whosnextpolitics-article

Who’s Next in Politics: 19 young people making a difference in Philly

Politically-speaking, 2016 seems over. But anyone in politics can tell you that’s not really true.

There’s always something to do, especially for the young people in Philadelphia and Pennsylvania politics who work daily to make the government run. Whether it’s ushering the mayor of the city around to his next event, speaking at functions about getting more women involved in politics or simply thinking ahead to the next campaign, politics is always an evolving field.

For the third time in Billy Penn‘s history, we’re presenting Who’s Next in Politics to highlight some of the city’s most dynamic young people. Every month, we publish an edition of Who’s Next, presented by the Knight Foundation, that focuses on a different industry or field, but politics was our flagship Who’s Next list and is the first industry we’re highlighting three times.

Over the last two years, Billy Penn has written about more than 250 of the city’s up-and-coming leaders through the Who’s Next feature, from teachers to artists to musicians to chefs. This time around, these young fundraisers, politicians and behind-the-scenes workhorses are the young people who help formulate policy and get officials elected. Here are this year’s 19 winners, in alphabetical order:

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Wade Albert

Political activist
34 years old

Albert is an attorney and Philadelphia native who's involved in a number of political ventures and community organizations. In his day job as an attorney at Sobol & Sobol, P.C., Albert represents and counsels employers in employment law and focuses on issues related to civil rights. He frequently provides pro bono services at expungement and LGBT law clinics. He's a board member of the Liberty City LGBT Democratic Club and leads the group's Endorsement Committee. He's also a member of the board of the Center City Residents’ Association, in which he's organized town hall meetings and a 2nd congressional district debate prior to the 2016 primary election. Albert has held fundraisers for prominent Democratic candidates like Katie McGinty, who ran for United States Senate this year, and attorney general-elect Josh Shapiro. Albert is a Temple graduate and has volunteered for several years to work at the legal clinic at the Trans Health Conference. He also recently worked as a legal election observer as part of the Hillary Clinton campaign's Voter Protection Program.

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Provided by Kyron Banks

Kyron A. Banks

Youth Outreach/LGBT Outreach Director, Hillary for PA
25 years old

As an organizer for Hillary for America's Pennsylvania campaign, Banks did outreach to millennials and LGBT groups to build support and organize for Hillary Clinton in Pennsylvania. Prior to working for Clinton's PA campaign, Banks managed the campaign of Ben Waxman for State Representative and is a former aide to Mayor Michael Nutter. In the latter capacity, he was the project manager for the Forbes Under 30 Summit. Banks is also involved with Young Involved Philadelphia and is a Class of 2015 fellow of the New Leaders Council. The person who nominated Banks "is a strategic thinker who is indefatigable in his work, either in the public sector or to elect Secretary Clinton." The person added that "he’s actually going to be next in politics in the years to come."

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Darin Bartholomew

Executive Chairman - Philly GOP 5th Ward
25 years old

Though he's still in grad school, Bartholomew has already had an impact on politics in Philadelphia, serving as the executive chairman of the Republican Party in the 5th Ward, which encompasses parts of Center City. In this capacity, he assists the ward leader in engaging voters and working toward getting them to vote Republican on Election Day. Bartholomew noted the ward is an important component to the city GOP's efforts to attract millennials, as the population of the ward continues to grow. He also sits on the board of Philly Set Go and is treasurer for the Philadelphia Federation of Young Republicans. Formerly, Bartholomew was a digital communication and media specialist for the Tom Corbett for Governor campaign. In the 2013-14 school year, Bartholomew was the president of the student body at Temple University. The same year, he was the chairman of the Pennsylvania Federation of College Republicans.

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Andrew Thomas Bull

Law clerk at Haines & Associates
28 years old

Currently a law clerk at Haines & Associates, Bull was nominated for this list because of his work as a policy researcher on Joe Torsella's successful campaign for Pennsylvania treasurer. Bull was tasked with researching key policy and legal issues like higher education costs, immigration and retirement benefits. Bull is also currently writing a book in partnership with John Fry, the president of Drexel University, about the relationship between higher education institutions and their surrounding non-academic communities. He's a former extern for Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf's Office of General Counsel and was also a political aide for Patrick Murphy's 2012 campaign for attorney general. He also volunteers at the Pennsylvania Innocence Project, where he evaluates cases where prisoners may have been wrongly convicted. Today, Bull is a resident in Fairmount, where he's active in local community building. The person who nominated Bull said this: "Andrew is always thinking ahead and driving things forward, but he's also particularly balanced when it comes to finding answers to difficult policy issues that aren't necessarily as flashy."

