as UPS, the Times Square Alliance, Grand Street Settlement and RXR Realty as they develop relationships with government officials and community stakeholders and navigate complex approvals. Prior to joining Capalino, she served as chief of staff to former New York City Council Member Stephen Levin and worked on legislative affairs under Mayor Bill de Blasio.
Recent accomplishments: Over the last year, Thompson DiNardo has helped secure public approvals and funding for a wide array of projects. This includes $30 million in funding to support youth in foster care through Fair Futures, and land use approvals for projects in Williamsburg, Red Hook and Manhattan.
Lisa Wickens-Alteri, a registered nurse by background, is the founder, president and CEO of Capital Health Consulting, a woman-owned government relations, lobbying and consulting firm located in Albany, representing clients in health and human services. Prior to establishing CHC, Wickens-Alteri led a distinguished career in public service for 26 years including serving as deputy director of the department’s Office of Health Systems Management. Her career in the public and private sectors has been driven by an unparalleled commitment to enhancing and sustaining access to high-quality care.
Recent accomplishments: Wickens-Alteri is one of the most respected and sought-after experts in health care policy and compliance across the state. In 2022-23, Wickens-Alteri championed the enactment of a nation-leading demonstration program to construct new facilities to house medically fragile young adults, helped clients secure millions in critical health care transformation project funding, advanced efforts to enhance recognition and representation of freestanding ambulatory surgery centers, partnered with Shinnecock and tribal nations to protect unmarked burial sites, and worked with clients and legislators to advance critical health care policy legislation.
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