Democratic U.S. Rep.-elect Tom Suozzi has picked Diane Shust, chief of staff for retiring Rep. Jim McDermott (D-Washington), as his legislative director.
Shust will join Suozzi’s staff under chief of staff Mike Florio, who managed the former Nassau County executive’s congressional campaign to replace outgoing Rep. Steve Israel in the 3rd Congressional District.
Shust, a Binghamton native, is a lawyer who worked as a lobbyist for the National Education Association for seven years before joining McDermott’s staff in 2009.
Suozzi picked Shust because he wanted an experienced staffer who has “navigated the maze of bureaucracy” in Congress and could readily show him the ropes, he said.
“It’s brand new to me, it’s brand new to Mike and we wanted to have somebody very experienced in that area,” he said.
Suozzi, of Glen Cove, defeated Republican state Sen. Jack Martins in the race for the North Shore district stretching from northeast Queens to northwest Suffolk County.
Shust will oversee reviews of legislation on which Suozzi will vote and help draft laws he will sponsor or co-sponsor.
Working with her will be Conor Walsh, a Suozzi campaign spokesman who will now work as a legislative aide in his office, Suozzi said.
Shust will also help set Suozzi’s legislative priorities as a first-term member of the House’s Democratic minority, Florio said.
“We’re going to need to focus on two or three big things that we want to accomplish in this term, and I think she’s a good person to help us decide what those things are,” said Florio, who worked as Suozzi’s assistant in 2008 and 2009, the last two years of his time as county executive.
Suozzi said he plans to open a main district office in Suffolk County and a satellite office in Queens, both near the Nassau County border.
He would not say exactly where the offices will be located, but they will trisect the district “so that everybody has access,” he said.
Suozzi recently finished about three weeks of orientation for first-term representatives, filling out paperwork and picking an office in Washington and then attending policy talks at Harvard University.
Suozzi said having to learn how the sausage is made on Capitol Hill won’t deter him from carrying out the mission on which he campaigned: fighting powerful interests to make change.
“I’m going to continue to do what I think is right, but I don’t want to make stupid mistakes because I don’t know how the system works,” he said. “… My objective is to reform a lot of the system but you can’t do it as an unknowing neophyte.”
Reach reporter Noah Manskar by e-mail at [email protected] or by phone at 516.307.1045 x204. Also follow us on Twitter @noahmanskar and Facebook at facebook.com/theislandnow.