North Philly native Omar Woodard is just 31 and he’s worked for political campaigns from Sen. Tony Williams to President Obama. Jane Slusser, the campaign manager for Jim Kenney’s bid for mayor, is one of the youngest women to run a successful mayoral campaign in a major city. Aubrey Montgomery is one of the most well-known young political fundraisers in the region.
Suffice it to say: Philly has some impressive young people in its political scene.
Billy Penn has been showing off some of Philly’s best leaders for a year now, and it’s time to bring it back to where it all started: Politics. So we’re recognizing these people and some of their peers as outstanding young leaders in this month’s version of Who’s Next. They’re the next generation of politicians, fundraisers and strategists representing Philadelphia and Pennsylvania.
We do plan to continue featuring some of the city’s most dynamic young people in our Who’s Next series, and your feedback is essential — please reach out to email@example.com with “Who’s Next” in the subject line to suggest other topics or nominations you’d like us to consider.
Meet 17 of the young people who are shaping politics in Philadelphia and across the state, in alphabetical order:
1. Patrick Christmas
Title: Senior Policy Analyst at Committee of Seventy
Who’s Next because: Christmas began working at Committee of Seventy, a nonpartisan better government and politics advocate, in 2013 after five years as a science teacher at Fels High School in Northeast Philadelphia. He’s currently responsible for overseeing policy analysis, programs and events related to Seventy’s mission as well as the organization’s online presence and the 855-SEVENTY hotline. The 2008 graduate of Swarthmore College also serves on the boards of PhillyCORE Leaders, a group of education leaders from across the region, and SEAMAAC, a group whose mission is to support immigrants and refugees. Find him on Twitter at @Pat_Christmas.
2. Joe Corrigan
Title: Principal, Edge Hill Strategies
Who’s Next because: As the principal of his political consulting firm Edge Hill Strategies, Corrigan advises clients on fundraising, communications and strategy. He led the summer 2015 special election upset victory of Rep. Leanne Krueger-Braneky, D-Delaware, over a labor-backed Republican. Prior to that, he ran the City Council At-Large campaign of former Reading Terminal Market general manager Paul Steinke. Corrigan, a Temple University graduate and native of Montgomery County, has worked both city- and state-wide, including serving as the executive director of Rep. Brian Sims’ Sims4PA Political Action Committee. Corrigan also serves on the Planned Parenthood Southeastern PA Action Council and the Germantown Special Services District. The person who nominated Corrigan is a candidate who worked with Corrigan and said he was “capable of rationalizing my fears of the proverbial campaign trail and arming me with information to combat all of the scary characters I would come across during my journey.” Find him on Twitter at @.
3. Jessica Cosme
Title: Dep. Finance Director, Tom Wolf for Governor
Who’s Next because: Cosme is currently one of Gov. Tom Wolf’s statewide finance directors; she works to raise state and national funds for his campaign committee, as well as several other entities that support Democratic candidates and causes across the state. Before her time with Wolf, Cosme served as a political and finance consultant to Democratic candidates from Pennsylvania’s Auditor General, to the Democratic leader of the Pennsylvania House, Pennsylvania state senators and several members of Philadelphia City Council. Before starting her own consulting business, Cosme spent four years with the Senate Democratic Campaign Committee as deputy executive director, and later as deputy campaign manager for state Sen. Daylin Leach’s Congressional campaign.
4. Megan Healey
Title: Deputy Press Secretary, Gov. Tom Wolf
Who’s Next because: Following her coverage of Gov. Tom Wolf’s campaign for governor in 2014 while working as a television reporter in Harrisburg, Healey joined his communications team as deputy press secretary. In that capacity, she plans public events with Wolf while promoting the administration’s policy agenda on social media and other platforms. The Cornell graduate spent nearly a decade as a broadcast journalist, working in markets throughout the Mid-Atlantic region. Most recently, she spent 6 1/2 years in Harrisburg as a general assignment reporter and weekend anchor for WHTM-TV where she covered state politics and elections. Find her on Twitter at @.
5. Jennifer Kates
Title: Attorney and Legislative Assistant in the Office of Philadelphia City Councilwoman María Quiñones-Sánchez
Who’s Next because: Kates got started in local politics during the 2007 election by way of writing on for the blog youngphillypolitics.com. She’s now an attorney who serves in the Office of Philadelphia City Councilwoman María Quiñones-Sánchez where she’s drafted bills including the Land Bank, a charter change to ensure language access for all government agencies, and a water affordability program. The Penn Law and Temple University graduate’s work in City Council focuses on the law and policy of housing, community development, land use and equitable property taxation. Kates serves on the boards of the Philadelphia Land Bank and the Friends of the Free Library of Philadelphia, and is a member of the Philadelphia Bar Association committees on Real Property, Civil Gideon, and Fraudulent Conveyance. The person who nominated Kates said she is “one of the most active, informed and compassionate people in Philly politics right now.” Find her on Twitter at @.
