By Frederick H. Lowe
U.S. Senator-elect Doug Jones of Alabama on Tuesday hired Dana Gresham, an African-American Washington, D.C. insider, as his chief of staff.
Jones, who will be sworn in Wednesday will be the only Democratic U.S. Senator with a black chief of staff although two Republican U.S. Senators —- Tim Scott of South Carolina, and Jerry Moran of Kansas —- have hired black chiefs of staff.
The Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies, a Washington, D. C. -based think tank for black elected officials pushed Jones to hire a diverse top staff because so few African Americans hold those positions.
African Americans account for just 1 percent of top Democratic U.S. Senate staff in Washington, D.C. and just 2 percent of top Republican U.S. Senate staff.
Top Senate staffers manage the Senate’s legislative agenda and shape the $3.9 trillion U.S. federal budget. They also oversee the Senate confirmation process for federal judges, cabinet secretaries and U.S. ambassadors.
Jones announced Gresham’s hiring after the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies and other groups signed a letter written by 16 other organizations, urging Jones to hire a diverse staff including a diverse top staff.
Gresham, a Birmingham, Alabama, native has held leadership roles in presidential administrations and for members of Congress. He led the Legislative Affairs Office at the Department of Transportation during the eight years of President Obama’s administration and he has worked on Capitol Hill 14 years. In 1994, he was awarded a Bachelor’s Degree in International Politics from Georgetown University.
The Joint Center lobbied Jones to hire a diverse staff because a high black voter turnout in Alabama, a conservative Red state, helped elect him, a Democrat, to office by defeating conservative Republican candidate Roy Moore in a special election.
Jones also announced three other senior staff hires. They are Mark Libell as legislative director, Ann Berry, a black woman, as transition advisor, and Katie Campbell as deputy legislative director. All three are Alabama natives and who have considerable experience.
Libell, formerly an assistant congressional liaison for the Federal Reserve Board, who also worked for Sen. Debbie Stabenow (Democrat of Michigan.) and former Sen. Jay Rockefeller (Democrat of West Virginia), will be legislative director.
Ann Berry, a deputy chief of staff to Sen. Patrick Leahy (Democrat of Vermont), is transition advisor. Katie Campbell, another veteran congressional aide, who served as an adviser to Sen. Joe Donnelly (Democrat of Indiana.) and as policy director for the Blue Dog Coalition, will be deputy legislative director.
“Today I’m proud to announce that we have recruited four outstanding individuals to join our team,” Jones said in a statement.