With the exciting news that Kate Brock is moving on from Ocean State Action to take a policy position in Governor Chafee’s administration, I was thinking about who could be the next Director of Ocean State Action. I say this because Ocean State Action is probably one of the most important, if not the most important, progressive organizations in the state. Over the years, they have been able to shape the debate in Rhode Island, elect progressive candidates to the General Assembly, and push for more progressive policies that benefit all Rhode Islanders. Admittedly, they have not been 100% successful, but more often than not their success lies in advocacy, movement building, and adding the progressive perspective to policy debates.
Here are some of my thoughts about who (in alphabetical order).
- Sam Bell – Currently the State Coordinator for the Rhode Island chapter of the Progressive Democrats of America (taking over after I went to grad school), Sam is young and smart and has really jumped into his role at the RIPDA. He’s also a student at Brown University.
- Kristina Fox – Currently the Organizing Director at Ocean State Action, Kristina is super energetic and has been a workhorse of progressive organizing. Kristina was an organizer for UNITE HERE! Local 217 and helped win contracts at the Westin Hotel and the Dunkin Donuts Center. She just recently took over as one of the organizers for Drinking Liberally as well.
- Mark Gray – Currently the “Where’s the Work?” Project Organizer at Ocean State Action, Mark looks into why there is such a dire lack of jobs in the state. Previously, Mark was with Clean Water Action, handling recruitment and training of community organizers.
- Libby Kimzey – Currently Director of Programs at Capital Good Fund, Libby runs their tax assistance site and develops financial coaching curriculum for low-income Rhode Islanders. Libby is a tireless advocate and her energy was instrumental in getting Teresa Tanzi elected in 2010. She also worked with Ocean State Action and Common Cause.
- Zack Mezera – Currently an Organizer at Providence Student Union with Aaron Regunberg, Zach is also a Student at Brown University studying education policy.
- Aaron Regunberg – Currently the Director at Providence Student Union and Organizer for IDEA, Aaron is a great strategist and thinker about education policy. A case in point, Aaron helped organize the fantastic student-led NECAP testing that brought out about 50 people, and most of them failed it. This is reshaping the entire conversation about testing in the state.
- Marti Rosenberg – Marti is one of the most revered progressive activists in the state, working on numerous campaigns in the state for as long as I can remember. She was Executive Director of Ocean State action until she stepped down in 2006 to work for U.S. Action in DC. Back in RI, she became Director at New Roots.
- Ray Sullivan – Currently the Campaign Director at Marriage Equality RI and RI United for Marriage, and with any hope he’ll be unemployed when the session ends (because we’ll have marriage equality). Ray has a wealth of experience, having worked as Communications Director for the RI Democrats, RI State Director for Obama for America, and representative of Coventry from 2005 to 2010.
This is not at all a full list, and I’m certain that potential candidates will come out of the woodwork for this important position. What’s top of mind for me is that I hope the next Director does NOT come at the expense of the good work being done at another organization. Whoever the next director is, we need to keep building the Progressive movement in the state.