Staffer Hits the Trail

Policy Director for Sen. Kerry Seeks City Council Seat

Posted October 14, 2003 at 1:18pm

Democratic presidential candidate Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) isn’t the only individual in his Senate office hitting the campaign trail this season: His aide Heather Mizeur recently announced a bid for Takoma Park City Council in Maryland.

“It adds an interesting dynamic to the office,” conceded Mizeur, Kerry’s domestic policy director and a veteran Hillite. “My colleagues have two campaigns that they are very interested in seeing victors [in].”

Mizeur will face off against Cheverly Public Works Director Juan Torres for the chance to replace Ward 2 Councilwoman Carol Stewart in the Nov. 4 election.

Mizeur said she decided to run for the two-year term after Stewart announced last month she would not seek re-election.

“I hadn’t really thought about it ’til then,” said Mizeur. “If you are civic-minded the responsible thing for you to do is think what can you do to contribute.”

A native of Illinois, Mizeur, a Truman Scholar, left college after her junior year at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign to serve as legislative assistant to then-Rep. Marjorie Margolies-Mezvinsky (D-Pa.). She later worked for Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (D-Texas) and then-Rep. Joe Kennedy (D-Mass.), before leaving the Hill in the late 1990s for a stint as director of state affairs for the National Association of Community Health Centers.

Two years ago, Mizeur moved to Takoma Park from Alexandria, Va., with her partner of 11 years, Michele Rosenberg.

While this is her initial foray into elected politics, Mizeur cut her teeth in Takoma Park community politics when she spearheaded a successful effort to secure federal funding eligibility for a local community health center.

“I care very much about expanded access to health care for all, but especially for low-income and uninsured people,” she said.

After joining the junior Senator from Massachusetts’ office last April, Mizeur spent several evenings and weekends volunteering for Kerry’s presidential bid, helping craft the campaign’s health care plan to expand coverage for the uninsured.

“Making a decision to [run] was part of a decision to pull back some from presidential politics,” said Mizeur. “It came down to doing something for John Kerry or doing something for me. I wanted to do something for me this time.”

“Both [Kerry] and the chief of staff, their only reaction was, ‘Yeah, do it. But you gotta win,’” recalled Mizeur. (Senate ethics rules require that staffers seeking elected office receive the approval of their Member before throwing their hat in the ring.)

Mizeur, who also served as a health policy adviser to Maryland Lt. Gov. Kathleen Kennedy Townsend’s (D) 2002 gubernatorial bid, added, “It’s intensely gratifying to be the one standing forward with my own ideas.”

With the election just under three weeks away, Mizeur has been hitting the hustings as much as her schedule will allow, taking early evenings and a few Fridays off to personally introduce herself to her Takoma Park neighborhood.

“If I’m not at a candidate coffee or candidate forum, I’m door knocking,” said Mizeur, who’s already raised about $1,500 for her race.

The candidate — whose platform emphasizes public safety, improving roads, schools and the environment, among other issues — said she’s attracted to local politics, in part, because of the more immediate rewards.

“You really feel that you are working on issues that impact people’s quality of life in a direct and very real way,” said Mizeur. (She will go head to head with Torres at a forum at 7:30 p.m. Thursday at council chambers.)

Armed with the backing of the departing councilwoman, as well as former Takoma Park Mayor Ed Sharp, Mizeur’s confident she has the support and skills necessary to prove victorious.

“What I do in the Senator’s office as a policy analyst and strategist is to be an analytical thinker, as well as someone who knows how to outreach to constituents and be a problem solver … . These skills are absolutely transferrable to wanting to be on the city council.”

And the 30-year-old Mizeur isn’t ruling out a political future beyond city council, either.

“I’ve had people already in this race come up and say, ‘We’re going to get spoiled with you as our city councilor. We think your skills and talent will one day call you beyond this race.’”