Sen.-elect Doug Jones (D-Ala.) has tapped Dana Gresham, a fellow Alabamian who served in the Department of Transportation under President Barack Obama, to become his chief of staff, and former Senate staffer Sonceria Ann Bishop-Berry to advise his transition — a victory for minority groups that had urged Jones to pick African Americans for key roles. Both Gresham and Bishop-Berry are black.
Gresham, a Georgetown University graduate, spent more than a decade as a House staffer, working as a legislative director for Rep. Bud Cramer (D-Ala.) and as chief of staff to Rep. Artur Davis (D-Ala.). He moved from that office to the DOT in 2009, spending eight years as an assistant secretary. He’ll be the only black chief of staff for a Senate Democrat — a point that the NAACP and other groups made last month when urging Jones to make diverse hires. (Two Republicans, South Carolina Sen. Tim Scott and Kansas Sen. Jerry Moran, have black chiefs of staff.)
“Hiring at least one person of color to your senior staff in Washington would speak loudly, and we ask that you do so among the qualified applicants that you will receive,” 17 groups wrote in the letter. “The lack of diversity among top Senate staff is not caused by a complete absence of strong candidates of color.”
The news that Jones would tap Gresham was quickly celebrated by some of the activists who’d called for Senate staff diversity.
Bishop-Berry worked with Jones as a staffer for Howell Heflin, Alabama’s last Democratic U.S. senator.
Jones’s other top hires, legislative director Mark Libell and deputy legislative director Katie Campbell, are white Alabamians. Campbell formerly served as policy director for the Blue Dog Coalition, a group of fiscally conservative Democrats.