6. Dan Kessler
Title: Investment analyst at Brandywine Realty Trust/ Regional Finance Committee Member at Hillary for America
Who’s Next because: For his day job, Kessler works in business as a Real Estate Investment Analyst for Brandywine Realty Trust. But he’s been in politics since his days as a White House intern, and is now a regional finance committee member for Hillary for America. He served as Ready for Hillary’s youngest National Finance Co-Chair, as its National Finance Chair for Young Professionals and Millennial Council National Co-Chair. Kessler, a native of Lower Merion who now lives in Philly, was a senior adviser to Isaiah Thomas’ city council at-large campaign and is also in the process of launching a millennial “Future Caucus” in the Pennsylvania State Legislature. In addition, he’s exploring running for public office in 2016. Find him on Twitter at @.
7. Bryan E.K. Leib
Title: Business Development Representative for the Philadelphia Soul/ member of Millennial Recruitment Advisory Board
Who’s Next because: Leib was born in Philadelphia, raised in South Jersey and, over the last decade, has worked and served in leadership and supporting roles in the public, private and non-profit sectors. Most recently, he was an aide for State Sen. Anthony Williams and the Williams for Mayor Campaign. He’s also an active board member, trustee and committee member for a number of organizations throughout the region, such as United Way, YMCA, MANNA and the Jewish Business Network. He also serves on the board for USA250, the group planning Philly’s celebration for the nation’s 250th birthday, and the newly-formed Millennial Recruitment Advisory Board of the managing director’s office. Find him on Twitter at @.
8. Teresa M. Lundy
Title: Principal of TML Communications
Who’s Next because: Lundy is the principal of TML Communications, a public relations and communications firm specializing in government affairs in both Philadelphia and Harrisburg. Her longtime commitment to education, public service and community involvement has allowed her to form connections in government relations. She’s been recognized for her role as a former Media-Communications Fellow for City Council President Darrell Clarke’s office and as a Communications Field Director during this year’s mayoral race. She continues to promote local non-profit organizations in Philadelphia by co-hosting an annual spring and summer fundraising happy hour called “The Flow.” Find her on Twitter at @.
9. Rachel Meadows
Title: Communications and Policy Associate at PolicyLab at The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia
Who’s Next because: Meadows is a communications and policy associate at PolicyLab at The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP) and serves as a member of the PolicyLab leadership team. In that capacity, she provides strategic policy and planning support for research projects throughout PolicyLab, and oversees all of its external communications. Examples of her work include a recent report examining the effect of the Great Recession on child well-being and a forthcoming brief on ensuring comprehensive care and support for gender non-conforming youth. Meadows also helps teach a graduate-level budgeting course at the University of Pennsylvania’s Fels Institute of Government. She is also a member and former Innovation Chair of PhillyCORE Leaders. Prior to PolicyLab, Meadows was the Policy and Research Analyst to Philadelphia Councilman Bill Green and a program associate at a local non-profit Eisenhower Fellowships. Find her on Twitter at @.
10. Aubrey Montgomery
Title: Principal Rittenhouse Political Partners
Who’s Next because: Montgomery founded her Philly-based fundraising firm Rittenhouse Political Partners in 2013 after more than a decade spent raising money in politics. She was named one of just two fundraisers on the Democracy for America national training faculty and conducts training regularly for the Center for Progressive Leadership, Chatham University Center for Women in Politics, the New Leaders Council and various Democratic and non-profit organizations. In the 2012 election cycle, Montgomery was Finance Director for the Pennsylvania Democratic Party. Her previous local campaigns include Bryan Lentz’s top-targeted campaign for Congress, the Pennsylvania House Democratic Campaign Committee and Philadelphia District Attorney Seth Williams. Before founding Rittenhouse Political Partners, she served as Finance Director for Allyson Schwartz’s campaign for Pennsylvania Governor. In addition to her candidate work, Aubrey has worked on several issue advocacy campaigns, and spent three years as NARAL Pro-Choice America’s youngest state executive director, leading the Pennsylvania affiliate from 2006-09. Find her on Twitter at @.
11. Ryan Sanders
Title: Regional Field Director and African American Engagement Coordinator for the Republican National Committee
Who’s Next because: During the 2014 election cycle, Sanders, a Philly native, was appointed by PA GOP Chairman Rob Gleason as the African American Inclusion Director for the PA GOP, a position created to ensure the party has a presence in black communities. Prior to that, Sanders served as the Vice President of Economic Development and Government Relations with the African-American Chamber of Commerce of Central PA where he engaged with local businesses and potential startups to provide resources and access to local and state government officials. Sanders also co-founded the Frederick Douglass Inclusion Council, a statewide political advocacy organization created to empower African-Americans in their own communities. Using the principles of Frederick Douglass, the FDIC looks to offer alternative political solutions to address many of the shortfalls in urban areas across Pennsylvania.
