Andrea Bozek is finally free of “the very unpredictable environment in Washington.” But the current capital craziness isn’t why she’s leaving. In fact, she might just capitalize on it in her new job: Opening a Buffalo office for the public affairs and lobbying group Mercury LLC.
Bozek, a Williamsville native, spent most of the last decade as a Republican operative in D.C. She planned to move home after the 2014 election, when she helped maintain a GOP majority in the House as communications director for the National Republican Congressional Committee.
But then a new offer arrived: Would Bozek consider running communications for the GOP’s Senate election committee?
Taking that job would mean sticking in Washington for two more years, squeezing in trips to Buffalo on the weekends. Bozek accepted the offer, making her the first person to hold both the House and Senate communications positions. She realized that if she was successful (which she was — the Senate majority was maintained), it would make her more marketable in the private sector.
Presumably, it did.
Bozek, 33, is now senior vice president with Mercury. She’s working with clients who need assistance with public relations, crisis communications and government affairs. Among the first examples is Frank Ciminelli II, who hired Bozek to do public relations work for his construction firm LPCiminelli. (Earlier this month, LPCiminelli announced that three executives, including Frank’s father Louis P. Ciminelli, were resigning in the wake of corruption charges as the company took measures to “reinforce confidence in our customers,” Ciminelli said.)
“My goal is to use my unique skill set to benefit companies and organizations in Western New York,” said Bozek, who moved after the November election to Clarence Center with her husband, fellow GOP operative Chris Grant. “I hope my extensive national experience can help organizations grow.”
In an interview with The News, Bozek spoke about the decision to come home, the contentious election cycle and the coming challenges under the Trump administration. Bozek also offered a quick take on Melissa McCarthy’s “Saturday Night Live” treatment of one of her GOP colleagues.
Here’s an edited version of the conversation:
Q: When did you decide to come home?
A: I’ve been trying to get home for a while! I keep getting sucked in. (Bozek laughs.) It was always in our plans to make this our home base, because we had such great childhoods here. When we hopefully have a family, there’s no better place in the country to raise children than Western New York.
Q: D.C. is not so good for that?
A: D.C.? No, not so good. It was really important for us to be around family and friends as we take this new chapter in our personal and professional lives. I think it’ll make us better political operatives being on the ground in a real city that has real problems and real struggles. Washington, D.C., can be a huge bubble.
Q: When did you realize you were living in the Beltway bubble?
A: I knew I had been in D.C. for too long when I would come home and I would be surprised that someone would actually hold open the door for you. There is no sense of community in Washington. Growing up in Western New York, you come to expect kindness from strangers that is nonexistent in Washington.
During a D.C. “snowstorm,” my husband helped shovel our neighbors’ driveway. They quit helping him halfway and they didn't even say thank you. That would never happen in Buffalo.
I realized over time how caught up some people would get over some silly amendment to a bill, or the scandal of the day, and how meaningless it really was to real people.
Q: Once you knew a GOP administration would be coming in, how tempting was the idea of pursuing a White House job?
A: I had such a great experience in the House and Senate. It reminds me of a “Seinfeld” episode, where you always want to leave on a high note, or when someone is laughing at your joke. This opportunity with Mercury to build something in Buffalo – to still be involved in politics and do a wide variety of things – was what I really wanted to do and where I wanted to grow professionally.
Q: Your last two jobs in D.C. were highly partisan. How do you balance that in your new job?
A: Luckily we have former (Senate Democratic Minority Leader Charles) Schumer aides in our Washington office who I can partner with on different projects. That’s what appealed to me about the new job: Going back to doing things in a positive way for Western New York, like my experience with Congressman (Thomas) Reynolds and Congressman (Chris) Lee working with Congresswoman (Louise) Slaughter’s office and Congressman (Brian) Higgins’ office.
(Slaughter and Higgins are Democrats. Bozek worked in communications for then-Reps. Reynolds and Lee, both Republicans.)
A lot of organizations were caught flat-footed with President Trump’s victory in November. I think I’m someone that can help navigate those waters. Where I can be most helpful to organizations and businesses in Western New York is using the contacts not only in the Trump administration but also House and Senate in helping solve whatever problems or issues they have.
Q: Solving problems and issues – sounds a little like a fixer. Are you sort of like Buffalo’s version of the “Scandal” character Olivia Pope?
A: Ha! I do love that TV show. Someone who’s fresh out of Washington and has current contacts is going to be really important, because we’re in uncharted territory.
Q: What are Trump-specific challenges for business?
A: I think when it comes to trade, if you’re an organization that outsources some of your products – or is thinking about outsourcing jobs to other countries – President Trump isn’t afraid to call you out on that. So having a plan to deal with that.
Obamacare is a huge issue for Western New York. Health care companies need to be able to navigate that situation to make sure their priorities, and concerns with repeal and replace, are well represented.
Q: What’s your assessment of the first few weeks of the Trump administration?
A: I am sure they didn't want to have a top administration official (now former National Security Adviser Gen. Michael Flynn) resign a month in. However, whatever your opinion is, they are shaking things up in Washington – which is exactly what he was elected to do.
Q: What will be your political involvement?
A: I’ve always been passionate about getting more women elected to office, so that’s something I’m hoping to work at the federal level and the state level as well. I prefer behind-the-scenes opportunities to improve candidates.
Q: You know White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer from GOP circles. How’s he doing? And how is Melissa McCarthy doing with her “Spicey” sketches on “Saturday Night Live”?
A: I give Sean a lot of credit. That is an incredibly hard job – it’s one against 100 in that room. I think the skits have been great and Melissa McCarthy is one of my favorite comedians.
Q: What can candidates at any level take away from the presidential election?
A: Be authentic. Gone are the days where you should be a talking-point robot that Hillary Clinton was. I think that’s why a lot of people identify with Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders’ messages. You can draw a lot of parallels. Bernie Sanders’ message and Donald Trump’s were both positive messages about our future. They seemed authentic. Even if you didn’t agree with what they were saying, at least you knew they were telling you the truth.
Q: But multiple national media outlets took Trump – and Clinton – to task throughout the campaign for sharing falsehoods.
A: Yeah, the media reported that Trump wasn't being truthful, but what the media has failed to realize that trust in the media has dropped to its lowest level in history. So when you don't trust the messenger, you don't believe the message. I believe voters are looking for the press to hold people in power accountable. But they want them to do it in a way that isn't loaded with personal opinions.