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Doug Curella: Chief of Staff, State Senator Mark Grisanti

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Doug Curella: Chief of Staff, State Senator Mark Grisanti

It took a blown-out knee and coffee with Joel Giambra to lure Buffalo native Doug Curella back home, but now he’s here to stay. Curella managed Mark Grisanti’s unlikely campaign for the 60th State Senate District, which unseated the Democratic incumbent in a heavily Democratic district. Now he serves as Grisanti’s chief of staff here in town.

How’d you get into politics?

Upon graduation, I worked in politics in Green Bay, Wisconsin. I was the communications director for a Congressional candidate in Wisconsin and deputy communications director for now United States Senator Ron Johnson, who defeated 18-year incumbent Russ Feingold in the general election. Yes, I have met Governor Walker, and still keep in touch with friends who work for him. It’s pretty crazy out there in Wisconsin…

What brought you back to Buffalo?

Fate. I tore my anterior cruciate ligament during a soccer match in Green Bay. The day of surgery I was alerted that my insurance would not cover this procedure because I was out of network, so I flew back to New York that night, found a surgeon, and had reconstructive knee surgery.

Meanwhile, my dad, an old-time West Sider, ran into Joel Giambra and they started talking about how everyone’s family was doing. My dad told Joel I was involved in politics and I was trying to get back to Buffalo. Joel said, “Have him send me his resume.” We exchanged some emails and I was invited for coffee on the following Sunday. It was a Friday, and I was in Green Bay Wisconsin. I called a life-changing audible in my life, which I never thought I would do, and tied up all my loose ends in Wisconsin, packed up my entire car, and drove 14 hours through the night to Buffalo. After meeting with Joel in the morning, I was then introduced to now Senator Mark Grisanti and Henry Wojtaszek. I was asked to be campaign manager, and to hit the ground sprinting. It was October 2, 2010.

They say that New York State’s legislature is the most dysfunctional in the country. How have your first three months gone?

One interesting thing is that people still come up to me thinking I’m Jack Quinn III. I am not Jack—and I’ve learned, at 26, that I don’t know Jack.

Describe a day in the life of a state senator’s chief of staff.

The life of a chief of staff changes daily, but usually starts with a cup of coffee from Wilson Farms. On the drive in, I listen to talk radio to find out the news of the day and what is going on locally and nationally. Organization is also key for my daily life, to run a staff, deal with the schedule, the information that comes in and out of the office, and the overall oversight of the office. Another part of my day deals with talking and meeting with constituents. We work for the people, and they are our first priority. The most important thing is trust and always being on the same page as Mark. At the end of the day, if I do not have a night event to attend to, I usually head home, or go to physical therapy to rehabilitate my knee. I am thankful to have a great staff across the 60th District and in Albany to rely on to help manage the workload.

So tell us the truth: Is your boss a Democrat or a Republican?

Maybe I should keep a poker face on that question. Our office is made up of everything—Democrats, Republicans, Conservatives, mean Greens, Independents, and hard-working people who just don’t like politicians. Our office is focused on Western New York. It’s about doing the right thing for this area and our community—it’s about upstate vs. downstate, not what political party you’re affiliated with. We have to come together as one if we want a brighter tomorrow. It’s an easy enough thing to do if we’re smart. But it’s a disaster if we start believing all the propaganda that’s out there.

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