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Morgan B. Cephas

State Representative-elect
32 years old

Come January, Cephas will be the newest state representative hailing from Philadelphia's 192nd Legislative District, which encompasses the Overbrook, Wynnefield, Haddington, Carroll Park, Overbrook Park and Overbrook Farms neighborhoods of Philadelphia. Her role will be to usher legislation, advocate for policies and secure the resources needed to ensure families are able to access a better quality of life. Prior to her election -- in which she beat out an incumbent -- Cephas was an assistant policy advisor to State Sen. Vincent Hughes. Before that, she was the director of external affairs for the Philadelphia Youth Network and the deputy chief of staff to Philadelphia City Councilman Curtis Jones Jr. In the latter role, she played a major role in securing over $10 million to revitalize area commercial corridors, recreation centers and schools in the 4th District. She also recently started a Friends of Tustin Recreation Center group in an effort to restore the rec center in her neighborhood.

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Colleen Christy

Deputy Finance Director at Toomey for Senate
26 years old

Christy is just coming off working as the deputy finance director for PA Sen. Pat Toomey's successful bid for re-election. Not only did Toomey win, but Christy was part of a team that managed tens of millions of dollars and waded through what became the most expensive Senate race in United States history. For the last three years, Christy has criss-crossed the state with Toomey working to develop relationships with donors who were key to his re-election efforts. Prior to her post as deputy finance director, Christy was a staff assistant for Toomey for Senate, in which she reviewed potential event hosts for fundraising events, researched potential donors, assisted with compliance and donation tracking and worked directly with regional fundraisers. Fun fact: While working on the campaign, Christy also got her first speeding ticket... with the senator in the car. The person who nominated Christy (clearly unfazed by the aforementioned speeding ticket) called her a "hard-working, talented, young fundraiser who has done a great job for the Toomey for Senate campaign."

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Kyle A. Darby

City Relations Research Director at S.R. Wojdak and Associates
23 years old

Darby is the City Relations Research Director with S.R. Wojdak and Associates, a Philadelphia-based governmental relations and lobbying firm. So Darby is responsible for assisting, tracking and analyzing Philadelphia City Council legislation and actions of other regional government bodies, as well as researching policy and monitoring public hearings. He also prepares draft testimony, reviews press coverage and meets with clients and elected officials. Darby is formerly a founder and millennial consultant with Nxt Generation Strategy Group and is the former executive vice president of the College Democrats of New Jersey. Darby was also an intern and constituent advocate in the Office of U.S. Sen. Cory Booker. He's served as a frequent canvasser and deputy field organizer for the Camden County and Gloucester County Democrats in New Jersey, and he also mentors 10 young people as part of the My Brother's Keeper organization.

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Alex Deering

Founder and Managing Partner at Deering and Associates
33 years old

Deering is a political fundraiser who develops, implements and manages programs, fundraising activities, donor prospecting and online fundraising for political campaigns. This includes being responsible for budgeting, non-fundraising event planning, maintaining social media accounts and assisting in a candidate's political activities for endorsements. He's also a committeeperson in the 16th ward, where he heads voter registration drives, circulates nominating petitions, gives voters information about upcoming elections and other work to get constituents voting and ensure Election Day goes smoothly. Deering is the former finance director for the Art Haywood for State Senate campaign and the Donna Bullock for State Representative campaign. The person who nominated Deering called him "a daring and brave millennial" who has earned respect for "effective, results-driven campaign work."

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Elliot I. Griffin

Associate, Ceisler Media
26 years old

Griffin, who's in her third year as an evening student at Temple University's Beasley School of Law, is currently an associate at Ceisler Media, a media relations and issue advocacy firm with clients across the region. Her work includes drafting media materials and planning and promoting media events in Philadelphia and across the state. She pitches stories to journalists, monitors local and national news and coordinates outreach. She's also a board member with Big Brothers Big Sisters Independence Region. In 2012, Griffin graduated cum laude from Temple's School of Communications and Theater, where she served as the Vice President of External Affairs for Temple's student government. While in college, she also served as the Executive Director of the Pennsylvania Association of State-Related Students.

