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A framed New York Times front page hangs on the wall behind Guy Cecil’s desk.
“Democrats take the Senate,” the headline reads, a reminder of his role on the front lines in helping his party win back the majority in 2006 as political director of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee.
After a four-year absence, Cecil is back. But this time his office is just a few steps down the hall and his title has changed. As the DSCC’s executive director, Cecil is at the helm of defending the very same majority that he helped usher in.
It’s a big change being back on the campaign side, not that Cecil is any stranger to that pace.
In 2009 the Democratic operative had come off a losing presidential primary and had opened his own consulting firm, living what he remembers fondly as “a normally scheduled life.”
Then he agreed to meet with Sen. Michael Bennet.
The only condition was that the newly appointed Colorado Democrat understood that Cecil wasn’t interested in a job. “I’ve said that before,” Cecil said, smiling.
“I knew during our first meeting that I wanted him for the job,” Bennet recalled. “Away from politics, Guy has a passion for public education.”
Policy and personality connected Cecil to the former Denver schools chief, so he agreed to become Bennet’s chief of staff. The Senator benefited from Cecil’s political expertise and promised to impart his own knowledge of the education system to Cecil. “I shortchanged him on that,” Bennet joked in a recent interview.
Cecil is known as a student and teacher of the campaign’s ground game, but his love for education has been a lifelong theme.
Cecil, 36, was born in Hialeah, Fla. He grew up in an apolitical family, but policy hit home at an early age.
When Cecil was 7, his 6-month-old brother was diagnosed with neuroblastoma, a cancer of the abdomen and spine. To make matters more complicated, their father lost his job as a boat mechanic. Without health insurance, Cecil remembers his parents spending his childhood paying back hospital bills.
“My parents are the two most selfless, hardest-working people I know, who did everything in their power to give me and my brothers a chance to succeed,” Cecil said.
The Cecil brothers went to public schools, and Guy was the first in the family to go to college. After graduating from the University of Florida, he taught high school at Northwest Christian Academy (and started the school’s first debate team) and was a minister to college students and singles at Northwest Baptist Church.
Working one and a half jobs would “set a precedent for the rest of my life,” he said.
But Cecil realized his calling was elsewhere and took his talents from South Beach to Boston. He worked at a local education group before getting involved in the open-seat race in Massachusetts’ 8th district.