At the start of 2017 we combined two stellar departments – our Research and Government Relations Teams – to create one powerhouse Policy group that works together to understand and advocate for public policies benefiting Greater Boston businesses and people. For this blog post, we are excited to turn the spotlight onto this awesome new team and take a closer look at both their individual strengths as well as how they work together to help advance our purpose, mission and vision.
First, meet the team!
Carolyn Ryan, Senior VP for Policy & Research leads the Policy group, directs and manages the Chamber’s policy priorities and strategizes for the team’s long and short-term goals. Carolyn also focuses on strong communication about policy with members and developing good relationships so that we can get feedback quickly from members when it matters most. She says that the most challenging aspect of the group’s work is when something unexpected pops up in the legislature, interrupting ongoing work and forcing the team to form a quick response. While this is a challenge, it’s also part of the fun in policy work, according to Carolyn and the team.
Benjamin Stuart took on the role of Research & Data Analyst last October, and is responsible for diving deep into the background research that helps to inform our policy positions and support our government relations and communications teams. Ben says that sometimes the most challenging aspect of his job is finding a trend, working to find a story or a critical finding by looking closely at a variety of data and information. He takes pride in the fact that our team has a broad influence on the Boston business community. This is Ben’s second Chamber blog feature, but we’re being a lot nicer to him this time around.
Our government relations team is made up of Kristin Grazioso, Government Relations Manager; James Sutherland, Government Relations Coordinator; and Jessica Seney, Policy Consultant.
Kristin looks at public policy issues at the city, state, and federal levels, advocates for policies that impact our members, and works to educate members on these issues. Before coming to the Chamber, Kristin was the Director of Municipal Affairs & Legislation for the Office of State Senator John Keenan, so we’ve appreciated her vast experience and deep insight into the legislative process, and she’s appreciated the opportunity to learn more about the business community, their needs, and the impact they have on helping our region thrive. Kristin says that she enjoys working for an organization that makes a difference in not just our members’ organizations, but also for all employers in our region.
James, the newest addition to our policy team, monitors state policy and its impacts on members and gathers members’ feedback on issues to better understand their needs. Previously, James worked with Boston City Councilor Ayanna Pressley, and says switching gears from city to state issues has proven to be an exciting challenge. He has enjoyed improving his understanding of state policy and laws, which he says can seem complex at first glance. And – fun fact – James recently received a Ph.D. in Political Science from our member Northeastern University – congrats, James!
Jess, has been with the Chamber for three years and is our resident financial services and energy policy expert. Before joining the Chamber, she served as the Legal Counsel and Research Director for the Joint Committee on Revenue in the Massachusetts Legislature. She thinks the best part about her policy team is how much they’re able to learn from one another, and that with all their individual skill sets put together they make a smart and impactful team. Jess says that although having a diverse membership with businesses of every size and industry is a great asset to our organization, at times it can make it difficult to find a common ground, particularly on complex policy issues such as energy. But, she notes that it is also rewarding to find that place of compromise and move important legislation forward with the voice of the business community at the forefront.
Although a new team, these five individuals work closely together to ensure we’re on top of all the policy matters that impact our region and the business community. For the 2017-18 legislative session, the Policy group has prioritized the following five focus areas:
- Talent, Education and Training
- Economic mobility
- Health Care
Recently, the Policy team has begun to focus on the issue of Paid Family and Medical Leave and the Millionaire’s Tax. And they were very involved in conversations pertaining to the recently passed Massachusetts budget, particularly as it pertaining to understanding the negative implications of the proposed health care assessment on employers.
These are just a few of the issues this amazing team Policy group is tackling right now. You can follow along with all of their work in real time by visiting our website’s issues and impact page, or by subscribing to our e-newsletters. You can also check out our most recent research and reports here.
From left to right: James, Ben, Carolyn, and Kristin (Jess was on maternity leave at the time this picture was taken, but she's there in spirit!)