The Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies commended U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) and U.S. Senator Gary Peters (D-MI) for their recent appointments of top staff of color. Senator Gillibrand hired Joi Chaney as chief of staff (pictured left) and Senator Peters promoted Zephranie Buetow to serve as legislative director (pictured right).
“As a native of Michigan, I am particularly proud that Senator Peters has elevated Zephranie Buetow to a top policy position in his Washington, DC office–she joins just two other African Americans who serve as legislative directors in the Senate,” said Joint Center President Spencer Overton. “As Congress returns to work and continues to fill more than 300 top staff positions, I urge Members to continue making diversity and inclusion a priority. Doing so sends the right message to all communities starting from day one.”
Gillibrand’s and Peters’s appointments are indicative of a wave of diversity hires of top staff of color. According to the Joint Center’s live tracker, four new chiefs of color have been hired by returning Senators. Two (including Chaney) are Black women, one is Asian American/Pacific Islander woman, and one is Latino.
“Black women play a vital role in our democracy. By appointing Joi Chaney to lead her Senate office, Senator Gillibrand is playing a leading role in the Senate by recognizing that the talent and experiences of people of color matter in policymaking,” said Joint Center Black Talent Initiative Director Don Bell. “Hiring top staff is integral to creating a culture of diversity and inclusion, and it is necessary to ensure that our democracy is truly representative and accountable to all.”
In 2015, the Joint Center issued a report, Racial Diversity Among Top Senate Staff, finding that African Americans accounted for 13 percent of the U.S. population and 22 percent of those who identified as Democratic voters, but less than 1 percent of top Senate staffers. With these appointments, along with others announced over the past two weeks, Senators of the 116th Congress are well on their way toward changing these statistics.
The official bios for the new top staffers can be found below:
Joi Chaney will join Senator Kirsten Gillibrand’s (NY) office as its Chief of Staff at the end of January after running Equal Pay Today, a project of Equal Rights Advocates that works in coalition to close the gender wage gap and engage new and diverse constituencies in the fight for equal pay. She is returning to government service after serving in the Obama Administration at the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission as a political appointee in the Office of the Chair. This is her second tour in the Senate, where she was previously Policy Director and Counsel of the Senate Democratic Policy Committee under then-Majority Leader Harry Reid. Joi is also an alumnus of Planned Parenthood Federation of America. Joi is a graduate of Howard University and Harvard Law School.
According to the Office of Senator Peters, Zephranie Buetow is a graduate of the University of Illinois with a B.A. in Speech Communications. She also earned an M.S. in Communication from Illinois State University and a J.D. and M.A. in Cultural and Educational Policy Studies from Loyola University Chicago. She is currently Deputy Legislative Director and Counsel for Senator Peters. Prior to joining Peters’ office in 2015, she worked for former U.S. Senator Mary Landrieu (D-LA). While attending law school, Buetow interned in the Chicago Offices of U.S. Representative Bobby Rush (D-IL) and U.S. Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL). She also served in the Illinois Army National Guard.