Doug Jones, the first Alabama Democrat elected to the Senate in a quarter century, has tapped Dana Gresham to become his chief of staff. In his new role, Gresham will be the only Black chief of staff for a Democratic senator.
Two Republicans in the Senate, Sens. Tim Scott (R-S.C.) and Jerry Moran (R-Kan.), have Black chiefs of staff, according to Politico. Jones, who will be sworn in Wednesday as the 49th Democratic member of the Senate, tweeted on Tuesday about Gresham’s appointment:
— Doug Jones (@GDouglasJones) January 2, 2018
Gresham served in the Obama administration as assistant secretary for governmental affairs for the Department of Transportation for eight years. He was also chief of staff for former Alabama Rep. Artur Davis. A graduate of Georgetown University, he served 14 years on Capitol Hill. Before Jones selected him, Gresham worked as a consultant for the Federal City Council based in Washington.
Jones defeated his Republican opponent, Roy Moore, during the Dec. 12 special election to fill Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III’ seat when was he was appointed by President Donald Trump to become U.S. attorney general.
Ninety-eight percent of Black women voted for Jones, as did 93 percent of Black men. As a whole, 96 percent of Black voters supported him.
Alabama State Rep. Laura Hall told DiversityInc in December that Jones visited her district several times while campaigning.
“We had two events where he was directly in our community. And members of the community had an opportunity to hear his message,” said Hall, who represents District 19 in Madison County.
She also said that after winning the election, Jones must keep the work done on his behalf in perspective.
“Number one, never forget how he got to where he is today,” Hall said.
Jones is starting by putting together a diverse staff. Along with appointing Gresham, his team has also hired a Black woman and Birmingham native, Sonceria Ann Bishop-Berry, as transitional advisor. Berry’s résumé includes former deputy chief of staff to Sen. Patrick Leahy, and she has worked for other senators including Howell Heflin, Daniel Patrick Moynihan, John Edwards and Tom Carper.
Katie Campbell, selected to be deputy legislative director, has worked for members in both the U.S. House of Representatives and the Senate. And Mark Libell was selected to become the legislative director, “a position he has held before with senator John D. Rockefeller IV of West Virginia,” AL.com reports.
Jones is a red-state Democrat, gun owner and Second Amendment supporter, and “while he would not vote for the current GOP tax bill, he does favor lowering the corporate tax rate,” according to CBS News.
But Jones also aims to end “old Alabama” politics and usher in a “new Alabama” by championing diversity, unlike the Trump administration.
“Old Alabama is nothing but divisive politics — demagogues that try to divide us. You know, we are still living with all of the images in black and white, and of the George Wallace era, and the Roy Moores, to be honest with you,” he said in an interview last month after winning the election.
“I am here for all people. And Alabama is changing. Alabama is getting more diverse every day. … That’s the new Alabama.”
Jones grew up in the suburbs of Birmingham. He was only nine years old in 1963 when four Black girls, Carol Denise McNair, Carole Robertson, Addie Mae Collins and Cynthia Wesley, were killed in the 16th Street Baptist Church bombing at the hands of Ku Klux Klan members. He later befriended the father of one of those girls, and almost 40 years later, as U.S. attorney in Alabama, Jones successfully brought charges against two of the Klansmen.
Gresham, a native of Birmingham who chose a career in public service, will make history in his home state as he plays a key role in Jones’ agenda to establish a new Alabama.