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Gabriela Guaracao

Chairwoman and co-founder, Philly Set Go
29 years old

Guaracao was nominated for her work in founding Philly Set Go, a millennial PAC in Philadelphia that was founded in early 2015 and works to engage young people in local and state government. Originally from Colombia, Guaracao and her family first settled in Olney when she was a child. Today, she's worked for seven years as the director of strategy at AL DÍA News Media. She's also a board member at Einstein Healthcare Network and a board member at Public Citizens for Children and Youth. The person who nominated Guaracao said she's "a powerhouse that connects Philadelphia's vibrant and overlooked Latino community with Philadelphia's traditional sources of power," adding "she sees Philadelphia as part of a bigger world, and doesn't fall victim to some of the more parochial mentality that can go on here politically."

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Mia B. Hylan

District Constituent Services Representative
39 years old

Hylan provides direct services to the constituents of the 177th legislative district for Rep. John J. Taylor in his Mayfair district office. On a typical day, she's meeting with constituents in her office and contacting local and state officials in an attempt to solve problems related to everything from social security to PennDOT to issues with neighbors. She meets with local city, state, police and community leaders to advocate for the neighborhoods that Taylor serves, organizes events of interest and visits with constituents and businesses to help them with quality of life issues. Hylan is also the vice-chairwoman of Mayfair Memorial Playground Friends, President of the Mayfair Business Association and sits on the board of the Mayfair Community Development Corporation. Prior to working for Taylor, she was the executive director of the Mayfair CDC.

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Phil Innamorato

Field Representative/Office of U.S. Senator Pat Toomey
28 years old

Innamorato works as a field representative for PA Sen. Pat Toomey, in which he's tasked with representing the senator at various events, ceremonies and meetings in the five-county southeastern Pennsylvania region. Based out of the senator's Center City Philadelphia office, Innamorato is also responsible for pursuing outreach initiatives in the community and directly assists constituents with casework matters related to federal agencies. Prior to working for Toomey, Innamorato was a constituent service aide for Philadelphia City Council. Currently, he's the chairman of the Philadelphia Federation of Young Republicans and sits on the St. Katherine of Siena Parish School Board. The person who nominated him said this: "He is a genuinely nice guy and someone who truly cares about the community around him. With any federal concern I have ever addressed with him, he has always gotten back to me in a timely fashion and with a full explanation."

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Brendan McPhillips

Former Political Director, Hillary for America - PA
33 years old

At a relatively young age, McPhillips has already established a record of running campaigns for progressive candidates in Pennsylvania. He managed a handful of races, including the successful candidacy of Philadelphia City Councilwoman Helen Gym and Kevin Strouse's 8th district congressional race in 2014. He most notably ran the campaign of John Fetterman, the small-town mayor from western Pennsylvania who ran for U.S. Senate and gave establishment candidates a run for their money, all while building a national profile. Most recently, McPhillips worked as the political director for the Hillary for America - PA campaign. Formerly, McPhillips worked as a PA organizing director for Mayors Against Illegal Guns and was a Regional Field Director for the Obama for America - PA campaign. He also helps to organize the PA Obama Alumni Association, and is a member of the Notre Dame Club of Philadelphia. (So, avoid talking to him about football this year.)

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Dominque Miller

Co-Founder, Vote The Odds
23 years old

Miller, the Political Director for the PA Senate Democratic Campaign Committee, made waves in the Philadelphia political scene as the Director of Constituent Services for the Jared Solomon for PA State Representative campaign -- one that earlier this year successfully ousted a 42-year incumbent. In her role with the PA SDCC, Miller works closely with Senate members, helps with elections at every level, maintains finances for the committee and ensures it remains in compliance. She also heads up the internship program that works with high school and college women and students of color. Currently, Miller is also working with Kingdom Life Ministries Church to apply for 401(c)4 status, as well as assisting their CDC in expanding its programing. Those programs include: Youth mentoring programs, financial literacy classes for all ages, providing refugee housing through a partnership with Bethana Christian Services, and many others that support the church members and the surrounding community.

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Joseph Pierce

Political Director at 32BJ SEIU Mid-Atlantic Region
34 years old

Currently the political director of 32BJ SEIU, Pierce works daily on legislation to improve the lives of the union's 10,000 members in Philadelphia and the Delaware Valley. Here in the city, Pierce worked to help pass two significant pieces of legislation: 1. The expansion of prevailing wage to include property service workers at universities and university hospitals and 2. The sugary drink tax to support pre-K programming, improve recreational centers and community schools. He's a former staff representative and legislative advocate for AFSCME. He's currently the president of the Florida A&M University Alumni Association's Philadelphia Chapter, which connects alumni and also works to provide post-secondary educational opportunities for youth in the Philadelphia area. Pierce is also a 2016 fellow with the New Leaders Council. The person who nominated Pierce said this: "Joseph has fought for labor and working people in this region for almost six years. He has helped countless campaigns, given of his personal time and continues to give back through the support of several non profits in the area." 

