Alabama Congressman Doug Jones recently hired former transportation official and congressional aide Dana Gresham (pictured) as his chief of staff.
Gresham, an African-American and a native of Alabama, was one of several minorities who joined Jones’ staff after he beat Republican Roy Moore in last month’s special Senate election in Alabama. Jones was sworn into office on Jan. 3.
In a recent statement, Jones said he is “absolutely committed to having a diverse staff including in top posts in my Senate office. I plan to hire a diverse staff that reflects the people of Alabama.”
Gresham has over 22 years of government experience. In 2009, he was nominated by then-president Barack Obama to serve as the assistant secretary for governmental affairs, a position Gresham held for all eight years of the Obama administration.
Gresham said his mother is his role model. After his parents divorced when he was young and his mother essentially raised him and his siblings on her own. His mother became his role model.
“From her example, I learned the lessons that I now occasionally have the chance to pass on: Work hard, don’t fear sacrifice, act with integrity, pursue bold dreams, strive for excellence, and the rest will take care of itself,” Gresham said in a recent interview with NBC.
While two Hispanic women hold the same title on the Democratic side and two Republican senators have Black chiefs of staff. Jones’ team also hired Sonceria Ann Bishop-Berry, an African-American woman who is also from Birmingham, as transitional advisor. Berry has worked for many senators, including Daniel Patrick Moynihan, John Edwards, Tom Carper and as Deputy Chief of Staff to Senator Patrick Leahy.
According to a 2015 report by the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies, of the 336 top Senate staffers, only 24 were people of color.
According to The Washington Post, “The current Congress is the most diverse in history, with more minority lawmakers than ever before and a record 21 women in the Senate – a figure set to grow to 22 once Minnesota Lt. Gov. Tina Smith replaces outgoing Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.).”
The Washington Post noted, “Thirty-two percent of staffers in Senate Democratic offices are “non-Caucasian,” defined as African-American, Asian/Pacific Islander, Latino, Native American or Middle Eastern/North African, according to the report. Fifty-four percent of staffers are women; 46 percent are men.”
The same does not apply to GOP congressional offices, which are widely presumed by civil rights and minority staff groups to be overwhelmingly white.
African-Americans made up about 3 in 10 Alabama voters in the election, according to preliminary exit polls, a margin slightly higher than the 28 percent Black turnout in the 2012 presidential election and 29 percent in 2008 – when Barack Obama was on the ballot.
Blacks in Selma, which make up 70 percent of the population in the county, and nearly 75 percent of the vote went to Jones.
By Rosaland Tyler
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