Local congressional staffer making an impact in Washington

Staffer worked his way to the top

Local congressional staffer making an impact in Washington

DETROIT – Working in politics can be hard especially during the current political climate.

There is so much division no matter what side of the aisle you are on.

If you look deeper inside the world of politics especially on Capitol Hill there are very few African Americans in leadership positions.

However, there is a Troy resident working to change that.

“In high school, I was probably like most brothers and sisters, growing up in the city. I didn’t really know exactly what I wanted to do,” said Curtis Doster Jr., chief of staff for Democratic Rep. Brenda Lawrence of Michigan’s 15th Congressional District.

One thing was certain, he wanted to be in politics.

“All in all, I went through a lot of different majors, ended up sticking with economics throughout my undergraduate. Then ended up going to law school at Michigan State University,” he said.

After graduation for about five years he worked in the general counsel’s office for Fiat Chrysler, but he wanted more.

“There is still something missing. There was still something missing, I wanted to make more of an impact for our people, for my people and really tried to help the progression of our culture as much as possible,” he said.

“I thought the best way to do that was to come to Congress and work for Congress. Come to the hill and really try to make change through policy and legislation,” he said.

He decided to reach out to Lawrence and ask whether he could work in her office.

It was at that time he truly learned the meaning of starting from the bottom and working your way to the top.

“He called my office, and said I would really like to work on the hill. I said okay, because I knew his family. He sent me a resume, and I’m looking at, oh my gosh, he’s an attorney, a practicing attorney, this young brilliant guy. He wasn’t even 30 years old,” said Lawrence.

“I called him up, I said you know, I only had one position in my office, and I don’t want to insult you, by offering you this entry level job. He listened and he called me back the next day, he said congresswoman, ‘I really want to come to the hill and I will accept that position.’ I said wait a minute now, you’re an attorney and he said ‘I understand that,”’ said Lawrence.

She hired him and he started in the front office answering calls, but on his own started doing research for the legislative team.

“I made a promise to him, because I really believe in helping young African American men, that’s just a sweet spot for me. I said I’m going to help you get a job, I don’t have an opening because I’m fully staffed. And so we worked, and we got him a job, in another office at a higher level,” said Lawrence.

Shortly afterward, Lawrence’s chief of staff left and she had an opening for legislative director.

She called Doster Jr. and he came back.

“Then my office had an opening for chief of staff and it was an honor to have a brilliant young man, who worked his way up and for him to be able to serve as chief of staff, that’s one of the highest positions, you can have on the hill,” she said.

Lawrence added that is uncommon to have a Black man in that position.

“Some of the members of the Black Caucus, they don’t have Black chiefs of staff and so it’s the statement that a Black man can do this job, a Black man is doing this job,” she said.

Doster Jr. says it’s no secret that things have been difficult over the last four years in Washington, DC.

“Unfortunately, under the Trump administration, I wanted to say there was a 300 percent increase on threats, to congressional members, and of course if you’re threatening the members, you’re also threatening the staff,” he said.

But now he believes change is coming.

“With that, of course now we have, our first woman, our first black woman, being the vice president and Vice President Harris, there’s a lot of hope I’d say in Washington, DC and in the 14th Congressional District as well,” he said.


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About the Authors:

Natasha Dado is a digital content producer for ClickOnDetroit.