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Provided by Nedia Ralston

Nedia S. Ralston

Southeast Regional Director - Office of the Governor
32 years old

Ralston currently works as the Director of Southeastern Operations for Gov. Tom Wolf, meaning she works as the governor's official liaison to all government, community, constituent groups and leaders in the southeast region of the state. In her first year as regional director, she was elected as Vice-Chair of the Delaware Valley Regional Planning Commission by the Board of Directors and currently serves as treasurer. Ralston is formerly a deputy finance director for Congressman-elect (then State Rep.) Dwight Evans. For seven years, Ralston worked on a team that raised more than $7 million for Evans. Ralston was later recruited to join the finance team of Wolf for Governor as a Deputy Finance Director. Following Wolf‘s election victory, she went on to serve as Deputy Executive Assistant to the Executive Director of the Wolf for Governor Transition Team. Today, she's a committeeperson and ward chairperson in the Tenth Ward Democratic Committee in West Oak Lane. The person who nominated Ralston described her as "very well connected within all political circles," as well as "a leader in the community, and someone to watch on the political scene."

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Dan Tinney

66th Ward GOP Leader
34 years old

You can expect to see Tinney's name in city political conversations. In 2015, he ran for an at-large spot on City Council and is strongly considering another go in 2019. In his first attempt at public office in 2015, Tinney was the second-youngest announced candidate. Today, he serves as the GOP Ward Leader of Northeast Philly's 66th Ward Republican Executive Committee, which has more registered Republicans than any other ward in the city. He also works as head of the ward's Registered Community Organization, which helps simplify the civic engagement process for zoning and development in the community. In 2016, he was elected as an alternative delegate to the Republican National Convention. By day, Tinney is a steamfitter and union steward at CHOP, where he works as the liaison between union members and management.

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Mikecia Witherspoon

Special Assistant to the Mayor, City of Philadelphia
26 years old

Witherspoon is the behind-the-scenes person you can thank for making sure the mayor of Philadelphia gets his job done. Currently the Special Assistant to the Mayor, Witherspoon acts as the Mayor's "handler" or manager by making sure he's where he needs to be at the proper time with all the information he needs to perform his duties. On a daily basis, she's ensuring that he arrives at events and meetings and knows what he is expected to discuss or what duties he must perform. Prior to her post in City Hall, Witherspoon worked as a press assistant to the Kenney for Mayor campaign and is formerly a Social Media Specialist for the Penn Institute for Urban Research. In addition to her day job, she's a member of Network of Extraordinary Talent (NExt, the Urban League of Philadelphia's Young Professional Group) and a coach on the University of Pennsylvania's women's club volleyball team. She also noted she's the curator of a newsletter "that definitely aided Mayor Kenney in getting his 'cool' back." The person who nominated Witherspoon said she is " a true powerhouse of passion and dedication" who "has committed her professional efforts to improving the City of Philadelphia."

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Alison T. Young

Executive Director, Drexel University Institute for Strategic Leadership
40 years old

Currently the Executive Director of the Drexel University LeBow College of Business Institute for Strategic Leadership, Young also serves as the head of leadership initiatives for the college and teaches executive education courses on Leadership Lessons for Women and the Art of Negotiation. As the director of the Institute, she's in charge of operational responsibilities and heading the Leading for Change Fellowship, a leadership development program. She's a frequent speaker on public leadership and women in leadership, and the person who nominated Young said this: "Alison is a game-changer in the traditional good-old-boys-club-dominated world of Philadelphia politics. She is fundamentally changing the landscape for women looking to run for public office, regardless of party affiliation." Young is also an expert analyst with CBS3, where she provides political commentary. Prior to her current post at Drexel, Young worked as the vice president of external affairs at the National Constitution Center. Formerly, she worked as a special assistant to former President George W. Bush and was the acting director of the USA Freedom Corps, which worked to encourage people to serve and volunteer post-9/11. Today, Young also sits on the boards of the Pennsylvania Conference for Women, the Pennsylvania Heritage Foundation and the Let Them Rock Foundation.

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