NYSenate's Brightest Stars: Congratulations to "40 Under 40" Winners

June 09, 2009

The New York State Senate would like to congratulate the following immensely talented young professionals who were recognized by The Capitol in their 40 Rising Stars Under 40 piece.

The Capitol writes:

"Cynics tell us that Albany is a place that can extinguish the brightest of stars. To them, we say simply, “Read on.”


What follows are 40 leaders in politics, government and advocacy whose talent, tenacity and passion quiet those detractors and give us hope that the future of state politics is bright indeed.

Here we highlight choice quotes from the profiles of individuals affiliated with the Senate. 

Rasheida Smith
Regional Coordinator for Senate Majority Leader Malcolm Smith


“Our goal is to really bring the government to the people and to work with a number of organizations to keep information going back and forth,” Smith said.


“I know it sounds cliché, but we are in a time for real change. I’m ready to be a part of this and to bring government to the people. It’s kind of unheard of, that everyday folks should have such access to the government and be able to help shape policy.”


Craig Johnson
State Senator


Johnson has tried to use his reputation as an even-handed lawmaker to tackle some hot topics: He recently introduced bills divesting state pension funds from companies that do business in Iran and other terrorist states...


“People are just looking at me as a resource,” Johnson said. “I view my office as a bridge.”


Gregory Krakower
Director of Senate Policy Group and Special Counsel (to Majority Leader)


“I’m an attorney with a communications background, so I can take legalistic talk and put it into … plain English,” he said. And this is not just turning jargon into conversation: at stake, Krakower said, are resources designed to help the public but couched in language that sometimes hides them.


“Someone says, ‘weatherization,’” he says, “and you say, ‘This is going to let middle-class people borrow money to hire contractors to make their homes more energy efficient, lower their heating costs and energy bills, and provide them with more income with which they can do something else.’”


Kristen Mucitelli-Heath
Executive Director of the Upstate Senate Democratic Conference


Heath, a self-described “upstate girl through and through,” grew up in Utica, Rochester and Syracuse, before running track and field at Canisius in Buffalo, where she briefly held records in the hammer throw and 20-lb weight throw.


Learning to throw her weight around has proven useful while working in the State Senate, where she’s used her experiences fighting for improved health care and workers compensation at the Manufacturers Association of Central New York and working on legislative initiatives regarding food, transportation and energy while at New York State Economic Development Corporation (ESDC).


“I’m extraordinarily passionate about what upstate has to offer for its economic development assets and its natural beauty and unrealized potential,” she said.


Rich Azzopardi
Director of Communications, State Senator Craig Johnson


Rich Azzopardi is, as he puts it, “a good quote.”  When fielding questions from the press, he always has some slightly off-kilter thing to say about the Republicans in Long Island.


Perhaps his proudest: when asked by the New York Times if he knew anything about a publicly-funded Republican television studio in Long Island, Azzopardi said, “I don’t believe they ever gave us the password that shut down the waterfall to enter the cave leading into the studio.”


“That’s my personality—I’m goofy,” he said. “I think I have a reputation of being a straight shooter.”