Rock’s Rising Stars
ALBANY, N.Y. – Graduates from the University at Albany’s Rockefeller College of Public Affairs & Policy accounted for five of City & State’s 2019 Albany 40 Under 40 Rising Stars list as Kevin Crumb, Kevin Grossman, Esteban Maccera, Caitlin O’Brien, and Marcy Savage earned recognition.
Every year, City & State recognizes 40 individuals under the age of 40 who have distinguished themselves in their respective fields, and are on their way to amassing accomplishments well beyond their age. The 2019 Rising Stars were profiled in a special print edition of City & State Magazine as well as online.
Rockefeller College's 2019 City & State Rising Stars
(Profiles by City & State)
1. Kevin Crumb, MPA ’10
Chief of Staff, State Sen. Robert Ortt
State Sen. Robert Ortt is not shy about giving a fiery speech on the Senate floor, but he turns to his mild-mannered chief of staff whenever he really wants to get stuff done. “If he’s fired up about something,” Crumb says, “I get that, I read it, and do everything I can to get it fixed.”
Crumb and Ortt, who are just a few years apart in age, share more than a mission to serve the people of the 62nd state Senate District. They are both huge fans of Notre Dame football – Crumb’s alma mater – swap reading lists and have similar outlooks on life. “We put in so much extra time that if you’re not around the right people, whether it’s staffers or bosses … it just makes it a lot harder to do,” Crumb says of life at the Capitol.
Crumb has had deep connections to GOP politics ever since serving as a White House intern during the George W. Bush administration. After college, he moved back home and became involved in Oneida County government, then took a job as a staffer in the Assembly. While a move to Washington, D.C., could prove tempting given the right opportunity, Crumb has an extra reason to stay put. His wife is the legislative director for Republican state Sen. Fred Akshar, and has ambitions of her own. “She’s as crazy as I am,” Crumb jokes. “Because she’s working in Republican politics.”
2. Kevin Grossman, BA ’01
Labor Relations Specialist, New York State United Teachers
Kevin Grossman has been a lawyer for 15 years but he still gets a rush of excitement before starting a negotiation – just like he did in law school.
“I just get that feeling of butterflies, of adrenaline,” he says. When that goes away, “it’s time for a new job.”
As a labor relations specialist at New York State United Teachers, Grossman represents 14 unions whose members include teachers, teachers’ aides, school bus drivers and others who work in education. “(Sometimes) there’s a five-alarm fire to put out,” he says, while on quieter days he takes a proactive approach and checks in with his clients. Earlier this year, Grossman successfully negotiated a deal between several unions and the school board in the Niskayuna Central School District, working with union leaders to hone their message and secure a good deal.
The son of an elementary school teacher and a social worker for the state Office of Mental Health, Grossman grew up on Long Island and says he developed an early appreciation of unions – and a respect for educators in particular. After taking a labor arbitration course during law school at the University at Buffalo, he knew he wanted to continue doing this kind of work.
“Unions are able to give those in the middle class a good life,” he says. “I like the idea of – in labor arbitration – that you can be creative and you can think outside the box while zealously advocating for your client.”
3. Esteban Maccera, BA ’09
Associate Director, New York State Government Relations Group, Davidoff Hutcher & Citron LLP
Esteban Maccera was working as a legislative coordinator at New York StateWatch in 2011, when same-sex marriage was legalized in New York.
“Seeing that excitement and seeing the tangible difference that made in people’s lives was something that I thought was for me,” says Maccera, who was then in his third year working on state government issues.
He started his work in government at the county level before moving to StateWatch, a legislative tracking service. Next, he went on to serve as legislative director for state Sens. Jose Peralta and David Carlucci, helping advance more than 200 pieces of legislation on a wide range of topics.
“In the Senate, it’s common to wear many hats,” he says. “So not only was I helping with legislation, I was drafting talking points for the legislators to speak about the bill on the floor, or organizing media events.”
As associate director for the New York state government relations group at New York City-based Davidoff Hutcher & Citron, Maccera often serves as a liaison for clients and staff coming up to Albany – and sometimes even as a tour guide.
“For me, the Capitol is like a museum, and I’ve given the tour enough at this point that I have some pretty good facts and tidbits,” he says. “So it’s nice to do both the technical work – meeting with legislators and lobbying – but also it’s kind of nice just to give the general overview of things and show people around.”
4. Caitlin O’Brien, BA ’13
New York Government Relations Director, American Heart Association
Caitlin O’Brien first learned about lobbying in college at the University at Albany, when she took a class taught by a lobbyist. The class required her to manage projects and she loved the work, but she didn’t think about doing it again until she went to law school and started working as a government affairs law clerk for the firm Wilson Elser. Later, she worked as an environmental health associate with Environmental Advocates of New York.
“Lobbying and advocacy in general – I’m interested in it because I feel like I’m helping people,” she says. “A lot of people don’t have the means, the resources or the ability to speak up for what they need, so I feel like advocacy is a really good way to try to help.”
O’Brien has served as New York government relations director at the American Heart Association for nearly two years. During this time, she had been making progress on legislation to raise the smoking age to 21 at the local and state levels. Then earlier this year, lawmakers passed legislation raising the smoking age to 21 across the state – and she considers this one of her proudest accomplishments.
“Really just a lot of educating, you know,” she says, “(about) how the tobacco industry targets youth and targets certain communities, really how their marketing of e-cigarettes is really aimed at getting this replacement generation, which is hooking young children onto their tobacco products.”
5. Marcy Savage, BA ’01
Partner, Reid, McNally & Savage
Since her very first internship in 2000, Marcy Savage has consistently worked on health care issues for organizations like the American Cancer Society and the New York Public Interest Research Group. She now specializes in health care at the lobbying firm Reid, McNally & Savage.
Despite the stigma associated with lobbying, Savage says her work is valuable to organizations with limited resources who otherwise might not have a presence in state government.
“I think a lobbyist has to be and is important to the process of government, in terms of understanding that process, basically being able to be credible, bring information to very busy lawmakers and their staff,” she says. “Bridging a gap between what’s going on in the community – community needs, different organizational needs – we sort of try to be and provide that voice to them in Albany.”
Earlier in her career, Savage advocated for a law that required smoke-free workplaces in New York City, which passed in 2002. Among her recent victories is a law eliminating religious exemptions from vaccines, which the state Legislature passed in June.
“For a number of years, it’s been something we’ve been talking and educating and advocating for as good policy,” she says. “I truly believe – not only as a lobbyist, as a health care advocate, but also as a parent – I do actually think this was a very important public policy that I actually think will save and improve the lives of many.”