Will the red wave that overtook Pennsylvania continue into next year? Can progressive ideas become policies? In many ways, politics are more interesting than ever, and Billy Penn is honoring 13 young Philadelphians who are helping mold the future of the city, state and country as part of its latest installment of Who’s Next.
Who’s Next is a monthly series presented by the Knight Foundation in which we highlight leaders under the age 40 in various fields. You can see previous lists here. Since 2014, we’ve highlighted people in law, tourism, music, education and much more. For our final list of 2017, we present 13 young Philadelphians shaping the city’s political future.
Bellmon started out as a teacher and later assistant dean of students at Paul Robeson Charter School in Trenton before entering politics as a field organizer for Cory Booker during his run for Senate. For Boyle, Bellmon runs the Olney field office and works mostly with community outreach, specializing in immigration issues. He co-founded Millennials In Action with the goal of increasing voter turnout among young people. Someday, he’d like to run for office. For now, Bellmon is focused on educating people and advocating for better government.
Al Schmidt’s office has become known the past four years with researching voter trends and turnout and sharing the data freely with Philadelphia, making the office more transparent than ever. And Bluestein oversaw the effort. He got his start as Schmidt’s field director while still a grad student at Penn, and has been in his office since 2012. In addition to overseeing Schmidt’s office’s open data operations, Bluestein investigates voter irregularities and has audited election return materials, helping lead to voter fraud convictions.
Casper served as finance director for the Philadelphia GOP last year, helping President Donald Trump get elected and setting fundraising records for the group. She also won the election as a delegate for the 13th Congressional District. Her current job is with J. Egan & Associates. Casper works with a variety of clients in government affairs. Outside of work, she is a board member with the Interfaith Hospitality Network.
Goldman has gone from campaigning to lobbying. He started out by knocking on doors for then-Pennsylvania House candidate Brendan Boyle in 2006, moved to Israel for grad school and came back to work on campaigns in the Philly area. Goldman’s next move was Washington, D.C., where he worked as executive director for TAMID Israel Investment Group and a contract lobbyist. For Duane Morris, Goldman lobbies for grassroots and legislative purposes. He’s also involved with the Jewish Community Relations Council, Philadelphia Israel Chamber of Commerce and Center City Residents Association.
Lee was one of the first people DA-elect Larry Krasner called after he decided to run for District Attorney, offering him the position of campaign chair. Despite having no political experience, he helped set Krasner on the path to victory in the crowded Democratic primary and the general election this week. Out of law school, Lee founded the Philadelphia Lawyers for Social Equity, which has worked to address legal and social discrimination attached to criminal records. He’s also a board member of ACLU Philadelphia and co-chair of the Pennsylvania Bar Association’s Minority Bar Committee.
Montalto, who started out working for state Pa. Sen. Connie Williams in the suburbs, has been with Ceisler Media for 14 years, helping it grow from from one office and five employees to three offices and 27 employees. She’s worked on issue advocacy campaigns for clean air policies, renewable energy, farm practices and much more.
O’Connor helped launch the GovLabPHL team, which incorporates behavioral science departmental policies. The team led projects with L&I to increase online license renewal, and with Indego to increase renewal rates of members. She recently helped raise $50,000 for the Symphony for a Broken Orchestra through a city talent show. O’Connor got her start working for President Barack Obama’s re-election campaign in Pennsylvania, and with Mayor Jim Kenney’s campaign.
Paul has been behind many of the most successful campaigns out of Gym’s office, including town halls that led to new hydration stations and a breakfast in the classroom program at schools. He’s a Haitian immigrant and has worked with community leaders to urge the federal government to extend Temporary Protected Status for Haitians and organized the city’s first ever Haitian flag raising ceremony. Paul is also a committee person in the 17th Ward and a member of the Mayor’s Commission on African American Males. Gym calls Paul an “up and comer.”
Rice is new to the campaign game, having started out as an intern with the Democratic National Convention before being hired on for a full-time gig. From there, he went to Florida, helping Stephanie Murphy defeat an incumbent for a Congressional seat. Rice is now back in Pennsylvania, helping lead fundraising efforts in the eastern parts of Pennsylvania.
Rivera won election as Inspector of Elections in her Fishtown division this year. She’s also partnered with Committee of Seventy and Philadelphia 3.0 to help form the Better Philadelphia Elections Coalition. The group’s main effort is focused on replacing the City Commissioners Office with a Department of Elections. At the Urban Affairs Coalition, she recently directed the summer youth employment program.
Robinson educates communities on diseases like Zika, diabetes, childhood obesity and more. Throughout the opioid epidemic, she has also worked with children of parents with addictions, and babies born addicted to opioids. She wants Pennsylvania to set up a screening process for all children. Her interest in a government role began while at Penn, when she realized health problems could be better solved by focusing on improving communities as much as prescribing medicine.
If the city is undertaking a major initiative, expect Ross to be involved. He managed the planning for the Democratic National Convention last year and helped with the bid for the NFL Draft. Recently, he was heavily involved in the city’s pitch to woo Amazon’s second headquarters. Before joining Mayor Jim Kenney’s administration, Ross worked on campaigns at the federal, state and city levels. He’s on the board of the Mayor’s Fund for Philadelphia and USA250, a group planning for 250-year anniversary of the country.
Singh is a cancer doctor at Penn who began dabbling in politics after Donald Trump won the presidential election. He formed a political group with the goal of educating Pennsylvania Democrats on government and encouraging them to run for office. Moving Philly Forward started with 10 people in Singh’s living room and has since grown to closer to 300. The group has done phone banks and co-sponsored town halls, and Singh anticipates greater involvement in the future. He was also recently chosen for the inaugural class of the Committee of Seventy’s Buchholz Fellowship.