12. Jane Slusser
Title: Campaign Manager, Kenney 2015
Who’s Next because: Slusser managed Jim Kenney’s mayoral campaign, starting from his late entry into the race through a landslide victory in May’s Democratic primary. She led a team that built up a broad coalition securing over 100 endorsements from local groups, community leaders, unions and elected officials. She previously worked as Campaign Manager for Ken Trujillo, Organizing Director at Equality Pennsylvania and led Human Rights Campaign’s Americans for Workplace Opportunity statewide campaign in Pennsylvania. In 2008 and 2012, Slusser worked on President Obama’s election and re-election campaigns in South Philadelphia and northeastern PA, and she worked on President Obama’s 2009 Presidential Inaugural Committee. A graduate of Barnard College, she also helped launch social enterprise start-up Catchafire, where she was vice president and chief service officer. Find her on Twitter at @.
13. Megan Sweeney
Title: Communications Director, Republican Party of Pennsylvania
Who’s Next because: As Communications Director for the Republican Party of Pennsylvania, Sweeney oversees all internal and external communications for the party. She also serves as the party’s primary media contact. Born and raised in Delaware County, Sweeney spent two years at La Salle University before graduating from Cornell University with degrees in government and history. Sweeney has previously served as a deputy communications and technology director at the PA GOP and a former member of the George W. Bush Administration. She also worked as press secretary for Pennsylvania Congressman Lou Barletta and special assistant to Secretary of the Commonwealth Carol Aichele. Find her on Twitter at @.
14. Isaiah Thomas
Title: Director of Community Affairs for the City Controller’s Office and Co-Founder of the Thomas & Woods Foundation
Who’s Next because: Thomas now serves on City Controller Alan Butkovitz’ staff as a community relations official, but he’s most well-known as a two-time City Council candidate who just barely lost in the May primary earlier this year. The coach and mentor has worked as a dean and athletic director at Sankofa Freedom Academy and as an adjunct faculty member at Lincoln University. He’s well-known in the city basketball scene for founding a free summer camp in Frankford and serving as president of the Public League Coaches Association. Thomas is also the board chairman at Rising Sons, a black male empowerment group, and a board member of the New Leaders Council of Philadelphia. Find him on Twitter at @.
15. Anne Wakabayashi
Title: Campaign Manager, Allan Domb for City Council
Who’s Next because: Wakabayashi makes her living working on campaigns at the state and local level in Pennsylvania and currently serves as the campaign manager on Allan Domb’s campaign for Philadelphia City Council. Before joining Domb’s team, Wakabayashi worked for a number of different organizations, including spending two cycles at the Pennsylvania Senate Democratic Campaign Committee as the Political and Communications Director, respectively. She also led the fundraising efforts for Equality Pennsylvania, the statewide LGBT advocacy group in 2013, and most recently ran Anne Lazarus’ campaign for the Supreme Court. Wakabayashi also serves on the board of the Liberty City Democratic Club, Philadelphia’s LGBT political organization. Find her on Twitter at @.
16. Tiffany A. Wilson
Title: Director of Constituent Services for PA State Senator Vincent Hughes
Who’s Next because: Wilson, a Philadelphia native and Temple graduate, currently serves as director of Constituent Services for State Sen. Vincent Hughes. Wilson recently received an Image Award for her work in the PA 190th Legislative District and, prior to working for Sen. Hughes, she worked in the community as an employee with the Family Planning Council. The person who nominated Wilson said she’s “a rising star in Philadelphia civic and political circles, regularly representing Sen. Hughes at key meetings and events. Tiffany has also pioneered using social media to communicate with constituents to address various issues in the community.” Find her on Twitter at @.
17. Omar Woodard
Title: Adjunct Professor, Fox School of Business, Temple University
Who’s Next because: Currently an adjunct professor in the Fox School of Business at Temple University, Woodard is experienced in managing field operations, political fundraising and policy development. Most recently, Woodard served as policy director of Sen. Anthony Williams’ bid for mayor and appeared several times as a surrogate in his place in Philly while Williams was often in Harrisburg. Before that, Woodard was appointed in 2012 by President Obama to the PA Democratic Party’s delegation to the Democratic National Convention and, when he worked on Obama’s re-election campaign in 2008, he helped deliver a Democratic presidential win in Chester County for the first time since 1964. He got his start in high school as a youth organizer for John Street’s 1999 campaign for mayor, and in college he was an urban policy aide to Congressman Chaka Fattah. He’s also the public policy chair of the Maternity Care Coalition, on the board policy committee of the African American Chamber of Commerce, and he is formerly board president of the Girard College Foundation. Find him on Twitter at @OmarWoodard.